Soundwaves

New CD compilations from David Knapp, Roland Belmares, Chris Cox and JC Sindress

To the students in the Winter Semester "Advanced House DJs" seminar: School’s out, and you’re anxious to get to your next big gigs, or to the beach. But since your final class projects in this seminar are all being released to a buying public eager for beach mixes, it’s only fair that they see how you DJs fared, grade-wise. Some of the popular crowd didn’t make it through to the end of the term. Brett Henrichsen was expelled after he flubbed his The Club 2003 (Masterbeat) by including only straight clubland couples in the CD booklet artwork, abandoning his core audience. For shame. Alyson Calagna and Julian Marsh each dropped out early, and that’s just as well, since their awful Centaur releases Party Groove: Blue Ball Volume 2 and Party Groove: Motorball Volume 2, respectively, would have earned them each an F.



Chris Cox

CHRIS COX: After several lackluster compilations, you’ve finally nailed it. Maybe your platform should always be a specifically queer one, as it is with Queer as Folk Third Season Disc 1 (Tommy Boy Records). This third edition in the series is definitely the charm of the lot (it’s also the first two-parter, though Disc 2 is a poorly executed grab bag of pop-rock). A Divine track, in its original, unadulterated form? How, well, divine. We need a Divine-like character in gay culture these days, but in the meantime, reviving the ’80s trash-talking drag queen (and original Hairspray hefty momma) is just fine by us. "Native Love" is Divine at her hilarious best. There’s not a dud among the eight tracks here, but why only eight? Your sequence isn’t perfect, and you’ve created a bottom-heavy disc, with the very best tracks at the end, from the remarkable "Viva Colombia," a polyrhythmic house versus salsa battle blend, to Cassius‘s pulsating marvel, "The Sound of Violence." All in all, though, you really knocked this one out of Babylon, Mr. Cox. Grade: A-  



Roland Belmares

ROLAND BALMARES: You’ve loaded your very first compilation, Party Groove: Winter Party Volume 6 (Centaur Entertainment), with crowd-pleasing vocal tracks. But you’ve done it in a disjointed greatest-hits fashion and not the carefully, creatively assembled musical trip through a night out on the dance floor that it should be. There’s more to making a great mixed CD than a knack for picking good hits. But at least you’ve got an ear for picking good tracks that other DJs haven’t noticed. The two-year-old dance song from ’80s’ teen idol Tiffany, "I’m Not Sleeping," hasn’t received as much play as it should have. And Sherrie Lea‘s "Anyway," as remixed by Hex Hector, is a darling track. You’ve overloaded your CD with high-calorie sugarpop in an unbalanced proportion, Mr. Balmares, but somehow it still tastes good. Grade: B-



David Knapp

DAVID KNAPP: You surely need no advice, having made a go of this gay DJ biz for more than a decade. And on Global Groove: House 2 (Centaur), kudos to you for paying attention to the world of music outside most U.S. DJs’ spin cycle. Few other DJs have paid any heed to Erasure‘s recent cover of Peter Gabriel’s "Solsbury Hill." You found a remix of it. You also hit us with K-Klass featuring Kinane’s "Talk 2 Me," a soon-to-be clubland hit, given its pending CD single release. Good job of taking early note of this ecstatic song. The bar for this House compilation series was set incredibly high by Tony Moran‘s inaugural edition last year, and you almost miss it by including too many other bland or miscast tracks. Grade: B

J.C. SINDRESS: You offer further proof that disco never actually died. With Barfly IV (George V. Records), Mr. Sindress, you prove that you’re one of the true leaders of the French neo-disco revolution (with Daft Punk). You’ve spent eight years spinning a combination of soul, funk, hip-hop and house at Barfly, where the pretty people go in Paris. And of course they do; they know to expect first-rate house music. You can listen to Barfly IV forwards, backwards, at random or on continuous play: no matter, it’ll take a while to differentiate one track from another. That’s a compliment, as compilations by their very nature are disjointed affairs, and no matter how well quilted together nearly always sound as unique as each colored block of your grandmother’s handmade afghan. But your disco fusion style so colors each track that at first rush it sounds like a single, uniform block of material. This compilation stands Eiffel Tower-style above all others for that reason, and for this: there is not one weak track among 16 here, only weak moments in a couple songs. They don’t last long. Grade: A

Email Doug Rule at drule@metroweekly.net.


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Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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Soundwaves

The war on music downloads, the Circuit DJs' spin, and Apple's new iTunes

W.M.D.s IN YOUR COMPUTERÂ… We almost exclusively focus on CDs in this space, because that’s how we primarily listen to dance music. And that’s what the industry wants you (actually, needs you) to do, as well. Actually, neither wants nor needs works as the verb to describe the actions of the hyper-defensive, preemptive music industry. "Force" is more like it. You could be forced to pay a five-figure fine to the industry, as was the case with four college kids recently, for assisting others in downloading music for free. But apparently that’s not forceful enough. The New York Times reported two Sundays ago that the industry is concocting its own weapons of mass destruction, all aimed at we the people: from causing downloaders’ computers or their personal Internet connections to freeze for as long as several hours, to scanning and then deleting pirated music files. Many of these W.M.D.s are of questionable legality, meaning the industry is considering fighting illegal activity with more illegal activity. What’s that old saying about two wrongs not making something?



Henrichsen

Yes, yes, the industry has lost billions of dollars over the years, at least some of which really, truly can be blamed on online downloading and not inferior, overpriced product.  But really, is this the type of behavior — attacking current or at least potential customers — we want to encourage, through our hard-earned dollars? Brett Henrichsen, fresh from Cherry 8’s Main Event, isn’t precisely defending the industry these days, but he is singing its tune, literally and figuratively. He started his impressive MASTERbeat series of dance compilations out of sheer frustration over the lack of dance music available to the consumer, and now six years on he thinks the industry has shaped up and is committed to a consumer culture for dance music.

"When I first started MASTERbeat in 1997, the general consumer could not go into a music store and buy the full-length extended mix [on CD] of most of the dance music that DJ’s were playing in the clubs," Henrichsen said via email. From where we sit, though, too much of dance music still remains unavailable to the average, non-vinyl-oriented listener — especially the tracks and remixes that have DJs spinning right round, which aren’t made available until they’ve nearly peaked in DJ popularity. Unavailable, that is, except for at refuges like KaZaa, Grokster and all those other dirty, nasty, illegal sites.

Another Cherry 8 DJ, Billy Carroll, who’s been immersed in the industry since his guest-DJ days at Studio 54, can relate to consumer angst, but his sympathies lie with the depressed, demoralized industry.

"Downloading concerns me," he said in a phone interview. "It doesn’t give record labels money, so they’re not making money, and if they can’t recoup their costs, why should they bother producing music? Something’s got to give."

THE APPLE OF OUR EARSÂ… Could Apple‘s new industry-sanctioned iTunes Music Store be that something, the pulley that will help bring musical peace and harmony to us all? The favorably reviewed service offers a large, broad database of songs available with limited restrictions for 99 cents apiece (although it’s Mac-only until later this year). I haven’t yet had a chance to check out the collection of dance music, but being Apple, I suspect it’s impressive. It is already spurring competitors to offer alternatives, so maybe it’s the diplomatic roadmap that will stamp out a long, ugly battle.

Apple’s service is just the latest effort to revive an industry stepping up efforts to push products it hopes will replace CDs. Initially, this takes the form of releasing the advanced discs — featuring superior audio as well as multimedia content, playable either in a CD player or DVD player — at the same time as the traditional CD. And already this year, six of the largest music retailers, who must be feeling more threatened by the day, created a joint venture to explore ways of offering consumers online and in-store deals. Will either work? Stay tuned.

Just how do you satiate your appetite for dance music? Through CDs, radio, fee-oriented online subscription site, or free illegal ones? Are you satisfied? Do you have ideas for improvement? E-mail me at drule@metroweekly.com to get a discussion going.


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Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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