Friday, 28 February 2020

Gina X Performance ‎– Nice Mover (1978)

Style: Synth-pop, Disco, New Wave
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: EMI, LTM, Electrola

01.   Nice Mover
02.   No G.D.M.
03.   Plastic Surprise Box
04.   Casablanca
05.   Be A Boy
06.   Exhibitionism
07.   Black Sheep
08.   Tropical Comic Strip
09.   No G.D.M. (Berlin 1992 Mix)
10.   Nice Mover (7" Edit)
11.   No G.D.M. (7" Edit)
12.   Homage A B.B.

Drums – Laslo Czigany
Keyboards – Zeus B. Held
Programmed By (Additional Synthesizer) – Martin Homberg
Programmed By (Synthesizer Programming) – Heinz Trewer
Vocal, Backing Vocals – 'Big Brother'
Vocals, Concept By] – Gina Kikoine
Written-By – Gina Kikoine, Zeus B. Held
Producer – Martin Homberg, Zeus B. Held

If some say that time exists as a flat circle, consider it as a vinyl record. Each rotation generates new sounds built upon the ones established in earlier spins, a creation of novel melodies formed from those before them. Musical history acts in much the same way, where sonic techniques and trends reappear at different intervals of time. A resurgence in disco and ‘90s-tinged R&B demonstrates this phenomenon in 2019. Genres circle back around like chokers and rom-coms. In the 40 years since its release, the sound of Nice Mover resurfaces every so often across a strange range of artists. 
While circling around a vintage record and clothing store in the Netherlands, the cover of Gina X Performance’s Nice Mover caught my eye. Its confident yet playful stare resembled those of Grace Jones and Annie Lennox, both self-assuredly androgynous and sexual. It was enough to bring me to purchase the record, though I knew nothing of the group beforehand. At the time, I wondered if this gap in my knowledge constituted a major musical grievance. I’ve since found that it in fact is a gap, though through little fault of my own. Dedicated sonic historians might know of them, but my own research suggests that Gina X Performance exists as a small footnote in the grand timeline of music history. 
The German group consisted of vocalists Gina Kikoine and Ralph Morgenstern, producer Zeus B. Held and drummer Lazlo Czigany, with Hinrich Sickenberger later joining the group in the ‘80s. Over the course of their less-than-a-decade formation, they released four albums total, though their debut remains their most famous release. That said, I think it deserves a bit more love. Not only does it still play well, but Nice Mover sounds both like its contemporaries and those who followed. 
At only eight tracks, the album plays through in a little over a half hour. Held’s synthesized production conjures a tasteful club atmosphere around Kikoine, who sings and writes with a deliberate extravagance. The sophistication and indulgence work in tandem to form an excellently eccentric mix of synth pop, disco and R&B. By track two, I knew I’d found my throwback contender for Song of the Summer in “No G.D.M.,” its celebration of queerness a perfect find for the start of Pride Month: “You are perfect, you are sheer/ If you are a red-haired queer” is not a sentiment to question. 
Listening to this and the rest of Nice Mover elicits remembrances of other acts with much higher profiles. “Exhibitionism” contains hints of the Knife’s weirdness, Vendredi sur Mer’s spoken-word disco and Daft Punk’s digitized vocals. Kikoine’s enunciation comes across as ridiculously campy, but honestly, no native English speaker can ever criticize another person’s aptitude for the English language, as the majority of the world speaks it for our convenience. On “Black Sheep,” you detect the exaggerated intonation of Björk, with the same proud peculiarity as well. Nice Mover, unapologetic in its moments of queerness or dissonance, captivates listeners with this brashness. It works for thinking as much as it does dancing, a fabulous pairing for a retrospective look. 
In a season where LGBTQ culture lies on the forefront of many peoples’ minds, discovering Gina X Performance felt like an appropriate moment of fate for me. On top of expanding my knowledge of past musicians, Nice Mover introduced me to another remarkably brave figure from queer history. Like the synthesizers, it’s just another reason why this album makes me dance.
Micj Jacobs / Spectrum Culture

30/70 ‎– Fluid Motion (2019)

Style: Neo Soul, Broken Beat, Future Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rhythm Section International

A1.   Brunswick Hustle
A2.   Addicted
A3.   Fluid Motion
A4.   N.Y.P
A5.   Tempted
A6.   Reprise
B1.   Echoplex
B2.   Backfoot
B3.   Crystal Hills
B4.   Impermanence
B5.   Push And Pull
B6.   Flowers

Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet – Josh Kelly
Backing Vocals – Abbey Howlett, Danika Smith, Jace XL, Rara Zulu
Congas, Percussion – Javier Fredes
Drums – Ziggy Zeitgeist
Fender Rhodes, Organ – Jarrod Chase
Producer, Bass – Horatio Luna
Producer, Guitar, Korg MS10, Electric Piano (Rhodes) – Tom Mansfield
Synth (Juno 106, Prophet 600), Backing Vocals – Tiaryn Griggs

Recently, something unexpected has been going on in Melbourne. The foreign, American genre of neo-soul and all of its psychedelic and jazzy tendencies has been picked up by the locals and built upon to the point of being something a little different – think less R&B, more future funk. Things like this happen; music can be adopted and relocated like a plant, no one knowing where its roots are going to take. What’s surprising is that the seemingly isolated trend in Melbourne grew to become especially popular in the UK. It wasn’t long before a London label, Rhythm Section International, began to notice and eventually signed the most promising talent from the burgeoning scene. 
30/70 is not the biggest or the most important band to be signed to Rhythm Section, but they are the first proper band. That gives them something most of the other artists lack, where established label mates like Hiatus Kaiyote draw equal inspiration from UK club beats, 30/70Badu-led Soulquarians jam session. On their best tracks here, that comparison is hard to ignore.

As a collective, they have steadily grown throughout their career, with a constantly shifting set of players; the five mainstays seem to revolve around Allysha Joy, Ziggy Zeitgeist, Henry Hicks, Tom Mansfield & Jarrod Chase. As their debut Cold Radish Coma (2015) caught the attention of the Melbourne press, they began to develop a reputation around their home town, but it wasn’t until 2017’s Elevate that they became recognisable throughout Australia. Now with this year’s Fluid Motion, they have a world tour under their belt and are making a case for themselves outside of both Melbourne and their adopted London. 
Fluid Motion is not dissimilar enough to dissuade longterm fans but on the opening track, “Brunswick Hustle”, the band demonstrates just how far they’ve come, contributing a fully realised thumping introduction and making a case for the band they could be. But 30/70 has never been about colossal dance jams, or even the funkiness of “Brunswick Hustle”, 30/70 is focused on the aftermath. 
As the opener fades out and “Addicted” begins, you realise the party’s over, and while everyone’s coming down and waiting for the sun to come up, your wits are finally starting to come back to you. “Addicted” is lucid, representative of the band as a whole, and that feeling of oncoming sobriety. Sax runs come in and out, Joy’s singing is expressive yet non-confrontational and the song meanders along in a way that evokes effortlessness instead of listlessness. 
The mood continues with “Fluid Motion”, that track having some interesting percussive and great little vocal affectations but eventually bringing the vibe down to an even mellower place, even when the tempo keeps building. Similarly, the restless “N.Y.P.” begins with a great Frank Ocean-esque break down before building into an anxiety-laced crescendo. It’s these moments where the band explores their esoteric jams and keeps everything fairly loose. Elsewhere on the album, 30/70 tries to craft big poppy singles to relatively diminishing returns. “Tempted” and “Backfoot” are repetitious and catchy but seem limp when accompanied by their analogue instrumental arrangements, and confusing when considering their club influenced label mates.

The two shortest songs here, “Reprise” and “Echoplex” offer two competing palette cleansers: while “Reprise” feels more like an unneeded extra, something that could easily have been cut off the 13 track album, “Echoplex” uses its place as a vocal-less interlude to let the band shine and give more resonance to Joy’s voice when it chimes back in on “Backfoot”. The best songs on Fluid Motion however, come in at the end. “Crystal Hills” is a breakbeat-inspired instrumental that is propulsive enough to carry two and a half minutes of minimal airport-running music. “Push and Pull” and “Flowers” offer the greatest artistic leap forward for the collective, providing tight memorable hooks that more than any other song here, necessitate repeated listens. 
Talent is no doubt present on Fluid Motion, in fact it can be frustratingly hard to ignore. Maybe it’s the nature of a collective, a feeling of too many cooks that causes a project like this to feel somewhat unrestrained. Maybe that’s the point, either way, although their third outing is undoubtedly their strongest yet, the experiments still yield a few too many misses. Those moments when the entire band is on the same wavelength and the songs feel inhumanely precise, are hard to do, but on Fluid Motion, 30/70 has figured it out. If they can keep that momentum going into their fourth album there will be a lot to look forward to.
Mac Lockett / sungenre

Red Snapper ‎– Our Aim Is To Satisfy Red Snapper (2000)

Style: Leftfield, Future Jazz, Downtempo
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Matador, Warp Records

01.   Keeping Pigs Together
02.   Some Kind Of Kink
03.   Shellback
04.   Don't Go Nowhere
05.   The Rake
06.   The Rough And The Quick
07.   Bussing
08.   I Stole Your Car
09.   Alaska Street
10.   Belladonna
11.   They're Hanging Me Tonight

Double Bass, Electric Bass – Ali Friend
Drums, Turntables – Richard Thair
Guitar, Keyboards – David Ayers
Mixed By – Hugo Nicolson, Red Snapper
Producer – Hugo Nicolson, Red Snapper
Written-By – Friend, Ayers, Thair