Gesafflstein

Alpeh and I Love Techno

img_6440Gesaffelstein – Aleph and I Love Techno

As mentioned previously a recent night out at the club exposed me to some new music that had been out for a couple of years but I had somehow missed out on. I’m so glad to have discovered French techno artist Mike Levy, known as Gesaffelstein, this way. Mike has an impressive resume having remixed Depeche Mode, Moby and Lana Del Ray, collaborated with Jean Michel Jarre and produced a couple of tracks on Kayne’s Yeezus album. All of that is great but it is with his own music that he really shines.

After just one listen the Aleph CD from 2014 reminded me of a European tour of classic electronic music. I heard direct influence from Switzerland’s Yello, Germany’s Kraftwerk, Belgium’s Front 242 and Italy’s Goblin. Toss in some slight nods to hip hop beats and tweeks one can easily see what would have drawn Kanye West to the Gesaffelstein sound.  Sometimes this album delivers pounding beats straight out of the club, sometimes its a slow and scary soundtrack for your next nightmare. Levy’s approach is versatile and highly listenable, unlike many instrumental electronic dance albums. Be sure to watch his artfully freaky and captivating video for stand out track “Pursuit”, censored on Youtube (below) or full on via Vimeo.

The other disc I picked up, 2013’s I Love Techno is a compilation of tracks from artists like The Hacker and Adam X that Gessafelstein curated and mixed. So it is more like a DJ set than an album but it is fun to have an “instant club night” on your phone, crank it up and just add a strobe light. Most compilations of this sort have no personality but Levy did a nice job of choosing tracks that melded well with his style, resulting in a comp that has a cohesive flow.

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Alice Cooper

The Studio Albums 1969-1983

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Alice Cooper – The Studio Albums 1969-1983

This is it. THE Alice Cooper box. All 15 Warner Brothers albums from the Alice Cooper Band and Alice solo. The sheer talent and outright bombast contained in this little box ought to make it weigh a few tons instead of just over a pound. Before Slipknot, before Marilyn Manson, before Rob Zombie, hell even before KISS, there was this guy and his influence on rock, hard rock and heavy metal music cannot be denied, not to mention his game-changing use of theatrics, showmanship, stage sets and costumery.

But Alice was not just facepaint and black leather. Yes the imagery is great, the incredible artwork and amazing album covers with their killer design concepts, gatefold sleeves and inserts, LP center labels replicated on the disc faces, its all here. Which is wonderful but amidst the packaging and excitement over the size of this 15 CD collection of remasters of every studio album Alice released on Warner Brothers let us not forget what it is all really about. The music on these discs changed rock and roll, influenced the ’70s and beyond and did it all by connecting with kids (and kids at heart) by getting under the skin of the establishment. Alice has always understood that rock is about rebellion and release.

Theres not room here to run down all 15 albums. That would take weeks worth of entries  but suffice to say that in this little box you get everything and then some. The hits, the riffs, the rasp, the production of Bob Ezin and Jack Douglas, the musicianship of Glen Buxton, Neil Smith, Bob Kulik and Dick Wagner. And of course the mastermind in the straightjacket himself, Alice. 15 records would be a lifetime of work for most. Fortunately for us the was just Alice’s first act…

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Alice Cooper Website
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The Studio Albums from Amazon
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Snow In Mexico

Juno Beach

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Snow In Mexico – Juno Beach

On a recent night out at a club I heard a few tracks that I was not familiar with which really struck me. One of the standouts was “Juno Beach” by Snow In Mexico. This Italian duo have been around for almost a decade, creating just four EPs during that time. Featuring only four tracks this release from 2015 still packs as much punch as most full albums.

The music contained here owes as much to shoegaze fuzziness as it does to electrodance pulses, producing a dreamy, yet poppy combo of the two. After about a dozen listens I have decided that I can’t choose a favorite track as they each offer something different and memorable. It turns out that this is the band’s only physical release, all the rest being digital only, which may be why I have never run across them before. I will certainly be getting the downloads of those other three EPs including this year’s release, Breathe.

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Snow In Mexico from Saint Marie Records
Juno Beach from Bandcamp
Juno Beach from Amazon

 

Mr. Kitty

Insects

img_6420Mr. Kitty – Insects

Ever since catching Mr. Kitty (Forrest Avery Carney LeMaire) as an opening act a few years ago I have been captivated by the sounds this young man creates. His ability to generate moody, dark tracks with a harsh edge is equal to his prowess at crafting catchy, dreamy danceable melodies. Even more amazingly, despite his often heavily processed vocals, his songs express an incredible depth of emotion that is often lacking in the genre.

So when I has a chance to acquire a copy of Insects, his ultra rare first vinyl release I jumped on it. Limited to 100 copies when pressed its has been sold out for 3 years now. Having it autographed and augmented with handwritten stickers noting (or perhaps warning) that it contains self-destructive synth pop made it even cooler. Not to mention it remains my favorite song of his, found here in two very different remixed versions.

*full disclosure – this item did not come in the mail. I picked it up in person at the merch booth when I saw Mr. Kitty live recently.

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Mr. Kitty on Facebook
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Mr. Kitty from Bandcamp
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Mr. Kitty from iTunes

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David Bowie

Live Nassau Coliseum 76

img_6260David Bowie – Live Nassau Coliseum 76

Well I had vowed to stay away from the flood of releases that I knew would come when Bowie left us but recently I was too tempted by Cracked Actor which turned out to be magnificent so I decided to try my luck with this double CD. Recorded in Uniondale, NY on his Station To Station tour this record finds Bowie deeply ensconced in his Thin White Duke character, emerging onstage to films by Dali while Kraftwerk’s song Radioactivity blasts from the PA.

Launching into his set Bowie’s manic mindframe is immediately evident in his howling vocals. The explosive energy of his cocaine fueled performance left Bowie himself scarcely able to remember this era in his latter years. Here it produces a strange mix of RnB and early electronic music as Bowie explores themes of mysticism and spirituality, the occult and christianity, giving birth to what has been described as space rock. Perfectly illustrating the dark but funky headspace he was in Bowie pays massive tribute to Velvet Underground covering I’m Waiting For The Man and playing his homage to the band, Queen Bitch.

While Bowie’s vocals and performance are what we are all focusing on here a standing ovation must also be given to Carlos Alomar and Stacey Heydon (replacing Earl Slick who had a falling out with Bowie’s management) for their guitar work and the funky rocking rhythms of George Murray on bass and Dennis Davis on drums. Add in founding member of Yes, Tony Kaye on keys and it becomes easy to see why the band delivers perfection with their solid chops.

Previously a widely bootlegged radio broadcast this show now joins David Live and Cracked Actor in the ever increasing list of must own live Bowie releases. This live recording is also included in the Who Can I Be Now? 74-76 Box Set (2016) as well as the Station To Station Deluxe Set (2010).

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Live Nassau Coliseum 76 from Amazon

Prince

Purple Rain (Deluxe Expanded Edition)

Prince And The Revolution – Purple Rain (Deluxe Expanded Edition)

Stop reading this. Stop now. Because there is no way words (mine or anyone else’s) are going to do justice to this album. It’s staggering impact simply cannot be described, it has to be experienced. Groundbreaking artists like Prince come along so rarely, usually once a generation, and even fewer leave behind such a seminal piece of work that defines and defies, solidifies and expands, describes and distorts its time and those who lived in it. Purple Rain does all that and more. 

Equal parts rock, funk, pop and dance music, infused with spirituality and sex, evoking ecstatic joy and tearful sadness Prince’s juggernaut was an album that you could find in every home, wether it belonged to a sorority sister, a skater kid, a headbanging metal dude, a fly rap guy, a frat bro, an art school chick or a valley girl (yeah times and identities were a bit simpler back then). This music crossed all cultural, political, social and racial boundaries and had an impact on everyone. 

So it is only right that it be celebrated with a release such as this. While not complete or perfect (minor technical quibbles abound) it is hard for me to have any complaints about this 3 CD/1 DVD set with its four panel fold out silver foil digipak case and accompanying booklet of band quotes and photos.  While it’s wonderful to have a new disc of unreleased material from the studio sessions and a collection of all the remixes, edits and b-sides the true star here remains the album itself. Remastered by Prince himself at the legendary Paisley Park studios before his untimely passing the classic tracks somehow sound cleaner and more clear than ever, which is a feat given how well produced and dynamic the record  was to begin with. 

The remixes, extended versions and b-sides show off just how superb all of Prince’s finished output was at this time. They’re a great compliment to the album itself. I will admit including the single edits feel redundant and honestly I have  always thought that they’re too trimmed down. 

The disc of unreleased songs is Prince at his wild and raunchy best with titles like Electric Intercourse, Velvet Kitty Cat and other much less family-friendly names you know it’s Prince before you hear the tracks. But you can also see why they were abandoned. There is a rawness to them that is just not equal to the subtleties of depth of the actual album material. Maybe that could have been achieved if he had continued working with them but even as they are it’s impossible to not be entertained by them. 

The DVD is of a live show from 1985 that was only ever released on VHS. While the digital audio found here is a major improvement over the initial version it appears that the digital video was not taken from the source material but the release instead. Thus it shows it’s age and technical limitations quite drastically. But don’t let that deter you as the music alone is amazing. Still it’s a shame not to have better accompanying images as Prince was such a dynamic performer and is featured here in his prime. 

Well, why did you read that? I told you to stop. Whatever I said was a waste of time and effort, time that could have been spent listening to this album because that’s the only way to understand it. Please, if you lived in the time of this music, put it on and remember. If you didn’t, put it on and imagine…

Prince Website
Prince on all download and streaming services
Purple Rain Deluxe Expanded from Amazon

Camera Cult

Heart Brakes

Camera Cult – Heart Brakes

Admittedly I am not that into vinyl. I grew up with it but it holds no nostalgic appeal for me. This release however was too nicely done not to pick it up and support a great young band in doing so. Heart Brakes b/w Don’t Hang Out is pressed in a numbered limited edition of 200 on beautiful clear vinyl with an oversized center label. The sleek artwork on the sleeve compliments the look of the record itself perfectly. 

So it’s pretty (cause it looks nice), and it’s cool (because it’s limited), and its hip (because its vinyl) but none of that matters much cause it’s the content that is going to blow you away. These two tracks are some of the most delicious sounding, sunshine-filled, slightly electronic, retro-pop that you’ve ever heard. And there’s a couple more available for download on iTunes and SoundCloud as well.

I will also tell you that surprisingly these tracks come off even better live. Still as smooth as the studio renditions the live environment gives the songs an extra spark. When these three young guys get behind the drums, keyboard and mic they come off sounding like a boy band possessed by New Order. Yeah it sounds strange but it totally works. You’ll hear shades of Paul Young and Naked Eyes but with more guitar and a modern flair. Grab their downloads and see them live if you get the chance. They’re truly impressive. 

*full disclosure – this item did not come in the mail. I picked it up in person at the merch booth when I saw Camera Cult live recently. 


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