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Image by Sarah Koury

Digital 21 x Stefan Olsdal: The Big Shot Interview

Digital21+StefanOlsdal

Digital 21 (a.k.a. veteran electronic producer Miguel López Mora) and Placebo bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal teamed up and started making music remotely from their home bases of Berlin and London. The result is their triumphant debut album, Inside, featuring a cadre of guest vocalists from all over the world, including Cuushe (Japan), Margrét Rán from Vök (Iceland), Helen Feng from Nova Heart (China), and Julienne Dessagne (France/Germany).

The cinematic album boasts the techy romp “Who Are All Of You” featuring Dessagne, who is one half of genre-bending Saschienne with Sascha Funke. It’s driven by a sinister synth-driven grooves and Dessagne’s enigmatic voice.

Ahead of Inside‘s release on October 20, we wanted to know more about their project. Instead of asking them questions, we turned the tables and asked them to interview each other.

Read on to be a fly on the wall for their chat about music, inspiration and their captivating debut album. Continue Reading

Review: Layton Giordani feat. Danny Tenaglia – Live Again

Layton Giordani feat Danny Tenaglia Live Again Drumcode

3.5 Stars

Rising Big Apple DJ/producer Layton Giordani continues to grow his international reputation. Notoriety came relatively soon after he presented “Careless Suggestions” on Phobiq Records in 2014. Since then he’s released ripping tech-house tracks on Intec and debuted earlier this year on Drumcode by way of the seismic bomb known as “Where It Begins.”

Giordani, who cut his teeth working the decks at Manhattan Meatpacking Mecca Cielo and shuttered spots like Pacha and Sullivan Room (RIP), couldn’t possibly return to Drumcode in a bigger way than with NYC hard n’ soul legend Danny Tenaglia at his side on “Live Inside.” A major influence on Giordani’s sound, the track is quintessential Tenaglia at the core — deep, dark and deliciously dirty — with Giordani’s trademark groove anchoring the production.

The EP is rounded out by two worthy cuts: Firstly, there’s “Take It Back” is a dramatic rollercoaster ride of banging beats, ethereal female vocal snippets and undulating bass. Secondly, “Secrets of Vibration” is a cracking percussive track. Its only flaw is the inclusion of a clichéd self-help vocal sample. (Producers, I’m calling for a moratorium on this type of dance floor chum — who’s with me?)

What’s next for Layton Giordani? Place your bets on world domination.

Sébastien Léger 5 Tracks of the Moment

Sébastien Léger

With two decades of producing and DJing under his belt, house music stalwart and modular master Sébastien Léger continues his unwavering dedication to bringing innovative ideas the genre and dance floor.

Case in point is his recently released Model D EP on Marc Romboy’s revered Systematic label, a title we suspect is an homage to the iconic Minimoog Model D.

Related: Sébastien Léger Takes a Victory Lap

The three-track effort finds Léger presenting a cinematic soundscape of suspenseful synth-driven shenanigans, ranging in Sébastien Léger to straight-up floor fillers.

Constantly curating upfront tracks, we checked in with Léger and asked him to share his five new tracks of the moment. Continue Reading

Read a Lost 1995 Interview with Techno Icon Joey Beltram

joey_beltram

I remember the time I stumbled upon a lone, dog-eared copy of Generator, an indie UK magazine, in the magazine section at Tower Records on 4th and Lafayette Street. I thumbed through it and enjoyed the mix of artist interviews and reviews. I was writing for music and culture magazines here in the U.S. and had been profiling local DJs and producers who were underground celebs at home and superstars abroad. Seeing an opportunity, I typed up an intro letter, stuffed my published clips into an envelope and mailed a fat package to Generator‘s office in London. Not too long later I received a call from the magazine’s editor, David Fowler. We instantly hit it off, and I started contributing to the magazine.

I recently unearthed my Generator interview with New York City techno stalwart Joey Beltram, who got a shout-out on Daft Punk’s “Teachers” off 1997’s Homework. It’s a cover story where he shares his background, early success producing genre-defining tracks “Energy Flash” and “Mentasm,” and why he slowed down the pace of his career in order to get his creative bearings. The issue dropped in tandem with the release of his third album, 1995’s Places (Tresor/Logic). All these years later any of the cuts could do damage on a dance floor.

The sleepy bedroom community of Orange County, NY, is a little over an hour by car from Manhattan’s perennial state of mania. Graced with quiet, tree-lined streets and sprawling, well-manicured estates, this is the suburban oasis which Joey Beltram moved to six months ago, desperately seeking a much-needed break from life in the urban jungle.

A far cry from his previous, cramped apartment on Metropolitan Avenue in Queens (which overlooked a cemetery), he now lives in a roomy, split-level home, complete with all the trappings you’d expect—except the white picket fence, of course. Aside from choosing Orange County for its bucolic charm, Beltram had a definitive reason for making the move: he wanted to get his life together, take his production career to the next level, and use the new surrounding s as an inspiration for his music.

On most nights when he’s not DJing, Beltram is usually sequestered in On One, his well-equipped home studio, where he’ll tweak loops, beats, and samples into the small hours of the morning. Amongst the well-appointed gadgetry and heavyweight synth technology, Beltram is ready to talk about Places, his eagerly-awaited new album on Tresor. It’s already well after midnight — the time of the day when Beltram prefers working — and although the sun went down hours ago, the air outside is filled with the sound of chirping crickets. The night is thick and unbearably humid. Inside, one light illuminates the suite, casting cross-legged to Beltram in an almost angelic light. Continue Reading

Review: MANIK – Undergroundknowledge

MANIK_Undergroundknowledge
4 Stars

The narrative of MANIK’s sophomore album for Josh Wink’s Ovum Recordings tells the story of his coming of age in NYC. It’s a throwback to an era when house music was percolating in the underground below the mainstream’s radar.

MANIK, who is now based in L.A., forges ’90s-tinged deep-house tracks with authority: “Lefrak City” (the name of an apartment complex in Elmhurst located near where he grew up) shines with sweeping pads, clacking percussion and a soulful female vocal sample; “People Of Rhythm” is aligned with the famed Wild Pitch sound; and “Restart” is emblematic of the era’s techier house productions. Close your eyes and you can hear these tracks sauntering into Tony Humphries’ late-night ’90s KISS-FM Mastermix Dance Party.

MANIK peels away layers and goes deeper, revealing furtive acidic romps (“Devils Dance,” “Restart”) that channel the essence of The Todd Terry Project. Greg Paulus of No Regular Play makes a wonderful cameo on the meditative “5 Pointz,” where he contributes his trumpet mastery.

“APT 3D1” is the only throwaway track; it’s a pastiche of samples culled from movies and sports he watched as a kid growing up in Kew Gardens. You had to be there to appreciate its context.

“PS99” is an interlude featuring shout-outs from Eli Goldstein from Soul Clap, Doc Martin and Option4 and a fake message from “the mayor’s office of New York” reminding him to “Stay original. Stay true to the game. And do not worry about anything anyone else says. Take your first, stick your middle finder up in the air and wave it like you just don’t care.” It doesn’t can’t get more New York than that!

A personal reflection of his roots, Undergroundknowledge eschews nostalgia and sentimentality in favor of celebrating a childhood spent in the greatest melting pot in the world. As any New Yorker will tell you, nothing is stronger than writing about what you know.