A current French turntablist quartet (Birdy Nam Nam) and a defunct German proto-electronic unit (Cluster)? What's the connection? Well, there really isn't one, other than that both artists have new discs (okay, Cluster's is a reissue of a 35-year-old LP) that crossed my desk around the same time and stood out for their stylistic bravado and innovativeness. So maybe it's self-indulgent of me to cover these disparate releases in Data Breaker this week, but that's one of the few perks of this job: freedom to foist my whims on my beloved readership, 52 times a year.
Enough throat clearing. Let's describe the sounds from these luminaries that are caroming around my headphones. We'll start with Cluster, whose Cluster 71 album has been reissued by the estimable Water Records. For reasons obscure, Cluster (Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, with invaluable studio aid from legendary producer/engineer Conny Plank) haven't received sufficient props for their pioneering kosmische excursions (nor has former Cluster band mate Conrad Schnitzler, but that's grist for another column).
Nevertheless, Cluster deserve serious time investment for their illuminating explorations of unusual timbres and ominous atmospheres. 71 consists of three long, rigorously constructed tracks whose keyboard cataclysms and guitar fissures foreshadow the foreboding, fractured-tone minimalism of Fennesz, Nurse with Wound, Main, Delia & Gonzalez, most of Kranky Records' roster, and many more.
Despite having a moniker that makes you feel like a douchetard when you say it (it derives from a 1968 Peter Sellers film called The Party), Birdy Nam Nam are forcing people to reassess the French hiphop scene with their intricately layered compositions and phenomenal decksterity. Winners of the 2002 DMC World Team competition, the foursome stitch together tracks that are redolent of Ninja Tune's peak era on their self-titled CD/DVD. BNN's sampladelic steez involves a fondness for striking jazz, blaxploitation-flick funk, and soul instrumentation and library music's psychotropic tones. The disc proves they've smoothly transitioned from Technics showmen to studio savants.
Some people think it's easy to build tracks simply from sampling old records, as BNN do, but it actually requires a master composer's acumen for instrumentation, rhythm, counterpoint, melody—all those essential qualities employed by geniuses who mark up staves on sheets of paper. For evidence, check out "Il y a un Cauchemar dans Mon Placard," an eerie, slo-mo spy-funk piece with spectral bleeps, striated strings, reverbed flute, effects-laden guitar, ring-modulated triangle, and many other elements. The painstaking care that must've gone into a track like that requires nearly as much skill as David Axelrod conducting a 30-piece orchestra. The songs on Birdy Nam Nam are akin to complex puzzles pieced together with utmost attention to conjuring intriguing moods and vivid textures, proving there's life beyond the wikki wikki. DAVE SEGAL
THURSDAY MARCH 16
MISSTRESS BARBARA Misstress Barbara looks like one of those glamorous women you see dancing in ads for lavish trance/house clubs, but she's actually a techno DJ with discerning taste. I'm down with anyone who rocks Donnacha Costello, Alex Under, Nathan Fake, and Trentemoller. Last Supper Club, 124 S Washington St, 748-9975, 9 pm–2 am, free, 21+.
MANIC! This new monthly features the Flea Market DJs' rambunctiously eclectic gumbo of electro, grime, techno, breaks, and rock. Residents djcandlewax, Greg Skidmore, and Josh Roberts guarantee "Mind-Bending Four on the Floor Madness." With Shawn K. Re-bar, 1114 Howell St, 233-9873, 10 pm–2 am, free before 11, $3 after, 21+.
FRIDAY MARCH 17
FC KAHUNA, JERRY ABSTRACT, TRONA Jerry Abstract's on the cusp of entering the (inter)national DJ circuit, as this high-profile gig attests. His ferociously energetic techno sets have been known to upstage renowned headliners for whom he opens. Since London-based FC Kahuna's torch-song-based and acid-house-y 2002 album Machine Says Yes, the Röyksopp-like FC Kahuna have focused on DJing, running various club nights, remixing New Order and Felix Da Housecat, and releasing a mix CD that ranged from Polyphonic Spree to Green Velvet. Element, 332 Fifth Ave N, 441-7579, 10 pm–3 am, $10, 21+.
SATURDAY MARCH 18
SHITMAT, KJ SAWKA, FUKUMUP! Shitmat's Full English Breakfast (2004, Planet Mu) stands as a classic of drill 'n' bass, the spazziest, rudest, most fractured strain of drum 'n' bass. Devoting his formidable skills to goofing/shocking, Shitmat takes you from the fun house to the mad house with a million different slices of the "Amen" break. Chaos Labs sponsors this ancient-Rome-themed costume party. Call 279-7444 for directions, www.chaoslabs.org, 9 pm–4 am, $15 ($10 in costume), all ages w/21+ bar.
SUNDAY MARCH 19
FASCINATOR This new Sunday weekly doubles tonight as the listening party for FCS North's Say Go. All of the mass mvmnt crew will be manning the decks, along with longtime local favorites Naha and Kento. With DJ FITS, Mug Frosty, AMS, and FCS North themselves. Vito's, 927 Ninth Ave, 682-2695, 9 pm–2 am, $1, 21+.