Friday, October 10, 2003

ALBUMS// MINOTAUR SHOCK ‘RINSE’ (MELODIC) What is with this certain type of bedroom boffin that makes them so resistant to growing up? It’s there in music by Pilote, Lucky Pierre, Minotaur Shock and others, where the melodies are those of childhood memory – music boxes, nursery rhymes, lullabies – but what makes the best of it compelling listening rather than sentimental chill-out rubbish (see Lemon Jelly for that) is where the comfort-zone is invaded by darker, threatening forces: dark, oppressive basslines, confused, broken up rhythms and discomfitting sounds at every turn; the refuge in innocence haunted by the frightening realities of the adult world. Here, the toddlerish clumsiness of some of the ynt and beat patterns belies a refined sensitivity: the naïve and the complex cohabiting in harmony, jaunty and melancholy by turns. On the opening ‘46 Tops’ a cascading jazz jam of hungry drums chomp out a groove, the melodies all smoke-rings and ice-water. ‘Let Me Out’ has a ghostly, mournful breaking-down cello sighing and huffing a big, empty room. ‘Albert Park Music’ is a sad rainshower lament, piano drawing patterns on a misted window pane. In contrast ‘Don’t be a Slave…’ and ‘Motoring Britain’ revel in galloping, chopped-up drum breaks, dissected rap samples, rolling rhythms interspersed with plaintive yet uplifting guitar like sunbeams through parting clouds. It could only be because it’s autumn that this feels right, right now. ///

VILLALOBOS ‘ALCACHOFA’ (PLAYHOUSE) Any genrefication of music is repressive: imposes straitjackets, tramlines for others to slavishly fall into until the template wears out and we call for another. We see it all the time, moan about it all the time, it generally goes without saying. It’s great, then, to have Ricardo Villalobos giving us (in a very generous sense) an album that wriggles free of the lassoes of the genre-rustlers and escapes the nimble filing-fingers of the Orwellian pigeonhole fascists. Not because it’s ‘eclectic’, but because it’s just what it is. If you’ve had enough of the Tundric drift of Force Inc/Kompact/Trapez microhouse, then you should really get your teeth into the fulsome, meaty flesh of this. The name means artichoke (in Spanish, I presume), the bizarre plant-cum-foodstuff being a perfect metaphor for the music (or vice versa), which is lush green stuff, pulsing with life and vivacity, intoxicating, melifluous and full of strange, fruity flavour. All gristly beats, hypnotic singing vocoders and dense, bass-heavy layers pulling you under with a head-swimmingly amaesthetic undertow before hitting you up with such flushed, swoonsome melodies as ‘Dexter’, like Bola underpinned by a spritzy four-to-the-floor. Senor Villalobos will be a regular visitor to Fabric next year, which is at least one reason to anticpate 2004 like a salivating fool. ///

Thursday, October 09, 2003

ALBUMS// SASCHA FUNKE ‘BRAVO’ (BPITCH CONTROL) A tight sense of flux. A love-struck heart. The wide-eyed fear of a child. The tenderness of a touch. The bloodrush of arousal. The increasing pulse. The groin-centric throb brought on by the gentle tug-tugging of dance/sex temptation. So it goes with east Berlin’s Sascha Funke, whose music is dipped in sugared romance and pastel-coloured melancholy, set to a disco groove oiled with love. It's clean-lined and scientific but with layered depth and a feel of restraint where the emotion might burst out unceremoniously like a held-back laugh or torrent of melodramatic tears. Simplicity, electricity and emotion are the building blocks: it’s like a rudimentary, economical means have been employed through which to channel feelings that run deep – like a symphony composed on a stylophone or a masterpiece attempted with crayons: childlike and plastic yet no less inscrutably and mesmerisingly human. The bittersweet ‘Forms and Shapes’ could ostensibly be a lovesong to polygons (mmm, rhombus, I love you), Fritz Kalkbrenner’s faltering, inelegant voice forming enigmatic half-lyrics that dissolve into the watery chord-drift – melodic like perfumed smoke stinging your eyes – riding a bullfrog-croak bassline and chunky electronic house groove, it wants to put you to bed with sweet dreams of geometric loving. ‘Strassentanz’ is a gentle, tender epic of tiny coloured lights flashing on/off in sequence with the melody, raspy organs rising and falling, overlapping, (s)welling up with heart-burnt emotion, tingling and sensitive, parping for joy like a little toy-town orchestra. With ‘Now You Know’ the Fisher Price tinky-tonk synthetic melodix play at being grown-up cello and harpsichord; a gorgeous sad-and-happy song with no words until the final few seconds where Kalkbrenner’s naked-sounding, near-breaking voice suggests a case of unrequited love. On ‘I Just Can’t Wait’, the clunky house beats are like clockwork cogs turning into place. On the Detroity ‘Saso’, the groove is supple and sinuous, stretching out and piping softly-lit chords. Whilst this is maybe the prettiest 4/4 album you could hear without it falling into that abyss of nothingness that is deep house, there is a dark flipside: the muscle-clenched techno throb of the title-track that nudges into trance territory, the cold, Warp-ish edge of ‘Twingo’. ‘Quiet Please’, meanwhile, is a swimming, Luomo-style hypno-groove; cloudy and trippy with Funke’s own voice not unlike Bernard Sumner cooing “I wanna… tock to you” menacingly down the phone at a stalking victim, whilst the blippy ‘Semi’ keeps the mood shadowy and seductive; chord patterns criss-crossing one another, everything paring down slowly to an ambient pause until the whole thing kicks into action again, shaking away the sleep. Where Teutonic functionality, basic house naïvete and the melodic sensitivity of the classiest synth-pop collide, there is Sascha Funke, making honest, vulnerable, confused, gutsy paeans to anglepoise lamps and shoelaces and goldfish to dance to in your own private fantasy. Cynicism be damned. ///
US hip-hop bloke Peanut Butter Wolf on broken beats (Touch magazine): "Hearing the music on a booming soundsystem at places like Co-Op was unlike anything else we've experienced in recent memory. The DJ Rels album* was made in the US, but it's kind of a tribute to what we heard when we went to London. Kinda like when Quincy Jones went to Brazil in the 1950s and was blown away by the music and incorporated it into his own."
(*PBW's Stones Throw associate, Madlib, has recorded a broken beat album under the name DJ Rels)

Madlib on broken beats (Jockey Slut): "... [it's] soulful, diff'rent, weird programmes on the drums, like some advanced Herbie Hancock..." (Madlib has also recorded a house album: "That shit's easy")

Dave Clarke on techno (DJmag): "I got into house music because it was funky, I got into techno because it was funky in a leftfield way and because the music was predomiantly black. I miss that there's no blackness in the scene any more. Techno has become too white, too sanitised. I wanted to get the jacking feeling back in, get the girls' hips moving and my hips moving, too."

Deuce magazine on techno (in response to a German readers' enquiry as to why the don't cover it): "Techno? Techno! Erm, this is anurban music mag (garage, hip-hop, r&b). Deuce despises techno and would like you to have a free subscription to help you understand why."

Kelis on rock and 'urban' (Touch): "I think rock is black music that was taken from us and urban to me just means city, so I don't used that word when referring to myself or my people's music. I'm an artist point blank, I make music, I love music, I am black, very black."
Luke Vibert @ Plastic People last night: Acid slo-jamz, sub-bass knee tremblers, box-jacking sanity bending and a hefty wodge of hyperspastic, lung-crushing, throat-grabbing, limb-jerking, mind-imploding '93 breakbeat science for the never-say-die jungle tekno crew. The thrill of coming inches/decibels aware from blowing out an ear drum. The body-brain short-circuit of remebering how you do actually dance to pre-steppa jungle (it IS all over the place; an exploded sound, not regimented rhythm-lockdown for 'soldiers'). 'I Luv Acid' = Jean-Jacque Perrey-meets-Phuture/the equivalent of a radioactive lava-lamp on meltdown. Could this be stoner-acid? A healthy night all-round, but maybe London needs to learn how to jack again?///

Monday, October 06, 2003

Fuc me, people actually seem to be reading this. Thanks Simon and others for cheking tufluv on your blogs - not even a week yet and the peeps are showing me luv like I was Robyn S. Welcome the new dawn of the bored ignoramus: victory will be ours. This week Tuf will be mostly reviewing painfully self-important records by anally-retentive wiggas from Canada and the new one by Ultrabeat. Look out for: Psychonauts, Nag Nag Nag, Alias, Einoma, Sascha Funke, H-Foundation, Adam F & DJ Fresh, Foremost Poets, Clones, Minotaur Shock, Four Tet, James Holden, Underworld, Roy Ayers, Aesop Rock, Zoot Woman, Nicky Blackmarket, Her Space Holiday, Kamerakino, Matmos, I:Cube and anything else that I can waste a few hours on. But that's not a promise. Hang tuf!///
I think I ought to re-iterate just how good Miss Kittin's remix of Ellen Allien is. It's the first remix/production she's done without the aid of a co-producer - not that it's a case of chauvinistically saying "Wow, she's done that all on her lonesome", but just because it's totally not what you might expect. Virtually disregarding the original she's created something between Mum and John Beltran circa 'Earth and Nightfall'; fragile ambience that's gauzy and dreamy yet dramatic. It's not revolutionary in itself, but whether she's consciously distancing herself from the assumption that she's some simpering Euro-vamp who only appears on other peoples' electro records or not, it's a gorgeous piece of music and an indication of what lies beneath. Look out for it. In fact, the whole package is great. Proper Girl Power. ///
Just to show that I only do my research after I've written something...

Dance Conspiracy - Dub War

Written By Sponge / DJ Pulse / Stretch
Produced By Sponge / DJ Pulse / Stretch
© XL Recordings 1992
Originally on Metamorphosis, when re-released on XL this tune finally got the full backing it deserved. Kicks off with a slowed down Sax solo sampled from a Public Enemy tune before moving into a mass of girly vocals, strings and cut up drum loops. Remixed again in '94 and released as "War For '94" by Badman unfortunately minus the vibe of the original. Currently the most expensive 12" I have bought thanks to only buying it on CD when it originally came out.

COMPILATION// AUDIO BULLYS: BACK TO MINE (DMC) Like I was saying about the Chicken Lips mix, this type of compilation is getting increasingly frequent and decreasingly imaginative. There are now probably about six or seven different titles based around the same idea, some artists having compiled more than one. and each time you feel you're learning less and less aout the people involved and their own personal musical worlds. Now, upon receiving this latest one from concept originators DMC (merely weeks, it seems, after ones from Underworld, Ian Brown and Tricky) I scanned the tracklist and it all seemed fairly predictable - like Simon and Tom Audio Bully had waded back through all the interviews they'd done in the past year and highlighted all the reference points mentioned by journalists (Madness, The Specials, speed garage, etc). It began to seem a futile exercise, all pretty shallow and with no surprise inclusions that made you think "So, they like that?!" (I mean, everyone likes the Beach Boys and Marvin Gaye, don't they?)... But playin it struck me that it could've, with a few alterations, been compiled by me. I mean, last time I read something abot them, the Audio Bullys were 22 and 24 (though being pedantic, they could now be 23 and 25). I'm currently 24, at which age I feel both old and t the same time too young to be feeling so old. Until now most of these compilations have come from people older than me - people in their mid-late thirties who've been around a bit. And, generally speaking, you're more interested in the musical tastes of people older than yourself (I mean, are you interested in hearing a CD of S Club 8's 'influences'?). It's like digging around in your older siblings'/parents' record collections - a bit of wisdom to rub off on yourself, records passed down the lineage like folk tales. So this is the first 'inspirations'-style comp that's actually included tracks that are resonant for me personally. Which causes a few problems. The tracklisting struck me as obvious when I read it. Now, let's eliminate the main suspects: (Madness 'My Girl', The Specials' 'Blank Expression', for some reason two songs by the Stranglers, 'Peaches' and 'Golden Brown', Marvin Gaye's 'Mercy Mercy Me' and the Beach Boys' 'God Only Knows'). We can also get rid of others like the Kinks' 'All Day and All of the Night' and Squeeze's 'Up the Junction'; both of which I love but have blatantly been selected to emphasise the quintessential English lad-ishness of the Bullys who, we're told, follow in the great tradition of suburban whiteboy chancers infatuated with black US music, etc, etc. Of the remaining tracks we're left with bits of music that trace the evolution of my own tastes through mixtapes, friends, early musical purchases and clubs. I find that at least I'm not the only person for whom the Prodigy's 'Out of Space' was a life-changing moment. I have sometimes wondered whether I'm a bit shallow in that rave music, with all its connotations of white gloves, Vicks and whistles was what got me 'into' music (which I hadn't been bothered about at all pre-puberty) rather than the soul-scarred humanity of grunge, or even hip-hop's 'realness' and intensity. Equally important are tracks like Wildchild's 'Renegade Master', that got me 'into' house music, or Dee Patten's 'Who the Bad Man', that first confused me about genre specifications (was it house, was it hardcore?). But most importantly, Dance Conspiracy's 'Dub War', which if you don't know it is an amazing hardcore track from around 1992 that uses the same saxophone sample as Public Enemy's 'Show Em Whatcha Got' over a fuck-off breakbeat and a dubwise bassline with an enormous hands -in-the-air, girl-vocal breakdown that I never considered for a second to be 'cheesy'. I was 14, it was euphoric... and no, I wasn't doing pills. It was on all my favourite tapes at the time - Ellis Dee, Mickey Finn, Jumpin' Jack Frost - and it was probably another year or two before I found out what is was called (I still haven't found it on vinyl, and if anyone could tell me who it's by I would be most grateful). Because that meant more to me in my adolescence than Love, or Stevie Wonder or Carl Craig, does that make me a shallow person? Do I have the right to be writing about music, as if I actually 'know' stuff? I don't know if it matters. I spoke to an ex-colleague the other night who's 31 or 32 and has lived his whole adult life in thrall to acid house. I told him I was 9 in 1988, at which he looked genuinely disturbed and seemed to shun me for a bit. When I realise I've spent a considerable amount of time and money in looking for the records he was dancing to when he was 16 or 17 I have to wonder why, and whether younger people will care about BBE's 'Seven Days and One Week' when I'm 32. But perhaps nostalgia is a complete waste of time after all.///

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