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Klaxons invite you aboard

I remember being thoroughly unimpressed when I first saw Klaxons, years ago at some free Vice party on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Then came “Atlantis to Interzone”, the exhilarating 2006 single that somehow put something called “new rave” on the map. Bands, please watch what you say during interviews, it may haunt you for years to come. There wasn’t much rave, really, in Klaxons’ oftentimes quite psychedelic rock music, but it didn’t keep masses of young fans from throwing glowsticks at the band non stop, which was what happened next time I saw them play. And, oh yeah, they also won the Mercury Prize for their debut album, Myths of the Near Future (2007).

The pressure! In fact, the Londoners scrapped a whole album’s worth of recording in early 2009. According to the Sun tabloid, they had been “forced to re-record” it “after horrified label bosses deemed it too experimental.” And where some bands would insist on their artistic freedom, singer Jamie Reynolds relented. “We’ve made a really heavy record and it isn’t the right thing for us,” he commented. “I understand and know that. First and foremost, we’re a pop band. I haven’t thought about that for a long time, and now it’s in the forefront of my mind.”

So! Now! Klaxons are back! With quite a heavy record, actually. In fact, “Flashover”, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ rock playlist, was produced by Ross Robinson, famed for his work with nu-metal giants Korn and Slipknot (as well as much cooler records by Amen and At The Drive-In). The band have actually finished a second album, called Surfing the Void. As Reynolds sings in “Flashover”: Imagination’s opening, inviting us aboard. Let’s re-join him.

Atlantis to Glastonbury:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-r205YYPis

The singer who walks the runway: Karen Elson

Karen Elson

While a pretty face has never hurt a pop career, it alone won’t get you very far on the radio, or, indeed, 22tracks. The fact that Karen Elson is a very famous fashion model, therefore, didn’t play much of role in her getting playlisted on our pop playlist. Nevertheless, “The Truth is in the Dirt” is #nowplaying just there.

The fact that Karen Elson is a very famous fashion model, however, did lead to her getting a part in The White Stripes‘ 2005 music video for “Blue Orchid” (below), which led to her and singer Jack White getting married, which led to Elson releasing her White-produced debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, getting released this week.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKntY8WkNYQ

“The Truth is in the Dirt” is my favourite song on the album. A line like “Here she comes, it’s killing time / Flames are burning behind her eyes” suggests that Ms Elson does not take kindly to any suggestion that she has not merited her musical acclaim. Watch her prove her chops in this concert footage. “The Truth…” is the second song.

There’s a rich tradition of singing fashion models in music, from Twiggy and Nico in the 1960s onwards. I think there are two categories of them: those, like Karen Elson, who are genuinely musical and wish to express another side of their personality, and those who simply see an opportunity to expand on their fame. I’ll stick to the first kind in this very incomplete round-up:

Christa Päffgen AKA Nico appeared in Vogue and Elle before becoming an actress (she’s in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita) and, in 1967, singing on one of my favourite albums of all time, The Velvet Underground & Nico:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjjDmX9Tkss

Like Nico, Grace Jones had been a Vogue and Elle cover model before setting New York’s nightlife alight in the 1970s, and recording some a couple of great records. Here’s an Italian TV performance from 1978:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-Ub6gm0JZM

Italian Carla Bruni worked with most of the major fashion houses in the 1980s and ’90s. After marrying the French president, she is now the most famous singing ex-model in tout le monde.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1_fJj64W9A

You’ve found James Blake

I love dubstep, especially the more musical strain that labels like Hotflush, Hemlock and Hyperdub are releasing. I adore turn-of-the-century R&B, especially the extra-adventurous kind that Timbaland and The Neptunes were writing and producing at the time. James Blake‘s “CMYK”, a dubstep(ish) record #nowplaying on 22tracks and featuring samples from both Kelis and Aaliyah, must be my kind of tune, therefore. It is. But there’s more to it than a simple equation.

I don’t know how James Blake does it. He first did it with his debut release “Air & Lack Thereof“, last year. The 21-year-old producer from London has a way with chords that melts my heart in an instant. Aaliyah’s records do the same thing for me, and maybe a handful of other artists in the history of popular music. “CMYK” lasts for three minutes and forty seconds, but there’s more where it came from on the four track EP that Blake is releasing next week.

The title “CMYK” comes, according to Wikipedia, from the CMYK colour model used in colour printing, refering to the four inks cyan, magenta, yellow, and key black. If Kelis has found a red coat, that’ll be yellow on top of magenta.

Kelis’ “Caught Out There” (1999):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnukuTwynwY

Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” (1998):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M9BgfSHowg

James Blake performs this Saturday at the Off Centre festival in Amsterdam, both solo and with the group Mount Kimbie.

All that you want, and more

It’s busy season for people recording cover versions, and those keeping track of them. It’s a much maligned artform, the cover, and indeed, more often than not it pales in comparison to the original version. This does not need to be. Some of my favourite all-time pop classics are covers: Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was originally recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Otis Redding’s “Respect” arguably found its defining (female) form in Aretha Franklin’s recording. This blogpost highlights two striking cover versions #nowplaying on 22tracks: “Dear God 2.0″ by The Roots featuring Jim James (on the hiphop playlist) and “All That She Wants” by Chuck Norris (disco).

Dear God 2.0” is an unusual record for several reasons. First, the original came out only a few months ago. To many people, it’s not all that familiar. Second, it’s in an entirely different genre (folk-pop) than The Roots’ style. Third, the original singer, Monsters Of Folk‘s Jim James, is making a star-reappearance. This may look like a strange way of working, but to the Roots crew it’s not. They did almost the exact same thing seven years ago with Cody ChesnuTT’s “The Seed”, turning it into their biggest hit, “The Seed 2.0“.

Anyway, here is the (beautiful) video for Monsters Of Folk’s “Dear God”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzLJd-4ZpZ0

Chuck Norris is an alias for Norwegian disco god Todd “Terje” Olsen. His take on “All That She Wants” is of the kind where people cover totally uncool hits from the past. Except this cover is not a joke, or possibly even ironic. Zoning in on Ace Of Base‘s Scandinavian reggae touch, Olsen has produced a dubby, instrumental disco version of a bona fide ’90s classic that only needs to hint at the original version to put a huge smile on your face. If you need to have your memory refreshed, here’s Ace Of Base in 1993:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjJwqDa1QVI

Covers have become a marketing tool as well, peeking your interest with both novelty and the familiar. Two brands are currently distributing free cover MP3s. Dr. Martens has the likes of Dam-Funk and Buraka Som Sistema playing The Human League and Neneh Cherry. Levi’s had the same idea, and has hired (amongst others) Nas and Dirty Projectors to shine their light on Slick Rick and Bob Dylan, respectively.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjqscEsNpvA

Wiley and Hud Mo report to the dancefloor

One of the weirdest records around right now is “Electric Boogaloo (Hudson Mohawke Remix)” by UK rap supremo Wiley, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ electro playlist. I haven’t heard the original version yet (it’s not out until June 28), but I have a feeling that Hudson Mohawke has stretched it quite a bit. The Scottish producer has been associated with both dubstep (thanks to his Tweet refix, “Ooops!“) and, infamously, the grandiosely named aquacrunk scene. Last year’s wonderful Butter album established Hud Mo as one of Europe’s most adventurous producers—whatever you want to label his sound.

Wiley has found himself in a similar conundrum, about six years ago. “Wot Do U Call it?” was his hilarious response to the confusion surrounding his style of post-garage music. Eventually we settled on grime. And now all the grime stars are making electro-pop. Hudson Mohawke is looking ahead, starting off his Wiley remix vibin’ on an r&b groove that sounds like it’s about to launch into some Omni Trio style jungle, insteading opting for funky Carribean drums, moving back to the smooth r&b with Wiley rapping over a bunch of clapping 808s, before chipmunking him up to infinity.

Now, let’s practice our electric boogaloos!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFIrhf8HLWw

Bettison Comes Alive

So far, I hadn’t blogged about anything that’s been #nowplaying in the “contemporary” playlist. I’ve been a little scared because any of that is totally out of my comfort zone. Give me heavy rock or minimal techno and I’m fine with that. Chart fodder or underground hip-hop—it’s all pop music to me. But not this contemporary classical music. I have no history with improvised avant-garde or composed “serious” music. I suppose that’s why it’s featured on 22tracks, to make newbies like me listen to it, and, who knows, appreciate it.

I’m still a little bit cautious. But I’m kinda sorta digging this Oscar Bettison fella, three parts of whose O Death is #nowplaying. I guess it’s because this is music that’s reaching out to 20th Century American music like jazz and folk, both of which have informed rock ‘n roll from the very beginning. Listen to that banjo in “Bone Chapel”, which actually starts of sounding a lot like a rock tune! The trumpet and slide-guitar playing in “Chorus I” and “Chorus II” isn’t all that alien, either.

Bettison is a British composer who was educated at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague. O Death was recorded by the Dutch band (I don’t think you’re actually supposed to call these kind of people a band!) Ensemble Klang. To give you a little bit more than my inept rambling, here are some words from Baltimore City Paper writer Lee Gardner, who writes in his review of O Death:

…what impresses here is the breadth of effects and moods Bettison creates with a relatively limited palette, aided by Ensemble Klang’s adroit playing and nimble instrumental and textural shifts. It helps that this is not a work that plays down to its populist source material, nor does it abandon the essential approachability that allows a tune like “O Death” to travel through generations.

Here’s Ensemble Klang performing excerpts from O Death and a part of “Narayana’s Cows” by Tom Johnson in Eindhoven’s Axesjazzpower venue in 2009:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2eCO2g2YCs

22tracks iPhone App & DJ op de Dom at MiNiBAR

We promised to launch the 22tracks iPhone App this upcoming Saturday. Due to last minute finetuning we have decided to reschedule the official launch to June 22nd. You’ll have to wait one more month, sorry! But: since we don’t want to disappoint too much: the first 22 people who come to our 22tracks get together, this Saturday in the MiNiBAR, will get the beta version delivered by mail the next day. Don’t forget to bring your iPhone since we need your iPhone’s UDID (unique device identifier).

This Saturday the new DJ op de Dom playlist will go live on 22tracks. To celebrate the ending of this successful contest and the upcoming party on the 28th of May in Utrecht two of their finalists (DJ Crossfingaz and VJ) will play around midnight at our 22tracks get together.

Important: Doors open at 22:22 because of the Champions League final that is being played the same evening. See you there!

Riot rhythms and infinity guitars: Sleigh Bells

I haven’t yet made up up my mind on how much I love Treats, the debut album from New York duo Sleigh Bells. I’m still trying to deal with the almost physical impact of the sounds it’s making. As with any record, there’s all kinds of influences to detect, sure, but moreover Treats sounds strikingly – confusingly – of the now. That in itself is a quality I can very much appreciate. I’m tempted to write something like: the 2010s start here!

But I guess, as Mike Barthel writes on his tumblr today, “the sound is ultimately so new (we can’t even agree what it’s a combination of yet, what its references are) that we don’t know if it’s going to slip comfortably into an aesthetic tradition or just be regarded as a sort of novelty record in a couple years’ time.”

Either way, “Tell ‘em” is #nowplaying on 22tracks’ pop playlist, and you can hear “Riot Rhythm” on the rock playlist. (I had “Infinity Guitars” on there late last year, for all you early adopters.) I realise the pop/rock divide is more arbitrary than usual with Sleigh Bells, as “Tell ‘em” comes out of gate rocking pretty hard, and Alexis Krauss’ vocals are as sweet on “Riot Rhythm” as anywhere else on Treats.

I first heard about Sleigh Bells in Sasha Frere-Jones’ Notebook column in The New Yorker, where he relates their origin story:

In 2008, Derek Miller was looking for a woman to sing the danceable songs he’d been writing since leaving the successful hardcore band Poison the Well. One night, while working at a Brazilian restaurant, he waited on a woman and her daughter. When the subject of Miller’s search for a vocalist came up, the mother nominated her daughter, Alexis Krauss, a schoolteacher who spent most of her teen years singing on pop records. A few weeks later, the two had become a duo called Sleigh Bells.

Since then, the band has been signed to M.I.A.’s record label N.E.E.T., with Miller also recruited to work on M.I.A.’s forthcoming album ///Y/. Sleigh Bells is currently on tour in Europe, where you can hopefully pick up a copy of Treats, as it hasn’t been released here otherwise yet.

Everybody is gushing about Sleigh Bells:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQrxpKK09xo

Funeral Party love to mess around with a sound

Just about the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll record around right now is Funeral Party‘s “NYC Moves to the Sound of LA”, #nowplaying on 22tracks’ rock playlist. And then I find out it was released at the tail-end of 2008 and apparently nobody told me about it at the time. Thanks for nothing, the internet! I guess Funeral Party’s luck (and mine!) has changed thanks to BBC Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe, who picked the song as his “hottest record in the world right now” recently, which led to it being playlisted by Britain’s top pop radio station. I suppose it also helped that, since its initial release, the band has signed to a very large record label which is now pushing its forthcoming debut album, Golden Age of Knowhere.

From the bottle ‘n bass sounds that open the record, “NYC Moves to the Sound of LA” is all about rhythm, as is the best rock music. So it’s danceable, it’s hella catchy, it’s raw like an abrasion and it even makes some sort of statement.

Which is what, really? “New York City loves to mess around with the L.A. sound,” sings Chad Elliot, while his bands sounds a bit like The Rapture. Speaking to Cake In 15, he says:

When we wrote the song it was more of a “Fuck You” to a band that we kept getting compared to, The Rapture. I really like the old Rapture stuff but I got kind of pissed off that they don’t claim they’re from San Diego, which is where they originated from, all of a sudden they’re a New York band, so I just thought it was kind of stupid and I was like, “Fuck this,” and, “Fuck that.”

Right. Except San Diego is not Los Angeles and besides, The Rapture only really started sounding like The Rapture after they moved to New York and got produced by The DFA. Even typing this makes me want to play “House of Jealous Lovers”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUuT-fShY

Let’s hope Funeral Party will deliver on this very promising start. I remember when “Somebody Told Me” came out that was a really cool record and now we’re stuck with this band The Killers.

Hey, let’s get back right to the basics. Here’s the video to “NYC Moves to the Sound of LA”:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1ZR9R9LVeQ

A baguette and a bottle of rum

The temporary Visita playlist on 22tracks is all about getting you in the mood for the next Bacardi Visita party in Rotterdam. With a selection ranging from Joy Orbison to Metro Area, that should be no problem at all. If the liquor company-in-exile‘s aim is to identify itself with dance music that is both forward-thinking and hot-blooded, consider it accomplished. I’ve blogged about Deadboy (track 2) and Aloe Blacc (21) already, and I could enthuse just as easily about Mosca, Metro Area or Toddla T.

By the time you head over to the electro playlist (that’s after this one has finished, obviously!), you should be all set to party hard with the Mightyfools (pictured). They, along with BoomBass from the Parisian Cassius crew have been hired to get Bacardi Visita rocking on the 22nd of May. The Dutch twosome’s “Baguette” is #nowplaying over there, and the track is sure to bolster Mightyfools’ reputation as one of Holland’s hardest hitting electro acts. It’s actually the B-side to Mightyfools’ forthcoming single “That’s the Shit”, which I’m sure will get a full preview during Visita.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBGRN1kBVpo

There’s some Cassius news too while I’m at it. I had their last proper single “Youth, Speed, Trouble, Cigarettes” featured on the rock playlist (!) when it came out during the summer of last year but instead of following that up with a new album, BoomBass and partner Philippe Zdar have started a reissue programme. The duo recently aquired the rights to their own back-catalogue and have remastered hits like “Cassius 99″ and “The Sound of Violence”. Remixes have been commissioned as well. The first release in the so-called Cassius Gold series came out a couple of weeks ago.



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