Reviews

Drive-By Truckers: 1 September 2011 - Austin, TX

Ryan Lester

The excitement brought about by getting the chance to see Drive-By Truckers in this kind of rare mode was something worth bragging about.

Drive-By Truckers

Drive-By Truckers

City: Austin, TX
Venue: Stubbs
Date: 2011-09-01

Drive-By Truckers are among the most seasoned road warriors modern music has to offer, and their performance at Stubb’s was not about to be compromised by a mere hand injury. With his left hand wrapped up tight, front man Patterson Hood explained to the audience that shortly before their tour was scheduled to kick off, he fell on some broken glass in his home. Fifteen stitches later, he realized, “Oh shit, I’ve gotta be in Austin in a week”. Without a hitch, he asked longtime friend and opening band leader Will Johnson of Centro-Matic to learn his parts so that the Truckers could give the usual three guitar assault that comprises their sound. Not only did Johnson do an excellent job filling in on such short notice, this performance marked a unique opportunity to see Hood freed of his guitar duties. With the same sort of aplomb that many have come to expect from the band, Drive-By Truckers played an electrifying and career spanning set that demonstrated the band has no intention of slowing down.

The band has continually released quality albums since 1998’s Gangstabilly, and the setlist at Stubb’s was nothing short of a testament to the fact. Early favorites like “The Living Bubba” and the Mike Cooley led “Love Like This” joined recent standouts like “The Righteous Path” and “My Sweet Annette” during the band’s nearly two hour set. Each song was played as though it was second nature to them, quite an impressive feat considering their song choice usually varies between shows. The band’s intense energy never wavered. Guitars squalled (and twanged when John Neff sat at the pedal steel), the drums were tight as can be, and it all came together to form a wall of sound distinctly their own.

While Hood gets the most credit as the band’s front man, it cannot be stated enough how much Cooley brings to the group. His calm and unassuming demeanor can undermine the fact that he is an exceedingly talented guitar player, which made for several blistering solos throughout the night, and his voice has a timeless quality to it that calls to mind some of country music’s most beloved forefathers. However, much like the Old 97’s Murray Hammond, he is content with letting his partner pen the majority of the songs. But when he took the mike at Stubb’s, his songs received equal amounts of love from fans, with tracks like “Women Without Whiskey”, “Gravity’s Gone”, and the much beloved “3 Dimes Down” garnering their share of enthusiastic whoops and hollers. Hood introduced Cooley as “My partner in crime for 26 years and one month”, and the creative and personal friendship between the two could be felt throughout the band’s entire set.

Elsewhere, there were plenty of excellent moments provided by the rest of the band. Johnson easily slipped into Hood’s shoes, as he didn’t miss a single note while filling in for his injured friend. While he was positioned towards the back of the stage and mostly out of sight, keyboardist Jay Gonzalez’s contributions could be felt in many of the songs throughout the night. Additionally, bassist Shonna Tucker took the lead vocals on “Where’s Eddie”, a slower number that one fan slowly waved his Zippo lighter along to. And, of course, tying it all together was the passionate drum playing of Brad Morgan.

However, the biggest story of the night was Hood, who could have been less bothered by the fact that he was rendered useless on the guitar. He took the opportunity to tap into his inner Johnny Van Zant, walking around the stage and making grand arm gestures like a true star. Sometimes, he would have a beer in his good hand, while at other times he used it play a bit of air guitar. Either way, he was as charismatic as ever without a guitar strapped to his shoulders. This was especially evident during the band’s cover of Eddie Hinton’s “Everybody Needs Love”, which he dedicated to everyone affected by the recent spate of natural disasters that have plagued the country. Towards the end of the song, he held out the microphone to the audience and invited them to sing the refrain, a cathartic moment that the audience was only too happy to oblige with.

After a barn burning extended rendition of “Hell No I Ain’t Happy” finished the band’s main set, the band began their encore with longtime fan favorite “Let There Be Rock”. The celebration of simply experiencing a show despite not having the opportunity to see certain other groups perfectly encapsulated their performance. People may not have gotten to experience a traditional Drive-By Truckers show, but the excitement brought about by getting the chance to see the band in this kind of rare mode was something worth bragging about, and adds another intriguing tale to the bands ever increasing tome of concert lore.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


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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