October 2006 Archives
Me and John. Zentraus Club, Barcelona, Spain. June 2004 (Photo by Daniela Nessmann)
Not that I'm any authority on John Peel at all. Who is? But, for some reason, I'd been asked (on more than one occasion) by print and online publications to come up with a small piece about John and the impact his death has had.
I never delivered. I always thought that anything I'd have to say about John, I'd say it here. And besides, what could I write? The impact his death had on what exactly. The music industry? Radio? No. The only thing I can write about is the impact it had on me.
Since my first contact with him via the radio as a teenager living somewhere in the Midlands. To calling him up and then via e-mail. To then strategically living near Maida Vale just so I could go to the Peel sessions. To then meeting up at the Sonar Festival in Barcelona. To then having him play a DJ set at a festival we organised. To attending his funeral. It had been an absolute privelege to have known him.
I got nothing but smiles, warmth and enthusiasm. That's what I'll miss the most. Of course there are lots of other things to discuss about how his passing has left this massive void. The current state of UK commercial radio. Rock's decline into corporate functionalism. British TV networks capable of producing umpteen celebrity reality show variants, yet have difficulty coming up with one decent music programme.
But simply put, my reasons for missing him is just one of friendship.
John's longtime producer John Walters (who died before Peel in 2001) once remarked "If he ever hits puberty, we'll be in trouble." Thankfully, he never did.
Kode9 on the left there and Spaceape on the right. Like buses, you wait ages for good albums to turn up and two come along at once (sort of). Burial's self titled debut wasn't without its flaws, but was utterly memorable. Loads of people said some really interesting things about it, I said this.
And now we have Kode9 and The Spaceape's debut 'Memories from the future'. I'm gonna let it continue to make further dents into my brain before I commit words, needless to say it's pretty special. So many reference points and deft musical flourishes that my head spins. Once I've regained composure, I'll type.
The launch party for the album is at Plastic People (Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London) on Thursday 26th October as part of 'Bash': the monthly night for all things bass run by The Bug and Loefah. Entry is £5, doors are at 10pm. I turn 33 on the night too. Come.
No presents, just presence.
PS. It's also Philip Raffaele's (my NYC buddy) birthday on the same day too. But he's younger and American, so he wins by default. Go see him here.
12"s piling up here in N10. Working through the backlog.
Sileni / Actual Proof: Cold Sweat / Maybe we'll stay (Planet Mu) - 12"
Distance: Traffic / Cyclops (Planet Mu) - 12"
MRK1: Ready for Love (Planet Mu) - 12"
Soundmurderer & SK-1: Toronto V.I.P. / Soundclash Remix (Planet Mu) - 12"
More drumfunk from Boston-based producer Sileni. Cold, clinical, precise. This is how drum'n bass in 2006 should sound like. Distance makes his Mu debut with this midi-guitar meets dubstep collision. Sounds naff, but actually works a treat. MRK1 (formerly Mark One) takes Virus Syndicate's 'Ready to Learn' into more choppier waters. But it's Soundmurderer & SK-1 that throws the loudest musical tantrum here. 'Toronto V.I.P.' is a ferocious slice of rolling, edit-obsessed jungle.
Secondo: Breathe to the Rhythm (Dreck) - 12"
I know Secondo, and I can tell you he's a mild mannered Swiss. Reserved, quiet, softly spoken. Difficult to picture this embodiment of calm coming out with such rigidly funky output. 'Breathe to the rhythm' takes his trademark "spastic disco" to sunnier climes. Throw in a bassline that shifts midway and an orchestra of edited vocal stabs and you have a track bordering on genius.
Beckett & Taylor: Hired New Hands (Hand on the Plow) - 12"
These guys released what was (for me) possibly the best 12" of 2004 with the spastic-disco epic 'Work'. It sounded like a Prince track skipping. This is more of the same, but of the three on offer, its the Caro remix that impresses. Solid, bass-coated beats punctuated with wild yelps that jump out from the track. Class!
Mathew Jonson: Automatic (Wagon Repair) - 12"
Lazy Fat People: Shinjuku (Wagon Repair) - 12"
Cobblestone Jazz: India In Me (Wagon Repair) - 12"
Mike Shannon: Hang Ups EP (Wagon Repair) - 12"
Mathew Jonson's label suddenly gets active with four decent contributions to the record rack section marked 'minimal'. His own 'Automatic' uses a propulsive melody to drive things along. Might be overtly fussy for the dancefloor but is perfectly hummable material for home listening. The amusingly monikered Lazy Fat People manage to strike gold with the solid shuffle of 'Shinjuku', but I swear the B-side sounds like 'French Kiss'.
Cobblestone Jazz is Jonson plus his mates and they fashion an epic, progressive slice of slow-build house. Lengthy running time and near-indistinguishable B-side does nudge this into DJ fodder territory though. But the opening 2 minutes are addictive enough. Mike Shannon though is the winner though with his quirky take on 4/4. 'What's your pleasure' is the best example: clipped vocal soul samples and hand-claps punctuate a bouncy uptempo groove.
Nothing bad to say about of that lot below. Just add them to your ever growing collection and we'll continue to see eye-to-eye. Words on real life stuff in a bit. Hope everyone is O.K....
My My: Songs for the gentle (Playhouse) - CD
Opening with the fun 'Clean Break' which contains a solid house rhythm that would have worked well on the dancefloor if it weren't for the cacophony of playful pips and squeaks. Things take on a more serious tone with the echo chord of 'When It Rains'. And therein lies their formula: summery excursions in melody can suddenly take sharp turns into obtuse, introverted minimalism. All the elements coming together perfectly on the album highlight 'Propain'.
It doesn't escape criticisms though, slight trimming of a few skip-button fillers here and there could brought the running time down a tad. But, when all is said and done, what you have here is a fantastic set of well-produced, idea-loaded house music. My My maybe aiming for the gentle, but with this debut, they should succeed with being heard by a lot more.
Geoff White: Nevertheless (Background) - CD
Originally due to be released in 2003 on the now defunct Cytrax label, distributor business bullshit has meant it's only just now seen the light of day thanks to the efforts of Background Records.
I managed to nab an mp3 copy of the album so I'm reasonably familiar with it. Despite a slight re-ordering of tracks and the vastly superior sound quality offered to me by the CD version, I'm glad to say it's none of its original bite. Glitchy, dubby and pretty abrasive at times; this is far removed from the melancholic warmth of Kompakt fodder.
Presented as a seamless narrative, there are very few missteps here. But sticking my DJ hat on, I reckon the Basic-Channel clank of 'Sharpie', Sutekh style erroneous rhythms on 'Starstruck' and the reductionist funk of 'Otto' would be gladly put through my Traktor.
Herve Boghossian: Mouvements (Raster Noton) - CD
Originally released in 2004, Parisian-based Herve Boghossian takes altered guitar through laptop processes resulting in an album of stark alien beauty. Granulated, pixel-fine emissions sustained by classicist chords and tonal holds. Each track a subtle variation on the last. Reminiscent at times of Fennesz's more tender moments. Experimental, yes, but fiercely accessible too.
Hecker: Electronic Music Soundtrack for "The Disenchanted Forest x 1001" by Angela Bulloch (Editions Mego) - Double CD
A full eight months after it comes out, I finally manage to nab a copy of this elusive fucker of a CD. Seems like the Tate Britain (where the exhibition of Angela Bulloch's installation was held) have bought most of the copies of this and held them in storage. Presumably for our own well being; regular doses of Hecker have not been recommended for maintaining good health.
But then, you are talking to someone who thinks 'PV Trecks' and 'Sun Pandamonium' are two of the greatest releases in the last 100 years. So I may be a little biased.
Still, this sounds like him. That undefinable low-level code quality of noise, tones and frequencies here given a wide canvas. Given extra spacial awareness on the 'Stereo Mix', recorded in the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin complete with natural reverb. The 2nd disc contains the same material, just direct from his harddisc.
Just a heads up to tell you that I've launched 2 sites today. One to promote the activities of a musician who's work just keeps getting better and better. And the other, announcing the closure of a renowned record label. Two sides of the same coin you could say.
More words on both Max's new album ('Songs from Before') and how Output Recordings came to close from boss man Trevor Jackson very soon.
King Tubby meets Jacob Miller: In a tenement yard (Motion) - CD
It was the cover that got me initially. Looking more like a prog rock album with it's collage of Minimoog V keyboards arranged into a speaker. Then Karl from Soul Jazz Records of Soho mumbled about it being incredibly 'rare'. I assume the staff always said that about every other release, just so they could flog stock to the next Japanese / Swedish tourist that passes through.
But after reading the excellent sleeve notes by David Katz (author of the sublime 'Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee Scratch Perry') I was convinced this was something special. Luckily for you dear reader (and for Soul Jazz), it didn't disappoint. Fourteen tracks of precision dub, laced with a subtle layer of space-inflected synth work.
Biosphere: Dropsonde (Touch) - CD
Having just had the pleasure of meeting the man himself when I was his DJ support at some industry shindig in Central London the other week. I'd decided to backtrack and revisit this, his last album for Touch. Those first few albums for R&S Records were deceptively dubbed 'ambient', but I'd found them to be anything but. More propulsive statements in isolated techno.
In short 'Dropsonde' is pretty amazing. The opening snow drift of 'Dissolving Clouds' lends an abstract, disengaged feel that's reminiscent of earlier work before the shuffling jazz drums of 'Birds Fly By Flapping Their Wings' sets the tone for the rest of the album. And despite his meteorological association with winter, I found this to be a warm, accessible, beautifully presented and inviting piece of contemporary electronic music.
AVVA: Gdansk Queen (Erstwhile) - DVD
This takes Toshimaru Nakamura's organic, feedback ridden loops generated from his 'no-input mixing board' technique and sets it to visuals. Billy Roisz's jittery, moire-infected patterns aren't really meant to be studied, just like Nakamura's music isn't meant to have focus.
Certainly not ambient by nature, with frequencies taking sudden, dangerous routes into intolerable thresholds. Matched visually by stark colour contrasts and oscillating shifts. Investigating areas that we've learned to reject: distortion, feedback, noise....visually as well as sonically.
Errorsmith. Click here to view flickr.
Saturday 5th August 2006
The Concrete, Lower Marsh, London
Terms like 'spastic disco' and 'elastic breaks' have been thrown about when it comes to describing Erik Wiegand's cheekily-titled Errorsmith project. With only a handful of releases and even less live visibility, this was a rare treat for anyone interested in the more adventurous end of dancefloor rhythms.
Sonically, it was all about ergonomics. Melodies seemed to crackle'n pop, beats were flung around like rubber and everything was filtered through a digital purifier.
Snapping tempo's together from such disparate genres as Chicago house - First Choice's 'Let no man put asunder' to lewd dancefloor - South Rakkas Crew's brilliant 'Bionic Ras Riddim'. From digital dub - Rhythm & Sound's sublime 'See Mi Yah' to his own brand of wonky techno (anything off his 'Near Disco Dawn' LP) meant there was no let up in his 3-hour time slot.
The small, south-London, warehouse party style sound system struggled to keep up with his short attention span. But the crowd seemed to have no problems though. With the stifling heat adding to the atmosphere and the girls ending up dancing barefoot. He smiled, we writhed.
Islaja. Click here to view flickr.
Fonal Records Showcase
Friday 24th March May 2006
St Giles-in-the-Fields Church, 60 St Giles High Street, London
I'm trying hard to recall what I heard at this gig. But I made the mistake of reading the Wire review and I think if I wrote words about it now....Anyway, to be honest, I spent most of the time exploring the fact that I was in a church smack in the middle of the West End for a concert.
Thinking about it now, the low-level emissions from Es made the most impact. But don't quote me on that. I just liked looking at the chandeliers.