Thursday, April 26, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Winter Music Conference 2007
By Norman Mayers
Christmas is long gone and there are still a few more months to go until summer. But never fear, the Winter Music Conference is here. This annual event takes place in sunny Miami for one week in March and anyone who is anybody in electronic dance music is there. The Winter Music Conference began more than two decades ago as an actual conference for the dance music community to discuss their industry. But where there are DJs, parties are sure to follow and since its humble beginnings the WMC has grown into a sort of meta-festival that lasts a full week. The Winter Music Conference is simply too big to comprehend with the entire dance music community descending upon Miami for a few days of hedonistic insanity. Every DJ, producer, publicist, magazine, journalist, photographer, or fan with any sort of invested interest in electronica will make the journey and as such Miami itself becomes the world’s biggest rave. The city itself seems to become a massive festival with literally hundreds of events taking place throughout the week. Everything from poolside parties to yacht parties to all-day raves to penthouse events to sunrise soirees can be experienced. And these are not your ordinary parties, mind you. The most recognizable DJs, promoters, and labels from around the world are in town giving the people the best dance music around for relatively low prices. Whether you are into house, drum &bass, trance, breaks, hip-hop, or electro you will find only the best of the best during WMC. After almost a decade of going to this marathon of mindless fun, I have perfected the balance of work and fun, interviewing artists during the day and dancing all night. Rather than give a play by play of the entire week, here is a look at the events that rocked my world (or at least the ones I can remember) during my sun-drenched week in Miami.
Bring on the Beats
This killer pool party at the South Seas Hotel is everything Miami is all about: lots of fake breasts and booming bass in the perfect setting to enjoy both. DJ Brazen and crew provided an impressive lineup of major breaks talent that included DJ Icey, Jen Lasher, Scratch-D of Dynamix II, and Dominic B of the Stanton Warriors. With both indoor and outdoor sound systems upgraded by Stanton-Cerwin Vega, partygoers were given plenty of variety. While the major talent kept things hot outside, it was smaller names like Supernaut that really dropped the funk in the smaller indoor area.
DJ Craze Bass Sessions
DJ Craze is, hands down, one of the best DJs on the planet, known for spinning everything from drum & bass to old school. Lately he’s been in the mood for Miami Bass and with this event Craze was able to represent all things that were Miami Bass with a whole lot of breaks, hip-hop and turntablism thrown in. There were plenty of high points throughout this night of turntable masters. Kanye West’s DJ A-trak dropped everything from popular radio cuts to classic hip-hop while DJ Craze gave his fans a full hour of classic Miami Bass insanity. Z-trip kept the momentum going with an eclectic set that had the packed crowd bouncing.
Om Records Party
For years San Francisco based Om Records has been dropping some of the coolest house, downtempo and hip-hop and each year they grace us with a spectacular showcase of their artists and friends at one of Miami’s best venues. This year was no exception as the people of Om put together what was probably the best event during this year’s conference. This year’s event was held at the incredible Y Ultra Lounge, a venue of unprecedented beauty that was almost too amazing to be true. This ridiculous space came with 5 distinct areas, 4 of them indoors in gorgeous modern décor with a bumping soundsystem, and one massive outdoor area that was literally a tropical oasis. Amongst the palm trees, wood brides, waterfalls and winding rivers was a massive grass dancefloor covered by a tent. And with sets by exceptional talent like DJ Heather, Collette, Mark Farina, DJ Sneak and a long list of other top house jocks, the vibe will probably remain the highlight of my entire year.
Stone Throw Hella International Party
Independent hip-hop label Stones Throw held this charming event at the Raleigh Hotel. With it’s sandy beach vibe and laid back hip-hop grooves by Peanut Butter Wolf and Madlib, this was the perfect way to usher in the night after a full day of party hopping.
Future Sound of Breaks
This event was pure heaven for anyone with even a passing interest in breakbeats. With five rooms of sound and over 2,000 beat lovers in attendance this was definitely a highlight of the week. Major talent like Uberzone, DJ Icey, Krafty Kuts, and Stanton Warriors kept the masses entertained but it was the electro bass room that yielded the night’s most rewarding musical experience. Performances by Craze, Kuad Soundsystem, Supreme Ja, and Scratch D were so intoxicating that I simply was unable to move from my spot for hours. These promoters just seem to get better each year, representing this often marginalized style of electronica with high-end respectability.
Ultra Music Festival
The rain put a damper of what was Ultra’s biggest year yet. Sprawled out over two consecutive days with sets on Day One from 80s legends the Cure and on Day Two from just about every DJ on the planet, Ultra was almost too large to comprehend. The massive Bicentennial Park seemed to take two hours to walk around and the rain and mud made it difficult to get around. But the music was constantly a revelation whether it was the always impressive Carl Cox or the consummate professionalism of drum & bass icons Planet of the Drums. Although Ultra may not have been the talk of the town as in previous years, it remains one of the iconic experiences of the American dance music scene.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
AN INTERACTIVE EXHIBIT
OF BOX INSPIRED ART AND MEDIA
FEATURING ORIGINAL ARTWORK BY:
APRIL 21, 2007
ONE NIGHT ONLY
SCION INSTALLATION L.A. SPACE
3521 HELMS AVENUE (AT NATIONAL)
CULVER CITY, CA 90232
MEET THE ARTISTS. ALL ARTWORK IS FOR SALE.
Scion Presents "Want2BSquare" Art Shows in Los Angeles and New York to Promote the All-New 2008 Scion xB
-Gallery Shows Feature Original Artwork from: Dalek, Matzu, Maya Hayuk, Sage Vaughn, Kelsey Brookes, UPSO, and Freddi C-
LOS ANGELES (March, 2007) – Scion has called upon seven dynamic contemporary and internationally-recognized artists to create original artwork inspired by and in celebration of the all-new 2008 xB urban utility vehicle. The artwork will be displayed at "Want2BSquare" art shows in New York and Los Angeles, and carry the theme of squares, boxes and cubes to follow the xB's boxy style.
"The 'Want2BSquare' show is a great opportunity to blend the creative art world with the launch of the second generation xB," said Jeri Yoshizu, Scion sales promotions manager. "Scion will continue to promote artistic creativity in special gallery executions like this."
Each artist was asked to paint on canvases of two square sizes, 48" x 48" and 24" x 24", which were then assembled into cubes that will be suspended from the ceiling at various heights throughout the gallery. Smaller cubes will display the artwork on the outside, while the larger cubes will show artwork on the inside enabling the viewer to gaze up into the artwork from directly beneath the box.
Artists involved in the show include
--Dalek, creator of the famed Space Monkeys (www.dalekart.com);
--Matzu, a Japanese artist (www.matzu.net);
--Maya Hayuk, a classic-rock-punk-folk-rainbow-peace-freak-out artist (www.mayahayuk.com);
--Sage Vaughn, a Los Angeles based artist (www.sagevaughn.com);
--Kelsey Brookes, scientist-turned-illustrator (www.kelseybrookes.com);
--UPSO, publisher of the Art Annual "Faesthetic" (www.upso.org); and
--Freddi C, founder of the Streetwise art series, (www.freddic.com).
Guests will be able to meet the artists at both shows and have the opportunity to purchase the original art work. All proceeds from the sales will go directly to the artists.
The Want2BSquare art shows will take place in New York on April 6th at Skylight Studios (275 Hudson Street) and in Los Angeles on April 21st at the Scion Installation L.A. gallery (3521 Helms Avenue, at National). Each event will also feature live DJ entertainment. Cosmo Baker and DJ Ayers from The Rub DJs will perform at the New York events, while the Los Angeles show will host DJ Ramses and DJ Denimslinger.
The art shows are part of an xB pre-launch strategy anchored by the recently launched Want2BSquare.com site. The site was developed by Scion's creative agency, ATTIK. The "square" universe is represented inside an engaging, entertaining, multidimensional web experience where visitors are encouraged to explore an expansive world, play games against other visitors, view a wealth of video content celebrating the xB's boxy shape, and discover other quirky experiences.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Timbaland Presents: Shock Value
6.5 out of 10
By Norman Mayers
Ever since Timbaland emerged as the major contributor on Aaliyah’s 1996 sophomore album One In A Million he has literally changed the face of modern music. Almost single-handedly Tim pushed hip-hop and R&B away from the gritty early 90s sound into the new millennium where cleanly produced electro-leaning spectacles became the norm. Since those early days Timbaland has gone onto to create astounding sonic landscapes for artists as wide-ranging as Missy Elliott, Brandy, Tweet, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg. In 2006 the super-producer dominated the popular lexicon with his work on Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado’s projects, continuing to inject much needed musical experimentation into pop music. Fresh off this career high, Timbaland presents Shock Value, which is only his second release as a solo artist. While Shock Value delivers some heady thrills throughout it’s far from the home run that one would expect from a genius like Timbaland.
The level of talent on display on Shock Value is astounding, reading like a veritable who’s who of today biggest music stars. Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Nicole Scherzinger, Fall Out Boy and the Hives all lend their support with varying degrees of success. With a Timbaland album the main focus is going to be the beats and for the most part the album does not disappoint. The productions have an 80s flair that permeates the entire project with dark electro synths, echoing vocals and tinkling percussion dominating the sound. Timbaland is not a great rapper and thus the album’s best tracks find him taking a back seat to his talented friends. Of course the lead single “Give It To Me” featuring Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado is the most obvious example of this. The track works because of the potent combination of Timbaland’s fluttering groove and Furtado and Timberlake’s boastful verses. Just as memorable is “Bounce” a dark, bass heavy track that finds Timberlake proposing a ménage a trios, Dr. Dre rapping about panty anthems, and Missy Elliott screaming “Hold up. Hell no. Like Britney Spears I wear no drawers.” Most of the best tracks are of the R&B/dance variety such as the “Sexy Back”-flavored “The Way I Are” and “Release”. Halfway through Timbaland gets his sexy groove on with a pair of winners “Scream” and “Miscommunication”, both of which feature Keri Hilson, a newcomer who seems to naturally fit into Tim’s elaborate symphonies. The more hip-hop oriented tracks aren’t as interesting with 50 Cent’s track “Come and Get Me” sounding like every other 50 track. “Kill Yourself”, however, is noteworthy for it’s clever and eerie sampling of the first Resident Evil film.
Shock Value is also a rather adventurous album as it finds Timbaland working with various rock and pop artists. Unfortunately this is where the album loses steam as collaborations with the Hives and Fall Out Boy come across as blatant attempts at rock success and less like an organic fusing of Timbaland’s futurism and said bands alt rock sensibilities. Some moments do shine, most notably the piano funk of “Apologize” (featuring One Republic) that seems to reference both Phil Collins and Coldplay in one very revolutionary package.
While Shock Value may not be the prefect album that many have hoped for, it does possess various charms. Timbaland is still the most prolific producer to ever emerge and more than a decade from his debut he continues to not only dominate but also innovate popular music.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
This was so funny I just had to share. It's one of the fake trailers from Grindhouse. This one is called "Thanksgiving" which is basically about a killer on Thanksgiving. Think Halloween, Black Christmas, Friday the 13th, and My Bloody Valentine. Beware! This has gore and nudity.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Out Of The Woods
7.5 out of 10
By Norman Mayers
Tracey Thorn is renowned as the voice of Everything But the Girl, a band that began their career creating heart breaking folk-pop but went on to reinvent themselves as international electronica superstars. While musical and life partner Ben Watt has been traveling the world as a house DJ, Thorn has been off the radar until now. Out Of The Woods is Thorn’s first recorded material in over half a decade and first solo album in over two decades. The album is a pastiche of Thorn’s expansive career, encompassing 80s new wave, psychedelic folk, and elegant electronica. While some moments may sound too much like the international (and timeless) hit “Missing”, Thorn’s melancholy voice is as beautiful as ever and Out Of The Woods succeeds due mostly to her unmistakable presence.
Everything But The Girl will always remain one of the most diverse groups in history and Tracey Thorn channels that into Out Of the Woods. The moments that stand out are so eclectic that they seem to come out of different eras of EBTG’s evolution. The stark balladry of “Hands Up To The Ceiling” is a huge contrast to the futuristic trip-hop of “Easy” yet both tracks are cemented by Thorn’s soaring vocals. Her voice is so singular, expressing vulnerability, sadness and strength simultaneously, allowing her to easily sell both dance oriented tracks and downtempo explorations with ease. The album works best when straddling folk and electronica elements such as on the gossamer laced “A-Z” or the funk-lite of “Falling Off A Log”, yet falters on Blondie-esque cuts like “Get Around To It”. “Grand Canyon” sounds a little too much like those late 90s EBTG tracks, but who can fault Thorn for trying to recapture the magic. But it’s the album closer “Raise The Roof” that leaves the biggest impact, whipping a million 80s references into a shiny percussion laden masterpiece.
So after several years in the dark, Tracey Thorn re-emerges more or less as we remember her, embracing all her incarnations for better or worse. And with a talent as timeless as hers we couldn’t ask for anything more.
Tracey Thorn on Myspace