Music

Six By Seven: The Way I Feel Today

Jon Garrett

Six By Seven

The Way I Feel Today

Label: Beggars Banquet
US Release Date: 2002-07-09
UK Release Date: 2002-03-11
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Sometimes an album will click with me at the strangest time and place. Take Six by Seven's sophomore album, The Closer You Get. I'd had the thing in my possession for a year or so, already written up a mildly positive review of it, and stashed it in a pile next to the CD player -- where CDs tend to accumulate and receive, at best, a minimal number of plays.

But one weekend morning, I decided to take a trip downtown using public transportation. As I do whenever I'm going to be away from home for any extended period of time, I brought along my trusty Discman and a handful of CDs. Just so happens that I was in a rush and grabbed the first few albums on the top of the aforementioned pile, instead of actually shuffling through the CD cases.

Once on the train, I pulled out the CD player and scanned the albums I had brought with me: The Webb Brothers' Maroon, the Walkmen's Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, Radiohead's Amnesiac, and, finally, Six by Seven's The Closer You Get. I wasn't in much of a depressive mood, so I picked The Closer You Get, the liveliest album of the bunch in my estimation.

As I said, I originally thought the album was a shade above mediocrity; however, somewhere on that train ride, The Closer You Get fell into place. It was like hearing an entirely new album. Even though it had been in my collection for several months, I hadn't ever really "gotten it". But when I really bothered to listen, rather than simply go about my business with some music in the background, it struck me that Six By Seven was attempting something truly incredible. The Closer You Get was the most pitch-perfect fusion of Nirvana's melody and My Bloody Valentine's artful abstraction I'd ever heard. And Chris Olley, who I'd previously dismissed as your stereotypical "indie vocalist" -- short on style and substance, suddenly became the genuine article, full of soul and meaning.

Needless to say, I had high expectations for the follow-up, which finally arrived earlier this year. The Way I Feel Today picks up where the last one left off. Six by Seven are still mining for indie gold in the grunge and shoegaze caverns. However, in this case, Six by Seven are coming closer to approximating the work of Bush and Melochrome than the respective genres' leading lights. What felt like a futuristic prototype on The Closer You Get now resembles a broken-down jalopy.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, so maybe I should start with what's right. The first single, "I.O.U. Love", showcases and gorgeous and previously unexplored side of the band by zeroing in on the rhythm section and Olley's icy howl. It's as close as the band has dared tread to Joy Division, but thankfully, they do it without descending into mawkish theatrics. The single hints at a potentially rewarding creative direction for the band. Unfortunately, it's a path that's largely unexplored on the rest of The Way I Feel Today.

The band splits the rest of the album between sub-Bush grunge leftovers and impossibly slow exercises in patience -- with no payoff. In both cases, the tension found on "I.O.U. Love" is sorely missed. Even the lyrics, which have never been a strong point for Olley, have noticeably dipped in quality. The fast-paced rockers stick to the Rossdale School of NonsenseTM, e.g. "All the eggs were scrambled / You were my covergirl / I never promised you nothing". When Olley & Co. slow it down a notch, the lyrics get a bit more bearable, but you'll have trouble finding any depth to sentiments like: "I adore your conversation / I adore just who you are / You inspire my imagination / I adore just who you are". The banalities are particularly painful in such a stripped-down context, when there are far too few musical distractions. At least on The Closer You Get, Six by Seven had the good sense to mask their weakness with hails of guitar fuzz.

The Way I Feel Today is by no means a successful album, but it does suggest loftier aspirations -- especially on "I.O.U. Love". If Six by Seven can figure out a way to harness that song's breathtaking scope and verve for the duration of a full-length, they may well join the elite ranks of the art-rock brigade -- currently inhabited by groups like Interpol and Les Savy Fav. Sadly, The Way I Feel Today only pushes them further away from reaching those heights.

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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