Monday, March 31, 2008

Endangered Species

Following on form RAW's Panda Bear post (Isn't that just the greatest LP), we had a comment from Dan expressing the wonderous virtues of a Pantha Du Prince remix of Animal Collective (of which Panda Bear is a member).

Well I can gladly say that I have indeed sought out said remix and it is indeed wonderous. So I present it to you now. 10 minutes of deep, deep Techno in the typical Pantha Du Prince style. Exquisite.

Animal Collective - Peacebone (Pantha Du Prince Remix) // Domino (Buy)

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Good Clean Family Fun

Never having been to Pontins or any similar UK holiday institution previously, I really had no idea what the whole Bloc experience was going to be like but the ridiculously good line-up was just far too enticing to miss and it was with great anticipation that I’d signed up several weeks beforehand. Following a fairly painless bus ride from London and a slightly long-winded check-in process upon arrival, The ill-ec-tro-nic and our band of merry ravers finally got the keys to our chalet and despite it reminding me of my old council flat; solid walls, comfy beds and hot water were clearly going to a be a much better idea than camping during a UK winter!

The Bloc advertising stated the presence of the mighty Funktion One and upon entering the TECBLOC arena, it soon became abundantly clear that this was merely the icing on the cake as the room had been transformed from it’s usual cabaret style set-up to a mecca for the disciples of bleep with full scale sound and lighting rigs that included the best lasers I’ve seen for a long time – this was going to be THE BOMB!

Not only had the organisers secured a plethora of high quality acts but they’d also devised a well-planned schedule that put complementary acts on after each other rather than at the same time as can often be the case at such events so once we’d put our rough agenda together it was time for us to dive in head first…

Our first night alone packed in more high-calibre acts than I usually see over several months and although both Various Production and Legowelt were both on at the same time, the proximity of the rooms enabled to check out a bit of both sets. Unfortunately neither quite lived up to previous performances in my book with Various’ DJ set in particular falling well short of the full live show we’d seen at Sonar last year – not that they didn’t have the place rockin’ though! Mr Velcro Fastener and Dymanix II provided a healthy dose of electro that is sadly lacking from most listings these days and Dave Clarke and our old mate Necta Selecta both dished up some quality platters in between.

However, the undoubted highlight of the first night was the live performance by the Interstellar Fugitives and I’m glad to say that the prospect of a full-on UR performance with Mike Banks in tow easily lived up to expectations especially as they chose to bless the crowd with live renditions of classics from across their artistic roster with both ‘Amazon’ and ‘Midnight Sunshine’ being present – it really doesn’t get much better than this!

Having failed to haul our sorry asses out of bed in time to see the Bleep43 showcase open day two’s proceedings, it was the electronic delights of Christ and Digitonal that eased us into our Saturday prior to us deciding on a hearty meal ahead of our planned 10 hour (!) stint in the BASSBLOC. Now, one of the things I typically like about festivals is just wandering around and letting my ears decide where I should park myself for a while but the listings for this arena were just ridiculously good…and thankfully did not disappoint!

As solo artists, both Claro Intelecto and Andy Stott are right at the top of their games so bettering this as a dual live pairing was always going to be a nigh on impossible task but their 60 minutes of dub tinged techno was a tasty treat and set the scene nicely for Convextion, one of the latest gems in Detroit’s crown. Sleeparchive was up next and what this man lacks in stage presence (does he get sprayed with glue before he performs?) he more than makes up for with his stripped down audiophile techno grooves.

I’m not sure whether Lory D had taken note of Sleeparchive’s somewhat static demeanour or whether his energy and showmanship were the norm but if it’s possible for one man and a machine to give a techno ‘performance’ then this guy was giving it a pretty good go! The crowd participation continued for Monolake's performance, in fact he chose to get closer to the party in more ways than one by planting himself and his Monodeck slap bang in the middle of the crowd and performing from the mixing booth where both audience and performer were clearly relishing the aural delights filling the air.

Halfway through our BASSBLOC marathon, we decided to take a breather for a while but 40 minutes later we hurriedly rushed back after one of our posse phoned to inform us that Karl Bartos “is playing classic Kraftwerk”. Now this is what we and the rest of the crowd were clearly hoping for but the much publicised control that Ralf and Florian exert over their ventures had led me to assume that he may sneak a couple of cheeky Kraftwerk numbers in at best but even after missing the first part of the set, I got to hear faultless versions of The Model, Computer Love, Robots and several other classics. He did of course play a number of his own compositions but while competent, these were sadly no real match for the Kraftwerk pearls although this is probably due in part to my unfamiliarity with the subject matter as tracks such as ‘I’m the Message’ sit easily with the group’s back catalogue.

Dubstep had a heavy presence at the festival and despite my ever-growing love of this genre, the sheer wealth of quality techno on offer prevented me from getting as much of this action as I’d hoped. We did however manage to check out some of Skream’s set and it was a suitably heavy affair and a lot more danceable than I was expecting (I’m only on beginner’s level dubstep lessons) with Langer reliably informing me that should I accompany him to the next DMZ then it’s likely to be more of the same – nice!

However, our long haul in the BASSBLOC was not over and it was time to head back and catch some Radioactive Man who treated the crowd to a never-ending rendition of Uranium followed by tasters from his forthcoming album interspersed with older treats. It was then back to the old school for the next two acts and as one of the founding fathers of both techno and electro, Juan Atkins could easily have sounded rooted in the past but thankfully this was not the case and he played a blinding set…this was unfortunately in contrast to Mr Beltram who seemed to be knocking out the same old tunes he has done for the last 15 years and soon caused us to leave the BASSBLOC behind.

The remainder of the night and in fact the rest of the festival was spent milling between rooms and shuffling along to whatever took our fancy – the final thing of real note (we were on the Sunday evening bus) being Ceefax’s Acid Bingo which unlike the messed up game we were expecting seemed to be yet another excuse for a rave-up, this time full of old school breakbeat classics, oh and a touch of Chas & Dave just to show that these things should never really be taken too seriously! A trip to the glorious white sands (ahem!) of Hemsby beach also provided an added bonus to the proceedings and rounded off what can only be described as one of my finest festival experiences ever. In fact, once the organisers have worked out how to make it warm and sunny in the UK during March then they’ll have finalised their formula for devising a truly world-class event.

Various Production - Go Beat //Various Production
Karl Bartos - I'm the Message //Home Records
The_Black_Ghosts_-_Some_Way_Through_This_(Plastician_&_Skream_Remix) //Southern Fried
Christ - Lazy Daisy Meadow // Benbecula

P.S. There's 10 free Bloc-related downloads at


Friday, March 21, 2008

Master Builder

How do you sum up the career of one of the most influential Detroit Techno artists ever? One word.... MINIMAL. Not in the sense of his contribution being less than prolific but in the sense that Robert Hood (with help from Jeff Mills) invented Minimal Techno. The fact that (so-called) Minimal Techno now rules dancefloors all over the world is testament to the vision of Robert Hood and his ethos of less is more.

Hood's career started out when he picked up some basic equipment from a pawn shop in Detroit and began recording demos. Unable to find someone able to do “some kind of political abstract MCing – a cross between Chuck D and Q-Tip,” Robert laid down his own lyrics on his productions. He eventually passed on a demo, through friend Mike Clark (Agent X), to Mike Banks of the (then fledgling) Underground Resistance. Instantly hooked with his lyrical styling, Mike Banks and Jeff Mills took Robert on board as an MC for 2 tracks on a compilation they were putting together. As Robert’s productions grew stronger, the incomparable Underground Resistance crew formed, mixing political outrage with electronic beats, and Robert found his place as a seminal member, the “Minister of Information.”

It was with the formation of Axis Records with Jeff Mills, however that propelled Robert's music to the attention of everyone in the Techno world. "Minimal Nation" was a ground breaking production and hit the electronic music world with unprecedented explosion – it is credited today as a turning point for Techno.

Following on from this Robert then branched out on his own with M-Plant records. “M-Plant kind of borrowed from the sound I was using from Axis and really expanded on that sound. I had developed this “grey area” sound - what I mean by that is that in Detroit, even when the sun is out, there’s something in the atmosphere. The sky has a grey haze over it. It’s got to be something from the industrial factories there. I’d never really heard a sound like that before and it came from a Roland Juno - it was a chord sound that really went along with my depiction of what Detroit was at that time. A lot of buildings were abandoned and there was a lot of lifelessness in the city, especially downtown. The M-Plant, in minimalism, kind of reflected that. I remember thinking of Detroit like a museum. You know, like a work of art standing still, suspended in time.” – Robert Hood

Since his formation of Minimal Techno 14 years ago the genre has taken on a life of its own and other producers, most notably Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos with a whole host more working in Europe, have snatched the baton from Robert Hood and expanded (or should that be contracted) the sound to reach new audiences throughout the world.

“These days I am focused purely on minimalism and really embracing minimalism, because it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s now a music style separate from Techno. I would never have imagined that it would take this direction. I didn’t see that one coming! I saw minimalism in life becoming more and more evident - in furniture, in electronics, in art, in automobiles, appliances - you know, I could see that coming. But, as far as music itself being thought of now as an art form? Back then, I think people looked on at it as a trend but they didn’t realise that minimalism is an art form. I did not realise it would take on this characteristic as it has now. So, where I’m at right now is embracing minimalism and seeing how far I can push it - in my interpretation of what simplicity and the music is all about. I am really representing it as an art form and not a trend. As the future evolves, we’re going to get more and more minimal...” Robert Hood

The main reason for this career retrospective is that Robert has a new mix cd release as part of the Fabric series. Fabric 39 manages to cram in a whooping 32 tracks into its 74 minutes. The mix is a fast paced audio assault through minimal Detroit Techno with tracks from Robert himself, plus Jeff Mills, DJ Skull, Pacou, Joris Voorn and Marco Lenzi. Robert's mixing style is like that of many of his Detroit peers - quick. He doesn't mess around here and the cd starts of pumping and ends (well you can guess the rest). My only criticism is that the tracks do seem to be stuck in a time warp. The mix is in a very late-nineties style. Open hi-hats all the way. I think that he could have included more modern sounding productions in there as well to create a much more interesting journey, especially as Minimal Techno has come so far since it's inception. However these Detroit guys have never been bothered about fashion. They are the creators, not the followers. Respect is due.

I couldn't leave you without some gems from Robert Hood's extensive back catalogue. The three productions below are classic examples of his sound. I love the way he modulates just one synth sound to create numerous subtle variations to create a beautiful sonic landscape that you can get lost in. "The Pace" is a classic example which also blends two different tracks seamlessly together.

Robert Hood - Museum // Minimal Nation LP. Axis Records 1994

Robert Hood - The Pace // M-Plant 1996

Robert Hood - Who Taught You Math (Edit) // Peacefrog 2002

The Fabric Mix is out now. Buy it here and here. His back catalogue is still available if you look hard enough. Check out his newer material at his Myspace

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time Off

Apologies for the lack of posts of late. Both myself and RAW are taking a much needed holiday snowboarding. (I've already injured myself)

Anyhow do not despair as coming shortly we will have a review of the new Robert Hood Fabric Mix CD plus a round-up of the shananigans that will be taking place at the up coming Bloc Weekender.

Check for the sickest electronic line up you will see this year. Proper.

Until Next week.....

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