Good morning! It’s freezing outside and I’m very comfortable sipping my cup of coffee as I write this. I have a lot of great news today to get you informed for the weekend. The stories include the SnowGlobe Music Festival, how David Guetta does Ibiza, a Joker album review, a Seth Troxler interview, and the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards 2011.
SnowGlobe Music Festival
Setting the tone for what is sure to be a monumental New Year’s Eve celebration, theSnowGlobe Music Festival is pleased to welcome headliners Bassnectar, Pretty Lights,Thievery Corporation and The Glitch Mob along with over 40 more world-class artists to South Lake Tahoe this December for a New Year’s Eve celebration you will never forget.
A limited amount of reduced-cost, Early Bird festival passes go on sale Friday, November 4, 2011. Advance three-day passes will go on sale Wednesday, November 9 (also in limited supply), and regular three-day passes will go on sale this winter. Click here for more information. Hotel space is limited, so start planning your trip soon.
The SnowGlobe Music Festival offers a unique concert experience by combining music and mountains to create an unstoppable force of fun this New Year’s Eve. The vibrant and unique landscape of South Lake Tahoe is the perfect setting for the adventure-driven festival. With almost 9,000 acres of skiing and snowboarding terrain, festival goers can hit the slopes by day and shows by night; and with the festival grounds located just three miles from Stateline, NV, gamers can take advantage of the five 24-hour casinos that Tahoe has to offer.
SnowGlobe will be offering a shuttle service all weekend to and from designated parking locations throughout South Lake Tahoe, to ensure everyone has a safe and environmentally sound New Year’s Eve weekend.
Villas, Private Jets and Paris Hilton: Rolling in Ibiza With David Guetta
The worst thing about flying to Ibiza on David Guetta’s private jet is that the ceiling is a little low, so when you need to use the facilities after two glasses of champagne, you have to duck your head a bit to keep from bumping it on the bathroom door.
The second-worst thing about flying to Ibiza on David Guetta’s private jet, or pretty much anything in his life, for that matter, is nothing.
Guetta’s plane – a twin-engine Cessna CJ3, piloted by two smiling Germans named Thomas and Manuel – is cruising six miles above the Mediterranean, on its way to deliver Guetta to Fuck Me I’m Famous, the weekly club night he hosts in Ibiza during the summer. It’s probably the most celebrated dance party in the world – attracting everyone from Dr. Dre to Jean Paul Gaultier. A couple of years ago, Will.i.am showed up, and Guetta invited him up to the booth to freestyle; it’s not much of an exaggeration to say those few minutes changed the sound of contemporary pop.
With a few notable exceptions (Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim), European dance music has always been one of those things that America just never got – like Roberto Benigni, or socialism. But ever since the Black Eyed Peas turned pulsing Eurohouse jams into U.S. chart gold with the insanely massive “I Gotta Feeling” (which Guetta produced) and “Boom Boom Pow” (which employed the same sample that Guetta played for Will.i.am that night), American pop has moved to a continental beat. These days, you can’t go five minutes on your local Top 40 station without hearing a song that sounds like a Guetta production (not a few actually are Guetta productions). The titles are intentionally generic and international-friendly – “When Love Takes Over,” “Little Bad Girl,” “Without You” – but their ubiquity is turning Guetta into a new entity: a bona fide pop-star DJ.
Growing up in Paris, Guetta always knew he wanted to spin records. “I remember this meeting with my parents and my math teacher when I was 14,” he says between bites of raspberry soufflé, the sunset glowing aubergine through the window of the plane. “They were saying, ‘You have a problem – you’re not studying.’ And I was like, ‘I want to be a DJ – I don’t need to be good at math!'”
Before long, he got a job spinning at a gay club – a skinny (straight) 17-year-old who wasn’t legally allowed inside – and from there it was a slow but steady journey to headlining dance festivals for 80,000 ecstatic fans. “I always had a good connection with people,” Guetta says. “That’s the most important thing when you’re a DJ. But what really made me explode is when I created that new sound – electro mixed with urban soul. That became the new standard of American pop music today.”
Guetta talks about his success in a matter-of-fact way that is just stoked enough to not sound boastful. (“A lot of people think the French are arrogant. But really, we’re just telling the truth.”) But he also expresses wide-eyed wonder at how the son of a Jewish-Moroccan sociology professor found himself powwowing with Bono and collaborating with Will.i.am on a project for NASA. And then there are things like his recent visit to Atlanta with Akon. “He took me to this black strip club called Magic City,” Guetta says. “I never knew what ‘Make it rain’ meant. He gave me this big pile of money” – he makes a gesture the size of a small safe – “and said, ‘OK, you have to throw the money to that girl.’ I said, ‘Throw money in the air? That goes against my whole education!’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah – that’s why we do it!'”
(via Rolling Stone)
Joker: The Vision Review
Pop music amplifies and lionizes its creators by default, while empathy comes from the capital-M music and the community. This has remained true as the music industry has changed and it has remained true as DJs– Daft Punk, David Guetta, Deadmau5– have risen to pop-culture prominence. It’s why so much of the coverage of an artist like Robyn focuses on her smallness and approachability: It is not the norm. On his debut album, Bristol-based producer Joker (Liam McLean) wants to be a hero. The Vision, arriving after years of delays and false starts, is not for the industrial streets of Bristol, London’s maturing club culture, or the small pockets of hyper-aware American undergrounders eager for bombast that doesn’t result in our getting wedgied in a mosh pit. All of those scenes are made to feel small next to the righteous blockbuster-ing of The Vision, an album so impressed with itself that there’s little need for the listener to be so.
It’s not hard to figure out how Joker arrived here. As part of the “purple” (post-) dubstep movement, Joker (along with Gemmy and Guido) suggested that the end-game for dubstep’s engorged bass rumble did not have to be masculine aggression. He unleashed a nearly bulletproof string of singles and for well over a year did seem heroic– his superpower a Magneto-like control of your mid-range dial, his age proof that there were skills yet to harness. His breakout came as dubstep was graduating from pervasive force to ubiquitous cultural presence (in England) and seemed to cement his status as a comer.
That The Vision is more pop-oriented, more streamlined, and more self aware won’t be a surprise to anyone who has paid attention. It paints the picture of a producer who not only missed his moment but whose verve and craft dissolved as he waited. The Vision buckles, repeatedly, under a mass of unwieldy guest appearances, pandering pop moves, and Joker’s ever-present, oxygen-eating synths. An album meant to display a producer’s power and confidence– from the title to the cover art on down– instead reveals a reliance on formula and a crippling indecisiveness. Grime, R&B, stadium pop, and dubstep all come in for the most tepid of updates.
Most of the collaborators– on board to tease out those genre plays– are ill-chosen and marginally talented. With the exception of Jessie Ware (Santigold to Katy B‘s M.I.A., right down to her bigger voice and handful of kickass tunes), they serve as haughty ciphers, funneling heaps of entitlement and no small amount of paranoia into these tracks. Silas, on the functionally widescreen “Slaughter House”: “They wrap you up in plastic and ship it to the store.” Who? 4AD? (More damning still, from Silas: “You can hang around and see what the hook brings.” I can!) “On My Mind” is “Love in this Wal-Mart” for the post-Timbaland set. It features the line, “Rumor has it that you want a man with a big di-di-[ed. note: wait for it] digital following.” This is presented without a hint of humor or irony; somewhere Lonely Island‘s number three is slapping his forehead. Joker’s most fruitful and charming vocal collaboration– “Music (4am)”— perplexingly misses the cut.
What’s most distressing is that The Vision doesn’t sound like Joker’s version of R&B and hip-hop ruined by less talented collaborators; it sounds like Joker’s version of the same ruined by Joker. He has strip-mined his chewy, mid-range melodies for their largess, applying it liberally to standard verse-chorus-bridge structures. Removing the cast of self-aggrandizing twits from “Back in the Days” doesn’t get you to “Digidesign”; the children’s choir on “Lost” is a far cry from the whirling-dervish-house of “Snake Eater”. The best “classic” Joker track included is“Tron”, an early-2010 offering that preceded the unrelated Hollywood remake that you’ve already forgotten about and was thought at the time to be among his weakest tracks.
The comparison I keep coming back to for The Vision is Canibus’ Can-I-Bus, American hip-hop’s nuclear option for unrealized potential and perceived slights. Like Can-I-Bus, The Vision required a perfect storm of bad advice, arrogance, and wretched timing. It irks that a series of Joker’s peers– among them SBTRKT, Rustie, and Magnetic Man— have established a blueprint for bass producers looking to go pop without sacrificing direction or personality. On “Slaughter House” Silas finishes his rhyme: “They wrap you up in plastic and ship it to the store/ But deep in your bones you know you were made for something more.” On an album of terrible, throwaway lines, this is the worst: Joker was absolutely made for this. He arrived fully formed, a shy kid buried in synthesizers and video games, born for music. Whatever has transpired since, The Vision seems to be exactly what Joker wants: UK pop&B of the vainest and most vacuous possible variety.
Seth Troxler: A Visionary View
“I am pretty normal, honestly” Seth Troxler opens. “I do normal things around the house and with my fiancée and friends. But with the music there is this character called Seth Troxler. Some of it is the real me, I’m sure, but some of it isn’t. It’s a different mindset altogether.”
We’re discussing Seth’s recent track record with interviews. Demands from media for his time have surged this year and, in turn, he’s earned a reputation for colourful, sometimes completely crazy comment. What are we likely to get today?
“When I give interviews it’s probably 50% me and 50% fun and games, depending on the quality of questions I’m getting asked. I do play things up but it’s no different to DJing and working in the studio; it’s all an expression of my character. It’s a lot like Andy Warhol, who lived his art publicly. And, look, I’m passionate about the music, so that is always the major focus of what I talk about with people. It’s what I do.”
Seth has, with the help of close friends Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and Lee Curtiss, proceeded to turn club music radically and stylishly on its head. The Detroit four firmly established themselves around four years ago, setting up shop in Berlin as Visionquest before quickly developing a line in top-drawer gigs and remixes. Lee and Shaun had actually moved to the German capital in 2004, Seth and Ryan joining them in 2007 (Lee has since returned to the States, and Seth has moved to London). Visionquest screwed with house and techno’s then popular minimal template, marrying it to eclectic influences such as folk, Motown and electro-pop, and defining a quirky new kind of dancefloor soul. Not mainstream, not underground, not like anything gone before….
“I think our success, both as Visionquest and individuals, is down to the quality of the music we’re releasing” Seth explains. “It’s tangible but not average by any stretch. It works in a club but at home also. It tries to say something different but without being pretentious; it comes with artwork… it attempts to make a proper cultural point. It’s part of all of us, it is properly driven by our experiences; and, well, let’s be honest, we have lived.”
Seth once described Visionquest’s live show as a “psychedelic mind trip to the future,” suggesting drugs have, or have had, an important role to play in the collective’s creative process. Is that the case?
“First and foremost we’re total music geeks,” Seth replies. “We have an insane passion for all sorts of music and sounds… abstract, indie-rock, whatever. Being open-minded is vital.”
That makes sense, Seth’s biographical materials going so as far to mention ‘chirping crickets’ and ‘whistling voodoo magic’ among his aural passions. But what about the drugs? History reveals many famous examples of chemically-fuelled life inspiring art – Coleridge, Pollock, The Beatles…
“We’re not about promoting a drug vibe” he stresses, “but, sure, our experiences with acid and psychedelics have helped inform who we are today. A lot of that inspiration came from the early days in Detroit when we were young kids DJing and stuff, and researching ideas about music… finding ourselves, getting otherworldly. We were a close group of friends working out what we wanted to say, and psychedelics supported that process. We might be in a different position today but we’re still questing….”
Seth is, of course, staring down the barrel of married life. He and his fiancée Sonoya – a ballet dancer – will tie the knot next year at a ceremony featuring relatively low-level Bristol DJ Adam Gorsky behind the decks and “some philosophy professor dude” from the States; another of Seth’s good friends. The temptation to play as well must be strong but he won’t, he insists, let himself get distracted.
Which begs the question about whether or not Seth has started pondering his long-term career and future yet? An institution like marriage can easily provoke such a reaction.
“Life is really good but there have been occasions recently where I don’t feel in control of what I’m doing; my career seems to have a life of its own” he confesses. “I’m not going to let that happen next year. Right now I’m on empty, I’m completely worn out. Someone like Jamie Jones can push themselves harder than me; I don’t quite have his stamina to keep playing night after night. Don’t get me wrong, the gigs are great and I want to do lots more but, sometimes, the travel hurts and the creative juices run dry. I’m planning a big holiday at the end of the year with Sonoya, and a better work schedule after that. I can’t, and won’t repeat this year for the next 10.”
For now, there really is plenty going on. The release date of Visionquest’s addition to the revered Fabric series has just been confirmed for early December, but first up is The Lab 03, the latest instalment of NRK Music’s cutting edge mix compilation series. Seth’s contribution is expectedly varied, corralling deep atmospheric cuts by Hatikvan and Bearweasel, slick tech-flecked grooves by Lindstrom, Dinky, and DJ Qu and then, on a second disc, everything from low-slung dub to freeform jazz via electro-psychedelia courtesy of Chaim, Superpitcher and Und.
“I’m really happy with the final result” he confirms. “I’ve blended a number of popular underground house and tech sounds, with some really weird shit… music at the other, more abstract end of the scale. It’s all about pushing boundaries.”
Those boundaries will shift a good distance more in the coming weeks and months as Visionquest, the label, unveils its next (eagerly awaited) tranche of releases. Crosson is set to release a new artist album with Vagabundos staple Cesar Merveille, in two hefty parts; Ewan Pearson is adding final studio touches to Footprintz’ pop-edged debut album, and tasty Italian duo Tale Of Us are also busy preparing preparing their first album.
Can Seth divulge anything more about the latter?: “It’s pretty much left the concept stage now; there are few tracks taking shape. The guys [Tale Of Us’ Karm & Matteo] have some surprises up their sleeve; the album won’t just be riffs on the deep house and techno material they’ve released before. They’re musicians; their ideas are wide-ranging. They’re outrageous.”
Visionquest’s label has found its feet rather spectacularly since launching at the start of the year. Even at this early stage of life, its A&R decisions seem to be carrying an awful lot of sway within clubland – the kind of sway that properly sets up careers. But how much of label strategy is emotional and how much hard-nosed business?
“Three of the four of us have to agree before signing anyone to the label,” Seth answers. “But we’re usually all in agreement, and we take the A&R really seriously. There are business practicalities, and there needs, obviously, to be an emotional connection to the music, but we go further than that. We ask artists to hang out with us for a few weeks; we get to know them as people and artists, make sure they’re not knobs or anything, and then we make our decision. Everyone in our family is a good friend, and that makes what we do that bit more special and successful.”
Special enough to run and run? “Yes, I really think so, things are going great so far” he concludes. “It’s…what… 30 years on from when dance music began? It feels like we’ve reached a pivotal moment where dance music is embracing all of these different ideas, a mix of underground and mainstream, and has its first chance to be universally accepted by everyone. It is becoming accepted culture, and that is completely amazing. I love being part of that.”
Red Bull Elektropedia Awards 2011
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