Technology

Qello: Couch Surfing Concert Performances

Qello offers a good selection of concert films and music documentaries to stream to your TV or mobile devices via an easy to use interface, at a low price.

Roku

Qello is to music documentaries and (pre-recorded) concert performances as Netflix (excluding the physical appendix that almost became Qwikster) is to movies or Hulu is to television shows. This is an easy and apt comparison to make. All three stream multimedia content to your desktop computer, tv, mobile gadgets or other devices and are primarily known for specialization in one area. Qello is the newest of the bunch and cheaper on the monthly-subscription level ($4.99/month), a rate that is probably fair considering it targets a smaller niche audience with its concerts and music documentaries.

As a concert application, Qello is geared more to the music junkie (PopMatters readers take heed) and less towards the casual music listener. It does not have standard music video selections and it does not deliberately carry contemporary pop artists to fluff its catalog. But Qello does offer content across all musical genres from the past five decades. You can browse their selection by these categories and find things like a documentary about the Newport Folk Festival from 1963 to 1966, some Marvin Gaye from 1975, Culture Club and Minor Threat from the '80s, Jay-Z in the '90s and the bulk of the content sorted into the new millennium period (though this does not necessarily refer to the decade a band is known for -- content is sorted by date footage is released).

Some of the newer offerings sway towards jam bands (like STS9 and Widespread Panic with three each) who generally encourage -- or at least allow -- bootlegging of their shows. Likely these bands have huge archives of their performances and if Qello does not have a vigilant music curator and instead merely tries to increase its content willy-nilly, the service could go too far into this genre. That may not be a bad thing particularly if there was a way to filter out artists you don't want. Like a way to "thumbs down" Justin Beiber, so the unauthorized biography This is My World never shows up again. Similarly, if Qello built in a way to show your viewing history, either to filter out or to reference for easier reviewing, that would be a good feature.

It might be possible those features or others are still forthcoming -- Qello indicates it has beta status below its name. At least more content has been promised, which is good because some bands I searched for did not turn up. A licensing deal with EMI was made which will eventually (it should be soon, the announcement was made in early May) bring Radiohead, Coldplay, Ben Harper and, drool, Daft Punk to the streaming service. Right now, if I'm being choosy, I would run out of content I'm interested in a couple of months, though there are newer artists like Childish Gambino and Dawes or additional content I could peruse.

Subscriber loss so early in the game would likely hurt Qello's chances of surviving. But at the $5 price point, the service is a negligible cost to music lovers and could go unnoticed on a credit card for years against $10 digital album downloads, new vinyl purchases around $20 or concert tickets which can approach $100 -- and you may not want to go alone. It’s better to hope for Qello to keep increasing its content so people remain interested rather than hope people forget to cancel it though. Another feature that could be implemented is a way to filter or highlight what content is "new" or "recently added" to the site; 500 films remain in the vault waiting to be released.

Overall, Qello has a lot of potential and is priced fairly. Just one great video (say The Rolling Stones' Some Girls: Live in Texas) could be enough to get people to subscribe so they could watch it at home and then they might stick around or spread the word. The site integrates some Facebook functionality to allow friends to share music suggestions (presumably) with each other. A setlist tool allows you to pick songs or segments from full features and build your own living room concert event.

I'm not a big fan of mobile video on the go, so I have not tested Qello on any mobile devices (it is compatible with Android and iOS products), I have used it solely on my computer. That has become an unfortunate limitation as my PC monitor does not offer the same viewing pleasure as a larger high definition TV. Qello can work with Google TV and other smart TVs but I don't have one of those either. What I do have is a Playstation 3 and a Roku, two devices Qello is not designed for. Speaking with CEO Brian Lisi, I found out that those devices (I asked about Roku specifically) would not offer the same quality level of experience other gadgets provide. It waits to be seen. With these limitations but with high expectations for this unique service in its beta stages, I’m just going to end this by suggesting content Qello should offer:

Sigur Rós Heima, #6 ranked documentary on IMDB, or #22, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage; Beastie Boys Video Anthology entry in the Criterion Collection; The Director's Label Series including Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry; overall expansion of the world music section including the Manganiyar Seduction.

To "Unlock the experience" that is Qello, visit their site.

Pros:

* $5 a month for a subscription is affordable

* Not limited to any genre

* Many independent artists

* Content spans over 50 years

* Setlist function

Cons:

* Notable titles and artists are not available

* Non-western artists lack representation

* No Roku or video game console access

* Lacks section showing newly added content

* No way to filter artists that are disliked or content previously watched

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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