Sunday, 31 January 2010

Download: The XX - Islands (FaltyDL Remix)

A final treat for January - The Fader is giving away a free remix of The XX's 'Islands' by FaltyDL, who produced two of CB/OB's records of last year in Love Is A Liability and the Bravery EP. He reimagines the original as a slow-paced, nocturnal garage roller, as in thrall to the band's gothic meanderings as to his own distinctive style.

Grab it here.

Mosca - Square One [Night Slugs]

Considering that it’s been summarily rinsed in the last few months by any DJ lucky enough to have a copy, it’s about time that Mosca’s long awaited Square One EP finally sees a release. Luckily it hasn’t lost any of its considerable charm, and on its digital version is backed by a formidable roster of remixes from his fellow Night Slugs associates.

Both of the originals here, ‘Square One’ and ‘Nike’, are built from fundamentally simple elements in the manner of say, Joy Orbison – rattling percussion simultaneously referential to house and garage, deftly sliced vocal snippets, technicolour synth work and the ever-present rumble of sub-bass. Yet the comparison ends here – in fact, using the same basic ingredients Mosca manages to turn Orbison’s reductionist ethos entirely on its head. B-side ‘Nike’ is ample evidence of this – along with his luscious three-parter ‘Gold Bricks, I See You’, which appeared on Fabric’s Elevator Music compilation, it manages to incorporate both compositional and sonic complexity into a superbly focused dancefloor track. Beginning life as slow-paced, synth-led hip-hop, three minutes in it seamlessly shifts gear into a taut house/garage hybrid, shot through with dubby synth stabs straight from a Basic Channel 12”. It’s this ethereal side that gradually come to dominate the track, culminating in a brief wash of ambience before a final blast of incandescent funky that burns briefly before tailing off, leaving a warm afterglow in its wake.

The same post-everything, anything-goes ethos currently upping the ante across the bass music spectrum also manages to elevate ‘Square One’ itself to far more than the sum of its parts. Its real success is in managing to incorporate elements from a whole host of different genres without diminishing the end result - the heavily reverbed chord stabs that drift through the track’s backdrop reveal a close affinity with both Berlin dub techno and the earlier variants of dubstep. Closer to the fore, its characteristic descending bass and loose tom hits are as close to grime as to UK house, placing Mosca alongside Kode9, Cooly G and Roska in creating a distinct hybrid sound: darker and more oppressive than funky’s big hitters, looser and more danceable than most mainstream dubstep.

As one of FACT magazine's top ten producers to watch in 2010, Mosca's recorded an excellent mix, which is available to download here.

Martyn - Great Lengths remixes [3024]

Fabric drafting in Martyn to mix the landmark fiftieth Fabric mix was a landmark all by itself - almost entirely given over to house and techno, the presence of a bass DJ in the series’ roster was a vindication of the increasing relevance of dubstep-borne music. It also served as official confirmation that the lines typically dividing relatively traditional, ‘serious’ house and techno sounds from the extrovert products of the post-rave explosion were becoming ever harder to define. Fabric 50 remained undeniably true to his roots in highly percussive bass music, with Zomby’s airhorn-waving house fusions sitting seamlessly alongside brand new material of the same ilk from Roska, Kode9 and Joy Orbison. But it still managed to effectively join the gaps between both worlds – mixing soulful broken beat courtesy of Maddslinky and Altered Natives into Zomby’s mindbending ‘Little Miss Naughty’, and placing the cavernous Berlin atmosphere of Ben Klock’s ‘Is This Insanity’ remix alongside Actress’ mournful view of London’s streets.

Arriving a couple of weeks after Fabric 50’s release, this pair of remix 12”s treads similar ground, allowing a diverse set of producers to tear apart the already impressive source material into a genreless blur of colour and shape. On the first plate, Zomby’s rework of ‘Hear Me’ twists the original’s plea into a pained and desperate cry for help. Superimposed over one of his most straightforward and danceable beats yet - all descending bass and loose-limbed Africanised percussion - it manages to create and sustain a mournful and melancholy party energy. A bit of a paradox on paper, but its shamanic nature brings to mind tribal funeral rites – as much a celebration of life as a recognition of death, and one imbued with that three am sense of immortality that draws a second into sensory eternity.

Both Ben Klock and Redshape draw out the latent techno influences scattered throughout Great Lengths. Redshape’s ‘Seventy Four’ reimagines the original as a hypnotic seven-minute sprawl, its metronomic backing building in stages over a circular central theme that unfolds to absorb the entire mix before receding. Even better is Ben Klock’s remix of ‘Is This Insanity’, Spaceape’s chill musings sounding more darkly prophetic than usual over an appropriately minimalist techno pulse. In true Klock style, it’s hard to imagine this sounding quite right anywhere other than a pitch-black Berlin warehouse – but as with much of his and Marcel Dettmann’s material, that evocative nature is a large part of its appeal.

As an appropriate closer, Illum Sphere’s remix of ‘Brilliant Orange’ is simply gorgeous – drowned in a tropical storm of vinyl fuzz, its humid pulses of minor key synth take on a strangely physical quality that resonates like voice through water. A little reminiscent of Nosaj Thing’s Drift or Clubroot’s self-titled debut, it seems to prioritise atmosphere over compositional progression – a welcome development after the techno-centric sounds that came before.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Hessle baby, Hessle

Hessle Audio is ten! Well, sort of – the official release today of Pangaea’s self-titled EP marks the label’s tenth 12” release, coinciding in a bittersweet twist with their final Ruffage Session on Sub FM. It’s fair to say that Ben UFO, Ramadanman and Pangaea can take a fair amount of responsiblity for shaping the current health of bass music – both in their DJ sets and through Hessle Audio’s release roster. Over the past two and a half years they’ve put out a host of material that didn’t so much predict the future of dubstep as help to remould it entirely, from Martyn’s anthemic ‘Broken Heart’ remix and Pangaea’s gorgeous, wracked ‘Router’ to the slithering pseudo-grime of Untold’s ‘Anaconda’.

The trio marked the final ever Ruffage Session with a four hour celebratory special, managing to fit in an impressive array of new dubs, classics and some archive anomalies. It’s available to download here. In celebration/commiseration mode, they’ve also made available an archive of their ten favourite shows through Sonic Router. Particular mention should go to the Appleblim and Bok Bok sessions, both of which are among the most rinsed radio shows I’ve got on a packed-to-capacity hard drive.

Below are five of the best from the label's first ten...

TRG – Broken Heart (Martyn’s DCM Remix)

Pangaea – Router

Joe – Rut

Untold – Anaconda

Pearson Sound – WAD

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Cooly G TV

The first installment of Cooly G TV has emerged on YouTube, courtesy of Switched On Productions. Cue Plastic People, graffiti and sweaty palms.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Ikonika - Contact, Love, Want, Have

Not being ones for reporting news lightly, yesterday's revelation that we can expect Ikonika's debut album to drop on Hyperdub on April 6th is going to have to be the exception that proves the rule. Everything she's released thus far has been compulsively brilliant, and the sound quality of her productions has been on a steady increase, from the warped mindfuck of debut 'Please' to the crystalline synth auras of recent B-side 'Fish'. Her DJ sets have also been steadily growing in stature, gradually expanding to become vibrant bursts of pure energy that manage to incorporate elements of dubstep, house, funky and garage without remaining anything for too long.

The album will be preceded by an advance 12", 'The Idiot' (a clip of which is posted below). Dostoevsky fan perhaps - although given that her recent Planet Mu debut was titled 'Smuck', it's possible she just doesn't tolerate fools lightly. Either way,
expect Contact, Love, Want, Have to be as essential as they come.

Gravious - Podcast No. 4

Oft-overlooked Scottish dubstep head Gravious has just made his most recent podcast available for download from his website. It brings together a host of his newest productions, several of which are signed for vinyl release this year, and ranges from echo-drenched melody to moody, alien soundscaping. First to emerge on wax is his brooding remix of Erik XVI, out now (or very soon) on Highpoint Lowlife, which takes the staggered 'wonky' flex of Zomby's earlier tracks and fires it into orbit. In a good way, naturally.

The podcast's up for download here...

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Mala & Gilles Peterson, chats and tunes

It's pretty safe to say that Digital Mystik Mala's contribution to electronic music over the past five years cannot be understated. Of the Croydon duo/trio (depending on who you chat to) his music is the most inscrutable, infused with a curious sense of place-and-timelessness that sets him apart from co-conspirators Loefah and Coki. Tracks like 'Forgive', 'Anti-War Dub' and 'Level Nine' are as warm and soulful as they are futuristic, sounding as though they could as easily have been unearthed from a hidden archive of fifty-year-old tapes as made yesterday in a modern studio.

He's the guest on Gilles Peterson's latest downloadable podcast, chatting about his origins and production, playing some of his new tracks and a set of his current favourites. The result is probably the most rewarding hour I've spent listening to music for a long time, veering from the almost unbearable emotional weight of his own 'Education' to Steve Reich's 'New York Counterpoint', via classic dub and some new tracks from the Deep Medi label roster. Surely the internet's greatest achievement so far is in making gems like this freely available.

The download is hosted here, on Gilles Peterson's homepage.

Owen Pallett - Heartland [Domino]

Yes, the man's no longer Final Fantasy, but there's a strangely appropriate side to Owen Pallett's decision to go without pseudonym. His new album Heartland is a fuller and more complete artistic experience than ever before, hugely enriched by the presence of an orchestra under his control but with his perverse sense of humour left intact. It's a marvelous collection of songs as well as a coherent listen in its own right, and will likely leave a similar impact on the rest of 2010 as Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion did on 2009.

I reviewed the record in full for Middle Boop:

"Happily, what hasn’t been lost is the deliciously voyeuristic slant to his lyrics. A sense of detachment from the subject, which on He Poos Clouds took the form of a computer game in which he controlled his object of desire, is more alive than ever in Owen’s self-imposed status as a deity. As ever, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that hidden beneath the surreal sheen of his wordplay lurks a cheeky album length innuendo. As if track titles like ‘Lewis Takes His Shirt Off’ weren’t enough, he throws the gauntlet down pretty clearly on ‘The Great Elsewhere’ when he invites the protagonist to “Wrestle, let’s wrestle / You can pin me to anything”. This God doesn’t just love, although he clearly does – he lusts. And better, he’s in control. Hardly the purest of role models then, but one with an impressive command of implied sexuality."

Sonic Router is 1

The esteemed and excellent Sonic Router blog (to which I am an occasional contributor) reaches the grand old age of one next month, and to celebrate they've put together one hell of a line-up to take over the second room of Bristol's Dissident night. It's at Lakota on the 6th February, and the Sonic Router room will be glaced with the fluorescent stylings of the Blunted Robots Brackles and Shortstuff, Jack Sparrow's ultra-percussive dubstep and a dose of purple from Gemmy - as well as Kelly Twins, Reecha and SR's own MLR. The third room boasts a similarly impressive roster, hosted by Rooted Records' Idle Hands label - with Peverelist, October, Kowton and Atki2.

See you down the front...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Elevator Music [Fabric]

Last Friday saw Fabric's launch party for their rather excellent new Elevator Music Volume One compilation, which does an impressive job of gathering together a host of unreleased tracks from new and established producers working in that grey area between dubstep, house, techno and garage. It speaks volumes that even the divisions between certain 'strains' of dubstep are beginning to crumble, leaving a bizarre and hugely exciting mutant field completely resistant to easy categorisation.

The music on Friday was ample evidence of that, from the distinctly garagey flavour to the end of Sigha's frosty techno set to Jackmaster's genre-defying end of night show, which managed to weave seamlessly between a host of different styles without losing an ounce of its addictive groove. In between, Joy Orbison played to an unsurprisingly packed room at the unseasonal time of 11:30, Mosca, Hot City, Shortstuff and Untold laid waste to the third room, and I once again managed to miss 2562. Either way, it was an appropriate way to open a year sure to be an exciting and innovative one for bass music.

I reviewed Elevator Music for Drowned In Sound here:
"Elevator Music’s real success is that it vindicates the notion that the music emerging from this axis is more than just dancefloor fodder. Innovation is driven by group interactions and friendly one-upmanship, rather than by any one producer. Anyone’s only as good as their last release - a forceful creative motivation, and one which makes each track on here as rewarding in this context as in a longer mix. It’s probably a bit early to be throwing around ‘compilation of the year’ accolades in January, but
Elevator Music Volume 1 has thrown down one hell of a gauntlet. It’ll take some beating."

R.I.P Jay Reatard

More sad news; this time the death of Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr - better known by his stage name of Jay Reatard, who passed away on January 13th at the shocking and entirely unfair age of 29.

I'm unfamiliar with the vast majority of his music, but to hear of anyone dying so young - let alone a talented and well-respected musician - is an awful thing. R.I.P.

R.I.P Vic Chesnutt

It's been a few weeks now since Vic Chesnutt passed away, and in between the news sinking in and realising I'm (selfishly) very gutted to never have seen him perform live, I've been obsessively re-listening to his most recent pair of albums for Constellation. In fact, they're the only two I've heard - his gorgeous collaboration with A Silver Mt. Zion, North Star Deserter acted as an introduction. Last year's At The Cut, was a sparser and more sombre affair - perhaps unsurprising given the dubious benefit of hindsight.

There have been some fantastic tributes written to him on both The Quietus and Pitchfork, both of which articulate far better than I could how unique an artist he was, but it's suffice to say that to these ears he was a singular voice, sardonic, self-depreciating and witty in equal measure. His is a sad loss - R.I.P Vic.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Four Tet - Much Love To The Plastic People

Kieran Hebden gave out a mix CD entitled Much Love To The Plastic People last month, at the final night of his DJ residency at the club of the same name. After circulating for a while on messageboards and blogs, he's posted the mix for download at Soundcloud. It's well worth a listen, starting on recent single 'Love Cry' and featuring a few new tracks, presumably off his upcoming There Is Love In You full length. Get it here.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Martin Kemp [Blunted Robots]

There must be somethin' in the water round at the ol' Kemp family place. Brackles’ production trajectory over the past year has been quirky enough – the progression between the stop-start technoid dynamics of early track ‘Glazed’ and the dazzling neon hues of his recent remix of Crystal Fighters’ ‘I Love London’ couldn’t have been more dramatic – but if anything his brother has managed to outdo him on the dancefloor chemistry front.

And chemistry it is – ill-judged Spandau Ballet jokes aside, Martin Kemp’s production is pure gold. At this point, it's less an art than a science. There were hints in the warped aura and staggering gait of ‘No Charisma’, but the pair of tracks on his second Blunted Robots release see him do things with percussion that simply shouldn’t work in a dancefloor environment. UK funky’s commitment to tribalism is turned inside out on ‘After The Night’, each snare hit landing at precisely the opposite place than expected, lending a coarse sense of unpredictability that ramps the track’s tension to breaking point. Combined with the sinogrime-inspired minimalism of the track’s main melody it’s disorienting but relentlessly propulsive.

‘Aztec’ takes the previous track’s melodic Orientalism and runs with it; but instead of pushing ever-forward it expands laterally, building layer upon layer of bleeps and serrated hi-hats into an odd skanking rhythm. It remains almost impossibly supple though, contorting its stop-start dynamics into any number of geometric shapes over its six-minute length. Both tracks remain mysterious even after a huge number of listens (one of the main reasons this review is a few weeks late), but either way the diffuse yet hugely energetic nature of Kemp’s percussion is fast becoming a trademark.

And as if any more evidence was required, his remix of Royal T’s ‘1 Up’ is positively labyrinthine. Stabs of the original’s harsh motif burst out of the mix, shrouded in a whirl of elastic drum hits that combine to give the dizzying impression that you’ve either lost your marbles or ended up on a seriously perverse mind trip – and one that finds its resolution in dancing like your nerves are on fire. As far as these ears are concerned, the four tracks he’s officially released have already eclipsed his brother’s back catalogue (and that’s no mean feat). If there’s any justice, 2010 will be his year.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Fact Freebies

In typically generous form, FACT Magazine have seen fit to start the new year with a massive bang, giving away a pair of free tracks and a particularly mindblowing mix.

Greena's remix of Mosca's 'Square One' follows on where his recent Apple Pips debut left off: all asymmetric percussive patterns that borrow equally from house, garage and dubstep, and a cheeky sense of euphoric bounce nicked from Buraka Som Sistema's neon-tinted kuduro. My only qualm is that it doesn't last that little bit longer. It's available for seven days, here.

Meanwhile, Werk Discs head honcho Actress' collaboration with labelmate Disrupt is a lumbering beast of a track, a woozy, smoked-out synth line and Zomby-esque bleeps coalescing to form an odd, wonky form of techno. It's perverse, creepy and wierdly addictive, and available for seven days here.

Finally, Deadboy has delivered the latest in FACT's pretty-damn-essential mix series, turning in a neatly mixed blend of garage, funky and 'what-you-call-it' sounds to dazzling effect. His 'U Cheated' was a contender for one of my favourite tracks of 2009, welding melancholy vocal stabs to an absolutely killer bass breakdown that I've still not managed to hear on a dancefloor. He's got a new one, 'If U Want Me', coming out in the next month or so and it's even better, closing the mix in full-on party style.

Download it here, and catch him in Room 1 of Fabric this Friday, where he appears as part of the Numbers label's showcase alongside Todd Edwards, Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and Jackmaster. It's going to be massive.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Olafur Arnalds - Dyad 1909 [Erased Tapes]

Erased Tapes has just released Olafur Arnalds' quite brilliant score for Wayne McGregor's recent ballet Dyad 1909 - great news by itself, but while digging around doing some research for the review, I stumbled across a fascinating set of articles and information about McGregor himself. I don't know a lot about contemporary dance at all, bar the projects that have formed a cross over with the music world (Merce Cunningham's Split Sides with Radiohead and Sigur Ros, Peter Broderick scoring Adrienne Hart's Falling From Trees), but as a biology graduate it's interesting to see that McGregor's been involved in a series of research projects about the cognitive and biological aspects of creativity.

At the end of every year when the 'best of' lists come out, there's always a discussion around the subjectivity and individuality of artistic creation and appreciation, and it always seems that there's precious little talk about what we do know about the science behind the creative process. There's a great article by Euan Ferguson, writing for the Observer, that discusses the projects with McGregor and some of the scientists involved in these research projects. It's well worth reading. There's also a lot more about his R-Research on McGregor's home page.

Arnalds' score itself is wonderful, further developing
the subtle electronic elements of his earlier compositions. Both understated and openly dramatic, it seems to fit perfectly with the themes running through Dyad 1909 - the chill elemental power of the Antarctic, and a tough balletic delicacy of touch. '3326' is particularly striking, a sparse solo violin arrangement that builds to a furious and heartfelt crescendo. Quite aside from being my favourite thing he's yet written, this score suggests that his forthcoming third album will be his most fully realised statement yet.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New year, new mix

Happy new year! After a bit of a break from normal service and with the reserves of Christmas spirit(s) more or less depleted at this point, here's a final shout from 2009 - a new mix of mine, made up almost entirely of tunes released over the last year. The aim was to try and cobble together fragments of my favourite tracks from the past twelve months, as well as working in lieu of a slightly predictable year-end list of CB/OB's 'Favourite ...'s of the year'. Usual agenda - Ableton-based, recorded live.

Download link here.

Kowton – Stasis (G Mix)
Julio Bashmore – Um Bongo
Hackman – Funky Tune
> Spherix – Lesser People
Shackleton – Death Is Not Final
Greena – Tenzado
> Hard House Banton – Reign
Martin Kemp – After The Night
J. Kenzo - Conqueror
Kode9 – Black Sun
Crazy Cousinz – Inflation
Doc Daneeka – Funky Bit
Geiom – Eyl Booty
L-Vis 1990 - Run
Hot City – No More
Martin Kemp – No Charisma
Scuba – Aesaunic
Pinch – Get Up (Guido Remix)
Ike Release – Jenova
> Joy Orbison – J. Doe
Ikonika – Fish
Untold – Dante
Pangaea – Memories
Naphta/Grievous Angel – Soundclash VIP
Guido – Beautiful Complication