Carl Cox is one of electronic music's anomalies. One of the most popular deejays in the world, "Coxy" is a ubiquitous presence in the biggest clubs and magazines. Unlike other European DJs who've earned his level of success, when you look at the stats (i.e., his record selection and DJ skills), it's clear that Cox deserves the props. The press release for Global refers to Carl as "the people's DJ," and although it's fashionable to disagree with such clichés merely on principle, one can't deny that it's true. Nobody mixes the club, pop, and underground sounds together as tastefully as Carl Cox.
Global, Cox's first mix for the U.S. market since 2000's Mixed Live — the debut in a series on Moonshine records — seems to be a technical departure. As one might expect from a studio mix, some of the energy that's created by a crowd is compromised in the name of sound quality. Furthermore, there are far less chances taken on Global. Whereas Mixed Live found Cox mercilessly attacking three decks and occasionally cutting it up like Jeff Mills or Claude Young, Global is more in the John Acquaviva vein of precise record placement and subliminal EQ filtering where every track is juiced for its raw energy.
From a dark-yet-clubby beginning ("Kick Back") to the very bright diva wailing on "Turn It Up," Cox sets the tone like a night at New York's defunct Twilo nightclub where he was a mainstay for years. The vibe is then taken much deeper as Cox methodically drops cuts such as "Trebble and Bass" and "Drumz for better daze." There's a kinetic ebb and flow between the darker tracks and moments such as "Watch the Sun" and "Simulation" (a Eurythmics remix) that explode with fist-pumping danceability.
For skills, Mixed Live is difficult to touch, yet Global makes for better car listening. — Robert Gorell
Felix da Housecat
Kittenz and Thee Glitz
(CD, Emperor Norton)
Chicago's Felix "da Housecat" Stallings Jr. is a glamour-puss extraordinaire and, quite appropriately, his Eurotrash electro licks and sweaty synths sound just how fashion functions. Which is to say that Kittenz and Thee Glitz may be a captivating catwalk down memory lane of 1980s new wave and house, but ultimately it's just another accessory for a night on the town.
And da Housecat wouldn't want it any other way. His 16-year career's best bet at pop-crossover success practically revels in its dance-floor disposability, wanting its 16 Ladytron-ic trax to comment on the high falutin' and fleeting nature of celebrity and fashion. Over booty-baitin' beats that recall a kinkier, dinkier New Order, Melistar instructs listeners to "use your body for the fame game," and Miss Kittin talk-taunts about limos, condos, and livin' la vida 90210. So listen and learn, 'cause Kittenz, at least according to da Housecat, has a "cheeky, cool" statement to make about "the glam life."
Kittenz is so self-conscious, ironic, and full of feigned indifference, in fact, that it ultimately becomes its own version of what it set out to mock — an alluring, empty illusion of stardom. — Jimmy Draper
Persuasions Sing the Beatles
(CD, Chesky Records)
The Persuasions have done it again. With their latest CD, Persuasions Sing the Beatles, this seminal '60s a cappella group has notched its experimental belt once more. And why not? The chaps from Liverpool borrowed much from the street corners and churches of the African-American experience. By stripping 14 of the Fab Four's hits down to their harmonic basics, the Persuasions have gone a long way toward reclaiming those tunes.
Songs like "From Me To You" and "Oh! Darling" are natural picks for an R&B revisitation, while the slow ruminations contained within "Yesterday" lose a bit of their loneliness when performed by a group — yet remain as soulful as the original.
But charming as some of them may be when taken to the streets of Bed-Stuy, some do not belong. There is just no way to doo-wop around the lyrics of "Octopus' Garden," and "Come Together" never really does.
This is not the Persuasion's first foray into popular music of the '60s. Their tribute to the Grateful Dead, Might as Well, is also a tribute to the lyrical partnership of Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, and it's incredible how well a song like "Ripple" translates. Frankly A Cappella: The Persuasions Sing Zappa is another unexpected undertaking for the group, made all the more natural by the similarities between Ike Willis and Jerry Lawson (lead singers for Zappa and the Pers, respectively). All three albums, however unconventional, meld the differences between decidedly eclectic songwriters and the deep hymns of the black experience, proving once again that the roots running underneath rock are the same ones feeding R&B. — Tucker Teutsch