Music

Incognito: Tales from the Beach

Life is a whole lot groovier on Tales from the Beach, where Incognito fuses together jazz, soul, and dance to create a rapturous sound that feeds the mind and body.


Incognito

Tales from the Beach

Label: Heads Up
US Release Date: 2008-06-24
UK Release Date: 2008-05-08
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Rhythm. It's the heartbeat. It's our breath. It's how we walk and talk. It's what stimulates the body to dance. Incognito excels in rhythm. On Tales from the Beach, their debut for Heads Up, the band fuses together jazz, soul, and dance to create a rapturous sound that feeds the mind and body. In the process, Incognito has delivered one of their very best efforts and one of the most genuinely soul-stirring albums of 2008.

What sets Tales from the Beach apart is a refreshing blend of organic musical ingredients and dance-based rhythms. It is scarcely a surprise that the album has a rich live sound since Incognito is known for their rousing concert appearances. From the punch of brass to the staccato rhythmic patterns of flute, the full orchestration is a testament to the vision of Incognito's mastermind, Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick. For the past 20 years, Bluey has constantly shuffled the elements of the band while honoring his muse.

The inspiration here, as he writes affectionately in the album's liner notes, is the music he heard as a child on the beaches of Mauritius. Watching how musicians summoned revelers to dance planted the seeds for Bluey's life work. In a very profound way, Tales from the Beach has gestated since his childhood. Each of the 15 songs emanates a kind of fascination with the all too taken-for-granted power of music to unite, heal, transport, and inspire.

In the floral-scented trail of Bees+Things+Flowers (2006), a stripped-down excursion into the Incognito catalog that featured a few new tracks, Tales from the Beach feels like a creative watershed for Bluey, who wrote and produced the album along with the band members. At nearly 75 minutes, nary a second feels superfluous. While most albums approaching the full-length mark are precarious affairs, Tales from the Beach sustains the listener's attention, partially because of a cadre of different vocalists, including Incognito mainstays Imaani, Joy Rose, Tony Momrelle, and guest artist Maysa.

"Love, Joy, Understanding" could be a subtitle for the album since every track touches on at least one of these three themes. Delivering Bluey and Matt Cooper's message is a delicious cocktail of Imaani's dulcet voice, a furious burst of trombone and trumpet runs, and a rhythm section steeped in tasty disco beats. The lyrics specifically address a relationship under repair but, given the celebratory ambience, the words can be reshaped into a clarion call for harmony among humankind.

"Happy People", written by Bluey with multi-instrumentalist Francis Hylton, more explicitly expresses that kind of Utopian vision. "Build ourselves a future paradise/And bring our aspirations into view", sings Tony Momrelle over Hylton's bass and percussion-driven track. A fusillade of congas stirs the rhythm up and a series of descending chord progressions carry the chorus to blissful heights.

The emotional centerpiece of the album is "I Remember a Time", another collaboration between Bluey and Matt Cooper and one of a handful of tracks on the album where the B.P.M. count is less club-centric. Cooper handles the majority of the instrumentation here and introduces the song with a beautifully cathartic piano melody. An unobtrusive horn arrangement by Bluey and Trevor Mires decorate the melody with flugelhorn, trombone, and trumpet. A sensitive performance by Maysa infuses the song with even more depth. Her velvety voice transports the listener to that hill overlooking the sea where the narration unfolds. She conveys the ache and bewilderment of lost hopes and the struggle to search for answers. "Will someone please reach out and help me find/The pieces of my shattered dreams?", she gently pleads. For anyone nursing the wounds of a broken heart, "I Remember a Time" is a healing salve.

"It May Rain Sometime", a tranquil two-minute interlude composed by Bluey, follows the pathos of "I Remember a Time". Vocalist Joy Rose sounds like a guardian angel, reminding the crestfallen that hope prevails even when rain deluges the soul.

Completing the cycle of hurt and healing is "Never Look Back". Within moments of the fading notes of the Fender Rhodes on "It May Rain Sometime", a melancholy sax solo by Paul Greenwood takes center stage. Trevor Mires and Sid Gauld join on trombone and trumpet. Tracing the thematic arch led by the two preceding songs, the phrasing of the notes is like a sequence of questions marks. The notes conjure a sense of uncertainty, akin to what happens when a relationship ends, that is until Richard Bull's drum trills launches a full-on explosion of Latin-jazz. Appropriately, it's Maysa whose vocalise dresses the track. The carefree spirit of her wordless expression symbolizes how her character in "I Remember a Time" has weathered the storm of lost love. Even the title – "Never Look Back" -- is a rejoinder to "I Remember a Time". The seven-minute groove seems to be saying just that – keep going.

I'd be remiss not to mention "I've Been Waiting", the album's outstanding first single. This is the kind of track you crave and induces a feverish need be replayed over and over. Simon Grey co-wrote the song with Bluey and plays no less than six of the instruments. He's responsible for the throbbing bass line, which drives the funky rhythm along. Horns decorate the melody and Bluey wistfully strums his Fender Stratocaster underneath the groove.

Maysa's voice gleefully intones, "I've been waiting for the chance to make you mine". This is exactly what Incognito has accomplished with Tales from the Beach. They take hold of your body and mind to make your life a little better and a whole lot groovier for 75 minutes.

9

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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