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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Hola, this increasingly relevant blog is currently being updated by a geeky ex-flatmate currently residing in Buenos Aires.

Normal service will resume shortly...

ChrisM (20/12/03)

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm moving house tomorrow and what with Christmas/New Year festivities, fixing up my ace new pad by the seaside and lack of internet connection there won't be much action here for a bit. Which is probably a good thing for all concerned. It's been fun discovering the blogowhatsit over the last 3 months (that all?) - I feel like I've known you all my life, gush.

Merry Xmas and a Happy 2004, TufLuv Mike. Back soon... ///

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Can only second Reynolds' hope for da noo fing, "MACROhaus (Felix 'Don't You Want My Love' meets Giselle Jackson 'Love Commandments' meets The Mover meets Energy 52 'Cafe Del Mar')" - don't know the middle ones (or maybe I do) but the others are two of my all time podium-moment faves.

Here's hoping for more sensation, excitement and thrusting rave devastation in the new year (most tunes with sirens, please). And for the 'fashionable' return of good manners. And maybe a good new magazine. Possibly mine.

Fela DVD 'Music Is The Weapon' - see it.

Playhouse 'Famous When Dead' vol 1 - play it again, it's still ace.

Note to self: control hungover posts

///

"I looked down and saw the fish"

Arthur Russell
Went to that Nag-Nag-Nag last night. All in the cause of duty. I got horribly drunk and now I just feel wrong. Yes, wrong would be the word. Didn't see the supposed Dave Clarke, though I may have heard it. Great music, except for the ridiculous band with Jonny Slut (I think) in a gold lame jacket sounding like a karaoke Steve Strange with drum & bass backing. ///

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

What the fuck is going on?! I've just heard two hip-hop tunes that namecheck david beckham, one shite sub-R. Kelly (now that IS bad) track called 'Gigolo' and this from Jay-Z on the Missy album:

"Evisu jeans cover the rectum/I kick game just like David Beck-um"

First they get into Es, now footie? What next? Whippets? Pie 'n' mash?? ///
Yeah, I'm going to get more into disco. Chic are great.

Cor, that Arthur Russell album on Rough Trade has gotten stuck in my Sanyo 3-CD changer hi-fi system and each time it comes on keeps washing through my ears an brain like ethereal audio magic from beyond. It ain't disco, as such, more fractured, ghostly avant-groove-pop with elements that pre-date all eras of modern electronic music (well, actually, it was recorded in the five years before he died in 1992), maybe its something about posthumous releases - like Joe Strummer singing 'Silver and Gold' at the end of 'Streetcore', about wanting to go out dancing all night and kissing all the pretty girls before he got too old (yeah he sounds like some sentimental old punk granddad but it got me right there, OK) - but this seems to have a an extra kind of spirit or shimmer. Wooooo-oooohhh.... Full review soon.

Record shops - Matt knows, nuff sed. I'm a Pure Groove man myself, though it's a bit shit and also specialises in dreadful hard house, they do sort me out with an occasional grime fix.

///
(Simon requested I post this, so here it is. If you have any beef with this - facts, inaccuracies, questions, whatever, email me. Respects to the family and friends of Robert Davis Jr aka DJ Screw and the people in Texas who helped me with this piece.)

(published in Sleazenation magazine, April 2003)
--

CULT HERO: DJ SCREW

He’s an unknown hip-hop legend; creator of Houston’s slowed-down sound phenomenon and advocate of the mind-bending syrup that slowed him down, dead. But just who was DJ Screw and why did he change the way we listen to hip-hop forever?


GO SLOW
On an internet radio arts show, a nasally-voiced host – evidently white, middle-class, middle-American – is discussing the nature of time with a renowned physicist. Rather than dissecting Einstein’s theory of relativity, he starts talking about some guy called Screw, a hip-hop DJ from Texas. This is weird, but so is the music lurching menacingly beneath the voice-over of an equally nasally-voiced host. It’s rap, only slow – dead slow – like the cassette’s in a state of degeneracy, decaying on its spools or being slowly, excruciatingly devoured by the machine. “It’s like the soundtrack to a fever dream,” remarks the host. “I think it’s marvellous,” chirps the physicist.

REWIND
Few outside the Southern states of America have heard of DJ Screw, but in his hometown of Houston he’s a legend. It was (myth has it) by accident that, while smoking weed, drinking and playing records with friends some time in 1989, an 18-year-old DJ named Robert Earl Davis Jr nudged the pitch control of his turntable, slowing the beat to a dragging pace, the bass lunging deeper while the vocals splurged out in a drawn, lugubrious baritone. His stoned homies said it sounded dope, one offering Robert $10 to make him a tape of that mad, slow shit. The next day others came back for more. And more. ‘DJ Screw’ (his moniker supposedly derived from a habit of defacing records he’d taken a disliking to with a screw) began making his ‘screwed-down’ tapes in his garage and selling them on. He’d take a big track of the day (his favourites being the jheri-curled, horizontally-inclined G-funk of the West Coast), cut and scratch between two copies, then, when the recording was finished, slow the whole master tape down and copy it to stacks of cassettes, or ‘greys’. Once done, he’d flog them at whatever local night-spot he as playing. Before long people were knocking down his door.

SIPPIN’ ON SOME SYRUP
It wasn’t for nothing that the kids of Houston were digging this strange, slow music that came to be known, after its creator, as ‘Screw’. In fact, these ‘screwed’ mixtapes would have been a quickly forgotten fad were it not for the bizarre Southern taste for the prescription codeine cough medicine, Promethazine, of which Screw was a notable advocate. For the black and Hispanic youth of Southside H-Town, like any place, social ritual revolved around music, cars, getting laid and getting high. Screw’s tapes, often featuring the verbal accompaniment of compadres such as Lil’ Flip, Big Mo and H.A.W.K, would wax on about such local pastimes as “swangin’ and bangin” (deftly swerving and manoeuvring their low-riders), enjoying ‘wet’ spliffs, dipped in formaldehyde and PCP, and “sippin’ on syrup”. Customarily mixed with soda and ice in a Styrofoam cup, the steely purple potion apparently brings on a lethargic, hallucinatory state when sipped, heightening aural perception and seeming to slow time. It’s also called ‘lean’, ‘cause that’s what it makes you do. Quite simply, with syrup, ‘Screw’ music made sense.

GET SCREWED
So Screw began his own homespun enterprise. Screwing the tapes in his apartment, he’d accept callers who wanted to buy them, taking up to $3,000 some nights. Understandably, the police soon suspected Screw of dealing drugs and kicked in his front door. He moved house and set up strict business hours of between 8 and 10pm. Screwheads began arriving in cars from all over the South – Screw selling them greys as they lined up at the gate, a dog and a .45 for protection. It wasn't until much later, in 1998, that he actually got around to opening his own shop, Screwed Up Records and Tapes, selling cassettes from behind a bullet-proof counter.

The accidental entrepreneur was becoming a reluctant ghetto celebrity, and as the sound began infecting the South, so the A&R men came a-knocking. Screw finally relented in 1995 with his first legit release for BigTyme Records, ‘All Screwed Up’. He’d happily open his home studio to local artists, letting them rap over his tapes and overseeing their own projects. He formed his own Houston posse, Screwed Up Click, just as people were beginning to attribute Houston’s drop in violent crime to this new, slow scene. Screw’s MCs seldom rapped about guns or violence: perhaps folk were just too busy sippin’ and swangin’ and bangin’ to be out shooting one another. Still, as the albums ‘3 N The Mornin’’ and ‘All Work and No Play’ followed, Screw refused to go overground. Instead he was screwing himself up.

LIVE SLOW DIE YOUNG
It wasn’t just Screw’s music that was slow, it was his whole being. Weighing in at well over 200lbs and standing just 5’ 7” tall, Screw’s penchant for syrup was being readily augmented by weed, prescription pills, booze and buckets of fried chicken. As time rolled on, friends found him increasingly confused and even unusually sluggish. On November 16, 2000, Robert Earl Davis Jr was discovered dead on his bathroom floor. An ice cream wrapper was clutched between his fingers. He was 29. The autopsy all but confirmed what his friends already knew: Screw had overdosed on the oozing mixture that fuelled his music – ‘toxic levels’ of the opiate-based codeine plus traces of valium, PCP, marijuana and alcohol had apparently brought on a heart attack. No one has really asked out loud whether Screw was addicted, though some that knew him say he sipped every day for ten years. Hundreds gathered for his funeral in nearby Smithville, low-riders bangin’ Screw tapes outside the church.

Screw’s death hasn’t halted the steady proliferation of his eponymous sound. Recently Memphis, Tennessee’s Three 6 Mafia scored a nation-wide hit with the codeine-inspired ‘Sippin’ On Some Syrup’, exalting Screw’s favoured tipple over a slouching, screwed beat. The music press began citing him as a catalyst in the success of the new ‘Dirty South’, some even drawing comparisons with the spliff-zonked slumber-beats of mid-‘90s British trip-hop. Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes and Houston svengali, Mathew Knowles (Beyonce’s dad), recently revealed they’re big fans, whilst a tribute album, The Screw Heads’ ‘Forever and a Day’, featuring collaborators Lil’ Flip, Big Pokey and (rapper) ESG, was released in 2001. Screwed mixes of tracks by everyone from Ice Cube to Eminem abound on the internet, while Screw’s own mixtapes can be bought online from Screwed Up Records and The Screw Shop (titles such as the gloopily melancholy-sounding ‘June 27th’ having achieved cult status), each site displaying a poignant tribute to the Godfather of Slow.

Meanwhile, two white guys sit in a darkened NY studio puzzling over the woozy, slumberous beat emanating from their monitors. The scientist appears rapt at this dead DJ’s ability to turn technology against itself and, by slowing time, create new sonic worlds. Only time, in the end, caught up. ///

--

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

More info on Hardcore Is More Than Music, who just emailed me back. It's run by Nendie and Nina who graduated from Chelsea art school this summer and have started their own business with the Prince's Trust to run their music workshops and fanzine. There are more projects planned here and in the US (the last one was at the Stowe Centre on Harrow Road), and they're off to Glasgow to see the bhangra guys up there and work with a similar scheme. They've even met with Tony Blair to discuss it.... Now that IS hardcore.

Nendie says: "Most of the young people we work with need a much more radical version of proactive learning than is offered to them, although we work with many charities in London we feel they just cannot offer the right mentors and structure so we have been trying to do that independently."

Wicked stuff. ///

Singles:

Kelis ‘Milkshake’ (X-Press 2 Mixes) (Virgin)
What’s the point? When you think of the remixers that could have been drafted in for this, one of 2003’s most amazing, aggressively inventive tracks that in its original form bares more than one or two of the hallmarks of early-‘90s R&S (‘Dominator’/’The Vamp’’s hoover basslines especially), and they get in X-Press 2 to do their ordinary, plodding house thing. Now XP2 have made some amazing tracks in their time, but this isn’t one of them. 'Milkshake' just doesn’t lend itself to a straight 4/4 - it wants to be ruffed up, fucked over - it was simply begging for radical garage/electro/drum & bass/dancehall-styled overhauls and right now, in someone’s bedroom, I suspect someone is doing just that. ///

Cae$ar ‘EP’ (Keys of Life)
Superb, from its sleeve that looks like a Smiths record to each of the uncompromising four jack-tacks, former Ralphi Rosario collaboraor Cae$ar (aka Jessie J) has returned after years in obscurity, making ringtones in Finland for Nokia (it’s true!). ‘Do You Have a Dime’ is just so brash and brutal – it’s pure acid house: loud, unruly, restless, frenetic, flexed, and perfect for these times of ‘86-style mayhem – a wobbling 303 bassline oscilating like a hot-wired heart monitor, snares and cymbals rushing and piling on top of one another in a percussive orgy with camped-up vocal samples backing up on one another, the jarring momentum prolonging climax right up to every frenzied drum-build that breaks like a wave and spills its neon mess into the next maddening bar. You can see what he means when Cae$ar calls it ‘gymnastic house music’. The ‘Extended Bonus Beatz’ on the same side are the pure distillation of percussive acid voodoo; trance through drums and bass, a constant, aggressive aural massage of reflexive, layered and chopped beats. ‘Jack On Deez Trax’ is a more syncopated ghetto-style track in the mode of Detroit’s Direct Beat or Frankie Bones’ housier outings, given a muscular Chi-style bassline and chirrupy vocal sample, bound to go down well with the electro/UK Bass crowd, and even the most daring of sub-low spinners, what with its awkward stepping beat, bollock-busting bass and clattering cymbals. Things conclude with the unashamedly gay-sounding ‘Boyz of Caligula’; rubbery analogue electro-house a la recent Gus Gus, pitched down from the earlier orgiastic frenzy and embellished with chasing synth lines and light-catching bleeps giving it a glittery disco sparkle to off-set the angular, double-jointed groove beneath. A triumphant return and a late entry for house EP of the year. TufLuvs! ///

Spektrum ‘Kinda New’ (Tiefschwarz Remixes) (Playhouse)
More future-retro-styled house as Ali and Basti Schwarz rework Gabriel O and Co’s newie in a style reminiscent to DFA’s masterful job on Le Tigre’s ‘Decepticon’. Lola’s vocal is cute and devilishly seductive, cooing “we all live and die” over a bassline that coils back on itself and unleashes sporadically like an irritated cobra. The flickering plinks and glitter-showering sparks that rain down over its groove add a feel of dark disco grandeur over piston-hard, rapid-fire ‘Blue Monday’ snare salvos ; a noirish abandon, dancers veiled in black. The B-side dub takes it one step moodier with a fuzzing bassline that snarls angrily throughout. Superb tech-disco nastiness. ///

Patagonica festival, Chile, Feb 04: If someone wants to pay for me to go to this please let me know, wink, wink. ///
Check out Jim's depiction of Uptown Records. How have I lived in London two years and never been in? Sounds like what people have told me of Blackmarket circa mid-'90s; the record shop as hub of scene activity. Big tings a gwan. ///
SPEKTRUM:

NUFF RESPEKT


A lithe and sweaty meld of live and livewire, East London quartet Spektrum have seemingly arrived on cue for the fashionable return of guitars to the disco. Formed four years ago by classically-trained producer, Gabriel Olegavich, and singer, Lola Olafisoye (having since doubled in size to incorporate Kiwis Isaac on drums and bass-slinger, Taya), the band however boast a P-funk exuberance closer to the amped-up digi-squall of Basement Jaxx’ ‘Kish Kash’ than the malnourished groove of The Rapture. “It’s weird,” recalls Gabriel. “People were saying, ‘Yeah man, you’re quite like ESG,’ and we were saying, ‘Who the hell are they?!’. It was really instinctive, just about trying to have a live sound but something that you could dance to.”

It’s a blend that’s won over a diverse range of venues, from the silty shores of the River Thames – where they performed as resident band at last year’s triumphant Reclaim the Beach free parties – to Frankfurt’s Robert Johnson club, where Playhouse owners Ata and Heiko became so enamoured with Spektrum’s four-year-old ‘Freakbox’ single that they were compelled to sign it themselves. Even so, the band bare few of the hallmarks of the urbane, glitched-up micro-house sound of Germany, preferring instead to strut their supple, stripped spunk-funk and technoid avant-disco live in a sweaty intermingling of fused and bruised electronics and sexed-up soul.

The live experience is certainly that: alive and an experience. “I can’t explain it,” says Lola, straining to describe her performances, the missing link between bad-ass heroines Betty Davis and Polly Styrene. “It’s just what I do; all the different emotions inside and experiences and loves and hates and all those things. For me it’s kind of like therapy – on stage you can become really wild. I get in trouble because I’m very expressive, but when you’re on the stage you don’t necessarily get into trouble. I can just scream if I want to.”

And whilst Spektrum are a ‘band’ in every traditional sense, it’s impossible not to mention the other irons Gabriel has in his somewhat crowded fire. What with the electrified future-garage of Medasyn, a recent remix of Christina Aguilera, playing the French horn for Dani Siciliano, running the Nonstop label with Nick ‘Boxsaga’ Phillips and various other production duties as well working on experimental classical compositions, it’s a wonder he ever found time to rehearse and perform, nevermind record an album with Spektrum – an album which, incidentally, is set to blow your mind. “I can’t really help it,” he admits. “I just like different types of music and want to be involved in different things.”

Impulsive, sexy, intelligent, obsessive – this is beginning to sound like one hell of a band.

(for publication in Jockey Slut: Feb 2004)///
Wish more people would talk about techno this way - of course, it needs to be good techno, which as Tim infers is not robotic/mechanical/sterile but visceral, sensual, coursing with life. I have this album, wasn't immediately struck first time but will have to return for a second round. ///
Picked up an interesting 'zine thing the other day called Hardcore Is More Than Music: Jon E Cash on the cover, involved in a West London youth project with garage kids as well as 808 State's Graham Massey and hardcore US punk bands like Dillinger Escape Plan getting these kids to do tracks with them. Also a story called 'Welcome to the Disorded Future of the Eski Kidz' in which prospects for teens of the grime generation are compared to those of the wayward young knaves of Elizabethan times, the origins of apprenticeships and some such modern-day programmes (didn't know that RWD magazine has been awarded London's business of the year by The Prince's Trust and was started with a grant from said trust). Good piece on sub-low as the future sound, inc. some good comments on the NME and how the UK music industry is shit-scared of DiY dance music and revels in the current rock 'revolution' (Quote: "The release of The Strokes 'Is This It?' was the musical 9/11"), plus stuff on Kilroy (him off the telly), war, council estates, an A to Z of friendship and incongruous weird shit. Big block lettering, double page b/w pics, minimal proof reading, articulate, intelligent and disorientating. Apparently it's won awards from the Guardian and is done by two London girls at university. Pick it up if you see it. ///

Monday, December 15, 2003

Today I'm in Holloway, at home, putting off the work I have to do, but yesterday I was walking on a beach in the December near-dark, keeping as close to the shore as I could and listening to the waves lapping up nearly to my feet and the fizz of bubbles bursting on the sand as they ebbed away, wanting to record it. There were gaggles of sea birds flying in loose formation close to the water, flying out to sea until they were lost in the gloom, and I wondered if they'd been seperated from a bigger group flying south for winter and whether they were lost. It wasn't even four o'clock but it was twilight; the gloaming. The sea looked liked silver scales floating on mercury and the sky was like a watercolour wash of grey and lilac and barely anyone was around: maybe a few couples about my age walking, in love, people walking dogs, older people having Sunday afternoon walks as it got dark, like night. As I walked back into the wind towards my parents' house just off the beach there was a brilliant white/green security light from one of the hotels that lit up a swathe of sand and gilted the foaming edge of the darkening sea an amazing luminescent green. I suppose I always liked being by the sea because it's always different, always moving and when you look out there you don't really know what's beyond the horizon - France one way, but if you went in a straight line at a slightly different angle you might end up in Brazil. I'm glad I'll be living by the sea again soon. Rivers and canals were never for me. ///
If anyone knows how I can get my archives back drop me an email. Not sure if I've done something with the template by accident. Where's the geeky flatmate when you need him? ///
Among his latest batch check out Simon R riffing on the Texan Screw sound - the slowed-down hip-hop style pioneered by the late DJ Screw and closlely associated to consumption of mind-bending codeine cough syrup:

"A woozy-Uzi feel, like gangstas whose psychological armour is melting, releasing a long pent-up lush melancholy at times oddly redolent of Gary Numan at his most Satiesque and grandly pretty..."

Nice!

Might have to post an article I wrote on Screw earlier this year. Quite a bizarre story. ///
Marcello Carlin announces his imminent departure, plus beautifully denoted end of year list. Certainly a few to catch up on there - still have to hold truck with Athlete, but. Sad to see you go, just as I was getting aquainted. ///

Also nuff props to young soul rebel, Sean O'Connell, a man so cynical for one so young. He's off on a zeitgeist hunt armed with a rapier wit. Can't say the name's after my own heart, but look in for some future gems of diamond-tipped verbals. ///

What the postman sent me this morning:
4hero Remix Collection
Arthur Russell 'Calling Out of Context' (Rough Trade) - (posthumous release of RT album, nothing to do with the Soul Jazz comp)

Could be a good week. ///

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