The Gear section has quickly become one of the most popular parts of XLR8R, and we like to think that's because many of our readers are as interested in the tools for creating music as they are in the music itself. Whatever the reason may be, our In the Studio, Artist Tips, and From Studio to Stage features, as well as the assorted gear reviews, continue to dominate XLR8R's publishing schedule, so we figured that gear coverage should make it into our Best of 2013 content as well. As such, we've put together a countdown of our five favorite pieces of hardware and software that appeared throughout the year; if we've calculated correctly, there's a good chance that these tools will be shaping the sounds of 2014 and beyond. Read more »
Celebrating the holiday spirit with a free collection of remixes titled Club Cosmos: Volume Two, incognito producer Druid Cloak offers a soaring, drum-focused take on Four Tet's Beautiful Rewind highlight "Parallel Jalebi" (which, incidentally, is one of our favorite tracks of the year). Contrasting the original version's sensual vocal lines with a mellow hip-hop swagger, Druid Cloak's shuffling rhythms eventually morph into an onslaught of warm jungle percussion. The rest of Club Cosmos: Volume Two—which also features bootleg remixes of tracks from Special Request, Kelela, and others—will be available to download on Christmas Eve via Druid Cloak's Facebook page.
Prolific French artist Fulgeance dropped the solid Cubes LP via his own Musique Large label back in October, but now the beatmaker has decided to revisit Step Thru—a full-length released via RX:TX in October 2012—and collect four remixes from the record for an upcoming 7", simply titled Step Thru Remixes. Slovenian producer Oknai offers a chilly, skittish take on "Square," grounding the cut's meandering percussion with a downright filthy bass synth. Reserved, yet never lacking in sonic diversity, the rework brims with fluttering chimes, ambient pads, and other odd flourishes, while leaving itself plenty of space to establish a mood. The rest of Fulgeance's Step Thru Remixes is set to drop on January 20, 2014.
Ron Morelli's Long Island Electrical Systems label has become a critical darling over the past couple of years. Essentially the focal point of a certain brand of largely hardware-driven underground house and techno coming out of New York City (although the label includes artists from Paris and Berlin, among other locales, on its roster as well), the imprint's image has been bolstered by Morelli's singular, uncompromising vision—which includes a marked reticence to embrace digital formats and a passion for murky, lo-fi sonics. The label boss is also something of an ideological mouthpiece for the label, which he often defines in opposition to prevailing dance-music trends; it's all there in the title of this latest release, Music for Shut-Ins, which Morelli elaborates is "club music for people who hate going to the club." Continuing what will hopefully be an annual trend of releasing a double-disc compilation of the year's highlights along with previously unreleased material from the label's artists, Music for Shut-Ins follows last year's acclaimed American Noise compilation, and while that release felt like something of a coming of age and a reflection of the label's growing legitimacy, this latest collection digs deeper, highlighting the diversity and experimental tendencies of the L.I.E.S. roster. Read more »
French DJ/producer iZem has spent the last seven or so years touring in places like Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina, and has since been using those experiences to inform his own brand of tropical-inspired dance music. An edit of legendary Cuban singer Celia Cruz, "Celia" sees iZem juxtaposing elements of hip-hop and forward-thinking bass music with a decidedly Latin-influenced palette. Cruz's vocals phase through the mix, filling the space with natural ambiance as the laid-back groove struts underneath samples of chants and crowds. Balmy percussion and melodies take the track to a boiling point where stinging brass sounds help give "Celia" its shining moment.
littleBits, a New York-based outfit started by MIT Media Labs graduate Ayah Bdeir, is based around a very basic idea: creating "simple and sophisticated electronics for learning, prototyping, and play." The company has designed and produced a wealth of small components that snap together with magnets, therefore bypassing any sort of soldering or delicate electrical work and opening up the world of electronics to children, curious adults, and anyone who wants to unleash some nascent creativity. Its most recent product, the Synth Kit, has already caused quite a stir, as it comes with the seal of approval from co-designer and music-technology giant Korg. The Synth Kit follows littleBits' modus operandi in that it's a fully analog modular synthesizer the user can construct from 12 separate, snappable components—including a tiny keyboard, four-step sequencer, a small speaker, a battery power source, and a host of circuits which help manipulate the sound. Read more »
From the looks of his SoundCloud page, London resident Deceptive is in the beginning stages of his production career, but one could certainly do worse coming out of the gate than with "Only U." The sleek, garage-tinged tune blends an energetic house roll with a restless bassline and matching tuned percussion, resulting in a track that is unapologetically aimed at carefree dancefloors.
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