December 2005 Archives
OK, as 2005 rapidly outstays its welcome, now's a good time as any to rewind through what the year had to offer musically. First up, my top ten albums (in no order).
Compilation of the year was Acid: Can You Jack? - Chicago Acid & Experimental House 1985-95 on Soul Jazz Records.
Thanks for everything in 2005. Happy New Year.
In time honoured tradition, a round up of 2005 will be posted up once I get some sleep. In the meantime, some loose odds and ends reviewed here. Hopefully I'll never have to listen to another Morr Music record again.
There's been so much written about the Grime/Dubstep movement in the blogosphere that I feel I can't really add much to it. My coverage has been restricted to highlighting the occasional bits that I pick up from Soho's Black Market Records. I'm quite happy to quietly sit back and wallow in its propulsive force.
Certainly siding with the more techno-affiliated Dubstep sound. Contributions from Boxcutter, Digital Mystikz, Slaughter Mob, DJ Distance and Skream revealed a more digitally pure, pared down palette that I could totally immerse myself in.
But for those not blessed enough to be able to receive the numerous pirate stations within the M25, this release serves as a handy snapshot of all that's gone on in 2005. Sub-current, sub-bass, sub-low.
Avrocar: Guidance (Short.Sharp.Shock) - 12"
John Callaghan peddles in humourous, oddball electronica that's unmistakably British in tone. 'They're coming' harmonises vocal samples from the Daleks to amusing effect and 'Organgrinder' takes 'The Mouse Song' from the children's TV show Bagpuss and pulverises it with distorto-bass kicks. John Callaghan...the king of IDM: Intelligent Dunce Music.
Avrocar impress with six frozen modules of suspended guitar and fx-drenched vocals. Discreet wafer-thin layers of pop hooks and urgent drum programming nudge along the opening 'Maiden 39'. Sonically reminiscent of the first early movements of British Techno frozen by blizzard winds.
The concept here is that Dave Aju has sampled the discarded sounds from other people's live LP's and constructed a smart 6-track EP. Book-ended by experimentalist takes, it's the glitch'n grind of 'Love Evangelist' that'll win you over.
Never liked this band to be honest. The first track I ever heard was that famous one that Weatherall bigged up. That was alright. But everything else has been utter gash. Like most of the nonsense on this label (Opiate being the exception). Thankfully I've managed to eBay most of it out of my collection.
"Superb underground old School style acid house / Techno release from the little known Capracara. Featuring the vocal appearence from the much talked about Nick Glider on 'Flashback 86'. Utterly essential!"
The problem with electroclash is that its all very palatable whilst it's on. An urgency and thrusting sexiness that engages you for short bursts. But as soon as you switch to something else, you kinda realise how shit it all is. 29 tracks of machine emptiness that contains just one moment of brilliance (The Dance Inc's 'Looking like that'). Rip, Mix, Auction.
Lo-fi but inventive mix of straight up house and dub. Hovering somewhere in between headphone space and dancefloor nous, loaded with a quirky charm all its own.
Got all excited there for a moment. Nice graphic design on this 12" from new York label Metal Postcard. Nice mix of blue's and white's and the way the title of the EP is in blood red really works. This sort of design surely belongs on some German minimal house.
Visit http://flickr.failme.net to see the Fail photo blog. Will start to push up all the photo's i've taken at gigs this year. But for now I have Kodak moments from the recent Electronic Winter Ball, Accidental Showcase at the ICA and the John Peel day at the Royal Festival Hall.
If your browser doesn't recognise those links and therefore doesn't launch the correct program straight away, then enter http://www.failme.net/list/index.rdf into the news reader program and webcal://icalx.com/public/scientist/fail.ics into the calendar program.
ICA Club: DIY Music
Monday 12th December 2005
Nash & Brandon Rooms, ICA, The Mall, London
Got invited by XFM DJ Nick Luscombe to be part of a panel to discuss the subject of DIY Music at the ICA. That's the Institute of Contemporary Arts for those not in the know. An organisation that, over the years, have received equal amounts of praise and criticism in my online ramblings.
The (very) loose agenda hovered around new approaches to music in terms of promotion and distribution. Take a look at their definition of DIY Music. There were six of us on the panel: Ned Beckett, Nick Luscombe, Frances May Morgan, Luke Bevan and Fink. Audience members included several musicians, label owners, promoters and someone who left Google for not being "forward-thinking" enough. Respect is due.
I guess the problems of such a discussion stem from the fact that DIY Music means different things to different people. I focussed on what I know, which revolved around the web and the emerging / established technologies that allow me to take control of how I consume music. How setting up a website such as Absorb led to such an overwhelming interest. From both the public and from labels / artists starved of an outlet for specialist music.
And how, with this blog, I join the thousands acting as music filters: simply mentioning records that I like. And how I still get untold amounts of music sent through for review....even though I'm just a blogger. I guess my presence there being representative of someone who isn't involved in the industry.
For me, the definition of DIY Music / Culture is all about control and how technology can provide the tools.
But the discussion was fractured, frustrating and there were way too many threads lost due to a lack of structure and time. But, having said that, there seemed to be a lot of lively debate, conflicting points-of-view and major label hating. As my esteemed colleague Anil (who was in the audience) rightly points out, Luke (from Universal Music) seemed confused as to where he stood. I guess I'd need to hear more from him before I could comment.
I personally think too much time was dedicated to the technology side of things. Topics like the live scene were touched upon. Perceptions of those musicians who don't play 'traditional' instruments (we're talking laptop performers here) and how they manage to overcome translating their work into the live arena.
How 'traditional' print-based magazines such as Plan B were balancing coverage between the well-known and the obscure. Totally agreeing with Frances' criteria of what she personally covers: music that we know won't get much coverage elsewhere.
I'd have liked to focussed a little more on Nick's area of expertise: radio. My personal affiliation with John Peel and his Radio 1 show have given me a good insight into how powerful this format can be. How it can fit into the new models of online social networking and promotion networks. It's the ultimate inclusive format, its just a shame that most commercial radio (in London at least) is so utterly shit.
Whilst all this was going on, to alleviate boredom on my part (and to give the audience something else to look at other than our gormless faces), I rigged up a projector to my laptop and surfed the web for relevant music sites. This is where I visited during the talk:
To see another take on the evening, take a look at Anil's posting on his quotesque.net blog.
Hexstatic: Listen & Learn (Ninja Tune) - CD
Amon Tobin: Recorded Live (Ninja Tune) - CD
Slam: Nighdrive (Resist) - Double CD
Luke Slater: Fear and Loathing Part 2 (Resist) - Double CD
Sven Vath: The Sound of the Sixth Season (Cocoon Music) - Triple CD
Loco Dice & Ricardo Villalobos: Green & Blue (Cocoon Music) - Double CD
Craig Richards: Fabric 15 - Tyrant (Fabric) - Double CD
Will Saul: Simple One (Simple) - CD
As someone who believes mixes should now be part of the scheme of 'adding-value' to a label's online activities. It seems faintly ridiculous that people still pay money for this sort of thing.
At least Hexstatic manage to keep things eclectic and fun. Problem is, you'll have trouble differentiating this from just about every other Ninja Tune mix released. Maybe Amon Tobin could roughen things up a bit; no old hip-hop skits or porn samples for this man. His live Final Scratch mix takes in snippets of grime and techno in between the staple-Ninja funk and breaks.
I've simply no time in my life for Sven Vath, certainly not a triple CD's worth. And neither have you. Luke Slater chips in with a mix of two halves. First CD is pretty decent, with a smart ambient intro sequence that could have gone on for a bit longer. But fucks it up with a rubbish second CD that sounds like every other electro mix CD released to date.
OK, sorry. Im really running out of interest here. Slam: some good minimal stuff interspersed with absolute rubbish. Loco Dice & Villalobos: alright, not as good as my own mixes. Craig Richards: interesting and hectic, prefer his excellent stints as Fabric's resident. But the second CD of the two is pretty smart; anyone who includes the mighty Air Liquide in any shape or form commands respect. Will Saul: nice packaging, where do they get that paper stock from, good use of the Helvetica font.
Sud Electronic Xmas Party
Friday 2nd December 2005
Jawani's, 54 Commercial Street, London, E1
Quickly becoming a popular destination for the minimal crowd. Jawani's Indian restaurant once again accommodates the Sud Electronic crew. The intimacy of the surroundings, sparse decor, considered lighting and above average sound system all help. But it's all about the tunes, tunes that you might not otherwise hear in a London club unless you're a Fabric regular.
Whilst I can fill space talking about the likes of Portable (reliable as ever, but I've seen him way too many times this year), Marco Shuttle (inconsistent but uptempo and energetic) or Fail HDJ (shite). I'd rather focus on Lawrence, who managed to deliver one of the best laptop performances I've heard this year.
Sound seemed restrictive and condensed throughout the night. But when Peter Kersten fired up his sequencer, it felt like we were viewing everything in letterbox format. Sonics focussed on tonal melodies, purist sub-bass and subtle details that were swamped by fierce dynamics. This was a more epic, refined rendition of minimal.
The night was supported by digital artist Timon Botez; projecting pixellated text, colours and abstract shapes. Powered by PureData off reflective surfaces, this proved to be fitting visual metaphors. Check out his work at http://www.botezco.com.
Errr....Yes! Sutekh is just showing off here. This mix, where he splices together 27 tracks from the back catalogue, proves how insanely great the label is. Surprisingly, it's not all introspective minimalia that conquers. Portable's body-rigged loops, Kit Clayton's sheared dub and Murcof's sweeping majesticness gives the mix a unique spatial awareness not present in any of the other mixes in this posting.
Doesn't bode well; the generic sleeve design, track titles and the fact that Deadbeat bored me to tears during one Sonar performance have made me resist this with ease. But how wrong could I have been? Concise, compact; filled with catchy hooks, considered melodies and bass in search of propulsion. Acute details, sweeping resonance.
Tidy, smart selection of tunes in this mix. Just a bit too calculated and controlled for my liking, despite highlighting the lineage between old school Detroit techno (Robert Hood, Jeff Mills, Kenny Larkin) and the new minimal movement (Alex Under, Sleeparchive, Matthew Dear).
There are movements during this micro-tonal extravaganza that are so fucking wholesome that I badly want to damage some sound systems playing this out. Nudging this genre of music ever-so-slightly towards the dancefloor.
The first ten or so pieces sound like typical Raster-Noton fare, as if Carsten himself was present in the room whilst Ikeda was made to adhere to house rules. But it's during 'Helixplex' that some form or rhythmic voodoo takes over and the ear-clipping glitch makes way for bandwidth-consuming sub-bass, granular glides and, wait for it, melody.
If you've ever glided across the Arctic, watched the glaciers melt and wished you had an accompanying soundtrack...your wait is now over. Unless Oliver Hacke decides to knock something out before the year is out, this will settle as my record of 2005.