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Monthly Archives: February 2009

What’s next? Peer into the future and what do you see (apart from lunch/dinner)?

I see this.

Extraordinarily loose hip-hop to mid-tempo rhythms with morphing synths and samples, squeezed to the extreme and underpinned with organic bumping bass antics. It strikes me as an attempt to move as far away from the regimented, heavily sequenced and quantised nature of the majority of dance music while retaining and increasing the groove. Rather than favouring the abrasive sonic extremes of much experimental electronic music, these rhythmical and textural extremes – when tempered with a few more familiar elements – have an irresistible life to them.

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Rustie

Back to Glasgow (again) and to self-appointed Aquacrunk originator Rustie. It’s about as perfect a one-word description as you could hope for. Influenced heavily by the US deep south hip-hop Crunk sound and its stark but super heavy 808 drum machine rhythms, this time chopped, sliced, pro/compressed to fuck with morphing, wobbling synths sliding around on top. At times it does lose its focus and slide toward an arrhythmical mess, but that’s just the by-product of someone really pushing the boundaries and who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll realise those tracks were just ahead of their time. When he gets the mix right however and it all gels, it sounds like future music now.

Probably his best to date, on Wireblock;

Off the forthcoming Bad Science EP;

On Stuff Records;

(Also, watch out for Beatnicks vol. 1 and Beatnicks vol. 2 on Up My Alley Records for new Rustie – ‘Dog Mask’ on vol. 2  is KILLER. Check Beatport for digital)

Wireblock have also been co-running a club night called Numbers since 2003 in – you guessed it – Glasgow, the home of Rustie and UK spiritual home of the Aquacrunk sound. If you’re around East London in two weeks (March 5th), head down Plastic People for Numbers@Plastic People with fellow Glaswegian Hudson Mohawke.

Rustie Mix for Mary Anne Hobbes (Right click to download)

Tracklist:

Rustie – ‘Dog Mask’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Keesha Resmak’ (Dubplate)
Hudson Mohawke – ‘Still On It’ (Wireblock)
Mike Slott – ‘Gardening’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Early Learning’ (Dubplate)
Olivier Daysoul – ‘Space Ship’ (Dubplate)
Alex Cortex – ‘Reminisce’ (Wireblock)
Music At Nite – ‘City to City’ (Wireblock)
Ghosts On Tape – ‘Port Moresby’ (Dubplate)
Dj Tamiel – ‘Body’ (Dubplate)
Pivot – ‘In The Blood’ (Rustie Remix) (Dubplate)
Rich Boy – ‘Chevy A Monsta’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Bad Science’ (Wireblock)
Starkey – ‘Blow Ya Mind Remix’ (Dubplate)
Joker – ‘Solid State’ (Dubplate)
Rustie – ‘Dragonfly’ (Dubplate)

Back in London, Acton beatsmith Bullion is ploughing a similarly crooked furrow with a slightly different approach. Instrumental hip-hop relying almost purely on the classic Funk/Soul sample library which has educated and fed the last 20 years of dance music – on paper pretty conventional but filtered through a wonky aesthetic . The drums stutter and break but still flow, the samples fade in then shatter into hyper processed shapes and melodies. It’s a similar sound to California’s Flying Lotus whose LP last year on the enduring Warp Records won huge critical acclaim and arguably introduced the overground to the wonk.

Bullion and Lotus’ sound owes a lot to the trip-hop of the 90s and if these records appeared 10/15 years ago they’d probably have come out on the defunct Mo’ Wax or Ninja Tune (Ninja back then would of but tellingly, not today). That just shows shared influences however and Bullion’s louche jams or Lotus’ spidery sample webs have a defined voice of their own.

Buy Rustie

Buy Bullion

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Expectation is something i’m still hoping to master. Expect too much and you’re destined for some form of disappointment, expect too little and you’re one step further down the path toward joyless cynicism. Neither I like.

Discovering the existence of a solo record from The Knife’s Karin Dreijer is exciting enough without working myself into an embarrassing impatient wreck. I knew it had the potential to blow me away but if you go into anything thinking like that you’re risking being monumentally let down. So I er… tried not to think about it.

Anyway.

Karin possesses my favourite voice in music and along with her brother Olof, The Knife manage to present love and emotion in a breathtakingly refreshing and visceral manner – far removed from the bland plateau of sensitive ditties making up much of the musical landscape. Their reinvention of the ‘Icy Scandinavian’ cliché brought them critical recognition (the infamous Pitchfork named 2006’s ‘Silent Shout’ album of the year) and a clutch of well chosen remixers edged them onto the more stylish of dancefloors.

The Knife was (and still is, I hope) however very much made up of two creative minds. Karin’s piercing and sometimes heavily-pitched, androgynous vocals were always matched by Olof’s similarly stark electro beats and synthesizers. Two voices singing each song, in unison but using different machinery.

On first inspection her solo effort – Fever Ray – is musically identical. Listen closer however and although the timbres are similar, creatively it is a much different affair. Christopher Berg (who mixed The Knife’s work) and Stockholm production duo Van Rivers and The Subliminal Kid helped Dreijer give form to her musical sketches, but they are merely conduits. This is very much her record.

Dreijer has thus far only worked as a collaborator, with her brother in The Knife or making appearances on other people’s music. Here she finally gets the stage to herself and control of the atmosphere, creating a world of dreamy lounge-noir that befits her ethereal songwriting. The drum machine beats and simple analogue synth-style melodies, though clear as a bell, sit comfortably in second place to her voice. Each individual story is as dark as a Scandinavian forest, always retaining a certain mystery and cold beauty.

Her single ‘If I had A Heart’ is available now. The video, directed by Andreas Nillsson captures the spirit of the song wonderfully.

If Twin Peaks (the series, not the film) were to ever be remade, Dreijer would make a perfect Julee Cruise. Temporary Roadhouse crooner Cruise performed in some of the series’ most pivotal moments with dreamy lounge gems written with director Lynch and composer Badalamenti. They are as much part of the programme as any of the characters or oft-quoted dialogue and when combined with the plot, highly emotional moments are created.

Exhibit A:

Crushingly beautiful. Especially if you’ve followed the story… which you all should do at some point.

Goodbye!

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FWD@PlasticPeople – Sunday 08/09

It shames me to admit that this was but my second visit to London’s legendary (yes, legendary) Sunday Dubstep session FWD. Not making it in the past due to ignorance and various other excuses only strengthened my resolve.

And resolve was certainly needed. Faced on an utterly rancid evening by an extensive queue – before it even opened – one’s first reaction is to turn tail and run. Fuck that though, the line-up was as exciting and intriguing as any I’ve seen. Part-promoted as launch night for Dutch ex-junglist Martyn’s forthcoming debut LP it also featured scene heavyweight and Hyperdub head honcho Kode9 and a surprising guest – D Bridge.

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Darren D Bridge and appreciative companion

Known initially to everyone everywhere as 1/4 of D&B nosebleed kings Bad Company, D Bridge has emerged as the defunct group’s creative hero. When fellow ex-member Fresh aka Dan Stein (NOT seafood chef Rick Stein’s son as many – hilariously – claimed) left to join forces with Adam ‘Alvin Stardust’ F in the early 00s they both had huge commercial success with their Breakbeat Kaos label, the high point arguably being the whole Pendulum phenomenon. Fresh initially seemed to be Bad Company’s star. I’d say virtually all dance music groups have one central powerhouse and Dan Fresh appeared to be it.

Although embraced en masse by the ravers, Fresh’s populist output made little lasting musical impact. Banger after banger but the dancefloor jump-up fodder felt stale and quickly dated. D Bridge has spent a little longer energing as an individual voice (his debut LP, ‘The Gemini Principle’ dropped last year although 2004’s ‘True Romance’ on Metalheadz is a bona fide classic) but his work is making more interesting ripples and beginning to shake D&B’s very foundations. If there’s ever been a scene more in need of a fresh take I’m certainly not aware of it and that’s coming from a lifetime fan.

Some of his past work:

‘True Romance’ – classic

Blush Response’ ft. Instra:mental from ‘The Gemini Principle’ LP (ignore the picture pliz)

It’s easy to forget just how good the Plastic People soundsystem really is and walking face first into D Bridge’s set was an absolute revelation. I’d been trying to guess whether he’d play D&B or dubstep but the real answer was neither – or both (ok, neither). The tempo was D&B (or half-time, depending on your opinion on snare placement) but that’s where the similarity ended. The spirit was dubstep, albeit with a sci-fi Bladerunner sheen leaving it smooth and precise like chrome.

I got pretty excited and I guess I still am. This is what I wanted. Taking D&B forward, away from crippling nostalgic snobbery and more-is-more directionless extremity. He’d added so much by removing the unnecessary, dated chaff. Each track was a flowing river of bass graced with delectable percussive clicks and gorgeous atmospherics. It felt slower, taking its time to create a vibe and always hinting at something more. This was the antithesis of the everything-as-loud-as-everything-else approach to production that blights most D&B. Subtlety and suggestion abound, a treat for the ears that bordered on the erotic.

Where next? Martyn followed with an expertly blended set of uptempo rhythms with influences from African Kwaito and the burgeoning Funky scene (more on these later) that had the whole place moving, despite the extreme lack of room. Kode9 ended with of all things a classic jungle set – ‘6 Million Ways’ even got an airing.

Mujava’s Kwaito banger

Hard House Banton – ‘Sirens’. Massive Funky tune.

…and ‘6 Million Ways’. Ya gotta love it.

Some of the best and most inspirational dance music I’ve heard for a very long time and a shocking prospect – is D&B going to be relevant again? With D Bridge looking to the future and Kode9 channeling the past, maybe it’s time to revive the spirit of jungle. I bloody hope so.