Strip Steve live at Dim-Mak Studios

Music brilliance? — Or Just a Keg Party in Hollywood? “Taking cues from kraut-rock and nu-disco, Strip Steve never seemed shy about being upfront with his influences.”

[By Brian Lee]

Truth be told, I have this mental affliction. I’d call it “Beat Obsessed.” Common symptom include excessive thirst/ appetite to search for the perfect beat. No distance is too great to drive, no amount of argument will dissuade me – that next great beat must be found!

Having recently discovered the greatness of Breakwater’s “Release the Beast” (best $3 spent at a garage sale), I slowly deterred myself from listening to more shoegaze/post-punk records and to be more cognizant about contemporary music heavy in synthesizer, drum machine and bass guitar. Much obliged to current development and the Internet! It’s generally understood that rock music in the last 20 years is no longer defined by how many weeks a band topped the billboard charts or how transcendent the album is as measured by the sappy Grammys. I mean…What good are accolades in an era where consensus seems to annoy the living daylights out of people? Instead, the digital world has somewhat transformed rock music into this marginalized niche culture.

With the invention of Tumblr, Gorilla vs. Bear, Youtube, Twitter, I can honestly say music nerds like me have more power than the record industry folks to define what’d be transcendent 20 years from now. The name LCD Soundsystem/ James Murphy would probably elicit the proverbial “Huh?” from 99% of the population. But to the 1%, he’s our hero! We hyped the hell out of him when he first started 10 years ago and 20 years from now, some bore from Spin Magazine would write the very same thing: “The Sound of Silver transpired the cool kids to trade their guitars for turntables…dance music is “cool” again”. Hell, hype can be a scary thing for bands in the world of music bloggers talking you up or down because the buzz can die as quickly as it starts. But when your music shoots straight to the heart – you’re the transcendent artist! You’re bound to be found and talked about for the next few decades.

Man – that felt good! Moving on, what I’m trying to say is that due to the current digital landscape, getting a kraut-rock fix is becoming an easier process than locating the next Starbucks. Yes, I’m glad artists with niche genres are being looked upon (or signed). However, this is a good and bad thing.
The good thing is good music will finally find its way to mass appeal and generally artists will be more motivated to create better music. The bad thing is that one successful artist (sold out tours, well respected in the blogosphere) will trigger record labels to sign less inspiring artists just because they belong in the same genre of that successful artist.

I’m going to throw out the name Strip Steve for example. I had a chance to see Strip Steve’s live performance at Dim Mak Records in Hollywood last Tuesday. To sum it up, I’d say Strip Steve’s performance left me high and dry. Taking cues from kraut-rock and nu-disco, Strip Steve never seemed shy about being upfront with his influences.

On certain tracks, beats may have the skittish-jumpy quality of Ratatat accentuated by intricate layers of lush instrumentation blending atmospheres of emotion and melody – I swayed so deep into it, I forgot I was listening to electronic music. You gotta hear his collaboration with dream-pop extraordinaire Puro Instinct – BRILLIANT PIECE, IT’S DAFT PUNK ON LSD. But on his other pieces, Strip Steve seems content to confine his creativity only to House and Techno. Granted, those are not my cup of tea – but the beat repetition lacks surprises, the dance song adheres to familiar Madchester beats (A Guy Called Gerard) or nu-disco (Chromeo), and there’s some element of exaggerated robot rock on consignment from Daft Punk. It feels Strip Steve is hedging his bets – he tries to spread his attention to too many different trends, he lacks that one true sound – his inventory is diverse but never deep.

It’s not as if incorporating robot rock and nu-disco is unheard of in the indie-sphere. Bands like LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip find ways to channel the brashest sound of the radio into something that feels sincere and authentic. LCD Soundsystem represents the warmth and self-effacing humor while Hot Chip let everyone knows it’s cool to be a nerd & terrible dancer. Strip Steve lacks these qualities. I know I shouldn’t be comparing Strip Steve with LCD Soundsystem or Hot Chip…he’s nowhere there in terms of experience and career. But what I’m trying to say is…How many Strip Steves will be signed before record labels find the next genre-bending LCD Soundsystem? And how many of these Strip Steves will strive to make better music because Youtube could propel the career of the next LCD Soundsystem in a matter of hours?

In the end, I probably spent more on gas driving to Dim Mak records than I did for my beat-fix. In some ways, this would give me bragging rights, and perhaps rightly so. Was it worth it? For me, the nostalgic of a high school keg party ($5 for PBR & shot, DJ Destructo spinning mindless/fun house-trance music, devouring bacon-wrapped dogs at 1 am) made it worth the drive. Did it fix my “Beat Obsession?” Not exactly. But the sudden realization on how a nobody like me could define transcendental music for years to come is what makes this experience PRICELESS.

http://www.boysnoize.com

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