To the Albany in New Cross, via the brand spanking new train line which joins the previously isolated South East and North East parts of London.
The journey allowed me some time to ruminate on the mixed feelings I had about the event. “Margins Music” was a bold album, linking up the psychogeography of London with its various sonics. Blackdown and Dusk gave great interview in Woofah issue 3 and Mr Blackdown himself shared a bill with Georgina Cook and I at last year’s Creative Edge event at UCL.
Oh yeah and they got my best mate to remix their album.
But but but… doing a live show based on their album? Really? Once again full marks for ambition, but horrendous memories floated through my brain at the thought of it. Not least being munted at one of the mid 90s Tribal Gathering festivals and stumbling into the Metalheadz tent as they launched into a piss poor “Jazz Odyssey” with much backslapping from Goldie about taking it to the next level with “real musicians”.
The Albany was far from full when we reached. Mr HistoryIsMadeAtNight and I caught up with Melissa Bradshaw at the bar. Blackdown paced about, impossible to miss because of his height (one of the few people I have to look up to in conversation, ha ha!).
And then, without much fanfare, it kicked off. Dusk and Blackdown took to laptops, another geezer fiddled with the backing film, two ladies on vocals up front, a female percussionist and I think a female keyboard player, but I couldn’t quite what she was doing from my vantage point. An encouragingly multiracial and non-blokey line up, I felt.
Full marks so far – they’d not gone for anything insane like string quartets or jazz saxophonists. It sounded tight, Farrah and Japjit’s presence at the front was an all too welcome deviation from the usual problems of “bloke playing with laptop” which make performances resemble offices.
The sparseness of the audience and the laid back nature of the first half of the show made it hard to really get sucked in, but the visuals helped – lots of gritty footage of London, mashed up with Bollywood films and some neat on-the-fly video scratching and distorting. Despite that, there were still moments when I longed for the venue to transform itself into a big tent at a festival… I felt a bit stiff standing there, pint in hand, shuffling about.
That said it was an impressive debut, I certainly didn’t notice any fuck ups. The set increased in intensity throughout and there were some ace bits of percussion soloing. Vocals were faultless and occasionally had the hairs on my arms standing on end. Volume-wise it was still alright for talking to the man next to me, but that also meant there weren’t any rib-rattling b-lines.
Farrah and Japjit departed after a while and were replaced by… Trim. Woah.
Margins Music features Trim and Durrty Goodz, arguably the two most accomplished grime MCs in terms of abstract vocal impact. Trim specialises in woozy poetics that take a few plays to suss out – but always grab your attention.
This was hardly his usual territory though. It’s not like he’s even a regular fixture at the rare grime raves in London. The only other time I’ve seen him was at Dirty Canvas in 2007. But the Albany was all arty and not exactly banging and… people weren’t exactly waving their hands in the air bawling for a reload. He did great though, sliding out some top abstract bars (and, uh, some slightly more base ones!). He even improvised some lines about kicking back and enjoying a beer when he spotted me and Mr H.I.M.A.N. doing precisely that.
Then Farrah and Japjit rejoined the group as they raised the roof for the final track – credits rolling on the screen behind them.
We showed our appreciation. As Blackdown himself says, it worked.
Dates in Brighton, Manchester and elsewhere follow. My man Grievous Angel is doing a set at the Manc show. Check this out if you have an open mind and want something a little way different…
EDIT: History Is Made At Night review now up also.