Dance Tracks of the Week: Maxmillion Dunbar Flips Lids With His Heady ‘Woo Daps’ Mixtape
Plus techno, noise, and steel-band acid from Joey Anderson, L'estasi Dell'Orro, and more
Maxmillion Dunbar, Woo Daps Mix Tape (RVNG Intl.)
Maxmillion Dunbar is the Dude we’ve been waiting for: a full-bearded, big-hearted Zen stoner whose curious, idiosyncratic take on house and techno offers proof of a bohemian utopia we should all aspire to. (You probably won’t find any Eagles in his tape deck, however.) His Woo Daps Mix Tape, released this week as a pay-what-you-wish download from RVNG Intl., reprises a handful of tunes from his 2013 album House of Woo as a radically extended remix. Familiar strains from the album dart through the 50-minute set, but everything has been pretty much rebuilt from the ground up. The Jon-Hassell-in-zero-gravity “Kangaroo” assumes an even more gaseous form in a live-jam mix with Protect-U and Peaking Lights’ Aaron Coynes. Trombonist (and longtime Arthur Russell collaborator) Peter Zummo, flutist (and NPR journalist) Sami Yenigun, and “plunderphonic freak” Co La contribute to a drifting, deboned version of the shuddering electro cut “Inca Tags.” Good luck piecing together the tracklisting, but somewhere in there there’s also a new song called “Calvin & Hobbs (ECM Mix)” that, presumably, pays tribute to the atmospheric sound of Manfred Eicher’s jazz label, while the Mood Hut artist Ttam Renat turns in a “Loving the Drift” remix that’s got a vaguely Larry Heart-meets-Todd Edwards-meets-Pal Joey vibe.
The whole thing is suffused in glassy FM chimes and glistening reverb contrails. When I interviewed Dunbar earlier this year, he talked about how he treated records “like a snapshot of the musician at that space and time.” Judging from the mixtape, he’s still loving the drift. This record doesn’t just tie the room together; it soars for the horizon and carries the whole house with it.
Jeremy Deller, “Voodoo Ray (JD Twitch’s Optimo Remix)” (The Vinyl Factory)
There’s #ARTPOP, and then there’s art pop. While Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic are teaming up with Lady Gaga and Jay Z on projects that seem designed mainly to shore up the cultural capital of all parties involved, the British artist Jeremy Deller works the other way around, using popular music as a way of framing folk culture and shared experience. With 1997’s Acid Brass project, he and Manchester’s Williams Fairey Brass Band paid simultaneous tribute to ravers and coalminers with a collection of brass-band covers of acid house classics. More recently, his exhibition for the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale foregrounded the U.K.’s Caribbean heritage and fundamental hybrid nature. For the soundtrack to his film English Magic, he invited London’s Melodians Steel Orchestra to record steel-band covers (at Abbey Road, no less) of quintessentially British music: Vaughan Williams’ Symphony in D minor, David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” and A Guy Called Gerald’s acid house classic “Voodoo Ray.” The latter, in particular, is stunning — airy, eerie, a little bit uncanny. Transposing the iconic acid melody to an instrument with a radically different character, it’s familiar and strange all at once, and likely to leave you with the maddening sense of knowing the song and being unable to say what it is.
Now, Optimo’s JD Twitch brings Deller and the Melodians’ version back into dance music’s orbit with three ebullient remixes that flesh out the keening steel-band melody with drum machine, writhing TB-303, crashing piano chords, and a choral rendition of the original’s spooky vocal refrain. On the main mix and the instrumental, the acid arpeggio careens dangerously close to being out of key, heightening the song’s nervous energy, while the “Bonus Beats” edit strips everything down to rolling, snapping percussion and that multi-part chorus, helpfully written out on the record’s sleeve, for anyone who wants to sing along: “Ooh-oo-hoo ah-ha ha yeah.”
Joey Anderson, Fall Off Face (Dekmantel)
New York’s Joey Anderson continues his strong recent run with one of the best techno 12-inches in recent months. The standout on this, his first record for Amsterdam’s Dekmantel label, is “Sky’s Blessings,” a subdued take on deep-space techno that draws out elegant contrapuntal synthesizer melodies over steady hi-hats and an ultra-low kick. It shares both the melancholic air and brushed stainless-steel textures of Autechre’s Amber, with a loop of a low, muttering voice lending an almost subliminal sense of intimacy. “Heaven’s Archer” plays dissonant string pads and bleeps off a tightly coiled clockwork groove lost in thought (and motion), while “Repulsive” nods to Anderson’s history as a dancer with a shape-shifting synthesizer melody snaked through a shuffling, tenterhooked groove. Here, too, he plays with dissonance, accentuating the clash between bright, chiming leads and detuned toms, but the wrongness of the sound somehow ends up contributing to the music’s meditative quality. The whole record is dramatic without being overwrought — it moves effortlessly, with a warts-and-all kind of grace.
L’estasi Dell’orro, “Kingdom for a Kiss” (Berceuse Heroique)
For anyone who grew up poring over the printed matter that accompanied punk LPs, Berceuse Heroique records are a treat. Their photo-copied inserts have the same acid, samizdat quality, except instead of exhortations to stop vivisection or avoid hard drugs, you get messages like “FUCK MoMA RAVES” and “SOUS RATURE” (“under erasure,” in French) — cryptic statements that underscore the perilous state of the underground’s existence, combined with even more pressing concerns. The label’s last release featured headlines highlighting the European unemployment crisis and the U.K.’s growing nationalist/white-supremacist problem; the new one pairs a Philip K. Dick quotation (“Reality denied comes back to haunt”) with a photograph of Hitler and other high-ranking Nazis posing before the Parthenon in Athens. The music isn’t expressly political, but it is uncompromising. On the A-side, L’estasi Dell’oro (Brooklyn’s Christopher Ernst, a.k.a. Penalune) draws out a no-frills machine groove into 12-and-a-half minutes of grinding, droning, seas-boiling, skies-rending, end-of-the-world techno that sounds like Sunn O))) getting down with Drexciya. On the B-side, Bunker Records veterans Unit Moebius and their citymates Shitcluster go whole Haag (sorry) on a lumbering, rumbling remix that cranks the “Ugly” knob to 10 and draws it all out for more than 14 minutes. Printed in an edition of 300 copies (“NEVER TO BE REPRESSED AGAIN,” promises the insert), it’s unlikely to spark any revolutions, but the anger, at least, is refreshing.