Saturday, 21 April 2007

I missed that asterisk

I missed the asterisk I placed in the last entry. I was intending to define Progressive House there, but I couldn't be bothered because in dance music, trying to define genres this specific is usually pointless. So I'll let Wikipedia do it for me, see here. That was easy!

It's been a good day. I wish I could work faster though, I'm behind schedule. I'll be writing more in here soon, but not now. It's five past midnight, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Old music again

I've been listening to two compilation albums that I purchased back in 2000, when I was only just sixteen, possibly even earlier. The contrast between the two is quite large. One of them is Ibiza Euphoria (2000), which is an album full of Trance and Progressive House*, mixed by Alex Gold and Robbie Nelson, two DJs that I can assure you that you are unlikely to have heard of unless you're obsessed with dance music like me. (Being British would definitely help too). The other is Kiss Garage presented by DJ Luck and MC Neat. This one is, rather obviously an album full of UK Garage, predominantly of the "2-step" variety which was so briefly popular in Britain back then. If you're British and the right age, you will have heard of those two so-called "musicians".

Euphoria is probably the best compilation I've ever bought. I don't think any album could get close, certainly not within its genre. That was a great year for Trance, and Prog. House was soon to take off, albeit for a very brief period, so the track content is very good indeed. Gold's CD, the faster of the two, mixes a lot of very good melodic trance (I have a particular weakness for this) together. Furthermore the mixing is good, and the order in which the tracks are placed is excellent. The Nelson CD has a slightly lower BPM and contains more of the Prog. House and yet still sounds just as exciting, which I have to put down, once again, to an excellent track selection and good mixing. Judging from subsequent compilations in the same series that I purchased, this album probably sucked up all of the best tracks of that summer, and it certainly casts a huge shadow over all of the others even now. My dance-loving friends are still impressed with this album, and they can easily believe its age, because we just don't get Trance this good any more.

Kiss Garage on the other hand does not stand up well as an album. This has a lot to do with Luck and Neat. DJ Luck only became a DJ by accident, and you can tell from this that it's not really his talent. His mixing is poor, and you can't get away with that in 2-step, as its full of breakbeats which clash horribly if you mess them up. The real problem however is Neat. Put simply, he should never open his mouth in front of a microphone. I don't appreciate MC's most of the time, because a lot of them do not have the spontaneity or the vocabulary required for what it is they do, but he is appallingly bad. I can't say any more, it's beyond description. Moving to the track selection, it's clear that most of these songs are still as good as they were then. For some, this is a very good thing. For others, a very bad one. I always thought UK Garage was a great idea. The good tracks are those based around songs, like Why by Mis-Teeq and Sorry by Monsta Boy. UK Garage should have been a great way of producing a distinctively British form of pop R'n'B distinct from its rapidly stagnating United States counterpart. However I realised in 2001 that lots of it was made badly and yet received plenty of attention in spite of this, a situation akin to British and American R'n'B and Hip-Hop. The same did happen with other dance music and still does, but UK Garage produced tons of absolute steaming turd and yet it still sold well. (I'm looking at you, So Solid Crew). There a quite a lot of stinkers on this compilation, which I was fully aware of at the time. The good ones are still great though. I don't know if anyone's tried to resurrect 2-step, but if a decent band could create a good pop song with a hummable tune and then bolt it to a Garage bassline and lots of breakbeats, I think it would work again. I'd buy it, anyway!

Trance doesn't really appeal to the part of me that likes pop in the same way that Garage did, so I don't know if more pop-trance would be a good thing. However, that raises all sorts of painful memories of dodgy Euro-pop, so I think that would have to be treated carefully. Trance has always appealed to the part of me that likes tunes that make your hairs stand on end, which is why I like very melodic trance, very common in 2000 but now out of fashion. I want some more of this too!

If anyone actually is reading this and sympathises with the sad man who likes obscure music, and who knows what I'm actually referring to, perhaps you could make some recommendations?

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Digitally Imported

I never properly appreciated the internet radio stations provided by Digitally Imported (www.di.fm) until very recently. I recall that I once used them for a while, several years ago. They're good if you like listening to trance, like me, and aren't going to find any from normal radio. Which, incidentally, I never listen to, given that I don't have any FM or DAB receiving equipment. So, I am slightly disturbed that licensing fees for internet radio will be decided as a function of the product of both the number of songs played and the number of listeners to the station! This is nothing like the way songs are licensed to normal radio stations, as far as I'm aware. I don't know if internet radio could continue this way. I also wonder how this affects stations based outside the United States, I'll have to look into that. When I'm not revising, that is.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Kosheen - Damage (Germany, 2007) Review

I received the new Kosheen album, Damage, in the post from Deutschland last week, and I'm very impressed with it. If they were my favourite band, if I was their greatest fan, and if I had been raving about how great they were continuously for the last four years since their previous release, I probably would have been disappointed, because it's not going to change anyone's world. The album is simply a great piece of work by a band doing what they do best, which is make good pop songs with lots of electronics added. The electronic element is very strong on this album, and I think that this is wise. The previous album did suffer from the band's relative lack of originality when faced with writing for the guitar, as opposed to using the guitar as rhythm for songs. When I saw them live, I did notice that the guitarist's ability with the electric guitar was not excessive, at least by comparison to other guitarists I know of within my limited knowledge of the instrument and its practitioners. They do not have this problem when it comes to synthesisers and keyboards, apparently, as the tunes are more varied, sounds a bit more unusual and the song structures more exciting than before. This allows the lyrics and vocals to stand out to a greater extent than was possible with the several songs on their last album which sounded too similar musically. Not that I'm going to criticise the second album, Kokopelli, too harshly, as it has one of their best songs on it (and a heavily guitar based one at that) from which the title of this blog is taken.

The only fault I really have is that the album is a few tracks too long to really be at the top of my list for great albums, as opposed to great collections of songs. They ones at the end aren't quite good enough to make you want to listen intently for a full CD, which is not a problem you would have with the first Faithless album, Reverence, with its fewer tracks of longer duration, or with an album like A Night at the Opera, by Queen, which has a sensible number of songs of a reasonable length and are of the right quality to keep you going all the way through the album and which stands out even more as a whole than as several pieces. Not many bands are going to beat Queen's 1970's period for producing great albums, I'm sorry to say. Aside from Faithless's first two, and perhaps one or two of Depeche Mode's, no album has really come close out of the bands I've really got into.

As a pop album, I think it would stand very well against other albums that have received greater commercial success, but this is actually true of most of the pop I like. Pop seems to end up being driven by the listeners, or perhaps marketing men, rather than the artists if it receives any attention and actually makes some money. So I'm quite glad that this band is perhaps free from that burden. I'm going to enjoy having this one as part of my collection, and I wish I could see them live.

However, as they're on tour during revision time, I believe my chances of getting this wish granted are slim.