Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mas Sexi Mixtape #1: Holiday Dance Party, USA!

Hello, friends and strangers, and happy holidays! The last time you heard from Mas Sexi we were mere days from a Thanksgiving turkey-induced coma, but after a month of lazing about and waiting for snow, we've grown restless and, frankly, a little bored of hibernation. Cue the Mas Sexi Mixtape!

MP3: DJ Cuckoo - Mas Sexi Mixtape #1 (Holiday Dance Party, USA!)

In the absence of a Portland-based Meatball Magic, yours truly dons his virtual DJ Cuckoo hat to bring you an extra-special holiday dance mix via The Internets. Ladies and gentlemen: the Mas Sexi Mixtape--first of a lifelong series, no doubt--is an hour-long MP3 mix featuring some of the year's best bangers, as well as a few of our dancefloor favorites. Click above (or here, or there) to download. Consider it an early Christmas present. Or a belated Hannukah gift. Or, you know, whatever you like. Point is, dance!

Stars - "What I'm Trying to Say Pt. 2 (The Dears Remix)"
Hot Chip - "Ready for the Floor"
Chromeo - "Waiting 4 U"
Calvin Harris - "Disco Heat"
Kylie Minogue - "In My Arms"
Grand National - "Close Approximation"
The Black Ghosts - "Any Way You Choose to Give It"
Treasure Fingers - "Come True Tonight"
Dizzee Rascal - "Pussyole (Old Skool)"
Lyn Collins - "Think About It"
Can - "I Want More"
Blonde Redhead - "Spring and by Summer Fall"
Arcade Fire - "Keep the Car Running"
Dennis DJ - "Vasco 2000"
Diplo - "Diplo Rhythm (Percao)"
Kraftwerk - "Tour de France"
Bonde do Role - "Marina do Bairro"
Santogold - "Creator"
Ce'Cile and General Degree - "Na Na Na Na"
Groove Armada - "Drop That Thing"
M.I.A. - "XR2"
The Postmarks - "Goodbye (Tahiti 80 Remix)"
Robyn - "Crash and Burn Girl (Jesper Dahlback Remix)"
X-Wife - "When the Lights Turn Off"
Ladytron - "Nothing to Hide"

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Efterklang - Parades

You can thank Bjork. Because of her musical antics--as well as those of other Icelandic bands like Múm and Sigur Rós, Norway's Röyksopp, and Sweden's The Knife--there's a certain sound one now associates with the majority of Scandinavian alternative music. That frosty tinkling from that far-off land of ice age remnants tends to conjure images of fur-clad musicians clanging together instruments fashioned out of icicles and snowballs--whistles and wails chasing flurries and gusts up the sides of icebergs. It's all, for the most part, heavily glacial and coolly detached, and even when the beats anchor the tune to the dancefloor or the background vocals swoop in like a chorus of tiny angels, there's either an aloofness or quirkiness that grabs you while still keeping you at arm's length. It's gorgeous and often overwhelming, but even in the embrace of an opus like "Pagan Poetry," the track's sentiments belie the sense that you're making love to a robot with an internal combustion engine for a heart.

And you wanna know something else? Unless it's a duo or just one artist, no one ever knows exactly how many members are actually in most of these bands. Efterklang is no exception. Up until this point, the Danish group had, ok, five official members? Plus one guy who does accompanying films and visuals. Plus at least two other people who joined them regularly while touring in support of their ambitious 2004 debut, Tripper. That album, by the way, was the fastest-selling album in the history of The Leaf Label, and deservedly so. Its computer-guided melodies and bit-gilded strings stuttered their way throughout Denmark and across the pond, creating ripples and flooding American college radio airwaves the following year. Tracks like "Swarming"--whose video was directed by Karim Ghahwagi, that visuals guy--introduced us to a band capable of more than whispering and ringing bells.

At any rate and on all counts, all bets are off with the release of their new album, Parades. The glitchy atmospherics of Tripper are still there, but rather than forming a base for the band's music, the electronic elements have been allowed to float over the top, touching down occasionally with clicks and pops here and there. Acoustically-based performances, like the epic opener "Polygyne," build momentum and bloom into fully-formed productions whose exaltations challenge even the most majestic of post-rock outfits (hello, Godspeed!). A full orchestra and backing choir stomp and glide along with the warm male-female vocals now familiar to most fans of the band, and even the synthesized flourishes seem to develop organically, floating in and out of the mix like ticker tape.

MP3: Efterklang - "Polygyne"

And much like an actual parade, each track on the album approaches you from somewhere out on the horizon, bowling you over with fanfare and fireworks, then marching away to the echoing of Sousa-sized strains. Lead single "Mirador" floats in with fluttering harps and pianos that open up to Matterhorn crescendos, then back again. The accompanying video--a sort of pinball-countdown-goes-north-pole affair--is as mesmerizingly surreal as you'd expect.

MP3: Efterklang - "Mirador"

Much of Parades recalls Arcade Fire or Sufjan Stevens' more bombastic fare in that every colossal action is met by an equal and opposite reaction. It also seems to happen subconsciously. Towards the end of the album, when the marching band thundering of "Caravan" flows gently into "Illuminant," you forget (if you've been good and allowed the record to play through in its entirety) that the whole thing consists of 11 different tracks rather than one homogeneous behemoth. Musical experiences like that are few and far between.

MP3: Efterklang - "Caravan"

Parades took a full 18 months to record, and it shows. The music moves like a glacier, sliding smoothly at times and landing with a series of booming cracks. This isn't just headphone music. With its soaring orchestral movements and crashing drums, it's music for loudspeakers and concert halls. It's a cadence for a march of millions. Efterklang haven't just created an amazing album here--with an earth-shaking spirit that all but sends you into cardiac arrest, they've composed a soundtrack for a revolution that will melt the icecaps.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Death to the pig: OiNK.cd is no more.

And so the first dawn fades on an OiNK-less day. Chances are you're already privy and in full mourning, but here's the news for those of you who couldn't care less: Early yesterday morning, British police raided the home of a Middlesbrough man, lugged his computer equipment away in plastic bags, and threw him in the pokey. Why? The 24-year-old IT worker, known at this point only as "Alan" (not me, I promise), was the administrator of OiNK.cd (previously OiNK.me.uk), a private bittorrent tracker site notorious for supplying quality-controlled leaks and pre-release albums to pirates lucky enough to hold memberships. Boasting 180,000 members and about a bajillion music and software torrents, OiNK was considered by most to be the ultimate invite-only torrent community. Practically anything--even some pretty obscure stuff--could be found and had within a matter of minutes (or, you know, so we hear). But like the days of Napster, you figured it was only a matter of time...

Following a two-year investigation by Interpol (not that Interpol), IFPI and BPI put the smackdown on the site in a hot minute, and those logging on yesterday hoping to find--oh, who knows, I'm just guessing here--the newest uploads or the top ten most transferred torrents in the last 24 hours were greeted instead with an ominous 90s-looking splash page reading, "This site has been closed as a result of a criminal investigation by IFPI, BPI, Cleveland Police and the Fiscal Investigation Unit of the Dutch Police (FIOD ECD) into suspected illegal music distribution. A criminal investigation continues into the identities and activities of the site's users." That's right--Dutch police. The site's servers, located in Amsterdam, were also confiscated. Meanwhile, in other parts of England and the Netherlands, the unwashed music-deprived masses murder each other and construct pipe bombs in red district flats.

In the hours following the raids, critical backlash and memorial sites cropped up on the Internet. Then there's the collective click of long-forgotten Soulseek and Limewire connections being fired up again. "Alan" has since been released from custody. By the way, that "criminal investigation" into the "identities and activities" of OiNK's users? Don't even trip. Word is, OiNK's user database was encrypted and equipped with a "self-destruct" type of mechanism. In completely unrelated news, stay tuned to Mas Sexi for more tunes. And in the spirit of that, please accept the following song. It's a good one.

MP3: Elvin Bishop - "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Copycat Sunday #1: Britney Spears

Say what you will about Britney Spears, but it's impossible to deny the space she occupies in popular culture. Whether it's a voyeuristic disgust of her downward spiral or a genuine veneration of the python-wielding diva of yore, there's an undeniable magnetism there that propelled her from teen-pop stardom to intergalactic phenomenon practically overnight.

MP3: Britney Spears - "I'm a Slave 4 U"

I don't know about you, but that night six years ago when she performed "I'm a Slave 4 U" on Letterman? Granted, it wasn't so much the performance as the relatively minimal sound that surprised me, but it was different enough to be interesting and, frankly, I dug it. The Neptunes were at the height of their production game and, in terms of mega-pop, it was as cool as anything they'd ever done. Something about the song, though, seemed oddly familiar. I didn't catch it right away--chances are most people still haven't and probably won't--and while modern pop isn't exactly known for its musical and thematic originality, the samples on which "Slave" are based are as surprising as the sultry persona assumed by Britney at the time.

MP3: Matmos - "Lipostudio...And So On"

In March of 2001, seven months before the release of "Slave" as a single, San Francisco-based electronic duo Matmos released their fourth LP, an experimental concept album titled A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure. Created around the recorded and manipulated sounds of plastic surgery and medical procedures, the album is, despite its gimmicks, pretty great stuff. It's at times even beautiful and, given the subject matter, surprisingly approachable (provided you don't think too hard about the way it was made). "Lipostudio...And So On," for all its groovy slurps and organic squelches, is practically pop already. With a little beat adjustment and some heavy editing from Pharrell and company, the dizzying track becomes a suitably pornographic backdrop for Britney's breathy advances.

But the idea of sweaty bodies writing together to the sounds of body fat and other fluids being sucked through tubes? It's not all that sexy. That's likely why Britney's camp acknowledged a more obvious sample of Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" on "Slave," but "Lipostudio" has always been Pharrell's greasy little secret. Little did everyone know that, eventually (sooner rather than later), the idea of Britney Spears being associated with a liposuction tube wouldn't seem all that unattractive after all.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pinback - "From Nothing to Nowhere"

MP3: Pinback - "From Nothing to Nowhere"

It's a great way to start off the album, I'll give them that. Pinback's latest may not quite be their White Album, but lead-off single "From Nothing to Nowhere" is a lot better than the video might suggest.

The rest of Autumn of the Seraphs is just as classy and pretty as everything else they've ever done, but no one's socks are gonna be knocked off or anything. Know what? That's totally OK.

Friday, September 28, 2007

En Español Friday #1: Volován

Because of its close proximity to the U.S., its numerous colleges, and the technology afforded by its relative wealth, the highly-industrialized Mexican municipality of Monterrey (capitol of the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon) has, in the last ten years, become one of the biggest wellsprings of alternative music in Latin America. As the richest city in Mexico, Monterrey was known in the past more for its factories and shopping malls than its music clubs and recording studios. Nowadays, its thriving music scene has earned it the nickname "Monterrock," and bands like Control Machete and Plastilina Mosh have helped to establish it as "the Seattle of Latin America."

MP3: Volován - "Ella Es Azul"

Indie pop foursome Volován emerged from the Monterrock scene with their self-titled debut album five years ago. Produced by Andy Chase (Tahiti 80, Ivy), Joe Robinson (Badly Drawn Boy, Mom and Dad), and Alejandro Rosso (Plastilina Mosh), Volován spawned two international hit singles. "Ella Es Azul" and "Flor Primaveral"--both heavy on layered "whoo-hoo" choruses, tambourine, handclaps and Fender Rhodes--recall the summery beach pop of mid-century California rather than the traditionally-inspired norteño music popular throughout most of Mexico.

MP3: Volován - "Flor Primaveral"

Elsewhere on the album, when the band isn't picking sand out of its toes, it's caught up in a sunny swoon. The power pop chords of "Invencible," bearing down in waves of bass and snare, summon the spirit of Sonic Youth and The Cars with the warm fuzzy edge of shoegazey synth.

MP3: Volován - "Invencible"

Stay tuned at the end of the album for a quick New-Order-inspired instrumental hidden track. It's sorta nice. Then go out and buy the album--you'll wear it out in no time. As for follow-ups? Earlier this year, after whittling the band down from four members to three, Volován released a sophomore album called Monitor. Frankly, we haven't been as captivated by it as you'd think, so that's about all we have to say about that.

MP3: Volován - Hidden Track

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Freestyle Wednesday #5: Exposé

MP3: Exposé - "Point of No Return"

One of the most successful freestyle groups of the 80s was, like most pop acts of the day, a record label construct. Exposé, formed in 1984 by Pantera Productions, initially consisted of Miami natives Sandra Casanas, Alejandra Lorenzo, and Laurie Miller. "Point of No Return" debuted at number one on the Billboard dance charts in 1985, and the success of the single earned them a contract with Arista Records.

MP3: Exposé - "Exposed to Love"

The following year, to the strains of their second hit single, "Exposed to Love," Exposé prepared to begin work on their full-length debut, Exposure. Changes in the group's lineup would stall the album until 1987, but when it was finally released to a #16 position on the charts, Exposure set a new musical record for the group. With chart-topping hits like "Seasons Change," "Let Me Be the One," and "Come Go with Me," Exposé surpassed The Supremes and even The Beatles for the most Billboard Top 10 singles from a single album.

MP3: Exposé - "Come Go with Me"

Exposé's current lineup of Anne Curless, Gioia Bruno, Jeanette Jurado (and, occasionally, Kelly Moneymaker) is still coasting on the triple-platinum sales of Exposure. County fairs, "Freestyle Explosion" concerts, gay pride festivals--you name it, they're there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Caribou - "Melody Day"

Chances are you know Dan Snaith as Manitoba, the musical alias under which he released two albums in the early aughts (including 2003's incredible Up in Flames). But in 2004, under threat of a lawsuit from the Dictators' "Handsome Dick" Manitoba, Snaith changed his stage name to Caribou, re-released his previous material under the new dub, and began work on his 2005 motorik Krautrock-inspired album Milk of Human Kindness.

MP3: Caribou - "Melody Day"

Andorra, Snaith's latest release as Caribou, follows his tradition of musical metamorphosis. On "Melody Day," the album's first single, he fuses the 60s jangle of The Zombies, The Beach Boys, maybe Margo Guryan, and processes it through a dream pop nuclear reactor. The Four Tet remix--which you'll find alongside "Zoe" on the single's b-side--strips the original track down to an acoustic wisp of a song.

MP3: Caribou - "Melody Day" (Four Tet Remix)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The smell of repetition really is on you.

It's only been a year since the release of Hot Chip's Mercury Prize-nominated sophomore album, The Warning, but you know what? You can't just drop a single like "My Piano" and then say, Oh, by the way, you're gonna have to wait until next year for the actual album, okay? Come on already!

MP3: Hot Chip - "My Piano"

!K7's DJ Kicks series--the label's genre-spanning remix project--is 12 years strong this week. Hot Chip's own DJ Kicks album is the latest mix (not yet counting next month's mix by Booka Shade), and it's just as eclectic as the series' roster of remixers. Along with the first appearance of "My Piano" is an awesome Etta James & Sugar Pie DeSanto track, bookended by Young Leek and Black Devil Disco Club and fused into one big club stormer. Here's an excerpt.

MP3: Hot Chip - "Jiggle It/In the Basement/On Just Foot" (DJ Kicks)

Hot Chip's new album, tentatively titled Shot Down in Flames, will be out in February on DFA Records. The next single, which they've been performing live everywhere (and apparently features Todd Rundgren), is due out any day now. In the meantime, here are some very nice remixes they've done for various folks.

MP3: Ladytron - "Destroy Everything You Touch" (Hot Chip Remix)
MP3: Le Tigre - "TKO" (Hot Chip Remix)
MP3: Scissor Sisters - "Take Your Mama" (Hot Chip Remix)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Face the music.

British electro-rockers The Black Ghosts began splintering into existence in 2005. That's when Simian's Simon Lord and The Wiseguys' Theo Keating met with the intention of doing a few songs together. Two years later, the duo are working on an LP and have released a handful of singles and remixes. "Face," released late last year, is a tasty teaser limited to only 500 copies. Guess who's got it?

MP3: The Black Ghosts - "Face"

"Anyway You Choose to Give It," released on limited 12" in late 2006, is the first official single from the forthcoming album. This is the one we just can't seem to stop playing. A remix EP released earlier this year finds the Midas-esque Playgroup re-working the cut with that Lyn Collins/Rob Base drum track, James Brown samples, and air raid sirens. Seriously.

MP3: The Black Ghosts - "Anyway You Choose to Give It"
MP3: The Black Ghosts - "Anyway You Choose to Give It" (Playgroup Remix)

Remember Olivia Newton-John's 1982 classic "(Let's Get) Physical," in which she all but begs her date to just stick it in already? A compilation released in March (mind-blowing not so much in execution as in concept) revives the sexytime single with 12 exclusive covers done in alternating degrees of awesome. Let's Get Physical with Wesc was doled out by the shop at their store openings. The Black Ghosts' cover is, not surprisingly, the album's best.

MP3: The Black Ghosts - "Let's Get Physical"

The Black Ghosts' full-length debut, courtesy of Southern Fried, is due out later this summer. Tour dates, no doubt and hopefully, are sure to follow. Listen to their summer mixtape while you wait.

MP3: The Black Ghosts - Summer Mixtape, July 2007

Syclops - "Mom the Video Broke"
Beckett and Taylor - "You Gotta Work"
Vincent Markowski - "The Madness of Moths" vs. The Black Ghosts - "Repetition Kills You"
Lindstrom - "I Feel Space" vs. The Black Ghosts - "Something New"
Noze - "Remember Love"
Cursor Minor - "Hair of the Dog"
Gossip - "Listen Up" (The Black Ghosts Remix)
Bass-a-rani & Dexter - "Boogie Chasers" vs. The Black Ghosts - "Face"
Ear Pwr - "Jack & Jill"
The Black Ghosts - "Some Way Through This" (Plastician & Skream Remix)