Groove To This
Dance music and movies aren't exactly newlyweds. John Travolta strutted his way through two toe-tappin', big-screen adventures in the '70s, Saturday Night Fever and Grease. Jennifer Beals incited an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt craze in Flashdance. More recently, Dirk Diggler (a.k.a. Mark Wahlberg) proudly sported his imported Italian nylon wares under the glitterball grooves of Boogie Nights.
Taking that cue, shaking it up a bit and running with it is alternative dance golden boy Moby. He's culled and compiled past and upcoming soundtrack offerings on the always eclectic collection, I Like to Score.
The big news here is "Moby's Re-version" of the "James Bond Theme," inspired by the upcoming 007 flick, Tomorrow Never Dies. The lyrical, pulsing overbeat is accented by furious horns, a swaggering guitar and spoken-word snippets from the film.
The collective reasoning behind I Like to Score initially seemed like a mystery, a savvy marketing ploy to launch Moby back into the expansive buzz-word genre known as "electronica" after the overlooked guitar rants of his second full-length album, Animal Rights.
Together, the 12 songs illustrate the work of a diverse composer and performer. It's great to hear Moby back where he belongs, pushing the limits of dance music and throwing in a few surprises.
In some cases, Moby's musical accompaniment is better than the film it appeared in. The fast and furious "Ah-Ah" (Cool World) glides on blocky beats; "Oil 1" (The Saint) is a feverish mix of seductive vocals and electronica grooves; and "Love Theme" (Joe's Apartment) is a lilting, wistful instrumental.
The beautiful, spiritual sounds of compositions like "Novio," "Grace" and "God Moving Over the Face of the Waters" are uplifting and in stark contrast to the ominous, pulsing vocal dubs on "Go" or the jungle-soul trip in "First Cool Hive," fresh off a scare from Scream.
The album's swaggering title track, along with "Novio" and the somber "Nash," are taken from the upcoming Double Tap, a movie which marks Moby's first foray into scoring an entire film.
Rather than straightforward songs, these pieces are meant to evoke moods, a goal that will wait to be seen on the big screen. Nevertheless, each track on I Like to Score, taken either as a stand-alone or collectively, marks the talent, drive and ambition behind Moby's musical landscapes.
In other groovy news, 22-year-old Jamie Myerson unleashes a continuous flow of ethereal drum 'n' bass rhythms on his debut full-length album, The Listen Project.
Staking the claim of being the first artist signed by Ovum Recordings, outside of owners Josh Wink and King Britt, Myerson's selling point is crystal clear on the first few tracks of The Listen Project. Instead of relying on heavy beats, Myerson opts for a more subtle approach.
The first single, "Listen," is a quirky collage of beats and squeaks, a throwback to the softer musical accompaniment of groups like Stereolab.
Instead of giving in to a more hardcore sound as is the case with many drum 'n' bass or jungle acts, Myerson reins in his sound for a smoother, lilting effect on "Sky Blue," "Everything is Gonna be Alright" (which features the vocals of session singer Carol Tripp) and "You're My Life."
Myerson picks up the pace a bit on "Rescue Me," which grooves along a slight pulse that frame Tripp's vocals for a swirling, flowing effect. The producer/artist takes to the mic himself on "This Time," which continues down a delicately balanced path.
The polite posturing of Myerson may be unnerving to some drum 'n' bass enthusiasts, but The Listen Project provides a unique approach to a genre long held as only a barrage of sweltering beats and ferocious mixes.
OK all you closet dancin' fools, it's time to send me that e-mail you've been putting off all semester and give me your list of the best dance songs of the year.
No rules here, except to keep it down to five songs. Other than that, let me know what your fave dance-floor tune was - pop, R&B, rap, Latin, whatever. I'll tally all the votes and present the top ten in a special "Best of Groove to This" column in the near future, along with my own picks, of course. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This means you!