A lot of people have been talking about Daft Punk’s new hit, Get Lucky, over the last few weeks, with the majority seeming to agree that it’s pretty big. Now I don’t hate this record but i don’t think it’s that special either. Are you bored of it yet? Even with that, admittedly killer, guitar refrain (the only really decent hook in the tune) by Nile Rodgers, whose funk is clearly undiminished by his advancing years, the ravages of cancer etc, Get Lucky is still a pretty disposable tune and thus unlikely to last much longer than summer.
‘So what?!’ you might very well retort. ‘I love the way it sounds and how good it makes me feel right now!!’ And, up to a point, that’s completely fair enough. A lot of pop is very fleeting, and i’m definitely not saying Get Lucky is bad but the best (pop) music does so much more than just distract you for a few seconds (and Nile Rodgers knows this better than anyone – see below for more about that). What’s more, everyone involved in this record’s creation has made much better records before…
Let’s break Get Lucky down into its main component parts. The guitar hook is great but, bar the chorus, it lasts for the whole song without any changes. They all knew full well that it was the best part of the song and they didn’t really have any better ideas, so they just leant on that one all the way. The rhythm section is all good: the bass and beats do their job, filling out the groove that propels the whole song forward and makes it work well on the dance floor. Pharrell’s vocals do sound quite good but the lyrics are a bit weak really: this part could have been so much better. Daft Punk’s vocoders are even weaker (used/abused so much since their second album, Discovery, and now sounding massively clichéd – bit of a lame ‘trademark’, no?) but i guess if you’d never heard them before you would probably think they are pretty fun. Clearly a lot of pop music functions/succeeds on the back of such clichés but it doesn’t endure that way. After that, there’s only really that wee keyboard flourish towards the end before the whole thing is over. So, that’s one great idea, a decent rhythm section and then two or three fairly weak/average ideas. As our US cousins like to say: do the math. On balance, this is good but it’s not that great, is it?
And, with the dawning of the realisation, mid-song, that the tune isn’t actually going to progress past Nile Rodgers’ initial guitar hook, it becomes clear just how half-baked Get Lucky is. It sounds like the three of them spent about one afternoon/evening cooking up these ideas in the studio before phoning in the results from the pub/club later. ‘Let’s raise the bar,’ croons Pharrell, as if he knows that the mere mention of such an endeavour, coupled with all their names, is enough to fool the world that they’re doing just that. Oh, but they just did, didn’t they? More fool me… In the grand scheme of things, Get Lucky barely moves the bar at all and, if it had been made by anyone else, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is right now. It will be played to death for a few weeks before everyone – very quickly – tires of it. Those layers will peel away to reveal a shallow heart…
If you still don’t understand where i’m coming from, take a few minutes to listen to these three moments of genuine pop genius from the back catalogue of the three acts involved here. These records all became summer anthems when they were released and I think they all trump Get Lucky for creativity. I’ve included a bit more background info below for anyone who doesn’t know the artists’ significant history.
While most people would probably say Studio 54 ‘tribute‘ Le Freak is the bigger tune (and on a worldwide scale it was, especially in the US), I Want Your Love was bigger in the UK and its impact has endured ever since, thanks first to Detroit maestro Moodymann’s huge Nineties re-work, I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits, and second to Norwegian disco edit don Todd Terje’s more recent re-edit, which pasted the two versions together to create a hybrid fix for the Noughties’ disco revival circuit. Genius like this will always endure.
And, in Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers’ case, the list of hits and classic tunes is a very long one indeed: Dance, Dance, Dance; Everybody Dance from their 1978 debut album, ‘Chic’; Chic Cheer, Le Freak, Happy Man, I Want Your Love and instrumental B side Funny Bone from second album (also released in 1978) ‘C’est Chic’; while, from 1979’s ‘Risqué’, Good Times played a massive part in the evolution of hip hop when the Sugarhill Gang sampled it for their equally anthemic hit, Rapper’s Delight, but there’s also My Feet Keep Dancing, My Forbidden Lover and What About Me. Sister Sledge’s classic 1979 album, We Are Family, was a Chic production (and largely also co-written by Rodgers and his partner/bassist, Bernard Edwards), as was Diana Ross’s most successful album, 1980’s Diana (featuring Upside Down and I’m Coming Out). And that’s before we even start on his even more prolific and often equally classic work with pop music royalty in the Eighties, among which: David Bowie, Let’s Dance; Madonna, Like A Virgin/Material Girl; Duran Duran, Notorious; Steve Winwood, Higher Love… You see, I’m really not averse to great pop music. I just think it needs more than one great idea to make it as good as that.
[N.B. I have the utmost respect for Nile Rodgers. His autobiography, Le Freak, was easily the most compelling book i read last year. It details a childhood surrounded by beatnicks, artists, criminals, weirdos and junkies (two of whom raised him) in Fifties New York, the ups and downs of the music industry, his own battles with addiction, losing his life-long friend and sparring partner, very much the yin to his musical yang, Bernard Edwards (who died of pneumonia when he only 44), plus plenty more incredible anecdotes, while imparting a fair few nuggets of wisdom for anyone thinking of pursuing a similar line of work. The BBC made a good documentary about him recently, which you can view here.]
2) Daft Punk, Around The World
Again, just about anything on the French duo’s 1997 debut album, Homework, shows more imagination and/or depth than Get Lucky. From the same album, Da Funk is arguably the bigger/more classic of the two tracks but was always designed more for club than radio play. Also, check out Thomas Bangalter’s ace Tracks On The Rocks EPs, Vols I and II (Roulé), from 1995 and ‘98 respectively. This duo went slightly the boil after Homework. 2001’s Discovery was definitely a bold side-step but most of it didn’t do much for me when compared to the consistent peaks of Homework. Sure, One More Time has its time/place, but i think this is basically at a wedding or children’s birthday party… I still rate Daft Punk massively for the way they changed the game for house/dance music in the Nineties. They incorporated everything that had come before them into their own style and spearheaded what was labelled the ‘French Touch’ movement by British journalists at the time and their production style has arguably been more influential than anyone else’s ever since. However, they were always very reluctant pop stars and their classic tracks are almost all best experienced at loud volumes in a club. It’s also worth noting that they adopted a more Seventies approach to production in the making of Get Lucky, and they perhaps didn’t appreciate how much more time, effort and downright sweat this would actually involve, as Nile Rodgers hints in this recent interview. No doubt making Get Lucky was a lot harder than making any of the tunes on Homework etc. Oh, the irony.
3) Pharrell Williams, Frontin’
Much like the others, Pharrell worked as part of a duo in his early days and much of his work with Chad Hugo as The Neptunes and N.E.R.D wipes the floor when compared to Get Lucky. Check out Noreaga’s Superthug (from 1998), Kelis’s 1999 debut album Kaleidoscope (featuring Caught Out There, Get Along With You, Good Stuff), 2002’s In Search Of N.E.R.D album (featuring club banger Lapdance, among others), Nelly’s Hot In Herre (2004). Oh yeah, they also produced Britney’s I’m A Slave For You – a worldwide hit, which still sounds great today. Frontin’ was massive for us at Trouble when it came out, you couldn’t escape it that summer and it also still sounds fresh today.
The main reason all these records are so powerful is because they contain more than just one great idea. Get Lucky contains one. I don’t think anyone who loves dance music can really hate it and it’s not really about that. It’s about desiring that wee bit more from people of whom we’ve generally come to expect great things. Nile Rodgers is the only person who can really be commended for his part in this release and that part is the only real reason it’s actually sticking for so many right now. It’s a shame this trio couldn’t let Get Lucky incubate until they were able to turn out something that was genuinely worthy of all their talents. But, perhaps more fundamentally, isn’t its massive success really a complete indictment of what a parlous state contemporary music is in?
I’ll leave the final assessment to Gareth Sommerville, a DJ for whom i’ve always had enormous respect, whose talent is definitely very much undimmed after 20 years on the circuit and who has always had a way with a pithy phrase: ‘It’s the disco equivalent of walking around Ikea whilst sipping on a Starbucks latte.’ Quite.
10 March 2013
13 February 2013
This is the second part of a compilation (fully mixed this time) of my stand-out tunes of the last year or so (includes a few 2011 killers that I missed in last year’s Top 50). 125-170bpm and back via some half time action, it lasts 3 hrs.
12 February 2013
Partially funded by Creative Scotland, this debut release is the first in a series of remix EPs marking the tenth anniversary of Trouble (not to mention the fifth anniversary of Limbo) and featuring up-and-coming Scottish artists remixed by established and emerging local and international talents. All told, it’s a formidable package, catering for diverse tastes, as the overwhelmingly positive reactions from international DJs and tastemakers across the board demonstrate (97% positive: 17% 5/5, 44% 4/5 and 36% 3/5 stars). See all the feedback/quotes below.
Midnight Thunder will be released by Hobbes Music on Monday 22nd April 2013 and available as limited edition (of 300) vinyl 12”s and via all download platforms, with worldwide distribution by Rubadub.
Selected Feedback:‘Auntie Flo is big!’ (Justin Robertson, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite Mix: Sun Ritual – Will be following this label close. Great release! (Sinden, US – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘iO Sounds mix is great’ (Alex Metric, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite: Sun Ritual – Fresh’ (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Like the Auntie Flo track. Nice nod to Primal Scream in there’ (Plump DJs, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite: Sun Ritual – Thanks men i like this mix’ (Zdar, Ed Banger, France – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite Mix: Sun Ritual – Will download. Thank you for good music!’ (M.A.N.D.Y., Germany – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Wicked package’ (Doorly, Rinse FM, US – Various Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite: Sun Ritual – great release, top notch in quality and diversity’ (Ben Mono, Berlin/Germany – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Auntie Flo is my fav’ (Arveene, Ireland)’Very nice – love Twitch’s mix’ (Sean Johnston / A Love From Outer Space) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Skippy House flows, we like. good work’ (DJ Locksmith / Rudimental, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Auntie Flo is the jam’ (Maetrik/Maceo Plex, USA – Various, Worldwide)
A1. Edinburgh/Glasgow electronic duo Conquering Animal Sound open the EP with Treehouses, singer Anneke Kampman’s distinctive voice reminiscent of a young Bjork. The band are already a live favourite locally and this track is a highlight from their forthcoming second album (due out via Glasgow indie behemoths Chemikal Underground in March). Dazzling new London talent iO supplies the remix, having garnered props from Mary Anne Hobbs and Mad Decent and currently adding a slew of releases to a rapidly burgeoning repertoire for labels such as Fortified Audio, Mad Tech, Future Shock, Infinite Machine, Diamond & Raw, Symbols, Senseless, Black Butter and Audio Culture. iO fuses a well-honed bass aesthetic with twenty-first century beat programming and a deep house sensibility, maintaining the integrity and melancholic feel of the original without forfeiting the demands of the ‘floor. Early feedback suggests this track has the potential to win fans across the board. An instrumental version will be available on a later release.
A2. On the back of a tremendous year which saw his debut album, Future Rhythm Machine (Huntleys & Palmers), widely acclaimed and tour dates all over Europe, Glasgow’s afrofuturist warrior, Auntie Flo, delivers Sun Ritual (the original of which was released by Cologne electronic giants Kompakt in November). This track has been given a heavy makeover by Edinburgh techno legend Neil Landstrumm (Planet Mu, Tresor, Peace Frog), who harnesses the African groove of the original and infuses it with his trademark industrial/bass/rave aesthetics, doffing his cap to Screamadelica-era Primal Scream in the process. Taking no prisoners, it’s an absolute beast and guaranteed to do the damage in the right clubs.
B1. Another local live favourite, HRH (above photo taken live at Limbo by Scott Carroll) deliver postmodern sleaze in their uniquely punky, electrorockabillyglamraggapop style, thanks in no small way to awe-inspiring front-woman Heather Craig, whose impassioned live performances are like John Lydon crossed with Siouxsie Sioux. Scottish DJing legend JD Twitch (Optimo) turns the dark, moody, DAF-inspired original into a menacing stealth bomber of a club cut, ensuring everyone will be dancing like drones as the metaphorical storm clouds descend. Again not for the faint-hearted, this track has already proved popular with those who appreciate music of a darker disposition! [Twitch’s own formative Nineties residency at seminal Edinburgh club night Pure (more info here) was where I had my schooling in classic electronic music before he went on to transform the clubbing landscape in Glasgow with the still more influential Optimo nights, so this remix lends the project a personal symmetry].
B2. Last, but by no means least, up-and-coming Slovenian star Nightwave puts her highenergy stamp and frenzied beats all over Heavy Weather, my own collaborative production with Leonidas (whose own debut EP, Sequential, has been winning fans in underground clubs across the globe since its summer ‘12 release via Japanese-owned label Round In Motion). Maya Medvesek, aka Nightwave, is a Glasgow/London-based Producer, DJ, Vocalist & RBMA graduate. Classically trained from an early age, her releases on Svetlana Industries, Unknown to the Unknown, Fortified Audio and Seed Records, as well as Ministry of Sound’s ‘Adventures in Dubstep & Beyond’ and the Cassie Tribute album ‘Skydiver’ out on Local Action Records either as Nightwave (or her retired moniker 8bitch) have garnered her international acclaim for a forward-thinking combination of Chicago juke, UK bass, techno, grime & 80s funk. 2012 saw Maya play to a packed RBMA stage at Barcelona’s Sonar festival where her set was heralded by international press as one of the festival highlights. Having supported artists like Rusko, Anthony Shake Shakir, MNDR, Dopplereffekt and Death Grips, appearing at festivals such as Outlook, The Electric Picnic & Exit and guesting on Rustie’s critically acclaimed debut album ‘Glass Swords’ with the single ‘Surph’ (which hit daytime Radio 1, garnering support far and wide from the likes of Pete Tong, Annie Mac, Nick Grimshaw and Huw Stephens), not to mention participating in the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid, it’s not difficult to see why tastemakers have cited her as one to watch.Other DJ feedback so far (11/03/13) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Liking the deep vibes. Great voice too’ (David Cox / AutoKratz, UK – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘I really like the iO Sounds Remix’ (Kruse & Nuernberg, Germany – Various, Worldwide – club) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Loving this, very emotion heavy and subtle, thanks will support!!’ (Jody Wisternoff/Way Out West) ‘Favourite: Pinky Ring – sounds good’ (Heiko Hoffman, Groove Magazine Editor, Germany)’iO remix is really cool – very nice deep groove going on here’ (Ben Gomori, UK – Eastern Electrics Podcast – radio) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Was a close call between this and Keith’s mix but the iO wins… lovely production… Interesting and varied EP’ (Kevin McKay, UK – Various – Glasgow – club) ‘Neil’s is my pick – really properly tribal but without being cheesy like a lot of ‘tribal’ things are’ (Ollie,Bugged Out, UK – club) ‘Favourite: Treehouses’ (Serocee – Various, Europe – club) ‘Favourite: Pinky Ring – cool mixes’ (Benoit Carretier – Tsugi, France) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Great remix package! Exciting first release!’ (goldFFinch, Belgium, Audio Culture, fm brussels, MND BRatislava – club/radio)
‘Neil Landstrumm remix is fantastic. I’ve been fan of him for many many years, and still…. thanks!!’ (Angel Molina, Barcelona – club) ‘Favourite: Sun Ritual – GREAT. Keep this coming! (DJ Wool, The Glass, Berlin, Germany / Awesome Agency / America – club) ‘Optimo remix is incredible’ (Roy Kerr, aka The Freelance Hellraiser, UK) ‘Neil Laundstrumm does no evil’ (Daire Carolan, Ireland) ‘Twitch’s rmx and Landstrumm’s mix of Auntie Flo are really nice’ (Nacho Lovers – Toronto, Canada) ‘Favourite: Heavy Weather – Badass’ (Justiy, GALACTUS, Italy, Kiss Saturdays, Carrick-On-Shannon/Various, Ireland – club) ‘Top draw EP. Especially into the Neil Landstrumm mix’ (Mister Sushi, UK) ‘Neil on the house road again!’ (Embryo, Slovakia – Various, Slovakia – club) ‘Really like the iO Sounds remix. Nice techy vibe, will use at Plug, Sheffield’ (Geoff Ticehurst – Shuffle, Plug, Sheffield / Freshly Squeezed, Leeds Uni – club) ‘Favourite: Treehouses – Support’ (Alex Ormas / MAGNVM!, Juke Box Hero, Plastic Club, Milan – club) ‘Favourite: Sun Ritual Loving this!! Def in my set and prob next mix’ (Mike Mago, Boemklatsch) ‘The Neil Landstrumm mix is ace!’ (Kosmos, Spain, BOOMBOX, NASTY MONDAYS, NITSA-APOLO – club) ‘Love the Neil Landstrumm remix!’ (PMcQ, Glasgow/UK – club) ‘Thanks for this…. LOVE!!!! (Rebecca Vasmant, Ministry Of Sound Word Tours, Resident – club) ‘Thanks for this.. Nightwave mix the highlight for me’ (Dam Mantle, Glasgow – Various, Europe) ‘Thanks, the Neil Landstrumm remix remix rocks!!’ (Ionik/Traveller Records, Finland) ‘Really liking the tracks, well produced all of them’ (Astroboy, Kelburn Garden Party/Various, Scotland) ‘Favourite: Neil Landstrumm/Twitch – Well done, I’m well impressed!’ (Kris Wasabi, Wasabi Disco/Various, Edinburgh)
19 January 2013
This is the first part of a compilation (fully mixed this time) of my stand-out tunes of the last year or so (includes a few 2011 killers that I missed in last year’s Top 50). 105 – 125bpm, it lasts 3.5 hrs.
27 November 2012
Click here to see David Lemm’s excellent Halloween Spooks animated video, which he made for our ‘Day Of The Dead’ warehouse party last month. The audio is a one-minute clip from our Pavement K track, the full-length version of which can be sampled here alongside the rest of our upcoming Machines, Tapes & Electronic Setups EP (due out early 2013 via my new hobbesmusic label).
14 November 2012
I’m back in the Big Smoke at the end of the month, DJing alongside alongside London’s Sketchy, the brains behind the excellent online DJ mix platform, Mixcloud, and the equally fine Man Make Music label. Man Make Music recently released dancefloor bomb “Eah” by U (and check out the ace video for that one right here), counting Erol Alkan among its more high profile supporters. Mixcloud only started a couple of years ago but is a massive internet success story and has obviously been housing my mixes and DJ sets/recordings since it was still at a beta-testing stage (see link in my website tabs above). So, it’s an honour to be invited back by Sketchy and, after last year’s extremely well-lubricated hoedown, I’m expecting a proper blast again! The action kicks off at 9.30pm and entry’s completely FREE. More info here.
23 October 2012
Tame Impala seem to be pretty ubiqutous right now but that’s no reason not to mention their great new album here. The brainchild (in every respect) of Kevin Parker, he allegedly spent two years making the album, most of which was actually picking apart what he’d already recorded, re-working individual sounds and details over and over again until he was absolutely sure of the sound. Such is the freedom of modern production technology, where it’s no longer necessary to spend tens of thousands of pounds on studio time, to get the perfect mix. Now you can just drive yourself insane doing it in the comfort of your own home!
Nevertheless, it has to be said that the results of this neurotic self-doubt are quite magnificent, albeit unashamedly retro, and should at least make Parker feel that his excessive labours were worthwhile, as everyone falls over themselves to heap adulation on this notorious loner’s shoulders, while also shining a light on a somewhat introspective, cliquey scene in his Australian home-town, Perth.
Put it this way, it doesn’t sound new exactly, but Parker still knows a good tune when he hears one and has managed to combine classic rock with electronics in a way that somehow sounds fresh. So, if you like the psychedelic rock of the Sixties, the Beatles output c. 1966-68 (Revolver to Sgt. Pepper) etc, not to mention the likes of The Flaming Lips, Spiritualized et al, you will definitely dig it.
And that’s not all. One of the strongest tracks on the album, glam-rock stomper Elephant, has been given a fierce make-over for the floor by legendary American genius Todd Rundgren (picture below, who also recently contributed a great remix for that Nordic talent, Lindstrøm). You can grab a copy of the remix here but it’s well worth getting your hands on the whole long-player, with all the other bonus tracks it includes, for the full work-out.
Pass the halucinogenics, this one’s a trip!
28 September 2012
Generally down-tempo to mid-tempo (i.e. 80-120 bpm) danceable American indie/electro-pop style; usually made by solo artists with a laptop or small outfits; predominantly influenced by Eighties analogue and electronica, late Eighties/early Nineties shoegaze (hence the ‘nu gaze’ strand) and ambient, plus some Sixties psych and folk.
Origins: Allegedly coined by Carles, the author of scathingly satirical US blog Hipster Runoff, the term is a controversial one. Its main proponents claim it isn’t a genuine musical scene/genre so much as a geographically disparate bunch of artists who have been pigeon- holed by bloggers and critics in that perennial rush to identify a hip new trend. Most of these acts have been around for three or four years, but 2010 was credited with a ‘summer of chillwave’ by the US critics. Panda Bear (founding member of acclaimed Baltimore/New York psychedelic indie band Animal Collective) and LA’s Ariel Pink have both been identified as fore-runners of the scene, while Baltimore outfit Beach House may also have had an influence via their eponymous 2006 album.
Key figures: New Jersey’s Memory Tapes is one of chillwave’s biggest stars, alongside Texas’s Neon Indian and South Carolina’s Toro Y Moi (pictured above), although all three have either directly disputed the tag or seemed keen to shrug off its shackles. Com Truise, also from New Jersey, and Georgia’s Washed Out, also a close friend of Toro Y Moi, are hot on their heels, while Ohio’s Teengirl Fantasy flirted with a similar sonic palette on their debut album, 7 AM. New York’s Twin Sister, Small Black and Warm Ghost have all also been affiliated with the style.
This feature was originally published in October 2011 by The List magazine. It has been reproduced with their permission.
Bar the night’s live set from Lord Of The Isles, this is the live recording of all the night’s DJ sets from our Midsummer Night’s Loft Party at a secret warehouse location on the outskirts of Edinburgh city centre.
N.B. This was recorded in three parts (now pasted together), so there are a couple of wee jumps in the recording. Tracks 1-8 are from me; 9-14 from Leo; 15-26 from me; 27-38 from Leo; the end from me. (Still a few artist & track titles to come from Leo as well – first set).
There will be another party on Saturday 27th October ’12, loosely celebrating Mexico’s Day Of The Dead (officially 1st Nov). There will not be any flyers or posters for this. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to stay in the loop.