Category Archives: House

Quick Reviews: Sh*t Robot, The Chemical Brothers, J. Tillman

I have been getting tons of material lately for review consideration so I thought I would try something new and shrink down my usually lengthy reviews.  Nothing fancy, just trying to get the word out on some amazing bands and releases.  Enjoy.

Sh*t Robot – From The Cradle To The Rave

Marcus Lambkin, aka Sh*t Robot, has taken his time releasing his debut album – literally it has been 20 years in the making.  The Irish born punk rocker turned DJ has made a name for himself in the NYC club scene and even though has never recorded an album before has made a huge name for himself by just doing his thing.  I should also mention that Lambkin helped build that which is now DFA Records from the ground up.

From The Cradle To The Rave reflects Lambkin’s life as a DJ and more.  Opening track, co-written by LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy, “Tuff Enough?” is an electronic anthem of sorts with simple beats and synthesizer that was actually written about an upcoming expectancy.  “Losing My Patience” featuring Hot Chip‘s Alexia Taylor was a fun track that I think many of the dance clubs will have no problem spinning. “Simple Things (Work It Out)” was an entertaining experimental dance track of sorts with almost a spoken word feel to it.

My personal favorite cut on the album was “Take ‘Em Up” featuring another musician from LCD Soundsystem, Nancy Whang.  This song not only screamed retro 80’s but also heavily reminded me of what would happen if Daft Punk decided to sample a Sonic The Hedgehog soundtrack.  Whang’s vocals are perfect for this track more suitable to be played at a roller rink.

From The Cradle To The Rave is proof that sometimes taking your time is a good thing.  This release is for all the folk out there that still enjoy the clubs.  Full of electronic goodness that reaches back to the days when techno was all the hype in the 90’s as well as hints at some Kraftwerk.  The album is solid front to back without over doing it.  Where I don’t frequent those types of clubs anymore I still got a kick out of that which is Sh*t Robot.

The Chemical Brothers – Further

Seeing a band like The Chemical Brothers come out with new material makes this guy right here happy.  As a longtime fan of the British duo (Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons), I was thrilled when Further was released and even more intrigued when I heard that alongside the album would be visuals to accompany each of the songs. While I still have yet to obtain the videos I can tell you that they are available on DVD and iTunes for download.

Further is different from previous releases as it is mostly instrumental with Rowlands taking it upon himself to sing on a couple tracks as well as features Stephanie Dosen (Massive Attack) who lends her vocals as well.  I honestly prefer when they collaborate with other musicians on their previous releases but still enjoyed listening to tracks like “Escape Velocity” and “Another World”. “Swoon” was a trip in itself that I could not help but tag along with.

Heavy on the synthesizers and easing back on the drum machines throughout make for a very chill album to listen to.  This is one of those types of albums I can see myself not growing tired of anytime soon.  For those of you out there that still has a soft spot for the duo who hit the charts with “Block Rocking Beats” back in the day don’t hesitate to pick up Further.  The duo still has it and has dropped one great album to dance the night away to or even just sit back and get lost in.

J. Tillman – Singing Ax

Beautiful is just one of the many words that can be used to describe J. Tillman‘s latest release Singing Ax. Not just a member of Fleet Foxes, the folk artist has been very involved in recording material with others as well as himself since around 2004.  His latest offering is a vinyl only release that was recorded by Tillman almost entirely by himself in just three days.  The result is a calm yet captivating collection of songs that couple compliment any campfire gathering or just a quiet afternoon of solitude.

Opening track “Three Sisters” pretty much set the bar up high for the entire album for me.  While listening to TIllman’s singing I could only anticipate on what he was going to sing next and patiently waited the story, backed by acoustic guitar playing and drum machine, to unfold.  “Diamondback” continued with a calm retreat of a pleasant tale that had me closing my eyes and absorbing the intimate song.  In fact I found myself doing that a lot while listening to Singing Ax.  Later on I was treated to the album ending “A Seat At The Table” a song, to me, that almost was a musical rendition of a storm rolling in complete with thundering drumming towards the end of the track.

Tillman dropped an amazing album that barely carried any further supplement aside from his singing and acoustic guitar.  Honestly nothing more was needed as the folk chill release was presented perfectly.  I can only imagine what a live performance would entail.  Luckily for me he is touring with Phosphorescent and is making a stop in Cleveland in just a short couple of weeks.  Fans of Nick Drake and even a younger Neil Young I think will really enjoy this album as well as anyone out there that is just looking for a musical form of relaxation.

Interview: Steve Smith of Dirty Vegas

This interview is actually over a year old.  It posted on 02/07/2008 on  Rather than archive it I decided to share it with you today:

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

It wasn’t so long ago that a British house rock/pop trio took the world by storm.  The band was called Dirty Vegas and released their debut album including a track named “Days Go By”.  This track soon made its way into the clubs and onto airwaves gaining lots of attention.  The band consisted of three gentlemen who formed the group in 2001 thanks to a little love song that vocalist Steve Smith wrote for someone special.  The song, originally an acoustic track, took a twist and was transformed into a dance club hit.  The song even earned the trio a Grammy in 2003.

The band earned gross amounts of fame but due to low sales on Dirty Vegas’ sophomore album the hype simmered down and soon two of the trio called it quits.  Steve Smith however did not have any intentions of quitting the music scene and recorded his own music.  He actually had been recording music all of his life and now found it the right time after a break to release it.  This Town was recently released as a solo project by Steve Smith who relocated from the UK to Boston with his wife.  The CD is more of a personal project to Steve Smith, his best work yet.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Steve Smith.  In between changing guitar strings and baby diapers (he and his wife just had a newborn) Steve Smith took some time to answer some questions about the past, present, and future of his musical career.

Why such the long hiatus?

Well, when Ben and Paul left in 2005, I decided to have some time away from music to really get my head around what I wanted to do.  I moved to the US in early 2006 and began to feel really inspired. I started to write a lot of music and spent the year collecting songs for my solo album.  I also began my dream of writing music for film by scoring the brilliant movie, Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down and for the FOX show Standoff.

Why did the band disband?  I know everyone was growing  mature and going their own ways but were there any other reasons?

Well, we we’re in a bad situation with our record company and Ben and Paul felt that we had taken the band as far as we could, but I truly felt there was more to come.

The band Dirty Vegas took the world by storm.  You wrote a song “Days Go By” that was transformed from an acoustic track to a techno hit.  What were your original thoughts on manipulating your original cut?

I have always loved the idea of taking a song where you wouldn’t necessarily expect it to go!

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

So who was “Days Go By” exactly written about?

My then girlfriend Charlotte, who is now my wife (songs always win a girls heart!)

Any plans ever of maybe creating another Dirty Vegas release in the future?

Who knows!

Once the band split up you got back together with your long time girlfriend (now wife) and moved to Boston.  Why Boston?  I know it is an amazing city but I am just curious.

I have always felt that Boston has a very European feel to it.  It has a great music scene and I have discovered a lot of creative people live/work here.

How was the transition from London to Boston for you?

Very smooth!  The people of Massachusetts have been great to us.

How long before you decided it was time to release a self-titled album?

It kind of happened when I started to play friends some of the songs.  The more I played them, the more people said I must get this stuff out there!

Is there a possibility you may tour in support of this release?

Absolutely! I cannot wait to get out there and perform the songs in front of people.

Can we expect a follow up to This Town sooner than later?

Anything is possible.

Who would you say are your musical influences?

I would say that growing up it was everything from Pink Floyd to Marvin Gaye.  I was always listening to the Top 40 and raiding my brothers and sisters record collection.  So I got to hear Joan Armatrading and Neil Young [because of them]. When I heard Neil Young’s After the Goldrush album it blew my mind.

I am still amazed that the actor John Savage from the Deer Hunter agreed to perform a spoken word on the first track of your CD.  How did he get involved?  He is the last person I would ever expect to speak on an album, yet it seemed so perfect once I heard it.

Every guest on the record was someone that naturally came along. My manager was in a furniture store and spotted John. She told him about the song and he agreed to come along and we just spoke about his life experiences and the message of the song. That was one of many incidents that happened with the recording of the album.

Speaking of incidences, you were also able to recruit a violinist for the track “Smile” who in turn wrote a piece that was the favorite of your father.  Do you think that was pure coincidence or a calling?

That was another one of those natural moments with the record.  I still cannot believe that the actual guy that performed the solo parts of my late father’s favorite pieces of music, came and performed on a song about him!  A calling I’d say. And my old man is looking down laughing.

Can you tell me a little about your father?  Was he a music lover as well?

My dad was never a professional musician but my mother told me he had a beautiful voice as a young man, and people would often ask him to sing in pubs and parties.

You are definitely a multi-talented individual with the ability to play acoustic guitar as well as spin house sets.  Which do you prefer over the other?

I am a very lucky person that gets to experience the buzz of a dance floor move to a pumping bass line as well as sing with an acoustic guitar in a small folk club.  Both have amazing energies that I find complete polar opposites but have the same rewards!

When did you learn to play guitar?  Was it before or after you learned percussion?

I learned to play the guitar quite late, I was around 21. I had been playing percussion, but needed to learn a melodic instrument to craft the songwriting.

In your spare time you continue to guest DJ.  What is different these days about the club scene as opposed to yesteryear?  Are there things you miss about the overseas club scene?

I think with the way the internet is now, you can hear a brand new track played in Ibiza (Spain) and [in] Kansas on the same night!  Gone are those days of the kid in the middle of nowhere ordering a track from a record store 6 months after it was first heard in NYC.

Do you still communicate with any of the DJs from the past you once toured with such as Sasha or Paul Oakenfield?

Sometimes you see DJ’s/Musicians that you have worked with over the years, I have been going to Ibiza for many years and there is always a familiar face there.

Do you think the DJ / techno genre will make a comeback in the states?

I think all genres of music will have exciting times ahead,  just look at the festival line-ups now, Rock Bands, DJ’s… there all there.
The song “Late Nights and Street Fights” was the main theme for Fox’s now defunct Standoff.  How were you able to land that?

The music supervisor for that show had used Dirty Vegas music before and heard I was recording my solo album, and asked if I had a rock song that could suit.  I played them “Late Night” and they loved it.

You won a Grammy while in Dirty Vegas for the song “Days Go By”.  I am just curious if you display it in your home or use it as a paperweight?

It’s on the mantle-piece

Any plans for the future?

Well, I want to head out and play live shows to support the solo album, and then I am looking at scoring a musical with the director of Boys and Girls Guide and of course Dirty Vegas.

Why should people check out This Town?

Because it is the best piece of work I have ever done.

Steve Smith’s This Town is available on G.A.S. Records.  For a sneak peak at his self titled release and to see if he’ll be touring in your area you can visit his website or his MySpace page.  Word is Steve Smith and Dirty Vegas are working on new material.  More to come about that…

Until then, here are some videos to keep you entertained:

The song that started it all… Still love this video too: