Reviews

Ida Maria

Rachel Brodsky

"I just wonder New York… have you got room for me?!" yelled Ida Maria into the microphone.

Ida Maria

Ida Maria

City: New York, NY
Venue: Mercury Lounge
Date: 2009-01-15

Gazing at little known Scandinavian pop starlets in concert is a little like watching a child being born (albeit a slightly crazy, drunkenly smeared child, in the case of Ms. Ida Maria). Not to gross any readers out, and not that I have ever literally watched anything being birthed, but it is generally understood in the music community that foreign pop imports are a thousand times more recognizable across the pond for about one to two years -- the incubation period -- before their buzz begins to vibrate up against the United States. Once an adequate number of coastal city hipsters catch on to the growing overseas sensation, it is only a matter of time before the metaphorical pregnancy is over, and a worldwide pop star is born. Thus was the scene at Norwegian indie punk ‘n’ roller Ida Maria's sold out appearance at Manhattan's Mercury Lounge. While Ida Maria's debut album, Fortress Round My Heart, will be released in the US this May, the record has been out nearly two years in the UK. In this time she's gained a rep for rolling 'round the stage in a rock induced fury, and the murmurings about Ida Maria's live performance had evidently preceded tonight's show. The aura before the show felt tense with anticipation and glee as the floor filled with fans, most forgetting to remove their jackets, as the memory of far below freezing temperatures outside stayed fresh. In no time, Ida Maria walked calmly out, following her band mates, and plugged her guitar in without a word. The crowd kept jabbering. After all, this is New York. If you want attention, you have to earn it first. Perhaps the most jarring aspect to Ida's entrance was that she had obviously made an effort to glam up for the show, not something atypical for a lady onstage, but something a tad far removed for the gritty growling and almost tomboyish presence of Ida Maria. She attractively donned a little gold dress, lacy tights, and red painted lips, yet there was still something out of place about Ida's appearance. Her hair contained one of those ponytail bumps you get when you wear your hair up for half the day and take it down at night and she wore nondescript flats that didn't quite match the rest of her sexy attire. Upon starting the show, it immediately became evident that Ida didn't quite give a damn about anything she had on, and began to riff and roar through the first track "In the Morning Light", cheekily dedicating it to the Hudson River plane crash "survivors." As Ida then tore into "Louie", the cameras in the front row rose up to catch fiery-eyed images of the growling singer before them. "I just wonder New York… have you got room for me?!" she yelled into the microphone. The affirming response from the crowd was more than enough approval, as Ida bore down and shimmied in her little gold dress through heavy handed pop punk chords and melodic sing-along choruses. "It takes a lot of energy you know, to be drunk all the time," maintained Ida, slugging back a cup of beer and proceeding to spin around the stage, pausing only to glance at the set list scribbled down her arm every now and then. "Queen of the World", a particularly upbeat cut proclaiming, "Whiskey please / I need some whiskey please", quickly followed, slowly building to a bouncy crescendo where Ida teasingly sang to one of the audience members who insisted upon throwing devil horns after each song. As the show continued, Ida proceeded to get messier and messier. Her voice was obviously suffering (perhaps it was the brutally cold weather) as she had to occasionally depend on her backup singers to hit the high notes, lest her voice crack into a million pieces. This temporary handicap didn't stop Ida from getting down, though, as she shimmied, shook, and spun around until it looked as though she might spin clear off the stage. Ida finished off the set with her two most popular cuts, "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" and "Oh My God". The former, a song about sexual security versus the anxiety felt outside of the bedroom, exploded with perhaps the best known chorus of the night ("I like you so much better when you're naked / I like me so much better when you're naked") as the first few rows of the audience leapt around with her. As if this weren't enough, the euphoria reached its peak when Ida lost her guitar and simultaneously lost control as the opening chords to "Oh My God" rang out. She grabbed her water bottle and dumped the cool contents onto her head, mashed her hair around with her hands and yelled the lyrics to the song about trying to gain control over the uncontrollable parts of life. "OH MY GOOOOD!" cried Ida Maria who at this point looked quite insane with her eyes bugged out and the top part of her sparkly gold dress coming undone. After much shrieking and shouting, she ended the set on this note, leaving after much bombast but with no encore. Ida's set was short and sweet, and the promise of her forthcoming US release of Fortress Round My Heart is most likely that much more hotly anticipated. But perhaps the most impressive thing about Ida Maria is her willingness to lose her voice when it's already scratchy and rock out as women in music rarely do anymore for fear of smudging something. Whatever makeup Ida had on was smudged into oblivion by then end of the set. Consider this overseas egg hatched.

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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