From Mediterranean sunniness to London duskiness
If there's an unusually sunny cast to the Friday Five this week, blame the fact that I'm spending the month on the Balearic island of Menorca, and my seasonally-affected listening instincts are kicking in hard under the hot sun. One selection, James Priestley and MarcoAntonio's "Baia 2012," is explicitly Mediterranean, given that it pays tribute to Rimini, Italy's cosmic disco scene of the 1970s and is perfectly calibrated to complement Ibiza's more adventurous dance floors; as for the rest, there are varied remixes of electro-acoustic music by Hauschka and Oneohtrix Point Never, along with sunny house from sister labels Simple Records and Aus Music. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a San Miguel to polish off.
Hauschka, Salon Des Amateurs Remixes EP 1 (FatCat Records)
I'd hoped that Hauschka's 2011 album of techno-inspired compositions for prepared piano would get the remix treatment, given the music's subtlety and supple character. Now it has: A full album is on the way later this year, and in the meantime, FatCat will release two vinyl-only EPs showcasing reworks from Ricardo Villalobos & Max Loderbauer, Michael Mayer, Steve Bicknell and Vainqueur. Villalobos and Loderbauer play it somewhat straighter than they did on Re:ECM, their remixes of ECM's jazz and new-music catalog; following Hauschka's lead, they trace a series of tight, loopy curlicues, and the softness of the source material finds its match in cottony percussive sounds and gently freaky effects. (A strange, bassy whomp occasionally breaks the mood, but it wouldn't be a Villalobos production without something set on its ear.) The real surprise is Michael Mayer's mix: The Kompakt honcho sets aside his pop predilections and ravier instincts, letting Hauschka's felted hush take him to a far more meditative place. Set to an Italo-disco pulse and following a long, ecstatic crescendo, it's not without movement, but it's the most contemplative thing Mayer has ever done. These mixes are out on June 11; the Bicknell/Vainqueur remixes follow on June 25.
James Priestley & MarcoAntonio, "Baia 2012" (Secretsundaze)
London's Secretsundaze crew are known for bringing a welcome dose of cutting-edge, roots-mindful house and techno to Sunday-clubbing hedonism (and, perhaps, vice versa). The label's latest single, from Secretsundaze's James Priestley and MarcoAntonio (MarcoAntonio Spaventi, of M>O>S Recordings' R-A-G), plays out the tension between populism and avant-gardism by paying tribute to Rimini, Italy's "cosmic disco" scene of the 1970s. Informed by Carl Craig's calculated epics, it pits a rude synth bass against a Fela Kuti break and a filtered vocal sample with echoes of DBX's "Losing Control"; the real action is in a psychedelic wash of tone that occasionally snaps into focus as a meandering saxophone solo. I'm usually anti-sax, at least when it comes to house music, but not here. The Bay Area artist Aybee straps on his scuba gear for two remixes that go heavy on the swirl; the slow-motion tribal frug of his "Alt Remix" is particularly entrancing.
Oneohtrix Point Never, Dog In the Fog: Replica Collaborations & Remixes (Software Recording Co.)
Oneohtrix Point Never's 2011 album Replica felt like a set of origami miniatures, folding matte tones and metallic surfaces and improbably bright colors into cryptic, whimsical shapes. Who better, then, to tackle a remix than Matmos, those masters of manipulating unusual samples into elegantly skewed forms. Here, they avail themselves of viola parts and vocals that OPN's Daniel Lopatin commissioned from Limpe Fuchs, an electro-acoustic composer active in Germany since the late 1960s; where the original "Replica" was a limpid burble of piano and analog synthesizer, Matmos' rework is flash-frozen and smashed into shards, with struck and plucked staccato tones scattered amidst bells, slamming doors, and hiccupping vocals. Lopatin's own edit of the same is a voice-and-piano duo in the vein of the version of "Returnal" he recorded with Antony Hegarty, from Antony and the Johnsons; this time, the guest is King Midas Sound's Roger Robinson, who infuses cracked soul into the song with the steadiness of an I.V. drip. The British musician Richard Youngs splits "Nassau" in two, sifting quavering alto and clean, rippling tones out of a mess of overdriven guitar and blasted vocals reminiscent of Kevin Drumm and Blut Aus Nord. The highlight of the EP, which comes out out June 12, is the British techno producer Surgeon's "Remember" remix, which chops the lyrical, ambient original to bits. It maintains the crunchy, industrial underpinning of all Surgeon's work while dipping into a world of color that's rare for him.
George Fitzgerald, "Child" (Aus Music)
You can't exactly call London's George Fitzgerald an original producer; his records so far, for labels like Hotflush and ManMakeMusic, traverse the familiar terrain between house and bass music, heavy on the shiver-inducing synths and vocals with which Joy Orbison's "Hyph Mngo" turned the U.K. dance-music scene upside down in 2009. But he's such a master of his craft that I don't really care where his work falls on the continuum between genius and scenius; when it comes to ecstatic rush, he pushes all the right buttons. His new EP for Will Saul's Aus Music is no different. It's housier than his previous efforts, with cleanly jacking, Chicago-inspired grooves in place of more syncopated patterns, but otherwise he indulges all his usual tropes — luminous synth chords, ribbony vocal samples, structures that rise and fall like a heaving chest. All four tracks here are plenty seductive, but the standout is "Lights Out," with shouts of "Bring them lights down!" soaring out over a clap-happy drum groove and a sober, determined bass progression. It's the perfect example of dance music's imperative tense.
Dusky, "Henry 85" (Simple Records)
Of all the words I overuse in my writing, "dusky" is surely towards the top, so how am I not going to like this? The twilit moniker belongs to London's Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman, and if their history on the trance-leaning Anjunabeats label seems to make them a strange fit for Will Saul's Simple Records, their two tracks here make perfect sense in the context of the current U.K. underground. Both tracks skip along the edge between house and U.K. garage, muted chords off floaty vocals and Todd Edwards-style hiccups; both tracks really shine once the haze burns off and it digs into a spare, percussive groove with just enough color to capture the imagination. For good measure, Belgium's FCL (Red D and San Soda) turn "Henry 85" into a Chicago-inspired, drum-machine workout threaded with blippy synths as bright and tenacious as morning glory.