Tuesday, January 13, 2004


If The Ramm:Ell:Zee’s name has been written out of hip-hop’s history, it wouldn’t be the first time its self-appointed chroniclers have chosen to forget. Unsurprisingly, though, this rap anomaly, renowned graffiti artist and inventor of his own afro-futurist doctrine, Gothic Futurism, remains big in Japan, despite a recording career that extends little beyond 1981’s Jean-Michel Basquiat-produced ‘Beat Bop’. It’s taken a fashionably obscurist German label to revive his career, calling in diverse production credits from Berlin’s DJ KAOS, San Francisco’s Jaws, Tokyo’s Taketo & Ferris Wheel and NY’s Death Comet Crew, as well as Gomma’s own Munk. Ramm’s garbled, guttural utterances are a stream of pseudo-intellectual gibberish interspersed with nuggets of dubious wisdom – think the Cookie Monster reciting Stephen Hawking or Frank Zappa’s long-lost b-boy cousin. Still, it’s nigh impossible to place him within the context of a hip-hop scene divorced of its artier aspirations. He’s a cosmic, comic-book relic – the lost link between alt.hip-hop’s abstract dynamics and a forgotten old school. He may well be insane, although it’s equally possible he’s still ahead of his time. ///

RADIANT IDIOT (Vertical Form)
ALMOST A DOT ON THE MAP. THE PSYCHE YEARS. 1996-2000 (Vertical Form)

London’s Vertical Form continue to build a quietly formidable roster straddling a hinterland between electronica, rock and hip-hop, with two of its crown jewels turning in sophomore offerings. Adrian Corker and Paul Conboy’s ‘Radiant Idiot’ slides neatly into the apparent post-rock renaissance, sharing electronic music’s indifference to the lyric and revelling in the textural possibilities of wordless, guitar-led compositions. That might sound a touch ‘jaaazz’, but Corker Conboy do it brilliantly – for track titles alone they’re up there with Mogwai (‘Doom Creeps With Clammy Hands’, ‘Revenge of the Phoney Youth’) – even if their classy, crepuscular moods affect more a sharp-suited, soul-mod aesthetic than a shaggy, shoe-gazers’ glower. Slightly more verbose, Nova Scotian hip-hopper Vaughn Squire traces his career trajectory prior to last year’s lauded ‘Antagonist Survival Kit’. ‘The Psyche Years’ is potentially too stodgy to take in one, but given time it proves itself lyrically lucid and musically substantial, with deep seams of jazz running through beats like granite. Serious music from a serious label. ///

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