By Don Allred
The underground dance hype of 2006 was Girl Talk's Night Ripper. It's a collection of early 00s-type mash-ups. Yes, nasty rap boys, chirpy r&b girls, Dadpop piano, Dadrock guitar, Dadpoprock women: they can all fit each other, we get it already. There aren't enough beyond-functional junctures sharp enough to seem as witty as the nudge-nudge wants to, although being instructed to "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies," next to directions for the Tootsie Roll, is the whole thing in a nicety nutshell. But nothing is revealed, not like back in the day, when Freelance Hairdresser blowed-out Eminem's inner ragtime minstrel from the (''n-n-nobody listens to techno!") techno gallery, real good. And The Best Bootlegs...Ever was a comp; has there ever been an album of good mash-ups from one DJ, or one team? Well, speaking also of moments of insight, there's Steinski's No Fear, and just for fun, try a set from Soulwax AKA 2 Many DJs. But not many others, and not from Greg Gillis, not this time, anyway (haven't heard his first). Still, for those who wanna bootleg the bootlegger or get otherwise bizzy, note that the first five or six tracks Night Ripper tracks might well get you out on the floor; the rest may let us see if you can dance in your sleep.
Speaking of hype, 2004's critically-acclaimed Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats gave birth to an '06 sequel, More Favela Booty Beats, which is better. More gives it up for Mama Brazil's mutable musical heritage, putting the (relatively) more relaxed, tuneful tracks in front this time, with (fewer) Portuguese-rapping, 2 Live Crew fans bringing up the rear. (Where they do provide itchy excitement.)
In terms of projecting individual personality, though, most of the Brazilians are left in the dust raised by crate-digging visions of 80s rap, Miami bass, and dancehall, back there with the UK's cheeky (but jittery and uncertain)"freestyle" urchin, Lady Sovereign. Her US debut, Public Warning, doesn't provide many tracks that are both new and good, though it does conveniently collect most of her earlier, better (basically comedy) workouts. The Def Jam press sheet plays down the grime connection, since Dizzee didn't break here; rather, she is presented in historical perspective, an archetypical figure that arises from the classic UK rebel stance musics, like Poly Styrene! Well, they don't go that far, but squint your ears more toward Lulu in To Sir With Love, and Tracey Ullman, or that's more what she might should aim for. (In other words, start looking beyond the music.) But, since most of her best stuff has been out a while (new handlers gambling that something new from here is gonna break right past alll that internets stuff), on singles and/or the Vertically Challenged EP, this also seems like Gretchen Wilson's second album (syndrome). But, y'know, "Big up to Oliver Twist," and still love the way she mocks the (cool!) rockist guitars of "Blah Blah," by shrugging off, "rrrr-rrrr, rrrr-rrrr-rrrr-rrrr," at the end of lines. Elsewhere, she goofs in more ways than one, by imitating Missy's more forced-sounding sounds, especially since the latter almost steals the (superfluous) remix of "Love Me Or Hate Me," by appearing at her own most relaxed, ironically, but also briefly enough, so it works out ok. But what did happen back there on Chalkhill, Sov? Something not this cute, so she does jitter past it, but had to mention it. (Perhaps if only cos: you must do that in this form, but: Jay-Z's people are watching, so: can't get too real in a way that might be too UK and/or female). Let it be then, 'til when/if you're ready. But not reddy, not like the girl who overdoes the tanner (in malnourishment and London fog?) and leaves an organge ring on the toliet seat, in "Tango"!
But overall in '06, such blinky-to-sparky graftings of popped "I" and booty-boogie-wookie are upstaged by the distinctive rap-bass-dancehall-salsa profiles of Lagos Stori Plenti: Urban Sounds From Nigeria. Here's the same range of mood and activity as on the compilation Futurism Ain't Shit To Me 2, but with no need for that American/European hip-hop party's sci-fi satire of backpackas, round-the-way gangstaz, etc. Not even when robots who "need, a, can, of beer, so, I, can, freee-stylle," vainly seek convincing "Fake Idees," so get into beefs with uncool humans, "jealous of my infinite lifestyle"? No, not with the everyday surrealism of Lagos at hand. For instance, Modenine's "419 State Of Mind" is an epic description of what can happen if you open one of those inbox-infamous "Nigerian letters." (It sounds pretty exciting! H'mmm)
One European who could cope with the tricky temptations of North and South America, and even Africa, was the late great Frenchwoman, Lizzy Mercier Descloux. Ze Records' 2006 LDM anthology, Best Off, still spins an eye-widening world of jazzy, pop-art-punk-disco-globe music.(See also "Liquor For The Soul," in the 9.2006 archive link on your right margin.)
In the late summer of '06, The Pet Shop Boys' Fundamental and Canadian DJ-turned-vocalist Tiga's Sexor sleeplessly cruised ancient, shadowy connections between glam, prog, and disco, in discreetly powerful new machines. "Each of you looked up, but no one said a word, I felt I should apologize for what I hadn't heard." So make your excuses and leave, plunge yourself into work, and then into "Luna Park," "where it can never get too dark," and real-seeming orchestras preside like trees, somewhere overhead. The Boys seem to have learned from Dusty, or anyway producer Trevor Horn has (as far as instrumentally emulating her own voice's timing and vibe, rather than the erratic arrangements of her non-Pet Shop settings.)(No, not Dusty In Memphis, more the Brit stuff.) Ballads are cosmic enough to not harm the momentum. Tiga has a little trouble with liftoff, but soon learns to use his vocal limitations ominously, though not too too-too, as Tom Verlaine would put it. This def. pertains to what Allmusic.com reviewer Jason MacNeil hears as Tiga's Pink Floydian vibe on one track, and that's the or a key to several others, including the Jeremy Irons-bringing-out-the best-of Roger-Waters finale. (Most of his best are collaborations with the Soulwax brothers.) "Pleasure From The Bass" is as headlong and hooded as any of it.
Blowoff (Husker Du/Sugar frontman Bob Mould, times DJ Richard Morel), on their amorously armored, self-titled debut, and Zombie Nation (John Starlight), on Black Toys, brought those shadows into stripe the strobe light. Blowoff summons Bob as Leatherman, dancing like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein surely would have, if only he'd reached the beach. Black Toys could be called electro, or per-se dubstep, dubstep fortified with near-subliminal guitar shreds, Falstaffian space bass, and beats in big dirty silver boots, stomping and climbing up stadium steps.
Also in 2006, two valiant, disco/house-based mixologists, Germany's Sven Vath and Italy's DJ Naughty, produced albums that encompassed the most tensile bends in old and new trends. On Vath's swanky-but-stanky 2-CD set, The Sound Of The Sixth Season, tracks like Extrawelt's "Zu Fuss" ripple through cycles of anticipation and payoff. But this kind of interaction also has to deal with the sheer length of the album, and the way any mix can eventually get predictable. (Okay, Disc 2 does seem to unwind, to some extent, from such obligations; it's just hard not to be think about the harpsichord massage/asssembly line dichotomy, once you've thought of it, while riding the rising traffic of Disc 1, most likely. Or reading about it here, before you've had a chance to listen. So, sorry to've mentioned it, actually; condense this [mix, not feature, please] a little, or just don't listen to it all at once, or try not to, and it's awesome.)
DJ Naughty's A Naughty Night In Berlin is even more varied than Vath's vast valleys and peaks of tweaks, and can leave you gasping and grasping for more, despite its (single-disc) intensity. A clue to this balancing act is in the name of the DJ and his album: they get naughty indeed, but never too nasty. (Euros are better at the former.). 2006 was his diva, and she can teach 2007 how to sing as well.
(http://www.forcedexposure.com/ is probably the best source of most of the best albums mentioned here.) (Ditto for instance ESG's Keep On Moving, with the hurt-so-good discipline of its pioneering, still trenchant bass & drum grooves, seldom-seen guitar, sweet incisions of vocals, incl. when ["I'm his"] "Ex" warns her successor of the pain that stains, deeper and deeper, it seems, but really it's the same, the same; but most of this is happy around that, and "purely physical, baay,by": Keep On Moving, either way.)(Also, Forced Ex should still have Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75. lots of familiar and new and nascent styles and notions sorting themselves out, mash-ups not waiting for a DJ. Fave: The Exciters' "New Bag," which sounds like somebody's been listening to mid-60s James Brown, Miles Davis, and Velvet Underground's bread-x-butter, a-go-go rhythm guitarist, which one is he?)