This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at Sonicrampage.org.
For years I've had a hopeless vinyl buying habit. Vinyl is a bit of an inexplicable choice these days, considering the quantum leaps made in recent years in the technology of cd decks. Cd's are a lot smaller and easier to carry, you can burn them off yourself, and in general they are just more convenient than vinyl. However, vinyl is just so, so, well...nice. There might be more exciting feelings then getting a package through the mail, ripping it open, and pulling out some fresh twelves, but I'm not sure what they would be. Anyways, here's a cursory guide to buying music off the net (there are just so many sites that to list them all would be nearly impossible). The sites I've listed are pretty much all British, as that's generally where I get my records from. Does anyone know any decent American online record stores that have a decent selection of techno and are pretty reliable (I've found that sites like Satellite Records and Sonic Groove tend to have lots of stuff listed that is actually out of stock).
General dance music:
Chemical Records - An excellently broad selection of tunes, covering pretty much all the different bases of dance music. Particularly strong in terms of their drum n' bass and breakbeat selection, but also quite good for hard dance and techno. Very efficient with quick turn-around times. Highly, highly recommended as they are one of the best.
Juno - The broadest of all the dance suppliers, they have a lot of literally everything. Sometimes they don't get in things that more specialist niche suppliers get, but generally they are an excellent resource. Very fast turn-around - there were times when I was still living in Britain that I would place an order at three in the afternoon and have the records the next morning! Very highly recommended.
DJ Needs - Excellent trawler site, with all kinds of rare tunes. Not the cheapest site because Keith (the guy who runs it) really knows what he's doing, but I've found a lot of stuff there that I've spent years looking for. Especially strong on the harder, more obscure side of early-mid 90's European acid/trance/techno.
Replay Records - Another excellent site. Quite a general selection of tunes, but always worth a look if you are looking for something. Less non-UK stuff than DJ Needs, but quite good for UK dance releases.
Gemm - Not a single record store, but a clearing-house site for many shops all over the world. An excellent resource for finding old tunes. Can be quite expensive, and many of the shops tend to be unreliable. Make sure that what you want is actually in stock before you order, but if you buy with your eyes open you'll be good.
eBay.co.uk - Always worth a look.
Banging Tunes - Excellent selection of hard house, hard trance, acid techno, and techno. I've been using their forum for the last four and a half years. Very good.
Tune Inn - Best selection of techno, bar none, in the UK.
Nu Energy - The home of the Nu Energy collective. Probably the best place to buy hardcore.
IMO Records - Another good shop for hardcore.
Vicious Circle and EUK Records - The online homes of Vicious Circle Recordings and Energy UK Recordings. They both run shops that are excellent for upfront hard house and nu-nrg and the more banging end of the techno spectrum. I'm not so into that sound any more, but very very good at what they do.
Trackitdown - Excellent resource, covering all the bases from techno to breaks to house to drum n' bass to hard dance. Old tracks, stuff that's never been released on vinyl, fresh upfront tunes, dj mixes from some big names. Great resource.
IMO Download - The download part of IMO's site. I use it to buy old trancecore stuff that I never got at the time (and that would be ludicrously expensive to buy second-hand on vinyl), but they do other stuff as well.
Drum n' Bass & Breaks:
Streetwise Music - I tend to think that Chemical (yeah, again) is the best for breaks, but these guys are worth a look.
Grime & Dubstep:
Want to hear some examples of (basically) all the zillion styles of electronic music, complete with snarky commentary? Why not check out Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music?
I used to do some writing for the London-based hard house/hard trance/techno website Harderfaster.net, so I figured I might as well post up the links to my old stuff for those who might be interested. I will be mostly writing about hard trance/hard house/acid techno/general fast music, as I sort of feel like autopsying my long involvement with that scene, and there's already lots of people writing about the 'cooler' kinds of music that I also listen to.
Pearsall's Guide to Record Shopping in London - Now sadly out of date as quite a few of those stores have shut down (XSF and Basement Vinyl being two of the big ones).
Review: Zoology Summer Trance Party (August 1st, 2003) - A review of a club night in sunny Brixton run by some friends of mine. I was being reasonably diplomatic in that review (Pandora S-K's set that night was the biggest bunch of cheesy shit I've ever heard in a club in my life).
Review: Redtrip presents Corrossive - A review of a night put on by my good friends the Redtrip crew. A fantastic night - they always put on great reviews. In fact they have a party coming up on February the 18th so if you are in London and you feel like a bit of raving, why not go along? (Sorry, they are my friends so I will have to do a bit of plugging along the way).
Interview with JP & Jukesy - Interview with Midlands-based hard house dj/producer duo JP & Jukesy. Just a little something I did for Tom Allen, the 'HarderFather'.
Finrg Collective interview - An interview with the guys behind Finland's Finrg label. My good friend Eric and I went over there for two weeks in the summer of 2003 to stay with these guys and while we were over I did this interview. Awesome guys, and I'm in the process of writing a much longer piece about Finnish trancecore (which I'm pretty much obsessed with).
One thing I've been listening to a lot over the last year or two (but especially recently) has been grime, which is London's current street sound; a thrillingly modern collission of dancehall reggae, hip-hop, jungle, and sheer imagination. I'm not really planning on writing about it much, as people like Simon Silverdollarcircle and Luca Ghettopostage already do a great job on it. But, anyways, since I want to attract readers to this blog (I might as well be honest, right?) I will occassionally be giving away little rips of grime tunes from sets. So, these two tunes are from a recent Logan Sama show on Kiss FM. There's a few little skips and the sound is a little wonky at times because I recorded this off an internet stream of the show. These two tunes are really really good. Check them out. The downloads will expire after 25 downloads, so be quick!
It occurs to me that some people reading this, following the link from my main blog, probably don't know much about the history of techno music. This Wikipedia article has a comprehensive overview of the history of techno, as well as its myriad fragmentations. It's worth a look.
Pearsall - Team USA Mix <- Right-Click, Save As
44 minutes, 192 kbps, 62 megs
01. Armand Van Helden - Necessary Evil (Armed)
02. DJ Rush - The Breaks (Pro-Jex)
03. Green Velvet - The Red Light (Music Man)
04. Brian Zentz - D-Clash (Intec)
05. Punisher - Wave Stalker (Seismic)
06. Slam - Stepback (Christian Smith & John Selway RMX) (Soma)
07. The Pump Panel - Ego Acid (Primate)
08. Mike Dearborn - Solution (Tronic)
09. Woody McBride - Off The Ceiling (Communique)
10. DJ Bam Bam - Stick 'Em (Tonewrecker)
11. Jeff Mills - The Bells (Purpose Maker)
12. Toktok Vs Soffy O - Ludicrous Idiots (DJ Rush RMX) (Toktok)
13. Mike Dearborn - Puppet (Majesty)
14. Jay Denham - Peoples (Equator)
15. Marco Bernardi - Commuters' Computers (Iridite)
16. Frankie Bones - What's Up? Shut Up! (Hard To Swallow)
17. Millsart - Step To Enchantment (Axis)
This is a mix I did for a friendly competition between American and Canadian dj's on the Bangingtunes forum about a year or so ago. The idea I had was to use nothing but American artists on it. It's quite a varied selection of stuff and hopefully you'll enjoy it. It gets pretty banging at the end, too.
Further to the last post, how about checking out the mix website I run with my good friend Dan Durnin at PearsallRampage.co.uk? Over there you'll find a bunch of mixes from the two of us, covering techno, breaks, hardcore, hard nrg/hard trance, and drum n' bass.
Update: Scratch that, I've just checked the logs and we're at nearly our monthly allocation, so I'm taking the mixes offline for now. I've got another server for our new (as yet unfinished) site, so I'll drop some links to the mixes that are on there later on today (I really need to go to bed!).
When I was 16 I bought some turntables and started mixing. I had been bitten by the bug of dance music two years earlier so, after saving up for a long time, I got my hands on a set of bright and shiny Technics 1210's, and started learning how to mix jungle. Many years later I am still at it, and still spending an unreasonable amount on new vinyl.
Pearsall - Rampage Teknikal 5
111 megs, 192 kbps, 79 minutes.
01. Doc Scott - Honey (Metalheadz)
02. Technasia - Crosswalk (Technasia)
03. The Advent - Digitize You (Kombination Research)
04. Anthony Rother - Krieg (Psi49Net)
05. Subhead - Untitled (Michele Fasano RMX) (Subhead)
06. Lab Rat XL - Lab Rat 3 (Clone)
07. Chris McCormack - What Kind of Sound (Materials)
08. Ha-Lo - Jellyhead (Eukatech)
09. Manasyt - No 13th Floor (Touchin Bass)
10. Dave the Drummer & Jerome - Jaws (Yolk)
11. The Hacker - The Last (Goodlife)
12. Pure Science - Rydym (Eukahouse)
13. Eric Borgo & Dani Konig - Vieille Ecole (Goodlife)
14. Unknown - Clones 3 (white)
15. 2 Bald Men - Acid Phonk (Experience 2000)
16. Dirty Blonde & Dave the Drummer - Bitch Rock (Havok)
17. Paul Birken - Krosskut (Don't)
18. DJ Preach - Under Pressure (Zync)
19. Sons of Piru - Goathead EP B1 (Native Diffusion)
20. Slut Peddlers - Funk Me Right (Punish)
21. Wilko - Pimp Free Flow (Pimp)
22. Headroom - Right the Fuck Up (Patterns)
23. Astro - Breath of Rainbow (Elephanthaus)
24. Redhead - I Love Techno (Lupp)
25. Heckmann & Henze - Attack (Federation of Drums)
26. Hertz - Recreate (Concept)
27. Aftermath - Body Rock (Ant Remix) (NineNineNine)
28. Mauro Picotto - Verdi (BXR)
This is my most recent mix, recorded December 2004. It starts off with a bit of electro and then goes into 'proper' (heh) techno. In my mixes, and especially in my techno mixes, I always try to touch on a wide range of sounds within the genre (I've never been a fan of ultra-eclectic mixes where all kinds of stuff get thrown in) while still maintaining a certain theme, a certain vibe. With this mix I chucked in some old stuff, some new stuff, some electro, some techno, some acidy stuff, some crunchy percussive bits, the odd spacey pad, lots of bass, the occassional bongo, and so on. I was aiming at a dark, sleek, electronic sort of vibe, and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, personally.
I'd say that, generally speaking, techno is my favorite style of music. It is, I'll admit, quite an acquired taste. One of the things that friends and family members who aren't into it always ask me is "how can you listen to it at home when there are no lyrics and there is that constant doof-doof-doof? It's so repetitive, I don't see how you can listen to that stuff."
The answer is that I don't listen to techno (or other forms of instrumental dance music in general) like I listen to vocal-led styles of music like rock or hip-hop. The key difference that must always be remembered about instrumental forms of electronic dance music is that there are no songs, just tracks. A track can be considered on its own like a song, but generally it sounds much better in the flux of a dj's mix.
What I like about techno is the fact that it contains so much variety within an often fairly strict structure. I like to listen to the evolution of themes within the structure of the tracks, the way new elements are introduced and others taken away. I think of listening to techno records as a bit like watching the clouds in the sky. I love to watch the clouds move across the sky. It seems repetitive yet it is constantly changing in subtle ways. And what changes! I love the sounds that computers make, because from as long back as I can remember I've always loved the texture of sound. This is perhaps why I ended up becoming so bored with rock music when I was younger (after a long time of utterly loathing it I can now listen to it again) - texturally speaking the classic rock combination of drums-guitar-bass doesn't offer the enormous possibilities for sound variation that digital and analogue synthesizers do.
This is perhaps what I love the most about techno in its track form, the way in which it melds such an expansive palette of sound onto the simple, even banal, chassis of a straight-down-the-line four-to-the-floor kick drum. That is the element that more than anything else puts people off much dance music - that constant thump. A lot of people find it really alienating and boring, but I love it personally. To me it has always been like dancing to my own heartbeat, something so simple and so easy to understand, something I just instinctually get.
I also love to both listen to the ways in which other dj's manipulate the music and to muck about with it myself. Even more so than other forms of electronic dance, techno is utilitarian music - it only comes alive when there's a dj working the tracks. Whether it is chopping savagely between two tracks or slowly morphing one into the other, a great techno dj like Dave Clarke or Charles Siegling from Technasia is a kind of alchemist of dance. A great techno dj can take a record that might have only a kick drum, a bassline, some percussion, and a one-note synth sound, but by placing it correctly in the wider context of a dj set melt your mind.
Techno is all about building a vibe, and the form that it takes offers a lot of opportunity for a dj to vary their approach to playing the music, in a way that other, more structured, forms of dance music like drum n' bass or hard trance don't. A typical hard trance record has an opening kick drum and percussion set, then the bassline drops, and then certain elements are introduced slowly, leading up to a breakdown, where the main riff comes in, then the whole track, main riff and percussion and bass together, kicks back in and everyone goes wild and then slowly the main elements filter out until the bare bones of the rhythm structure that started the track return (of course, by this point the dj should be deep into the mix and the next track should be playing louder or at least be transparently obviously on its way). It's a ruthlessly scientific formula that has been around for over ten years and still works incredibly effectively on the dancefloor.
Techno tracks, although generally structured to be dj friendly, do not tend to have such a simple fool-proof formula, so when you are playing techno you really have to think about what you are doing, when to start mixing in. When I used to play hard trance I found that, on mixes, each track would play for roughly the same amount of time, whereas with techno sometimes I might let a track play for a couple minutes, or it might stay in for only a minute before I go on to something else.
I will mostly be writing about dance music in this blog, especially about the more banging/ravey side of things, as I feel that there is often a dearth of interesting commentary about the stomping kick-drum side of things, something that I would like to try and go some ways towards rectifying. While I work on my first long piece about my undying love for techno (complete with mix!), as a sort of scene-setter, why not have a look at Simon Reynolds's article from today's New York Times (yeah, I'm already jacking from him straight away - God am I shameless!):
"In the new millennium, the mainstream profile of dance music dipped alarmingly. This downturn occurred on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was particularly precipitous in America, where electronica was edged off of the charts by the twin juggernauts of nu-metal and pop-punk, along with the perennial might of hip-hop. But it wasn't just a case of mass-media gatekeepers abandoning electronic music. Something was ailing at the grass roots of the scene. Formerly packed superclubs began to close, or move to smaller venues. Large raves, once the mainstay of dance culture, became nearly extinct.
Not only were sales of crossover-oriented electronica plummeting; the underground dance music sold in specialist record stores also declined. Some of those shops have closed because business is slow and record labels are suffering. "People I know who run labels keep getting worse and worse news," says William Linn, a San Francisco-based dance party promoter. "Partly it's because of the Internet, people just taking the music for free. But it's also because people aren't buying the stuff in the way they were when the music was a really new thing back in the early 90's." During that rave culture heyday, an underground anthem could sell anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 copies. Today, shifting a thousand copies of a 12-inch single is considered a good result.
What happened? One cause is the continued fragmentation of dance culture into myriad micro-genres with narrow aesthetic parameters and niche followings. Another factor is musical overproduction, which effectively divides the pie into smaller slices. But the overall pie also seems to be shrinking as well. Dance music has simply lost the ear of the floating consumer. This may be, in part, a matter of fashion: electronic dance music had been around long enough to lose its "new kid on the subcultural block" status. The music had become familiar, and familiarity bred ennui.
Check the rest of the article, as well as his further comments at his blog.
Before I get with the program and drop my first proper music post, here's some links to some of my favorite parts of the musical blogosphere (yeah, these'll be in my sidebar as well).
Dissensus - the brainchild of Matthwew "Woebot" Ingram, this isn't a blog, but is the gathering place for many of the best minds and most finely-honed tastebuds in the musical blogosphere (and me). Often provocative, occasionally irritating, frequently illuminating, and never less than essential.
Simon Reynolds - The big dog of modern music criticism. Impossible to ignore his influence among the wider blogerati, and I'll probably shamelessly echo him at times. If you want to write about modern music, you pretty much have to own up to reading Simon Reynolds.
I Love Music - a long-running music discussion forum that brings together many professional journalists with keen amateurs. I don't tend to read it as much as I do Dissensus, but it's generally worth a look.
Freaky Trigger - Excellent pop-culture blog collective.
One of the most popular topics in the blogosphere over the last year or so has been grime, the new sound of urban London, that puts hip-hop, dancehall, and older forms of British stret rave music like hardcore and jungle into a blender set to 'furious'. I probably won't write much about it, as there's already quite a few people doing a much better job than I could hope to do. The blogs to check are Luca Lucarini's Ghetto Postage, the always fantastic Silver Dollar Circle, Chantelle Fiddy's World of Grime, Drumz of the South, Kode 9 and Blackdown. An always excellent non-blog resource is RWD Magazine which has a forum that is excellent for grabbing recordings of radio sets and stuff like that (if you can bear to decipher much of the commentary from the teenage audio).
Other sites I dig include the superb mp3 blogs Autonomic for the People, Bassnation and Gutterbreakz, as well as the hip-hop blogs We Eat So Many Shrimp, Houston So Real, Can't Stop Won't Stop, and Government Names.
This is my new music blog, a sort of side project to my main blog, Pearsall's Books. I'm into all kinds of different music, and I've wanted to do a bit more writing about music, but I didn't feel it was appropriate for my main blog. I'm not sure how often I will be writing on this, maybe once or twice a week. Generally speaking, I'll use mp3's to illustrate what I'm talking about, but they will be limited downloads, although if you are an artist or a record label and do not want your track to be shared, just email me at pearsall