Reviews

The Dodos: 6 June 2011 - Metro, Chicago

California psych-folk rocker duo the Dodos performed a unique powerhouse sound of polyrhythmic drumming, intricate picking and delightful harmonies reminiscent of '90s indie folk rock at the Metro in Chicago.

The Dodos

The Dodos

City: Chicago
Venue: The Metro
Date: 2011-06-06

Nothing beats summer in Chicago. Between festivals and concerts in the park opportunities to catch free live music outdoors are endless. On Monday June 6 the beloved Iron & Wine performed a free concert for the weekly New Music Mondays series held downtown at Millennium Park. Naturally the whole city took advantage of the opportunity to see Iron & Wine, packing the outdoor venue to uncomfortable proportions. Interesting how boring music can draw such a large crowd.

Other live music fans, myself included, opted to skip the park and head to Wrigleyville to catch California psych-folk rockers the Dodos. The band played indoors at the dim and dingy Metro; so wine, cheese and picnic blankets were not permitted, and technically the show was not free, but I can guarantee the music rocked ten times harder than the show in the park. The Dodos rattled the rafters with a unique powerhouse sound of polyrhythmic drumming, intricate picking and delightful harmonies reminiscent of 90’s indie folk rock.

The Dodos were preceded by Gauntlet Hair of Lafayette, Colorado. The band was headed by proclaimed BFFs (best friends forever) Andy R. (guitar/vocals) and Craig Nice (drums). Usually R. and Nice play as a duo; however they were joined by two extra musicians, making the Gauntlet Hair a four-piece. Three things struck me about Gauntlet Hair: they played in a line running across the foot of the stage, Nice was positioned center stage on an electric drum set hammering out heavy handed beats, and finally Nice’s dog freely roamed the stage during the set.

Gauntlet Hair performed a blend of experimental, psychedelic noise rock with hints of electro dream pop. Their sound was loud and border line overwhelming. If the noise aspect was scaled back they would have made for a more enjoyable show. In Gauntlet Hair’s defense, the Metro is notorious for pockets of overblown dead sound. Andy R. employed an effect mic for his vocals, making his voice echo and lyrics inaudible. Regardless I was intrigued enough to leave with Gauntlet Hair’s 7” which is not half bad.

Word around the Metro was evening ticket sales were low, so reps set out to Iron & Wine to pass out free tickets in hopes of beefing up attendance. Their plan worked for by the time the Dodos hit the stage the audience filled out. Being a Monday night I noticed many a tired and droopy faces in the crowd; The Dodos surfaced around 10:30 PM to a house of excited yawns.

Guitarist/singer Meric Long approached his pedal board and flipped an effect causing an eerie ring to fill the room. He then reached for the mic and said “Greetings Earthlings” before jumping headfirst into “Good” off the band’s latest release No Color (March 15 2011, French Kiss Records). The Dodos instantly kicked the yawn from the crowd with their round primitive groove of innovative melodies. Two traits that made the Dodos so great is their unconventional and approachable rock sound; unconventional because their sound revolved around steady, circular rhythms produced by drummer Logan Kroeber. I found them approachable for their introverted lyrics and live energy.

Kroeber was the focal point of the stage perched behind a unique drum kit of: three toms, a snare, couple of cymbals and foot powered tambourine. He relied on the deep resonate tones of the toms, employing African and metal influences to each roll. His counterpart Long was off to the left shielded by his guitar. Long had the incredible ability to simultaneously finger-pick and strum his guitar like a country blues master. Since there was no bass the music focused on the fluid relationship between drums, guitar and lyrics. The band was joined by rhythm guitarist Chris Riemer, who has been on tour with the duo as of late. Riemer added extra hints of color in between the grooves, but was no match for Long.

There were moments during the show where the band’s rhythm centric ballads spun into long play experimentation. One moment they rode quick paced folk rock with delicate harmonies, and electric guitar riffs worthy of the '90s. Psychedelic noise rock would follow suit complete with polyrhythmic Americana swells. Really there were no boundaries to what the band was capable of. Kroeber would rap on the rims of his drums, producing street sounds of pulsating percussion colored by the jangle of tambourine.

In response Long lovingly unleashed series of guitar shreds masked and elongated by effect pedals. Wrapped up in their jam, the boys played like they were in a private garage exploring the powers of their instruments. The audience swayed with the beauty developing onstage and definitely punched the air through choruses and power chords. The Dodos’ set primarily focused on No Color with hints of back catalog favorites primarily off their sophomore album Visiter. Towards the end Long snapped a string on his guitar, though that did not stop him from relaying a three song encore, culminating in the band’s notable pop anthem “The Fool”.

Gauntlet Hair


The Dodos

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60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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