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Monthly Archives: December 2008

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Glasgow, apparently

Let’s go to Glasgow this weekend! What do you mean you’re busy?

Suit yourselves.

For sure, it’s been donkey’s (donkeys!) years since the idea of going to a club night has made me consider traveling 400 miles for the privilege – East London can seem like a stretch on a brisk evening, regardless of the thrills promised. I’m talking here about JD Twitch and JG Wilkes’ Sunday shindig ‘Optimo (Espacio)’ (Optimum Space), running since way back in 1997. Also producing and DJing under the name Optimo, the duo came to my attention with their 2004 DJ mix ‘How To Kill The DJ (Part 2)’ on Tigersushi.

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A tangled blend of disco, techno, funk, new wave and avant-rock, the overall effect is of a hallucinatory night being dragged from club to club, snatches of the evening’s soundtrack swirling together into one filthy gorgeous whole. Split into two CDs, the first designed to reflect the late-night, slightly harder parts of their DJ sets with the second more relaxed and contemplative. A thrillingly colourful release, what grabbed my insides was how clear it was that these guys were MUSIC fans.

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2005’s ‘Psyche Out’ mix on Eskimo drew me further in. This time focusing on acid-house and psychedelic rock, the surprising stylistic blends continue to sound eager and unforced like that friend who rushes up to with headphones – ‘Listen to this!’. High points include Simple Minds’ (yes, Simple Minds) epic ‘Theme For Great Cities’ and Chris & Cosey’s utterly wonderful ‘Walking Through Heaven’

‘Theme For Great Cities’

‘Walking Through Heaven’

All of which left me suitably primed for this year’s ‘Sleepwalk’ on Domino.

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What’s most interesting is what it isn’t rather than what it is. Optimo have been, due to their fondness for post-punk-funk and other 80s phenomena, unfairly lumped together with a myriad of unimaginative mash-up electro DJs. Whilst their sets have shared a hectic, freeform party feel, their sheer enthusiasm for all forms of music has always shined through.

‘Sleepwalk’ however is set far away from any busy dancefloor. It has a syrupy, ambient feel like an evolving daydream. The discerning drone-noir of Nurse With Wound and Coil gives way to krautrock electronics – then Duke Ellington and Lee Hazlewood step in with louche velvet jams, unexpected yet perfectly in synch with each other. Sure, it’s relaxing but rich and deep with elegant joys at each turn, a faint narcotic twinge stroking the hairs on your neck.

The fact that Optimo have been DJing regularly for at least the last decade – and I have yet to see them – upsets me. I suggest a trip up North to their titular club night forthwith, but I’m not going on my own.

I said, I’m not going on my own.

http://www.optimo.co.uk/

Here’s their Essential Mix from 2006 – good, but not a patch on the releases mentioned above. Still, worth checking.

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=2PIIXEF6

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Mr Oizo – Lambs Anger (Ed Banger)

Continuing with our theme of society’s musical bugbears, spare a thought for Ed Banger.

Along with similarly gallic electro-pop label Kitsuné Music, they have been soundtracking more fashionable dancefloors for the best part of this decade, picking up from where Daft Punk and, er, ele*trocl*sh left off. The fashion link stems from the shared love of glamour, shameless pop hits of the 80s and  general extroverted hedonism. Like power-dressing with shoulder pads, this is power-dance music.

The eternal complaint leveled against music with such a trend orientated ethos (Kitsuné is itself an offshoot of a clothing label) is a lack of depth, sincerity, or enduring value. It’s viewed as throwaway music inspired by the seasonal nature of fashion collections, blankly plundering the past to steal ideas at face value. The problem with these criticisms are, of course, that they’re bollocks. Sure, the transient, empty nature of the fashion world chills to the bone but I’ve no reason to let that affect my view of these musicians – wherever they draw their inspiration from. Also, dismissing music based on its audience or commercial success is snobbery of the highest order.

Interview with Busy P, Ed Banger head honcho

Ed Banger have been arguably the most successful of the two labels, launching the careers of shady figureheads Justice whilst releasing an uninterrupted stream of boisterous dancefloor destroyers. They’ve also developed an original furrow to plow – hyper distorted digital noise pop. At times desperately intense but always with a brain-melting dayglo hue, like whacking the colour saturation on your TV up to 100% until everything bleeds together. Justice reined it back a little on their MTV theme tune ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ but generally fly the flag, leaving SebastiAn to be it’s most ardent and dedicated fan.

Justice – ‘D.A.N.C.E.’

SebastiAn – ‘Ross Ross Ross’

Which leaves today’s subject, Mr. Oizo, in an odd position. Known to all since the 90s (thanks to his head nodding mascot Flat Eric in that Levi’s advert) so probably the scene’s most veteran member, his music has at once influenced and been influenced by Ed Banger’s output to date. ‘Lambs Anger’ is his first album since 2005 and sitting amongst its fellow releases it seems positively restrained.

To be fair, it’s still dance drawn with a big chunky pen. All the sounds fit together like oversize Lego and there’s ear popping over-compression throughout, albeit to a lesser extent. It just feels a lot more playful, less over-sexed and less overpowering. It flows like a party record, peppered with short ‘skit’ like tracks between the more obvious peaks, and peaks it has: ‘Steroids’ is some wonderfully stripped back double-dutch, ‘Positif’ channels Switch-esque grinning fidgit-house and ‘Bruce Willis Is Dead’ rocks some charmingly demented idiot-bass. There’s even *gasp* a worthwhile version of ‘It Takes Two’ (‘Two Takes It’ in this case) – Possibly even the best track.

‘Two Takes It’

‘Steroids’

I like it. It’s fun. Whilst that doesn’t necessarily make it a good record, it makes it exceptional amongst dance albums that tend to be either a bunch of nose-bleed thrashers or just everything that particular artist hasn’t put out on vinyl yet. It’s a party record, It made me want to leave the house and have a good time – isn’t that what dance music’s about?

Right, I’m off. Bye!

There he is!

There he is!

Zomby tunes.

It’s a rare and easy to forget experience, genuine excitement. An artist who has taken everything I was missing from electronica, dubstep and earthy warehouse rave and vomited it back up in a cloud of superskunk smoke. Before I get too obsessed, bang on about him constantly and get distracted by something sparkly ‘n’ transient, i’m gonna buy all his records.

You should too.

Surfacing currently is my pick ‘The Lie’ on Ramp, rave from the bottom of the ocean. Tight enough to whip you into movement, loose enough to bubble like a stiff pull on a bong.

More later.

BUYBUYBUY

http://www.boomkat.com/search.cfm?q=zomby

http://www.myspace.com/zombyproductions

slipknotband

Nu-metal, yesterday.

Nu-metal.

The bête noire of many a music fan, maligned by most for its screamingly ham-fisted mélange of monosyllabic rawk, picture-book hip-hoppery and one-dimensional ’emoting’. The prime suspects are notable in their massive worldwide success – appalling jock rockers Limp Bizkit who have, admittedly, managed to implode, executive drama kings Linkin Park and Slipknot. The latter have always intrigued me the most, mainly due to their elaborate, carefully constructed image and legions of supremely devoted fans (notable even in this field).

A three night run at the Hammersmith Apollo seemed a good a time as any to sate my curiosity so, suitably liquored, we boarded the Piccadily Line. That feeling of being in the field of an enormous music magnet returned as you see unusually animated commuters, some clutching beers, dotted amongst the crowd following a similar bearing. The ratio increases, and as we arrive it’s a strikingly clear split between obvious young enthusiasts and rubberneckers – people just as curious as I.

It is undoubtedly a mesmerising spectacle. In the broadest terms they are the torch bearers for the brand of trashy shock rock invented by Alice Cooper and celebrated by Marilyn Manson. The comic book horror of the ever-changing outfits combined with their pop-metal anthems create a potent beast, a 100% showbiz monster. It’s unsurprising so many teens fall under the spell of a troupe of heavy metal cartoon characters, led by a demented Barney the dinosaur. Teletubbies for teenagers anyone?

Regardless of their proficiency or enthusiasm, for the cynical the cogs of the machine are laid bare. Cameras soar above the crowd recording the band’s latest DVD, there’s a promotional Xbox installation and at least a dozen t-shirts on sale. I guess this is run-of-the-mill for bands and gigs of this size but what it drives home is how efficiently they play on the the eternal angry teen, whatever the age of the listener, in order to shift units.

It is nonetheless genuinely exciting, in a sort of of shlock-horror circus way. This level of slick production is put into practice with most bands this size, and it would be wrong to suggest that it’s members are any less sincere than the majority of musicians out there. For the kids as well, their experience –  however crafted it may be – is a valid and worthy one. This is gateway metal, opening doors to the more extreme and experimental sounds out there.

Good luck to them all.

http://www.myspace.com/slipknot1

Back again now. Hope you all had a wonderful and productive week or so.

x

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I love basslines.

I love all the flavours. Floor shaking sub, quacking mid-range, shifting analogue warmth… i admit that a lot of the time it’s the extremes that really excite. It began for me with the jungle dub madness of the 90s but of late, it’s the mutant children of UK garage that are providing the low end treats.

T2’s ‘Heartbroken’ represented the wonderfully literal sub-genre ‘bassline’, and was the crossover hit of ’07. Ruthlessly basic yet joyfully ludicrous – the sound palette heard before but boasting an immediacy and NRG all too rare. It was commercial yes, but through pop nous rather than cynicism.

Kid Cudi, along with Italian DJ duo Crookers, serve up the spiritual follow up. Cleveland rapper Cudi is Kanye West’s latest protégée, socially conscious lyricism spliced with the steamingly trendy Fool’s Gold scene of Kid Sister, A-Trak et al. Crookers spring from the similarly oh-so-now pumping b-more world of Mad Decent and the like, it’s a match made in heaven (or East London).


Such accolades all too frequently precede disappointment but thankfully, the track’s a gem. Springing up persistently on 1xtra, It’s got the pop hooks to follow T2 into commercial overland and when the bass drops… it’s all over.

http://www.kidcudi.com

http://www.myspace.com/kidcudi

Kid Cudi mixtape: http://sharebee.com/7e3ff6d8

www.myspace.com/crookers

Crookers essential mix: http://www.wiredla.com/news/crookers-essential-mix.html

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Aidan Baker & Tim Hecker – ‘Fantasma Parastasie’ (Alien8)

As the nights draw in to a seemingly infinite extent and the frozen land brings all life to a stilted shuffle, hi-fi noise maestros Aidan Baker and Tim Hecker provide suitable respite. This current environment provokes the need to be swaddled by music, by a record you can hide and lose yourself in.

Tim Hecker’s 2006 pinnacle ‘Harmony In Ultraviolet’ (Kranky) was an absolute revelation – the most widescreen, structured and at times emotional approach to the ‘nu-ambient’ or ‘neo-classical’ movements of now. A ‘cathedral of sound’, as Oxford shoegazers Ride were once tagged. Primarily a guitarist, Aidan Baker has perfected his amp-worship, ambient doom-metal epics with the highly regarded duo Nadja (with Leah Buckareff). Tracing seams of melody through the deftly woven feedback has rarely been such a joy.

The prospect of Hecker’s stunning architecture meeting the Arctic expanse of Baker is an appealing one indeed. Presented in the vintage/occult style so favoured by metal concrète artists like Sunn O))) and Earth, one is primed for a drone noir experience – bleak, uncompromising and frequently abrasive.

Subtle emotive twists seep through the ink, reassuring the listener with a gentle hand on the arm. Elements such as the clock in ‘Dream Of The Nightmare’ and the fluttering guitars in ‘Auditory Spirits’ touch on the physical, welcome moorings to prevent travellers from drifting out into the ether. The entire recording is steeped in darkness, but it’s an unintimidating black.

Enveloping with a human touch.

http://www.myspace.com/aidanbakermusic


http://www.myspace.com/rainbowbloodx (for Tim Hecker)


http://www.alien8recordings.com