The year in music so far hasn't been characterised by great albums - not for me at least - so much as great singles, mainly in the dance music sphere. Sure, there's been some cracking full-lengths from debutants (Hercules & Love Affair, Quiet Village, Vampire Weekend) and reliable old hands (Bad Seeds, Supergrass, The Dirtbombs) alike, but aside from a small few, nothing has had the replay value of some of the year's 12"s.
Perhaps the single - which some commentors will try to inform you is dying out, misguidedly - is the perfect format for our times? You get two, maybe three tracks - four or five if you're lucky - and out, with no time allowed to test the patience. The single therefore lends itself to addiction more than an album does. The more commercial artists out there - they who populate the top 40 - have indeed lost sight of what makes a good single. If you stick the song on iTunes with maybe one bonus track, then that'll do just fine. The consumers like it this way because it's less unwieldy than a big, black plastic disc, or even a small, shiny plastic disc. It's iPod-ready and doesn't take up any space.
But what of those who like something a little more tactile? Something they can hold in their hands or place on a shelf. Are these people being short-changed? Not if you like your modern disco and house music it seems. By the way, I know that the mp3s I'm about to post make what I've just said seem a little hypocritical but indulge me, okay.
London's shadowy Dissident
imprint is still chalking up the releases like Chris Partlow
rack up the bodies. They're also still limited, pricey and, in the main, one-sided. Now £8 for one track might seem a little too much for some (it is for me, with my paltry income), but that hasn't really stopped them becoming gradually more revered with each 12". The frequency of Dissident's releases might well decrease their collectibility in the long run, but the minimalist chic of their labels (all variations on the same theme, only the font for the artist and title change) has marked out a style at least.
Also, you can't really argue with their output so far. Mainly dealing in twilit Italo and pastoral Balearica, with the occasional tech-y diversion, they're developing a distinct in-house sound. Their 2008 releases so far have been pretty uniformly brilliant too, with particular plaudits going to Ali Renault's slo-mo, drugged-out electro-disco, 'Our World Is...' and the long-form lushness of Gatto Fritto's 'Hungry Ghosts'.
My personal favourite has come from Truffle Club though. If we're to believe the rumour (and why not? He's used the moniker more than once in the past), Truffle Club is the work of Optimo main-man, JD Twitch. The neon-flecked, Blade Runner
grooves of 'Gone Blue' marks Twitch out as a producer to keep an eye on. 'Gone Blue' pulses and shimmers with bleary-eyed wonder and is a perfect end-of-nighter for those with a passion for old sounds given a modern twist.Truffle Club - Gone Blue (mp3)Mock & Toof
have been laying the releases on a little thickly as of late too, with two 12"s on different labels. The self-released 'Big Hands For A Lady' is a doozy, but it's their recent three-tracker for Tiny Sticks
that has me reaching for the stylus over and over again. A double-A with an extra remix thrown in for good measure is mighty good value, especially seeing as the two lead tracks are the best things Mock & Toof have put out so far.
'Beat Up' does the jazzy-disco thing, with sneaky Afro elements incorporated that they do so well, but there's just something about that maddening, corroded Rhodes line that screams addictive. 'Lucky' on the other hand is a gentrified little slice of moody electro-pop that still retains their ear for the unusual. Darshan Jesrani of Metro Area then sets about giving the raucous kitchen-sink disco of 'Black Jub' something of a classy makeover, turning it into an altogether spacier, more cosmopolitan affair. I await the forthcoming album with bated breath.Mock & Toof - Black Jub (Darshan Jesrani Hot Seat Mix) (mp3)
It wouldn't be a post about 12"s without me looking in on what DFA have offered forth lately. After a veritable flurry - for them anyway - of releases in the first couple of months of 2008, they've gone a little quiet now. But while everyone was busy trumpeting Hercules & Love Affair's stellar debut album, they flung out a couple of singles from some master producers of quality dirty disco that you may well have missed.
First up, there was Syclops
' 'Where's Jason's K?'. Now, whether you believe that Syclops are a band from Finland who, conveniently, "don't tour or do interviews", according to their MySpace, or whether it is just another in a long line of aliases from Maurice Fulton is by-the-by. This is his/their fourth 12" now, following one on Fulton's own Bubbletease label and a couple on Tirk and it is most definitely a Fulton joint, all wobbly, agitated synths, echoey percussion and pervasive sense of menace. Fulton's askew-view of disco, funk, soul and electro is a perfect fit for DFA and the album, I've Got My Eye On You
follows pretty damn soon. Here's a taste of what's to come with the b-side from 'Where's Jason's K?'.Syclops - Monkeypuss (mp3)
Then came 'Happy House'. Premiered halfway through 2007 on Beats In Space, The Juan Maclean
's massive comeback single was an instant hit. It's not hard to see why as this is an instantly likeable piece of uptempo disco-house with an infectious vocal from in-house diva, Nancy Whang that just goes on and on and on and on, in a good way, as if powered by a pilled-up Duracell bunny. I've wrote about it before, I'm sure and I'll most definitely talk about it again before the year's out, but for now this is one of the best primers for a forthcoming album I've ever heard. Here's hoping it doesn't disappoint.The Juan Maclean - Happy House (Lee Douglas Remix) (mp3)
Lastly, but by no means leastly, here's a tribute in mp3s to the greatest punk drummer of all-time, Krautrock pioneer, Klaus Dinger who died on March 21st of heart failure. As a member of Neu!, Kraftwerk (in the early days) and La Dusseldorf, his influence is still felt hugely in modern music. R.I.P.Kraftwerk - Ruckzuck (mp3)Neu! - Hallogallo (mp3)Neu! - Hero (mp3)La Dusseldorf - La Dusseldorf (mp3)Kraftwerk playing 'Ruckzuck' with Dinger on drums on WDR in 1970
I'll be back with more guff about singles and that later this week.
Labels: DFA, Dissident Distribution, Klaus Dinger, Mock And Toof, Syclops, The Juan Maclean, Truffle Club