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Preview: Beantown Boogie Down - Crate Exploratory

Beantown Boogiedown - Crate Exploratory

Last Build Date: Wed, 04 Dec 2013 03:39:21 +0000


Crate Exploratory: Griz Explores New Directions on Rebel Era Long-Player

Wed, 04 Dec 2013 03:32:08 +0000

Article written by Jonathan Santarelli | Edited by Nick MinieriThere is a lot to say about most electronic artists these days. Many say they all sound the same. Setting yourself apart from the flock is a difficult thing, as well as a gamble. Much like the ugly duckling, no one wants to be ousted and not have their music heard for fear of not sounding what’s popular. In a world of digital downloads, torrents, and music blogs the recognition is there; but the compensation, not so much. For years LP sales have fallen, so most artists tend to rally towards singles, remixes, collaborations, and massive touring schedules.  That said, is great to see an artist break out of that vortex and create something all their own, such as Detriot-based artist Griz. The juxtaposition of his crunchy-yet-jazzy, and fun filled-yet-grim sound is something that has separated him from the flock. His hit single “Smash the Funk” from his the Mad Liberation long-player set him off on an adventure in light of its success. Going out on a month-long touring schedule, he piled on another one that started in October to highlight his newest album, Rebel Era. His live sets are emblematic to his thought process of how he approaches production, stripped down to the bare essentials while rocking a saxophone with a virtuoso ear.  Rebel Era is a record I was anticipating the release of. After Mad Liberation it was tough to tell where the journey of Griz would go to next. His sound is a familiar blend of grime and glitch hop. Would he push things forward in a new direction on the new album, or continue to milk off the success of Mad Liberation?  width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""> After plugging in my headphones and zoning the rest of the world and its distractions out, I immediately noticed how the album started off with what seemed to be a homage to the scores of Ennio Morricone and Oceans Eleven movies. “Gettin Live” writhes up with staccato strings and a swanky twanging rhythm guitar that grooves along a funky base line. The brass section reminds you that there is still a human element to all the low-frequency synthetics. This sonic overhauling ends with a solid build of all the elements to echo into your mind. Its certainly a song that demands attention and sets the tone for the rest of the album.  As I got into the groove for the next few tracks I began to notice many different themes and tempo changes. Griz puts into the forefront his influences in a way that has a refreshing perspective. The song “DTW to DIA (the travels of Mr.B)” marks an interesting key point in this album. For me it highlights Griz’s love of all things funk, alongside Detroit’s soulful musical legacy. The combination of Motown & mo’ money rap vocals, slamming horn sections and funky grooves are vindicative of the motor city’s signatures. But not before shedding its organic instrumentation to reveal a more synthesized sound.  Going more for that edgy sawtooth grime synth with a four to the floor electro drum beat comes “Do my thang”. At a little over two minutes this track is a smooth transition into the harder sound of Griz. Which then hits its apex on “Crime in the city”.  “Crime in the City” starts off in a somewhat traditional fashion. It builds with a filtered string and bass section until the track explodes into one massive wave of bass. While the production was solid, it’s not my favorite track. To me it sounded very much like most popular electro tracks that have come out in recent time, a bit too formulaic for my tastes. It could be Griz’s attempt to hit more a mainstream audience. In fairness, it sets the scene transition-wise for a more fitting ending. And I do applaud his effort to trail off the beaten path while occasionally revisiting the more comm[...]

No Small Talk Here: An Interview With Big Gigantic & Pics From Their Recent Boston Show

Tue, 26 Feb 2013 04:35:11 +0000

There’s little doubt that turntables and Macbooks are quickly replacing guitars and drum sets at many an outdoor festival these days. Younger crowds are paying top dollar to see their favorite DJ’s perform at events such as EDC, Coachella, Electric Zoo, and Camp Bisco. One of the challenges many EDM artists face is how to take their stage presence to a level beyond playing pre-recorded music, even if much of it is their own. Nothing against the DJ, mind you; it’s just a matter of bridging the gap between the traditional band and the modern-day kid cranking out filthy basslines in Massive in his/her humble bedroom studio. One of the few groups bridging that gap is Big Gigantic. This Colorado-based duo has gathered so much steam in the past two years they now manage to sell out almost every show they’re booked to play, regardless of season or city. While their core sound leans towards dubstep and other things bass-centric, they leave canyons of space for loads of strings, as well as their signature: the saxophone. While Dominic Lalli plays the latter live, Jeremy Salken carries the rhythm section with his drumkit. The bridge is complete by incorporating a bit of the DJ component, where other instruments beyond the sax and percussion are triggered and played back using a MIDI keyboard and a sequencer. I had the chance to watch Big Gigantic live at the House of Blues on February 15th, 2013. While other commitments only allowed me to peep the first hour of the show, the energy from last year’s Nocturnal LP was harnessed in full that night. Certainly in no small part due to the dazzling light show and indefatigable crowd, tightly packed wall-to wall.  While I can’t give the show a proper review, to make up for it I was able to get in touch with Jeremy over email and sorted out an interview! Read below, and have a look at some of the pictures I took at the show above as well. And if you haven’t snapped it up, there’s a link to the Nocturnal LP below; like most of their music, it’s a free download on their Soundcloud page. width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""> Nick: Nocturnal was released over a year ago, yet it’s still making a serious impact in the electronic music scene, especially as you guys continue to build your following. Many producers out there go the “instant impact” route where they rush through songs and release as many as possible to stay within the public’s consciousness, but none of these songs end up having much of a shelf life. Do you guys stick to a strict schedule when it comes to writing and producing music, or do you opt to wait until the timing is right to unleash it to the world? Jeremy (Big Gigantic): We do a little bit of both. When we first started we were putting out albums, EP’s, and tracks pretty consistently. Then we put a ton of time and effort into Nocturnal and spent most of last year touring with that album. The most time we took off since the band’s conception four years ago was three weeks before Red Rocks to prepare for that show—then we went on a nine week tour two days later. We had the goal of writing on the road but when it came down to it, between preparing for the show that evening and all the other things you do in a day, there just wasn’t time. Honestly that’s what it comes down to more than anything… time! This year started out with a bang but we have a more laid back spring/summer schedule so that will allow Dom more time to get in the writing mode and we’re aiming to have a new album out sometime this fall. Nick: So the Winter 2013 tour is in full swing! Do you guys structure the winter shows any different from the summer ones? I can imagine there must be some variance, especially considering how Big Gigantic is the “main attraction”[...]

Crate Exploratory: BBD's Top 20 World-Wide EDM Tracks of 2012

Mon, 31 Dec 2012 17:10:50 +0000

Now that we’ve all managed to survive 2012, you get the honor of having to survive reading through ONE more list. Just one more though, I promise. Dance music enjoyed a pretty wild ride this past year. While natrually there was a pretty wide gap between the mainstream sounds a-la Avicii, Zedd, and Swedish House Mafia and all the different underground scenes, both facets were robust and sustainable. Trap music, while sonically was nothing new, enjoyed widespread adoption from a variety of producers and was fueled almost entirely by social media. There was also a nice resurgence in the sounds of classic house and disco in the underground as well. And has dubstep finally run its course? Good dubstep will always be relevant, period. So without any further ado, here’s BBD’s Top 20 Dance and EDM tracks for 2012…in no particular order. Why did I choose the tracks that I did?  Bicep: $tripper width="660" height="495" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because Bicep’s online presence helped initiate a movement towards the classic, no-frills sound of house music. With just a blog and a bit of authenticity, Bicep has proven you can change things for the better. Their music and online activity have been a huge inspiration to what I do here at BBD. Stray: Follow You Around width="660" height="371" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because tracks like “Follow You Around” prove that innovation is alive and well in drum and bass music. In fact, this track should be considered “good music”, not just drum and bass. Stray’s songwriting skills are just as polished as any contemporary artist out there.  Duke Dumont: The Giver width="660" height="495" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because “The Giver” brings to the table everything I loved about 90s garage and house, and not a single thing I didn’t like. This one’s going to be remembered well into the new year. Shadow Child: String Thing width="660" height="371" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Dirtybird is still one of the biggest labels in the game because of tracks like “String Thing”. Shadow Child’s grooving bassline helped ensure this track enjoyed a very comfortable stay in Beatport’s Top 100 for several months back in the spring. Alex Metric: Rave Weapon (UZ Remix) width="660" height="371" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because Trap was stupidly addictive this past year, and because UZ is still one of the most mysterious figureheads of the new genre (has anyone figured out who he is yet?) UZ took Metric’s original, which was an electro house anthem, and flipped it properly. Justin Martin: Ghettos & Gardens width="660" height="371" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because it’s almost wrong not to include at least two or three Dirtybird titles every year. Other than “String Thing”, Justin Martin’s title track to his debut album was basically impossible to escape this past summer if you left the house to go to any DJ party. Dare I say he actually took the dubstep wobble and made it sound original? B Flat: Night is Over width="660" height="495" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because I have to include at least a few “slept on” releases. “Night is Over” is criminally underrated, easily one of the most melodic future bass pieces I’ve heard over the past few months. Perfect track to end a set with. Breach & Midland: 101 width="660" height="495" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Because house that dips below the 120 bpm marker will never go out of style. EVER. Dr. Meaker: Fighte[...]

Photek's Latest Full-Length Effort: Not Another Modus Operandi, Nor Does It Need To Be

Mon, 19 Nov 2012 19:48:46 +0000

In the world of dance music, Rupert Parkes, the man otherwise known as Photek, has been touted as a charlatan for a decade-and-a-half. Many argue he’s even a victim of his own success. Photek’s eldest (and most loyal) fans dwell on dubious hopes he will release an album that sounds just like his Modus Operandi debut. That disc, released in 1996, propelled the fledgling drum and bass genre into mainstream consciousness through the fusion of sampled jazz strains and meticulous breakbeat manipulation.  width="660" height="495" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Recently I watched an obscure Dutch documentary where Photek was interviewed, shortly following Modus Operandi’s release. While in the humble setting of his makeshift bedroom studio, consisting of nary a PC, MIDI keyboard, and a heaping stack of old vinyl records, he made a very powerful statement: “Everyone’s style is what they listen to outside of what they produce”. By twisting even the tiniest bits and bobs from classics like Bitches Brew and A Love Supreme while transcending the 160 beat-per-minute speed barrier, it’s safe to say Photek cemented a style of his own during those embryonic days.  In order to properly listen to Photek’s latest long-player, KU:PALM, we need to eliminate any bias we’ve harbored regarding his precursory, mid-90s sound. Artists evolve, and if he was still milking the dusty grooves of Davis and Coltrane in 2012, the act would probably be stale and redundant by now. width="660" height="371" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> We can’t discuss KU:PALM without at least mentioning Photek’s sophomore act, Solaris, from 2000. It’s safe to say Solaris was the gateway that connects Modus Operandi and KU:PALM. A sonorous listen, we witnessed Photek step outside his familiar box of broken beats and harrowing jazz riffs here. Solaris scaled a variety of tempos and danced between deep house, drum and bass, and downtempo. Yet it was still a cohesive package thanks to Photek’s ubiquitous use of the Roland TR-909, slathered across all the percussion and bass of almost every cut. Photek also shifted away from sampling and towards the use of keyboards and drum machines to synthesize his sounds from scratch on Solaris. An important milestone. Where Modus Operandi was a full sandwich and Solaris was that same sandwich neatly sliced into bite-sized pieces, KU:PALM is the musical-equivalent to running this sandwich through a blender. Photek leaves no stylistic stone in the world of dance unturned on his third album, to the point of it being a dynamically changing listen start to end.  width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""> KU:PALM’s lead single (and apex of the entire album) is “Pyramid”. Released as a freebie earlier this year, purists instantly salivated over its precision-crafted breakbeats (albeit at a reasonably slower tempo than his early drum and bass work). Pyramid is a tectonic juxtaposition of percussion shifting against a dense layer of Indian-inspired atmospherics. It’s tense yet well executed, leaving little hesitation that Photek would be painting with a broader color palette on this canvas. And with Pyramid, the result certainly doesn’t end up being brown. We also obtained a proper preview of other songs that would end up making KU:PALM’s cut on his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix, recorded back in early October. width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""> The opening two track[...]

Crate Exploratory: Vital Elements-Bad Boy Tune (2006 Jungle)

Wed, 12 Sep 2012 05:42:07 +0000

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I was in the midst of the never-ending process of digitizing and archiving my 3,000+ vinyl collection when I came across this little gem I completely forgot about by Vital Elements: “Bad Boy Tune”. The release date is a bit hazy, but was definitely during the period where I pretty much ONLY listened to drum and bass, circa late 2006 or early 07. 

While most producers walked right, Vital Elements walked left with Bad Boy Tune. It was released during a period in dnb I feel was pretty stagnant looking back at it in the rear view mirror. Meaning this track had a lot of unexpected twists and turns which is probably why I bought it in the first place. If you imagine 1992 hardcore, with all the hoovers, scary stabs, and menacing low end, sped up just a touch to drum and bass tempo, you’re pretty much staring this track down the throat. While the drums are pretty standard fare (which I actually don’t mind, because it adds weight to what is obviously one of the most important components), everything else comes from leftfield. 

Basement Recordings was a signature label that was well involved in distributing early breakbeat hardcore to the masses, remaining active through the atmospheric early drum and bass days of 1996 and 97. Following a decade-long hiatus, they briefly resurfaced in 2006-07, releasing a very small handful of new singles and re-issuing a couple classics that were long out of print. “Bad Boy Tune” was one of the select few new tracks that came out. Who knows what’s next for them…maybe something in 2016? That’s only like four years away, guys.

Crate Exploratory: 2-Bit Project-Jump Up and Down (1996 Chicago House)

Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:54:11 +0000

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2 Bit Project-Jump Up And Down (1996 Chicago House) from beantownboogiedown on Vimeo.

Dance-related vinyl releases that haven’t been uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo are few-and-far between these days. However, digging deep will expose plenty of titles that haven’t seen the light of day in over a decade. Not only is it especially true for the obscure one-off regional pressings and white labels, it also holds true with large popular labels, such as Dance Mania. This is mainly because they had plenty of 12”s that basked in the spotlight, stealing the shine away from others that simply fell by the wayside.

One of these lesser known gems on this Chi-town institution is an EP released by 2-Bit Project in 1996. Misleadingly titled the “Bump that Pussy” EP, one would understandably associate it to be a ghetto-tech affair from the name alone. It’s actually quite the opposite, the majority of the 8 tracks land squarely on the pad we know as house. “Jump Up and Down” is a great tool to use when starting up or closing down a DJ set. Its call-and-response between the vocal hook and the fun samples it incorporates make it one of those songs anyone can associate with using minimal effort. Even at the very beginning of the night.

“Jump Up and Down” is also very straightforward and concise in its duration; similar to a lot of Chicago music back then, it was more about the impact of the hook rather than the overall journey. And while the 2-Bit Project’s attempt at covering Witch Doctor (the one by the Alvin and the Chipmunks….NOT Armand Van Helden, mind you) near the end of this release didn’t go down in the history books, the rest of this EP is certainly worthy of a mention.

Crate Exploratory: Edward Louis-Holy Spirit (2000 House)

Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:24:57 +0000

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Edward Louis-Holy Spirit (Blakkat Remix) (2000 House) from beantownboogiedown on Vimeo.

I ain’t religious, but if I was, Edward Louis’s “Holy Spirit” might be a suitable gospel. This is a little-known house gem from 2000. It is heaviy based around the colorful vocals of what I think is Louis himself (as nobody else is credited, and they are far too good to get left unnoticed). Compiling barely a dozen words lyrically, they are layered and arranged to cover a wide landscape of ten minutes in the original mix. It’s akin to imagining a Todd Edwards song, only without the vocals being chopped down to syllables and at 10 beats-per-minute slower. The original was uploaded to YouTube long ago, so I present to you the Blakkat remix.

Although I don’t like the Blakkat version nearly as much as the original, musically it was slightly more relevant to what was popular in the house scene at that time. It’s more of a filtered disco piece, with a few percussive stutters and edits to shake things up a little. In 2012, I feel it sounds a bit more dated than the original, which is very heavily influenced upon the Paradise Garage sound (something many veterans consider timeless). Here’s the original for comparison.

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Eddie Amador, who scored mild success in those days with his songs “Rise” and “House Music”, also penned a remix. Have yet to hear it, however.

Crate Exploratory: Mike Delgado-Byrd Man's Revenge (1997 Disco House)

Wed, 18 Jul 2012 04:54:18 +0000

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Mike Delgado-Birdman’s Revenge (1997 Disco House) from beantownboogiedown on Vimeo.


From a production standpoint, Mike Delgado’s 1997 “Byrd Man’s Revenge” is a bit crude for today’s standards. It’s fulcrum is one solitary loop from, you guessed it, “Think Twice” by Donald Byrd. With filtering up the wazoo. 

But like most disco house tracks of the era, Delgado was successful in digging hard enough to come up with a 2/4-bar sample effective enough to be spread across the wide landscape of a 6-minute piece. That can prove to be a bit of a challenge (as hundreds of forgettable disco house tracks have successfully demonstrated). And bonus points if it was from a source that hasn’t already been caned to death. Delgado handled it with panache.

While the true essence of “Byrd Man’s Revenge” just screams Chicago, it’s quite the contrary. Byrd actually hails form Detroit, and Delgado, New York City. The birthplaces of techno and hip hop!

Crate Exploratory: Charmaine-I Get What I Want (1996 Jungle)

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 13:26:26 +0000

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Charmaine-I Get What I Want (1996 Old Skool Jungle) from beantownboogiedown on Vimeo.

Anyone listening to breakbeat hardcore or jungle back in the 90s is well familiar with Suburban Base Recordings. Those who discovered the music after the Y2K scare was proven a joke generally sized the label up as something of folklore. An imprint that was instrumental in defining both said genres, that somehow disappeared, never to be heard from again.

While this post isn’t about the demise of Suburban Base, it is more to show how the label emphasized proper quality control even during their twilight period. While many remember all the classics DJ Hype, Krome & Time, and Rachel Wallace released on Suburban Base in 1992-93, here’s a taste of one of their lesser-known gems from 1996. 

Charmaine’s “I Get What I Want” is interesting because neither her (the lead vocalist of this R&B-meets-reggae-meets-jungle-inspired piece) nor the producer (Expressive) had any other releases besides this one. That was kind of the ethos for the label: they often took chances on unknown artists and helped develop their careers. The artists I mentioned above included. 

Unfortunately like many of Sub Base’s final releases, “I Get What I Want” got lost in the shuffle of a genre that was rapidly shifting away from its slick moody keys and hip hop stabs, towards the furious sounds of techstep. It would have been interesting to see if Charmaine would have become a household name had she released a handful of other singles on Sub Base, similar to Rachel Wallace a couple years prior. Oh well, one hot tune is still better than zero at the end of the day. 

Crate Exploratory: Ego & Keen-When Your X (2000 2-Step Garage)

Wed, 27 Jun 2012 16:53:03 +0000

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Ego & Keen: When Your X (2000 Garage) from beantownboogiedown on Vimeo.

This is a white-label 12” I picked up at the Together Fest record fair this past year. I think either Brent StillLife or Pete Dev/NULL sold it to me. It’s a culling directly out of the peak year of 2-step garage, when MJ Cole was featured on the Essential Mix series and Craig David was on the radio. Yes, even in America. 

Yet while those guys were swimming in the mainstream (without switching up their style, mind you), there were literally hundreds of basement renegade labels releasing 2-step 12” singles, many of them only putting out 1 or 2 before folding. Keep in mind this was before the saturation of the Internet music community, where vinyl was still the king of the hill and it was the only medium most DJ’s would touch. Some releases were white labels because they happened to be remixes of R&B songs, the artists giving themselves different names so as to fly as far underneath the radar as possible to avoid lawsuits. I have a feeling Ego & Keen’s “When Your X” is one of those examples.

The only thing I know about Ego & Keen is that this was their only release. Even on Discogs I was able to find out very little about these guys. But the track is very R&B influenced, one of the more soulful of 2-step I’ve heard over the years. The second part actually switches up from 2-step to 4x4. It’s always nice finding discoveries like this because, despite its relative obscurity, it’s still a decent track. One of probably thousands of 2-step tracks that fell through the cracks during its heyday.