Outrageous Cherry: The Book of Spectral Projections

Matt Cibula

Outrageous Cherry

The Book of Spectral Projections

Label: Rainbow Quartz
US Release Date: 2002-04-16
UK Release Date: 2002-06-18

Outrageous Cherry is connected to half the bands in Detroit, especially through lead singer/songwriter Matthew Smith. He's produced the Go (Jack White's old band), he's played with the Dirtbombs and Andre Williams, he gets around. Smith's got the Volebeats for his thing, and this band is his late 1960s garage rock thing. After years of putting out records for small American indies, he got lucky last year when Alan McGee picked this 78-minute opus for release on his Poptones label.

Let me just say that I think Alan McGee is a wanker. For every great band Creation signed in the 1990s, there is an equal and opposite asshole move by McGee that negated that band's success. He let Oasis and Primal Scream get completely out of control; worse, he pretty much ruined any shot my poor Boo Radleys had at international success, and then went on to slag Boo mainman Martin Carr in his book and his interviews. And No One Messes With Martin on my watch. So I don't care if Poptones goes nipples-up. But I won't hold that against Outrageous Cherry, who have finally managed to get this record out in the U.S. on Rainbow Quartz.

Overall, they're not a bad band at all. Larry Ray, who has played with "psych-legends the Spike Drivers" (from the press release), is a very good guitar player. His work is creepy/sexy/cool on a lot of these tracks, and provides the link between rockabilly and psychedelic music, which a lot of neo-psych groups forget. (After all, didn't Pink Floyd start sucking when they forgot about the blues?) The opening of "Through Parallel Dimensions" is that Chuck-Berry-does-acid riff we've all been waiting for; "Everything's Back to Normal" is a good old-fashioned proto-punk hoedown of sorts, with syncopated riffs and hot lines aplenty. And while the rhythm section of Aran Ruth on bass and Deb Agnolli on drums doesn't really stand out, they don't fall on their faces either. Well, okay: Ruth's "cover painting" makes for just about the ass-ugliest God-awfulest fake-late '60s cover I've ever seen. (I don't know how they will sound with their new drummer, Carey Gustafson, but I suspect it'll be the exact same. The real focus is on the guitar parts, and on Matthew Smith's vocals.

I want to state very clearly that there are some really nice hooky songs here. The second "side" of what would be a double album on vinyl is where things really heat up; "Here Where the Stars Are Cracking Up" and "Wide Awake in the Spirit-World" are catchy, and they lead right into a song which has really grown on me, the drony slowcore tune called "My Demon Friend". The melody of "History of Magic" is all twisty and turny, a great I-wish-I-was-a-hippie slowdance song. (I can just see the long hair swaying in the gym. . . .) And "It's So Nice to Be Here" is a punchy bouncy way to end a record: "So nice to be here with you at last / My faded image of the oncoming past" don't seem like great words to close out a long record with, but they work, kinda.

I can't really recommend this to people who don't have a lot of time on their hands, for three reasons. First of all, it's way too long for most listeners; real old-timey psych-garage albums were 35 minutes and out, a couple good songs and some filler, see ya on the next record in six months, buh-bye -- and to suddenly be confronted with 20 songs in almost 80 minutes can seem like kind of a slog.

This is related to the second hurdle, which is the production work. Everything is remote, far away, muffled in some kind of attempt to "recapture" the sound of all those great Nuggets bands and their low-tech aesthetic . . . but good lord the human ear can only take so much of that. If you want to hear Ray's best guitar work, you have to strain yourself something awful, and the bass and drums might as well be absent for all the thought put into them. And you'd think Smith would want his vocals to stand out, but every single song fuzzes them out with echo and reverb and pre-reverb; sounds like he recorded himself over Alexander Graham Bell's telephone. It's just too much work . . . for most people.

And this is the third problem with this disc: I'm not sure that Matthew Smith understands the genre to which he genuflects. Yeah, he's heard the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband and the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the 13th Floor Elevators and all those bands, but I'm not sure he really feels them. His songs seem to mimic all the details but none of the soul, and it ends up sounding fakey and bad-derivative instead of heartfelt and good-derivative. They're all somewhat surreal in their lyrical content, but in the exact same way. Track three, "The Unseen Devourers", talks about "Scorpion-shaped clouds / That pass by my window / Here they come right now"; track 11, "The Astral Transit Authority", goes right back to the well with "Staring through the window one way drain / Through the rain through the rain but I only detain / Jets flying overhead in the corner of my eye"; and track 20 starts with "Moonlight cut-out projections dangle / Each night the same starry curtains entangle". Three different songs that feature the narrator staring out the window? It's a little much.

Despite this, though, and the overall sonic sludge of The Book of Spectral Projections, I'm going to keep listening to it and loan it to my brother and everything. I don't think you'll get this record after five spins; I sure didn't. But these hooks have grown on me after 15 listens, and Smith's ham-fisted sincerity has begun to win me over. It's a great record for when you're staring out your window at those scorpion-shaped clouds. . . .

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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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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