In providing a take on EDM that expands the notion past hot, sweaty nights on dance floors and raging deep into a neon forest is where Washington, DC’s Rex Riot excels as a producer. Fake the Magic—his latest album release—featured trap inspired by gospel, meditative melody-driven tracks inspired by birds on his bedroom windowsill, a straight up rocker that invokes the spirit of spooky alt-rock and so much more. Now, Rex has released a series of remixes of tracks from Fake the Magic that, in extending the experimental and free-thinking notions being pushed by the producer, show that on some level that dance music wants something more complex and expansive for its community than to “wait for the drop.”
DC’s Jon Kwest takes the alt-rock of “What You Don’t Know” in a direction feeling a lot more like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.” As well, Basscamp reworks “Song for My Bird Friends” into an ominous 8-bit banger, and fellow Nation’s Capital-based intellectual introspective Obeyah turns “Preacher Man” into a bouncy and glitchy peak-hour party extender. These remixes merely scratch the surface of what exists to be discovered on the six-track, thirty minute journey.
How did Rex get to the point where his creative energies developed sounds that inspired his friends in such varied creative directions? He’s provided TVD with a journey into his record collection, where, as an avid collector, he’s been able to plunge into the past and appreciate the present for inspiration. An appreciator of quality sonic experiences, vinyl allows him the ability to hear songs with a full range of sonic depth and scope. Enjoy!
“When I was a kid my mom ran a daycare out of her home, so as you may imagine the barrage of group activities (and other little friends to engage in them with) was as diverse as it was constant.”
“There was, however, one thing alone which represented an unchallenged pinnacle of childhood wonder and joy: listening to records. The amount of time I spent listening to The Harder They Come soundtrack and dancing around the living room in my underwear is nothing short of a life changing experience, and even now those are some of my fondest memories, and earliest musical influences.
As I grew up though, and the magic of cassettes, and later CDs, dazzled me with their convenience, vinyl more or less took a back seat. Until high school that is. By then I had been the frontman of my local rock bad “Russel Can’t Be Trusted” for some time, and was starting to branch out musically into the mysterious and uncharted territory that was electronic music in the late ’90s and early ’00s. This was before EDM music festivals, large-scale internet music sharing, and the onset of main stream electronica culture.
Back then anything without a guitar in it was labeled (and dismissed) as “Techno” by the general populous, even if it was technically Drum ‘N Bass and Breaks that I was after. And with this new-found love of electronic music came a found new appreciation of vinyl as well. Though I was an exceedingly terrible DJ myself back then, as a producer I was around good ones all the time, and in a period before descent CDJs (let alone Serato or controllers) that meant I was around a lot of vinyl too. Slowly but surely I began to remember the sound of a record, and what it felt like to hold one in my hands, and flip through the packaging, and by the time I was out of school and into the real world, my love of vinyl had been rekindled.
Before I sat down to write this piece, I took a casual flip through my record collection, and began to pull a few pieces that were worthy of extra special recognition. Before long, three discrete piles began to emerge, and seemingly a microcosm of how I think about my vinyl.
So on the left you have the new stuff, albums that I grab on vinyl right when they come out, because I know that’s how I’ll want to listen to them. In the middle you have weird stuff, records of songs that are hard to come by in general or in that form. And on the right you have old stuff, these ones usually come from yard sales and thrift shops. Regardless of the category, most of my records have stories behind how I came across them, or what they mean to me, so I thought I’d take some time to share a few of them here.
On the bottom right for instance is an awesome Patrick Juvet disco record I got in a thrift store in Lyon, France and carted back through Rome in my carry-on (notice the pairing of the figure skate over his shoulder, and the stoic badass-in-a-leather-jacket look.) The center of the middle row is an album by Japanese post-rock band Mono called One Step More And You Die. Really awesome music. They happened to wander into a music store that I worked at years ago, and were apparently as pleasantly surprised to have someone recognize them there, as I was that they had materialized before me. A few days later they sent their vinyl discography over for me!
The White Label below that may be my favorite yet. At the end of a Modeselektor show that I drove up to New York for, they were throwing all sorts of paraphernalia into the crowd. One by one these items flew over my head until just that record was left, but rather than wing it into the rafters with the others, they just looked down and handed it to me. I had no idea what track it was, until I got home… only to be dumbfounded again after internet searches proved fruitless. It wasn’t until years later that I happened upon the Bjork song from which it samples that I was able to chase it down online.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing to me about vinyl though, is that unsung martyr of the digital age: the album art. There was just so much more room to be creative on a record, so many more surfaces on which to accentuate your story.
For a record, the experience of an album starts with the front cover, then pulls you closer to explore the story that lies in wait in the folds, textures, and booklets inside. Something to turn over in your hands as the first few songs of the record play, finishing in your ears what started in your eyes. The band Mūm (top middle) is a great example, if you ask me. Really pulling a lot from vinyl as a medium.
And on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps with Dethclock (top left) is a close second
This may seem somewhat inconsequential, or even superficial at first, but I assure you it’s tragically self-perpetuating. The less conducive the medium you’re working in is to an immersive experience, the less likely you are to seek such experiences out as an artist. And we electronic musicians are perhaps the worst perpetrators of all. With the advent of Soundcloud, Youtube, Zippyshare and the like, there is little incentive to produce any more than a single, or maybe an EP at once, let alone press a full cohesive album to vinyl.
To be sure, there are some definite beacons of light though, floating about out there in the ether of the internet. Xxyyxx and Parisian come to mind, maybe just because I’ve been on a spacey indi-electronica tip recently, along with the first Major Lazer album in the picture above, and a hand full of others. And with any luck at all, my new album Fake The Magic will make the cut, and join the ranks of well conceived and thoroughly thought-through albums for a new age.
Give it a listen, and you tell me.”