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The Return of Movement! (festival weekend recap by Paul S.)

Detroit's ravers and clubgoers refer to Memorial Day weekend as Techno Christmas, because that's when the Movement festival (formerly DEMF) has taken over Hart Plaza for over two decades. Of course, it ended up being cancelled the last two years because of COVID, but at least last year there were a series of free Micro-Movement events at a few clubs in the city, including the first major event at Spot Lite, which immediately became my favorite venue in Detroit pretty much as soon as I walked in the door, and everyone else I've brought there seems to feel the same way. Honestly, I've had my ups and downs with Movement, there were a few years where I either didn't go at all or only went if I could get in for free. I've come back hard the last few years, though, and after two years without the festival there was no way I was going to miss it. This year, I think most everyone who went would agree that it was such a relief to finally have the festival back. 
 
The entrance to the festival used to be a nightmare, but thankfully over the last few years they've worked it out so that the line to get wristbands and the line to enter the gates are both spread out far from each other, and the traffic flow moves pretty quickly. I didn't bring a bag so I had nothing for security search, so all I had to do was scan my wristband and I was in. With six stages running simultaneously, I generally tend to channel-surf and check out at least 10 or 15 minutes of every performer I'm interested in rather than stick to one stage or stay for an artist's entire set. I also tend to prioritize artists I've never seen before or who don't play Detroit often. Even still, there's still a ton of sets I missed entirely simply because I had to be present for someone else. When I first got there, Spot Lite regular Ladymonix was at the Stargate stage near the front entrance, playing some house perfect for the sunny yet not unbearably hot afternoon weather. I visited the Underground stage, typically home to harder techno, and this year they've moved it from its usual space to an adjacent area which used to be a food court at one point. This way there's no lengthy ramp to enter and exit the space, so there's no risk of a fire hazard, and it's a much wider, roomier area, lined with a wall of speakers, so the sound is evenly distributed and the bass was just unbelievable. Hiroko Yamamura was holding it down when I got there, and former WCBN DJ Erika was on after, but I didn't catch her set this time. Jerk X Jollof, who focus entirely on music from the African and Carribean diaspora, played at the Waterfront stage and I stuck around for nearly their whole set. As soon as I walked in the area, they were playing amapiano, and I can't tell you how happy I felt hearing those log drum basslines on a massive sound system for the first time. After their set, Eris Drew and Octo Octa played a characteristically vibed-up set at the Pyramid stage, overlooking the river. Over at the Detroit stage, a small, comfy area near the entrance reserved for upcoming local talent, Henry Brooks was playing something resembling headrush-inducing progressive breaks, then Rebecca Goldberg did an excellent set of spacey analog techno.
 
Stage-flipping for a bit more, I ended up right front and center for Jon Hopkins' main stage right at sundown. After an epic intro, he played a surprisingly party-friendly set, with less of the more cerebral sound of his albums than I expected. It was exciting in any case. Nastia came correct with a hard set which ended with some jungle, right before electro master DJ Stingray 313 closed out the underground room. I caught a tiny bit of Carl Craig at the Stargate stage before heading out to Tangent Gallery for the Tresor 313 event presented by Interdimensional Transmissions. Anthony Shake Shakir was playing when I got there, but instead of doing his set on the stage, he was in a wheelchair DJ'ing on the floor next to the sound guy. An assistant was handing him records, a lot of them skipped, and he wasn't always making an effort to beatmatch or do clean transitions. It was quite sobering to be honest, but and it felt special nonetheless. IT's Ectomorph (BMG and Erika) played a DJ set, which they've only started doing recently, and then Wavejumpers performed. They just released a record on Underground Resistance, and one of their members is the brother of the late James Stinson of Drexciya. The set was a mixture of tracks from the record and reworked versions of Drexciya classics. It sounded pretty good but it was from 3 to 4 AM and I was just exhausted and didn't feel like staying, even though I really wanted to see Batu who played afterwards.
 
Sunday I saw hard-driving Underground stage sets from Uun and Lady Starlight, plus more vibe-heavy open-air selections from Natasha Diggs and Ash Lauryn. I actually ducked out so I could get dinner at Pie Sci and then see Jeff Mills' film Mind Power Mind Control at Cinema Detroit. It's basically a montage of various promotional clips he's done for his albums and events over the years, edited into an hour-long dream sequence. His two newest albums were for sale in the lobby, and I got him to sign one of them while I caught up with some former WCBN DJs and MEMCO members who also showed up. Back to the festival, 2manydjs (aka Soulwax) were playing indie dance stuff like their Marie Davidson remix rather than the mashups they became infamous for two decades ago, but I only caught a short bit of their set. ANNA and Adam Beyer both played massive techno sets fit for the main stage. Paula Temple played one of the absolute hardest sets of the weekend, and then Blawan, who I'd been wanting to see for over a decade, followed suit, surprisingly playing all vinyl and not recognizably playing his own tracks, although he is known to change sound from record to record. His set was the same time as Juan Atkins', and he was focusing on the 40-year history of Detroit techno, but I only barely heard the end as I was leaving for the night.
 
Monday I made sure I was at the underground stage right at 4 PM to see HAAi, an Australian DJ whose psychedelic breakbeat techno style I've been addicted to for a few years now. Like a lot of DJs this festival, she tended to play harder and more four-on-the-floor stuff than what she typically produces, though her signature sound definitely shone through. After Detroit's Huey Mnemonic warmed up the main stage, Overmono played a set of their own material, and it just served as a reminder of how much of a presence they've been on club music the last few years, as it was just hit after hit. I wish there was more U.K. bass at the festival, but I'll be able to hear more of that when I go to Dekmantel this year. I saw a few minutes of Duck Sauce just so I can say "Ha, I saw Armand Van Helden once". Playing super-happy disco house, they were standing in front of a giant inflatable duck mascot, which was pretty awesome. Flying Lotus had to cancel his original timeslot in order to attend his sister's wedding, but he was able to play the festival after all, replacing the always controversial Nina Kraviz, who's getting dropped from lineups left and right over allegedly being pro-Putin. FlyLo is always a big draw, but I don't think the crowd was quite ready for his set, which spanned multiple genres and didn't always stick to music that was danceable; I think he dropped a Little Snake track at one point, and the audience didn't know what hit them. I appreciate change-of-pace sets like that. Dax J played another intense set in the underground, and where the underground stage used to be, there was an exhibit about Detroit dance history presented by the Underground Music Academy, with pictures and text about several key figures, particularly unsung heroes and architects of the scene. I took pictures of every individual entry, and Stacey Hotwaxx Hale happened to be right there as I got to hers, so she posed for a picture next to it.
 
I caught bits of a few more sets, from DJ Minx (who curated her own stage this year) to Tammy Lakkis (whose Obama-approved EP was a standout release last year), and even though Jeff Mills was headlining the main stage for the final 2.5 hours of the festival, I had to head to the waterfront stage for a b2b by Goldie and LTJ Bukem. Drum'n'bass is always under-represented at Movement (I know, it's not as popular here as techno or house), but the few acts they book tend to be some of the genre's biggest, and seeing two of its originators together was a real treat. MC Armanni Reign provided high-speed verses and constantly asked the crowd if they were having a good time, and the DJs swerved from harder-edged tracks to more euphoric ones, with a short injection of house near the end of the set, including an Underground Resistance track (Goldie was wearing a UR shirt, I think identical to the same one I was wearing at the time). This was another day when I was really tired by the end, but wanted to stick around for as long as possible because it was such a special event. Luckily the waterfront stage has lots of space to sit on the ground and relax without being too far from the music. As usual, the entire festival was such a momentous gathering of thousands of interesting people united by a love of dance music. While there's plenty of other major dance festivals, absolutely no other ones pay as much respect to Detroit's legacy of innovation, and nothing else compares to the energy of Movement. 

[theanswerisintheBEAT]

L’abîme: L’abîme (album review by Christa V.)

L’abîme is a band from Montreal consisting of five individuals. Their sound is primarily influenced by modern jazz musicians, as well as rock and contemporary classical music. Their bass player in particular really stands out, there’s an amazing bass solo at the beginning of “L’abîme” (Track 3) that steals most of the song. Additionally, the band has a huge range of style from the slow ballad that kicks off the album, to the faster “Le culte III” later on. The blend of styles gives them a unique sound, even if it is firmly rooted in the jazz combo tradition. Definitely a group to keep an eye on!  Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 6

Thisness by Miles Okazaki (album review by Colette L.)

This is the latest full-length record from guitarist Miles Okazaki as band-leader. An odd, noisy, blitzed-out document of a group who, by the sound of it, are on the verge of falling apart at the seams, in the best way possible. Pianist Matt Mitchell’s complex, polyrhythmic piano/synth lines weave in between and dance with Okazaki’s lightning-fast angular style, all while the rhythm section constructs these hypnotic grooves, only to intentionally tear them down mere minutes later. There is a playful “anything goes” attitude to the compositions here that might bring to mind the later work of Dolphy, or even the electric era of  Herbie Hancock’s group. The first track, “In some far off place”, is a stand-out in its atmospheric, slower pace, although tracks 3 and 4 are also great with their funkier, more driving sounds. Definitely a highlight of 2022. 3⁄4. Favorite Tracks: 1,3

Slayyyter @ El Club (Concert Review by Laura T)

Last Friday, Detroit venue El Club was filled with sparkly outfits worn by every walk of life imaginable (including a fourteen year old and his grandma) to see hyper-pop artist Slayyyter perform on her Club Paradise Tour, supported by DJ LoveLeo. LoveLeo opened up the concert with a high energy set injected with humor and his original music. His carefree energy meshed well with the crowd, as they cheered when he rickrolled the venue. His original songs were the exact kind that would blow up on tiktok: infectious pop hooks that are impossible not to dance to. The venue doesn’t have a barricade, and the concertgoers were right up against the stage, making for an incredibly personal performance.

 

Waiting for Slayyyter to perform, everyone in the crowd got to know each other, chatting, laughing and debating which Ariana Grande album has “no skips.” Slayyyter was joined on stage by her DJ (who kept the energy going during her costume change) and two dance poles. Her stage presence was one that captivated the crowd, and she had them in the palm of her hand as she performed her high-energy songs. Injected with humor and bass, her songs had the crowd screaming every line. The set was more akin to a party, with the atmosphere feeling like a community coming together to celebrate. The set ended on a ballad, Letters, which was a surprisingly intimate song and an interesting choice to end off on. Slayyyter’s performance truly let the world know that pop is not dead.

Listen to Slayyyter’s latest album, Troubled Paradise here https://slayyyter.bandcamp.com/album/troubled-paradise 

Review and Photo by Laura T.

 

 

Fontaines DC @ Magic Stick (Concert Review by Lara T)

The ongoing floor saga at St. Andrews Hall was perhaps a blessing for Irish post-punk connoisseurs Fontaines D.C. and their almost-shoegaze-industrial-rock support act, Dundalk’s Just Mustard. The Fillimore’s attic younger sister, the Magic Stick provided the perfect amount of intimacy for a show reminiscent of the Dogrel days, a tour I was lucky enough to witness back across the pond. This time touring new release Skinty Fia, their first UK number one album, the Dublin natives did not disappoint.

 

Far from the punchy vocals and pointed guitars of the main act, the openers Just Mustard ooze noise. Bone-shaking-bass, cranked-to-the-max reverb and fuzz pedals and a wash of crash cymbal cocoons the audience in noise. Katie Bell’s soft vocals drift amongst the mix like tendrils of intoxicating smoke. Under the blue lights (themed for upcoming album ‘Heart Under’), she shakes a tambourine with regimented intent and a detached gaze. Opening with 2019 single ‘Seven,’ then Heart Under’s lead single ‘I Am You’, the crowd is captivated from the moment the first metallic chord resonates in the pits of their stomachs. 

 

Bell says very little, but the silence between songs - punctuated with a few whispers of ‘wow’ and ‘these guys are insane’ - says more than enough. The highlight is pulsating, existential and dreamily relatable ‘Frank’, the opening line ‘I watch TV to fall asleep’ extracting wry smiles from the audience and a loud cheer at the end. Multiple people ask me where I got my shirt (from their 2020 UK tour) as David Noonan and Mete Kalyon’s scorching distortion echoes off the walls. Success. 

 

Though tough to follow, Fontaines D.C. never disappoint.  Frontman Grian Chatten arrives on stage with signature slightly skittish yet ever-confident energy; pacing in circles, slamming the mic stand and frantically waving his middle finger in an attempt to stir up the crowd. They treat us to the live debut of Skinty Fia’s opener  in ár gcroíthe go deo, Gaellic for ‘in our hearts forever’. There is movement in the crowd, but it takes until their Mercury Prize winning debut album Dogrel’s clamorous Hurricane Laughter for Chatten’s incitement to come to fruition (I opened the pit). It doesn’t stop, and by the time I get up to crowd-surf in Chequeless Reckless (a tradition I started when I first saw them in 2019) the crowd was characteristically electric. 

 

As always seems to be the case at their shows, an Irish tricolour is thrust on stage, which they drape proudly over the drums as dreary masterpiece “You Said” provides a brief respite from the chaos of the mosh. Somehow, they say even less than Just Mustard - surprising for someone as dextrously poetic as Chatten, whose understatedly perceptive lyrics perfectly capture the glumness of the day-to-day on a rainy Dublin afternoon with the air of old masters like Heaney and Joyce. The set takes a Ullysean journey through their discography, wandering the track-lists of their three albums. 

 

The encore - title track Skinty Fia, boisterous Boys in the Better Land and hit Jackie Down the Line - blows my mind (and lungs). Grown men fight Ciaran for the setlist and half a drumstick after the band swaggers off stage, drummer Tom Coll finally allowing himself to crack a smile. Everyone is sweaty, panting, covered in a windmilled pint and grinning with exhilaration. I certainly feel the bruises.

 

This is how we do it on the other side of the Atlantic. Detroit, welcome to post-punk. Here’s to hoping they’re back soon - until then we’ll wait faithfully like Molly Bloom.

 

Skinty Fia is out now on Partisan Records

Heart Under will be released on May 22nd on Partisan Records (https://justmustard.bandcamp.com/album/heart-under)

Review and Photo by Lara T.

TuneTown: Entering Utopia (album review by Christa V.)

This is TuneTown’s second album, completed amidst various other projects that the ensemble members were working on. The group is a trio of saxophone, bass, and drums, which makes for a really interesting sound. There’s no instruments playing the chords, so in its weak moments it can feel sparse but at its best the listener can hear what every musician is doing and thinking. It’s very different from most other jazz groups I’ve heard. A great example is on “Layla Tov,” here the saxophone and bass come through clearly with the melody and the drums serve as excellent accompaniment. It is great to actually hear the bass! The album itself is mostly original compositions, with two standards thrown in. But even the standards are highly improvisational with creative transitions and extrapolations off the melody. A fascinating and fun album, it’s a great complement to any jazz listening.  Favorite tracks: 3, 4, 10

Trombone Shorty: Lifted (album review by Christa V.)

This is Trombone Shorty’s first album in five years, and it’s definitely a welcome change and a return to his funk roots that led him to take off back in the early 2010s. The songs here mesh together jazz, pop, junk, rock, and soul together with the players easily transitioning between them and creating their own party and their own sound. The album could easily be read as a love letter to New Orleans as well, the birthplace of jazz. The opening track, “Come Back,” directly contributes to this. The lyrics could be read as a love song or as a song about the resilient and soulful New Orleans. “What it Takes” is one of the strongest songs on the album with a catchy chorus and fun horn parts. It also features an excellent collaboration with the vocalist Lauren Daigle. The title track brings in more of a rock gospel feel while never giving up the funk. It’s a stellar example of the genre blending that Shorty has been known for.  Favorite tracks: 1, 4, 6

Sorrows - Love Too Late… The Real Album (Big Stir Records, 2021) (album review by Nicklas S.)

Love Too Late is a long time coming. The band wasn’t able to record this album as they intended in the ‘80s, leaving their label to shelve the album and the band with nothing to do other than save these songs for a later time. Fortunately, these songs have now seen the light of day. The songs on Love Too Late harken back to the summery sounds of late 70s to early 80s power pop acts like The Romantics and The Cars, full of poppy hooks and pitch-perfect harmonies. On “Christabelle,” the album’s opener, these characteristics are on full display. The album takes a moodier turn on “Crying Time,” where the band incorporates reggae influences into their sound, offering some variation in the album’s sound. While the entire album mostly sticks to the prototypical power pop formula, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as tracks like “Rita” and “Tired of Waiting for You” show this band to be true masters of the sound. “Play This Song (On The Radio)” indeed!

 

Favorite Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 8

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