Gramaphone Showcase @ Smartbar – Wednesday November 9th, 2011

Gramaphone’s monthly Smartbar residency boasts a variety of reasons for celebration this week.  Phonologue proprietor and Dollar Disco Smartbar resident Scotty Brandon will be commemorating another trip around the sun with some funky music, meanwhile local selector Joseph Sylthe will be debuting his heavy, sophisticated sound on the club’s Function One sound system.

Supporting on the night are residents: Steve Mizek, man behind the curtain at Little White Earbuds and Stolen Kisses; and Gramaphone honcho, Boom Boom Room ambassador Michael Serafini.

Rondenion – Night Breeze 12″ – Ragrange

An dusty release for the somewhat mysterious Ragrange record label.  Rondenion does here what he does best: lumbering deep house tracks with lots of crowd noise, crackling samples, and a steadfast head-down disco beat to anchor the production.  Recommended for fans of Rick Wade, Kez YM and KDJ, all the tracks here have the dense, loop-driven drive to keep a dancefloor moving; side A is more of an uptempo workout, where both the B-sides are slower-burning, late-night jams.  Rondenion’s earlier work for Chicago-based Still Music and Rush Hour marked him as a strong talent and this EP handily maintains that reputation.

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2843 N. Clark St.
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Jonsson / Alter – Mod 2×12″ / CD – Kontra-Musik

This album is a tour-de-force.  It might take a moment to realize, though – given the style of music.  This is deep house at its most essential and, more than anything, understated.

The glacial melodic developments and acidic builds are punctuated by Gunnar Jonsson’s trademark analog keyboard flourishes, the beats a balance of Joel Alter’s more propulsive work for Sweatshop and Gunnar Jonsson’s implacably subterranean groove.  All of the tracks bear the tell-tale signs of the very stylish casual house sound: musical phrases ending in a breathy sighs, clever vocal interludes during the a few break downs, the rawer-than-raw dry preset drum claps and toms as seasoning.  The difference is the effortless ease that these two collaborate with not just mastery, but authenticity and expressiveness within the style’s boundaries.  The slight Matthew Herbert-hiccups and choral harmonies of Dvarg, the melancholic David Moufang-via-Detroit keys on Tre Ackord, the muffled Theo Parrish stomp of Kyrka 2.0, all the while they draw the dancer inwards as if by magnetism.

The idiosyncratic timelessness of the black and white cover photography, courtesy of Henrik Jonsson, is consistent with the enduring quality of this gorgeous double-pack.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Afrikan Sciences – Means & Ways 12″ – DeepBlak

This is an exuberant, imaginative collection from Aybee‘s DeepBlak, a label recently revitalized as a vinyl imprint.  Culled from a full-length digital album of the same name, the key to Means and Ways is its syncopation: the drum programming is frequently shifting between modes, switching back and forth from one motif into another.  The music falls somewhere outside of the common categories of Techno and House proper, into a nether region between them sometimes inhabited by people like Vakula, Hieroglyhpic Being, and Theo Parrish.

On Ejercicios there’s a slowly drifting melody, whereas Sprials and NanoRock Skank are almost solely beat-driven. Nonetheless, in all the original tracks here it is the percussion treatment, both in timing and timbre, that takes precedence.  It is Aybee’s rework on the B side that stands as an exception; the remix is more loop-driven and lets chords oscillate steadily over a chattering synthesized talking drum.  Means And Ways is a head-turning and strikingly physical 12″.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

BNJMN – Nightvision 12″ – Stolen Kisses

BNJMN’s short, sweet track headlines this sophomore release for the local Chicago Stolen Kisses imprint.

In fact, one could go a step further and describe this song as saccharine.  It sounds like some kind of warped mariachi riff played back on a neon synth with burbling bass rolling in waves beneath it.  BNJMN stays in friendly house tempo territory, the sleek sounds are quite along the same lines as his Plastic World album for Rush Hour.

Although he’s another European artist critically acclaimed for his recent work, Andy Stott was a peculiar choice for the remixer here, and it shows in his dissimilar reimagining of the song.  He’s slowed it considerably, washed out the sounds, and submerged their faded remainder to a contrapuntal dub bassline, leaving a result that feels kindred to his muddy pair of recent albums for Modern Love.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Arthur Russell – Let’s Go Swimming 12″ – Audika

From the trippy, loose edits, bubbly sound effects and patter of drums on the Coastal Dub to the mellow, melodic downtempo groove of the Make 1, 2 (Gem Spa Dub), this is a gorgeous, thoughtful reissue of his 1986 single.  The Make 1, 2 version is actually a welcome addendum to the original tracklisting, likewise the full color cover seems to be a tasteful late addition.  The lightness and musicality of the versions here are wistful, they evoke warmer weather and a quirky playfulness.  From a production standpoint, this could easily appeal to fans of recent counterparts like Studio, House Of House, and Lindstrom, but these are only very loose points of reference – this is a record to listen to on its own terms.  Recommended.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

IAMTHATIAM – Time 4 Harmony In This World 12″ – Mathematics

Hieroglyphic Being is recording as IAMTHATIAM on this hypnotic EP.  When he describes his music as “new-age house,” I think that the music here is what he’s talking about.  The title track sounds as much indebted to Gamelan music as to any notion of modern club-oriented house music.  A Day Trip Through Divination is a bit slowed down, and again has a foreign feel to it, the modal harmonies remind me of the chords favoured by Autechre in some of their more abstract / generative work.  Over the course of the three tracks, IAMTHATIAM’s perfuses the work with unique timbres and a warped sensibility without any of his occasional wild tangents, making for a steadily introspective collection.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Randomer – Obtuse 12″ – Super

Fans of Blawan, Shed, Objekt rejoice, here’s another stompy syncopated warehouse number.  Randomer’s track record reveals a background in more dubstep and junglist leanings, this four track release indicates a sharp shift towards a four-on-the-floor friendly style.

True to form, everything is imbued with heavy counter rhythms, tight edits, and dynamic sound design, from the breathy sighs used as subtle emphasis on the title track to the pots-and-pans percussion of Dope.  Adventurous DJ weapons, but they stay very much in the realm of tool-tracks, there is a great deal of variation within each of the tracks but not much that signals a build or break, no melodies, and tonality only in service to the intense rhythmic expression.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Omar S – It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It 2×12″ – FXHE

Omar S‘ sophomore album continues the prolific and outspoken DJ & producer’s current reign of lo-fi supremacy for the Detroit region.  Slowly tweaking the acid, the filter resonance, the levels throughout, these are tracks that  slowly build and groove with just a handful of elements.

Opening the release is a heavily filtered r&b loop with a light drum machine workout overtop, morphing into a Dozzy-esque slow-burning acid excursion.  A muted piano dominates the downtempo ambling house loop that starts off the second record before the polarizing x-rated and completely explicit sample underpinning the doublepack’s otherwise restrained penultimate selection.

This is an excellent collection of Omar S’ deeper side, recommended if you like the productions Benjamin Brunn, Kai Alce and Jenifa Mayanja.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Aybee – Sun Of Cycle 12″ – Further

Prolific underground auteur Aybee has a very strong vision for this release on the bountiful US-based Further imprint.  Everything is heavily syncopated, it completely avoids any genre-tropes while sounding spontaneous and natural.

The title track has the aggressive, crystal-clear minimalism of Raster-Noton,  it’s a funky square beat with a vicious swing emphasis that is aimed directly at the hips.  On the B side, a dizzying voyage appropriately named Vertigo takes the listener on a nouveau-broken-beat trip through fancy footwork beats and a cosmic keyboard improvisation, all before completely switching up the kick for the last third of the song.

These tracks are thoroughly developed, and while they’re propulsive enough for the dance floor, they beg a closer listen for their musically adventurous spirit.  Recommended if you follow Theo Parrish or Hieroglyphic Being, or if you’re a fan of the latest from Noleian Reusse.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

A fine LP from Lerosa on Uzuri

Lerosa "Amanatto" on UzuriUzuri has put out some nice material as of late and the new LP titled Amanatto by Lerosa is no exception. With a nice balance between techno and house sounds, each track is very difficult to pinpoint in a category keeping each fresh and new. In addition, with three tracks co-written by The Oliverwho Factory, Shonie C gets a chance to add her breathy vocals giving a nice vocal element to some tracks.

For me the standouts are the opening grooves of “Constant”, the mellow deepness of “You Said Forever”, The Detroit-esque stylings of “Substitute” & “Horizons”, and the funky, slightly acidic closer “Hope”.

This is a great LP with tracks to suit many moods and another fine release from Uzuri. Recommended.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

 

 

Mini Sampler EP Three from Enterbt Records

Enterbt Mini Sampler ThreeZurich label Enterbt Records describes their overall sound by stating…

“The boys and girls from Enterbt believe in the healing power of booty shaking! Their appreciation of dance music goes back in to time – far beyond Detroit and Chicago. When rhythm was still a body thing and simple drums where played with simple sticks. They have the heart to question the overall progress. Instead of blindly follow common trends they create a movement of their own. “

This break with convention is evident on this sampler. The opening track “Completely In Tune” from Topdeal Music And Alessandro Felline combines a thick sawtooth bassline with keys and male vocals to create a fairly unique energetic deep house sound with a progressive view on arrangement. The next one “Kairo” by Jagged is built again around a deep dark bassline but the chords take the track into a more positive, uplifting direction. Its an interesting balance, using dark and light moments to push the listener.

On the B-side (which plays inside out by the way) Dario Damerini delivers what is probably the most classically deep house tune on the sampler in “Last Day”. It is also the highlight for me. It has a really nice laid back feel, very close to all of the great Persuader records on Svek from years ago where the percussion, baseline, pads and stabs are all working in harmony. The last track is quite a bit more driving and uptempo from “Last Day” with a stripped down house sound for peak hour. This one from CCO is titled “What Can You Do For Me” and should be a pretty popular floor filler at a lot of house music centric events here in Chicago.

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Chris Mitchell – 84 12″ – Plan B

This is Chris Mitchell’s second EP for the NYC-based Plan B imprint.  For fans of the march-tempo, square-wave, clean and heavy tech-house approach of Areal, Catenaccio and Brouqade, this will come as a welcome addition.  Contrarily, it cuts a bit against the grain of the dirty, off-kilter sound that DJ Spider has been culitvating for the label, but it has enough darkness and rhythmic idiosyncracies to make some sense in context.  The pair of remixers further bridge the gap, with the real highlight of the release in Amir Alexander‘s prismatic reimagining of Worker Ants.  Dakini9’s remix is also a strong addition to the two originals.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

The Secret Life of Sound dropped off some new goodies today…

New releases from Chicago based label The Secret Life of Sound (TSLOS) including new 7 inch from heralded beatsmith Radius, featuring Tomorrow Kings members IB Fokuz & Gilead 7; a 7 inch, Tenshun vs. Youthkill (Walter Gross & K-the-I???), some straight grimy, nasty, gutter basement music with distorted drums in true DIY fashion with xeroxed cover art; and a 10 inch EP from Youthkill called “The Promise of Automation” which includes MP3s w/ purchase.  nice!

Aster – Tormenta Del Desierto 12″ – Mathematics

Another new find by Mathematics A&R Jamal Moss, and there doesn’t seem to be much information floating around about her, him, them yet.  But while the artist(s) behind the music are mysterious here, the music has incontrovertible roots in Chicago house and early Detroit techno.  The EP has a certain Mediterranean flair to its classicism, IFM’s cohering seamlessly with the vibe of the whole, but taking it even more gritty and retro.  In one of the detours, there’s a twisting arpeggio that reminds me of Bodo Elsel’s 2000 “Sines” record on Playhouse, another section decends into cackling laughter under peals of squealing synths.

Overall, the record comes off as more cosmic than gothic, though.  With two very analog ambient interludes and an original house track, it covers a lot of ground and showcases a promising new act.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

 

D’Marc Cantu – How Are We Doing 10″ – M>O>S

D’Marc Cantu, probably best known for his work with Tadd Mullinix as 2 AM/FM and with Tadd & Melvin Oliphant as X2 , delivers the goods with this solo release.

The strongest track here is the contemplative B side, “A Second Earth.”  Taking notes from B12 and Stefan Robbers, the track balances the thick, squared-off techno drums with a spacious, reverberant quality to the layered melodies.

The ominous title track is chunky and modular, the walloping bassline playing against a nearly incoherent vocal and a serrated rolling hi-hat.  Still, there’s an underlying hint of melancholy that gives this otherwise heavy track a pensive aura.

Both sides feel far too short, but they get straight to the point: they’re flexible tracks that would work well alongside dub techno or stripped-down jackin’ house.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

Matthew Kyle’s edits for Original Cuts aren’t just edits.

On this EP, titled the Just An Edit EP, NYC’s Matthew Kyle does much more than just edit down some disco jams for Original Cuts. Owner of the In The Woods label and relative newcomer to the production game, Kyle proves his worth as he lifts samples and creates new tracks around them. The best example on this EP is when he takes The Temptations’ “Shakey Ground” and pieces together a nice work out around some choice verse samples while never delivering the chorus for his own “This Hurt All Over”. Kyle loves his slow-house, nu-soul and downbeat disco. That passion is very evident here as two of the tracks are at a downbeat tempo but still will get a dancefloor groovin’ and on the flip the long player “Baby Come Back” is great lounge material.

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-Scotty Brandon

Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

 

 

 

Blawan – What You Do With What You Have 12″ – R&S

The strongest and most techno-leaning offering from Blawan lands with a double-mullet: party in the front and the back.  On the black side, the title track will catch the most ears, support, and controversy for the recognizable (though thoroughly mutated and mutilated) KDJ vocal.  Still, this is the antithesis of the Oliver $ crib – the track propels quite heavily under its own steam: warped pseudo-acid squelches, a stomping mess of kick and bass, and the vocals chopped to the point where it sounds like there might be two distinct speakers, whipping one another into a mutual frenzy.

The silver side is a moaning, lumbering, walloping four-to-the-floor track as well.  The overall package marks Blawan as a threat for the techno, lo-fi  house set as well as his peers in British Bass music.

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Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!

2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683

 

New disco-ized grooves from Katzuma on Kinjo Music

Italian Andrea Visani really works it out for this the first vinyl release on Dave Allison’s Kinjo Music label. The limited edition Life In The City EP kicks off with “Musicismadeforlove” which is an uplifting sample based jaunt featuring a dubby vocal sample and some choice synth solos. Then Tony T steps in to grind things out with the more minimal burner “Stooned (Tonyt Remix)”. The EP then closes out on a high note with the title track. This one builds off some really nice piano work and just keeps driving home with a killer bassline and a funky guitar lick at the wheel. The keyboard solo and breakdowns just add to the joy filled romp that is “Life In The City”. This is one not to be missed for fans of the deepest of house or the grooviest of disco!

Visit or call Gramaphone Records today to hear this release!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683 

– Scotty Brandon

Volcov edits for the boogie lover in you!

Volcov edits for SJNRLThis one is simply a really nice collection of five edits by Volcov as part of the The Slam Jam Neroli series of edits. The tracks Volcov takes on here are quite varied combining Disco sounds with jazzfunk, fusion & gospel. Definitely one for the edit collection with many stone cold jams on one slab of wax!

 

 

Listen at GramaphoneRecords.com

-Scotty Brandon

Visit or call Gramaphone Records today!
2843 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 472-3683