Friday, August 13, 2004

Matthew Dear/Francois Kevorkian/House Music All Night Long

This saturday i'm off to fabric, dodging the beshirted stag night types (who tend to clear off by about about 3am, the ravers watershed), and all being well, enjoying a feast of up-down jerking rhythms with Matthew Dear and Francois Kevorkian. Seeriously I CANNOT wait.

House seems to be my biggest interest at the moment. Just thinking about housey hi-hats makes me put on a smug face and gently rock my head in time, as if the grim kitchen i'm in is a sweaty but restrained Parisian basement club. Matthew Dear in particular seems to be comprising the majority of my musical expenditure on his own at the moment, so addictive is his bouncing funk. His tracks all sound so well organised, components never fuzzed in an over busy mix. His hat-snare-hat, hat-snare-hat patterns work in perfect clock-like regularity, but are surrounded by shuffly cuts and glitches that give the tracks their garage-like itchy restlessness. I can think of lots of artists with a signature sound, but Matthew Dear is the only one I can think of with a signature feel. It's all about taking Chicago's piston jack, and stripping it all down to bare minimum, and allining unlikely sounds in place of big riffs. He makes great use of silence as well, tiny chinks of light written into the rhythms like the stationary image left on the retina by a strobe light before the next jerk. Anyway here's a rundown of his best (omitting those i haven't heard):

EP1 (Spectral)
It's all here, the emphatic jack but without any big open hi-hats or resounding bass drums, keeping it clipped. 'Reae' is the banger here, staccato chicago bassline and delicious lift and fall effect in the beat. Hammers is a pretty good Todd Edwards impression but with Todd's vocal cut-ups and the garage shuffle, it's a bit too close to being a straight rip. 'Versus You' makes use of a nagging machine-sound, a slow, noisy printer in a hot office with Benny Benassi playing in the background.

Jabberjaw: Girlfriend EP (Perlon)
This is the shit. As minimal as it gets without resorting to blatant dubby-ness. The title track sounds barely above water, lugubrious bass bubbles, and the snatches of vocals gasping for air (they come in just slightly too loud, as if in panic) cut off before they can make sense. The more I think about it, the more it seems to fit in with the drowning metaphor. In 'I speak for some of that' the vocals sound like overheard conversations above the meniscus, the watery skank of the bass blocking off your ears suddenly. This really seems to be Matthew finding his own way with vocals, not using the Todd Edwards lush montage effect, but using the words like they were rhythmic 'jack your body' exhortations. The words (also the track titles) he actually uses are surreal/mundane snapshots of everyday life, a long way from forceful dancefloor orders. He works so well within the structures of house using classic little motifs (the backwards drum edit, full bass eq cuts) but at the same time you realise you've never danced to sounds like these before. Bicycle wheel squeaks and half picked-up radio stations, but all arranged in his killer pulse.

Leave Luck to Heaven LP
Hmm, I wasn't too sure when I got this. A lot of the tracks seem to sail a little close to the big synth wash wind. Not much of the bright tick and bounce of previous eps, a lot of definition is lost in the dub-ness of much of the first half of the album. The real stars are the two pop songs near the end. 'Dog days' uses these weird synth string yelps, and rhode-sy piano, to turn it into messy, wired soul. Stevie Wonder with added robotic jerk. 'It's over now' is even better. Like mournful speed-garage, 187 Lockdown with Joy Division. Terrifyingly drowsy vocal, and the grim determined laughter of the percussion. When the bass drops out at the end he sounds drunk and despearate 'I don't want to be left out/ why can't we work things out', as the percussion grows more and more pronounced drowning him out.

Anger Management (Spectral)
This is another wired funk panic. Fastest thing I've heard of him and also the most dense, a frantic guitar spasms around a straight house rhythm. Shuffling madness as if, he's beginning to lose control of things, desperately trying to reign the music in by cutting the bass but it has too much momentum to hold for long. It genuinely sounds slightly unhinged as it speeds along, as if it could easily disintegrate into complete noisy abandon. If the poppy, macro direction is where he is headed, I hope it sounds something like this.

His remixes are also works of subtle dancefloor genius. Check the ones for 'Bout ready to jak' by osborne (bassline! tight bouncing stuff, with creepy graveyard sounds in the background) and 'Clockwise' by Hakan Lidbo (trance-like(no not like that*) and cyclic). New album out soon I believe, and i'm looking forward to more dark goth funk pop on saturday.
I didn't know a thing about Francois Kevorkian when me + buddy went to see him last year, but he was genius. Huge build ups of static and echoing, thrashing white noise, into pure New York gay club jacking. Not afraid of The Anthem either; 'La Rock01', 'Higher states of conciousness' 'Freak' by LFO, but I've never heard such a unanimous cheer as when he dropped 'strings of life'. That piano riff has to be in my top ten sounds ever, simultanously hands in the air euphoria and nostaligic contemplation. It says so much about the way dance music works that something so emotionally affecting, rather than overtly feel-good can provoke such a great reaction. People love to feel happy, but to feel tears welling up inside is far more cleansing.

(apres rave report to follow, i shall spend the next 28 hours or so getting worked up)

*=Reminiscent of something Andrew Weatherall said recently, that big breakdown snare-rush trance musics not trance inducing, and I must agree. It's far too up and down to have the stable vacancy of the mind in a trance, too much to distract. I think minimal house does far better in that respect, constancy over climax. Even something as traditionally 'soul-y' and familiar as Carl Craig has that mesmeric effect. House seems to be just at the right tempo to do this, just beneath exhilaration, just above the minimum for constant body movement, the energy flashpoint (arf).


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