Reviews

Ladytron

Jason Ladewig
Ladytron

Ladytron

City: New York
Venue: Tribeca Grand Hotel
Date: 2002-05-14
Familiar Aliens: Ladytron "Team" DJ set Terms like "nu-wave", "Electroclash", and "tech-pop", have recently been thrown around a lot by the media, record labels, promoters, artist themselves, and fans, when describing the recent trend of '80s-inspired electronic dance music. Although these are not unlike most genre titles that have sprung in the last few years, I can't help but feel silly using any them. You end up sounding like a promoter, record label, or an NME staff member. More retro terms, such as "new wave", "electro", and "synthpop" seem to describe the music well, but they are better at describing something that was happening two whole decades ago, a time when (I can only guess) the players weren't thinking in such a tongue-in-cheek manner -- not to mention "electro" was a hip-hop term more than anything else. No matter what you call it, though, it seems this trend is in full swing, as new acts are still popping up, while the kings of this fad, Fischerspooner, have signed a £2 million deal with Ministry of Sound Records. Also, super swank hotels like the Tribeca Grand have been hosting DJs and parties that cater to girls with retro-lopsided, new-waver hairdos, and wearing all things '80s from head to toe. And dudes sporting checkered Vans and mullets, of course. This was the scene we experienced the evening the Ladytron DJ "team" came to town. To get the things rolling (or spinning), a number of NYC DJ's were spinning mostly recent electro (and, as far as I could tell, I didn't hear any old-school "electro" like Mantronix ). None of these DJs sparked my interest too much, as the sets were safe, non-stop electronic dance music that fostered a light crowd on the dance floor. Not bad at all, but very forgettable. That is, until the unknown DJ who played before Ladytron managed to slip in some curve balls, including a bizarre Latin reworking of Air's "Radio #1". He finished the set with the bombastic "House of Jealous Lovers" by NYC's post-punk loving band, the Rapture. When Reuben Wu of Ladytron got up on the stage, I was surprised to find out that there was in fact no "DJ team" as had been advertised, but only this one member of the Liverpool band. As he hit the decks, he opened with "1984", the synth-drenched intro to Van Halen's album with the same name. I was expecting him to let the record proceed into the next track, "Jump", but instead he launched into a full-on electro set, employing some numbers I recognized, while others were most likely limited white labels or just didn't recognize. These included songs by Vitalic, a Kylie Minogue bootleg, A1 People's "Casio Rock", Dakar & Grinser cover of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (which trainspotters credit for the whole "new wave-electro" hype that surged in 1999), a remix of the Detroit techno classic "Shari Vari" by Number of Names, a bootleg of Prince's "Kiss", and Ural 13 Diktators' "Disko Kings". Although I enjoyed many of these tracks, I couldn't help but feel slightly electrocuted by the end of the night. Not in a cool way, but in the way a faulty lamp electrocuted me when I was a little kid, which just shocked me and then made me really tired. I had to go home and listen to Neil Young to recalibrate my ears, as well as to get over the experience of over-indulgence in retro-electro. Putting aside the fact that I went to this show to write about it, I find it very difficult to be in these gatherings and not analyze just what is going on. Should we describe this (re)appropriation/ regurgitation of the past as "uncanny", perhaps an "interesting costume ball", or maybe as "refreshing"? We have seen this all before, we know its finality just like we know the lines from The Breakfast Club, and yet there's this generation of hipsters in their early 20s who have made this rehashing their job. The problem with this predictability is that it is not fresh and exciting, but rather stale, or at least it is now. The revival has lasted only a short while and it already seems to be tiring itself. We could say it's the media fault for over-exposing it too much and too rapidly (what with Fox's That 80s Show, etc.), but we need to wonder about the scene itself, those girls who spend hours with the curling iron and the blue eye-shadow, and the coked-up boys with the retro dance moves. Are they conscious of their performance, or do they see it as an expression of their essence? I confess that I have a lot more faith in the music than in the scene as a whole. I imagine a lot of the mentioned artist simply aren't as concerned with emulating an '80s aesthetic, rather just making music they like.

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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