Dance Tracks of the Week: Drum Tools, Disco Edits, and Arab-Inspired Acid Jams
Hard-hitting club cuts and multi-cultural hybrids from adventurous labels Versatile, Golf Channel, L.I.E.S., Mister Saturday Night, and Power House
Various Artists Acid Arab Collections EP01 (Versatile)
“We don’t paste oriental sounds on occidental beats, we want to embody both cultures without pretending to reinvent oriental music or fooling ourselves by believing we’re inventing Eastern dance music.” That’s the Parisian DJs Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho explaining their new project Acid Arab, which is exactly what it sounds like: A fusion of acid house and Arabic music. It’s a risky proposition, especially coming from two dudes who profess to “have fallen in love with this music after a trip to Tunisia.” But at least Minisky and Carvalho are refreshingly circumspect about their cultural tourism. And it’s an exciting proposition, too, especially coming from a city with a strong Arab culture that rarely figures in the official picture.
Acid Arab’s “Theme” and I:Cube’s “???? ???? (Le Bon Vieux Temps)” both reveal the TB-303 to be a natural fit for Arabic and Persian music, respectively, given the way the bass synth’s glide settings untether it from Western tuning. (Someone really needs to hook them up with a copy of DJ/Rupture’s Sufi Plugins, a set of softsynths tuned according to North African and Arabic maqam scales.) Both artists have clearly listened closely to the beat structures of the music they’ve sampled, giving their four-to-the-floor cuts a rippling rhythmic nuance. Remixing Omar Souleyman’s “Shift Al Mani,” Crackboy (Krikor Kouchian) opts for a screwed take on the Syrian dabke master, slowing the tempo and piling on distorted drum machines like a scrap heap in the desert. And Boys in the Oud — a one-off jam session between keyboardist/guitarist Turzi (Record Makers), keyboardist/bassist Judah Warsky (Pan Eruopean Recordings), Versatile’s DJ Gilb’R, and the 60-year-old oud player Adnan Mohamed — delivers a delirious take on dubby cosmic disco as synths and oud engage in a cross-cultural call-and-response.
Rhythm Odyssey and Dr. Dunks “Fox” (Golf Channel)
After a few quiet months, New York’s Golf Channel imprint has a busy spring and summer lined up, with new releases on the way from Juju & Jordash (Unleash the Golem Part 2), Dean Meredith and Ben Stenton’s Mind Fair, Dutch new-wave weirdo Spike, and the Rhythm Odyssey & Dr. Dunks, a.k.a., Meredith (of Chicken Lips, Bizarre Inc., Big Two Hundred, et al.) and Eric Duncan of Rub N Tug. The latter’s “Fox,” out now, is a rugged, mid-tempo disco edit that strikes an uneasy balance between smooth and jarring. Clavinet riffs stick out of the mix like rusty nails, and loping hi-hats are smothered in garbled tape noise, but hopeful piano riffing and streamlined synth pads keep it from tipping too far into darkness. Its most salient feature is a diva’s wail that recurs throughout both versions of the track; I can’t put my finger on it, but I could swear I’ve heard it in hip-hop productions of the late ’80s and early ’90s, which would make sense, given that the duo’s ongoing excavation of musical strata that generations’ worth of beatmakers have already sifted through. They prove that there are still plenty of shards left to plunder. (Listen to samples here.)
Dark Sky In Brackets EP (Mister Saturday Night)
Two tracks stood out of Michael Mayer’s set at a Primavera Sound pre-party in Barcelona last week. One was the S.O.S. Band’s “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” — in part because it sounded so incongruous coming from the Kompakt co-founder, and in part because, duh, it’s an amazing song. The other was “Rare Bloom,” from a new 12-inch by London’s Dark Sky, who make their debut on Brooklyn’s Mister Saturday Night label after records for bass-leaning imprints like Black Acre, 50Weapons, and Tectonic. All four tracks here show an affinity with Floating Points and Four Tet — as broken house rhythms underpin airy synths, an ambiguously melancholic air prevails, and “Rare Bloom” is the most ambiguous of all of them, with stacked fifths smeared languidly up and down the scale against a shuffling groove that feels like a housier, toothier Burial.
Dolo Percussion Dolo (L.I.E.S.)
All hail the humble beat track. Or, in the case of Dolo Percussion, Maxmillion Dunbar’s latest outing, not so humble at all. As far as DJ tools go, Max D’s percussive fantasias are as flashy as they come —kinetic, acrobatic, bobbing and feinting like a boxer on bedsprings, they’re almost showoffy. The high end is crusted over with crystalline cymbals, staggered kicks pack a restless wallop, and endlessly cascading snares go off like Russian nesting dolls stuffed with firecrackers. All four tracks are as punchy as a diamond-pavé knuckle sandwich; shorn of anything as pedestrian as a bass line, they float on air.
Head High Burning (Power House)
While we’re on the subject of tools, Berlin’s René Pawlowitz (Shed, Wax, EQD, WK7, et al.) is back with the third release under his Head High alias, and once again he proves himself the master of heavy-handed grace. “Burning (Keep Calm Mix)” and “Burning (Keep It… Mix)” are both studies in 1990s-inspired piano house that pair pumping chord stabs with churning breakbeats; “Keep On Talking (Dirt Mix)” flips the same beat into a dubby excursion to the dark side of the high-pass filter, with a clipped cry weaving its way through cymbals and snares like a wild beast darting through a rock quarry. They’re rich, expressive tracks, but there’s also a rigorous formalism to the material, as in all of Pawlowitz’ typologically-obsessed work. He’s the Bernd and Hilla Becher of techno.