Music

BVDub: All is Forgiven

His is a vision of a haunted chill out room where the only dancers are shadows with indiscernible sources.


BVDub

All is Forgiven

Label: N5MD
US Release Date: 2012-11-06
UK Release Date: 2012-11-12
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BVDub’s All is Forgiven is a rare occurrence. It's a long form record in the autonomic or ambient music scene -- a scene which tends more toward sporadic releases of singles and short form EPs. Its appeal lies in deep and murky melodies. It wallows in layers upon layers of atmospheric textures but manages to avoid sounding overly dramatic or self indulgent by keeping a large focus on rhythms born out of an appreciation for dub and drum 'n bass.

It’s a beautiful record, delivered in just three movements but managing to add up to almost 78 minutes nonetheless. Strictly speaking there are sections within each movement that probably could have been split into smaller unique tracks, but there’s no question that each of the three sections have their own unique themes.

"All is Forgiven" is a sprawling, journey which seems to explore sadness and regret. It opens with repeating, brooding chords and though they set the tone for something that could go in a very melodramatic direction, a quick percussive shuffle rises up to set a different pace -- you’re not getting off the hook just yet. What could have been dismissed as emotionally manipulative is suddenly resolved to seriousness. Choirs of pitched-down vocals cry and moan as if pleading for your sympathies. They tell their story in an impossible number of unique and skillfully woven pleas of what might be "talk to me". It’s difficult to pin down because the mix is so masterful that all of the various voices work together without ever sounding cacophonous. Where some artists might simply have exploited this effect to rise to an inevitable crescendo of noise before predictably fading off, BVDub just keeps shifting and floating things around. His is a vision of a haunted chill out room where the only dancers are shadows with indiscernible sources.

At around the halfway mark of the first movement there are no synths or percussion just the subtle and gentle serenade of piano keys and a bass line that is almost inaudible. Eventually the filtered stabs, that fans of electronic music or drum 'n bass in particular will appreciate, make an appearance amid a warped break beat. What makes this different than just another drum 'n bass or breaks record though is how these parts are treated. It’s clear from the start that though they form a foundation that helps give the work context, they’re secondary at best. They’re beside the point. This is all mood music -- it’s got nothing to do with the dance floor. If there is a groove to be found here, it probably arose by accident like a rivulet of rain finding it’s way along a smooth surface. It's that sort of subtlety which will compel you through to the last note.

There’s a lot about this record that reminded me of Holy Other’s Held or Burial’s Untrue. It could be said that the three records occupy a similar universe -- the post-party walk home through a dark alley in the rain. These artists revel in the swirl that the bass leaves in your ears hours after the amps have been packed away and you’re recovering from the pounding of a three-hour set. That’s the time when you can slip into "Today He Felt Life" like a warm blanket. The contrast of the opening piano’s simplicity against the distant fanfare echoing from some place lost and out of reach will offer the comfort of hope or the pang of loss depending on your personal circumstances. A muted kick drum pounds out an abstract rhythm and we’re surprised by a clearer, if not yet comprehensible soul vocal track. Once again just when you think you’ve grasped the pattern, another percussion line enters the mix and fits far too perfectly despite its urgent tempo. How can a track sound so fast and so slow at the same time?

Another aspect of this record I loved was the seamlessness within the context of each track. It could easily be chalked up to the prowess of a DJ’s experience. Their skill lies in patiently blending rather than hard cuts. The various voices and parts on these tracks seem to rise and swell and then disappear before you know they’re gone being replaced by something equally as easy on the ears.

By the time I got to "Peonies Fall For Kings", I had already decided this would go on my list of contenders for one of the best records of 2013. This one is a pop song played from a locked room at the end of the hallway. The only thing coming through clearly is a beautiful piano you might be playing in time yourself. Once again this contrast of presence and distance gives the whole thing a haunting complexity. Few records manage to model emotion quite so accurately as Brock Van Wey has done here.

When the beat finally drops on the last track it’s a little more jarring than we’ve been conditioned to hear. The fact that he chooses a sort of early '90s pop-dance beat doesn’t seem to work well. It’s a disappointing development, but there is hope in the fact that you know it won’t last forever. The album closes with the latter half of the third movement lightening things up with an easy groove and and a brighter outlook. By the time you’re thrust back into the moody depths of keys, chords and most wonderful soulful vocals on the record so far -- all is forgiven.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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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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