Music

Don't Forget Your Wellies: Glastonbury 2008

Cole Stryker
All photos by Cole Stryker

With only a flimsy $15 tent and wellington boots for protection, PopMatters’ Cole Stryker avoided Amy Winehouse’s punches, the mud, and John Mayer, at the annual global gathering that is the Glastonbury Festival.

Don't Forget Your Wellies: Glastonbury 2008

The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts is a place and time where one can observe a man dressed as a whoopee cushion eating a curry. It's a place you may find a pudgy Darth Vader, sans helmet, enjoying a cold beer in the rain. In a crowd of nearly 200,000, all converging on a sprawling dairy farm for a weekend of escapism, one is bound to run into a few eccentrics. At the Glastonbury Festival you will find circus tents, cabaret acts, comedians, magicians, art galleries, and poets, as well as an endless array of food, drinks, and less legal substances to be ingested. Oh, and apparently there is some music as well. + + + The rain pelted my flimsy $15 tent through the night, resulting in a few puddles. Fortunately, I had invested in a pair of wellies (think galoshes, Yanks). Even the most elaborately costumed attendees sported these dark green knee-high boots, as the mud in some areas was an almost knee deep slurry. Everyone spent the first day engaged in what I like to call the "Glastonbury Shuffle", which is the wiggly, cautious trudge that one must use in order to keep from falling in the mud. I made my way through the rain down to the main Pyramid stage for the morning's first performance. Did Garden State change your life? Do you plaster your Facebook profile with worn Holly Golightly and Jack Kerouac quotes or precocious nonsense like "I like pink Post-it notes" and "I should have been born in the '30s" in an attempt to communicate your freewheeling teenage spirit? Well friend, Kate Nash is right up your street. She speak-sings boring (but real!) lyrics about first dates and breakups in second person narrative with zero stage presence. It's only appropriate, perhaps, that she rose to prominence via MySpace. Seriously, Internet, this is the best you got? I liked you better when you were all about downloading single-track bootlegs of Zaireeka and not pushing coffee shop girlies to the main stage at the biggest music festival in the world. Oh well, at least Be Your Own Pet is up next. Maybe Jemina Pearl's caterwaul will wash the Nash out of my mouth, right? Woops! They've pulled out at the last minute, leaving the Rascals in their stead. Britain's rock scene is still rife with samey post-punk revival bands attempting to ride the Franz Ferdinand wave, but the Rascals actually have something new to offer. The three-piece create a full sound, with interesting guitar effects that recall Wire or Mission of Burma. Lead singer Miles Kane menacingly rolls his "r"s like Johnny Rotten, but his efforts don't quite rescue the Rascals from being another of the many slightly above average white British guitar bands to be found at Glastonbury

Glasvegas

Glasvegas boast a sound that seems consciously designed to disarm critics-- if you're going to rip off a band, you could do worse than the Jesus and Mary Chain. With plenty of "ooh-wa-ooh's" and other Phil Spector flourishes, Glasvegas is a bit more accessible than their noisy progenitors, but that's not to say the band's sound is watered down, just more focused on the syrupy sounds of '60s R&B than noise. Wrapped up in denim and black leather, and bathed in red fog for the entirety of their set, the band cruised through a series of sublime soda shop tragedies. If Amy Winehouse can make it to the top by refreshing the Stax/Motown side of the '60s soul spectrum, I see no reason why Glasvegas can't do the same for the Four Seasons and the Shangri-Las. Next up was Vampire Weekend. It wasn't the first time I've seen the group, but I just can't resist their boyish charm. How can anyone not like these guys? The singer looks like he's on the verge of cracking up, the bass player jerks and springs like one of those push-puppet figurines that collapse when you push the button, and the music is distilled feel-good. Ezra Koenig looks as though he tickles the sounds out of his guitar. I don't think I've ever seen a band who seem to enjoy what they are doing as much as Vampire Weekend. I might be able to enjoy it too if the guy in front of me wasn't waving a flag emblazoned with a smiley face smoking a joint. Why, hello 1990, I didn't know you were here.

Candi Staton

I made my way over to the Jazz World stage to see the legendary Candi Staton, who gave us a sampling of songs from her gospel, R&B, and disco eras, the latter of which, in the form of "Young Hearts Run Free", was met with thunderous applause. She's remained popular here in the UK due to her smash early '90s club hit, "You've Got the Love". She's spent recent years winning Dove awards on the gospel circuit, but recently released His Hands, a collaboration with Will Oldham, among others, that's been hailed as her return to soul. Today she wowed us with the rollicking "I'd Rather Be an Old Man's Sweetheart (Than a Young Man's Fool)", "Suspicious Minds", and an even-more-heartbreaking-than-Elvis rendition of "In the Ghetto". Following Candi Staton at the Jazz World stage was Lupe Fiasco, who began his set with little fanfare. Looking like Morpheus, with black trench coat, leather pants and shades, his smiling church boy enthusiasm and "positive" lyrics made for yet another sunshiney performance, despite the ever-present fog and drizzle. Like a half-dozen other artists I saw, he made time for a lazy "F-You" to Bush, which is apparently the new, "Everybody say 'Yeah'!"

Hercules and Love Affair

Glastonbury boasts eight stages devoted to dance music, one of which hosted this year's models, Hercules and Love Affair. The musicality of this group is impressive, and all the live instrumentation kept it interesting. It was here, however, that I became even more aware of the contrasts between British and American dance culture. Hercules and Love Affair looked like they walked straight out of the "Welcome to the Pleasure Dome" video. And yet, the tent was full of the British equivalent to Larry the Cable Guy. In America, this type of fellow would kick the crap out of you for implying that Chevy is better than Ford. Throughout the festival, the dance tents were consistently filled to the brim with these E'd up thugs. I suppose America's dance scene is more directly tied to the gay club culture of '70s Chicago and Detroit. Also, since Britain is mostly urban, and the British underclass could never really call hip hop their own, what else is there to do on a Friday night other than take lots of cheap drugs and dance the night away? This analysis is brought to you by someone who knows jack about the dynamics of British sexuality. I stuck around the dance stages to see Roisin Murphy. I had only seen Ms. Murphy in her eccentric videos. Her unmistakable style, somewhere between Bjork and Britney, easily translated to a live setting, and she dazzled the audience with multiple costume changes. She approached the stage with a robotic lurch not too dissimilar to Pee Wee Herman's "Tequila" dance and worked it through cuts from Ruby Blue and Overpowered. Her live rendition of "Ruby Blue" was particularly delightful, with the song taking on a '60s go-go sound. Dizzee Rascal closed the day's festivities, at least for me. Seeing Dizzee live brings out the complexity of his rhymes. There's a reason why this guy is the face of UK grime. His flawless delivery of the motor-mouthed "Stand Up Tall" proves it. He performed his crossover smash "Dance Wiv Me", and spent a while talking about how clean his shoes were. If the crowd's welcoming reaction is any indication, Jay-Z has nothing to worry about tomorrow night.

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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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