Four Tet – Angel Echoes

January 30, 2010

BBC Sessions version of track 1 from the new Four Tet lp, “There is Love in You,” just out this week on Domino Records.

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Pop Ambient 2010,” the tenth in its series, brings together many of the usual names: Thomas Fehlmann, Mikkel Metal, Triola, the Orb, and label founders Juergen Paape and Wolfgang Voigt themselves.

Still, what makes the very good compilation great are the surprises, chief among them DJ Koze‘s excellent “Bodenweich.”

And, best of all, “Pop Ambient 2010” features two outstanding tracks by Bvdub, “Lest You Forget” (see below) and the astonishingly awesome, 17-minute “Will You Know Where to Find Me.” Both of those compositions were first presented on Bvdub’s lp “We Were the Sun,” released last year on Quietus Recordings, but regrettably in such limited quantities that it’s become very difficult to find. But, here they are, in what will hopefully presage a rerelease of the original full-length.

Beach House – Teen Dream

January 24, 2010

Beach House - Teen Dream - Sub Pop (2010)

“Teen Dream” is Beach House‘s third lp, their first on Sub Pop, and by far their best yet.

And you can take that as no small compliment, since I thought the first two albums were really quite good. But I agree that “Teen Dream” is far better, with each of its ten tracks living up to or surpassing the very high standards set by my previous favorites, like “Master of None” from the self-titled lp and “Gila” from “Devotion.”

In terms of overall style, not much has changed: if you know the duo from their eariler work, you’ll easily recognize them here as as well. But according to the Sub Pop page, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand worked intensively on these songs for months. And that hard work really shows, with compositions that are both consistently superb and superbly consistent and with vocal performances by Legrand that are soulful and moving beyond anything she’s done before.

Now, I must confess that I’m not sure what to make of the album’s title. Is the Shaun Cassidy reference intentional? That awaits further research. But based on the music and lyrics alone, I would have called the collection something like “to love in the past and present perfect” instead.

Still, the “Dream” part I do get. “The melody haunts my reverie” sings the girl in that Lichtenstein painting. After listening to this new lp by Beach House, I’m inclined to say the same.

Just finished reading the Marcus/Sollors anthology, “A New Literary History of America,” cover to cover.

That sounds a bit crazy, I know, but I learned a lot and was very often entertained.

Here’s a list of my favorite entries, in chronological order:

  1. Francois Furstenberg, Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)
  2. Robert Clark, The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841)
  3. James Dawes, The Limits to Violence (1885)
  4. Richard Powers, The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Monument (Memorial Day 1897)
  5. Walter Mosley, Hardboiled (1926)
  6. Paul Muldoon, Carl Sandburg and the American Songbag (1927)
  7. Marybeth Hamilton, Jelly Roll Morton Speaks (May 1938)
  8. Robert O’Meally, Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit (1939)
  9. George Hutchinson, Letter from Birmingham Jail (April 1963)
  10. Anne M. Wagner, Maya Lin’s Wall (1982)

Everyone has their hobbyhorses, though, me included, so I will also say that there should have been more about the last three decades. No entry on David Foster Wallace, despite the fact that he wrote the greatest book of the last quarter century. Nothing about Madonna, either: like it or not, she’s had an enormous influence on American culture over that same period. Her first album was pretty good, too.

Still, it was great in particular to see some American academics and intellectuals writing about stuff that really matters.

Redshape - The Dance Paradox - Delsin Records (2009)

Redshape - The Dance Paradox - Delsin Records (2009)

Redshape operates from behind a red mask.

I get the basic idea. The artist remains anonymous and “lets the music do the talking” as Joe Perry once said.

On the other hand, one could argue that the red mask actually serves to accomplish the opposite goal, since it gives rise to endless internet chatter about who the artist “really is.” And it’s kind of redundant, too, since particularly among those who create electronic dance music, anonymity comes almost naturally even without any masks: truth is, with the sole exception of Ricardo Villalobos and maybe Ellen Allien, all but the most avid fans would probably walk right by without recognizing anyone on the Beatport or Resident Advisor charts.

Still, this issue of artistic statement versus gimmick — maybe that’s “The Dance Paradox” to which the album title refers — mostly seems besides the point once you listen to this lp by Redshape, which came out late last year. Because this is really excellent techno.

Indeed, all of the classic elements are here. Multi-layered percussion, soaring synths, mysterious crackle and hiss thrown in for good effect. But though each of the eight tracks on this album has its own unique feel, all of them bring those classic elements together in what seems like just the right way, to create a very strong work through and through. And all eight tracks are posted, by the way, on Redshape’s myspace page.

My only small complaint about “The Dance Paradox” is that the 8-minute track “Bound (Part 1 & 2)” has a Carl Craig-meets-Giorgio Moroder sound to it that could have used, as its finishing touch, a wordless vocal performance of the kind once delivered by Donna Summer. But maybe Redshape’s saving that trick for his next album. Let’s hope so ….