Reviews

Gov’t Mule + The Disco Biscuits

The Disco Biscuits

Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes was ranked the 23rd best guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone a few years ago, but the Disco Biscuit’s Jon Gutwillig is giving him a run for the money tonight.

Gov’t Mule + The Disco Biscuits

City: Austin, TX
Venue: Stubb’s BBQ
Date: 2009-02-06

It’s a typically warm, beautiful evening outside at Stubb’s as the Disco Biscuits take the stage in an unusual position. The jamtronica stalwarts have inspired a devoted core fanbase that will follow the band for any number of shows in a row, and/or seek to acquire recordings of every show on a tour because each one is different and will have its own unique peak moments. But here in the Lone Star State, the band’s growing popularity is perhaps not quite as strong, so they’re co-headlining for a Texas three-step with Gov’t Mule, which means the Biscuits will be playing just one set tonight instead of their usual two. Bassist Marc Brownstein seems in high spirits though, as he announces he’s just been informed this is the first show of the season at Stubb’s, adding an extra air of festivity to the proceedings. Brownie, as he’s known to the faithful, also announces the band hasn’t been to Austin in some time, but are glad to be back. With that, the quartet launches into a brief run through “Uber Glue”, which soon gives way to the melodic tones of “Spacebirdmatingcall”. Just like that, the band is knee deep into a set of high-powered jams that keep the crowd grooving for the next 90 minutes. Keyboardist Aron Magner is the maestro, delivering an array of spacey synth sounds for Brownstein and drummer Allen Aucoin to play over. Guitarist Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig is a wizard of his own, deftly weaving melodic lines in and out, as Magner continues to lay down a variety of soundscapes. The song is classic Bisco, as it enables the band to establish a familiar theme, jam out in any direction their muse might take them, yet still build off that initial theme. Gutwillig’s guitar takes over eventually, smoking chops ablaze. But it’s the way the other three keep building the groove that gives Gutwillig such big waves to surf on. The jam is an early triumph, but is left unfinished as the band segues into “42”, and off they go again. The tune builds to a quick peak that gives way to the groovier sounds of “Gangster”, with Magner starting on piano before switching back to the psychedelic synths. The crowd is immersed in a blissful trance as Magner and the rhythm section propel another big wave. With no second set to hold back for, the band brings pure heat. Time and again, Gutwillig’s fretwork has jaws dropping as the six-string ace cuts loose. Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes was ranked the 23rd best guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone a few years ago, but Gutwillig is giving him a run for the money tonight. By the time the band segues from “Gangster” into “I-Man”, it feels as if we’re well into a second set. After 10 minutes, the song starts to break down into a half-time groove that slows things a bit, but still sees the band playing around with a variety of sonic bells and whistles. The jam then builds back up again with Aucoin dazzling on the skins while Gutwillig brings “the fire” yet again for another triumphant conclusion. The song actually ends this time before the band dials up “Taramin Alley”, which seems to conjure a mystical march across the cosmos. Brownstein’s vocal rap recalls Cake’s “Going the Distance”, while Magner and Gutwillig continue to space out. The set peaks with the anthemic call of “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.”. Magner dials back the synths and brings in some piano, while Brownstein and Gutwillig sing some of their most melodic vocals for more of an old school rock and roll vibe. The tune soon gives way to a spacier section that gets a big cosmic groove going, with the lights swirling for maximum psychedelia. The song is an epic journey, taking listeners from straight ahead rock to a dynamic space jam, coming back through a light-hearted dance more akin to fairies flitting around and back again, before segueing into the earlier “42” to wrap the set up with a flourish as Gutwillig burns up his fret board once more. The crowd responds with maximum enthusiasm, knowing this journey was all the Bisco mayhem they’ll get tonight, but feeling fulfilled from that dosage nonetheless. Gov’t Mule clearly have they’re work cut out for them now. There’s a half-hour set break during which it becomes clear that Stubb's has really filled in because the place is now packed. Mule hits the stage with a typically bluesy jam that leads to old standby “Thorazine Shuffle”. It rocks out, but after the peak bliss of the Bisco set, it’s a big change to an edgy blues-rock sound like this. A jam that touches on “Jungle Boogie” and “Who Do You Love” re-invokes some of the party atmosphere and gets the crowd moving, but “Banks of the Deep End” then returns to the darker blues. It’s a classic Mule song, but again, the vibe is just so different, it doesn’t feel like the best fit on this Friday night. Perhaps Mule guitarist/leader Warren Haynes starts to sense this incongruity, as he changes gears with the triumphant “Brighter Days”. One of the hottest tunes from the band’s most recent studio album, the uplifting rocker has a slide guitar part that recalls Zeppelin’s “Traveling Riverside Blues” and a major key vibe that opens up for some hard rocking yet melodic jamming. Haynes also delivers some of his finest vocals on the tune before tearing it up on guitar. This is the first time in the set where the vibe feels like it’s starting to match the energy that the Biscuits were bringing. Later, another heartwarming moment occurs when Blues Traveler’s John Popper joins the party along with guitarist David Grissom for “32/20 Blues”. Always a welcome guest, Popper’s ever-dazzling harmonica work lifts the music higher and brings some more festive vibes to the proceedings. Mule gets the crowd going further still a bit later with a heavy “Other One” jam that tips a cap to Haynes’ ongoing work with the Grateful Dead musical family. Longtime drummer Matt Abts and new bassist Jorgen Carlsson conjure a massive groove that provides a platform for Haynes to shred all over, with the lights shining psychedelic flavor on the trees. “Blind Man in the Dark” closes out the set with another bluesy rocker and the crowd roars in appreciation. But this night belonged to the Disco Biscuits. Hopes that the Biscuits’ Gutwillig would sit in with Mule do not materialize in the encore, but Texas-by-way-of-Canada guitarist Gordie Johnson appears for an extended jam on “I’m a Ram”, which alternates between reggae verses and hard rock choruses, for a hot closer that jams in a variety of flavors.

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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