Mr. Lava's Trash Music Compendium

Another round-up of the best, the worst, and the most intriguing trash of the past and present.

(April 2010)

This month's cover stars: On the right: A mathematics student somewhere in Yugoslavia in 1958. On the left: Manja, clearly enjoying herself in a Belgrade club in 2010.

Click on the music notes to hear song samples.

Shazalakazoo - Amza Kolo

Most EU countries have witnessed the extinction of their bootleg CD sales booths, probably not so much due to increased policing as the fact that it's simpler to just download stuff off the internet. In Belgrade, Serbia the bootleg CD booth is alive and well, with carts set up along the main promenade of cafes. I asked the salesmen for dance music recommendations, and among their many good suggestions was a quirky album by Shazalakazoo called "Speaking Balkanian." Twisted-up samples of traditional Balkan instruments groove alongside chunky dance beats to great effect.

Lindstrøm & Christabelle - Lovesick

Here is the sleaze you ordered.

Duck - Sekretarica

From what I can tell, Duck is a Serbian pop music producer who has paired up with various female vocalists over the years. In one of the more horrifying stories peripherally connected to Europop, in March 2010 one of Duck's former vocal collaborators, Ksenija Pajcin, was killed by her boyfriend, who then committed suicide afterward.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band - 15 to 20 (Montee Remix)

NYC Ameritrash that I first heard at Huda Kava bar in Maribor, Slovenia. There are a ton of different remixes, so pick the one you like most. I like the Montee remix best because it is packed with tasty keyboard goodness and breathy "ahhhs," resulting in an unlikely thing: a beautiful funk song. Bonus points awarded for the cowbell.

Lady Gaga - Alejandro

Many people I spoke with in the Balkans in 2010 were surprised to learn that Lady Gaga is from the United States (most had assumed she was British). Now the Queen of Ameritrash offers her catchiest song yet, which I first heard wafting out of the radio while on a bus in Dubrovnik. Unfortunately, the song opens with a smirky spoken-word bit, a deliberate act of "wink-wink" hedging that subtracts from the terrific melody that follows.

Cyndi Lauper - Into the Nightlife

Continuing down our winding road of Ameritrash, Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is over a quarter-century old. Amazingly, the 50-something Lauper has kicked out a perfect piece of contemporary dancefloor pop which, unlike the reinvention efforts of many of her contemporaries, does not go down the usual "diva" route. Opening is reminiscent of the minimal chill of Sono's "Take Control," before it launches into a beautiful, classic Eurotrash chorus. A pleasant surprise. Hopefully will be played in more places than the restaurant I heard it in in Baia Mare, Romania.

Aura Dione - I Will Love You Monday (365)

This Danish, Anastacia-esque singer offers a pleasing tune with a crackin' chorus. According to my records, the song first appeared on the Danish charts in April 2009, then exploded onto multiple countries' charts in November 2009. Ye olde Wikipedia states that the tune did only moderate business in her native Denmark, but did so well elsewhere that it was slightly remixed and beefed up for greater pop consumption; this enhanced version is the one that has "(365)" appended to its title. If Dione can keep this sort of stuff up her music could become a staple in Europubs for years to come.

Uffie - MCs Can Kiss

Uffie, who provided vocals for Justice's "TTHHEE PPAARRTTYY," championed back on Volume 59, has in the years since kicked out a number of singles under her own name, several produced by Mr. Oizo of "Flat Beat" fame. "Flat Beat" was an overrated tune bolstered by a brilliant video, but with Uffie's vocals to play with Mr. Oizo has been able to craft the catchiest material of his career. "MCs Can Kiss" is also notable for Uffie's impressive saxophone debut.

Boban Rajović - Provokacija

He lives in Copenhagen, but Montenegro, along with much of the rest of former Yugoslavia (and Fortress King Pigeon), are the lands he rocks. Perhaps living in Denmark has heightened his willingness to explore electronic dance music sounds, which allows his tunes to consistently stand out from the usual Yugo pop ("Flasa" is another excellent tune from Mr. Rajovic).

Bobina - Spinning (Original Vocal Mix)

Trippy trance-pop tune with dreamy female vocals and some electric guitar sounds to toughen things up a bit. This gets back to the core of what made Eurotrash so excellent ten years ago: it's an original and catchy tune enveloped in lushness.

Alexandra Burke - All Night Long (Cahill Club Mix)

Yet another example of a completely by-the-numbers remix which proves to be exactly what the doctor ordered. The sound palette reminds me of Euro music from four or five years ago (particularly Mynt and Kim Sozzi's "Back in Love (Mixshow Edit)").

John Dahlbäck - Bingo (Extended Original Mix)

A pretty good tune that turns terrific when some chopped-up vocals make their dramatic appearance about 3.5 minutes in.

Chicane - Hiding All the Stars (Original Club Mix)

I hate giving away the endings of movies, and I feel similarly constrained writing this review of Chicane's latest tune. But spoil it I shall! Song begins in typically dull Chicane fashion, with some pretty female vocals and bland piano sounds. So what a welcome thing it is when a big-ass chunk of Gary Numan's "Cars" crashes the proceedings. Fun as it is, you still have to wonder why 90% of these dance music producers can't write their own big hooks.

Kid Massive - Touch Me (In the Morning) (Avicii's Massive Mix)

It was released in the summer of 2009, appeared on an Armenian chart in December, and I finally tracked it down in April. It's a cover of a hypnotic 2001 Rui da Silva song (vocals originally by Cassandra, aka Cass Fox). This particular remix of the Kid Massive remake is enhanced by a sprinkling of lovely keyboard bits.

Katerine (Avgoustakis) - Enjoy the Day (Daniel Bovie Radio Remix)

Here was Greece's 2010 Eurovision entry—before it was stripped of that distinction because a remix of the track had leaked onto the internet in 2009, and Eurovision rules state that a competing song cannot be unveiled in any form before the calendar year of the competition.

Daisy Dares You feat. Chipmunk - Number One Enemy

Fun pop song inspired by the songwriter's desire to reconcile with her sister (who is name-dropped in the tune). Daisy is a teenager from Essex. Chipmunk is a British rapper who seems to have been arbitrating a lot of disputes, as his recent duet with Esmée Denters ("Until You Were Gone") demonstrates. Tune highlight is the ride into a particularly kick-ass bridge, which is somewhat spoiled afterward by Chipmunk's intrusion, which is another act of hedging: the addition of an established rapper to broaden a song's appeal, but whose very presence actually subtracts from the strength of the original song (see also Jay-Z's rap on Rihanna's "Umbrella"). But hey, I guess that's why they call it "pop."

(July 2010)

On far right, a photograph I took at Club Fuego, Dubrovnik, Croatia; on left, a photograph I took at Saloon in Zagreb, Croatia.

Click on the music notes to hear song samples.

Hudson Mohawke - Fuse

Making a brief appearance on the French top 200 chart in June is this lovely Warp! records release, sure to please fans of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin.

Gabriella Cilmi - Hearts Don't Lie

The fetching Gabriella's second single from her dance-infused sophomore release is a funky disco homage with a few overly-familiar elements (especially that Freemasons-esque chorus), but pleasingly arranged into something sure to move one's feet.

DJ Deflkline / Red Polo vs. Dustin Hulton - Cars That Go Boom

L'Trimm's original "Cars That Go Boom" boasts some of the worst lyrics in pop history, but it has a campy appeal that has allowed the (sorta) one hit wonders to weather two decades of pop cultural developments. So here we are in 2010 enjoying this thoroughly banging breaks remix, spiced with a variety of 80s synth sounds. Would be right at home after Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme" and before, well, how about Dezil's "Danser sur la plage"?

Dezil' - Danser sur la plage

Perfect background music as you enjoy that umbrella drink, dig your toes into the white sand, and gaze out at the azure blue water.

Vicky Devine - Starfire (Original Mix)

Vicky hails from Manchester, the source of so much greatness in UK music history. She offers a terrific epic Euro-trance tune for those of you who cannot get the roar of 1999-era Gatecrasher out of your minds. That's not to say it's behind the times; this sort of sweeping, goosebump-evoking, epic quality should never be allowed to go out of style.

HU? - Miks ainult mõni asi on nii hea? (kaasa teeb Kare Kauks)

One of Estonia's most talented acts proves their coolness once again with this potent synth-pop concoction. Read my interview with the band in Baltic Reports.

Maika - Embrasse moi

Maika has had two cool dance singles hit the French charts this year. This pulsating, electro-fied thing will resurrect fond memories of Sash!'s "Encore une fois" and lesser-known Frenchy things worth dusting off, like Shanna's "Il est interdit."

Ben DJ - Smile

Here's as sunny a tune as you could imagine from Milan-based Ben DJ, with vocals that sound somewhat like early Stevie Wonder (to be honest, I can't tell if the vocals are male or female, and nobody seems to have received credit for the vocal performance, shades of Dennis Ferrer's "Hey Hey").

Dennis Ferrer - Hey Hey

Mesmerizing house tune ripping up the charts all over Europe, catapulted to instant classic status by the fantastic vocals of a singer who, apparently, Mr. Ferrer feels does not deserve an album credit for her contribution. Hopefully this will be rectified soon; there is no way she will be able to escape a long career as a dance music vocalist now that this thing has gone off like a hundred kiloton nuclear bomb.

Mark Ronson & the Business Intl - Bang Bang Bang (feat. Q-tip and MNDR)

Instantly infectious synth pop tune boosted by one of the best music videos of the year. Vocal turns from an "old"-pro (Q-tip) and a new sensation (MNDR) rise above the usual "guest vocal" limitations; this sounds like a real band, with nobody holding anything back.

Ivana Banfic - Trn U Oku

When you've been running a Eurodance website for about a decade, it no longer surprises you to find yourself writing things like, "This is not the first time we've reviewed a Eurotrashed-up cover of 'Hava Nagila.' " [That distinction goes to Infernal in Volume 43.] Here, Croatian singer Ivana Banfic plays with the classic tune, which in its final minutes sounds like it snagged itself on a splinter of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." That's a good thing.

Stunt - Fade Like the Sun (Extended Mix)

A cheery piece of dance fluff doing good business in Bulgaria. Lots of nice sounds floating through this, including, oddly enough, what sounds like a scrap of Lightning Seeds' "Pure." Stunt first seized my ears with their updating of Sash!'s "Encore une fois," retooled as "Raindrops" in 2004 and re-released under Sash!'s own name in 2008.

Faithless - Not Going Home (Eric Prydz Remix)

Faithless finally deliver a song as massive as their classic "Insomnia" (that early single is now getting a surprisingly reverent rework by American R&B singer Lumidee). Admittedly, it steals from its own "Insomnia" blueprint, but they're allowed--nobody does it better. Armin Van Buuren turned in one of the two mixes, but I prefer Prydz's version.

Gogol Bordello - Start Wearing Purple

Drink until tipsy, then throw your arms around your equally-inebriated friends and bounce around the room together to this piece of hora-riffic genius from the man who inspired me to grow a mustache in 2002.

The compendiums:

2001 06/07
2001 08
2002 01
2002 01
2002 01/02
2002 04
2002 06
2002 09
2002 10/11
2002 12/2003 01
2003 02
2003 03/04
2003 05/06
2003 06
2003 08
2003 09
2003 10/12
2004 02/07
2004 07/09
2004 11
2004 12
2005 01/03
2005 05/09
2005 09
2005 12
2006 03
2006 06/09
2006 11/12
2007 01/03
2007 04/05
2007 06/07
2007 09/10
2008 01
2008 04/06
2008 06/07
2008 09/12
2009 02
2009 04/06
2009 08/09
2009 10/11
2010 01
2010 02/03
2010 04/07
2010 08/10
2010 11
2011 01/03
2011 04/05
2011 06
2011 09

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