Music Reviews

Thu. August 12, 2004 12:00 AM
by DJ Plez


Her name may be Lola, but she’s left the Copacabana and up from under the management of Barry Manilow. What am I talking about, you ask. Well, it’s The Shapeshifters HUGE dance floor hit “Lola’s Theme” (Positiva). This song is massive! The original version (including the Extended Vocal and Main mixes) is a fantastic slice of disco-infused house with a thumping funk bass line and a trumpet salvo that will blow minds. The Eric Prydz mix is synth-heavy electro-house slab that has worked wonders on European progressive dance floors. And finally there is the Victor Calderone Vocal Mix treatment that may represent some of his best work in quite a while. Calderone provides a simmering and long build-up that absolutely devastates a dance floor at its emotionally-releasing peak. This mix is further proof of Calderone’s genius. “Lola’s Theme” very well may be the global dance song of the year; it’s definitely got my vote so far. [Note: While this was originally released in Europe on the Positiva label, it has come to America recently as a domestic on the You label with the artist listed as Shape UK.]

You know her as the voice that sang Madison Avenue’s huge global hit “Don’t Call Me Baby” from a few years ago and their follow-up single “Who The Hell Are You.” Well, now Cheyne – that’s her name – is about to break loose with a solo effort called “I’ve Got Your Number” (Aperitif Records) that may find this artist from Down Under topping the charts again. “I’ve Got Your Number” has deliciously catchy lyrics and an easy to sing chorus that undoubtedly will please all who have lamented the recent lack of lyrics in much of today’s dance music. Of the various versions I have heard, the 16th Element Remix is the most interesting primarily due to its versatility. It’s got a progressive/trance/electro hybrid vibe going that DJs will be able to find many uses for. However, my favorite mix was the EMC Remix with its killer bass line and cool bouncy feel. The undeniable groove of this remix will surely fill dance floors as I see DJs, especially those in Boystown, using this moderate energy track to transition toward a later evening peak.

In addition to importing sushi and their automobiles, Japan is about to unleash a 21-year old singer named UTADA on the American public. Before her debut album, Exodus, hits the store in the States in early October, the first single, “Devil Inside” (Island Records) will be released in the near future. Taking off from the base provided by the Original Mix, which has a hypnotic feel amid Asian-infused electronic beats, three dance remixes have been mustered up. The Richard “Humpty” Vission Experience Mix has an appealing electro-techno sensibility and a touch of funk – generated by an electric guitar instead of slapping the bass - during the break that was a bit surprising but definitely welcomed. The Scumfrog Vocal Mix is smoother in sound with more of a prog dreamy vibe that never feels dark and heavy despite the fact that UTADA is talking about the devil that’s inside her.

Naked Music, one of the leading standard bearers in the production of deep house music, has two recent releases very much worthy of attention. The first is the smooth-as-silk “Try” by Arvid featuring Ernesto. Joining the minimalist yet groovy original version is an Andy Caldwell remix that has a heavier percussive flavor to it, thus making for perfect martini music. There’s also a Lance DeSardi Landshark Mix, a relaxed and sultry re-rub that has some interesting progressive elements to it.

The other Naked release just out is Lisa Shaw’s “Let It Ride.” The A side of this single contains the Main Mix, a sophisticated and smooth West Coast house groover that Naked is so well known for producing, and the Speakeasy Mix with a retro electro-funk vibe that’s interestingly reminiscent of the SOS Band. The flip side of this 12 incher is a testament that true treasures may not always be on Side A of an album. The Swing Dub is a mix that that reminds me of a Jacob London track due to its quirky beats and sounds that actually bounce more than swing. You could envision Mark Farina playing this during one of his live sets (actually, see below). And the fourth mix of “Let It Ride” – Herbert’s Strength Inside Dub – is an inventive syncopated rhythmic tour de force. The mix feels somewhat minimalist with its human beat box inspired synth programming; however, in the hands of a talented DJ this dub could drive a dance floor into a frenzy. This mix is simply marvelous!

Compilations & Full Length CDs

Live At Om – Derrick Carter & Mark Farina (Om Records)
With this live 2-cd set, Chicago legends Derrick Carter and Mark Farina have done their hometown proud. Recorded live at the Monthly Om at Mezzanine in San Francisco this past Valentine’s Day, these mixes reminded me of the fun that was the essence of the loft parties these Carter and Farina would DJ at in the early 1990s in the West Loop area. Farina’s mix is a bit of a departure from the mushroom acid house groove he popularized and drives with funk and style using tracks and mixes from Jason Hodges, Jacob London, and Lawnchair Generals. When he drops Martin Venetjoki’s “Love Shit” in the middle of the mix, you know you are at a party for the fun people. Carter’s mix is on point with highlights including Through Changes” by Cricco Castelli, “Popcorn” by Jetsab & Aos One, and the classic “Computer Madness” by Steve Poindexter. Live At Om is one of the best releases of the summer and a must for your house music collection.

Underground Sound of Lisbon – mixed by DJ Vibe (Star 69 Records)
On the heels of Roxy 3, Star 69 Records recently released a grand slam home run with Underground Sound of Lisbon mixed by DJ Vibe. This 2-CD mixed compilation rises well above the dance music fray and sets itself apart masterfully from the run of the mill greatest hits collections that are repetitively forced upon the dance music public. There’s an obvious game plan for this mix, which is dark and sexy and full of a groove that fuels the engine of those who are true connoisseurs of a late night after-hours vibe. Realizing that there exists a market for those who want to be challenged by a 4/4 beat and not pandered to, the Portuguese DJ Vibe thankfully stays true to his Balearic big room tribal roots. Not a single diva vocal anthem track on Underground Sound of Lisbon, just deep driving rhythms and beats! This mix is grand on a scale that many won’t be able to comprehend at first; and sadly, some never at all. This ain’t no Masterbeat for the masses. – DJ Plez

Gotta Keep Movin – Julius Papp (Neo Disco)
If you’re in need of a soulful mix of house music on the deep side of the equation, Julius Papp has produced a cd made to order. Gotta Keep Movin is a refreshing alternative to peak-hour mixes that drive and drive but seemingly go nowhere. With tracks such as Charles Spencer’s “Board Meeting” and Papp’s own “Feel The Rhythm” this cd is full a spunk and groove and energetic enough to get folks to shake their money-makers. – DJ Plez