By Stef Siepel
January 18, 2013
The Weekly Froth! A weekly take on six tracks, most of which have recently popped up somewhere in the blogosphere. Bit of a mixed bag with a slight leaning towards house, disco, and remixes, but generally just anything that for some reason tickled the writer’s fancy.
‘Where Are We Now?’ by David Bowie
How about this for a first song of the 2013 version of this column eh? There radiates a certain eminance around David Bowie, though I have, on occassion, had discussions with a friend of mine who does not regard him legendary as, according to him, a lot of Bowie’s (later) output has been below par. It doesn’t even matter whether that is true or not, I argued, but the rest has been so influential and so great, his lesser output doesn’t taint his legacy. So to my friend this might not seem the precursor to an important album in terms of Bowie’s musical status but myself, I’m just happy he’s back in action. Though producer Tony Visconti has already let the cat out of the bag and has told everyone and their mother it is going to be a rock album, this track is a ballad. There is a certain fragility and melancholy in this track. Seems to me (and, as always, I could be dead wrong) it is kind of a meditation on humanity and whether we are not losing the feeling of being alive and human, though “As long as there is sun and rain and fire and (especially) me and you, then we’ll always find some sort of humanity and get through it with a smile and a little love.” That textual change up also indicated musically by a lovely shift in the drum pattern.
‘Joy of Life’ by Ilya Santana
Ilya Santana is the king of space disco as far as I’m concerned. He always manages to come up with these delightful hypnotic tracks that just go on and on and which just let you step outside of whatever you’re doing at the time. At the start, before the beat and rhythm synths take over, he lays down some atmosphere as in a film score. Just before the minute mark he gets this thing rolling, albeit still with a bit of melancholy I feel, as set up at the start. It kind of reminds me of this Jan Ken Po tune (‘Colour Wheel’) I loved so much last year, though instead of that bass Max Essa used Ilya Santana does it with beat and synths. Though, at the minute I’m writing that, this bass sound comes through and becomes the foundation of the track. I just love how he fills in the rest of the song, with all these typical sounds that just give out this lovely vibe. Halfway through he strips it down almost to nothing, after which he puts the beat back in, which after a little while gets some help from that bass again. A song that just hypnotically rolls along like Santana always manages to do. Quality yet again.
‘Put the Freez On’ by Rayko
Rayko puts the synths on for this edit, to which I can imagine someone with vogueing skills might dance magnificently to. It’s got this bit of attitude to it which I kind of like. Tremendous patience in the build-up, where slowly and surely some original elements start giving away where this is going as the beat and synths keep chugging along. It’s all about anticipation no? At 2:30 you hear a small sample of the vocals for the first time, after which more and more of Alfie Silas’s voice starts coming through. The original track comes from her 1982 album. I would’ve loved the vocals a bit higher in the mix, as the verses get a bit drowned out by the dancing beat in my opinion, and I’m a bit of a vocals guy myself. Nonetheless, a lovely edit of this old tune.
‘Starman’ by Sally Shapiro feat. Electric Youth
Sally Shapiro will be releasing a new album in February, so that promises a lot of dreamy goodness. This single, ‘Starman’, certainly puts the pace in, to the point where you would mistake it for a generic pop song. Luckily there is still Shapiro’s dreamy vocals to put up a valiant fight against that beat, and especially in the choruses where the beat disappears it seems on the verge of winning as she exclaims that she wants to love you, Mr. Starman. For me though, the beat is just too fast, which kind of takes away the enjoyment I usually get from listening to Shapiro’s sweet vocals.
‘Fighting is Futile’ by Matthew Dear (Benoit & Sergio remix)
If you didn’t manage to catch Matthew Dear last year live you missed out on something. Not only did the show have all the ace tracks of his superb last two albums, but the way he transformed himself from “kid with laptop” to a charismatic frontman of a super tight band is simply amazing. It is hard to take your eyes off of this impeccably dressed man as he goes all out on that magnificent live version of ‘Her Fantasy’. Benoit & Sergio take one of his tracks, ‘Fighting is Futile’, to the deep end of the spectrum, a sound that somehow fits both Matthew Dear and the label’s name (Ghostly International). Thanks to the bass this thing keeps rolling on in a chugging-forward-kind-of-way. The vocals are barely recognizable, having become a kind of a deep whisper. It is a lovely remix in that it does do something new with the song, but it kind of fits the Dear aesthetic. I would have loved to have heard how that “vocals-only” part would’ve sounded if the original vocals were used (so with more strength). Then again, maybe Benoit & Sergio tried that and it was absolute rubbish, so yeah. At the end you’ve got this build-up going on that, instead of working to a release to swing it into momentum for the last part, takes forever and then fizzles out. Aside from that, lovely deep and hypnotic remix by these lads.
‘Stomp!’ by Brothers Johnson (Deep & Disco rework)
How about something from the Deep & Disco boys, who always manage to turn out stellar dancefloor edits of all these lovely tunes? From the start you know you should be dancing to this and having a bit of fun. Love how the different vocal lines in the first minute are woven into this dancehall beginning, and after that you get this great transition to this old school bass sound the disco kids should be eating up. After a bit of vocal crescendo they turn to something slightly deeper, which is juxtaposed with the sound of handclaps. After the four minute mark they turn to a nice stripped combination of drums, guitar riff, and vocals, after which you can get dancing again to quite a bit of horns. The thing they do so well here is alternate between these old school funk and disco sensibilities and instruments and these more modern beats to make sure it keeps up with the pace and the times. Not only that, all these transitions are smooth as heck. This is just eight minutes of pure funky fun that certainly I wouldn’t be complaining about if it would be playing when I’m on the dancefloor. And I always love a little intermezzo with just vocals and handclaps, that is something that never ceases to make me happy.