Music

Chuck Eddy - I heart smoochin' contrarians

When I heard the news that the new management at the Village Voice didn't want Chuck Eddy around, I bawled like a kid. Honestly. I don't want to make it sound like he's deceased but I was really sad because he was definitely one of the best editors that I've ever worked with and I knew that I'd miss working with him.

Initially, I thought just the opposite. When he started at the Voice in the late 90's, some of the material there seemed like bad stream of conscious high school journalism. I got so mad that I eventually thought, "Hey, even I could do better than that!"

I didn't know what to expect dealing with Eddy. Though I loved his contrary book Stairway To Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe (which unfortunately seems to be out of print), I didn't think his editing skills were up to his writing. I was so f-ing wrong about that.

It's one thing to disagree with a guy's taste but that doesn't mean he's not a good editor. One thing that endeared me to Eddy was that he took the time to give me constructive criticism. Believe me, a lot of editors never do that. They'll either ignore your pitch or if they use it, just run it without any comments (which is good in a way but not helpful to your progress as a good writer). He would take the time to tell me what he thought was wrong or right and suggest some ways for me to make it better. Sometimes this was infuriating but many times, it was great food for thought. One thing in particular that was helpful was his focus on explaining references- if you cite "he" or "them" in a piece, who exactly are you referring to? That might not always be obvious to a reader. Also, he made me focus on using more descriptive language to describe artists or music- specifically, it's always better to use more active verbs or adjectives to engage a reader more. After a while, I enjoyed doing edits of my pieces with him over the phone as we'd go through every sentence and find the best way to express what I was trying to say. Finding a good line editor is a rare thing and as such, I grew to appreciate his help more and more.

But there was something else I really admired and respected about Eddy. Another fault of many editors is that after pitching them a story, you never hear back. Eventually, you chalk this up to how busy they are and the fact that they get a lot of pitches all the time. Eddy was different in that I always heard back from him, even if it was a thumbs-down. He'd even explain why it wasn't right- timing or lack of general interest or such. One time I pitched a review and got shot down only to see someone else write about the same record in the Voice a few weeks later. I quizzed him on that and he just said that the other guy had a better pitch/angle than I did. He was right and I respected him for being honest about that. Again, many editors wouldn't do that. The fact that he would take the time to answer all/any pitches I gave him always at least made me feel that he also respected me enough as a writer to say something.

But there was even more to him than that as an editor. For the last piece that I did for him, we had a big argument over it. I wanted to write about Rick Moranis' country album. I thought it was a pretty funny record and unlike most celebrity albums, Moranis understood what a joke it was to be doing this. Eddy didn't agree. He hated the record and made it well known on the ILM bulletin board (a favorite virtual hangout of his). I still thought that I was right about the record and he decided that if I could make a good enough argument about its worth, he'd run the piece anyway. The end result is that after some more arguing and refinement, the Moranis article did run in the Voice, even though Eddy probably still didn't like the record. Again, not a lot of editors would do that.

Though his DJ nights at various downtown spots were usually a little late for my early-to-bed ritual (a shame 'cause he'd spin everything from 80's pop to krautrock), the other nice memory I have of Eddy is always seeing him at the Voice holiday party. We freelancers were allowed to come and mingle with the staff and take advantage of a free buffet and open bar. Eddy was one of the few people I knew there so it was kind of comforting to see him and say hi. And argue about music. "Big Star was never as good as the Raspberries!" he insisted and though I knew he was wrong, I grew to appreciate him as a good instigator. Once he claimed wasn't allowing mash-up's to be eligible in the Pazz and Jop poll (which wasn't true) just to rib a guy who swore by them (who took it seriously and got pissed). Or he'd start a conversation about which hit records had bagpipes on them (Big Country didn't count) and continue this days later in an e-mail thread. Or how I was on my way out one time and told him "OK, gimme a kiss goodbye" and he obliged- I was kind of taken back at first (not turned on, mind you) but that's just the way he was. Not every editor would do that.

And no, I didn't agree with many of the rules that he (and Robert Christgau) imposed on Pazz and Jop but as I've said before and will gladly say again, he's one of the best editors I've worked with and I'm damn grateful for the time that I got to work with him. I hope that he finds another place that lets him exercise editorial control and given his background, I think it's only a matter of time before he finds that. I look forward to working with him again then. And telling him how freakin' wrong he is about the Raspberries.

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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