Music

Editors: An End Has a Start

Dan Raper

Slickly professional follow-up to 2005's The Back Room fails to deliver the same jittery thrills.


Editors

An End Has a Start

Label: Fader
US Release Date: 2007-07-17
UK Release Date: 2007-06-25
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Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

Bottom line: Editors will never be as big in America as they are in England. It's not just that their influences are too easy for internet critics to delineate. It's not just that it doesn't rain as much here as over there. It's not just that bands like the Killers have dampened our collective enthusiasm for that old new wave. It's simply that the band's not quite expert enough at its particular pastiche to get really excited about.

Don't get me wrong, Editors are slickly professional about what they do -- clinical, even -- and they've already shown us they can construct a solid indie-disco song, and churn it out multiple times. There are a couple of examples of this on the new record -- we'll get to them -- but on the whole, the soaring choruses on exhibit here feel obligatory rather than really earned.

2007's the year of sanitized follow-ups, it seems: from A Weekend in the City -- do you even remember that? -- to An End Has a Start, to Interpol's underwhelming new album. In line with those two other major indie releases, the new Editors album is more slickly-produced, it's more sedate overall, and it has its sights firmly set on a more mainstream audience. The result, while likely disappointing to fans of the edgier songs on The Back Room like "Bullets" or "Blood", is at least artistically consistent. On the spectrum of disappointment, Editors don't sound like they're making a desperate grab at radio airplay (a la Bloc Party) or like a cheap imitation of their early, ascetic selves (a la Interpol). Instead, An End Has a Start seems like a sanded-down version of the original; the trouble being, of course, that those rough edges were among the first album's most enduring pleasures.

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now

I've been hearing the Smiths in everything recently (not sure why), and it's not that there's even an explicit musical link between these two bands, but Tom Smith surely shares something of Morrisey's melancholy. The problem is, Smith's expression of it is disappointingly surface-level. On the best songs, true, Smith does nail his own brand of soaring depression, but lyrics jumble together in butting clichés, and get stuck somewhere in the throat. "In the end all you can hope for is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through" -- indeed. Lyrically, things aren't all down and out; the singer promises that "Every little piece of your life will mean something to someone" and, more personally: "Now don't drown in your tears, babe, I will always be there". But it's a cold comfort; that we never really believe in a happy ending for Editors is part of the band's dark-hearted appeal.

A Rush and a Push and the Song is Ours

A number of the songs on An End Has a Start seem to be stitched together from disparate ideas that relate to each other only peripherally, if at all. As if the band arrived at the studio with a bunch of fragments, and ended up with bookshelves of ideas stacked one after the other, labeled as songs. So on more than a few tracks ("The Racing Rats" and "Escape the Nest" are examples), the band relies on Ed Lay's pounding drumbeat and Chris Urbanowicz's jittery guitar fuzz to carry songs to completion. Occasionally, though, enduring the bulk of a track rewards with a fragment that hits really hard: the chugging crescendo coda of "When Anger Shows", for example, with its complex piano figure and inexorable wall of guitar sound.

The best song by far is the opening track and first single, "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors". It's a conventionally glorious sound, but the construction is strapped tight: truncated chorus on first iteration, expanded gloriously next time around; neatly rising melodic line; textural interest derived from the apposition of piano and chiming guitars. This one song, at least, proves the band deserving of continuing attention. And even though its forays into sparse melancholia mostly plod, the band does reach a true feeling of peace on "Well Worn Hand". When Smith sings "I can't face the night like I used to before" the effect is all haunting regret, simply stated and quite powerful.

Yeah, This Light Probably Goes Out

An End Has a Start doesn't have the glorious indie-disco hits of Editors' debut, and its toned-down sheen leaves us wishing for more bite ... two strikes. But the band avoids the fatal blow with a still-deft understanding of how to use influence -- not as a substitute for content, but as a guide to style and attitude. The craft of the album's on full show, and dedicated Editors fans will find plenty of melodies to sing along to. But for those not already sold on the band's brooding indie rock, there's little apart from "Smokers" to get excited about.

5

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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