Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hiatus what?

So this blog has been on a slightly self-enforced hiatus recently, especially in terms of original content. Quite aside from anything else, it's in the build up to the imminent arrival of something larger - stay tuned for updates on that one.

In the interim period, here are some things CB/OB's been feeling of late...


Guido's quite astounding upcoming Anidea album. Due for release in a couple of weeks on Punch Drunk, it's a vindication of the quality of his earlier releases and then some, effortlessly dragging in elements of jazz, post-Timbaland R'n'B, dubstep, Final Fantasy and more or less everything else. Oh, and a gorgeous vocal turn from Yolanda on a re-energised 'Way U Make Me Feel'.


Flying Lotus' deeply heady new opus Cosmogramma. Spjazz. Proper mind-trip stuff, this demands a pair of good headphones and comfortable seat to absorb. There's as much for the mind as for the body over the course of its length, as his famous aunt's devotional harp and blasts of moody sax drift through the mix, binding everything together in softly coherent ways.


Drowned In Bristol - as of this week I've started writing a regular Bristol focus column for Drowned In Sound, aiming to cover bits of the music scene here alongside one-offs, interviews and more specific chats with labels and particular artists. The first one is up now, and covers (amongst other things) Dubkasm, Subloaded, Joker, Addison Groove and Tectonic's first non-dubstep release.

"As I write, my ears are still ringing from a thorough purging at Subloaded & Teachings In Dub at the Trinity Centre on the 16th April. A launch party for Dubkasm’s rather lovely Transform I remix album (more about that one below…), the later portion of the evening was taken up by back-to-back sets from some of the city’s most respected dubstep practitioners. In true MBV style earplugs were handed out on the door, and the volume at the entrance was about as high as you’d usually find right down at the front of most clubs. Physically punishing stuff, and real justification for the description of bass frequencies as carrying ‘weight’ – but particular mention should definitely be made of Guido. His set alongside Headhunter showcased tracks from his excellent upcoming album Anidea, melding a melodic suss ripped straight from R’n’B to truly mindbending slabs of sub-bass. Oh, and in the case of ‘Mad Sax’, cheekily sleazy grooves that thrust with bawdy seventies excess."


Erykah Badu's delectable follow-up to the raw and surprisingly furious New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War. Subtitled Return Of The Ankh, it sees her turn her gaze inward and examine the chemical rush of love in each and every form. And with beats from Madlib, Dilla and Sa-Ra Creative Partners (amongst others), it sounds glorious as well.

"So where 4th World War was harsh and overbearingly physical, its follow up drifts through the air like the invisible scent of pheromones. In terms of pure sonics, tracks like ‘Window Seat’ and ’20 Feet Tall’ glide softly where earlier counterparts like ‘Soldier’ exuded a placeless sense of foreboding. Paired with Badu’s heady delivery, early highlight ‘Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long’ is simply gorgeous, riding off a sumptuous soul vocal backline and an ambiguous address, perhaps to her new young un – “I can’t wait to see what you’ll be”. The Madlib-produced ‘Umm Hmm’ hits another peak, assembled into a seamless patchwork quilt of rising chimes and sixties kitsch."

Full review up at Muso's Guide.


Following on from Erykah in a similar vain, Pursuit Grooves' Fox Trot Mannerisms album for Tectonic showed an entirely different and hitherto unexplored side of the label, one where deep blue nocturnes meet deeply contemplative soul/hip-hop hybrids. Certainly a fair distance from Bristol, given that she's from New York, but there are some real similarities to draw with Bristol in attitude and atmosphere.

"The other aspect Fox Trot Mannerisms shares with its label’s UK counterparts is a sense of the urbane. Although ‘Tweezers’ could almost be described as pastoral, with its fuzz of distant clicks akin to the chirps of nighttime crickets, Pursuit Grooves’ music has a strong affinity with city life. It’s a balmy summer evening’s breeze through suburban streets, or a twilight headphone stroll through a dodgy area of town where the music acts as a barrier to the real world – or, in the case of the dubstep-tinted ‘Start Something’, vividly enhances the surrounding environment."

Full review up at Sonic Router.


Some lovely slo-mo house/garage crossover gems from Kowton on the Idle Hands imprint. They take quite a while to sink in, crawling past at unnervingly sedate pace, but offer real hypnotic gains.

"In the case of these two tracks from Kowton, what immediately strikes the listener is just how slow they are. We’re used to escalating tempos in nuum music; certain quarters aside, drum ‘n’ bass continues to peak well above the sensible limit, and at the wobbly ends of dubstep some artists are pushing for 150bpm. So it’s a refreshing change to hear a producer slow their music down to a snail’s pace. In this case, these two tracks are a culmination of what Kowton started with his bewitching ‘Stasis (G Mix)’, stretching the beats out to allow ample space for swing and crafting house tracks that flex like garage. ‘Basic Music Knowledge’ does exactly that, brooding darkly over nocturnal pulses of sub-bass and percussion that hesitates just enough to introduce palpable tension. ‘Hunger’ is even better, filled with a sense of twilight yearning appropriate to its title, and so cavernous in depth that it feels far slower than its already soporific pace."

Full review just up at Sonic Router.


Typically confounding new material from Actress, whose 12"s on Honest Jon's and Nonplus+ find him exploring territories between skunked-out psychedelia and chilly Drexciyan electro.

"Similarly, both of the tracks on his first release for Honest Jon’s wrap themselves tightly around the listener while hinting at wide-open spaces just beyond the music’s confines. It’s a delicate balancing act – ‘Paint, Straw and Bubbles’ is almost impenetrably austere, its hypnotic spiral patterns so abstract that listening feels more like a feat of voyeuristic pleasure than one of physical connection. This distance only serves to enhance its atmosphere of deep-seated unease. ‘Maze (Long Version)’ on the flip offers more immediate gains, as thick bass frequencies and sparse electronic percussion generate a beautifully languid piece of stoned techno that seems far shorter than its six-minute runtime."

Full review up at Sonic Router.


The final transmission from Torsten Profrock's enigmatic T++ project. It's a real shame to see it end, but he's bowed out on a high with his most fully realised set of tracks yet, bound together with a strong sense of theme thanks to the source material.

"Working with this kind of disintegrating matter couldn’t be more right for T++. His music has always both signified and amplified the processes of decay, deconstructing his influences – techno, jungle, two-step – down to their barest elements before reanimating them with a blast of electricity. His remix of Shackleton’s ‘Death Is Not Final,’ itself a dusty approximation of flesh falling from bones, creaked like the undead: hard and permanent as ancient granite but also fluid, shot through with jittery junglist breaks and irresistible forward momentum. The same is true of Wireless, where he resurrects the musicians who originally recorded these tracks – at this point, who knows whether they’re dead or alive? - and gives each a new and eerily eternal life."

Full review up at Sonic Router.


Plus new and upcoming material from Greg Gow, Ramadanman, Shackleton and Lorn, LV's new 38 EP (a concept piece based on the oh-so-familiar 38 bus route, no less), classics from Ornette Coleman and Alice Coltrane and, finally, Kyle Hall's rather excellent Hyperdub 12". Over and out, for the time being.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

FaltyDL in 2010

Given that UK speed garage had its roots in New York and the experiments of luminaries like Todd Edwards, it was a pleasingly circular development that NYC-based FaltyDL put together last year’s best garage release in his Love Is A Liability album. Since then, his Bravery EP upped the head quotient, teasing apart his intricate beat programming to allow darkness into gaps in the mix, and his Party 12” for Ramp was a gorgeous piece of slow motion melancholy, almost diametrically opposed to its title.

So it’s good to hear that his recent flurry of one-offs has shown a continued restlessness in approach. His remix of Eprom’s ‘Never’ picks up somewhere near where Bravery’s ‘You Made Me Feel So Right’ left off, all angular rhythms and delicately sliced breakbeats. There’s more than a little Vibert/Squarepusher in his attitude to percussion, which manages to pull off the impressive trick of sounding both loosely sloppy and clinically precise at once. Despite sticking fairly closely to the source material’s sound palette, the effect of each track couldn’t be more different – the original a razor-sharp slice of funky-infused house, FaltyDL’s rephresh a dark and brooding asymmetric groove. His remix of The XX’s ‘Islands’, on the other hand, pares the rhythm back to its barest components, leaving the original vocal untouched over churning bass and interlocking layers of percussive noise.

Most impressive is his latest batch of new material. In my recent Short Circuitry piece for Muso’s Guide, I mentioned Adam Harper (of the rather excellent Rogue’s Foam blog) and his presenting the process of ‘wonkification’ as something separate from any specific genre. Just as new music from genre-defying artists like James Blake and Ikonika goes some way towards vindicating that idea, FaltyDL’s constant rewiring of established dance music forms feels like something very similar. Less recreation than reimagination, on the
All In the Place EP, released on Rush Hour, he takes on a greater house influence than before and twists it into his own distinct shapes. And the results are pretty spectacular, the title track in particular offering an abstract but dancefloor-ready journey through melodic house territory that sounds like no-one but FaltyDL. Which has always been one very interesting aspect of his music – despite taking on a range of different styles, his process of writing generates music that sounds uniquely his: deconstructed but energetic, and with a cunning ear for musicality. On rolling garage track ‘St. Mark’s’ his beats display the same magnetic properties that were so obvious on the Bravery EP. Each percussive element constantly attempts to escape from the force field holding it to the others, generating a restless and unstable energy that threatens to collapse at any time. The fact that it never does serves to ratchet the energy almost to breaking point.