Archive for the ‘music reviews’ Category.

Things I have been listening to but not had time to review properly because I’ve been moving house and all my records and decks were packed away and then it’s all been a bit crazy changing the locks and plumbing in a washing machine and fixing a TV aerial to the wall whilst dangling precariously from a ladder and generally figuring out where to put everything

Psychedelic orbits of a carpet system related to a flat

We’ve been in the new place for over a month now and I’m still catching up with myself. Although actually I’ve not been on top of things for ages, come to think of it. Lots of work to do here, but more space to do it in. My desk is now on a landing instead of in a cupboard, for instance.

Still skint, but still sustained by great people sending me their music (see below) and blagging me into their gigs (thanks especially to Ekoplekz, Nochexxx and Mr Mugwump).

Ekoclef – Tape Swap (Magic + Dreams mp3s)

Ekoclef = Ekoplekz + Bass Clef in full collaborative “all star jam” style.

“We each agreed to record some musical ideas onto the first track of a four-track cassette tape, and then post the tapes to each other. We would then overdub some more ideas onto track 2, then send it back, continuing the process until all four tracks were filled. This may seem a rather out-moded and laborious method of composition, but actually it was a lot of fun and I think the results have a certain sound and feeling to them that would otherwise be hard to achieve in the digital domain.”

Mr Plekz described this to me as “a whole other vibe again…more like children at play…but keepin the shit lo-fi and spontaneous as always…”. That makes it sound a bit unfocussed, which is very far from the case. Certainly many of the tracks are abstract and atmospheric, with Ekoplekz’ shady murk given a bit more twinkly light in the process of collaboration.

But there also some gloriously melodic moments. “Lens Flare Oh Yeah” and “Royal Mail” sound like Suicide meeting Joe Meek on the Holloway Road. The usual lo-fi scuzz is accompanied by some beautifully fragile tunes peaking over the horizon.

“M4 Endless” retains Kraftwerks’ modernism (albeit with flashes of UK motorway service station concrete) but adds rain lashing against the windscreen, on the way back from somewhere on a Sunday afternoon. Musical instruments are added, sparsely, to the electronics.

I saw Ekoclef live at Cafe OTO and loved what they did. I sat on my arse drinking nice beer next to my man Mandrew B, who has adeptly written it up for The Liminal – so I don’t have to. (I’ve been to Cafe OTO dozens of times over the last couple of years and have made a pact with myself to just enjoy it without worrying about verbalising my experience online. So you have all been saved from my wittering about Peter Brotzmann, The Ex, Sunburned Hand of The Man, Geese, Stephen O’Malley, Wu-Ming, The A-Band and many more. Suffice to say it’s an amazing venue.)

Mandrew B also takes photos with a proper camera rather than my hastily snapped phone shots:


Some Truths aka Bassclef



Ekoclef at Cafe OTO

I love the scrapiness of this music. The set at the Cafe OTO included a bit of faffing about which I thoroughly enjoyed because it gave some stark contrast to the bits which were transfixing in their brilliance. Ekoclef are hurling ideas around for the sheer hell of it and then going “ooh!” when they hit the target. This is great to watch live and I’m sure it will also be great to listen to as new recordings emerge that document their continued adventures.

Tape Swap is available as a Cassette from Magic and Dreams. It comes with an mp3 download code. My cassette deck is getting more action this year than it has since the millennium.

I got given a free Cosef Jonrad CDR at the gig. I think this must also be a Bass Clef pseudonym? It’s a compilation of stuff on Magic + Dreams cassettes and has some great screwed and chopped droney bits which use chunks of old pop records. I have washed up to it a lot.

Pete UM – Can’t Get Started (GRIST 10″)

Another recent gig was the Cambridge Freakz/Exotic Pylon lash up, and bloody great it was too. Pete UM has been around Dissensus for yonks but I’d not really checked his stuff out. So it was very nice of him to travel to a few bus stops away from my new flat and perform for me with a bunch of his mates.

UM does odd little poems/songs/spoken word pieces over electronic backing. They are all short and not like anything else I am aware of. Very “characterful” (I’m resisting saying “quirky” because it’s all very deadpan rather than [ugh!] wacky – and quite right too). Live, he seems very accomplished and at home with his material, whilst being completely ill at ease with the rest of the world. I like that.

I got this 17 track 10″ EP off him at the end of the gig. There was an awkward moment where he wanted to hand it over and I wanted to give him some money. But neither of us is loaded, so what we really wanted was tainted by capitalist relations. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

This is a lovely DIY release with lots of inserts including pink one which describes the unfortunate tale of the project’s creation. Even after that woeful episode had been completed, half of the pressing was lost by the courier en route to UM Towers.

On the pink insert it says “Don’t buy vinyl to support the industry, or the artist. Buy it because you fucking love it”. That’s almost what happened between us that night at The Vortex.

Pete is all over the net but I have yet to find any clue as to how you would get hold of this record. Maybe start here.

Dome 1-4+5 (Editions Mego mp3s)

Intimidating 5 album set, which Mr Rehberg has wisely entrusted to me in virtual rather than vinyl form. I remember him talking about Dome in the eighties, but I don’t think I ever heard them then. Wire were never my main thing, let alone the various offshoot projects.

This is great though. On “1” and “2” abstract songs nestle up against more soundtracky/ambient pieces. Electronics collide with angular guitars and oblique lyrics. I’ve been trying to listen to a Dome album a week on the way to work and they seem to sit well with the journey’s anticipation of the slightly off kilter psychological landscapes I have to deal with in my office at the moment.

I’m increasingly drawn to music which doesn’t tackle the emotional intensity of love, or hideous injustice, or man’s inhumanity to man. Dome are much more about a general unease.

“3” almost veers into Talking Heads territory in places, but still retains the downbeat air of 1&2.

I will tackle 4 next week and 5 the week after. In the age of instant gratification, it’s nice to have some things to look forward to.

Mark Fell – Periodic orbits of a dynamic system related to a knot (Editions Mego LP)

I like this more than his recent 12″ collaboration but not quite as much as the two LPs from earlier this year. In fact I think bits of this are out-takes from those LPs – there are certainly some common refrains coming out. “Periodic Orbits” seems slightly more human in places, there are nods in the sleevenotes to actual musical instruments being used as source material. Some of the tones on side two recall early house and techno tunes, albeit in a ghostlike, skeletal, mathematical way.

The cover shot is a photograph of gardening-related injuries sustained by Fell’s other half whilst preparing to move house. Having mashed up my hand changing a mortice lock in our new place, this is something I can empathise with.

It’s tempting to imagine Mark tinkering with his immersive-yet-clinical sonic landscape whilst his partner is outside doing all the graft in the garden. I’m sure that’s not what happened though. It certainly wouldn’t in my place.

Mego Mini-reviews

I’m skint and haven’t bought any records since July. Luckily my lust for new music is being catered for admirably by my friends. Another despatch from Mego HQ in Vienna has provided many enjoyable evenings.

Jim O’Rourke – Old News No. 6 2xLP

I used to own a fair few “dark ambient” albums, but I had to get rid of them. It wasn’t the fascist undertones, or the sheer satanic evil of the music – they all just seemed incredibly one dimensional when I listened to them again after many years’ abstinence. I think if you have to overload your record sleeves with extreme imagery and use vocal samples reflecting how incredibly sinister it all is, you’re probably doing it all wrong. (To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent, right?)

Plus, I have less use in my life these days for such mono-emotional soundtracks. I rarely feel the urge to play “happy hardcore” or “uplifting trance” for the same reason. But mono-textural is fine – see my recent Mark Fell review.

O’Rourke is another of the pantheon of people I recognise from reading The Wire but have never engaged with. They stuck him on the cover dressed as a rabbit is all I know. Oh and he was in Sonic Youth for a bit. Frankly the cover of this doesn’t give much away. Which is all for the good because I approached it without any preconceptions. It’s strange – electronic and ambient and varied but not demanding that you interpret it in a particular way (even Autechre who I see as miles away from the legions of dark-ambienters still have a very clearly defined post-rave sinister boffin aesthetic).

Over four sides of thick black vinyl, O’Rourke pours gloopy drones, harsh interludes, urban field recordings and other elements that are even harder to describe. It fluctuates between calm and unnerving, bright and dark. These fluctuations allow your imagination to completely open up rather than being signposted in a particularly cliched sub-goth direction.

I don’t really know what it is, which is why I keep going back to it.

Mark Fell & Peter Rehberg – Zikir/Kubu 12″

I like both these people, but I don’t think I get this record.

Side A: BBC male voices document something seriously (possibly, the development of radar?). There is occasionally squidgy bass rumble, but mainly there are stilted breakbeats – running at about 70bpm. And let’s be clear, these are much more like drums than Mark’s martian surgical implements of UL8. There is a Cabaret Voltaire influence floating above this – and I’m not sure if they are trying to reach towards it or run away. Certainly the double, triple speed madness at the end suggests some kind of escape velocity being reached…

Side B: is Rehberg meets Fell in the echo chamber. A simple drum riff, some static crunchiness, elements slowly being added. Before you know it you’re nodding your head to a pretty complex drum pattern. Soon enough they’ve added almost baffling levels of complexity. A slow shift from minimal to overload.

I’m haunted by the feeling that this record includes elements of something else – another record I am very familiar with. That’s not to say that either track is generic, just that for a trainspotter like me there is a pleasure/pain aspect to not being able to pin it down.

Philipp Quehenberger – Uffuff 12″

The title track comes replete with a camp as fuck sinister bassline, right out of the Torture Garden or Slimelight in the early nineties. Plus nice stomping germanic beatz. Somewhere, someone in those stupid goth clown boots is mixing this in with KMFDM.

Then Patrick Pulsinger brings some mad diddly beats that make you wonder if you’re playing the record at the right speed. (No really, I had to play the thing from the start and then time it to see if was the right length as stated on the editions mego website…). Then about halfway through it morphs into an exact replica of the sort of tunes you’d get played in the mental room of raves -the spaces you’d peak into at about 4 in the morning and they’d either be empty or full of proper casualties going even more bonkers – either way you’d never actually go in, but probably regret it a little…

If you were fleeing the room-of-mentals, you’d probably be looking from something exactly like the Elin remix of “Hey Gert”. Absolutely lush twinkly synths and an only as rough as it needs to be bassline, with skippy beats. This sounds like the kind of gear Colin Dale used to play – and there are few compliments I can pay people in the techno realm. I don’t know if everyone did this, but there are some moments when you’d end up having a “smiling like a loon” partner on discerning dancefloors. Usually a complete stranger, you were forced together by the mutual recognition that “fucking hell, this is a REALLY GOOD BIT, isn’t it?”. This is one of those tunes.

Then – we return! To the room of mentals! For the last track! Remix by Altroy! Who are either a “business advice and marketing services” company in Ruislip, or some guy from Harlem who rocked up in Vienna with a pleasingly small internet footprint.

Bill Orcutt – A New Way To Pay Old Debts CD

Peter is most amused by the fact that the most extreme release he’s put out this year so far is a blues record. OK, so it’s not really a blues record as the old coves who turn up to the jam sessions in your local boozer would understand it. Very few vocals, mainly some guy pummeling the living fuck out of an acoustic guitar. A repaired acoustic guitar that has two strings missing. It’s a raw recording- you can hear the room alongside the music, which works. There is some distortion around the edges too, which definitely works – this is one gnarly performance.

Actually I’m not entirely sure that there are any vocals on this. On first listen I thought there was a bit of piano too, but now I’m convinced they are just strange fret-board resonances. Hey, maybe even the room-ambience is just something Orcutt can conjur up with his fingers and guitar, I dunno. It sounds like there is much more than one man and a guitar here, anyway.

I’ve previously said that “A New Way…” is what Seasick Steve would sound like if he was really some outsider dude on the fringes of society and sanity. That provoked some mixed reactions, so it’s definitely in keeping with the album. Whatever Orcutt has the blues about, you get the impression that it’s more than waking up in the morning to find his woman done left him.

Audio and more information on all of the above and more available at:

Ekoplekz – Intrusive Incidentalz Vol 1

Ekoplekz – Intrusive Incidentalz Vol 1 (Punch Drunk LP and digital)

More vinyl promo goodness from the Ekoplekz camp puts a big stupid grin on my face. The many moods of Ekoplekz are becoming slightly more apparent over time. This is much more aggy, more urgent than the Live at Dubloaded LP I reviewed last month. (And the standard disclaimer still applies – I am biased. Pro-Ekoplekz.) The tracks are shorter, generally denser, and less spacey. The lo-fi improvised electronic signatures remain.

Punch Drunk’s press blurb says that Nick’s “retro futurism” is tempered with a “post-dubstep sensibility” which makes me cringe a bit and I think is oversimplifying things (although I fully understand that is what a one-sheeter is supposed to do). Intrusive Incidentalz is less about influences and homages and more about intersecting paths in a maze. Bits that recall vintage Throbbing Gristle to an old fart like me will conjur up something completely different to a teenager just falling under the spell of dubstep or (and you can scoff all you like, but they are out there – I meet their parents!).

One of Richard H Kirk’s best contributions to the Synth Britannia documentary was saying that Cabaret Voltaire were trying to soundtrack the extreme political climate and paranoia of the era they were working in. For Kirk, the Brixton riots were inspirational – finally someone was kicking back. Only the most ardent anarchist would say that the recent riots were inspirational in the same way, but they are a good indicator of where things are headed – of the desperation (and desperate opportunism) the UK is soaked with right now.

Making tracks for the dancefloor is an entirely honourable pursuit in these circumstances and will provide that flash of release during hard times for lots of people. But for me, the wonky pummeling of “Clodsteps” or the woozy splinters of “Psionik Trance”  are a more apt soundtrack for September 2011. The sonic continuities with previous eras mesh with the political and social continuities – but so do the variations and innovations. Things are not exactly the same this time around, it’s different – we’re still working through what those differences are and what they mean.

Or perhaps I’m projecting? Nick seems much more down to earth and well balanced than me. Maybe he’s just so well rounded that he’s gone to the trouble of making an album that sounds like how I feel when I have to walk down those grey corridors with a nagging hangover, again. Sometimes I find this album hard to listen to, sometimes I find it hard to write about. Sometimes I sit at my desk, blinking along with the striplights and look forward to submerging myself in it all.

“Intrusive Incidentalz vol 1″ is out now on Punch Drunk. Order vinyl direct from the label and get a free digital copy.

Great cover again by my man 2nd Fade

Ekoplekz plays Cafe Oto in October in collaboration with Bass Clef as Eko-Clef

Ekoplekz interview at Sonic Router

Mark Fell – UL8 CD and Manitutshu* 2×12″ (Editions Mego)

Mark Fell – UL8 (Editions Mego CD)

Peter Rehberg occasionally chucks great wads of CDs at me. This makes me happy.

They are incredibly varied and whilst it’s hard to for me to love all of the Mego output, there’s always something interesting going on.

The pinnacle of the recent batch for me has been the work of Mark Fell. This was described to me as being “total disco”, which it should be abundantly clear is WAY off the mark. But it’s probably what disco sounds like inside Peter’s head…

Fell’s roots are in Sheffield (pirate?) radio and then as half of Snd, a group who get lumped in with minimal glitchy techno, but I’m in no position to judge whether that’s accurate or not. Ian from Autotoxicity interviewed them I think.

UL8 is inspired by the speakers owned by the Fell’s older brother when he was about 11:

This project takes its name from the Celestion UL8 speaker. My older brother bought a pair of these when i was starting comprehensive school, and between his 10cc and Supertramp records i first encountered electronically synthesized sound at high volumes. I soon noticed a pattern emerging in my musical tastes which excluded guitars or drums. Instead I favoured almost exclusively the electronic textures and rhythms of The Human League, Fad Gadget and other synthesiser based music of that period. I was quite curious about this prejudice and would try to work out why Kraftwerk sounded so much better than a rock band of the time.

So began my interest in the texture of synthetic sound – there was something much more beautiful (and perhaps more emotionally charged) about a sustained square wave than any guitar solo. I began search out and replay sections of music which dropped to a single sound – these, for some reason, were the best.

I like speaker fetishism, it’s obviously a big part of reggae soundsystem culture. To me it represents a devotion to the physical side of sound, conjuring up visions of the spaces and places where music is listened to. Increasingly I’m giving up on my ipod earbuds and am trying to carve out special moments at home so that I can hear music through my fab new speakers (and an amp kindly donated by Mr Grievous Angel) instead. Recently a bit of Mark Fell has often been the last thing I’ve played at night…

UL8 operates with what seems like an incredibly limited palette, a practise that intersects nicely with what I was saying about Ekoplekz recently. If you can use every single sound in the universe, the skill is no longer about what you select, but what you leave out.

The opening track on the album seems to consist of two noises, sounds, waveforms, whatever you want to call them. One might loosely be described as percussive, one might be a synth line. But they are both so synthetic, so glassy, so technical that it all feels a bit like an uber minimal slice of computer noise – the soundtrack to a ZX Spectrum game loading is positively funky in comparison. But the stripped down nature of it all forces you to engage with it and slowly clears the room of anything else.

Tracks 4 and 5 are a bit more beat driven and have some pixellated hiss going on in the background, the clean minimalism being slightly eroded.

Tracks 6 to 12 are entitled “Vortex Studies” and go darker. Track 7 sounds like a computer rolling some ball bearings around one of those maze games and is especially excellent. 9 is mainly buzzing and is also ace. 12 is getting on for industrial.

Tracks 13 to 19 are entitled “Acids in The Style of Rian Treanor”, a reference to Hecker’s”Acid in the style of David Tudor” also released on Mego, which was itself a reference to Art & Language’s “Portrait of V.I. Lenin with Cap, in the Style of Jackson Pollock” (1980).

13 sounds like a dot matrix printer going down a plughole. The rest is as per previous tracks but more messy and harsh – these are shorter pieces and the gaps between them are less evident. 16 is almost getting into gabba territory. 19 could almost be power electronics if you included someone earnestly swearing over the top of it.

The final track is entitled “Death of Loved One”. It includes a bit of light relief in the form of an ambienty synth wash that is very 3AM under the strobes. Or at least it would be, but for the presence of a harsh squeaky noise several notches louder spoiling your reverie.

“Most of the tracks on both UL8 are procedures implemented on a computer to generate patterns and timbral data that I will typically mess about with as they go along. It’s all dead simple, I have no real interest in technical complexity. I find the best systems are the very simple ones, where it’s just a very few linked procedures. They sound complex, but could be summed up in a couple of lines of text.”

There’s a lot of technical language in Fell’s work that goes over my head – stuff about alogrithms and frequency modulation. I am not perturbed by this in the slightest – I enjoy the work on its own terms even if I don’t understand them. In my mind Fell becomes some kind of techno scientist mashing up strange equations to make freakily geometric music. Which is great. For all I know it’s all made up anyway, like that pretend professor that The Hafler Trio invented to give their sounds a gloss of academic respectability. Fell seems to do a lot of installation work, that probably means it isn’t all hype – I’d certainly be interested to check out his stuff in a gallery or similar space.

This interview in Fact Magazine seems to suggest that he’s wrestled with and resisted his engagement with academia and is still a raver at heart.


Mark Fell – Manitutshu* (Editions Mego 2×12″)

This is subtitled “*Ritual Songs From The Spirit Mountain”. Which sounds quite hippyish, but reading between the lines, said spirit mountain may be the rubbish tip in Rotherham (or an installation somewhere else?) which is photographed on the cover and the massive glossy full colour poster insert. I’m probably reading my own biases into his work, but it seems to me that beneath Fell’s boffin exterior lies a pisstaking northerner with a sense of humour that’s drier than a millstone.

Manitutshu* seems to be sort of a UL8 remix album, but also involves some rejected soft-synth presets Mark designed for Native Instruments.

The tracks here have a bit more light and shade to them I think, with the perhaps the slightest hints of funk creeping in here and there. You even get a female french spoken word vocal going on about various bits of hardware. It’s still minimal, digital to the core and messed up as you like though.

The track times and titles are still bonkers. Side B kicks off with “Acids In The… razor experiment” (51 seconds of buzzing and stuff), and ends with track of truly wonky beats lasting 1:47. The 6:23 sandwich filling in the middle is entitled “Manitutshu… parameter set 2, Linn Hi Tom, JazzOrg, vortex study performance overdub, and synthesis reminiscent of Duet Emmo”. This is engagingly rhythmic, though probably not one to request by name in your local discotheque.

Side D is one long track, a remix by Mat Steel, Fell’s partner in Snd. It commences with a simple loop that I find incredibly uplifting whenever I hear it, but that is very far from being shared with other people in this flat. There’s an incredible relief when the very simple loop starts being tweaked about and arpegiating (is that even a word? is it the right word?) a few minutes in. This final track is 15 minutes of very few things happening, in exactly the right order, and is brilliant.

When I play these albums I get asked if they do my head in. They do…

Ekoplekz Live At Dubloaded LP

Ekoplekz: Live At Dubloaded (Further Records LP and cassette)

Vinyl promos are as rare as hen’s teeth these days – definitely a mark of seriousness. Although, to be honest, surplus to requirements in this case. I’ve been sent Ekoplekz CDRs, I’ve been sent Ekoplekz cassettes, I’ve been sent yer white label promos. I’ve listened to them all, several times over, and tried to write about them all as well.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the music is great. The second is that I like the man behind the Ekoplekz project a great deal, having read his music writing since the halcyon days of music blogging in the early to mid-noughties and had all my favourable prejudices confirmed when we finally met before the Ekoplekz / Hacker Farm session on Resonance FM. I like him, and I also like his approach to music production.

It’s easier than ever before to make music – and this should be great, right? A thousand urchins’ unbridled creativity unleashed and unbounded, producing sketchy or symphonic soundtracks that document 2011 or wilfuly fail to do that, chronicling some mentalist polski sklep-fueled dystopian sci-fi nightmare instead.

And yet, my inbox is filled with the same old bollocks – somebody with a very ordinary name (or an ordinarily wacky pseudonym) has made a dark/funky/disco/electro/bass/whatever “stormer” that is being played out or remixed or whatever by lots of other people with very ordinary names. Delete. I am too old for this shit.

I suspect Ekoplekz is too old for this shit too, which is why he has toiled away for years on various bits of non-computer hardware, hiding away from the world to develop his ninja skills and trying and do something else, something that catalyses his influences, but remains uniquely him. New broom might bring the hype and sweep the place clean, but old broom takes its time and finds all the corners.

The album is recorded off the mixing desk, so it lacks crowd noise but is excellent quality (mastered at D&M in Berlin, no less). I think Dubloaded was the first Ekoplekz performance and remember reading that Nick was pretty nervous about it all, but it comes across great. If the Vortex gig in Hackney earlier this year (thanks again to Johnny Mugwump) was anything to go by, Ekoplekz live is one human with a table full of gear, all of which might or might not function at various points throughout the set.

[photo from here]

The album has a hesitant start. You can almost see Nick turning on his various bits of archaic kit and giving them a thump to get them going. This intro bleeds into a swirly Radiophonic Workshop riff, which then gets joyfully tweaked and fucked about with. An off-kilter ambient interlude follows with occasional farty noises, fading into some beats and synths not entirely dissimilar to the best bits of Throbbing Gristle’s “Heathen Earth” album. Pulses. Themes. Thematic pulses.

The beginning of side two is quite minimal, but as with all great minimal music it’s configured to feel like there is still a hell of a lot going on. A more technoey jagged loop shatters the tranquility and Nick starts dubbing things up especially for me. We enter rugged urban nighttime soundtrack territory, where the streets are empty and not always well lit. The journey ends with some rhythmic headfuck material.

I’ve played this lots, often twice in a row. It just… works.

Soundclips and Order direct: (or get from your usual supplier)

Hacker Farm, live at The Vortex tomorrow

Hacker Farm gig – tomorrow! I probably can’t make it – but you should!

Hacker Farm is Kek-W and Farmer Glitch.

I previously bigged them up on here when they came to town to do the Exotic Pylon radio session. That was before I heard their CD, “Poundland”

In my ADD twitter feed, I’ve described this release variously as:

“low-fi pulsing cheekiness… like Ekoplekz, but on a farm, on acid. In the 1730s… darkside agricultural nightmare soundscapes. Side effects of that bootleg fertiliser… Crawling down the lane.”

Hacker Farm’s willful lo-fi, low-tech, low-down-dirty not giving a fuck about anything except the important stuff attitude is compelling. Obsolete equipment, operated by rusty geezers on a mission.

I’ve been listening to the CD a lot and I am gutted about not being able to make the gig. Mr Mugwump’s nights are always worth checking and the set from Ekoplekz earlier this year was especially satisfying. Go along, and then taunt me with stories about how good it was.

More info on the gig here.

Poundland is available here.

Special bonus feature in The Wire with audio.

I’ve been sent some amazing DIY music over the last few months and I need to make time to do a podcast so people can get a taste of it…

J Beatz 1 Dutty EP

See, people go on about how the youth of today are all horrible, but one of my teenage neighbours just helped someone else on the block get into their flat (possibly just to end the horror of me attempting to post my daughter through a tiny window).

And earlier today 17 year old Grime producer J Beatz asked very nicely if he could send me a promo of his latest EP. So of course I said yes, even though most of the music I get sent these days is rubbish.

I’m not the world’s hugest fan of instrumental grime, but I’ll definitely take that over generic wobble-step if given the choice. This is good gear, thank fuck.

Dutty‘s beats are exactly the correct combination of swing and stiffness and all the freaky growling + airy synths over the top of them do some nice things to my head. Cash Point is a bit more full-on and ravey (i.e. exhausting, for old gits like me) with some good video game type sound effects.

Tazer really reminds me of grime beats circa 2003 – plucky strings, weird bubbling beats, sinister b-line. Top stuff – almost like a Jon E Cash / Black Ops joint!

Ragga Muffin obviously piqued my interest. Am I just biased or do grime people make reggae pastiches a million times better than dubstep people? This is great – some UK Dub-style skanking going on, lickle sample of a soundman and soundsystem effects. It works precisely because it isn’t a really obvious mahoosive bassline over a really obvious reggae vocal. I definitely want to hear an MC over this one…

Anyway, I reckon this is well worth investigation, but don’t take my word for it – there’s a youtube promo clip up here. (Ragga Muffin starts at about 4:35)

J Beatz: 1 Dutty EP – out on digital and vinyl on Crown Jules Records on July 19th.

soundtrack to March 2010


The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – “Now That’s What I Call Steampunk vol 1″ (Leather Apron)
Victorian punk, forsooth! Could be awful but is actually fantastic – excellent lyrics which show a love for the subject matter which goes way beyond merely dressing up. “Goggles” conjurs up an alternative Victorian era in which sexual repression is stripped away and women are desired for getting mucky with engines instead of being prim. It’s enough to make a man’s monocle steam up!

“Charlie” pretends to attack Darwin for contradicting the Bible but is quite clearly actually celebrating this instead. And “Sewer” injects some much needed class-consciousness into the scene (too much poncing about as the Lord or Lady of the Manor!) – it tells the story of a working man’s grave being disrupted by the posh nobs to build a sewer.

It’s blisteringly funny and FUN, the humour doesn’t overshadow the songs or music, so you can singalong with The Men Who Will Not… inna musichall stylee for some time to come. Check their steam-driven myspace for more details. And yes, they are the first group to release a Wax Cylinder for about ninety years.

Ekoplekz: Volume 1
Awesome ambient electronics from the man formerly known as Gutta. All the influences you would expect are present and correct – “Hole in my sound” catches Cabaret Voltaire at their eeriest. “Rebus Neu”is like Throbbing Gristle doing background music for Dr Who circa Tom Baker. It’s always a bit weird getting music off people you know, but to my shame I’ve never met Mr Ekoplekz in the flesh so I guess I can at least pretend to be objective. So let me say that this is no mere pastiche of the bands he loves, it has an identity all of its own and must be the product of many hours of tinkering away with the kit. If Nick is unlucky he’ll be lumped in with the Hauntologists – he deserves better than that.

In terms of practical feedback, I like the fact that the tracks are so short, but over an hour of this was a bit much for me. One to go back to though!

Full marks also for presentation, lovely spraypainted  cover, the stains on the inside clear evidence of the sleeves rolled up DIY approach to the project. This is a strictly limited CDR which I think I got the last copy of. But more info and updates are available on the Ekoplekz Bulletin Board.

Mad Tone -“I-Society” / “The Tiranese”
Pete Madtone comes again with some characteristicly excellent techno tinged dubbage. “I-Society” has all the ingredients for some hot stepping in your living room: brooding bassline, echo aplenty and some great doorbell bizness. “The Tiranese” is a bit dreamier, whimsical piano sample and incoherent vocal snippet. One for the beer on a hill in a festival on a summers’ day posse.

Quite why he isn’t better know than he is I have no idea, this is infinitely better than most of the shit I get sent these days. Keep on it, Pete, I’m listening even if no-one else is… Show YOUR support, dear reader:


King General – “Broke Again” (Conscious Sounds)
Proper minimal digital roots in a 2010 Hackney style with all the casio flava which was originally heard in the Borough when Unity Hi-Fi were laying down tracks over Regal Records in the mid eighties. I got mine here, so check out the sound sample. Flipside is a fast paced stepper which has gone down well with the daughter because she likes “all the space alien noises” on it. A RARE ENDORSEMENT!

Mr Palmer – “Respect Champion” (Coxsone Outernational / Blacker Dread)
UK MC lyrical history! Takes off from where Asher Senator’s “Fast Style Origination” finishes.

Mungo’s Hi-Fi – “Bad From riddim” (Mungos Hi-fi)
Ace bubbling UK dub with a microscopic trace of amen break in. X-amount of cuts from vocalists old and new.

Hempolics – “Serious” (Reggae Roast)
Zurprisingly good shuffly reggae on a sunshine tip. Quirky versions. Yes. Coming out on a seven inch soon.

Jah Grasshopper – “Ghetto Symphony Riddim” (True Sounds)
Interesting riddim which combines downtempo techno with a bit of folkish fiddle. Doesn’t really work for me I’m afraid, but full marks for trying something different. I think it’s a bit too much like those acoustic one drop riddims for my liking. Vocal cuts from Turbulence and YT, both of whom do good works here.


King Cannibal – “So… Embrace The Minimum” / “Dirt” (Ninja Tune)
Last thing I heard of his was trying to out-ragga The Bug, and not doing too much of a bad job. The A-side here is much more interesting though – tinges of dub techno from before Basic Channel, tuneful yet dark. B-side bring Daddy Freddy in and is typically aggy, with a slightly more roomy abstract finish that I liked.

Decyfer – “Playtime’s Over” / Surje “Juxta” (Studio Rockers)
Tony Thorpe in the place – surely everyone has read Joe Muggs’ epic piece on the man in the new Woofah by now? Here he is showcasing some younger producers. Decyfer strays a little to close to dubstep proper for my liking, but has some great little tweaks going on, like a child’s music box. Surje is much more wonky. Worth a look.

ANS “Everyday Bullshit” / “Always Sharp” / “Holki” (Studio Rockers)
Track 1 has some nice epic soundtracky synths and man telling me “It’s bullshit” before the horrid bassline comes in. Deceptively simple. Track 2 has a sample of someone who might be Luciano singing “This one’s for the Soundbwoy” which is pretty great, but as usual I’d rather hear the original than the dubstep version. Old, is what I am. Track 3 has a fucking FLUTE on it! Bollocks to that, frankly.

Flore – “Feel Me (Peo Pitta Remix)” (Botchit & Scarper)
Block rocking breaks with sassy female vocal. I got mashed to so much stuff like this in the late 90s, it fair brings something of a tear to my eye, stupid huge snare roll included.

Son of Kick – “Byrdkick” (Botchit & Scarper)
Clicky samba booty shaking beats with sassy female vocal. The S.O.K. 4KL remix is greatly enhanced by some spaghetti-western humming and generally being really glitched up to blazes.

Planas – “Look Into My Eyes” / “Roots Music” (Immerse)
This made no impression on me whatsoever until it finished. Probably my fault?

Joker – “Tron”
Jean Michelle Jarre in a really foul mood.

Blame feat Fuda Guy and Tinchy Stryder – “On My Own”.
Not really poppy enough. Not grimey enough either. Sorry.

she was a ruff rider

ruff revivalrr02 12"

First vinyl release on Ruff Revival, following on from the tremendous debut of Naphta’s “Long Time Burning” album on CD. (See my gushing review in Woofah issue 3). And yes, some heavy involvement from Droid, so I am biased – but only because his programming ensures he always comes correct with this stuff.

El-B‘s remix of “Soundclash” complements the Grievous Angel cut on Keysound perfectly – where Paul Meme boshes it out and makes your adrenaline pump, El-B makes your hairs stand on end with slinky dread bizness.

“Fully Loaded” sees Naptha busting out some proper junglist sub and breaks underneath some cold yardie vocal samples. The minimalism of the intro reluctantly giving way to an incredibly satisfying, yet dangerous maze of warehouse sonics.

Some serious time, effort and thought has gone into this…

ragga dance new releases

wow, some “dance” promos which are actually worth writing about… lots of people will hate these – if you’re a reggae purist or some kind of minimal techno spod, then you need read no further!


Talen – Kingston Book (Mouthwatering Records)

Time to note the effect that globalisation has had on the ultra-localist dancehall world, I guess. As Stelfox pointed out in his Guardian piece a while back, music sales are especially down in JA (bootleg CDs being the main method of circulation). But vocalists can still turn a dollar by performing and especially by voicing dubplate specials.

So this global network has evolved of little studios (in some cases simply one man and a laptop) who record artists on tour and offer up dubplate specials over the internet. This is potentially quite exciting as it means anyone can in theory access the the cream of the crop of JA’s vocalists and get a personalised vocal off them. The only limits are of course whether or not you can afford it and the gentleman’s agreement that the vocal won’t come out as a properly released tune.

Of course there is no guarantee you’ll get a decent performance out of said vocalist. Generic dubs along the line of “[name of your sound] is the champion, come to mash down all soundbwoy, [name of your DJ] is the greatest selector yadda yadda yadda [insert catchphrase or well known chorus of vocalist here].” abound.

But morally and economically this is more tenable than simply ripping off another bogstandard accapella and sticking a wobbling bass underneath it.

The studio network also opens up the field for more interesting collaborations. This release from Swiss crew Talen features both Sizzla and Cutty Ranks. They have got some nice performances out of both of them, so clearly some work has been put in by all parties – although the dubplate culture is pretty transparent with all the mentions of “Talen Sound”.

Sizzla chants down the “undercover cops who investigate the music” over a rasping synth and shuffly beats. Proper “big room” chorus. Stereotyp provides a cavernous remix which sounds like an offcut of The Bug’s output. Which I think is fine – there is more room in my world for noisy ragga filth, especially with Sizzla on top. This lacks some of the fine detail of Kevin Martin’s palette, but still provides that critical adrenaline fix.

Cutty Ranks isn’t really known for his customer-focused approach to business, even by reggae vocalist standards. But here he really brings it with rhymes like “viper/hyper/sniper” and many many more. Backing is a bit more restrained with some spag-western touches. Markus Kienzl (who?) starts his remix with slightly jarring Boards of Canada-esque ambience and then slams in them “dancey”-ragga beats and some nice stabs.

There’s some good energy here – might be a bit too “big room rave” for some. It is what it is and I’ll take this over monochrome DJ mix fodder any day of the week.


321 vs TIM HEALEY & DEEKLINE – Bring It Back  (Giant Pussy)

“Shake shake shake it all abaht, man’s got bare champagne in me mouf”

Blimey, it’s gone a bit cockney yardie again – good oh! Nice combination of pumping bass, steelpan, carnival whistles and samba beats. And lyrics about bringing back dances of yesteryear – bogle dance, butterfly, robot dance, running man – is good!

Six mixes which I suppose are aimed at keeping different types DJs happy. It all gets a bit functional really. But! 321, Tim Healey and Deekline collaborate on a couple of cuts which are the ones for me.

Deekline is responsible for novelty 2step hit “I Don’t Smoke” which sampled Jim Davidson, right? I always thought that was boss. No doubt I am alone in that, but [slams hand down on the table] my popism will triumph over every other fucker’s purism in the end.

On one mix they even bring Bounty Killer into the equation for what would seem to be an original vocal unless any of the spotter massif can correct me on that score. Bounty Killer! He’s hardly “rent-a-dread”, is he? Bounty Killer, ffs! Proper stupid bring-a-smile-to-your-face when you’ve had a shit week business.