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The Weekly Froth - August #3

  • Published in Columns

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.

Track of the week: ‘A Simple Design’ by The Juan MacLean

The Juan MacLean is coming with a new album this year, and this track kind of perfectly embodies what that band is about for me. You’ve got all the dancey goodness you can expect from a band whose most well-known track is called ‘Happy House’, but it also has this slight sci-fi/robot vibe to it, which gives it this innate Juan MacLeanness. This feel is enhanced to the max by those typical vocals by Nancy Whang, who sings on a lot of DFA bands, but on none are her vocals so fitting as when working with this band. This because she doesn’t only simply provide the vocals here, but that voice kind of seems to be part of the fabric. Obviously, there’s not only that thuddy drum sound which seems so typical DFA, but there are plenty of atmospheric synths as well, all which have some industrial/robotic vibe to them. And that’s the thing isn’t it, there’s such a clear vibe to this, almost detached in its robot studies, and yet it is also a song I would be dancing merrily to (if only for that springy piano sound that’s in there as well). In the chorus Whang sings that It is not a simple design / but I had it and everything you’ve build comes falling down. First of, this song is naturally not a simple design with lots going on, but the base structure providing the rhythm does provide these almost restrictions in its repetition, and in that falling down and the dancing you are free. It’s like a Robert Longo charcoal a bit. And, like those Longo’s, it’s absolutely awesome.


‘World Restart’ by Kindness feat. Kelela & Ade

This one starts lovely with that double feature of the horns and the two vocals, after which it kicks in some rhythm with the drums and bass. That trifecta really is the core of this track, with all kinds of secondary sounds providing extra atmosphere to it. I love the amount of horns on this one, it is rare you see that nowadays, especially with the horns being used in multiple ways (and right on through each other). I love how these horns sometimes come together, like they are being used as different layers as part of the whole structure, and then everything is stripped except for the two layers of horns, which suddenly work together in perfect unison. The vocals are silky smooth and give it a nice airy, dreamy feel, and Kindness does well to give the rhythm section enough deep vibes and punch to carry this one forward and keep it semi-dancey. New album coming out, so stay tuned.


‘Games for Girls’ by Say Lou Lou & Lindstrom

Lindstrom gets the dancing going on this one, immediately coming out of the gates with that catchy, space-discoey sound that certainly sounds like it should get all the girls dancing. At about fifty seconds in he comes with some light piano, after which he dives into a deliciously catchy instrumental for a little while. Plenty of Say Lou Lou here as well, with the vocals being very prominent. In that sense it is really close to, you know, a pop song, really. One I could actually see played on the radio. It’s got the timeframe (3:20), it is structured like one, and the lyrics “little boys with fancy toys”, that certainly seems the kind of thing kids would just love to be singing with its implied naughtiness. Aside from the start, where one can hear a shimmer of deepness, the track is really light sounding, really easy on the ear, and, above all (and that is certainly the one thing that draws me to it) really catchy.


‘Lotusland’ by Telephones (Discodromo remix)

This one starts by letting you listen to the seaside for a bit, though after about sixteen seconds in, nature is rudely disturbed by this deep bass sound that seems to come straight out of a Mojito commercial with its hip shaking madness. Discodromo quickly adds some percussion and, ehrm, ducks, dials down the bass for a moment, and at 1:35 he adds some extra drums to give this track some oomph for the dancing again. A little later he adds a spacey sounding synth (which I wasn’t expecting to be honest), and soon enough more keys come in to balance out all the deeper bass and drum sounds, giving it some atmosphere and momentum as opposed to just rhythm. In the mean time that bass is still rolling like there’s no tomorrow, so you definitely still have that core sound to be dancing to. By the midway point this track has evolved into this fully fledged sound, with plenty of stuff going on on top of the rhythm, which slowly gets dialled down a bit for Discodromo to come back with the beat at about 5:20 to help you finish this song dancing. I love how this one is set up, immediately coming out with that bass to get you dancing, and then just adding layer upon layer to patiently create the song whilst everyone is already on the dancefloor. Lovely remix by Discodromo.


‘I Feel It Comin On’ by NY Stomp feat. Matthew Kirkwood

NY Stomp is Dutch producer Gerd, and this lad knows a thing or two about house sounds, and he certainly puts that on display here. He teases with the beat for the starting minute or so, with the soulful vocals of Matthew Kirkwood singing that He feels it coming on, though the only thing NY Stomp gets on are the house-y piano sounds that do provide the vibe and flavour of house, though the real dancing has to wait for when the beat comes in to complement that piano, which is at about 1:30. So you’ve got the beat, the piano, and those vocals that have yet to differ from that one party line he’s been singing all the way through; and all of that gives you this really old school house vibe one can’t help but get jacking to in the club. So if you want a nice slice of old school house, this one is there for you to get your game on I reckon, with this stream obviously being a clip as a “real” house tune will have you at it for at least double its length.


‘Rain’ by Wrong Steps

The Boiler Room presents, and if The Boiler Room presents you can bet your little hiney that you can do some form of dancing to it. In this case, it presents Wrong Steps, and what Wrong Steps provides is this unpolished, garage like dance tune with plenty of dance music trademarks (just listen for a few seconds after the two minute mark and you’ll find that traditional base sound that everyone knows and can dance too), but on top and next to that it is a pretty experimental little humbug this one. It is definitely an intriguing one with multiple layers that often seem to run slightly off of each other, creating this double layer effect which is kind of odd and nice at the same time. If you listen from about 3:30 to 4:20 you get a nice idea of that, with plenty of experimental electronical sounds, but always returning to some form of an “easy” beat to dance to. So it never loses connection with the dance side of it, making it useable in the club, but always exhuming this underground vibe with the grainy, non 4-on-the-floor sounds. Definitely one I can just imagine hearing in a small Berlin club or something.



Kindness - World, You Need A Change Of Mind

  • Published in Albums

Kindness recently released a video for their funk-jam ‘Gee Up’ which turns into a post-post-post-post ironic comedy sketch at its halfway point, spoofing the taste-making, blog-baiting hype machine which can engulf chill-wave, lo-fi dance artists like Kindness. The tone was hard to gauge: a smug exercise in having your cake and eating it, or just some tongue in cheek fun? So many elements of Kindness’ debut LP conspire to make you hate it before you’ve even heard it: that self-satisfied album title; consecutive tracks called ‘Gee Wiz’ and ‘Gee Up’; a cover of Anita Dobson’s ‘Anyone Can Fall In Love’ (more commonly recognised as the Eastenders theme tune) - all clues that World, You Need A Change Of Mind is likely to be an encapsulation of everything satirised in that novelty Being A Dickhead’s Cool song from a year or so back. But Kindness dispel with these anticipatory criticisms in the most effective way imaginable: by making one of the best records of 2012 so far - warm, generous, addictive and magnificent.

To hear the album’s should-be low point - that Anita Dobson cover - is to discover (and I’m fully aware of how unlikely this sounds) that it actually stands out as one of the album’s immediate highlights on an record loaded with high points. Dialing the tempo back to a smoky, languid crawl, ghostly backing vocals and soft synths creeping into the mix as it builds, Kindess successfully turns a well-worn melody into a vehicle of affective melancholy far more reflective of the lyrics’ weary warning than the original - a resolute triumph in the face of what should have been the ultimate hipster misstep. If Kindness can make that work, then it’s little wonder that the rest of these numbers are such gems. And indeed, the other cover on offer here - ‘Swinging Party’, originally by The Replacements - makes similarly successful improvements over its source material: the faraway staccato throbs of synth beautifully extenuating the gorgeous vocal melody, draped with reverb-soaked harmonies just perfectly.

The brilliantly reinterpreted covers are evidence of Kindness’ killer instinct for delivering his songs in whichever modes offer maximum impact, never losing his nerve even as he flirts with sounds and genres widely synonymous with crimes of style over substance. Using bedroom-pop dance music as a base from which to explore minimalism, big-beat, acid jazz, electro-funk, disco and much more, the disparity of styles never erode the album’s strongly defined identity, partly owing to Bainbridge’s consistently strong ear for melody and rhythm, and partly owing to the album’s brilliant sense of pacing as it loses itself in joyous eclecticism - the walking bassline and disco drum beat of ‘Gee Up’ soaring out of the ambient swirl of ‘Gee Wiz’ being just one example of a stark contrast which pleasantly surprises rather than nastily jolts.

The overall result is a collection of ten distinct (and distinctive) dance tracks which stand alone as addictive pop songs, as well as coalescing into an immersive ride, flowing with the stylish grace of an accomplished DJ mix. A thrilling debut with brilliant attention to detail, World, You Need A Change Of Mind stands as a seemingly effortlessly realised vision - a blossom of ideas jostling for position between strong melodies and confident rhythms.

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