Friday, 21 December 2007

Tricky DiscoMix: Christmas At Merkin Manor

As a pre-Christmas treat for the best before: and Tricky Disco faithful, we've decided to give away a brand new, festive-flavoured goodtime disco mix. It was recorded in one take in the record room at best before: HQ, nicknamed 'Merkin Manor' by TAPE's Richard Carnage. It features a selection of discoid faves thrown together by yours truly, including a slew of forthcoming gems to look out for in 2008. These include Prins Thomas's fantastic remix of Wild Rumpus's 'Purple Somersault' (due in late January on Bitches Brew), Hercules & Love Affair's anthemic 'Blind' (out March) and a great new Holy Ghost! rework of Only Fools & Horses' 'Spectacle Wins', which is due in the New Year via Munich's Permanent Vacation. The Beat Broker dub of 'I Feel Electric' by Rubies is an exclusive of sorts - there are currently no plans to release it as far as we know.

Being a best before: mix, I've also included a selection of tracks that have rocked our parties this year, including Blackjoy's ace mix of 'Bonnaire' bu Dutch Rhythm Combo and Todd Terje's vintage 'Dance & Chant' re-edit. Of course, no 2007 round-up mix would be complete without our very own end-of-night anthem, 'Stick Around'.

Thanks to all those who've made 2007 a year to remember for all of us involved in best before:. All our parties have been memorable, we celebrated our fourth birthday in style, we've smashed it at other people's parties and we even have our own re-edit series! I know 2008 is going to be a brilliant year for us - hopefully you'll join us down at the Bank on January 5th for our Chris Duckenfield party.

Download Christmas At Merkin Manor via Yousendit >>

1. Trus'me - Narda (Fat City)
2. Only Fools & Horses - Spectacle Wins [Holy Ghost! Remix] (Permanent Vacation)
3. Dutch Rhythm Combo - Bonnaire [Blackjoy Rough Demo Mix] (High Score)
4. Hercules & Love Affiar - Blind (DFA CD-R)
5. Escort - A Brand New Life (Escort)
6. Rubies - I Feel Electric [Beat Broker NRG Dub] (Telle CD-R)
7. Tangoterje - Dance & Chant (Supreme)
8. SJNRL01 - Unknown (SJNRL)
9. Wild Rumpus - Purple Somersault [Prins Thomas Diskomiks] (Bitches Brew CD-R)
10. Corsican Brothers - Whole Lotta Disco (no label)
11. Thumbs Aloft - Stick Around (Pointless Edits)
12. Hardway Brothers - Voodoo Celebration (Pointless Edits CD-R)

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Strong like Hercules

There's no doubt that DFA signings Hercules & Love Affair are going to be big in 2008. The hype about their forthcoming debut album, 'Hercules & Love Affair', has been building for the best part of six months. Much of this has centred around the much-publicised participation of Antony Hegarty (he of Mercury Music Prize-winning Antony & The Johnsons fame), which has already got tongues wagging online. Yet Hegarty has a relatively small part to play in the Hercules & Love Affair story; the real star of the show is producer/songwriter Andrew Butler.

Indeed, it is Butler who is the brains behind the operation. A well known face on the New York art scene, it is his songs and musical vision being showcased on 'Hercules & Love Affair'. Sure, the album was co-produced by Tim Goldsworthy, and the band also includes friends Antony, Nomi and Kim Ann Foxmann (herself another New York scenester DJ), but there's no doubt that Butler wears the trousers.

To some degree, whether or not Butler is in charge is irrelevant; either way, 'Hercules & Love Affair' is a very good album. It continues the DFA label's recent fascination with disco (see Holy Ghost!, Still Going etc) whilst retaining the sort of arty inventiveness Goldsworthy and James Murphy hold so dear. Yet for all the scenester connections, 'Hercules & Love Affair' is basically a pop album at heart. It's understated pop album at that – the sort of disco-centric pop made by Arthur Russell, or Kelley Polar had he hung around with the DFA rather than Morgan Geist. It's loose, soft and easy-going on one hand, eccetric and up-for-it on the other.

Admittedly, there are dancefloor moments, most notably 'Blind' – a Moroder influenced disco stomper featuring a particularly impressive vocal from Hegarty. It's the sound of Escort doing 'Go Bang', or 'Kiss Me Again' given a synth-driven kick up the arse. It will sound brilliant on the radio. Equally impressive is 'You Belong', a kind of stoned version of Inner City with Nomi doing her best Paris Grey impression while Hegarty croons along in the background. The skanking disco of 'Raise Me Up' is a pure blast of feelgood emotion – in the right remixer's hands, it could be huge. Of the other uptempo moments, it's the hooky, horn-heavy 'Hercules Theme' that stands out – all soaring strings, shuffling disco grooves and singalong choruses (you'll want to join in with the "loverboy Hercules" refrain).

Showing he's no one-trick pony, Butler proves himself more than adept at handling downtempo moments. The early-‘80s NY groove of 'Athene' (Kim Ann Foxmann's moment of glory), tingly MDMA-pop of 'Iris' and low-slung closer 'True, False/Fake, Real' (which, incidentally, comes with classic Arthur Russell strings) are testament to this.

It all adds up to an album that more than lives up to the hype. Personally, I'd prefer to hear a bit more of the cosmic disco-meets-classic house outlined in 'Roar', but that's a minor quibble. Butler is still in the early stages of his career, and there's sure to be plenty more to come from him throughout 2008. By the time 'Hercules & Love Affair' lands – and Butler's superb remix of the next Aeroplane single – he'll be proclaimed as New York's next skewed pop genius. Just remember where you heard it first.

'Hercules & Love Affair' by Hercules & Love Affair will be released by DFA/EMI on March 10 2008. The single 'Blind' will be released on March 3.

Hear clips from the album at the Hercules & Love Affair MySpace

Monday, 17 December 2007

Rubies Monday

Those who work for dance music magazines will happily tell you how tedious it can be opening the post every morning. While there's always a certain amount of excitement to be gained from never knowing quite what promo material you'll come across next, that soon vanishes when you realise every other package is a CD of boring electrohouse mixes, nonsensical kiddie-friendly nu-rave rubbish and plodding, middle of the road techno. Despite this, we persevere in the hope that sooner or later we'll open an envelope to find a gem - or at least a potential gem.

This morning's post had the usual array of bog standard CR2 mainroom house and bad rock made by bands with three-style haircuts and unfeasibly tight jeans. There was the odd gem, though, with the new EP from Californian all-girl trio Rubies (pictured) on Norway's Telle top of the pile.

According to their press blurb, the trio have just finished recording their debut album, which will hit stores in March 2008. On the strength of their 'I Feel Electric' EP, it could be a strong set. 'I Feel Electric' itself is quietly impressive – a winsome slice of analogue synth-pop with strangely haunting vocals from lead singer Simeone Rubi. It's very Telle - the sound of Annie if she'd been produced by Californian slackers rather than eccentric Norwegians. Max Essa remixes, adding a glossy nu-disco sheen and making the most of the trippy backing vocals.

The best thing about the EP, though, has to be Studio's remix of 'Room Without A Key'. Stockholm's kings of "scandolearic" have been in fine form this year, providing brilliant reworks of A Mountain Of One and, bizarrely, Kylie (their '2 Hearts' version made a pretty lame pop song sound fantastic). Their version of Rubies is one of their best releases yet, all multi-layered Balearic guitars, lazy beats, disconnected vocals and dubbed-out clarinets. It conjurs up visions of mid-afternoon strolls down icy Swedish beaches under the watchful glare of a weak winter sun. It's wonderful, and certainly brightened up a drab December morning here in Bristol. You can take a listen at the Rubies MySpace to get an idea what we're banging on about.

As for the Rubies, they've obviously got something about them. Apparently their album is a mix of synth-heavy downbeat pop, shiny electronic disco and winsome folk. Sounds like it could be a winner. We'll find out in the new year.

Rubies 'I Feel Electric' is released by Telle on Monday February 4th

Thursday, 13 December 2007

The best before: Cosmic Christmas Cracker

Thanks to all those who made it down to the best before: Christmas party, which took place last Friday, December 14th, at our very own "disco boozer", The Bank in Bristol.

It was another typically fun evening, this time with a decidedly festive twist. Legendary Tone and partner Nicola did a great job dressing the pub up and setting up the extra soundsytem, so by the time we started it looked fantastic.

As usual, the vibe was friendly and open-minded, with a good mix of familiar faces and first-timers. Props to the Seen boys for ducking out of Kingpin at Timbuk2 a few times to check out the vibe. Shout outs, too, for Bournemouth Dan, who spent most of the evening launching into increasingly loud versions of his famous appreciative cheer!

The star of the show, though, was undoubtedly guest DJ Daniel Donnachie. Armed with two bags of records, he proceeded to treat us to a wonderful selection of disco, Balearica, Italo and who knows what else. I can't remember many of the records he played, but he had nearly all of us up and dancing to them from the moment he hit the decks at 11.30 (thanks, too, to Zoo's Matt Kennedy, who warmed up for Daniel and pitched it just right. Plus, he played 'Hold On' by Holy Ghost, which rocks). When he finished off with best before: favourite 'Stick Around', the place went nuts. Then Puffin Jack played The Pogues and it all went a bit wrong!

The next instalment of best before: takes place on Saturday January 5th, with old friend Chris Duckenfield joining us for another of his amazing disco/boogie sets. The last party Chris played was insane - easily the best one we've done - and I have a feeling next month's will be brilliant, too. We're all going on to play at Switch at Timbuk2 afterwards, so a big night beckons.

5 best before: December Highlights

1. Holy Ghost - Hold On (as played by Matt Kennedy)
2. Lexx - El Sueno Lucido (as played by Legendary Tone)
3. Laidback - White Horse (as played by Daniel Donnachie)
4. Caribou - She's The One [Kelley Polar Version] (as played by Sell By Dave)
5. Mindless Boogie - The Growler [Woolfy Edit] (as played by Daniel Donnachie)

Monday, 10 December 2007

Tricky Disco interviews… AEROPLANE

Somewhat surprisingly, 2007’s best nu-disco record didn’t come from a bearded Norwegian, but rather two gents from Brussels in Belgium. We are, of course, talking about ‘Caramellas’ by Aeroplane, a rush-inducing midtempo beast that boasts the best piano breakdown we’ve heard for aeons. Even now, some six months after its release, “Caramellas’ still has the capability to send shivers down the spine.

“We were for sure very surprised and happy with the response from DJs like Prins Thomas, Laurent Garnier and Pete Herbert,” says Vito De Luca, one half of the Aeroplane duo with studio partner Stephen Fasano. “We still receive a lot of feedback for this 12”. It feels strange because for us it is a very old track – we made it two years ago.”

‘Caramellas’ was first launched into the public consciousness when Lindstrom & Prins Thomas included it on their brilliant Radio One Essential Mix back in the Spring. That in itself was a something of a fortunate accident, as Stephen explains: “Dirk at Eskimo found out that Hans-Peter and Thomas had been given this mix, so told us to get in touch with them. So I sent them both “Caramellas’ and ‘Aeroplane’, and I had a really quick, positive answer. They played it on the mix, which was really good promotion for a first release I think.”

The ‘Aeroplane’/’Caramellas’ 12” finally dropped late summer, and ever since Stephen and Vito have been hot property. Eskimo have long believed that Aeroplane are pretty special – label boss Dirk will enthuse about their credentials to anyone who’ll listen – but now it seems the rest of us are catching up. Their recent second 12”, ‘Pacific Air Race’, is flying off shelves, testament to the endearing appeal of positive electronic music.

Like ‘Caramellas’ and ‘Aeroplane’, ‘Pacific Air Race’ is a wonderfully upbeat record – all spiralling synths, bubby basslines and hands-aloft rffage. If the Pet Shop Boys teamed up with Reverso 68 to make E’d-up, instrumental synth disco, it would sound like ‘Pacific Air Race’. B-side ‘Above The Clouds’ is similarly luscious – a slo-mo, synth-heavy chunk of MDMA bliss that bares all the Aeroplane trademarks: chugging beats, strong, life-affirming melodies, sweeping strings and pads and more than a hint of late night melodrama.

“I really love the melodies, so the Aeroplane sound is about having a good melody with a disco beat,” Vito says. “We do this style of music not because it’s the disco buzz right now, but because it’s the music we really love.”

Studio partner Stephen agrees. “I’d say it’s about melancholic, vaporous Italian pop and cosmic disco. I collect disco and synth-pop records. Our music is really influenced by this period. But not just this – when I started DJing it was the beginning of the New Beat period in Belgium. I’m also interested in ’70s and ’80s pop, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Giorgio Mororder, Patrick Cowley, the Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Marvin Gaye, Ramsey Lewis, Serge Gainsbourg, Elton John, Vangelis, Arthur Baker, Lucio Battisti… I could.. I could go on about influences all night!”

A typical Aeroplane DJ set at the Make Up Club in Ghent would touch on many of these things, as well as nu-disco, Italo, a dash of Balearica and Cosmic Disco. The duo have recently been given a residency, which will see them become regular fixtures in the club throughout 2008. You can get a taste of their DJ style by downloading the ‘Airpsace1’ mix – link and tracklist at the foot of this piece. As well as a fine selection of recent and forthcoming cosmic, Italo and nu-disco bits, you can check out Stephen and Vito’s remix of ‘Fool For Love’ by Das Pop, one of two forthcoming reworks for Kevin McKay’s Prestel imprint. It takes a haircut-friendly indie-pop track and gives it a typical Aeroplane twist.

“We really love remixing other people’s tracks,” Vito enthuses. “We like to work only with the voice and change the whole harmony of a track. We’ve done two remixes for Prestel – the first for Cobra Dukes and the other for Das Pop. We have quite a few others coming out as well. In February there’s a remix for Low Motion Disco on Eskimo, a remix for Lullabies In The Dark on Permanent Vacation and another one for Lindstrom on Feedelity.”

You get the feeling 2008 is going to be a busy year for our Belgian heroes. In March they release their third single – 'Whispers', a collaboration with Sheffield chanteuse and sometime Maurice Fulton studio pal Kathy Diamond – with their debut album due in the autumn. “We are working on it,” Stephen confirms. “It’s planned to come out at the end of 2008. It will be more personal. Maybe there will be some collaborations with singers. We have been working on some demos since last year. We are taking our time to do it good.”

If ‘Caramellas’ and ‘Pacific Air Race’ are anything to go by, Aeroplane could be one of the soaraway success stories of 2008. Here’s hoping.

Aeroplane: Airspace 1 Mix
Download mix >>

01. Kaoru Inoue - The Secret Field [Todd Terje Remix] (Mule Musiq)
02. Martha 407 [Daniele Baldelli Re-edit] (Cdr)
03. Lovefingers - Zoysia (NRDS)
04. Sugardaddy - Stripped To The Bone (Tirk)
05. Aeroplane Feat Kathy Diamond - Whispers [Hercules and Love Affair Remix] (Cdr)
06. Still Going - Still Going Theme (DFA)
07. El Dukes - Tittle Tattle [Borat Edit] (Cdr)
08. Babytalk - Keep On Move (Sticky Disc)
09. Torch Song – Daniele Baldelli Re-edit (Cdr)
10. Camaro’s Gang - Fuerza Major [Tensnake Remix] (Radius)
11. Das Pop - Fool For Love Love [Aeroplane Remix] (Prestel)
12. Peter Visti - Fighting James (Eskimo)
13. Nemesi - Jurassico [Prins Thomas Mix] (Cdr)