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++ Needle Drops is now an occasional music column that a number of Neumu writers take turns writing. All columns prior to March 2004 were written by Philip Sherburne.

++ Recently ++

Tuesday, November 29, 2005 = The Stooges Unearthed (Again)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 = Documenting Beulah And DCFC

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 = Out-Of-Control Rock 'N' Roll Is Alive And Well

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 = Just In Time For Halloween

Monday, October 3, 2005 = The Dandyesque Raunch Of Louis XI

Monday, August 15, 2005 = The Empire Blues

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 = David Howie's Sónar Diary

Monday, July 25, 2005 = Hot Sounds For Summertime

Monday, June 27, 2005 = Overcoming Writer's Block At Sónar 2005

Monday, June 4, 2005 = Cool New Sounds To Download Or Stream

++ Needle Drops Archives ++

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

++ Mixtape Round-up

By David Renard

++ Whether due to an ever-shrinking attention span or a shortage of worthy new releases, mixtapes seem to take up more and more of my listening real estate. Direct from the obsessives' record shelves to your ears, the best mixtapes (on shiny-blue CDRs, not C-90s) lay out a personal style that the record labels ain't ready for — and unearth a lot of obscure gems in the process. None of the discs below — some of the best mixes of the past year or so — qualify as new releases, but when "released" means the CD burner stopped spinning and the cover popped out of the inkjet printer, what does it matter?

++ Tim Sweeney, Rvng Presents MX3
Crash course: Sweeney, known for his weekly radio show "Beats in Space" on WNYU and for mixing the third disc of last year's DFA Compilation #2, slings up-to-the-minute dance tracks as well as music from the dawn of the drum machine. Created for Brooklyn's Rvng Intl (one of those companies that does something more than throw great parties, but you can't figure out what), MX3 swerves from pioneering electro-funk (Cybotron, "Techno City") to hard-to-define dancefloor weirdness (Mu, "Let's Get Sick"), with pit stops for more song-oriented stuff like Radiohead ("Idioteque"), Bauhaus ("Kick in the Eye"), and Tones on Tail ("Performance").
Homemade factor: The packaging is a combination of budget materials and high design, as the CD comes in a plastic Ziploc bag that's been stickered with the title; Sweeney's mug peeks out from underneath. At least they kept the overhead low: The insert bears a Dischord-esque instruction to "Pay no more than $5."
Moments of Zen: The U.N.K.L.E. mix of Can's classic "Vitamin C" kick-starts the first section of the mix. Toward the end, when the frantic thump and wailing sirens of "Let's Get Sick" come storming out of Yoko Ono's 1981 dance track "Walking on Thin Ice," your pulse can't help but rise.

++ Italo DeRuggiero and Italo DeRuggiero Parte Due
Crash course: Alec DeRuggiero, who books the DJ talent at New York nightclub APT, goes deep to find the gems of late-'70s, early-'80s Italian disco and electro — i.e., the tracks that aren't marred by ridiculous vocals and an excess of synthetic Euro-cheez. The music from this era is a big part of the blueprint for modern disco producers like Metro Area — in fact, DeRuggiero's first volume shares at least one track, Discotheque's "Disco Special," with the Unclassics compilation put together by Metro Area's Morgan Geist. The sequel, Parte Due, is less focused on vocals than its predecessor, with a spaced-out and slightly druggy vibe to go with its synthesized string sections, computerized handclaps and echoing laser blasts.
Homemade factor: Both volumes feature goofy/hilarious cover art that looks like it could have been dug out of the thrift store along with some of these records. The Euro fashion victims of Parte Due have got that Patrick Nagel, Duran Duran Rio look down pat, but nothing can top the bizarre figure who graces the cover of Italo DeRuggiero — Vincent Van Gogh meets Michael Jackson seems to be the leading description.
Moments of Zen: On volume one, the proto-hip-hop of Answering Service's "Call Me Mr. Telephone" mixes into Ris's "Love-N-Music," an anthemic electro song with a Roland 808 breakdown and vocals that prefigure the house music of later in the decade. The next track, Jamie Principle's "Waiting on an Angel," is Italo at its catchiest.

++ DJ Greg Caz Presents The Soul of Samba-Rock
Crash course: As the liner notes say, "Just remember: samba ... but funky!" Caz and his partner Sean Marquand run a weekly Brazilian party in Brooklyn that has yielded several cool mixes, this being the latest. The Soul of Samba-Rock highlights a musical hybrid of samba and the early American rock 'n' roll of the 1950s, compiling 30 tracks that are unavailable elsewhere on CD.
Homemade factor: Though self-released, the Brazilian Beat CDs are getting more and more professional, with a full-color double-sided booklet, printing on the disc, and a real jewel case (not slimline).
Moments of Zen: Where their previous Baile Funk mix mined a James Brown, jump-up '60s vein, Samba-Rock mostly surfs on a wave of cocktail cool. Strangely, two of the best tracks are covers of U.S. hits: Noriel Vilela's version of "Sixteen Tons," and Ivo Meirelles' "Swing Man," a genius Portuguese reworking of "Tin Man" by soft-rockers America ("now Oz never did do nothin' for the Tin Man ...").

++ Diplo, Favela on Blast: Rio Baile Funk 04
Crash course: Diplo found himself on permanent buzz status in 2004, with his album Florida getting nice attention, his mixtape for M.I.A., Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1, burning up eBay and critics' top-10 lists, and the Hollertronix brand spreading like crazy. He also had a hand in bringing baile funk, the sound of Brazil's ghettoes, to U.S. ears after a trip to Rio de Janeiro to gather source material. Not to be confused with the mellow baile music of the Brazilian Beat Brooklyn series — a baile, or "ball," is just a name for a dance party, no matter the era — the current Rio sound consists of roughly hacked-up samples, Miami bass, and rhymes shouted in Portuguese. I don't speak the language, but the lyrics are reportedly raunchy, traceable to the same source as the pounding 808 bass: 2 Live Crew.
Homemade factor: The half-hour mix isn't separated into tracks and there are no artists or titles given, but the cover art is pretty swank. It's designed by Nick Catchdubs, a Hollertronix affiliate with a mashed-up mix of his own, called What's Really?
Moments of Zen: Somewhere in the slums of Rio, someone sat down on a mattress in front of a cobbled-together old PC and looped up the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony."

++ $mall ¢hange, Orientation
Crash course: $mall ¢hange's resume includes "Nickel and Dime Radio" on New Jersey's WFMU, as well as DJing with the Black Crack crew (they fiend for the vinyl, geddit?). Orientation touches on all the usual genres — hip-hop, soul, funk, reggae — with an unusually nice touch to the track selection, sidestepping most of the obvious picks in favor of lesser-heard nuggets like the Sylvers' "We Can Make It If We Try" and Anthony Johnson's "Sound Clash." There's some blends, too; "Breakin' in Space With Vanilla Ice" unfortunately proves that the Iceman is uncool in any context (word to your mutha), but the "Bombay" version of "I Gotta Good Thing" (Superlover Cee and Casanova Rudd) goes down nice.
Handmade factor: The ultimate. Every cover has a different piece of found art cut to fit, with the tracklist Scotch-taped to the inside.
Moments of Zen: The track from Pete Rodriguez — a most scorching Latin soul number — never fails to inspire living-room boogaloo when it's on the stereo. "Oh That's Nice!"

Several of these mixes are for sale at Turntable Lab or similar online music stores. Tim Sweeney's MX3 can be found here. DJ $mall ¢hange posts his playlists and archived radio shows online.

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