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May 2020

Resident Advisor Rewind: St Germain’s Tourist

Published in partnership with Resident Advisor, Rewind is a review series that dips into electronic music’s archives to dust off music from decades past.

It’s the year 2000. You walk into a chic fusion restaurant, where people knock back sake-tinis at the bar while the chefs put together sushi rolls with ingredients that don’t belong in sushi. You hear the distinct and familiar thrum of house kick drums in the background—not too fast, not too slow, and, most importantly, not too heavy. Listen closer and you can detect noodling trumpets and saxophones, the tickling of ivories, maybe a scatting vocal. Is it dance music? Is it jazz? Is it retro? Is it new? It sounds like the future, or maybe it sounds exactly like now.

It’s 2002, and I’m 12 years old, flipping through the CD collection of my latest step-mom, who had moved into my dad’s house so quickly I barely had time to meet her. One night I stayed up late to see what kind of music was in her collection. There was an enormous amount of cool, late-’90s electronic music I had only heard about before. Acid jazz-like Medeski Martin & Wood, stuff like Meat Beat Manifesto. St. Germain‘s Tourist, one of the most successful house albums of all time, caught my eye. The bright colours and timetable on the front cover seemed urbane and impossibly cool. When I first put it on, I felt classy listening to it, like I was living some elegant fantasy life far beyond my years and means.

Fast forward to 2020 and putting on Tourist is to transport back what feels like an incredibly specific time. Nightclubs had been chased out of New York by Giuliani’s decree, as part of an overall whitewashing of the city, but house music—ever more tasteful, melodic and hip—was everywhere. Not just in New York, but in London, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Paris, too. At every nice restaurant, at every cocktail lounge, all over TV shows like Sex & The City. What I like to call “fusion restaurant house” was ubiquitous, and French producer Ludovic Navarre‘s second LP was king of them all.

It’s easy to deride this kind of music as derivative. And a lot of it is. But not Tourist. The album is the massively successful culmination of a massively successful dance music career, a nearly instrumental album that sold over four million copies around the world. It laid the foundations for a style that still rules the places where you can sip a $16 martini and lounge on leather cushions, a sound that still signifies some notion of taste and class for a certain subset of the world.

Tourist is revered and lampooned for the same reason: its unironic sincerity, its knack for going there. This is a record that kicks off with “Rose Rouge,” a house tune built around the rhythm section from Dave Brubeck‘s “Take Five,” one of the most iconic jazz records ever made. And why not? “Take Five,” after all, is one of the best songs of all time, and the sound of the piano and brushed drums is a shortcut to another era. Complete it with the husky vocal from a 1970s Marlene Shaw performance and a trumpet solo from Pascal Ohsé, and you start to feel like you’re at a bar you can’t afford, or a party you’re not swanky enough to attend.

St. Germain has a way of making you feel like, yes, a tourist. The album takes you on a trip through the sixth arrondissement neighbourhood that gave Ludovic Navarre his artist name, and through Paris beyond it. St. Germain was famous for its lively post-war jazz scene: “Rose Rouge” was the name of a cabaret; “Pont Des Arts” is a bridge that connects the sixth and first arrondissements across the Seine; “Latin Note” is a nod to the city’s famous Latin Quarter, another cultural hub, next to St. Germain, while “La Guotte D’or” refers to an African neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement.

It’s also, as much of Navarre’s career has been, tourism through musical styles. Tourist is discussed in the context of acid jazz or lounge house, but aside from the choice of instruments, it’s so much more than that. The LP touches on blues, Chicago house and, particularly, dub, an important part of the album whose influence usually goes overlooked.

Dub runs through the pulse of the best tracks on the album. “Land Of…” is one of Navarre’s most accomplished tracks, effortlessly switching tack from dub to jazz rhythms—check out the piano break in the middle, which sounds like Duke Ellington‘s “In A Sentimental Mood”—on top of a relaxed breakbeat. This is turn-of-the-millennium dance music genre alchemy. And the Scientist-sampling “Montego Bay Spleen” features the incredible playing from Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin, who plucks and strums in languid circles around Navarre’s calm dub beat. It’s truly remarkable playing, not just an aesthetic gimmick.


The musicianship is another misunderstood part of Tourist. Navarre isn’t simply putting down beats under jazz tracks or cutting up saxophone players from the ’60s—most of the tracks feature solos laid down live by contemporary musicians, transforming Tourist from jazz-hop pastiche to a true jazz record in itself, albeit one with a different kind of rhythm section (It even came out on the legendary jazz label Blue Note, which was dipping its toes into electronic music.) The live musicianship is what gives Tourist its panache and its most arresting details, like how the vibraphone shimmers across the stereo spectrum in glorious detail on “Latin Note.”

Not that Navarre wasn’t good at sampling: he takes a ’90s-era collaboration between John Lee Hooker and Miles Davis and makes it the foundation for “Sure Thing,” a laid-back jam that lets Hooker’s guitar and voice do the talking. Hooker’s angelic notes glide across the track, sounding almost inhumanly perfect at times, weaving and dipping through melodic figures in a way you’d never get on a quantized grid. Tracks like “Sure Thing” remind you that no matter the context, or how it was put together, you can’t deny the soul of Tourist, which is more than the sum of its parts.

Soul is what sets Tourist apart from everything else that sounds like it. It’s hard to divorce it from the clichés it helped inspire, but in this album, you can hear the groundwork for musical adventures like Mala In Cuba, or the long-running Verve jazz remix series. Navarre took a glossy style often reduced to anonymity and infused it with personality.

Before he conquered the world with Tourist, touring so long that he ended up tired of the music (and not releasing anything else for almost 15 years after), Navarre was a credible club producer. He was first signed to Laurent Garnier’s F Communications, and under aliases like Nuages and Deepside, he made earthy house, jacking techno and styles that would hint at the revolution to come with Tourist. (The Chicago tribute “Jack On The Groove,” released as D.S., is an essential track you can hear on the From Detroit To St. Germain compilation.) So when he released Tourist he wasn’t so much cashing in on a trend as finishing one that he started, fleshing out the jazzy sound he started, standing in opposition to the glitzy disco mania of French house at the time.

Ending up a mainstream success and bringing house music to the masses once again, Tourist was eyed suspiciously by hardcore enthusiasts on either side of the jazz-dance divide. (A notorious Village Voice review called it “NPR techno.”) But it’s a wonderful time capsule with sensibilities that still ring true today: great drum programming, heartfelt jazz playing, and a stylistic range palatable to both electronic music haters and club dance floors alike. (“Pont Des Arts” is a lost organ house anthem.) Navarre has since moved on to working with West African artists and musical styles, but Tourist casts a long shadow over everything else under the St. Germain name. Sure, it’s not perfect—the dated “So Flute” is better forgotten—but Tourist deserves its place in the house music pantheon, creating a sound that, for a time, seemed to be pretty much everywhere.

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CAS Nightmares On Wax ‘Smokers Delight’ with Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and George Evelyn

Celebrate 25 years of Smokers Delight with Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and special guest George Evelyn of Nightmares on Wax on the latest edition of Classic Album Sundays Worldwide. They will discuss his musical roots and the evolution of Nightmares on Wax alongside playing some of the samples Evelyn excavated from some of his most cherished LPs.

The show will air at 12pm and 10pm BST on Sunday May 31st here. Please note these shows will not be available for free on archive so don’t miss out!

Nightmares on Wax’ sophomore LP was a defining moment of ’90s trip hop and downtempo sound along with other heavy-hitters including Massive Attack’s Blue Lines, Portishead’s Dummy and Tricky’s Maxinquaye. The LP fused together a cornucopia of sound: “It was all the things that turned me on: reggae, soul, and through sampling and digging, hip hop was the backbone,” Evelyn said of the samples on Smoker’s Delight in Joe Muggs’ book Bass, Mids, Tops.


Read more: The Story of Nightmares On Wax ‘Carboot Soul’

 

 

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Ed Rivadavia How Iron Maiden Symbolically Rescued Heavy Metal From 1990s Purgatory And Decreed A Brave New World

It may be something of a stretch to state that, as Iron Maiden’s career flourished or floundered over these past 40 years, so has the overall commercial health of heavy metal music; but this certainly seemed plausible at the time of the English group’s victorious return via 2000’s Brave New World album.

After all, Maiden pretty much ruled the 1980s, just as metal had, then struggled through the 1990s, when changing musical fashions coincided with the departure of charismatic frontman Bruce Dickinson (replaced by ex-Wolfsbane screamer Blaze Bayley) to erode the band’s creative powers, their record sales, and even their once unassailable touring business, which saw them “demoted” from stadiums to arenas, to theaters.  

Looking back on his decision to embark on a solo career in a 2000 interview with Lollipop magazine, Dickinson said, 

“I hesitate to say it, but [Iron Maiden] became a little … comfortable. Complacent. One of the reasons why I quit the band was because I felt the other guys were pretty pleased with where we were, and we were no longer struggling or trying anymore. I wanted to keep trying. Not trying new things to be fashionable — because no one in this band gives a shit about being fashionable — but to “react” to the times. React, rather than trying to be significant for the sake of it.”

So, Bruce went off to “keep trying” via 1994’s Balls to Picasso and ‘95’s Skunkworks, while Maiden bassist and chief songwriter Steve Harris did his best to steer his bandmates down the metallic straight-and-narrow on 1995’s The X Factor and ‘97’s Virtual XI … yet something always seemed to be missing, for both parties.

And in his autobiography, What Does this Button Do?, Dickinson himself admitted that his late ‘90s solo albums, Accident of Birth (‘97) and The Chemical Wedding (‘98) had started sounding increasingly similar to his old band, concluding that “There were only a few options available to Maiden, and one of them was to ask me back.” Even more telling, when Bruce quizzed his solo band on the matter, their answer was, essentially, “The world needs Iron Maiden – you have to do it.” 

Steve Harris seemed to agree, so after handling the messy business of dispensing with Bayley’s services, the formal announcement was made in February of 1999: Dickinson was back, and so was beloved guitarist Adrian Smith, transforming Iron Maiden into a rare, triple-axe attack alongside Dave Murray and Janick Gers, rounded out by the one and only Nicko McBrain bashing the drums in the back, of course.



Eager to get reacquainted, both personally and musically, Maiden’s new sextet lineup hit the road that July on the Ed Hunter Tour (named for a video game that was totally overshadowed by the reunion excitement), which served to knock off any rust and honed the band’s focus for the challenge that followed: recording a brand-new Iron Maiden studio album – their 12th overall and first with producer Kevin Shirley.

It was Shirley who convinced the band to eschew the usual process of recording instruments separately and perform the new material live in their Paris studio, later telling Metal Hammer:

“I could see how there was this intangible energy you’d get, just from having musicians playing together. So, I was dead keen on Maiden doing that. Steve, in particular, was very hesitant about it … so I said, ‘If it doesn’t work then we’ll go back and do it as you’ve done previously, but let’s give it a try!’ Pretty much, as soon as they’d done one or two run-throughs, he said, ‘I never want to work another way again!’”

Said Harris succinctly to Kerrang! magazine, at the time: “All I care about is how it feels now, not how it was.”

This recording approach, aside from promoting band camaraderie, reflected a more collaborative songwriting process, described as follows by Dickinson to Lollipop: “We got to rehearsals and I said, ‘Well, Adrian and I have a few things;’ Janick says, ‘Steve and I have been working on some things too;’ and Davey says, ‘I’ve got a few things with Adrian and Steve as well.’ We all worked on those combinations. We only kept the good ideas, but all the stuff we kept had been the product of people working together.”

The end-results on Brave New World clearly reflected this unprecedented display of teamwork with ten songs that almost studiously checked off every sonic box that, in unison, comprised the classic Maiden formula – giving fans exactly what they wanted and nothing else, since this was hardly the time for getting cute!

The first song and single, “The Wicker Man” (a reworked leftover from Dickinson’s solo period), was the very picture of Maiden-esque economy, tracing its urgent brevity to prior opening barnstormers like “Prowler,” “Aces High” and “Be Quick or Be Dead,” but, beyond this point, the song lengths immediately started growing, as the band boldly revisited their quasi-progressive compositional style of old.

Harris, Gers, and Dickinson joined forces for the evocative “Ghost of the Navigator”; Murray, Harris and Dickinson handled the album’s anthemic title cut; then came the record’s only “solo” effort in Steve’s poignant “Blood Brothers,” which was dedicated to his father, but very much spoke for the spirit of Iron Maiden’s revitalized brotherhood.

Ensuing material like Gers’ and Harris’ “The Mercenary” and “Dream of Mirrors,” plus Murray’s and Harris’ “The Nomad,” had been salvaged from the waning days of the Blaze era, but one of Brave New World’s very best offerings, “The Fallen Angel,” resulted from Smith and Harris’ renewed collaboration.

Wrapping things up was another lyrically imaginative number in “Out of the Silent Planet,” composed by Gers, Dickinson, and Harris, and then the possibly self-referencing Murray/Harris partnership, “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” neither one of which would go down as long-term Iron Maiden standards, but hardly let down Brave New World’s clear-cut return to form.

And, best of all, fans seemed to agree, as the album shot to No. 7 in the UK Charts, No. 39 in the U.S. with over 300,000 units sold the first week (this being a time when physical records still shifted serious quantities), and immediately reversed Maiden’s decade-spanning decline – they were soon packing major arenas as if the 1990s had never even happened.

Looking back now, it’ safe to say that Iron Maiden has enjoyed a second golden era these past 20 years – creating a legitimate Brave New World by pooling together their considerable talents, respecting their shared historical legacy, and exerting sheer willpower upon their destiny.

Heavy metal thanks them very much.

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Thrilled to announce the AT HOME WITH MICK ROCK COLLECTION! All of the previous and upcoming images…

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First listen: White Boy Scream

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Freya Parr The concert halls that are reopening following the coronavirus lockdown

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Vienna Philharmonic

The Vienna Philharmomnic will return to the Musikverein on 5 June to resume live performances with audiences. Audiences will be restricted to a maximum of 100 guests, all of whom will be required to wear a mask.

Concerts will be no longer than 70 minutes without an interval.

The orchestra's first concert back in the hall will be Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, led and conducted by pianist Daniel Barenboim.

There will be no puiblic sale of tickets: all tickets will go to family members and supporters of the orchestra. Subscription concerts will resume in October.

 

 

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall

Although the first six weeks of this year's BBC Proms will be held online, with a series of archive concerts, the BBC is hoping to be able to move back into London's Royal Albert Hall for the final two weeks of the season from 28 August. 

More info here.

 

 

Ravenna Festival, Italy

The Italian festival will restart from 21 June, with its opening concert led by Riccardo Muti at the open-air 15th-century fortress, Rocca Brancaleone. Its programme has been amended since the coronavirus lockdown, and will be announced in due course. 

 

 

Basque National Orchestra

A short series of eight concerts will be performed by a smaller ensemble of around 50 musicians, all of whom will be following social distancing guidelines. Masks will be compulsory until musicians go on stage, and a 2m distance must be maintained at all times. The wind and percussion sections will be surrounded by protective screens.

Although there will still be no audiences, each concert will be recorded and broadcast on Saturday mornings at 11am from 30 May on ETB2. 

Works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mozart and Richard Strauss are on the programmes. 

It is the first orchestra in Spain to be returning to the stage.

 

 

This list will be regularly updated. If there are any we have missed, please contact freya.parr@immediate.co.uk.

 

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Shirley Collins announces new album Heart’s Ease and shares video

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CM von Hausswolff curates seven sound installations for the web

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falsepriest Database Review: Which Countries And Formats Are Dominating Discogs In 2020

So far, 2020, while a bummer in many regards, is shaping up pretty well when it comes to the archiving of music releases. As we’ve shared previously, submissions are up significantly on previous years, as well as edits, images added, YouTube clips added, and general improvements to the database by the diligent community of contributors. 

While the plethora of data on Discogs is interesting in its own right, we always love digging in a bit further to see where the data is coming from and what it is in more specifics. In this instance, we’re looking at which countries have been the most prolific contributors over the past few months, and which formats have been most favoured by our contributors in the past year compared the history of Discogs. 

Submissions By Country

Looking at the biggest contributors by country, this graph says it all. You Americans have been busy this year – especially over the past few months. That spike in submissions starts around week 11 of this year – or early March. We hardly need to remind you what was going on around that time. We see submissions from the UK, Germany, and Japan also start to creep up around this time. Not quite as dramatically, but still telling. And Japan looks like they’re just starting to get into the swing of it – keep it up!

This graph is a pretty good representation of how submissions are entered by country most of the time. Although the lines are generally a little flatter, the order of biggest contributing countries holds true. We’ve included the rest of Europe even though Germany and the UK (uh, do you guys still belong to a continent?) appear in their own right to demonstrate how significant the contributions from those top four countries compared to the next biggest contributing region.

Submissions By Format

Looking at the volume of submissions by format over most recent couple of years, it’s striking how many of those submissions have been CDs, especially since to many, Discogs has become synonymous with vinyl records.

In fact, this isn’t really anything new. While 12″ got an early leg up on the formats added to Discogs in the early 2000s, CD took over as most submitted format in 2006 and has held steady since then. The volume of 12″ submissions first started to wane around 2008, after reaching its peak volume of submissions, and in 2016 that volume fell below the number of format submissions we term ‘Other’ (this includes less commonly found/submitted formats like Shellac, 10″, Flexi-discs, etc). The margin of CD submissions compared to other formats has continued to grow over the years, continually accounting for a larger percentage of overall submissions year over year.

What Makes the Humble CD So Pervasive?

We have a few theories, and we’d welcome more if you have your own. For one thing it groups more types of releases – singles, albums, EPs – whereas vinyl is split across 12″, 7″, and LP (and it could be worth noting that when looking at April 2019-April 2020 submissions, the sum of these three formats eclipses CDs, 57,937 to 49,543).

CDs were inescapable in the 90s – they were relatively cheap to produce, they sound good, and they were extremely portable (shout out to my Discman). New releases came out on CD, and classic albums were remastered and reissued and widely available – maybe there’s just more of them out there compared to other formats.

And finally, maybe we just lost fewer. Shellac is notoriously fragile; tapes come unspooled and end up as litter; collections of vinyl records literally being thrown in dumpsters. CDs seem kind of indestructible by comparison (well, almost), and while they’ve been surpassed by newer technology, don’t quite have an air of obsolescence yet (although maybe we’re not the best people to ask).

Remember, you can impact this data. Submit your releases to Discogs and contribute to the biggest global database of physical music.

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