The Beat(portal) stops

You may or may not have noticed this -  actually, you probably haven't noticed it because it only happened a week or so ago  - but I'm no longer reviewing for Beatportal, Beatport's online 'magazine'. Beatportal approached me last year to review for them. At the time, they were in start-up mode and said that for the first few months, there would be no money involved. Given that the Beatportal project was being headed up by a former colleague of mine from DJ Magazine, I agreed to work under these conditions. Once the project kicked in, I got paid for my reviews, albeit at half the rate one normally gets for print magazine reviews, which, as anyone who has ever reviewed techno knows, isn't a hell of a lot of money. But I felt I was doing it for the right reasons, and submitted my reviews, some positive, some critcial, but always constuctive if critical. Then, a few months ago, Beatportal asked me if I could submit reviews in a rolling format instead of in one go once a month as had been the case. I thought this was a good idea, even though I was a bit surprised when asked to only review releases that I recommended, eg, no more critical reviews. I was also asked to submit the reviews myself, in much the same way that I update this blog, something I had no problem doing. A few weeks ago, I got a strange email from my former DJ Mag colleague at Beatportal with the header 'Blogging for Beatportal'. I have the email somewhere in my mail folders, and to save my former colleague, who I still think is a decent guy, any blushes, I'll summarise its content. Basically, Beatportal were doing away with all of its reviewers, but wanted to retain my services and get me to blog for them, and pay me more. It sounded too good to be true. But here's the sting in the tail: they wanted me to blog from this site: after the first few lines of each post, there would be a link to the full text on Beatportal, where all manner of players and branded images could be displayed. Or to put it another way: Beatportal wanted to take over this site (or maybe just its content) and pay me the grand total of $500 a month (the fee I was going to get to blog for them) to do so. I politely turned down the offer and my former colleague expressed disappointment that I felt Beatportal was not an independent outlet. How could it be? It's owned by a company whose main business is selling music: surely all the glowing reviews I was encouraged to submit to Beatportal wasn't for the good of my health? I have always maintained that this site, like any good blog, should be independent. I don't run it to make money, so was I wrong to turn down the cash and allow it to be turned into a Beatport satellite? I feel I made the right decision -  what do you think?

Supporting role

Does techno need patronage? The powers that be in the West deem that electronic music is part of 'popular' music, even though it is a niche pursuit. This means that there is little or no arts funding available to electronic producers who want to make music full time. Seeing as radio is mainly limited to conservative playlists and print mags' readerships and influence are dwindling, the only other means by which techno can be championed and supported is online -  blogs, portals etc - or with the support of big-name DJs. Get a premier league performer behind your record and your profile will grow, your sales will shoot up, your bookings will increase. One of the best examples of this phenomenon was Sven Vath's support for Legowelt's 'Disco Rout' in 2002. Legowelt, then only known to those who followed the Italo/neo-Chicago-influenced Dutch scene, suddenly became a household name in global techno circles thanks to Sven's patronage. 'Disco Rout', which was re-released last year with new remixes, appeared on Vath's Cocoon imprint and the thousands of people who buy his mixes and go to his gigs bought the record. So is the concept of DJ patronage still important? I'd argue that it is. People who buy electronic music still closely monitor the charts of  DJs they like or respect and, even though the advent of digital may mean that the monetary gains that accrue to producers from such high-level patronage have decreased, there is greater availability for more people and the knock-on benefits are still there in the form of gigs and more releases. Of course, it makes sense to treat such patronage with a pinch of salt or at least a cynical set of ears. Last year, Richie Hawtin started playing Kabale & Liebe's 'Mumbling Yeah', an unremarkable if useful minimalist DJ tool. Unsurprisingly, sales of the track spiked and it became one of 2010's most popular tracks. RA's writers even saw fit to make it the site's single of the year. I'm not suggesting that Hawtin's patronage led them to arrive at this decision, but there is no doubt that with his support, the track's popularity and profile grew. While the big names' ongoing support for underground music is desirable -  given a choice, I'd still much rather Hawtin plays 'Mumblin Yeah' than Dubfire - those who closely follow what they play should be more discerning before they start crate digging...

This week...

Hasn't been a plentiful one for new releases, so I have mainly been listening to:

Rory St John: 'Ear Cycle EP' 12" (Mantrap)
Faze Action: 'Original Disco Action' 12" (white)
Alex Cortex: 'Replanted' 12" (Pomelo)
Vladislav Delay: 'Idea' (Andy Stott remix) 12" (Semantica)
Various Artists: 'Berghain 02 Samplers' 12" (Ostgut Ton)
Add Noise: 'Handwerk 1 & 2' MP#s (Handwerk)

Noise Control

I'm not big into giving free downloads on this site because they take away from the already small sums that techno producers make from their art. In this instance though, Berlin label Handwerk have sanctioned these two freebies as they were only commercially available on vinyl, and have long since been snapped up. Add Noise has been making dubby, bass-heavy techno for a number of years now, but it seems like his move to the German capital a while back has coinicided with his sound becoming darker, moodier and well, just a little bit spooky. With the sun beating down outside, 'Handwerk One' and 'Handwerk Two' are creaky, clicky and slightly creepy, the soundtrack to the haunted dance floors all over Europe...

Out of Kontakt?

If there was ever a reason for Ubercoolische to return, then this irony-free zone is it...

Breakin' News

Hello one and all, hope you are enjoying the scorching weather. Well Redshape played one of the best live techno sets I've ever heard on Saturday night - thanks to everyone who came down. At the end of this month, we've got another live show, this time from DMX Krew.
One of the most talented electro(nic) producers, Ed Dmx's music spans synthpop, techno, ghetto and bouncing bass. Rising to prominence in the late 90s with a string of releases for his own Breakin' label as well as work on Rephlex, Ed is the real deal, a B-boy pearl before the big room electro swine.
After a double-booking mix up last year at our former home (thanks, Tanya!), we're thrilled to finally have Ed over to bodypop his Test cherry to the sound of some real electro music. Get down early for this one folks, because the last time Ed was in town to rock the Underground to its core, the venue was full to the rafters. For a taste of what to expect, check out Ed's live set from last year's Bloc. Also, check out his refreshingly honest interview on this site...
Admission is 12 euro, doors are at 10.30pm and support comes from precocious machine music talent Paudi Ahern and myself. Beat dat!

Cotton's Liaison

In what is becoming something of an occasional feature on this site, I have asked a producer or a DJ I rate to pick a record they love. It can be new or old, the only stipulation is that it’s not one of their own, or a release that they are in some way involved in, so that there is no promotional ‘agenda’ at play. James T Cotton is one of my favourite producers at the moment - check out his vicious ‘Like No One’ release on Spectral if you’re in any doubt about his ability to bang the box. But what fires and inspires him? He chose:

Liaisons Dangereuses: ‘Liaisons Dangereuses LP’

"The LP is produced by Conny Plank and was released on Teldec, Gig, Roadrunner, and repressed on Hit Thing. This LP should be on the must-have list for DJs and music lovers who have an interest in dance music in general. This was a short-lived project featuring Beate Bartel and the late Chrislo Haas. Another fruit from this superb collaboration was the CH-BB tapes. I urge anyone to search for these recordings as they are just as nice if not better.

This album played an incredible role in the history of Detroit and Chicago dance music. It was championed by Ron Hardy, Jeff Mills and Carl Craig among many many others who embellish themselves in the techno tradition of spinning a line of continuity between disco and European dance music like new wave, early industrial, and techno pop.

This LP is a stark and complex take on funk music from the heyday on German new wave. Its sound made its way overseas and into the box of one of the most open minded DJs in Chicago, Ron Hardy, who would influence the next wave of dancers and producers. The style is sexy, futuristic and strange. So ahead of its time it pioneered a rhythm that was maybe similar to Prince's funk, but still so experimental that any other comparisons would be contrived.

You have probably heard ‘Los Ninos del Parque’ or ‘Peut Etre Pas’ in one manifestation or another (as they are heavily sampled), but the album as a whole is a glimpse into a bizzare, dark, and twisted synthetic, apocalyptic utopia.

The sound design is stunning. Synths are enveloped with band pass and high pass filters so to shape the tones in a fluctuation between the buzz of a wasp to a bass heavy sawtooth wave. The Oberheim synths churn and twist at odd time signatures around a jacking, rhythmic pulse. Punkish vocals by Krishna Goineau and Beate Bartel ornament the songs as simple instruments and as a series of punctuations throughout an otherwise hypnotic infinite groove. These are deep and dirty cuts for the heads and this album influenced me immeasurably. RIP Chrislo Haas.”

Chasing the Knight

Whatever happened to Suburban Knight? Recently, I revisited James Pennington's records, which served to remind me why I had always rated him so highly. Releases like 'The Art of Stalking', 'The Groove', 'Nocturbulous Behaviour' and 'By Night' are unique sounding - a rarity in electronic music - purring, seething compositions, punctuated by understated menace. In these works, Pennington became the urban commando that UR's manifesto imagined, patrolling the deserted nighttime streets, soundtracking the desolation he saw in his hometown using prowling, often predatory-sounding basslines, freakish, nocturnal sound scapes and disjointed samples. The cliché about Detroit techno obsessing with the stars holds no water on these works: in Pennington's world, the inner space, his immediate environment, is all that matters. The inlay of 'Behaviour' depicts an abandoned street, ostensibly in a deprived area, and if you listen closely, it's possible to hear the sound of wind howling in the background on this track, while the inlay artwork on 'By Night' features a stealth bomber hovering over an urban scene. On these records, the producer has become a social commentator as much as an entertainer, and his body of work has as much social import as any protest music. In a rare interview with Muzik magazine in the late 90s, Pennington's music was described as being 'cubist', but I'd disagree: to me, it sounds messy and sprawling, like the chaos of society erupting when the needle drops. So what became of Pennington? He released an album on Peacefrog a few years back, and then nothing. He didn't show up on two occasions to play in Dublin, a pity because by all accounts he was an excellent DJ. Since then, there's been nothing, no new music and no sign of him playing out. Was he abducted by one of the mysterious stealth bombers 'by night' or is he just in retirement? If anyone has any clues, please let me know...

Redshaping up

Just a gentle reminder about this Saturday night. We have Redshape playing for us again at the club, this time in association with the fabulous Lunar Disko night. Because we're such generous people, we have some guest list action available. To avail of it, simply email me or the correct answer to the following question - and you could be going to see the man in the red mask for free.

Which one of these labels has Redshape released on?

A) Delsin
B) Tripoli Trax
C) Minus

We'll notify the winner on Friday afternoon. Here's some more info about the gig

On Saturday, May 3rd, Redshape is playing live for Test and Lunar Disko at the Underground, Kennedy's., Westland Row, Dublin.

The man in the red mask made his Irish debut at Test last year, and since then, techno's very own mystery man has continued to seduce audiences with his futuristic version of Detroit techno and Chicago house.

Redshape's star has been in the ascent since he played for us, with high-profile appearances at I Love Techno and clubs like Rex and Tresor, as well as new material on Podium, Present and Delsin.

With more bookings than the Test tour bus on the way back from Bloc, we're honoured to welcome the mask-wearing phantom back to rock down an intimate venue with his hypnotic live show - this time, it's our new home, the Underground.

Capacity is strictly limited for this one, and we have kept the price down to a downturn-friendly 12 earth euros.

But remember to get down early. The show starts at 10pm and it's better to be red than dead!

Support comes from Test & Lunar Disko resident DJs.

Read the Redshape feature:

Watch the Slices trailer:

See he man in the red mask in action:

Redshape live at I Love Techno 07:

Reshape live at Nachtdigital:

Redshape live at Rockit, Utrecht:

This week...

I have been mainly listening to:

Fenin: Been Through LP (Shitkatapult)
Tadeo: Cosmos (Substance/Cassy remixes) 12" (Apnea)
Quince: Expanding Contracting 12" (Delsin)
Suburban Knight: The Art of Stalking 12" (Transmat)
Quietpoint: High Hopes Of Salvation 12" (Ballad Inc)
Silent Servant: The Blood Of Our King 12" (Sandwell District)
Sebbo: Watamu Beach (Moritz Von Oswald remix) 12" (Desolat)
Convextion: Convextion LP (Down Low)


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