Tag Archives: Dance

Douglas McCarthy (Nitzer Ebb, Fixmer/McCarthy) on the Chemistry of a Perfect EBM Track

Fixmer McCarthy

Douglas McCarthy thought he was done with the music business in the mid ’90s. Downtrodden from the endless cycles of studio recording and worldwide tours, McCarthy decided to leave music and pursue his teenage dreams of becoming a graphic designer and filmmaker. It was, after all, the career choice he would have pursued had he not formed one of the most significant EBM bands of all time: Nitzer Ebb.

Electronic Body Music (EBM)—driven by an often erratic and staccato bassline, a tight, intrusive snare, and an irrefutable dance beat—was a genre that never quite seemed to depart from the stigma of the 1980s. Until recently. “EBM was a really dirty word for a long time,” says McCarthy. “It was synonymous with people stuck in the past and not being able to appreciate anything new.” And now, 30 years after Nitzer Ebb’s 1987 breakthrough LP, That Total Age, everyone seems to be catching on.

Contrary to its former unpopular perimeters, EBM has become a common descriptor in dance music vocabulary. “With the development of genres, they need to go through a few generational cycles for people to look back and appreciate or distill what they want from them,” says McCarthy. Alongside fellow EBM trailblazers Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF) and Front 242, Nitzer Ebb’s 1983 self-released cassette Basic Pain Procedure helped establish the genre’s conventions—McCarthy’s riotous roars, low growls, and call-to-arms chants have been oft imitated over the years.

It wasn’t until 2003, after meeting the French techno producer Terence Fixmer, that McCarthy left his newfound occupation of film and design to return to music. Fixmer’s distinct blend of dark, intrusive techno and EBM bassline patterns resurrected McCarthy’s interest in music once again. Their relationship began when Fixmer had agreed to remix Nitzer Ebb for NovaMute (a subsidiary of Mute Records) and, in return, asked that McCarthy do vocals for a few of Fixmer’s own tracks. Their meeting and studio session sparked an entire slew of demos that suited an album’s length of music and the collaborative project of Fixmer/McCarthy formed soon thereafter.

Fixmer/McCarthy’s new EP, Chemicals, on the Berlin-based label Sonic Groove, is a true continuation of the sound the duo has developed over the past fifteen years. The title track is forceful—its driving bassline conspires with a heavy techno-influenced beat underneath McCarthy’s nakedly raw and severe vocals. It, alongside “Wrong Planet,” is undoubtedly meant for the club floor, to be heard in the anticipatory section of an vigorous DJ set. The new EP revels in the familiarity of classic EBM and is inseparable from the lineage McCarthy cultivated long ago without being propped up by the ruse of a throwback album.

We talked to McCarthy about the drug-induced inspiration behind Chemicals, what makes a perfect EBM track, and the genre’s inarguable comeback.

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Omniboi on Video Game Soundtrack Inspiration and Feeling at Home in L.A.

Omniboi

Internet fame can strike fast. Omniboi, a Los Angeles-based producer, learned that lesson when he uploaded a video of himself playing piano chords under Migos’s viral hit “Bad and Boujee.” “When I got out of work I thought my phone was broken,” says Omniboi over the phone on a February afternoon. “I opened Twitter and it was, like, 400 notifications.” The sudden attention over the song quickly pushed him to record a full version, which similarly racked up hundreds of thousands of plays.

A member of the online Paper Crane Collective, Omniboi’s music is usually less pop-oriented than his Migos cover might suggest (see: the chiptune inspired House Of Omni: Chapter 1 that he released last year). That release is more his standard lane of work, but he also does more dancefloor-ready music as one half of the duo 2ToneDisco.

We talked about his love of video game-inspired music, the moment he knew he was a music producer, and how he’s felt welcomed in Los Angeles’s electronic music community.

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Soaking in “The Bath” with Producer Thor Rixon

Thor Rixon

The music on Songs from the Bath, Thor Rixon‘s full-length debut, can be just as bubbly and inviting as the album title suggests. But simmer for a while in the album’s warm waters and it soon becomes clear that the Cape Town-based multi-instrumentalist/producer had a lot more than just relaxation in mind. An upbeat, mostly chilled-out blend of dance music, R&B, Afrobeat, bossa nova, folk, pop, and jazz, Bath is also accented by Rixon’s eccentric touch. As much as his songs lull you with their polished elegance, they also teeter on the verge of unraveling at any moment, which creates a delightful sense of tension throughout.

After first making a splash with his quirky, lo-fi approach on 2013’s Shared Folder and 2014’s Tea Time Favourites, Rixon took nearly two years to finish the more ambitious Songs for the Bath. The album’s origins date back to a 2015 trip Rixon took to Berlin in order to co-produce friend and fellow South African musician Alice Phoebe Lou’s 2016 album Orbit. After spending time fine-tuning of the wealth of sounds he’d accumulated on the trip, Rixon used them to craft an album that not only defies easy categorization but also contains heartfelt messages about our shared journey through life.

Rixon (a co-founder of the now-defunct naas Collective) talked with us about his process, his evolution as an artist, and the universal truths found in the album’s watery theme.

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Album of the Day: Various Artists, “Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988”

“Culture, the fruit of history, reflects at every moment the material and spiritual reality of society, of man-the-individual and of man-the-social-being, faced with conflicts which set him against nature and the exigencies of common life.” – Amilcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissauan/Cape Verdean revolutionary)

For the better part of five centuries, the West African coastal territories now known as Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde islands languished under the influence and brutal control of colonial Portugal. By the early 1960s, the contentious struggle for freedom had erupted into an all-out war for national independence.

By 1975, the Cape Verde islands and Guinea-Bissau were free from Portuguese rule, embarking on the long journey of post-colonial reformation. Throughout the next decade and a half, the cultural life of the Cape Verdean islands exploded, giving birth to a number of bands who took the islands’ traditional/indigenous styles and fused them with Portuguese fado (the folk music of Portugal’s urban poor and working class), while also taking influences from the rock and R&B sounds that had been coming over from the States. This eclectic mixture of musical ingredients helped produce a dynamic music community that would carry the spirit of the Cape Verde islands around the world.

Synthesize the Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica from the Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988, the latest compilation from New York-based reissue label Ostinato Records, explores the broad range of electrifying music that blossomed up from this small cluster of islands. Primarily consisting of guitar-and-keyboard-driven, uptempo dance music, the tracks have strong stylistic resemblances to other musical styles of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora, most notably zouk music—as well as Trinidadian soca and the bachata music of the Dominican Republic. It’s a bit different from Analog Africa’s Space Echo: The Mystery Behind the Cosmic Sound of Cabo Verde—more dancefloor-oriented and less psychedelic—but they’re clearly two essential peas in a pod.

America Brito’s catchy and celebratory “Babylon 79” features a nimble, pulsating rhythm section a sing-songy chorus and oddly phased/flanged keyboard chords that infuse the high energy dance tune with an odd, nearly psychedelic edge. The tracks are rich with colorful instrumentation. Tulipa Negra’s masterful “Corpo Limpo” rides atop a heavy, insistent groove, while the guitar deftly comps in the background, the dynamic vocals intertwine with a cheesy but absolutely perfect toy synth/organ.

Throughout the compilation’s 18 tracks, the songs of unheralded acts such as Jose Casimiro, Pedrinho and Tam Tam 2000 stand out as examples of the bright, optimistic sound of the Cape Verdean people. Expertly compiled and sequenced, Synthesize The Soul gives us a glimpse into the potent, celebratory music of a culture as it struggled to find its place in the world, wrestling with the demands of progress and reveling in the ecstasy of freedom.

—John Morrison

Glasgow’s Poisonous Relationship is an Unlikely Dance Music Genius

Jamie Crewe

Photos by Matthew Arthur Williams

Redefining the perceptions of house music is just one of the many goals of the genre-bending new Poisonous Relationship record, A FAGGOT IN A TEMPEST. Poisonous Relationship is just one identity of Jamie Crewe, a Glasgow-based musician, artist and filmmaker who explores themes of gender, sexuality, mental health, and politics through surprisingly personal and poetic dance music. Tracks like the first single “Give Me My Heaven!” express the joyous nature of house music, with familiar piano stabs, hi-hats, and soulful, feminine vocals, while also giving way to something sparser and almost desolate in its minimalism. The album begs for multiple listens, each plaintive note bringing the songs just short of an emotional resolution that never fully arrives.

While deconstructing the essence of “dance,” track by track and sound by sound, Crewe seeks to build their own sanctuary, invite their friends, and create a space where the music they always wanted to hear plays forever, like the endless nights in the big cities they didn’t grow up in. When we spoke to Crewe, it was after a long year of unrest and turmoil for the queer community worldwide, and our conversation veered from the personal, to the political, and back again—much like the music of Poisonous Relationship itself.

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