Tuesday, 31 December 2013

CVNT Strictly Ballroom Top Ten for GENERATION BASS

So here she is, my end-of-the-year round up of my favourite ballroom house tracks from the last 12 months. Originally published on GENERATION BASS, here's the list in full, but for downloads/audio you need to go check out the original.

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I came in for a bit of criticism for my last top 10 here on GB, as some of the acts I included were not ballroom (the list was a mixture of ballroom and house/other stuff I dug at that point). So, this time round, I’ve decided to keep the chart to strictly ballroom acts, and to look back at my favourite tracks in the genre from the last 12 months.

10. BAAUER – Harlem Shake (QWEEN BEAT Remix)
There was no escaping the Harlem Shake this year, but at least some good came of the craze, like this remix by MikeQ and Jay R Neutron for Qween Beat. Qween Beat is a collective of producers, djs, performers, MCs, designers and a lot more besides, featuring some of the hottest names in ballroom, and who are always worth checking out with some of the freshest mixes. You can find Qween Beat on Twitter, FB and Soundcloud.

9. JAY R NEUTRON The Godzilla Ha
Jay R Neutron has some awesome remixes and smash-ups on his Soundcloud page, many of which could have gone in this chart, but this cheeky Godzilla-soundtrack-sampling beat is the one for me. You might recognise the sample from hip-hop classic “Simon Says” by Pharaoh Monch. Let’s hope Godzilla doesn’t hear this, as a vogue dip from her would be bad news for Tokyo.

8. BYRELL the GREAT In GREAT We Tru$t Pt II
The second instalment of Byrell’s mix tape series serves up a tonne of hot dance floor remixes and edits, showcasing his this up-and-coming producer’s unique style, and also shows the influence of hip-hop, pop and R&B (not to mention Jersey Club) on the ever-developing ballroom sound.

7. LULU EBONY ft GREGG EVISU #BangiCunt (DJ Delish Remix)
Two seriously talented ballroom MCs go head to head on a majorly hot beat remixed by Philidelphia’s DJ Delish. Not much more to say here, just let Evisu & Ebony do the talking (though, as the title would suggest of course, this track is NOT safe for work).

6. SUGUR SHANE Outta Sight Cunt Juice
More commonly known for his MCing, this year Sugur Shane took the plunge into production too, turning out a hard-as-nails remix of DJ Fade’s “Outta Sight”, featuring vocal samples from Buddah and Shane himself. If anyone tells you that ballroom is too soft, too minimal or too repetitive, just slap this on and watch them shut the hell up.

5. BEEK Like This (Like That)
Beek is a name to keep an eye on, his work this year has been consistently impressive, and he has managed to push the ballroom envelope while still serving up tracks to thrown down to. The skittery vocal samples of “Like This” also manage to showcase his brilliant MC style, marrying it to an impressive minimal/complex rhythm.

4. MIA Y.A.L.A. (MikeQ Remix)
Nobody touches MIkeQ for stripped-back, dance floor destroying tracks, his remixes and originals use the barest of elements but achieve maximum impact. There’s a reason this guy is the premier ballroom DJ. This mix is a great example of his style, and again showcases ballroom’s ability to absorb practically any other genre. It’s great to see it crossing over into lots of different DJ sets.

3. BRITNEY SPEARS Work Bitch (Divoli S’vere Gaginator Remix)
Like the flip-side of MikeQ’s minimalist M.I.A. remix, fellow Qween Beat don Divoli S’vere transforms Britney’s wannabe pop-house anthem into a maximalist “WTF?!” epic. This is hands down my remix of the year, and I could see it working in both big and underground clubs, if the DJs have the balls to drop a Britney track that is!

2. KEVIN JZ PRODIGY Nasty Poetry (Schwarz Remix)
Kevin Prodigy is probably the best known ballroom MC, but this remix by Baltimore’s Schwarz slows things down just a touch, becoming *almost* a chilled out hybrid of deep house and Bmore beats that will work in many varied DJ sets. But Prodigy’s distinctive growl keeps it firmly in the ballroom ballpark, with Schwarz teasing out the best bits of his vocal performance.

1. VJUAN ALLURE Kid Conga (Rebounced) ft Daniel Haaksman
This is my top track of the year, an absolute dancefloor destroyer, whatever genre you prefer, from ballroom to house to bass to whateverthefuck. This was dropped back near the start of the year on Vjuan Allure’s debut Mad Decent/Jefrees release, the Vjuanage EP. The track is a cut up of Kid Conga by Daniel Haacksman featuring MC MIltihno, which you might already know, and it never fails to set dancefloors on fire. Also, if you ever get a chance to see a Vjuan Allure DJ set, DO NOT miss it, the dude SLAYS.

Honourable mentions:
I wanted to keep this top ten to one entry per producer, but some of these guys have been on fire this year, and their other work deserves mention too. So, here’s a quick round-up: Vjuan Allure “Natives R Restless”, Poisonous Relationship “Nite Birds (MikeQ Remix)”, Sugur Shane “My Night With Peter And Junior” mixtape, Beek “Beek” EP, DeShawn Timothy & Sugur Shane “Ima Read (Divoli’s 2013 Remix), Dawn Richards “Gleaux (Divoli S’vere Version)”, in fact, just follow all/any of the Soundcloud links posted above and you will find a wealth of awesome music, much of it available for free download. And if you’ve got any favourite ballroom tracks from the past 12 months I haven’t mentioned, leave a comment.

You can follow me at CVNT TRAXXX on Soundcloud, and check out my own ballroom-influenced grymehaus “Statement” EP on Body Work Records.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

DIVOLI S'VERE Ckuntinomksz 3.5 Mix

Divoli S'vere's remix of Britney's "Work Bitch" is my remix of the year, more on that in my ballroom top ten for Generation Bass. In the meantime, here's the next installment in Divoli's ongoing mix series Ckuntinomksz, with a frosty winter twist:

Divoli S'vere as Killer Frost gives everyone a very Merry XMas & Happy New Year! Here's a lil something I've been working on... As 2013 comes to an end ... 2014 IS THE YEAR OF THE SLAYERS! GET INTO THIS!!!!

Frost Bite Mix Tracklist

1. Applause Again (Another Standing O Remix)
2. Honest (Divoli's Deadass Refix)
3. Work Bitch (S'vere Gagginator Remix)
4. Bloody Leaves (Grand March Rip)
5. Haunted Ghost (Insidious Return Remix)
6. At The Ball [snippet]
7. Headband (S'vere Club Mix)
8. LoveMORE Pussy
9. The Read (Divoli S'vere Version)
10. Fuck It Up (Trinidad's S'vere Remix)
11. When You Lick (SuperSoaked Remix)
12. That Butch Ckunt
13. Im So... [snippet]
14. Shady [snippet]

The Frost Bite No Shade Mix
Featuring :
Dj Delish - The Engineer
Kevin JZ Prodigy - The Commentation of 2003
Dj Angel X - Bango 2010
Siir Eddie - I Have 1 Thing 2 Say Runway
Capitol Kaos - Who's The Baddest Bitch
VJtheDJ - No They Won't

Saturday, 28 December 2013

B AMES IS ON FIRE {Free Downloads]

GODAMMIT! I would never normally play any Gaga in my DJ sets, but between this and remixes by Boyfriends and Jay Neutron (and my own hi-nrg remix fo rMenergy) I've been made to eat my own words. In fact, ArtPop contains some of the first music by Gaga that I genuinely like. Hmm. ANyway, hats off to B for the awesome remix (as usual): 

LADY GAGA & R KELLY Do What You Want Remix
 

BONUS! A dj set featuring some of her own work and influences: 
 
FUTURE CLASSICS MIX
1. Disclosure - Voices (Wookie Remix)
2. Enur + Natasja - Calabria 2007
3. Tyga - Rack City (DJ Diz Remix)
4. I Wanna' Be Down (Lucifuck Remix)
5. The Ha Dance
6. David Guetta + Rihanna- Right Now
7. Kid Sister- Switch Board
8. Leggo - I Chant, You Vogue
9. Manila Luzon - Bring It! (B. Ames Remix)
10. Early Ross - Why Don't You Do Right (B. Ames Remix)
11. Unknown - Circular Motion (MikeQ Club Edit)
12 . Unknown - Work Me (B. Ames Remix)

Monday, 23 December 2013

MYKKI BLANCO Booty Bamboo [Free Download]



Will hip hop ever accept me? Who gives a fuck. Will the gay community turn their back on me if I stop dressing in drag? Who gives a fuck. Will I get signed? Who gives a fuck. I did a world tour off the strength of soundcloud singles, a lo-fi mixtape and my first EP. I was out there, I saw the power of music and saw the power of love and now I just want to develop my music and have fun. People who fuck with Mykki Blanco fuck with Mykki Blanco no image or politics needed.

Light a blunt with your friends and listen to my new track Booty Bamboo. I feel free, I hope you do to. Prod. By Amnesia Scanner

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Interview for Ransom Note

I've had a very long CVNT interview/discussion with John Power of Body Work records, published by Ransom Note. Here's some extracts, you can read the whole thing here.  




J: Can you just quickly explain what a ‘House’ is?

N: The traditional definition of a ‘House’ is that it’s a gay street gang and instead of fighting these gangs would have dance-offs. The concept is taken from fashion houses and so a lot of original big American Houses are named after famous fashion brands or things that relate to fashion. 

I’ve seen at gigs I’ve been doing recently, especially in [Mainland] Europe there are some amazing Houses emerging but I don’t feel like there’s the same culture of dance here in the UK that you get in Europe

Still I think that the scene is growing here and there are some wicked dancers in the UK but we need more balls and more places for these dancers to show up. You see that’s how other people get into it, they go to a club and see someone Voguing and think ‘”that looks amazing”. I think there’s just not enough of that happening in the UK yet.

J: Is there a kind of a clash, a dilemma within the scene, where on the one hand you want to grow and encourage new people to get involved but at the same time still protect itself and provide a safe space?

N: I think it is changing and the scene is becoming a more open place where anyone can get involved, anyone can join in. Obviously Voguing is traditionally a black, gay art form, and certainly there were a lot of Trans people, a lot of Transgender women involved when it started, but today you’ll find a lot of biological women and straight women involved in the scene. In fact I think it’s just becoming a lot more of a female thing.

At the same time though I guess it depends who you speak to and there are some people on the scene who are very protective of what it is, and for good reason. They’ve seen it being exploited before; they’ve seen it move so far away from its roots that they feel that it is not the same thing anymore. 

So there is a certain element of protectionism and exclusivity within the scene, which I think is understandable, but for the most part it’s moving towards being more accessible and now you’re seeing countries that don’t have much or really any relation to New York’s black and gay scenes turning out amazing dancers.

So the scene must be moving ahead and I think that’s a positive and healthy thing as long as people remember and respect the roots from where it all came from, why they’re doing it and who the original legends were. In the end you can’t stop it, it’s all progress.


J: You talk about Ballroom’s roots, now obviously over the past few years and right now house music as a whole has never been bigger but it also feels like it’s never been further away from, or more really in denial of, its own black and gay origins. You can quite easily argue, and many do, that EDM has been a whitewash but even then it feels like dance music’s black roots are still more recognised than its gay roots…

N: Yes I think that is a thing and I definitely feel that there is still a bit of a sniffiness around Ballroom Culture, especially trying to get people that are into more traditional House Music to engage with Ballroom. Now there could be many reasons for that but from my point of view I feel that sexuality has a lot to do with it.

J: I feel like we’ve seen over the past few years not just an editing of House music’s history to maybe remove some of the more overtly gay aspects of it but a kind of bowdlerizing of the music too. Something like the ’Nu-Disco’ revival was very much driven at the start by some great gay clubs, Horse Meat Disco, places like that, and I feel that it was very much co-opted by straight, white, bearded guys (like myself but without the beard), who kind of took over in some respects and certainly when it came to the flood of re-edits that appeared from the early 2000s onwards it felt like a lot of them were taking out anything that was ‘too gay’ from a track. Actually I’m sure years ago I read something by Daniel Wang complaining about that in a much more considered way…

So you end up with a situation were you have this music that becomes stripped of so much of what originally made it what it was and you end up with well, kind of ‘Cosmic Disco’, which is great, I love so much of that music but you can’t help but sometimes feel it’s in denial of its roots when it presents this kind of sterile spacey music that isn’t too raunchy, is quite safe really.

N: I agree completely about the disco thing, it’s like a lot of those disco edits. Even going back to when a lot of that first started in the mid/late nineties, there was a lot of stripping out the campness, stripping out the glittery over the top moments that defined those records as being gay, just taking them back down to being about the groove.

Which at the start was cool but I definitely felt like it reached a point where you could go to a club playing Nu-Disco and it’s just a lot of middle class, middle aged, white people politely nodding their heads and you feel like this isn’t how this music was supposed to be consumed. I think that’s why it’s a brilliant thing when you go to a club like Horse Meat Disco and it brings a lot of those records to life, you’re actually hearing these records in the kind of environment they were meant to be played in, loads of screaming queens, loads of trans people and just a really mixed crowd where the atmosphere’s really good. 

I think there’s a definite seriousness about the way that a lot of people approach dance music in general nowadays, which is kind of nerdy and detached from the actual purpose of it, which is to make people dance, and dancing is of course for want of a better phrase, it’s a sex substitute. That’s what that rhythm is, ultimately a lot of it is just about simulating sex without getting naked as such. 

So I think there’s an element of white dance culture at the moment that has been de-sexed, and I think Ballroom is still very much coming from that Black, Gay place and possesses an overt sexuality. So I think there might be a reluctance to get too involved with it as the reality of the ‘black/gay clubbing experience’ is very different to the reality of a lot of middle class, middle aged, white people nodding along to Fleetwood Mac b-sides and the like.

Friday, 20 December 2013

AZARI & III live review for FACT

IT WAS THEIR LAST EVER SHOW!! 


 
Niall Connolly is a UK-based producer and writer who releases music under the name CVNT. He’s also co-founder of the queer collective Tranachy, and hosts vogue/drag balls across the UK. He was at Manchester’s Warehouse Project for the last UK show by Azari & III, a Canadian group whose take on house music not only draws from the sounds of classic Chicago, but also the “marginalised black / gay club” culture at house music’s roots. 

And like that they’re gone, just as quickly as they’d arrived.

Four years ago a little single called ‘Hungry For The Power’ dropped on Cosmo Vitelli’s I’m A Cliche label in Paris. With its accompanying video of a psychotic business man, a dominatrix prostitute and some cannibal voguers, the world was introduced to Azari & III. It was as exciting a debut single as has been released since. And then, just under one month ago, via their Facebook page, it was announced that the group would be breaking up after fulfilling their current live engagements. This included a live set at Manchester’s Warehouse Project, a show that would mark the band’s last ever appearance in the UK.

A lot can happen in four years, and in the case of Azari & III, an entire “house music revival” has sprung up, a revival that the band must take some credit for inspiring. Although consumers, DJs and fans of house music would argue – this writer included – that the genre never went away, it’s hard to deny the impact of Azari & III on dance music in general. Through the presence and vocals of front men Starving Yet Full and Fritz Helder, we were reminded of house music’s roots in underground, marginalised, black / gay clubs, and through the production of Dinamo Azari and Alixander III we were reminded that dance music could be sensual and sexy, something that was desperately needed in the era of stadium EDM, aggressive trap-pop and sexless brostep.

Read it all at: 

No Way Back: Niall Connolly salutes Azari & III

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Beyonce & Harvey Keitel

She's back, and she only owrks with the best. Seeing two of my idols together like this makes me feel all tingly inside. DAMN Harvey's aged well, and he looks genuinely happy here.


Monday, 9 December 2013

Feminism, Intersectionality and Rihanna's bottom

Forget Lily Allen and Miley Cyrus for a moment, the pop video on everyone's lips right now, for various reasons, is Rhianna's "Pour It Up". I've been reading some very interesting and insightful articles on this clip the last few days (thanks mainly to Khalil West and Stephanie Davis) so thought I would compile them here for safekeeping, as a reading list of some excellent articles/opinions, and to add my own (white/cis/gay/male) 2 cents.

To say it's a video that divides opinion is an understatement. Set in what appears to be an underwater strip club, devoid of men, the clip really reminds me of Maurice Binder's iconic, seminal intro sequences for James Bond. It's the sexy silhouttes, and the pole twirling. Seeing as, barring Skyfall, Bond intros of the last 15 years have been excruciatingly bad, maybe RiRi (who drected the clip) should get in touch with producer Cubby Brocolli and offer her services?


The video has been slammed for being overtly sexual, and, yes, even for a gay man, the final scenes of Rihanna twerking and rubbing her crotch on that throne make me hot and bothered. The Feminist Wire got the ball rolling by publishing an article featuring a variety of reactions, good and bad, to the clip by some prominent women of colour:

Sound Off: Black Women Writers respond to Rihanna's "Pour It Up"

The same site then went one further in publishing this piece in support of the video by Muna Mire:

Talk Back: In Defense Of Rihanna

(Some important info gleaned from this piece: the original, male, co-director of the clip pulled out of the project and asked to have his name removed, prompting a ZINGER of a comback from Ri-Ri, who then became the clip's sole director. Meaning: this clip is not representative of the "male gaze" associated with exploitation.)

The excellent blogger Batty Mamzelle (who got considerable recognition a few months back for her article Solidarity Is For Miley Cyrus) expands on some of the Talk Back themes in the (self-explanatory) piece:

Sexualisation, Exploitation and Black Female Celebrities: On the stripper Anthems of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj

Mamzelle points out that Minaj and Ri-Ri use the act of stripping/strip club settings as a form of female empowerment, using their skills and appearance to, in effect, exploit men and earn money. But is it that simple?

The next article, by Parks & Recreation/The Muppets actress Rashida Jones, doesn't believe so, she believes Minaj and Ri-Ri are part of a bigger problem that needs addressing:

Why Is Everyone Getting Naked? Rashida Jones on the Pornification of Everything

I have to be honest - I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of Jones' writing in this piece. No, NOT because she is a woman, but because she is a celebrity who achieved her fame as an actress, not as a writer (in this day and age, if you're not throwing side-eye at every demi-lebrity's attempt at expanding their "skill set", then I applaud your naivete).

I may not completely agree with her, but I love the way she has expressed herself, and hope to read more from her. And, ok, she HAS a point about the "tonnage" of female pop stars eager to expose their bodies at this point in time. Does the claim of "empowerment" lose its weight when getting naked seems more a job requirement than a genuine choice?

Maybe. So, why should the inclusion of Rhianna (and Nicki Minaj) be contentientious here?

I'll leave the explanation to Batty Mamselle:

Discussions of Sexuality are not the same for Women of Colour: Let's stop pretending they are

So why would this be so? Why should criticisms of white female pop stars not be relevant to non-white female pop stars? Well, in case you needed more convincing than the above article can provide, the following might help. This is one of the most insightful pieces written on "Pour It Up" so far, by three women of colour (one of whom is actually a stripper), transcribed from a discusion in Google Hangout:

Rihanna On My Mind: Chatting about the Pour It Up video

That article is really excellent, to me the kind of thing that makes me glad of our new media technologies, and the genuinely interesting interactions that can happen through social media. There is no filter, no need for an interpreter of any kind: let the kind of people portrayed in the video speak for themselves and tell us what they think of it.

As opposed to some random white dude who's not even in the same damn country.

So. What are my thoughts? Well, if you care to read on, I will tell you.

As I said above I am neither a black woman, nor a straight man, and to me those are the primary audiences for this clip (obviously, for very different reasons).

But what I am is a person who does not fit into traditional beauty modes, neither Western nor non-Western, and as such I feel that the kind of empowerment claimed for the Rihanna clip is only applicable to women who conform to certain body types. Which is not to say the clip is NOT empowering, not at all, just that I have my doubts that the clip is AS empowering to all women of colour as suggested in some of the articles above. The reach of its empowerment in limited, and [pure conjecture here] may even be damaging to women/girls who do not/never will conform to the beauty standard set by Rihanna, and in this video, her dancers.

That's not to say I dislike the video: far from it. I think it's a great piece of pop art.

But here's the thing, one hugely important and powerful aspect of "Pour It Up" that no-one seems to be mentioning: this is a POP video, so to judge it PURELY on image without taking into account the music (and not just the lyrics, but the melodies, arrangement, tone, etc) is not to judge it fully, in my opinion. It's unlikely that "Pour It Up" is watched with the sound off, and if it is, it's pretty safe to say that would be for masturbation purposes.

I love the song, but the feeling (yes, highly subjective and possibly problematic, I know) is not necessarily one of female empowerment. It's not one of exploitation either, though. To these ears there seems to be a deeply ingrained sadness to "Pour It Up". The whole song modulates between two minor chords, hardly the stuff of celebration, and there is a "sinister" sounding synth-string drone, reminiscent of Angelo Badlamienti's work for David Lynch, all the way through the track. Rihanna's vocals are, except for the wordless "woah-oh" bridge, softer and more controlled than on tracks like "S&M" and "We Found Love".

The arrangement is very spare, with constant drop-outs of the beat, suggesting it's not exactly a "club" track. The synths, as I kinda mentioned, sound reminiscent of 80s horror/thriller movies, especially that string part which underpins the whole track. While that kind of synth sound fits pretty neatly with conventions of the Trap genre (which is apparently very popular in US strip clubs), again, to me, it's not something that necessarily suggests celebration or empowerment. Compare it to A$AP Rocky's "Fashion Killa", whose video co-stars Rihanna, (and if rumours are to be believed, whose nascent romance with Rocky probably inspired the track) and is essentially a celebration of a woman's wardrobe and her shopping skills. "Fashion Killa" is light and airy, sounding warm and fuzzy and content, like the high of ecstacy or, suitably, the first blush of romance. In comparison, "Pour It Up" sounds menacing, less hopeful, more resigned. If "Fashion Killa" is an MDMA high, "Pour It Up" is a cocaine comedown (which, to be fair, is VERY Trap!)


Just to be clear, these aren't criticisms. These are observations. I don't want to seem like I am imposing upon Rihanna any ideas of what she "should" sound like. No-one, apart from Rihanna herself, or perhaps her most trusted producers, has the right to impose that on her, and as an artist she is more than capable of delivering hooky, quality pop music, and knowing what works the best for her, within her own limits. I recognise (and celebrate) that music is highly subjective, meaning different things for different people. I've also been involved in making music for half my life, so I tend to think about these kind of things a lot, and can't help analysing the "Pour It Up" song as part of the overall music video package.

Undoubtedly stripping and pole dancing has been beneficial for some women of colour, and it's not my place to tell these women, well, anything really! If a WoC finds this "Pour It Up" a resonant celebration of that life, then that is fucking awesome and they should OWN that for all its worth. Like I said, I do really like this track, and think that the Unapologetic LP has some of Ri-Ri's best work to date.

As a performer/singer/personality, I find Rihanna to be pretty damn good. She delivers great pop music, and I totally get how she is someone who acts with agency within a world where that could be denied to her. But then, as I argued the same thing a few years back about Beyonce, I think I may be more tuned to that as a gay man who follows pop music, and the careers of many hyper-managed female performers (while not being part of their primary target audience).

And let's be real here: Rihanna gives the BEST side-eye in modern music.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I first came to "Pour It Up" via this remix by Ynfynyt Scroll, which makes the track much more "club" friendly, and which may have skewed my view of the song a wee bit. It's awesome though, and well worth downloading: 

Friday, 6 December 2013

DAVID MORALES @ Dalston Superstore

TOMORROW this is going to be insane! A mojor superstar dj playing in a relatively small, intimate club - this is gonna be pretty special:


Monday, 2 December 2013