When I saw on my Twitter feed that Armin van Buuren had dropped a remix of Van Halen’s 1983 synth-pop number one “Jump” with original VH vocalist David Lee Roth in tow at Ultra Music Festival 2019 (fun fact: Larry Levan played “Jump” at the Paradise Garage for his flock around the time of the song’s release, and, yup, they initially loathed it), I had low expectations but was curious to hear it.
Rock bands getting the remix treatment is nothing new. Everyone from Elvis to The Rolling Stones have had their songs reinterpreted for the dance floor with varying results. But before I could hear the remix I ran the numbers in my head [cue adding machine SFX]: the biggest commercial DJ + one of the biggest legacy rock bands = a nice lil’ payday for all parties involved, especially for Van Halen whose status is locked in who-the-hell-knows-if-they’re-going-to-ever-record-or-tour-again limbo.
The formula for Van Buuren’s interpretation is simple and calculated. He flies Roth’s vocal over a pedestrian EDM track, then brings in the song’s iconic synth line with additional percussion. Introduce a cowbell to the breakdown and – viola! – make sure you spell van Buuren with two u’s on the check.
Writing in Rolling Stone Brittany Spanos described the intro as “Baba O’Riley” esque – er, that’s a stretch – and opined, “The funniest part of the whole thing is that it makes one less nostalgic for the golden age of Eighties synth-rock, and more hungry for the era of Peak EDM that we experienced a mere five years ago.”
I think she tripped over her point. Nostalgia is precisely what’s being peddled here. “Jump” is a pre-internet relic, an artifact from a pre-woke time when Spandex-wearing men with peroxide hair ruled the charts and often behaved very, very badly. In fact, I’ll bet that a good percentage of UMFers had heard “Jump” before at a sporting event or on classic rock radio in the car with their parents. No matter what your musical proclivities are it’s a song everyone knows.
Novelty remixes of pop tracks are disposable fodder, a tactic that’s part of a strategy to get mass attention. The only thing that’s newsworthy about this lackluster remix is that it took 36 years to happen. Having garnered a lot of global attention since Ultra, everyone involved can proclaim mission accomplished.
It was only fitting that synth deity Gary Numan was headlining Irving Plaza in NYC on the first crisp autumn night where it was appropriate to don a black leather jacket. Numan, who first put his indelible mark on music in late ’70s/early ’80s with ubiquitous synth-driven masterpieces “Cars” and “Are Friend Electric?”, has been touring to support his flawless 2017 album Savage (Songs from a Broken World), which he realized with longtime collaborator Ade Fenton.
From the moment Numan took the stage with his backing quartet, he pulled no punches. They wielded the raw fury of his industrial-electronic din with aplomb.
One of Monika Kruse’s travels led the revered DJ/producer to Belgrade, a city whose underground club scene is quietly thriving. The promotor of the techno party had booked talented local up-and-comer Ilija Djokovic in a support slot. Kruse enjoyed Djokovic’s set and they exchanged contact details.
Not too long later she included his track “Spectrum” on her Essential Mix and later released his blindingly good Blue Eyes EP in September on Terminal M.
Djokovic continues to define his deep, soulful brand of techno on the Enigma EP for Reinier Zonneveld’s Filth on Acid.
The smoldering title track is a joyous dance of minimal techno and house. It’s juxtaposed against the ominous slo-mo growl of “Lucid Dreams” and the eerie soundscape of “Requiem.” Italy’s Roberto Capuano closes out the EP with a ballsy remix of “Requiem.”
Minimalist and expansive, the Enigma EP is visceral, intimate and epic. It’ll be exciting to find out what he does next in 2018.
At the beginning of the year two-time Grammy nominated Chicago house music pioneer Felix Da Housecat launched Founders of Filth, a label whose musical manifesto thumbs its nose in the face of rules. Felix has always marched to his own beat, pioneering the electroclash movement to collaborating with dub legend Lee “Scratch” Perry on 2015’s Narrative of Thee Blast Illusion.
Founders of Filth Vol. 3, which is Felix’s third EP of the year, finds the iconoclast collaborating once again with fellow Chi-town luminary Jamie Principle and Montreal DJ/producer Clarian (both artists appeared on his debut Vol. 1). Felix channels his electroclash roots in partnership with Clarian on the bawdy “Energy” featuring Agata. The recipe isn’t necessarily new — girl provocatively talking/singing over a grinding electro groove — but it works like a charm. “They Just Want 2 B U” with Clarian and Principle is a synth-based dance-pop delight. It’s built on soft pads, echoed vocals and blippy melodies.
For the EP’s closing track Felix dons his Aphrohead moniker for a funky finale, “Color of Rayy.” The techiest track on the release is hard and driving, featuring Felix’s Prince-like spoken-word vocals over a rollicking musical bed.
Founders of Filth Vol. 3 dovetails Felix’s past with the present and allows him to successfully close out a year of reinvention on a high note.