Music

Sole & The Skyrider Band: Sole & The Skyrider Band Remix LP

This is a noisy batch of doom and gloom that re-works Sole's solid 2007 effort while maintaining a sense of coherence and moody beauty.


Sole & the Skyrider Band

Sole & The Skyrider Band Remix LP

Contributors: Astronautalis, Radical Face, Dosh, Odd Nosdam, Thavius Beck, Otem Relik, Sleeper, Telephone Jim Jesus, Pictureplane, Subtitle, Andrew Broder, Bit Tuner, Son Lux, Egadz
Label: Black Canyon
US Release Date: 2009-02-17
UK Release Date: Available as import
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Sometimes, though justifiably, remix albums get a bad rap. Besides the fact that anyone with a computer can remix a song these days, the end product typically is less than impressive or depreciates the quality of the original piece. In those cases, you cannot blame anyone for hating on a "new" version of a song that essentially turns the piece into a noisy mess and/or loses the track's integrity. Then, there is the dreaded stereotypical hip-hop remix featuring a DJ screaming every 30 seconds and one or two new verses that really add nothing substantial. Luckily, though, there are always exceptions. Those include the classic remixes done by Pete Rock and J Dilla as well as more recent efforts such as AmpLive's phenomenal Rainydayz Remixes project. And now, we can add this, the Sole & The Skyrider Band Remix LP, to the pile of remix CDs worthy of your time.

But be forewarned: a prototypical hip-hop remix album this is not. As any fan of this anticon.'s co-founder knows, Sole's take on rap is hardly conventional. Like his labelmates Doseone (of Subtle and others) and Yoni Wolf (of Why? and others), Sole spits essays filled with punchlines, self-deprecation, braggadocio, and social criticisms at a sometimes blistering speed. And if you can't track down the lyrics to his songs, I bid you good luck in comprehending exactly what he's saying. But that's part of his, and his cohort's, appeal. They supply depth, sometimes too much depth actually, to a genre that is currently in the public's cross-hairs for being overly superficial.

And for Sole's new group's debut, which originally dropped in 2007, he took his syllable-happy shenanigans to another level. With the Skyrider Band behind him, the emcee went to darker territory, though he was never one for sunshine. The album's apocalyptic, end-of-the-world overtones were littered throughout both the lyrics and song titles, so those without a cheat sheet had a least a semblance of what was going on. For example, here's a trio of appropriately-named tracks that bleed social-criticism: "A Sad Day for Investors", "Nothing is Free", and "The Sound of Head on Concrete". Clearly, something was bothering Sole when he penned this album. So, with that, it's only fitting that the recently remixed version of this album is even more primed for the world's end. Who can blame Astronautalis, for example, for transforming the already solemn "A Sad Day for Investors" into an epic, distorted anthem full of gritty drums and scratchy pianos. "Magnum" features similar sounds as Sleeper blends laptop drums with noisy, shoegazing guitar as Sole offers lyrics based on the Jonestown Massacre.

Sounds inviting, doesn't it? Well, it's obvious to anyone who listens to music that truly beautiful, touching songs and albums are mostly crafted out of despair, longing, fear, anger, and every other extreme emotion out there. So while this album deserves a slight knock for its overwhelming bleak outlook, it deserves the same amount of credit to sticking to a firm script. Sure it might turn off the happy-go-lucky crowd, but who the hell thought they would play this anyway? Well, to be fair, they are fairly serviced into a few tracks on here, such as the out-of-place remix of "On Cavalry" by Pictureplane. The track essentially turns into a rave anthem by the end, which is disappointing because it at first sounds more like Sole's hope is catching its second wind. Instead, it just gets noisy and scatterbrained. Luckily, its brightness is balanced by an equally upbeat but more focused remix of "The Shipwreckers" from Otem Relik. The producer adds keys and a wheezy melody to the track that was once devastatingly morose.

What's most intriguing piece about this abstract hip-hop puzzle is how a who's-who of left-field producers have somehow captured an overall balanced and cohesive sound. While there are a few bumps in the road, like the disappointing "The Bridges Let Us Down (Thavius Beck remix)", everyone on here basically kills it. From Radical Face's reverb-drenched guitar and ominous piano on "Nothing is Free" to Odd Nosdam's droning ambient synthesizers on "One Egg Short of an Omelet", Sole & The Skyrider Band Remix LP is a noisy batch of songs that's sure worth your time. Just don't expect to walk away with a grin on your face.

7

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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