Suicide debut album: December 1977

Rock and electronics clashed forever

It is December, and here is an unforgettable drop in a peculiar Advent calendar for those who believe in synthpop, those who celebrate Kraftwerk divinity and Their sons and daughters on earth. With no intentions of being unrespectful or irreverent, on the December’s unprecise date of 1977, forty years ago, Suicide released their homonymous debut album on Red Star Records. The Holy Trinity hit NYC’s streets, rock and electronic music clashed to hybridize in spirit forever.

Artist/sculptor Alan Vega and free-jazz keyboardist Martin Rev were abrasive in cold speech since the beginning at Mercer Arts Center in the early 70s, inciting people to confrontation and creating a discord feeling between love and hate, an arty controversy for a few and a joke for the most. Vega (Brooklyn June 23, 1938 – July 16, 2016) created ‘situations’ over the gaining and repetitive Rev’s white-noise. The Velvet Underground got an extension in rhythm machines, primitive synthesizers able to produce a two-note drone. Suicide was groundbreaking electronic proto-punk and anticipating the No Wave scene. They were the artist of the freeform, too adventurous for regular venue’s tolerance; they decided a period of hibernation in 1973. Kraftwerk took USA airwaves by surprise in 1975 as well as the Western World fascinated with the futuristic and robotic sound of their amazing Kling Klang Studio productions.

New York City was swallowing the imported pill of The Sex Pistols in 1977 while ignoring local bands like Richard Hell & The Voivoids from whose staging attitudes and musical contents Malcolm McLaren took notes to restyle in London. Everything had moved from SoHo to Bowery, around CBGB. By the time, Television, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Patti Smith had signed to major labels. There were a Lower East Side looks walking in stiletto hills, color treated hair, leather jackets, and sunglasses, in as recognizable aesthetics as uniformized, and all were saying it is all chewed up and processed. The city had lost nerve from thunder. It was the right time and the right place for a milestone. Alan Vega‘s Presleyish vocals were ready to transform Suicide from a performance-project into a recording act, with a defining set of songs in a debut album released through Martin Thau‘ imprint, the ex-manager of New York Dolls, and produced by Craig Leon, responsible for launching The Ramones and Blondie’s careers. “Suicide” is still one of the most original avant-garde music that came out from the city in the epitome of a convulsive decade that shook everything up for good.

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the cradle city of Düsseldorf for electronic music, a move was refusing the ‘old gods’ in venues like Ratinger Hof, home of a new generation of punks acts, like D.A.F, Die Krupps, La Düsseldorf and Der Plan. The so-called ‘Neue Deutsche Welle’ had feedback from London where they attempted to grow in the new effervescent scene of post-punk. All of them were aware of Suicide and their bursts of creativity. Some stepped the industrial wave for European Electro and Techno as the new directions, with Detroit and Chicago on the horizon.

One year far from the opening of Mudd Club in Tribeca -the trashy, full of vacant meat warehouses then, the high rated district now-, signs of a creative counteroffensive emerged. No matter what it was but crudity, a confrontational noise served in rare, pure nihilism, from James Chance & The Contortions to Lydia Lunch through Arto Lindsay‘s DNA and Lounge Lizards. Tagged as ‘No Wave’ got preferences in the funk, jazz, blues, avant-garde to Defunkt rock stereotypes.

You can listen to plenty recognition to Suicide contribution by many other artists, but the latest touchy one is in Nicolas Jaar‘s album “Sirens” (Other People, 2016). From the shades of a Manhattan apartment, ‘The Governor’ talks about pleasant Time Square chants to avoid. It is not only a homage to the duo but NYC creative richness in devoted perspective.

Track # 9 -V/A “Spirits” – (Crosstown Rebels)

One in richness of divergence

Nico Stojan and David Mayer, featuring Jan Blomqvist on vocals, contribute ‘Killing Your Lover’ to the eleven track compilation “Spirits.” DJ/producer and label boss Damian Lazarus describes the new annual compilation series as “a fresh psychedelic journey into the mind” and invites to some Crosstown Rebels and sister label Rebellion resembling artists in relevant respect about music to be one from addition, change matters for the discontinuance, not identicals. Music celebrated as a vibrant and vital key to freedom of thoughts, ideas, opinions. That is the spirit. Take it in plural for the richness of divergence.

Picking up a track like ‘Killing Your Lover’ doubts nothing about the intention to avoid any suspicion of dull ‘spirituality.’ Contrary it is a highlight for its haunting self-minded train of thoughts, a dichotomy obsessive in words, with a refrain ending on a pronunciation try of the particle ‘if,’ reconsidered as a broken vocal cut, a sonic gesture of forgetting.

All wrapped up in perfect house pattern, where percussive intro has the Afro sign of David Mayer’s ‘Movement,’ giving the integrating path to a subtle bass line and increasing vocal sampler. The disruption comes in few piano notes, and a provoked psycho noise that goes to the temples. Then the narratives, by Berlin-based Jan Blomqvist who takes his melancholic vocals to the point of ‘noire’ indifference, as distant as close is spine-chilling.

Check out for more in ritualistic ‘Amaranto /Amaranth,’ by Kowee featuring KnowKontrol; the exotic environment described in Robie Akbal‘s ‘Tavarua;’ the dramatic synth counterparts of Siopis in ‘Be Mine’ featuring Ellbee Bad. Alice Rose takes her Björk’s voice similarities in ‘Another Way,’ a Tech House track by Raw Distant… “Spirits” is available now on Crosstown Rebels. If anytime you have been asking yourself why the Damian Lazarus staged set is everything but prosaic you will get part of the answer in the listening.

Bicep at Nitsa Club (Barcelona)

On the rise

Nitsa and AsTiN name the prestigious Apolo venue for the electronic music on weekends. If one is a referent in the European Club circuit, the anagram suggests the quality of transfer for the other. When you are in, you are part of both, in artistically complementary. On Saturday, November 25, Nitsa Club will welcome Bicep audience. Simultaneously, AsTiN, the newly remodeled La [2] Apolo room, will have dutch duo Weval, Canadian Jessy Lanza and Catalan JMII. Doors will open at thirty minutes past midnight.

2017 is the year of the rise for Bicep (Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar). The two former schoolmates from Belfast, North Ireland, have now a career of almost a decade. Along it comes a remarkable string of jacking powered house 12-inch and EPs with ‘Visions Of Love” as their starting point in 2012; remixes from Carl Craig to John Talabot, and finally, a self-titled debut full-length album, released the first of September through Ninja Tune. It is the compendium of their musical qualities, belonging to their virtues and attitudes in twelve tracks.

Whereas the three armed-wheel logos stamped now in stardom, what identifies Bicep distinctively is their background of being bloggers first (“Feel my Bicep,” now the name of their imprint). The experience of lacking in resources and digging where nobody cares contributed their ability to put in muscle what it is out of fit or even out of time, considered aside, out of trend, and get the weird thing for good, the rare stuff on the wings of the unexpected. They cued the unappreciated excellence of leftfield disco, searched for electronics oddities and appreciated the rave oldies’ emotive glow. They got the talent to introduce those inputs in their productions, moving people smash after smash. Now we got Bicep’s new dimension, with a myriad of recognizable references that can be 4/4 dancefloor stuff as well as a full ride from impeccable tasters wherever you go out of the club. Expect the forgotten for the better.


James Holden & The Animal Spirits Band – MIRA 2017

From a pagan place

The British DJ/producer and synth melody’s clairvoyant takes new fellow travelers as a bandleader to perform his third unconstrained full-length album, “The Animal Spirits,” to MIRA 2017 Festival audience on Friday, Nov 10th at Fabra i Coats – Fàbrica de Creació, Barcelona. The live band set will come with Dan Tombs on the generative visuals.

By using ‘unconstrained’ means Holden keeps on the free-spirited steady ride, divergent as he pointed out with the previous “The Idiots Are Winning” (2006) and “The Inheritors” (2013). Moreover, he leaps from gravitational dance into some outer-date field as an apologist of musical legacy. This time for good, with turning point limit ahead, not yet overpassed. Yes, it sounds like he thinks the submission of everything to time, the unstoppable dictatorship of what is up or down is overrated. His career confirms it. From being top dawg DJ on the progressive and trance scenes in the early ‘90s, highly required re-mixer for the first row acts (Madonna, Depeche Mode, New Order, Mercury Rev…) and strictly electronic trailblazers like Nathan Fake or Four Tet, he decided to launch his imprint, Border Community. He had a reason. The Oxford University Maths graduate modeled a new set, away from the constricted functions of DJing to channel a more expansive interface with music. An intercalation past-present output with the same attitude he used to switch knobs, buttons, pads, and faders in dominion: improvisation. “The Animal Spirits” album was recorded live with all group performing at once; single takes in one room at Holden’s London Sacred Walls studio in Summer 2016. Any post-production was not allowed, no overdubs, no edits by self-imposed dogma from the bandleader.

As a simile for the context, let us remember Canterbury Sound put the progressive rock in psychedelic orbit circumvallating avant-garde jazz improvisation. The trend-setting producer makes similar thing by taking his knowledge in electronic music to open a new window over the unknown of challenging progression, calling explicitly jazz legends Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders as inspirational figures, which goes to say at least Sun Ra and John Coltrane in pursuing. A compound of musical influences is what electronic shaman Holden ritualizes to enter this new featured world, “something like a spiritual jazz band playing folk/trance music.”

Same talent for the propulsive melodics that made him a star with his earlier techno-ish work, but this time created from his self-customized modular synth and software to adequate machine to the human pace of drums (Tom Page) and percussions (Lascelle Gordon). His always strident solos have counterparts blown on brass (cornetist Marcus Hamblett and tenor saxophonist Etienne Jaumet). The rendition of Krautrock links mostly in its folky variants and La Monte Young’s The Theatre of Eternal Music appears in drones with windy flutes by multi-instrumentalist Liza Bec, who also waves to the Eastern resound. The result is heretical for those who miss former DJ/producer James Holden in anthems like “A Break In The Clouds,” the same ones who got surprised from being unaware of “The Inheritors” turning supposed. It is a statement of the freedom of creativity, a genre-blending, transferred through perceptive and identified claims that rejoice fluidly for the glory of the universal music. It is worthy, up to those open-minded.

By the way, with “The Animal Spirits” James Holden corroborates a message he signed, sealed and delivered to the electronic community: being a pagan is not that bad, it takes you to different and enriching soundscapes. It did arrive at Flying Lotus among many others and has Floating Points as a faithful promotional allied with whom James Holden collaborated in “Marhaba” EP (Eglo Records, 2015), featuring Gnawa Morrocan musician Maâlem Mahmoud Guinia. Listen and enjoy the diverse.

GAS – MIRA 2017 Opening Concert at L’Auditori

‘Deutscher Wald’: welcome to the misty forest

Digital Arts Festival MIRA 2017 solemn its Barcelona Edition inviting GAS (a.k.a. Wolfgang Voigt) to perform “Narkopop” for the inaugural concert. The audio-visual show will take place on Tuesday, November 7th, at Sala 2 – Oriol Martorell, L’Auditori, Barcelona.

GAS is a driving force in ’90s German Ambient; the Techno Ambient to be precise. A musical impersonation of Wolfgang Voigt, the main spearhead of Cologne Minimal Techno and co-founder (alongside Michael Mayer and Jürgen Paape) of legendary imprint Kompakt Records. Considered as the influential producer who tempered the punishing 4/4 Techno (the early ’90s Berlin-Detroit alliance with E-Werk and Tresor as headquarters) into a more finessed and not-to-be-roughly-explicit version of the beat. He helped (with his brother Reinhardt and through multiple projects and aliases) to spread an indulgence wave over it, recalling for hedonism and taste, giving Micro and Minimal extensions a chance to grow on the roots of Techno and House.

Wolfgang Voigt will perform “Narkopop,” the fifth installment of his opus as GAS. It is a set of eleven tracks in due form untitled but with the numbered generic one. Envolving musical journey in a symphonic and stately manner. Forget to expect any relaxation because eerie passages are on the way, even menacing ones. A set of visuals will complete the musical performance recorded at Köningsforst, a forest near Cologne where Voigt used to go as a kid, a place to meditate and experience, a matter of formation landscape. A set of stimulus music that will help to create your cinematic train of thoughts, scripted by knowledge and suggesting the imprecise.

The GAS project has always been in that abstract forest from the beginning, a cultural frame where germanic marching drummed was echoing in the mist through recreational descriptive historical pages with the same severity Kraftwerk attacked the musical cannon on the American airwaves. He has been there even when Wolfgang Voigt was unnoticed to grow artistically in this earthy and mythic environment, where to bridge a listening; Klaus Schulze connected to Wagner through psychedelic experience. A sampling pop citations state of mind that made him go from traditional sources of classical music to Schläger, in a mishmash of jazz glam-rock and new wave references that he poured in the acid house trend first to recreate Techno and give a hallmark for the run imprint afterward.

“Narkopop” is the re-encounter with an artistic move Voigt left behind seventeen years ago. He introduced it with “GAS” (1996), placing dance floor-ready Techno in standby for challenging himself to explore through long pieces into a suggestive soundscape of a purpose. It was a very European move, offering an alternative variation to Techno and House, generally defined by the American characteristics of being respectively “banging” electronic dance music and soulful “deep” dance music. In fact, the wordless contemporary universal language of music had a new context where the inclement pounding drums redefined in a tasteful turn, a signing sound for his releases and appreciate personality for the imprint, definitely stamped as German sound. He apparently completed GAS project with “Pop” (2000), with “Zauberberg” (1997) and “Königsforst” (1999) in between, all through Frankfurt record label Mille Plateaux. Except for the first, the rest of titles featured forest images on basic colors in its artwork. It is an aesthetic decision but also a framework charged with symbolism: “Deutscher Wald” (German Forest). The stylized German myth, the Romantic metaphor that defined Germanic-German arts and culture. From defeated Roman legions in Battle of Teutoburg Forest to ‘Nibelungenlied’ (The Song of Nibelungs), the myth runs over epic poems, fairy tales, legends, and music. From Schiller and Goethe to Rilke, Grimm Brothers and Mann, perverted in infamous chapters of the history as the ever-present ground force dismissed by the fog, from Wagner and Mahler to Schönberg.

Attendants will sit comfortably on the main floor of one of the four complimentary halls of the public building design by architect Rafael Moneo, home of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and The National Orchestra of Catalonia (OBC), providing the high-quality standard in acoustics. It makes sense because what we are going to listen to is an electronic music development categorized as Ambient. It is about tone and atmosphere as the most relevant beyond musical structure that can change in layered and diverse musical stimulus and travels through time and rhythms to evoke not to precise, “as ignorable (in parts) as it is interesting (for the whole)” as pioneer Brian Eno Dixit.

John Maus, Cønjuntø Vacíø #5′ headliner

In full band for the first time

The American intellectual, experimental synth-pop crooner returns after six years-hiatus with “Screen Memories,” his fourth full-length album, out on Ribbon Music. Touring for the first time backed up with a band, he will star the Festival Cønjuntø Vacíø #5 line-up set on November 4th at La Capsa, Prat de Llobregat, a location near Barcelona. It will be his third-time performance in the city, introduced at Primavera Sound 2009 and rebilled for Primavera Club 2011, by the time of his breakout album, “We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves” (Upset! The Rhythm).

John Mouse has a dedication for other matters but music to become an almost regular five-year period releaser in between. He is one kind of musician, an outsider with an academic formation in Philosophy fascinated by pop as expression, a concept to be taken as naked as the universal elevated sense or down as common standardized practice in particular time. He anchored experimentalism to the melodic pop for his absolute, the well-crafted song convention as the motive and the ’80s synth-pop tradition as the teenagery moving memory. He always reached the edge of it, to the fringe limits to form connected and unexpected twists, where universals meet on atemporal nuances. A general field where synth-pop patterns share harmonic backbone with other musical conventions, from Middle Age and mid-Renaissance pieces to baroque as surprising as electronic pioneers Ultravox did with magisterial ‘Vienna.’

He is atypical as much as a singular voice to gain a cult following from the two first official albums with negative reviews upon release, “Songs” (2006) and “Love Is Real” (2007). He got a favorable critics’ attention when “We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves” came out in 2011, his third solo album through London’s D.I.Y. Label Upset! The Rhythm and the most accessible to date then. It was a reflective work about the inconsistency of immediate writing back and forth in a narcissistic trip through social media and, mostly, a roll call to shout our names in forgetting to think. From ‘Cop Killer,’ the banal of evil turned on the subversive ballad of dehumanizing, to the ecclesiastical modes of ‘Believer’ were eleven tracks full of synth glow, electronic drum kits, narrated by baritone vocals in a grey shadowed background, a timbre resounding for our human condition. He defended and depicted sole, in a pre-recorded, way of karaoke-box sets, as the performer of the accident, him and his circumstances on stage. Often criticized for not offering a regular show instead of throwing himself around.

Now the profile image of his Facebook account shows a human figure observing the overwhelming absolute. It is a representative of what German 20th-century philosopher Heiddeger described as Dasein (“being-there”). Sustained as involuntary throwness into the world, may lead us to concern about the temporality of our existence, Being-towards-death, having language as House-of-being and Nature as the Standing Reserve to act. Yes, it is ontological, pre-nihilistic, as dark as real. As absolute as reduced into the TV static, enframing no signal, the snow screen, the white noise, the picture on “Screen Memories” album cover. The very Freudian title is his latest release in a pace almost ruled by quinquennials, recalling about how we manage ‘Sensitive Recollections’ as repressed elements to defend ourselves against them. It is hard to admit we have a neural net security system to avoid unapprehensive fears to survive, save the unconsciousness mode to keep going and multiplicate on the verge towards an end.

Excuse me for bothering you with this kind of pretentious rags, and thanks to an artist that stands up in front the absolute, giving aware of on heartfelt songs, faithfully devoted to a sound, repeating cannons that echoing either Alan Vega’s ‘Hey Hey’ or assembling Reinassance polyphonic funeral chants. It is all in ‘The Combine’ to dust, a default falling sound to particles that we should listen as static. We need him as a healthy practice, his raw irony in ‘Pets,’ and the marvelous sense of humor admitting he wasted time building up modular synthesizers on their hands. Love to that guitar in ‘Find Out,’ and please, take yourself seriously and go for the “Touchdown,” after earning Ph.D. in Political Philosophy from the University Of Hawaii.

We waiting for him with a full band for the first time on stage, with Joe Maus in Bass Guitar; Luke Darger on Keyboard and Synthesizers, along with Jonathan Thompson playing Drums and Drum Machine. It is going to be soon; in a venue away few minutes ride from downtown Barcelona.

Loleatta Holloway – Stand Up (Pangaea’s Mix)

A Moving Highlight of 2017

Salsoul Records officially release the Pangaea’s mix of “Stand Up,” a rendition to Loleatta Holloway. Good news for those who missed the White Label 12-inch from Hessle Audio’s member that came out in early August as “Devotion 17” through Hadal and packaged with an edit of Nomad’s ‘Devotion’ on the A-side. It has been doing the rounds since, either as a soulful play on the radio or a signing DJ moment in sets. The flip-side is about to remember the leading ’70s disco diva from Chicago. A classic revisited that went sold out. A moving highlight of the year is now available.

Kevin McAuley (a.k.a. Pangaea) approaches to Loleatta Holloway’s classic with reverence bringing up a bit of suspense. It takes a minute and a few seconds before her full-bodied gospelized vocals irrupt in tremendous energy. If you have forgotten this is a re-edit, heavy-bass points the intro to clarify what you are about to listen is a respectful time capsule from current sound perspective. He compassed a nitid way that belongs to the tradition of UK bass artists, bearing his dubstep signature credited from the beginning in 2007 all through his career to “In Drum Play,” his debut in the album format back in 2016. If there were hard-hitting percussions, this time around Pangaea flourishes an in-out Brazilian-style percussion loop to reach Loleatta’s soulful and timeless workout.

All the Loleatta’s whoops and shouts come from an acapella, the breaking part of ‘Dreaming,’ a song included in the album “Loleatta” (Gold Mine Records, 1976). Like the original, the re-edit placed her in a central position. She is the meaning of the track, flanked by stripped-back rhythm from both sides, at the beginning and the end and contrasting with the tech-treated reimaging speech in the middle. Sparse and minimalistic beat that acts elliptically, like the omission parts of a sentence or a statement, a sequence of dots for the updating.

Pangaea’s rework makes me think of the origin of House music where re-edits created new versions of soul and funk classics in reel-to-reel tape to play differently every day. Those that distinguished the dance-floor sound of Music Box from the one in Power Plant, the two Chicagoan clubs fronted by Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles respectively. Those pioneers shared almost nothing in music style but friendship and Loleatta Holloway in their respective charts.