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Dance Tracks of the Week: Green Velvet Tips His Hat to Prince

Green Velvet

Green Velvet, “Bigger Than Prince” (Circus Records)
It’s been a few years since Green Velvet (a.k.a. Curtis Jones, a.k.a. Cajmere) released much in the way of new solo productions; mostly he’s been enjoying the fruits of his legacy, as captured on last year’s excellent Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records, as well as, perhaps, coasting on it, as evidenced by a recent spate of new remixes of his classic hits. (Nicky Romero’s 2010 remix of “Flash” was a huge hit in EDM land, paving the way for Green Velvet’s own appearances at EDC in 2012 and 2013.) So it’s kind of a big deal that he has a new single out. “Bigger Than Prince” is a grower, which is to say that it might be underwhelming at first. Its principal hook is the spoken-word phrase “Walk around like you’re bigger than Prince,” presumably calling out artists with an inflated sense of self-worth. As far as diss tracks go, though, it doesn’t have much meat on its bones. (And really, the only thing more boring than the douchiness of the dance scene is moaning about said douchiness.) Musically, though, it’s a clever pastiche of the Purple One, full of mewling, minor-key synths and billiard-ball Linn Drum hits, and the funk groove is so stubbornly restrained, it’s actually kind of impressive. This is no big-room capitulation, that’s for sure. It’s wily and faintly ridiculous, which has always been Jones’ sweet spot.

Originally released in May as part of the Yousef Presents Circus X compilation, the single comes out next week with remixes from Hot Since 82 and the Martinez Brothers. Hot Since 82’s remix isn’t much to write home about; it’s a percussive, chunky, and ultimately pretty perfunctory tech-house track with just enough “trippy” affect to please the after-hours crowd. The Martinez Brothers, on the other hand, lay out a rippling drum-machine groove and suffuse it with a whispered rendition of the titular refrain. It’s as silly as it is sexy, but sometimes that’s just what the party needs.

Credit 00, Ice Cream EP (Uncanny Valley)
Overtly “sexy” dance music is usually just one or two heavy breaths away from being irredeemably corny — a divide expertly navigated by Dresden’s Credit 00 (Alexander Dorn) in the intro to “Ice Cream.” Over funk vamps seemingly sourced from vintage softcore, a sweet-toothed sexpot pants, “Ice cream of all flavors, especially chocolate and vanilla… I’m so glad to be a woman. Delicious ice cream!” But what sounds like an exercise in Vaseline-lensed kitsch quickly turns much darker and weirder, as Dorn hones in on a sliver of the woman’s voice, halfway between a moan and an exhalation, and loops it into a hissing, insistent figure, less coquettish ribbon than dungeon manacles. The ensuing groove is a vision of acid house at its prickliest, all snapping woodblocks and staccato snares over chords with the dull gleam of an oil slick. The woman’s voice huffs away — “Vanilla… Vanilla…” — but her extended rapture, far from titillating, makes for the most paranoid take on le petite mort imaginable.

Funkinevil, Ignorant EP (Wild Oats)
Sometimes, even the most passionate fan of analog machine music may be struck with the thought, “Yes, that Juno 6 bass line and TR-808 certainly sound effective, but is that all there is in life? Is there really any more to be wrung from these particular circuits?” And right around that moment of fatigue and doubt, if you’re lucky, someone like Kyle Hall and Funkineven will come along and roundly disabuse you of the notion that Roland’s storehouse of spine-tingling frequencies is anywhere close to being tapped out. This is the transatlantic duo’s second outing as Funkinevil, and it follows a pattern established with their first EP together, last year’s “Night”/”Dusk”: One upfront banger, one more meditative number, and a pair of brief sketches that serve as intro and outro. “Ignorant,” like “Night,” is brutally reduced, but where “Night” felt like something carved out of chalk and charcoal, “Ignorant” boasts some of the fullest, sturdiest sound imaginable. There’s practically nothing to it — just a quizzical, stop-start bass line and a stripped-down 808 groove that uses silence like a suckerpunch. The claps and snares (particularly in the case of a bruising, unexpected tattoo at the song’s climax) feel less like drum hits than events, almost meteorological in their impact. “In the Grid,” on the other hand, is all soft pads, crisp swing, and gooey portamento lead, the kind of sticky, easy-rolling funk that gets Dam-Funk up in the morning and keeps the rest of us up long after our bedtimes.

Ma Spaventi, Revolver EP (Most Excellent)
Spaventi Dazzurro, “Lonely” (M>O>S Records)

While we’re on the subject of doing a lot with a little, let’s talk about MarcoAntonio Spaventi. The Roman producer, now based in Amsterdam, has been around for a minute; his trio R-A-G (with Aroy Dee and Gijs Poortman, a.k.a. Gstring) has been recording refined, classicist house and techno on an all-analog kit since 2010. Marked by tough drums, swirling pads, and a willingness to veer into pure, beatless ambient territory, their records are formally purist without scrimping on a sense of mystery. Spaventi’s solo work so far has suggested that he may be the tough guy of the bunch; his singles “Wrecking,” “The Jungle,” and “Insanity” skipped over all niceties in favor of brute 909 snares and scrappy synth work. His 2012 single “Baia,” meanwhile — co-produced with Secretsundaze’s James Priestley — was a dubby, sax-infused tribute to Balearic house. Now Spaventi is back with two new EPs that demonstrate how versatile he really is. Revolver, the inaugural release from New York’s Most Excellent Unlimited label, is something of a Swiss army knife for DJs planning to venture into the wilderness. There’s a melancholic, mid-tempo house number, “The Sick Tape Dealer,” that’s lit with a crystalline glow. There’s “Slowmo,” a loping opener that suffuses an andante house groove in queasy Giallocore tones. “Revolver,” the record’s fastest cut, balances strapping snares and insistent open hi-hats with dreamy chords; it sits on the fence between placid and acid, just the thing for tipping the night into full gear. And the slow-motion tearjerker “La Valle Delle Lacrime” comes in two versions — one with a skeletal drum machine and a beatless edit that revels in the simplicity of his analog synths. Luxuriating in ringing fifths with just a hint of Theremin-like warble, it’s an unusually sturdy example of ethereal ambient techno.

But then his new single “Lonely,” released on Aroy Dee’s M>O>S Recordings (under his Spaventi Dazzurro alias), is something else entirely. It opens with a plangent synthesizer melody that sounds a little like Thomas Dolby’s “Europa and the Pirate Twins,” but as soon as you’ve settled comfortably into your New Wave reverie, he pulls the rug out and drops you into a veritable acid maelstrom: Grueling 303, hard-filtered disco loops, and gale-force drums. What makes it so dynamic, though, is a murky undercurrent of pitch-shifted vocals and minor-key Rhodes, resulting in a potent cocktail of uppers and downers, supercharged and druggy as hell. That’s the “Jerkoff Mix,” anway; the B-side’s “Lonely (Crunchy Club Mix)” is all sweetness and light and rubbery snap, a disco-house tune dipped in easy-listening falsetto that’s as innocent as it gets. Call him Many Spaventi, maybe, because this dude is legion.