Music

Boys Noize: Oi Oi Oi

Mehan Jayasuriya

The original Daft Punk clone finally turns in a full-length that's too little, too late.


Boys Noize

Oi Oi Oi

Label: Turbo
US Release Date: 2007-09-25
UK Release Date: 2007-10-01
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As far as comebacks go, Daft Punk's return to form was executed pretty flawlessly. The legendary live sets, the technicolor pyramid, the Kanye West tie-in -- all were perfectly engineered to portray Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter as somehow larger than life. While the robotic duo certainly seized the moment, vindicating their late-period output and claiming their rightful place as the international ambassadors of French House, there's a little more to the story than meets the eye. As any electro fan in the audience already knows, it was years worth of singles from Daft Punk-influenced artists on the Kitsuné and Ed Banger labels that allowed the sound to creep back into the fore, setting the stage for the duo's triumphant return at Coachella 2006. In that sense, the reinvigorated Daft Punk might just be as indebted to these derivative acts as the derivative acts are to Daft Punk.

Boys Noize, aka Alex Ridha, is one such derivative act. No, he's not French, he's from Berlin. And no, he's not on Ed Banger or Kitsuné (though the latter did put out one of his singles), he puts records out on his own imprint, Boysnoize Records, though his first full-length, Oi Oi Oi, comes to the States courtesy of Last Gang/Turbo. With those few exceptions, however, Boys Noize is exactly what you would expect from a Daft Punk-influenced, maximalist electro artist. A little bit funk, a little bit disco and a little bit rock, Oi Oi Oi pairs super-compressed synths with stadium rock production, vocoder-filtered vocals with "Headbangers Ball" theatrics. If you've spent any time at all with Justice, Digitalism, Surkin or Goose, you know what to expect here.

What's said to set Boys Noize apart from this pack is the fact that his first single dropped in 2004, long before Justice and a full year before Digitalism's "Idealistic" 12" was picked up by Kitsuné. For this reason, Boys Noize has been credited as one of the progenitors of the style (insofar as a derivative style can be said to have progenitors), as opposed to a mere bandwagon hopper. True though that may be, Oi Oi Oi didn't see release until September 2007, a good few months after Digitalism and Justice's respective full-lengths proved that a 10-year-old formula can still produce crossover hits. And in this post "D.A.N.C.E." world, we can't help but hear Oi Oi Oi for what it is now: unoriginal, stale and wholly second-rate.

Opening up with lead single "& Down", Boys Noize comes charging out of the gate with everything he's got. A thumping bass drum lays the groundwork, a distorted synth rocks like a guitar with the treble turned up to ten and a disembodied voice laconically issues the directive, "Dance, dance, dance". Then it all stops, momentarily, making room for the requisite downtempo piano coda before taking off yet again, barreling headfirst toward an abrupt conclusion with rhythmic abandon. No, it doesn't sound bad, per se. It just sounds awfully familiar.

Unfortunately, Boys Noize, for all his billing as a more intense version of Daft Punk, has a hard time keeping the momentum going. The next few tracks offer little more than lessons in repetition and tedium, from the low-key drone of "Lava Lava" to "The Battery" , which almost sounds like a lesser Dizzee Rascal track, sans Dizzee Rascal. "Oh!" picks things up a bit but given that it's essentially a color-by-numbers clone of "Robot Rock", it's hard to enjoy without longing for the original. "Arcade Robot" also initially sounds like single material, its compressed disco sample looping steadily over a reinforced beat. But after four minutes of repetition with no reward, it grows tedious.

Repetition is certainly a problem in a lot of electronic music but as the best electro artists have proven, it doesn't have to be. Justice solved this problem by breaking up the instrumental tracks with vocal-driven numbers like "D.A.N.C.E." and the Uffie guest spot "The Party". Meanwhile, Daft Punk pushes their songs toward arena-sized overtures and almost comically grandiose melodies, ensuring that there's always a payoff for the listener's patience. Boys Noize, however, utilizes neither of these techniques to satisfactory effect. The result is an hour of music that sounds more conductive to napping than party-starting.

Interestingly enough, Ridha chooses to close out the album with two remixes, the record's only vocal tracks: his takes on I-Robots' "Frau" and Feist's "My Moon My Man". The former pits fuzzed-out synths and a series of blips and beeps against a robotic vocal, telling the (tongue-in-cheek?) tale of a space woman's search for love in German. The Feist remix, on the other hand, is easily the album's most memorable track, with Feist facing off against that omnipresent robot voice over a buoyant bass line and a series of slowly building organs. While far from minimal, Ridha's production provides just enough room for Feist's vocal to carry the song, his bits and bytes providing an austere contrast to her rich, emotive voice.

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Boys Noize ultimately takes far more from Daft Punk than he gives back. While Ridha is more than happy to ape the winning formula, Oi Oi Oi fails to take French House to new places the way that, say, , the high watermark of post-Daft-Punk electro, does. What's more, Oi Oi Oi isn't even close to being as fun, engaging or danceable as the records that it emulates. If there's a silver lining to be found here, it's that Ridha's production is unobtrusive enough that he can remix a track without upstaging the vocals, as the closing Feist remix alby proves. As a matter of fact, Ridha initially made his name on well-received remixes of artists like Bloc Party, Tiga, Depeche Mode and Kaiser Chiefs. It stands to reason, then, that Ridha is a more than competent DJ--he's just no Daft Punk. But maybe that's for the best: after all, there's only room for two at the apex of that pyramid.

4

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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