Thu, Apr 03, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Classical CD reviews

Recess, by Skrillex; Fourteen, by Dan Weiss.

By Jon Caramanica and Ben Ratliff  /  NY Times News Service

He also wants to give a glimpse of what the next branches are going to look like, nowhere more clearly than on Dirty Vibe, a coproduction with Diplo that features naughty raps from the K-pop stars G-Dragon and CL. Built on a bed of quickly shifting vocal samples, this brassy and convincing song is the sort of cross-genre collaboration that will probably seem less unusual in the years to come. Less successful is Coast Is Clear, an awkwardly casual soul-dance collaboration with Chance the Rapper & the Social Experiment. (It’s not nearly as compelling as Wild for the Night, Skrillex’s 2013 collaboration with ASAP Rocky on which he admirably sandpapered his core aesthetic into a shape resembling hip-hop.)

When Skrillex attempts to do something similar to what other ambitious dance music producers have done — collaborate with signature singers — he generally falls short. Take the wasteful melodrama of Ease My Mind, which is built on a sample of DJ, Ease My Mind, by Niki and the Dove. That group’s singer, Malin Dahlstrom, has a textureless voice that doesn’t convey any tension, and Skrillex’s nominally Middle Eastern-influenced swirls feel tinny and frail.

Similarly, Fire Away, the album closer, features cloying digital vocals by Kid Harpoon that add little. But underneath, a different Skrillex is hiding. Strip away the words, and what’s left is, in essence, an elegant, calm techno number, one of the most mature things Skrillex has done.

The same juxtaposition happens on Stranger, a collaborative production between Skrillex and KillaGraham (of Milo & Otis), which has soft R&B singing by Sam Dew but a far more exciting beat, with elements of garage and trap, that preserves the usual Skrillex chaos with a different set of inputs. It’s the most logical step forward here, and also an outlier: five minutes of promise that render the other 42 minutes around it as little more than Styrofoam packing. So much for the album.

— Jon Caramanica, NY Times News Service


Dan Weiss

Pi Recordings

Dan Weiss is a jazz drummer of articulate virtues: You listen to him and you’re reminded of what drum tone should sound like, what multilimb rhythmic organization is, what a displaced beat can do.

He doesn’t spread loud charisma all over the instrument. But he’s gotten to the point where his discipline and restraint radiate their own charisma. That is clearest in Fourteen, his forceful, highly composed new record: one long, interconnected piece divided into seven parts, an original piece of work even if you concede that the notion of originality is a blind alley, or too much to stake hopes on.

Perhaps it’s better to say that Fourteen sounds full of its own convictions. There is no pressure in the world pushing anyone to make a record like this: choral antiphony, new-jazz rhythmic meshing, tabla patterns transferred to drum set, hand-clap patterns transferred to voice, structured improvisation metal.

The album has three singers, but there’s not a word on it; lots of melodies, but no songs per se. It would seem to have a core group — or at least a common rhythm section, with Weiss, pianist Jacob Sacks and bassist Thomas Morgan — but the other instruments, including saxophones, trombone, tuba, electric guitar, harp, glockenspiel and organ, are woven tightly into the metastasizing structures. When there’s something like a drum solo, it sounds composed, and it is quiet.

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