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Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 1

  • Published in Live


For the third year running, Primavera Sound is the festival of choice. Especially for a city slicker like me, there’s something about the beach festival right in the beautiful city of Barcelona that just works. Standing at the top of the staircase if one wants to go down to the Pitchfork or Adidas stages you can see the city lights along the beaches stretch from left to right, and, when at one of the main stages, you can see the tall, Barcelona buildings betraying the fact that, yes, you are smack in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest cities out there. If you go to festivals for the camping, camaraderie, or wellies and mud, this might not be your thing. For those alienated city weirdos, the eclectic programming only enhances that there’s no singular group one belongs to.

Beak> starts off my festival, and do so amazingly well. The trio knows how to do their brand of rock, and the way they slide from one part of a song to the next is a real marvel. The guitar work is really splendid, throwing out some nifty lines, and the set is varied enough throughout to keep people exactly where they are for the entire duration. You can see this is a band of pros, who know what they are doing, and who then apparently can enter a new synth player into the starting line-up without any major hitches during the songs. They, themselves, seem to enjoy it all as well and thus the start of the fest is as positive as one could hope for.

It goes quickly downhill though, as I love Destroyer, but the sound is muddled. Any time there’s a guitar that enters the song, the pristine craftwork of the band comes tumbling down. Which is a crying shame, because last year seeing them in an indoor venue at Le Guess Who? was amazing, with Dan Bejar fronting his band’s intricate works with passion. Here, too, he goes for it, but what worked indoors doesn’t work at the Ray Bans stage today. I’d happily see them again, somewhere, someday, but this makes for an exit before their full time is up.

Which doesn’t get us in time to Air, at least not to see them in a proper position. Chatty people surround us everywhere, which isn’t necessarily the way you want to enjoy the super clean, even pristine, sounds of the French band. The vocals sounds angelic, and it seems they have their stuff together for this one, but it is a bit too rowdy where we are standing, which means we don’t get the beauty, and it only comes off as tame. We wait until ‘Sexy Boy’ comes (oooohhhh-hooo), and then we go from the main stage to one of the smallest stages there is.

Now, being brought up with MTV Unplugged, I’m curious to see what an unplugged version of electro-pop artist Jessy Lanza will sound like. It is the Ray Bans Unplugged stage after all. Apparently, not really, as the show starts wildly late because of all kinds of difficulties with the electronics, cables, and assorted instruments that are on it. When she does start, she starts hesitantly, with not everything completely doing what she wants yet. Drum sound is a tad off, and the microphone doesn’t seem to register her lower singing, although it evidently does manage to catch the high yelps. The two women on stage are down two sets to love and serve is to the other side.

If one band can be proud of today’s set, it is though these girls. Not only do they right the ship, they rebuild it to a cruise liner with the best party in town. The crowd is getting increasingly more into it (it’s packed, and then some), and they are regaining their swagger, which breathes new life into the tunes. This year releasing her album Oh No, she rolls through catchy and punchy songs like the title track and a prolonged, dancey version of ‘Never Enough’ in which she gives it her all. Being last on the stage, she can make up for some of the time she lost at the start, and all there are all the happier for it.

From a young woman ready to reach a wider audience to an old all-American music composer showcasing the oeuvre he has built up during years and years in ol’ Hollywood. That, and doing some Ennio Morricone to boot. John Carpenter has a full band backing him as he does all these well-known synth riffs from the movies we grew up on or belatedly watched somewhere during our lifetimes. That deep synth sound is the key, and the rest of the band fleshes out the sound perfectly. In the background we see the images of the movies these tracks graced, and he does some work off his Lost Themes albums too. Carpenter shows you don’t need to be a fresh, young face to suddenly appear at festivals and engage and hype up crowds, you just need some quality work and a keenness to play them. So, from slasher flick soundtracks to album material, we get it all, with the haunting synth sounds giving the Barcelona night some extra flavour.

Back on the main stage we celebrate the return of LCD Soundsystem, and in a headliner set we get everything we want and more. The roster is one of all-stars, with Nancy Whang and John MacLean from The Juan MacLean with Pat Mahoney and Gavin Russom, staples of the DFA roster, and Al Doyle from Hot Chip we just have it all there on stage. And then, the main brain behind it all, James Murphy, rocking, dancing, and yelling out all the frustration and anxieties that one builds up in life. From dance-punk tracks to all-out disco, from rawness to the super slick; we get everything and more in a headline-worthy set by the New York band.

We get the old work, with tracks like ‘Yeah’, ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’, and ‘Losing My Edge’. The last one has a beautiful, slow moving bass base, making you dance and swing your body as Murphy narrates what basically seems like a nervous breakdown turned around, for, in the end, yeah, they might be more interesting, prettier, and have an amazing web plan, but I was there when all that fantastic shit went down.

‘Home’ is one of my favorites off the last album, such a slick creature it is, Talking Heads-inspired, and ending with that fab line "If you’re afraid of what you need, look around you, you’re surrounded, it won’t get any better". Closing out it’s the piano anthem ‘All My Friends’, saying what, in the end, after all, turns out to be really important. That you’re there, with friends, and surrounded by people with similar anxieties, dancing and losing it to a band that — for perhaps a niche group but still — defined a generation for some. And they, here, tonight, showed why in a strong, get-yr-feet-moving set.


The Weekly Froth! - 20160115

  • 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: ‘Good Lovin’’ by PillowTalk

Love how PillowTalk starts this one of with those lovely vocals, this duet asking each other "to keep on loving me", as both he and she "really really need you baby". In the mean time PillowTalk gets a slow grooving bass sound in, on top of a bit of percussion. But it’s especially the bass providing the groove, leading the loving vocals to the right place. There’s also a smattering of keys there, providing the right atmosphere, adding some of that love duetting vibe right in there. The vocals, by the way, are Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, so these are none to shabby obviously, with PillowTalk really getting the warmth and the slow soul working, with a bit of that love jazz feel as well. If you weren’t feeling the love of 2016 yet, hopefully this helps out a bit, with Terrell ending the track by repeating that "life is so wonderful, with you here in my arms".


‘Get On Down’ by Martin Hayes

Obviously, when you name your track ‘Get On Down’, you’d better make sure that we can get on down. And from the start, a bucketload of all kinds of percussion, including some Latin vibed ones, wash over the dancefloor to get your hips a-shaking. At the one minute mark the percussion slides to the background a bit as we get some guitar and horn work for the dirty and the disco. At about the 2:15 mark we get even more of all that jazz, letting the air in and, at one point, even the vocals, as they shortly appear at 2:50 before the track walks back to the dirty funk feel with the sax giving it some air of respectability as the rest of the instruments drag it down and low to the underground club. Before the four minute mark though, it moves its way to the glitterbox dancefloor, with the disco prevailing for a minute. And that combination, of a bit of down and dirty, and a bit of chic, le freak, that makes it such a surprising listen and an EP worth watching when it will be released first thing next month.


‘One For The Money’ by The Whispers (Pied Piper Full Blooded Disco Regroove)

How about that boogie for the start, eh? Add some horns in there as well, a little drums to make sure there’s a bit of a rhythm backbone there, and some organ too, and we’re off to the races with this regroove of an old The Whispers tune. And they make sure to add everything, including a bit of screeching guitar as well, but they also know how to keep that thing rolling, with the bass doing the groundwork so that everything else can live off of it. This including a big break for the horn section at about 1:20, giving you a bit of that funk before the vocals come in, telling you to "get on down". The organ keeps delivering, the guitar does its little riff in there, and the Pied Piper makes sure that all that boogie keeps on leading you to the dancefloor with all the holiness from all those other instruments. The vocals are old school, with the main vocalist doing the whole church thing as the rest of the band makes sure to get in a word edgewise as well. And how about all of that for close to nine minutes, eh? Though at about the 4:40 mark they do bring it down for a minute, just letting the rhythm section go at it for a moment, with only a bit of the keys on top of it. Soon enough though, the party gets blazing again, and it is just one of those things to get that disco dancefloor working.


‘The Queen On Her Throne’ by JKriv

JKriv gets the beat down in there as the classic sounds of this sublime track fill the void alongside of it. Soon the percussion sounds come in as well, helping out in the rhythm department, as he dials down the other sounds just before the minute mark to get the bass in (and some other instruments too). The harsh beat has faded to the background a bit, with the percussion and bass providing a warmer canvas on top of which JKriv builds his empire with the sounds of the original tune, coming to fullness around 1:45 where he does everything except adding those triple vocals. Obviously, at 2:20, here comes the main vocalist, admitting that, yes, you are his Darling darling baby, and JKriv first adds a little instrumental piece in there, not getting quite to the chorus just yet. And he shows restraint, going through a few more rounds of the Darlin’ darlin’ bit, after which he first throws in a nice bit of percussion with a nice, deep tom drum sound, adding to the funky feel of the track. Lighter sounds soon arrive, working up towards, yes, the chorus, with the vocals upping the ante. This before the beat gets stripped, with the main vocals now getting the room for themselves. At the six minute mark, we get the boys in the back as well, adding their ooooh-hoo lines to the whole proceedings. Just a lovely rework, with plenty of vocal goodness, a nice funky and smooth rhythm line, and enough subtle variation to have some 8 minute long dancing fun.


‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart’ by LCD Soundsystem

First we hear some festive sounds with the bells, but soon James Murphy starts telling you that Christmas will break your heart, with a sad sod arrangement in the back as Murphy is complaining that "your body is getting old". The composition has some piano, some drums, and slowly and slowly more and more things are added, with at one point even the background choir joining Murphy, who, despite everything, admits that he will be "coming home to you". Like a New York, I Love You, this track is a slow tale of woe, where the inner voices and emotions battle from quiet desperation to quiet love. At the end, the anxiety comes out, with the instruments building up a little wall in the background as Murphy yelps out What if you’re done?, screaming it out in the crescendo, before the track settles down again with the snow bells and a slow, clean drum. Obviously, this was the start of what since has become a little comeback announcement of the band that, for a certain group of people, did probably define a certain era a bit. And it’s good to see that they come with these Seasonal greetings, without feeling the pressure to come back with the next hit, dance, anxiety fuelled tune right of the bat. We just like to get new stuff from this expert band, so pretty chuffed to have them back as far as I’m concerned.

‘Under A Silious Moonright’ by David Bowie (Dimitri From Tokyo remix)

Dimitri From Tokyo, years ago, got grooving with this funk track by Bowie in his Nile Rodgers period. Dimitri adds loads of percussion, but makes sure that guitar riff gets the whole spotlight at the minute mark, and he knows to ride the bass after that. Sure, Bowie’s vocals, too, are brought to the fore as the weapon they are, with the horns complementing the moments the vocals are silent. And at 1:50, the chorus, where the main rhythm is still there even though some things are stripped away to make sure that Bowie can sing that his love For you, will break my heart in two. And as he sings Trembles like a flooooo-wer, all the other instruments are, literally, being turned down, before that funky rhythm gets back in there with the percussion, the bass, and the horns providing plenty of atmosphere to help out the vocals. Dimitri From Tokyo goes a bit club with it, before Bowie gets a bit jazz with it as the horns come in, and then the funk can be found underneath it again. It’s just one of those things I’ve got on vinyl that just shows the far reaching hand of Bowie. From his Ziggy Stardust glam rock to the cold Berlin sounds to the whole Fame thing and the Nile Rodgers stuff to, eventually, his very last new album; he was just one of those artists that did so much, and with that, inspired so many. And, luckily, we’ll be able to love and listen to his records, the sounds he inspired, and even the dancefloor edits for eternity and beyond.


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