Two big parties to mention, one for your calendar and one for tonight

Michael Mayer and Reinhard Voigt, both of Kompakt fame, take over the Bowery Ballroom on October 28. Mayer's DJ set at Volume in March was outstanding, and I've heard Voigt also brings it live. Especially in such a small place, this one is not to be missed!

Daniel Bell and Sammy Dee spin at Subtonic tonight, at the Bunker party. This has been written up in a few places - hopefully it won't get too packed. Here's the preview from the official Bunker site:

On September 24, we celebrate the 27th birthday of Bunker founder and resident DJ Spinoza with some very special guests from Germany. There will be a $5 cover (sorry, no guestlist) to help cover some flights.

Dan Bell is one of the most important figures in the history of minimal techno. He started out by collaborating with Richie Hawtin as Cybersonik in the early 90's, releasing "Technarchy" and other classic tracks. In the mid-90's, he produced several records on his own as DBX (including the enourmously successful "Losing Control") that more or less defined minimal techno. He then went on to create 7th City Distribution and several new record labels. In 2000, he moved to Berlin, and has released two amazing mix CD's and a few remixes since then. He is currently working on new material and DJing around the world. His last appearance at the Bunker was phenomenal. Dan really loved subTonic and asked to come back on a regular basis. How could we possibly refuse?

As if the appearance of Dan Bell isn't enough, we also have Sammy Dee gracing the decks. Sammy is an important part of the Berlin based Perlon label, and one half of Pantytec alongside Zip (aka Dimbiman). The last time he was in New York, the NY Times gave him a glowing review that you can read here.

Bell's mix CD The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back! was a summer favorite for me this year, and I like most of what I've heard on Perlon as well (namely the Superlongevity comps) - I'm sure tonight's party will be excellent.

Furnaces randomness

The Fiery Furnaces set out an early claim to my top album of 2004 with Blueberry Boat, and I was reminded why on Saturday with their excellent set at the Bowery Ballroom. They're already a very unique band in the studio, but I've never seen anything remotely like their show this weekend. It was my second Furnaces show, after this summer's Siren Festival, and this time was crazier and way better - much improved sound and the intimacy of a club (vs. a huge street festival) went a long way. Just as last time, there was a strong rhythm section and Matt Friedberger bounced between guitar and keyboards, but this time Eleanor F. (in a lovely black dress) kept it to just vocals - no guitar.

Part of what I love about the Furnaces is their randomness - the bluesy hooks are great and the guitars and keyboards are catchy, but the songs are filled with twists, surprises, and general weirdness. Their live set brings that approach to the stage and turns it up - they came out around 12:15 and powered through an hour set with just one break (forced when Matt broke a string) and one encore. It's a constant medley, with the song almost always changing, and it ultimately becomes quite hypnotic. The band is incredibly tight. Just when they settle into a groove, they'll upend it and drop into a new song without missing a beat. I have no idea how they rehearse.

What makes it even wilder is the fact that few of the songs are played as they sound on live sex show album. The lyrics will be (mostly) the same and a keyboard or guitar melody will stay true, but that might be it - new versions everywhere. So "Quay Cur" was transformed into a double-speed disco stomp, split into a few sections. "Asthma Attack" - played straight up at Coney Island - kept just its guitar and drum parts. "Straight Street", "Spaniolated", "South Is Only A Home" - entirely new arrangements. Some songs - "Leaky Tunnel" and "Crystal Clear" for example - were even spliced together. Being a big fan of both albums, it was very cool because they covered most of the two records and were always surprising me with another song I liked, or returning to a song from earlier in the set. Some Fiery Furnaces fans cannot get enough of their live shows, and I'm starting to see why. I see them again next week, opening for Wilco, and I can't wait. Top to bottom, it should be a great show.

I don't know how he pulled this off, but Matt over at Fluxblog has the show's setlist along with a review. This should give you a sense of the madness:

Wolf Notes (first half of song, rock version) / Leaky Crystal (alternating lines from Leaky Tunnel and Crystal Clear) / Worry Worry (a verse and chorus)/ Blueberry Boat (two verses) / Worry Worry (verse and chorus) / Hurry Worry (2nd half of Smelling Cigarettes) / Smelling Cigarettes (first half) / My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found / Wolf Notes (reprise of first half) / Two Fat Feet (verse and chorus) / Straight Street (a few verses and chorus) / Two Fat Feet (verse and chorus) / Oregon (part of Mason City, "take the Oregon Short Line to Salt Lake") / Name Game / Chief Inspector Blancheflower (all three sections without outro, 'typewriter inspector' part played as punk song with Eleanor on vocals, Matt sings third section with keyboards) / Quay Cur (played dramatically after "you know damn well she ain't your Jenny no more", only first two verses and chorus) / Tropical Iceland (full song, keyboard heavy arrangement) / Up In The North (verse leading up to chorus, when she sings "and it went like this," it shifts to next song) / Nabs (part of Mason City, "geeched that gazoon's gow" etc) / South Is Only A Home (keyboard-centric 'disco' version) / Blueberry Boat (keyboards, verses and "you ain't never getting the cargo of my blueberry boat") / Bow Wow (verse and chorus, slow, keyboards) / Birdie Brain / Inca Rag / Asthma Attack (power trio version) / Don't Dance Her Down (verse, chorus) / Oregon reprise / Chris Michaels (first line only) / Evergreen (starts on guitar, Matt shifts to keyboard for second verse) / Chris Michaels ("Chinese Bird" section - "Tony," "I'm the little bird...") / Mason City (first few verses) / Spaniolated (power trio version) / Chris Michaels ("remember that girl...so so stup" ---> "Chillum" section, the credit card section cut out / (Matt's guitar gets screwed up, they pause for a bit til he gets a new one) / Chris Michaels (starts back up with "Chillum" section, when that ends it goes back to the first section, "later at lunch...") / Wolf Notes (on keyboard, second half of song, showtuney) / Quay Cur (Inuit section, keyboards, played like a stadium anthem) / Quay Cur (final section main theme, chorus) / Wolf Notes (first half over Quay Cur music, ending on "play me a tune!")

The Toppermost of the Poppermost - My Top 5 for '04 so far

Rajeev introduced this piece succinctly in his previous post, so there's no need to repeat it. Let's get down to business. Here's my top five albums for the first half of 2004:

Wilco - A Ghost is Born. My expectations were confounded. Disappointment turned to astonishment. A live show in June cemented this one on my list. My early pick for album of the year.

The Cure - The Cure. This one could be called A Career is Reborn. When I first heard that Robert Smith and the boys were working with NĂ¼-Metal producer Ross Robinson, I was very afraid. This would be the nail in the coffin for one of my favorite bands. Well, wonder of wonders, The Cure is a riveting collection of passion, anguish and anger. While the hooks are hard to find, the intensity is not, starting from "Lost" through the ten scorching minutes of the finale, "The Promise." Early pick for comeback of the year, heck the decade.

Beta Band - Heroes to Zeroes. I'm a late Beta Band bloomer. Previous to Heroes, I knew only that moment in "High Fidelity" when Rob dropped "Dry the Rain" on the turn table at Championship Vinyl and watched the units shift. So this is a surprise entry for me. I keep telling myself that this one is not as good as I want it to be, but the more I listen, the more I like it. Nigel Godrich definitely worked his magic on this one.

Fennesz - Venice. Beautiful and sad, Venice has repeatedly been my album of choice for late night listening. The chaturbate rooms music is delicate and warm, but dark and somber enough to not disappear into a sugary haze. Then out of nowhere, late in the album, comes the distinct voice of David Sylvian, on the track "Transit." The sudden appearance of a human voice is shocking, but the song grows on each listen. It's a nice wake up from the trance.

Junior Boys - Last Exit. Blending the 80's synth stylings of Depeche Mode, New Order and even The Human League with urban beats and modern grooves, Junior Boys close out my list with their excellent debut album. I'm still familiarizing myself with this one, but it's certain to move up my list as time passes. Along with Fennesz, another great late night choice.

TOP 5 (OR SO) OF '04 (SO FAR)

I suck at lists like this, mainly because there always is an album or two that it pains me to leave off. This one is no different. Top 5? Close enough. With 6 months behind us, and in no particular order after the first two, here are my 6 favorite albums of the year so far:

The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat. This won't even be out for another week, but I haven't listened to anything else this year quite as much. (Thank you Soulseek.) Blueberry Boat blew me away on first listen and continues to amaze me. I think most people will either call it an overambitious piece of crap or a work of genius. I am firmly in category B. TTIKTDA quoted a bulletin board poster that said it best. "Bottom Line: Blueberry Boat is a beautiful disease, and you require infection. MOTHERFUCKING PROG-BLUES ROCK OPERA IN UNDERWATER SPACE. YOU. REQUIRE. INFECTION."

Of Montreal - Satanic Panic in the Attic. Pop songs don't get much more creative than these - there's an album's worth of material in just the first 4 or 5 songs alone. It never stands still and just when things sound straightforward, you realize the bassline is nuts and there's a voice whispering in one speaker. I've played this for a ton of live jasmin people, and even a friend who subsists on Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin alone was asking to see the liner notes after 2 songs.

Wilco - A Ghost Is Born. Much ink has already been spilled on this one, so I'll keep it simple. Tweedy can shred.

X-Wife - Feeding the Machine. X-Wife hail from Porto, Portugal - probably the first band I've ever dug from there. And it's a shame this album has yet to get released in the U.S because I think people would love it. They call themselves a post-punk electronic trio, and they remind me of Clinic - but with a beefed up, more electronic sound that can rock. And, unlike Clinic these days, they sound fresh. There's something about this album that totally intoxicates me. Download "Eno" from their website to see if you agree.

Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans. I don't think I've ever liked an overtly religious album as much as this one. Last year's stellar Greetings from Michigan was Sufjan's tribute to his home state, and Seven Swans does the same with Christianity. It's a more focused effort than Michigan, stripped down with delicate layers of guitar, banjo, piano and vocals. The songwriting is great on its own, but the sequencing is what elevates it to the next level.

Air - Talkie Walkie. 10 immaculately crafted songs, deceptively simple on the surface but filled with little details that emerge over time. (Would you expect anything less with Nigel Godrich involved?) Even though "Cherry Blossom Girl" kinda annoys me and that damned Nissan commercial is doing its best to kill "Surfing on a Rocket", it felt wrong to leave this one off. Top 6 lists exist for a reason.

So the Streets and Dizzee Rascal put on quite the show last night at Irving Plaza

Dizzee was on first, around 9:30 or so. I don't think I could ever experience anything like his Volume show over the winter. It was his first ever US show, it was right when I was peaking with Boy In Da Corner, and the crowd was electric. And, most importantly, the stage was a flatbed truck. I was blown away then, and last night felt pretty standard in comparison. Dizzee's set wasn't bad by any means - his flow will always amaze me, and he threw in a few freestyles and a couple upbeat non-album tracks, perhaps from the upcoming Showtime. But he set the bar very high last time.

This was my first Streets show though, and one of the crazier shows I've ever seen. Mike Skinner was backed by an MC and a band, complete with two bottles of liquor attached to the drum kit. (Skinner was pouring shots for the band and the front of the crowd throughout the night. The ganja clouds were also impossible to miss early on.) They focused on Original Pirate Material, not the new album, which was kinda weird, but the whole set was strong and the band was really tight, almost surprisingly so. Skinner was entertaining throughout, always dropping lines. My favorite was when he started singing "If there was a New York FC / We would support it." (FC being "football club" - he normally backs Birmingham City.)

There were a few WASTED Brits about halfway back that were belligerent all night, relentless with soccer comments. At the start of the encore, during "It Was Supposed To Be So Easy", they tried to start a mosh pit, pushing their way into the center. And almost instantly, people started swinging and a floor-clearing fight erupted. Skinner stopped the song and things calmed down pretty quickly. And upon realizing it was the Brits that started things, he apologized for being British before starting things up again.

Crazy show. But brawls aside, it was a fun one.