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++ Needle Drops is now an occasional music column that a number of Neumu writers take turns writing. All columns prior to March 2004 were written by Philip Sherburne.

++ Recently ++

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 = The Stooges Unearthed (Again)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 = Documenting Beulah And DCFC

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 = Out-Of-Control Rock 'N' Roll Is Alive And Well

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 = Just In Time For Halloween

Monday, October 3, 2005 = The Dandyesque Raunch Of Louis XI

Monday, August 15, 2005 = The Empire Blues

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 = David Howie's Sónar Diary

Monday, July 25, 2005 = Hot Sounds For Summertime

Monday, June 27, 2005 = Overcoming Writer's Block At Sónar 2005

Monday, June 4, 2005 = Cool New Sounds To Download Or Stream

++ Needle Drops Archives ++

View full list of Needle Drops articles...

Monday, July 25, 2005

++ Hot Sounds For Summertime

By Dave Renard

++ Travel: Recently spent a few days in Montreal, where music seeps out of almost every storefront on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, from record stores to dive bars to rock clubs to electro-house parties. Reading list: Love Saves the Day, Tim Lawrence's amazingly detailed account of U.S. dance culture and the rise of disco in the 1970s, when guys like Francis Grasso invented modern-day DJing from scratch and David Mancuso spent $150,000 (!) on the home sound system for the Loft. Beats have taken over my brain ...

++ !!!, "Take Ecstasy With Me" (Touch and Go): Along with chirp-chirp-chirp and ding-ding-ding (Mr. Softee!), add chik-chik-chik to the essential sounds of summer. It's !!! covering the Magnetic Fields, no less, turning the melancholy closing track from 1993's Holiday (why don't we have fun anymore?) into a joyful but somehow stil beautifully melancholy dance anthem (let's have fun some more!). "Take Ecstasy With Me" starts out almost surprisingly faithful to the original, even imitating Stephin Merritt's deep voice, but soon takes on a life of its own with beefed-up drums, woozy layers of strings, and echoing, rubbery bass. With none of the in-your-face-ness of a track like "Pardon My Freedom," this is a song for hazy, humid nights when the stars are overhead and your cocktail glass is beaded with sweat. (Listen to a sound clip of "Take Ecstasy With Me" and its B-side, a cover of Nate Dogg's "Get Up", courtesy of !!!'s official site.)

++The Juan Maclean, "Shining Skinned Friend" (DFA/Astralwerks): According to juanmaclean.com this song describes an illicit love triangle between a man, a woman, and the man's gay robot friend. In a way, it's a duet: The Gary Numan-voiced human calls out ("White nights/ In dark cafés/ With my shining skinned friend"), and the robot responds in the form of a wickedly catchy metallic melody. The dance influences are 1970s/80s, and the hard-hitting drums are sampled from Maclean's early-'90s band, Sub Pop electro-rockers Six Finger Satellite, but the production is 2005 all the way and avoids sounding overly retro-fetishistic. Based on the evidence available so far, the Juan Maclean's Less Than Human (out August 9) is a contender for the dance record of the year. (Visit the Juan Maclean's Web site, where you can sample every track and several remixes from Less Than Human. Click on "Radio.")

++ Lindstrom, "I Feel Space" (Feedelity): With the "space disco" sound that he's perfected — slow but insistent tempos, analog keyboards, wild dub f/x and phased-out percussive breaks — now coming into vogue, Norway's Hans-Peter Lindstrom is everywhere these days, from remixes (including Freeform Five and the Juan Maclean) and collaborations with fellow Norwegian Prins Thomas to solo releases on his own Feedelity label. "I Feel Space" relies less on ping-ponging conga drums and more on melody, with keyboards that come on slow like a sunrise, floating on top of synthesized snares and an Italo-disco bass line. During the song's breakdown, varying synth patterns pop in and out to tease your ears until the beat's back. Warm and inviting — it's one to get lost in. (Listen to a preview of "I Feel Space" at the Feedelity Web site.)

++ Roll Deep, "The Avenue" (Relentless): This song makes me question whether I even like UK grime — it's quickly becoming my favorite grime song and it's not even grimy! Instead, the Roll Deep crew (which has included such big names as Dizzee Rascal and Wiley) gets all Ghostface and rolls right over a barely altered track, in this case an obscure 1982 UK chart hit called "Heartache Avenue," by the Maisonnettes. (Ultra-catchy whitebread pop soul — ABC meets Hall & Oates?) In contrast to the claustrophobic soundworld of many grime tracks, with their aggressive drums, icy cymbals, gunclaps and ringtone electronics, "The Avenue" lets some sunshine peek through the clouds, making it the across-the-pond equivalent of a summer jam like Jay-Z's "H.O.V.A." (Roll Deep's In at the Deep End is so far only available in the U.S. as on import, but it can be found online at music stores like Juno, which has a sound clip of "The Avenue.")

++ Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl (Diplo's Hollatronix Remix)" (Interscope): OK, now the shit is bananas. The Neptunes-produced, high-school-marching-band original mix of "Hollaback Girl" sounded can't-miss on paper, but was actually kind of overrated in practice. On his second major-label remix (the first was for Le Tigre), Diplo pumps crazy energy into this track like it's Pulp Fiction and Uma needs her adrenalin shot. It starts with Gwen's chopped-up vocals stuttering over breakbeats straight out of Baltimore house music, also known as "B-more club," and gobbles up electro bass lines, '80s synths and a wacked-out solo (is that a melodica?) before its three minutes are up. I can't get with everything Stefani's done, but her willingness to take chances has resulted in a string of undeniably hot singles, from Eve's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" to No Doubt's "Hella Good."

++ One last note on a misdemeanor I committed last month — "Lose Control" was produced by Missy Elliott herself, not by Timbaland. "Repeat, you'll lose your teeth and I would hate to call you gummy."


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