Music

Botch: American Nervoso

Eight years after the fact, Botch's debut album is still as awe-inspiring as it ever was.


Botch

American Nervoso

Label: Hydra Head
First date: 1999-05-20
US Release Date: 2007-07-10
UK Release Date: 2007-07-16
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When you go to a day-long metal fest these days, be it OzzFest or Sounds of the Underground, you'll get the odd young band onstage that prefers to ignore the more linear style of metal music in favor of the much more haphazard, wonky arrangements of metallic hardcore. And whenever one of these bands starts to play, the hardcore dancers emerge from out of the woodwork, flailing limbs like spastics attempting to dance the Charleston, or doing kung fu moves that make the metalheads in the crowd double over in laughter. The hardcore dancing vs. moshing debate has become a contentious issue among fans of extreme music (who here hasn't had a metal set ruined by obnoxious karate kickers?), but one thing both sides can agree on, however, is that the music that bridged both modern hardcore and metal in the late-'90s is undeniably great, whether it's the unrelenting fury of Converge, the disturbing dissonance of Today is the Day, the brutality of Coalesce, or especially the inspired diversity of arguably the most influential band of the lot, Botch.

Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, Botch's time together was fleeting, yielding a stack of singles and a measly pair of albums in the late 1990s, but their influence on the American extreme music of this decade has been immeasurable, as bands like Norma Jean, Spitfire, Daughters, and Every Time I Die have helped take that sound to a new generation of fans, either by evolving that style further, or simply mimicking it to great effect. Yet aside from the few bands that do it well (like the aforementioned acts), metallic hardcore has become an incredibly diluted talent pool, with new bands copying the other to the point where it seems most of them have no idea where this music came from in the first place. So as we critics might roll our eyes at the sight of the latest band to employ anguished screams, off-kilter riffs, and technically adept guitar squeals, the release of Botch's newly remastered first album American Nervoso serves as a welcome respite from all the repetition.

It is absolutely astounding how fresh Botch sounds nearly ten years after the fact, thanks in part to the stunning remastering job producer Matt Bayles has done on the newly reissued disc, but mainly due to the contagious energy the album still exudes. It might have been the quartet's debut full-length, but is such a confident, audacious piece of work that neophytes can hardly tell it's the band's first album. "Hutton's Great Heat Engine" doesn't so much explode out of the gate at breakneck speed as fly off in all directions at once like a cluster bomb, Tim Latona's tom-heavy percussion desperately trying to keep the song grounded as guitarist Dave Knudson lets loose myriad skronks and screeches and vocalist Dave Verellen spews enigmatic lines like, "It's so quiet here and the heat is my new friend". Brian Cook's bass sound in the new remaster is astonishing, as he becomes the song's focal point during the extended breakdown, taking the song into an unexpectedly lucid direction before resuming the mathcore chaos.

After opening with an inspired, highly distorted, minute-long series of drum fills by Latona, "Thank God For Worker Bees" launches into a ferocious groove, Knudson's lurching riffs, highlighted by his punctuating squeaks and wicked string bends, the driving force in the song, which seems indebted to both the Melvins and Drive Like Jehu at the same time. The blinding fury of the insanely paced shredfest "Oma" is suddenly interrupted by a coda of plaintive piano chords, while "John Woo" beats the Dillinger Escape Plan to the punch with its own brand of highly intricate, yet impeccably disciplined chaos. Meanwhile, "Dali's Praying Mantis" exudes a playfulness that is arresting, sounding like a hardcore interpretation of the Fall, Verellen hollering indecipherably in the distance.

Six additional bonus tracks are tacked on to the re-release, highlighted by the non-album track "Stupid Me" and an extended version of "Spitting Black", as well as a handful of early demos of album tracks, but the real draw here remains the original American Nervoso, which has aged beautifully over the last nine years. The band would go on to record its masterpiece We Are the Romans less than a year later, setting the template for metallic hardcore for the next decade, and if this fabulous remaster is any indication, the future two-disc reissue of Romans will be just as welcome, if not more. Drop that Devil Wears Prada CD, kids, and go pick up the real deal instead.

8

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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