Thursday, May 28, 2009


I always was going to be a sucker for Tokyo-based all-girl group, Melt-Banana.

In a country famous for smacking you round in entertaining ways with its noise music (think Merzbow), Melt-Banana have - over the past 15 years, nine albums, and two-dozen EPs - taken that aural mayhem, and infused it with hyperventilatingly-paced punk rock and a swag of electronic styles, in often desperately brilliant ways.

Cell-Scape (2003) remains my favorite album for that year. And what can I say? John Zorn and Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle) are equally avid fans.

Stand out for me in showmanship, attitude, and (surprise) aptitude, has always been Yasuko Onuki, a.k.a. Yako - the group’s founder, vocalist, and writer.

“These days, we’re making songs for singles on several labels, and getting ready to do the next album,” Yako told me a few weeks back, then turned wistful. “I have a lot of other unfulfilled dreams, besides Melt-Banana—like going on vacation to some southern island, visiting my sister in Hong Kong, playing games on PS3, and movies I want to watch.”

On one particular tour of the U.S., Melt-Banana’s van famously hit a deer, with Yako behind the wheel. Instead of moping about the tragedy, the incident inspired Bambi’s Dilemma, the moniker for last year’s band opus - which also happens to be the singer’s first pick for best Melt-Banana album.

“It’s what we’re doing right now,” she assessed in clinical fashion. After that, she wavered.

“But I’d also like to pick Charlie [1998], because it was the first self-produced album we did on our own label, A-Zap Records - and Mr. John Peel chose it as one of his favorites.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Donk Boys: Sucker Punch EP

OK, so if you've been surfing YouTube or have friends in more abstract electro-tech-funk circles, you may have stumbled across this bit of a recent Ricardo Villalobos set at Fabric in London (click here).

While the visual element is hardly anything to sing home about, the sounds—principally sourced from the new track by Donk Boys, The By-Blow, just released through Dirtybird—is absolutely wild, mind-melting electronica. I Saw The Sine is almost equally brilliant, and I'm spinning this stuff out here in Tokyo as soon as I can get my fingers on a half-decent hi-res version, preferably vinyl, or WAV if it comes down to it; these days I don't care either way.

Donk Boys, who hark from Malmö in the south of Sweden (I've actually been there twice), are two of the people on my current list of most cool, out there purveyors of electronic music, alongside Luke's Anger, Ben Pest, Bill Youngman, Cristian Vogel, Si Begg, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Gadget Cassette and Patrick Pulsinger, so you may just begin to get the gist. Or not—depends on your taste and how you like your muzak served up.

Methinks this is essential stuff—and downright cool, to boot.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Various Artists: Iffy Bizness (the compilation!)

We've been playing this one pretty close to our chests, and one or two readers (if, in fact, there are any for this trite little blog) may already know about it - or perhaps not.

'IT' being the upcoming new compilation through Aussie label Elektrax, titled 'IFFY BIZNESS'. Basically it's a wunderbar idea that DJ Hi-Shock came up with, and we've both since liaised and planned and plotted: 14 tracks to celebrate 14 years of IF? Records.

Here's the cover:

And here's the link (with sounds, track-list, and propaganda info bollocks) on the Elektrax site:

Most of it is recent, new, and/or unreleased, and we've got a sensational new remix from Swedish outfit Donk Boys.

Feel free to rummage through and leave churlish feedback.

It'll be released through all major digital download carriers like Beatport, Audiojelly, Juno Digital, iTunes, blah, blah, and blah.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Craig McWhinney: 13 things to understand

Inducted by Schlock Tactile for the ‘Love Me Slender’ project, on remix honors, is fellow Aussie Craig McWhinney (Nightshade/HAUL Music), one of that country’s more talented current producers. He’s delivered up a way cool mix that we absolutely love: deep and dirty tribal-tech with phat grooves, backed by pitch-perfect, superb peaks and bassy troughs; precisely our cup of tea!

Here are 13 things you may or may not know about this Melbourne-based musician, proffered up by the man himself:

“I used to play the drums in a couple of bands, from my mid-teens to my early 20s – my brother and I were always fooling around with guitars and the like as well, so music was a part of my make up from pretty early. I guess as my tastes changed, coupled with taking up DJing, somewhere along the way producing came into the picture.”

“I've been DJing for about seven years all up now, I think, and producing for around five years, maybe? Not quite sure, lots of late nights have led to blurry memories... I'm motivated mostly by the music itself. I guess having solid friendships in the Melbourne music community helps to keep me going as well.”

“There've been a lot of changes over that time. Most notably, vinyl started being replaced by CDs, and then laptops. The whole DJing paradigm has been flipped on its head.”

“My wife is actually a huge part of my studio set-up. A second pair of ears, a second opinion – always right at the time I need it – helps me in more ways than anything else.”

Red cordial keeps me fueled when making music, mostly, though I tend to produce in spurts, not long marathon type sessions. I like to keep my ears fresh.”

Surgeon seems to be the main stayer for me; I buy pretty much everything he does. Also Phase, Function, and T++. But the big guy for me, at the moment, is Shed. Love everything he does. I think the common link between these artists is immaculate production, a dark aesthetic, and a great intensity without being over-cooked. Just quality music.”

“I make techno. Always have, always will.”

“I have a solid release schedule with my label HAUL music, which I run with my partners Christian Vance and Mike Callander – so look out for consistent original and remix work there. I also have an EP, 'Ensõ', in the works for American label Nightshade. I was in chats with another American label to release an EP, but at this stage that seems to be all talk.”

“I had a 12-inch released through UK label Notorious North, titled 'Antiquated EP', which kind’a slipped past unnoticed, but I'm pretty fresh with the whole releasing thing, so I look forward to what’s coming!”

“There's a certain amount of quality control when releasing to vinyl that can often be overlooked with digital-only releases. On the flip-side, many great artists are emerging because of the digital age we live in. Hopefully a balance can be struck, and vinyl can be kept afloat. I really hope that vinyl never dies. I have a love of vinyl that I’d like to be able to feed for many more years to come.”

“I fully embrace the digital age – I think it’s great! By moving into the digital download medium. labels make themselves available to another section of the market. Smart play in my book.”

“I have a lot of respect for a lot of the veteran old school Melbourne producers. I used to own a fair swag of Voiteck records on Truck Musik, and I currently really dig Christian Vance and Mike Callander, not only ‘cos they're my partners and friends in HAUL, but also ‘cos they're damn talented. Zen Paradox is amazing at what he does. I also like what I’m hearing from some of the newer Melbourne acts.”

“The remix I did for Schlock Tactile is a percussive burner, good in the mix – use it as a tool to build a set with. I liked the original and heard what I could do with it; it’s a no-brainer why I agreed to do it.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Alkan - Bosphorus Breathing

IF? Records has a new release out today, and it's the debut by Melbourne act Alkan - with remixes by some sensational guys including Takashi Watanabe (DJ Warp), Bitch Shift, Enclave and Dick Drone.

As self-indulgent as ever, I decided to bounce a bunch of questions off the new guy to see how he clicks, the latest in a long line of Melburnians on IF? over the past 14 years.

How did you get inspired to start making music?

"In school, as every individual had their own specialty, or hobby, I always stood out as the one in the class who knew every track that was out there. Music would follow me everywhere; at home, whilst studying, or even out and about. Just under two years ago a good friend of mine, who's signed to a major trance label—and after listening to bits and pieces of my random compiling—suggested I keep at it. And here we are."

What gear/software are you making most use of in the studio at the moment?

"From a software perspective, I currently use FL Studio for my productions, and Reaktor for that extra depth into my sounds. As for the hardware, I currently use my Novation 37SL midi controller to allow me to work easier on the software side of things."

What food/drinks keep you fueled throughout production time?
"Glasses of water, and surely my Starburst lollies!"

Which current crop of artists and labels are grabbing your attention?

"I'm currently digging sounds by Turkish producer Ozan Oner, along with Robert Babicz. I was lucky enough to catch Babicz while he was Downunder in late '08, which was pretty intense. I'm curious to see what Border Community has on for releases in 2009. James Holden said he will be releasing a few of his tracks this year, and there also is an artist album being released by Nathan Fake which should be exciting."

If you were pressed into a corner and forced to confess under great duress, how would you define the sounds/styles you're currently making?

"Ha Ha Ha, I'd give in straight away. Well, the sounds I make are purely based on how dark I can possibly go. I come in trying to make something, and it turns out really warped out, which sounds great. I try to add some melodic sounds in there also, which is my personal choice; I love melodic keys."

When we decided to switch some of the IF? back-catalogue to digital download, I got an anonymous email saying "You've sold you're [sic] soul to the devil!!!" (I kid you not!). So... have we?

"Heh-heh. From a user's perspective, I see it as a wise move. Most people prefer digital downloads over other forms. 'Sold you’re soul to the devil' it."

Do DJs really need to continue to use vinyl? Or can they instead construct entire sets out of stuff they've downloaded off the Internet?

"It’s a known fact that technology advances rapidly. My view on DJing is that vinyl is not a necessity. Many may object to that, but it's true. It's not like a lecturer teaching at a university uses a blackboard these days to express his ideas; projection from his laptop is used instead. So, either using CDJs or even a laptop in my eyes has made it much easier for DJs."

How about newer Melbourne producers like Craig McWhinney, Bitch Shift, Enclave, Koda, etc? Do any of these people stand out for you? Who do you currently dig cutting tunes in Melbourne?

"Bitch Shift and Enclave have both performed outstanding remix duties for my debut track, Bosphorus Breathing. Expect to hear more from them in the future, I say. Techno tunes coming out of Melbourne... well, I can definitely say IF? Records are bringing out the best from Melbourne producers; awesome guys over there, always willing to help. Every DJ across the world just loves playing in Melbourne, so I do feel privileged being born in this lovely city of excitement."