Reviews

DKT/MC5

Adam Williams
DKT/MC5

DKT/MC5

City: New York
Venue: Bowery Ballroom
Date: 1969-12-31
Only a week into an ambitious world tour, bassist Michael Davis, guitarist Wayne Kramer, and drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson took to the Bowery stage as the surviving members of the once mighty MC5, proving that they could still kick out the jams with love, humor and passion. One of a select few bands completely defined by the sum of its parts, the untimely passing of vocalist Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith over a decade ago effectively ended the MC5 proper. Thus, any attempts to utilize the band moniker could/should be met by healthy doses of skepticism and criticism. With one eye on the music and the other on integrity however, the DKT tour is not crafted as a reunion per se, but rather a celebration of art created many years ago; ably supported by a roster of collaborators, its line-up will change as the tour ventures from the States to Australia and Japan. Once the tour bus rolled into New York for the two night stand, the majority of vocal chores were handled by Mudhoney's Mark Arm -- a fledgling legend in the annals of grunge -- while understated but ultra-cool Marshall Crenshaw contributed a solid rhythm guitar foil to Kramer's still potent lead work. And speaking of legends, what would a genuine New York gig be without The Dictators' Handsome Dick Manitoba belting out a song or two? If that wasn't enough, throw in unpredictable ex-Lemonhead Evan Dando, and the twin gigs encompassed everything from rock and roll revival to theater of the absurd. Playing before a standing-room-only crowd of loyalists and curiosity seekers, Kramer dusted off his dance moves, (unapologetically borrowed from James Brown back in the day), as well as his Fender Strat, and proceeded to showcase his highly underrated fret board wizardry. He even managed to coordinate a three tiered audience participation sing-a-long that shook the walls. In the meantime, Davis fired up his Precision bass and locked into Thompson's drumming as if the two had never been apart. Arm's command of classic MC5 material was impressive, (particularly the dive-in-the-crowd fun of "I Want You"), and Manitoba seemed to be the happiest guy in town as he tore through "Call Me Animal" and "American Ruse". Even Crenshaw joined the fray with spirited renditions of "Tonight" and "Gotta Keep Movin'". And then there was Dando: in true "love him or hate him" mode, the former Lemonhead resembled Gumby on a bad acid trip, careening all over the stage with abandon. Take nothing away from his enthusiasm though, and give credit where credit is due -- gymnastics aside, Dando's singing was extremely satisfying, and his version of "Shakin' Street" was fantastic. The evening's festivities included a bit of impromptu comedy as well. Just as Brother Wayne cued the crowd into telling him what time it was, Thompson had a drum malfunction, and the collective cry of "Kick out the jams motherfuckers!" had to be put on hold. Once the technical snafu was corrected, the moment was rekindled with a nod and a wink, and the song exploded in electrifying fashion. So how good was Monday's show? Damn good, but nowhere close to the second part of the double header... With a slightly altered set list, and an accompanying two piece brass section, DKT shined anew for nearly two hours. The horn augmentation added layering to the overall sound, (particularly on "Sister Anne"), and the full blown freak-out of "Starship" left everyone pining for The Grande Ballroom back in '68. Kramer dazzled once more, as Thompson stretched out into some tremendous rapid fire strafing runs, (the solo on "Skunk" was outstanding), and Davis laid down the bottom effortlessly. Arm and Manitoba were comfortable in their roles again, as was Crenshaw. Even Dando settled down, content to merely sing his parts with a minimum of gyration. Who'd have thought the word "fun" would be used to describe a show paying tribute to the last true rock and roll revolutionaries? But fun is exactly what both nights were, and to say these gigs were special would be an understatement; they were more akin to an eagerly anticipated homecoming, one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Although the past cannot be recreated, it certainly can be revisited, as DKT's focus is on bringing the music while making up for lost time. With a catalog comprised of a single live recording and a pair of studio albums, the MC5 has reached legendary status more for the crash and burn controversy left in its wake. Before the cloud of socio-political upheaval and protracted legal battles became synonymous with the band however, it was all about the creation of art: making music to liberate the mind and the soul by experiencing all that life had to offer. Davis, Kramer and Thompson may not be at the forefront of the cultural rebellion any longer, but they're nonetheless back where they belong: on stage together as brothers in arms. And those three motherfuckers still can kick out the jams...

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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