Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Todd Terje, Remaster of the Universe

The Norwegian trio of Todd Terje, Prins Thomas and Hans-Peter Lindstrom spearheaded the Nu-Disco, Space Disco or Nu-Balearic (the music went by lots of names) movement.  Remaster of the Universe is Terje’s summation of his work in that genre.  It’s a two disc collection that includes a 17-track mix by Terje on the first disc and an unmixed compilation of 9 of his remixes on the second disc.

The press release for Remaster of the Universe indicated that the collection is intended as Terje’s farewell to the world of remixing and that now he is going to “heal the world with proper self-composed music”.  Wow.  “Heal the world”?  “Remaster of the universe”?  Sounds like Terje has an immensely inflated opinion of himself that’s out of all proportion with his actual abilities.  He’s good, but he’s not anywhere near as good as he apparently thinks he is.

Terje’s mix on CD 1 is composed almost entirely of his own remixes.  It’s a decent mix that’s certainly worth a listen or four but it isn’t in the same league as the DJs who do this kind of thing for a living.  The meat of Remaster of the Universe is the compilation of Terje’s remixes on the second disc.  On the basis of what he gives us here, Terje doesn’t have the musical depth of Lindstrom nor the timbral breadth of Prins Thomas but within his narrower range of ability he produces first-rate remixes.  Almost every track on the disc is a winner and more than a few are recognized as classics of the genre.

Listeners who like space disco/nu Balearic/nu disco or the music of Lindstrom or Prins Thomas will almost certainly enjoy Remaster of the Universe.  If you’re unfamilair with these names or genre labels but like music that rides a compelling groove into laid-back bliss, check Remaster of the Universe out.

Terje’s remix of Rogue Cat’s “Magic Journey”

09/01/2010 Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Thisisnotanexit, Manifesto #1

Thisisnotanexit is a small UK record label and Manifesto #1 is a two disc label compilation.  From the title of the album and the picture chosen for the cover of the CD booklet you might expect something along the lines of post-punk or dance punk.  You get a taste of that in opening track “Messages” by Detachments but the collection quickly turns to what the label is known for – electronic music that is more or less dance-friendly and which is blatantly unconcerned with labels, genres or being associated with a uniform sound.

Disc 1 is an unmixed collection of 15 tracks that are previously unreleased.  There is a wide range of music here and almost all of it is interesting in one way or another.  If there is one primary style it might be nu-disco but listeners will get the wrong idea if they think Manifesto #1 is a nu-disco collection.  Breadth of vision, not uniformity of style, is the watchword here.

Disc 2 is a mix done by Simon A. Carr.  Of the two, it is aimed more toward the dance club.  However, like disc 1, there is a breadth of styles on display ranging from the space disco leanings of Prins Thomas’s remix of Hatchback’s “White Diamond” to the techno orientation of Serge Santiago’s remix of They Came From the Stars I Saw Them’s “Moon Song”.  They Came From the Stars own version of “Moon Song” closes the disc and it doesn’t sound anything at all like  the Santiago remix (or anything else on the CD for that matter).

Manifesto #1 is successful as a label compilation in that it leads to recognition of the label as a place to go for music that is very likely to be at least interesting and at best outstanding.  If you want a collection like this to present a uniform soundscape or a consistent style, then Manifesto #1 will probably not be attractive.  However, if you are a listener with open ears who is comfortable with the unexpected and who might be open to finding something different, Manifesto #1 is worth your time and Thisisnotanexit is a label you might want to keep an eye on.

Night Plane’s “Let The Right One In” (which is a terrific film, btw) from Manifesto #1

06/13/2010 Posted by | CD reviews, music reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Prins Thomas, Prins Thomas

Prins Thomas, along with fellow Norwegians Lindstrom and Todd Terje, are at the forefront of the dance music genre referred to as space disco, nu disco or nu Balearic.  Thus far Thomas has been most well know for his collaboration with Lindstrom on two genre-defining albums, his many often strikingly good remixes, and his record label Full Pupp.  The self-titled Prins Thomas is, to the best of my knowledge, his first full-length CD that is made up entirely of his own material.

I tuned in to space disco mainly through Prins Thomas when I had a run of especially enjoying different tracks on various mix collections and discovering that they were all Prins Thomas remixes.  Accordingly, I hunted far and wide to find his lightly mixed collection,  Cosmo Galactic Prism, a label compilation from Full Pupp, the unfortunately named Greatest Tits Vol. 1, and a set he did for the Live at Robert Johnson series along with his more easily found collaborations with Lindstrom.  With all of that as background, I was still surprised with Prins Thomas.

With relatively minor exceptions on two tracks, Thomas wrote, performed, “fixed and mixed” everything on Prins Thomas.  The breadth of the music in terms of the variety of instruments, timbres, and styles on the album is remarkable.  Thomas is not wedded to a limited number of synthesizers, multi-sampled instruments or drum programs.  He uses electronic and analog sounds with equal and great facility.  He is also a master at layering sounds together.  Any given segment of any track on Prins Thomas may be composed of any number of layered instrumental tracks and, without fail, they all work seamlessly together.  Prins Thomas is a masterfully crafted CD.  The skill with which Thomas combines such a wide variety of sounds results in an album where each track gives you no idea what the next track is going to sound like.  There is no identifiable “Prins Thomas sound” here unless immaculate production is counted as a “sound”.

The strengths of the CD are also it’s weakness.  The same breadth of instrumentation and variety of sounds and styles that describes the album is also a viable characterization of each of the tracks on the album.  From where it starts, you never know where any of the tracks on Prins Thomas are going to end up.  Thomas avoids anything like standard song structure and presents tracks that move from segment to segment on melodic or timbral paths that have little or nothing to do with repeating segments that might correspond to something like a chorus or a verse.  Many tracks are based on a fundamental rhythm that holds through most of the track but beyond that, anything goes.  The movements from one segment to the next are  smoothly accomplished but the overall effect is of a directionless music that just goes here and there.  Each track, taken alone, is expertly constructed and both interesting and enjoyable to listen to.  Listening to the entire CD can leave one feeling unfulfilled because it doesn’t seem to add up to anything.

I’ve listened to Prins Thomas many times now and every time I put it on I find the same thing happens.  If I focus my attention on the music I hear something new I didn’t pick up on before, I am presented with a wealth of ideas about how I could improve my own music, and I end up having had a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.  If my mind wanders while the music is playing I’m left with a feeling of emptiness because the breadth of instrumentation and lack of structure both within and across songs leaves you with nothing to latch on to if you weren’t paying attention.

Attiatte from Prins Thomas

06/07/2010 Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Various Artists, Work It Baby 10th Anniversary

Work It Baby is a French record label operated by DJ/producer Kris Menace.  Work It Baby 10th Anniversary is a standard label compilation spread over two discs that celebrates ten years of  survival in a difficult business.

Work It Baby (the label) is variously characterized as a purveyor of electro house, nu disco, funky, and club house music.  If you’ve paid any attention at all to electronic dance music you know that it has a bewildering array of micro-genres with names that seem to vary with who is using them and are of virtually no importance to anybody other than the partisan fanbois who are ready to go to war at any perceived application of their favorite label to a track they don’t approve.  What ever you want to call it, Work It Baby puts out music that has its sights set squarely on the dancefloor.

In addition to operating the label, Menace is an active participant in the music it releases; 11 of the 35 tracks on the compilation list him as songwriter, co-songwriter, remixer or editor.  His work is very varied ranging from the piano-driven disco thumper “Enamored” which he co-wrote with Fred Falke that opens the collection, through his own “Maybelline”, a drum and percussion workout that kicks ass, to his remix of Patrick Alavi’s “Power”.  Although presenting a wide range of electronic music, or even of electronic dance music, is not Work It Baby’s aim, there is a more variety here than you might expect.  Thirty-five tracks and you never get the feeling that you’re hearing multiple variants of the same three or four basic ideas.

One thing the engineers at Work It Baby do very well is the bass drop.  There are several points in these tracks, Xinobi’s disco anthem “Day Off” is a good example, where the lead in and the eventual drop will have your booty out of your chair and your hands up in the air before you know what happened.  I’d like to give you an example to hear but it ain’t gonna happen with MP3.

Overall, Work It Baby 10th Anniversary is a solid collection of dance music from a label who clearly knows what they’re doing.  If you like this kind of music, give it a listen.

Romantic disco – Lifelike’s Running Out from Work It Baby 10th Anniversary

05/22/2010 Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment