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Star remixer Peter Rauhofer was the man behind the sexily named remixing outfit Club 69 and currently DJs at New York’s Roxy nightclub. The two-disc Live@Roxy shows Rauhofer’s skill with spinning and remixing records, with tracks blended seamlessly and featuring actual melodies much of the time. Part of the joy of dance music is anticipating what comes next as a song builds and breaks down and builds again, from start to finish. Disc two kicks off with “I Am Ready” by Size Queen (Rauhofer’s latest sex-inspired pseudonym). With that song’s seven-minute Rough Mix going nowhere at all, we too are more than ready…for track two. Anxiety kicks in early with his remix of Funky Green Dogs’ “Rise Up,” in which he’s thrown a litany of DJ bells and whistles. But he keeps the glorious original song in here — with verses and chorus and everything! — and simply plays with his bells and whistles throughout, for added entertaining effect.
Still, more often than not Rauhofer wears us down with empty promises and broken songs. Laszlo Panaflex’s “Dance to the Music” keeps our interest for a few minutes, until soon enough all that remains is the line “if you want music” repeated over and over again. Yes of course we want music, silly. Please tell us what we need to do to get it. Javith’s “Workin” starts off strong with an infectious percolating rhythm. But that’s all there is to it, as it repeats its way to the next song, which features a creative rhythm that almost makes up for a lack of true melody. Rauhofer, we can forgive you for your frequent breaks — between and even during songs — at least when you’re spinning live. But remember, a CD is forever. At least it could be.
Sound Factory Uncut: Thirteen on Thirteen is not even for today. Sound Factory resident DJ Jonathan Peters celebrates the vaunted club with this compilation, but Peters’ two discs are certainly “cut” from the 25-hour-plus run of the club’s anniversary party, and in any case feature 25 tracks, not 13. It means to stand for 13 years on the 13th of April, I know, but while that gimmick worked for the event itself, it doesn’t for a CD released months after the fact. But that’s the least of its problems. The compilation’s booklet offers many telling examples of why, you’ll want to avoid this set. Featuring running commentary from unnamed, overjoyed celebrants, the booklet includes this gem of an entry: “The hard beats just won’t let up. No vocals. Just the beats. I’m covered in sweat, my hair is drenched! The air is thick with fog and the lights are right out there with Jonathan. This is the greatest love fest in the world.”
Dear’ins, keep all that in mind as you consider this compilation in the light of day, featuring hard beats, no vocals, sweaty bass, drenched melodies covered in unpenetrable fog and burning-retina lights. Live, it may have been glorious fog and glitter. But on record, it’s all smoke and mirrors, promising what it doesn’t begin to offer. “Let’s generate some sound,” a heavy breathing, deep-voiced man says early on, and that it does. It’s not music, and it’s not anything worth hearing.
Earth Music Vol. 2
12 Inches of Cox
Bedrock Compiled & Mixed
Hello and welcome to the music industry’s fabulous big year-end finish. In 2002 the hope is for nothing short of a miracle to revive album sales. The industry has pulled out all the stops and brought back virtually every artist who’s ever once attained any sort of fame, from Depeche Mode to Soft Cell to U2 to Mariah Carey. But you over there, with the clubwear and glowsticks: you might as well put away that credit card. While many of the leading lights on the dance scene are out in force with new CDs, none (NONE, I repeat) are worthy of your time. Not the latest from Junior Vasquez or Peter Rauhofer or Jonathan Peters or Chris Cox. Why yes, it seems the dance labels suffer from the same cloudy thinking that recently befell a certain political party: You’ll support us regardless, so why bother offering anything with substance? Well if only this year, it’s time to be conservative with your money.
Take Junior, the granddaddy of ’em all. His first volume of hits inspired by his year-old gig at Earth was a delight, packed with brand-new hits that kept the CD fresh many months after release. With Earth Music Vol. 2, Junior offers more brand-new tracks from powerhouse vocalists (Lamya, Kristine W., Suzanne Palmer). But it’s hard to believe any of these will have the dance floor staying power of Dolce’s “Fire” or Kevin Aviance’s “Alive,” to name but two from his first volume. From the ugly-eye cover to the track selection, Junior appears to be coasting on his tiring grandiosity. As it is written (in his liner notes): “With a following that rivals that of Jesus ChristÂ…his loyal disciples clock his every move.” With this move, it’s time to question that Juniorverse faith.
Then there’s Chris Cox, who (along with Jonathan Peters’s Sound Factory Uncut: Thirteen on Thirteen) try to allure you with a suggestive title. Cox may well have 12 very personal inches, but with 12 Inches of Cox to show for himself, that still doesn’t make him especially comely. Unlike Peters (Sound Factory), Junior (Earth) or Rauhofer (Roxy), Cox isn’t celebrating a particular club with his CD, and if he were, he’d probably single out D.C.’s own Velvet, his favorite space to spin. He’ll be there this Saturday, and by all means, if you like pop-dance, go. He’s never a let down live. But on record? Well, for instance, where’s the “Faster, Better, Harder, Stronger” Cox promises by including that Daft Punk tune here? Dammit if he hasn’t totally ruined some of the songs that, on face value, would be the only reason to buy the CD. The shrill, ascending keyboard technique that’s never a good idea used once is used without letup on his ill-advised tweaking of Perpetual Dreamer’s “The Sound of Goodbye.” Let’s get out of Cox’s “Head” and his “world of make believe.” Most of the best songs here can be found on better compilations, so seek them out. “Shiny Disco Balls” by Who Da Funk featuring Jessica Eve is one exception, since it’s a newly released track; it delivers the “late night booty calls, shiny disco balls” as promised.
Of all the latest compilations, Cox and Junior deserve praise for not wasting plastic — and our time — by offering two-disc sets, as everyone else ignominiously does. But that’s faint praise, indeed. Heed the advice given in the “Fuck Sonnet” by Creamer and Quick. The only memorable song on remixing duo John Creamer & Stephane K’s two-disc Bedrock compilation, this potty-mouthed orgy hits you right at the peak of your worst-ever hangover. “But fuck you for letting me fuck you now,” it admonishes. How true. Everyone still with me tonight, repeat after me: Never. ‘Fuck’ing. Again.
Last week Christina Aguilera kicked off a "Dirrty" season of overwrought singing and undernourished diva-wannabes. This week, none other than Whitney Houston and Toni Braxton bow with new material. And soon making their way to a dance floor near you: Justin Timberlake, Deborah Cox, Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey. But pay attention only to them and you’ll miss out on more satisfying, more original CDs. In fact, two of the more notable new artists of the year got lost in the shuffle of CDs released at the end of summer, so you can be sure they’ll be forgotten now.
But how can you forget Lamya? The Middle East-native added her charming, extraordinary vocals to back up Soul II Soul, Duran Duran, David Bowie and others over the past decade. After years of waiting, her stunning debut album was released several months ago, and to this day we remain enthralled by her idiosyncratic music and pliable vocalizations that are never overdone, in the manner of Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Bjork and Erykah Badu. The album title, Learning from Falling, is drawn from one of the savviest pop songs to be heard in a while, "Splitting Atoms." From the get go we’re hypnotized by the sitar chords and tabla beats, but especially by how the music powerfully, understatedly complements its poetic lyrics. Hear the notes fall as Lamya sings, "I’m learning from fallingÂ…downÂ…hard." Admire her adroitness with words: "I lost my way, in all the shades of gray, and grades of shade, shadows put away to be forgotten, I lost but didn’t lose the lesson."
Her "Empires" is unlike any modern-day pop song, beyond its unforgettable, peace-loving lyrics ("Bring me men to match my mountainsÂ…men to match my plains, empires in their purpose — new eras in their brains"). Backed by an orchestra, it’s a hoot in Lamya’s spongy, playful voice.
Daniel Bedingfield is not as category-defying as Lamya, and he could be grouped with today’s waning boy-band brand of pop. But his sound is as much Robbie Williams as Justin Timberlake. Yes, as with Mr. N’Sync, he sings a song titled "Girlfriend" and he offers soulful coloratura, with several songs on Gotta Get Thru This featuring Michael Jackson falsettos. Bedingfield sometimes stretches his soothing, reedy voice to its tuneful limits. But his best work shows a modern-day British influence refreshing to our Amer-centric ears. His second best song, "Inflate My Ego," is every bit as theatrical in style (it samples Henry Mancini’s "Peter Gunn Theme"), dramatic in sound and mockingly self-absorbed as Williams’s music.
Bedingfield’s most accomplished song, the album’s title track, somehow managed to squeak its way to Billboard’s Top Ten in September with little airplay or publicity, and topped the dance charts a few weeks later. Who needs Neptune’s stripped-down bass grooves (see Justin, Britney, Jay-Z) when British two-step beats can jerk you just as well? No Doubt. It features a kickingly intense reverb and a delayed beat pattern similar to Madonna’s "Music." Move past the album’s occasional moldy bottles of syrup-sap collected from the Back Street Boys’ once-prolific tree and savor the Jamaican-me-crazy manic mood of "Friday" waiting for the girlfriend to return home. Feast on the Sugar Ray-esque sunbaked, pleading vocals and pop-rock of "I Can’t Read You" and "Girlfriend." You’ll get through it all right — and then come back for more.