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UPCOMING CDS TO BENEFIT GAY, AIDS CAUSESÂ… Two pop music compilations are set for release to benefit AIDS and gay causes. Capitol Records is unveiling an eclectic compilation to benefit the Royal Initiative to Combat AIDS, a U.S. nonprofit working to fight the disease in Southern Africa. The 18-track Songs for Life compilation features both African and American artists, offering old and new hits from the likes of Destiny’s Child, Paul Simon, Patti LaBelle and Joan Osborne, as well as remixes of Britney Spears‘ "Stronger" and Mary J. Blige‘s "Keep Your Head." An even more promising compilation will be released by Off Records in mid-October, set to benefit New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk School for gay youth. The theme: a tribute to John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask‘s blazing 2001 movie musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. All profits from this compilation, Wig in a Box, will go to the school, but best yet is the indie-rock lineup of artists invited to cover Hedwig tunes, including Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper, the B-52s’ Fred Schneider, Bob Mould, Yoko Ono, The Breeders and They Might Be Giants. Mitchell and Trask have also composed a new track, "The Water Song," for the album. For more information visit www.hedwiginabox.com.
BOUTIQUE DANCE, DEEP DISH-STYLEÂ… Ali Shirazinia of DJ duo Deep Dish is singing the praises of DJs Luke Fair and Desyn Masiello, calling them "two of the most talented and fast-rising stars in dance music today." Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi of Deep Dish know from dance music stars, since the two Washington, D.C. Grammy-winning remixers are just about the biggest stars themselves, as one unit, and highly regarded promoters of others, through their locally-based boutique record label, Yoshitoshi. Deep Dish liked the sounds of Fair and Masiello so much the two were signed to the Yoshitoshi label and each offered the plum spot of mixing a disc in the third volume of the two-disc collection In House We Trust. Fair, of Toronto, and Masiello, of London, are competent, intelligent DJs who have clearly put significant thought into their respective contributions to In House We Trust 3. And while they are notable compilations, the most they do is prove that the two new-to-record DJs show real promise. Eventually — not now — they may storm dance floors in their own right, without a push from Deep Dish.
Masiello has been first out of the worldwide-touring gate, and his CD proves he’s the more experienced of the two. Fair, however, gives us the better thrill over time and repeated listens, since he mostly avoids featuring bad tracks, which plagues Masiello’s outing. Fair produces a remarkably even-keeled CD, filled with trippy, slow-moving grooves and twisted house that is apparently his signature sound. The only problem is he spends a little too much time in the abstract creating minimal tracks. Both Fair and Masiello will appear at Nation’s still-new weekly event, Code, this Friday after midnight.
Code, which has rapidly become a pedestal-style showcase for DJs, hosted Deep Dish’s sort-of homecoming a few weeks back, in advance of the duo’s latest two-disc remixed album, Global Underground 025: Toronto (Global Underground). As with its previous albums, Deep Dish’s latest may not feature any productions with multiplatninum pop artists the duo is best known for, but what it lacks in mainstream glamour it more than makes up for in dancefloor glitz. These are moody, lush, deep house tracks you’ll dance to for a long time to come, and still remain ahead of the curve. That goes for the dramatic Checky & Spider’s "In Love" as much as it does for Electric Mood featuring Melanie’s "Sacred Dance" or the spangling Junkie XL & Sasha’s "Breezer." Or Sultan’s "Night Visions," also featured in Luke Fair’s mix.
DANCING TO GAY PORNÂ… A DJ called Soft Pink Truth (Drew Daniel) performed electro-influenced tracks at a dance music festival in Barcelona two weeks ago. And, according to the New York Times, he found "a great visual accompaniment: clips of gay pornography, minus the pornography. What was left? An amusing cavalcade of strapping gardeners, joggers in the woods and masked intruders." Here’s to the dancing porn idea, er, spreading.
HATCH RACHETS UP THE SNATCH ATTACKÂ… And here’s to an idea — and a man — to be stopped. "I’m all for destroying their machines," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at a Senate hearing on musical copyright abuse. Hatch was referring to the music industry’s latent suggestion of using technology to damage the computers of frequent downloaders of free music. Hatch, a musical composer himself (but not of music regularly, if ever, illegally downloaded) approves of a three-strikes-you’re-out-of-a-computer approach to combating online copyright violators, according to Billboard magazine. When one industry executive at the hearing said "no one is interested in destroying anyone’s computer," Billboard reports Hatch interrupted to say, "I’m interested." That’s our Congress at work for us.
CHART WATCHÂ… It’s summertime and the sun is finally peeking out from the clouds. That’s a good enough reason to get out, get up and get dancing. But wait! There’s an even better reason to dance. We’re drowning in quality material right now. Usually, weeks go by and only a few songs stand out in Billboard‘s influential Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, compiled by a select crew of 140 reporting DJs, including many familiar names (the local Darryl Strickland, Julian Marsh, Peter Rauhofer, Joe Gauthreaux, Lydia Prim). But the past few weeks have been exceptional, and the week of June 21 is a case in point — songs great and good stack the Top 20, most of them songs you’ve likely heard before (for a change). Besides the usual suspects (Justin, Whitney, J.Lo, Anastacia, a new, boring Deborah Cox), there’s also Daniel Bedingfield, at number nine with remixes of his accomplished ballad "If You’re Not the One." There’s the pesky maybe-lesbians t.A.T.u. at three with remixes of "Not Gonna Get Us," the best song from their recent album. At four there’s Puretone, who last year gave us the habit-forming "Addicted to Bass," from one of the best dance-pop artist albums in years, Stuck in a Groove (V2). And there are others (Becky Baeling‘s "Getaway," soaring to number two, Ricky Martin‘s "Relight My Fire," Deborah Cooper‘s "Real Love") just bubbling up to the surface of frequent club play. To paraphrase Puretone, we’re stuck in a groove, with too many good tunes going round in our head.
A SCUM-FREE FROGPONDÂ… Monica‘s single "So Gone" from her just-released album is climbing high on every singles chart, including Billboard’s Club Play, compliments of remixer the Scumfrog, who also has his own production, "Music Revolution," about to break into that chart. Plus, he’s just completed a remix of Annie Lennox‘s "Pavement Cracks." Soon enough, obviously, you won’t be asking who the hell is the Scumfrog, though questioning how Dutchman Jesse Houk choose that name by which to remix and DJ will linger. Fortunately, his work lingers too, and his glorious two-disc set Extended Engagement (Effin Records/Positiva) has yet to wear out its welcome, a couple months after its unassuming release and after near-nonstop repeated play ever since. Featuring twenty tracks that he’s personally produced or remixed (often adding his own percussion, guitar chords and vocals), Houk colors the set with his disco/funk/dark house sensibility that relies far more on noisy weather patterns (thunder, wind, rain) than the prototypical heavy machinery and industrial sounds of most DJs. He has a minimal way with weather, not beating you over the head with formulaic thunder and bombast, just allowing nature to run its own unpredictable course. It works your mood better than any drug. Houk, as the Scumfrog, has electrified the New York underground dance field the past couple years, and his tornado-imbued remix of Kylie Minogue‘s "Love at First Sight" earlier this year put the rest of us on watch for his next effort. His stormy reworking of "Days Go By" drips with melancholy to match the forlorn lyrics better than Dirty Vegas‘s trance-y original mix. He’s clearly the remixer of the moment — there’s not a flaw to be found on Extended Engagement. Check it out, then check him out live, spinning at Home Nightclub, 911 F St NW, Friday, July 4 (visit www.homenightclub.net).
IN THE MIXÂ… Speaking of Puretone, the Australian act’s lead singer Amiel will release her debut album, Audio Out (Festival Mushroom Records), in August. Here’s to the playful-voiced Australian following in Kylie’s footsteps to success stateside… The Canadian remix/production act Wide Life has created the theme song and other music for the Bravo/NBC reality makeover show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, debuting this summer. Wide Life (Rachid Wehbi and Ian Nieman) scored major club play last year with the over-the-top "I Don’t Want U" single. Again, they’ve enlisted Love Inc.’s Simone Denny ("You’re A Superstar") to powerbelt, though hopefully this time around they’ll actually give her props, by including her name in the credits. Wide Life will produce remixes of the theme song for club play… Nearly twenty years since its last full-length album, the seminal German electronic group Kraftwerk will release Tour De France (Astralwerks/EMI) next month. Kraftwerk has influenced any number of dance-pop artists, from nearly every French act (Daft Punk, Mirwais) and electroclash group (Felix da Housecat, Ladytron) working today. Astralwerks/EMI will release the album July 22, and a first single, "Tour De France 03," on July 8, to coincide with the centennial version of the Tour de France bicycle race… After fumbling her remix of "American Life," Missy Elliott will once again tackle Madonna, by covering "Into the Groove" for a new Gap publicity campaignÂ…
THIS WEEKEND, DANCE… You don’t have to leave the comforts of your own stereo to enjoy dance music, but this weekend you’ll want to. The challenge is packing it all in. Nation, for starters, is offering a double two-fer: two esteemed DJ/remixing duos on two different nights. Friday night D.C.’s own Deep Dish, Ali Shirazinia and Sharam Tayebi, perform at Code, the newly established weekly party to hear high-caliber, world-famous DJs. The two rarely spin locally, but even if they only play their recent fierce remix of Justin Timberlake‘s "Like I Love You" or the older "Thank You" by Dido, which won them the Grammy for Best Remix in 2001, you’ll be the better for having heard them. On Saturday, Thunderpuss storms the decks at Velvet for the annual Capital Pride dance bash. Both Barry Harris and Chris Cox are prolific producers and frequent Velvet visitors, but they rarely perform together. They couldn’t avoid playing at least a couple of their many remixes if they tried. You want more options? Friday night at Cobalt, DJ Rob Harris will kick off Pride along with a "Circus" of performers. And Saturday night, after the parade, you could hit Cobalt for its retro tea dance, with resident DJ Jason Royce, and then head to Apex for Liquid Ladies with DJ Alexis J. We’re already pooped, and we haven’t even mentioned Sunday.
Be ready to be out loud and proud under the skies on Sunday. Here’s hoping for some actual sun at the Capital Pride Festival, where local DJs Harris and Blaine Soileau will work the turntables between performances on the main stage. It’ll be a long day for Soileau, since he’s also spinning early Sunday morning at SundayMassDC at Five. At the festival, Thelma Houston, Pepper MaShay, and the just-announced Jennifer Holliday (who will also appear on Friday, June 6, at The Edge) are just a few of the dance-friendly acts set to entertain us. One hopes MaShay will bring along at least one pair of the porn beauts from her Chi-Chi LaRue-directed "I Can’t Stop" video.
FEELS SONIQUE GOOD… Thunderpuss may throw us a bone this weekend and play "Can’t Make Up My Mind," one of two songs the duo produced for Sonique‘s sophomore album. The sultry-voiced British singer and DJ superstar has a new album on the way, the long-awaited follow up to her excellent 2000 debut, Hear My Cry (Serious/Universal), which gave us the infectious Top Ten hit "It Feels So Good" and marvelous number-one dance hit "Sky," also a Thunderpuss production. Sadly, we can’t report when the new album, Born to Be Free (Serious/Universal UK), which dropped in the U.K. on Monday, will be released in the States. "Can’t Make Up My Mind," the first single, sparkles with energy, though it doesn’t match our expectations of her — or of Thunderpuss. The album didn’t match some British music critics’ expectations, either. Time Out London called it "’dance’ music for people who don’t like dancing…the spell has broken." Well, we’d like to be our own judge of that.
SHINE YOUR LIGHT NOWÂ… Madonna, whose American career looks to be swept away, will very shortly release the single "Hollywood" from her American Life (Maverick) album that spent one week atop the charts only to fall precipitously ever since. The sooner she releases the single and its remixes — by Victor Calderone, Paul Oakenfold and Sander Kleinenberg, Billboard reports — the better. The first single, "American Life," never cracked the top 40, perhaps in part because of its boring, controversy-avoiding replacement video. At least the song was a big dance hit, scoring Madonna’s 29th number one dance song, more than any other artistÂ…
LOOK WHO’S UP AND COMINGÂ… Ubiquitous "cock star" Jeff Stryker is in a studio recording a "country music comedy" album. The press release on this apocalyptic development is so awash in wordplayÂ (its headline: "Cornholin’ Cowpoke Cuts Country Comedy CD") that at first it looks like a two-month-late April Fool’s joke. It’s no joke, though. Jeff Stryker and His Soggy-Bottomed Boyz is a bone-a-fide act, and EVI Records will release the group’s album this fall, featuring such little ditties as "Ridin’ Hard," "Wild Buck," "What a Man Has to Do," and the first single, "Pop You in the Pooper."
Doug Rule can be reached at email@example.com.