Music

Joy Division: The Best of Joy Division

Daniel Rivera

The legendary post-punk pioneers get Rhino's famous "Best of" treatment. Sadly, we all could have made this album ourselves.


Joy Division

The Best of Joy Division

Label: Warner
US Release Date: 2008-04-29
UK Release Date: 2008-03-25
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The release of a Best of compilation has many implications. Generally, it's supposed to indicate that a group or an artist has entered a certain circle of musicians with such an abundance of noteworthy pieces of work that the highlights can be compiled and examined together. Somehow, this will provide an adequate map of the artist's existence. This idea has been both fine-tuned and diminished over the years. For every intimate BBC rarities compilation and Peel Sessions collection, there is an equally vacuous gathering of singles and radio hits simply repackaged and released for mass consumption.

These types of releases wouldn't even be a blip on the old radar but for fans like us, chomping at the bit for yet another release by one of our favorite artists or groups. So isn't it a little disrespectful when they take our loyalty and anticipation and use it to turn an undeserved profit? Forgive me for taking a moralist approach in regards to the music industry (how pointless is that?), but I do believe that there is something to be said for respecting the fans. We are, after all, the ones paying for this music -- in most cases anyway.

By and large, Rhino Records have been a cut above the rest in matters such as these. They spend immeasurable time and resources compiling and deciding which bands will get these types of royal treatments. For the most part, the end results are satisfying, if not downright amazing. So imagine my surprise when I saw that Joy Division (unsurprisingly one of my all time favorite bands) was getting the Rhino treatment with a Best of release.

Joy Division has spent the better part of the last decade becoming respected trendsetters all over again. We see this all of the time with bands of this nature. Our all too brief encounters with them in their heyday give way to more intimate encounters years after they're gone. This was capped, perhaps, by the Killers' horrible reworking of "Shadow Play" late last year; as well as the recent motion picture Control depicting the life and times of Ian Curtis.

Joy Division is something of a "go-to" group among hipster elitists and music aficionados, and, really, they deserve it. The short-lived band earned their legendary status not simply through the tragic suicide of their front man, but through the way that they genuinely and expertly challenged the conformities of rock music -- specifically punk. But you know that already. What may surprise you, however, is the surprisingly superfluous nature of Rhino's The Best of Joy Division compilation.

Treading the same water as other, more fleshed-out depictions of the group's work (specifically and obviously the legendary Substance), The Best of Joy Division is a perfectly functional, but mostly innocuous collection of stellar tracks that we've really all known and loved for years. Not even as introspective as the expanded version released abroad, this compilation is somehow both adequate and lacking. If anything, it shows that while you're never really going to be disappointed with the songs of Joy Division, you need a bit more of a reason than that to pay for a collection of tracks that you already own.

What's more, the disc is really barely a representation of their best work. It neglects much of their earliest pieces in favor of more… obvious choices. It's an odd strategy, seeing as their earliest ventures are just as well known as their later ones -- if not more. This makes the album both simple and short (again, both a strength and a weakness), landing itself somewhere on the side of the "why bother making this?" camp. The biggest problem is not that it doesn’t play well -- it’s that it doesn’t play well enough.

All in all, it's difficult to be too hard on this album. While the fact that it misses many key tracks that help to define Joy Division will cause consternation among diehard fans, for what it is The Best of Joy Division can at the very least work as a fairly good introduction for new fans. Of course it contains their signature track, "Love Will Tear Us Apart", among other notable staples. However, throughout the 14 tracks, there is a mildly healthy sampling of the different directions in which the group went. Sure, it doesn't all hold together as well as Substance did and still does -- but it's hard to seriously fault any album that has this many good Joy Division cuts contained within its core.

One would be stretching their credibility to call The Best of Joy Division one of Rhino's finest hours, but for a company that prides themselves on bringing these types of collections to fans, it certainly doesn’t ruin their reputation. While this US version of the album (without the second disc containing Peel sessions and the like) is a bit unnecessary, its existence isn't exactly exploitative. Joy Division, after all, is certainly in that circle of musicians deserving to have their work highlighted. It's just that we could probably have made this mix ourselves.

5

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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