Reviews

Deerhoof

Megan Milks

Shin Splints, Arachnogasmic Musicals, and a regrettable lack of hooves.

Deerhoof

Deerhoof

City: Philadelphia
Venue: First Unitarian Church
Date: 2006-01-29

I did not see Deerhoof. I went to see Deerhoof. That was my assignment; that was my goal; that was my planned "Fun Time" for the week. Why did I not see Deerhoof? I did not see Deerhoof because of fatigue, shin splints, a developing cold, and because I entered a mood I like to call "Pissed off." Why was I "Pissed Off?" Not because of the fatigue, shin splints, and/or cold. It was because I was made to get up from my nice, cushy seat in the First Unitarian Church's sanctuary (which has stained-glass windows! and other exciting décor) where I took in Le Ton Mite's adult-child genius and the herky-jerky videos of Martha Colburn, to be herded into a considerably smaller, hotter, much less comfortable auxiliary room downstairs. It was here that we were to watch another opening act -- a dance troupe that I couldn't even see, you stupid tall boys with intrusive haircuts -- and the headliner. That headliner would be Deerhoof. I did not see Deerhoof. I couldn't take it. I had to leave. I can't stand watching shows in an overcrowded, church-smelly box when there's no beer. I'm not an alcoholic; I'm just old, and increasingly high-maintenance. Who's with me? Aren't you sick of forking over your hard-earned cash to troll around boxy rooms, looking for some semblance of spatial comfort in the midst of elbowing, poor ventilation, lack of a coat check, and a general inability to see the band? Concertgoers of America, we deserve better. I'm 24. I'm old. I've been concert-hopping since I was a wee young thing, and I've done my time. Now, when I go to a show, I want to be able to 1) see the band, 2) have enough room to pull my bag off one shoulder and onto the other one without having to say "sorry, didn't mean to touch your ass", 3) feel comfortable -- that is, not sweating -- while wearing T-shirt and jeans, and 4) drink beer. Coat checks are great, but not necessary. Clean bathrooms terrific, too, but again, unnecessary. I'll settle for five minutes of rankness if only the two- to three-hour concert experience were a little more cheery. I miss the Black Cat. I miss the 9:30 Club. I miss IOTA and Warehouse Next Door. I love Philadelphia a thousand times more than I loved DC, but I do not love the First Unitarian Church. I hope to god that r5 Productions, those wonderful people bringing the beat of emerging talent to the City of Brotherly Love, uses its money to find a better venue for their bigger shows. I know the all-ages thing is a setback, and you are right to want to serve the young ones. I'll be okay without beer, just get a better space. Now, on to the show. At least the part that I saw. Le Ton Mite is an experimental folksinger/performance artist so low-culture, he's fricking avant-garde. On stage was a one-dude, five-or-six-puppet outfit with a backdrop of whimsical palm trees. These weren't fancy-pants puppets, btw; these were cardboard cutouts glued to popsicle sticks. Rad. With much let's-pretend-we're-kindergartners wit, dude proceeded to play such charming singalongs as "Ten Miles to Go and No Gas in the Car" and "Everybody's Connected", featuring Mort the Drunk and Val the Sexy Parrot. Piddles the Dog led us in a singalong that went "ha ha ha ha ha," then "ho ho ho ho ho," and finally "hee hee hee hee hee," and we all had a grand old time, except for those of us who thought it was stupid. Le Ton Mite was completely zany and crackhead cool. I was won over; wished I had brought my kids. I don't have any kids. Gotcha. Was that stupid? Next thing: fade to black, and we got to see some of multimedia artist Martha Colburn's film shorts, which were mainly collagistic animations using found art and hand-colored film. Each short was exquisitely constructed and wickedly oppressive in its hypercharged sexuality, jittery feel, and rawkous soundtrack. "Cats Amore" dealt with feminization, felinization, and the fetishization of both. That is, Colburn clomped together sexed-up female bodies and cat heads, then made these half-and-half creatures the object of much dog-head panting and eye-popping. Its point was pretty obvious, but the effect it had on the viewer was more interesting, as the overbearing jerkiness of Colburn's animation technique felt violent when paired with such leering, grotesque images, most especially when overlaid with a disorienting soundtrack. "Spiders in Love: An Arachnogasmic Musical" was similarly unsettling. This one moved even faster, and combined spider imagery with glammed-up female faces, exploring the black-widow stereotype and castration anxiety. Throughout the film, femmed-up, lipsticked spiders suck up detached penises while the soundtrack shrieks with horns. Skulls flash on and off, and sexualized pairs of human lips jump in and out of the mix, linking hunger and sex with death. Colburn's work is darkly comic, grotesque, mesmerizing, exhibitionist. She forces voyeurism upon her viewers, then punishes them for participating. Yeah, yeah, S&M is so trendy now, I probably shouldn't mention it in reference here, but it fits. I felt like Colburn's freakfrenzy of images whipped me into submission, got me off, then left me feeling dirty, guilty, and ashamed. But dammit, I liked it. I liked it a lot. And I was all set for the Leg & Pants Dans Theater when They (meaning the person on the loudspeaker) made us get up and shuffle downstairs into a stuffy, packed room that I just couldn't stay in for very long. Bye-bye, Leg & Pants, I waved. Bye-bye, Deerhoof. I'm sure you rocked hard, but me and my shin splints had to go home and mull over the politics of the concert venue. A shame, that, but we'll meet again most assuredly. Until then, au revior. Next page: Nate Dorr on Deerhoof.
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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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