Mountain*7 - for the person with nothing better to do
Entries tagged as dubstep
EP: Harmonia & Eno '76 (Shackleton / Appleblim & Komonazmuk Mixes)
Label: Amazing Sounds
I’ve pretty much taken my eye off dubstep this year. Whether it was an overdose, that it seemed to be atrophying (even if atrophying on a micro-scale as it gradually self-divided into more and more genres), or that I’m simply a shire-mired fud who only listens and doesn’t experience – whatever the reason, I just haven’t paid enough attention to what’s what. I’ve enjoyed the Grievous Angel’s ongoing series of mixes, the Kryptic Minds album (their mix for Blackdown is here), Cooly G (her FACT mix), some Silkie stuff, the Mordant Music/Shackleton record, and the upcoming King Midas Sound album (I guess the Hyperdub 5 compilation goes without saying), but generally if I ever did have a clue what was going on, I er, haven’t any more.
None of which means my ears didn’t instantly tingle when I heard about a Shackleton and Appleblim project to remix two tracks from the reissued Harmonia ’76 album Tracks and Traces. Some things just seem to make obvious and instant sense and Tracks and Tracesthis was one of those moments. The originals on Tracks and Traces allow for the intrusion of light and are in many respects vessels in structure, and despite being largely beatless, they do possesses that kosmiche propulsion, the sense of an outbound journey. And as the sessions involving Dieter Moebius, Hans-Jaochim Roedelius, Michael Rother and Brian Eno were definitively exploratory (they were a coming together of minds, an exercise in mutual respect – and never meant to be released), the reworkings on this 12” feel a bit like realisations instead of remixes.
Shackleton takes on the centrepiece of Tracks and Traces – the fifteen-minute ‘Sometimes in Autumn’. You can see how the original might have enticed Shackleton: beneath the passive exterior of swirling synth lines and tight-pitched oscillators is an ominous throbbing undertow; and being an exercise in sonic possibilities, it accepts rhythmic embellishment with a kind of avarice. There are pockets of the trademark Shackleton drums - the chopped snare hits that sound like sharp intakes of breath, the stilted tambourine shakes; and he manages to turn the mid-section into a kind of vortex, the bass churning against itself. He actually shaves off around 5 minutes from the original, and telescopes the closing half of the track, adding a brilliant closing rhythm pattern that, whilst far too dubbed and spliced to be anything approaching motorik, could easily have carried the track into infinity.
Appleblim’s contribution is to augment the edgy pastoral epic of ‘By The Riverside’, a languid nature symphony, which is all washes of light and buried birdsong. If anything, Appleblim’s remix is less reverential than Shackleton’s, adding a real sense of depth to the track with a trench-like bass and an array of skittish beats. Towards the close of the track, he adds what is sounds something like a prepared harp and it gives the track an eastern feel. The remix is certainly more daring yet it feels as if it sucks some of the life from the track – an odd thing given how languorous the original is.
When this project was first mentioned, I was under the impression it was going to be an entire album, and given how well these two tracks stand up I think it would work. Someone? Anyone?
This is the first release on Amazing Sounds - a label set up by the guys who run the ace Allez-Allez site. You can get the 12" from Boomkat. It's on white vinyl, too.
Download: Harmonia '76 - Sometimes in Autumn (Shackleton Remix)
Here are a few recent downloads we've come across that are worth checking out...
Not sure how I missed this first time around (the curse of the RSS Reader I suspect) but an excellent compilation from the ever-superb Raven Sings The Blues blog - they're a top source for that seam of psych and plain weird folk music that's been dominating the American underground for the past couple of years. This compilation is like a summing up. It's also free. Their main site is here: Raven Sings The Blues
A FACT remix by the Caretaker, aka Leyland James Kirby - this is a trawl through the stranged haunted dancehalls of his discography so far. There are also some samples of his new stuff on the V/VM website - they sound immense and hugely ambitious. Kirby also has a new blog - History Always Favours The Winners - with links to various things and the odd downloadable track.
There's a fantastic Kryptic Minds and Loefah interview and exclusive download over at Blackdown's blog - this is the artform of the blog at it's height: freeform, wide-ranging, with the added bonus of a soundtrack. Print literature just can't compete with this stuff. (Edit: not 10 minutes after posting this I noticed that Plan B had gone. Shame - it was one of the best music magazines still going...)
Lastly, some ambient and post rock mixes - the first is from the ever excellent Low Light, combining Philip Glass and Mogwai to excellent effect; the second following a link of his, is a collection from The Bovine Life Support System, a whole host of arcane and haunted ambient mixes.
UEL (image by JDVC)
Devised as an offshoot of Simon Reynolds’ talk at FACT in Liverpool earlier this year, “The Hardcore Continuum? A discussion” event at UEL sought to test the relevance of Reynolds’ framework for both the histories of 90s British dance music and the output of the current scene. The debate was at times heated, with the particular points of contention appearing to be the status of the nuum itself and whether the sounds being produced now were a sign of it lack of productivity. Whilst I would shy away from attempting to make any qualified comment on these strands of thought, some of the speakers raise pertinent points. Mark Fisher (known to us as Kpunk) mapped out the key features of the nuum. For him it is not only a dynamic feedback system, but an intelligent entity it its own right and sufficiently open to produce mutations. Alex Williams (Splintering Bone Ashes) fixated upon the ‘what you call it’ moment, moving back and forth between the event of genre-naming. Jeremy Gilbert’s mourning for the inability of patently dangerous musics such as Drum n Bass and Jungle to harness their radical energies whilst the nuum was at its heights drew the debate into the wider realm of Britain’s recent political history.
Despite the intellectual energies being emitted, the stand out paper of the afternoon was Steve Goodman’s (Kode9) and Kodwo Eshun’s attempt to call for pause and suspend the cacophony of the event. I want to briefly regurgitate the trajectories of their paper because of the combination of creativity and rigour that was on display as they tuned into a set of sonic actualities.
Their desire to pause and step back from the energy that was being discharged was premised on the feeling that the debate over the critical status (maybe even the politics) of the nuum may actually prevent us from listening to the continual evolution of the sounds which are its fixations. More importantly, the general levels of contestation appeared to rush past the sonic giants of free jazz, reggae, funk, dancehall and electro which overshadow and nourish the nuum.
Goodman’s and Eshun’s starting point was Afro-Futurism, an intellectual project that appeared to have lost its impetus towards the end of the 1990s, but which they sought reinvigorate by way of the nuum’s current output. The stalling of Afro-Futurism took place because of the ways in which it was temporalised, with a normative commitment to linear time and the inability to think beyond desires for progress. Goodman and Eshun stepped away from that procedural framing of Afro-Futurism and resuggested the work of its temporalities. Afro-Futurism for them, in a flourish perhaps borrowed from Paul Gilroy, is an issue of roots/routes and futures. Rather than a preoccupation with causality, they seem to be more in favour of the diagonal diagrammatics of Afro-Futurisitic activity.
In this space sonic legacies become less deterministic and take on a Janus head quality. For example whereas Dub reggae is commonly figured as the progenitor of Jungle, that formation can be reversed, multiplied and refracted to the extent where they are heard as backgrounds to each other, flipsides of the same track. Theses are sonic signifiers which forge pathways within and, significantly in the case of the nuum, beyond the horizons of Afro-Futures. In essence what Goodman and Eshun illustrated was that Joker, Zomby, Prince and P-Funk can be endlessly enfolded into each other to the degree that finite sonic roots/routes appear to melt away.
The alternative diagrammatics they drew centred on a set of 5 synaesthetic signatures which can be heard cutting back and across the sonic activities of Afro-Futurism. The 1st is Day-Glo tone colour where sounds are heard in visibly toxic tones. Secondly there is Metric Drift which is marked by rhythmic patterns stumbling, and knocking into each other, like people negotiating their way through a busy street. But mysteriously these contrapuntally opposed beats always return to the “The One”. The Animatic Apparatus and Machinecorality that make up the 3rd and 4th signatures work, I would argue, in tandem. Sound machines come to life, the audio life form begins to pulse, breath. Conversely the voice responds by allowing itself to be subsumed by the machinic elements surround it. One thinks here of not only Stevie Wonders adventures on the Vocoder but the preminent squeal of the synth in much music of Afro-Futurism. That squeal at times strikes up rememories of Marshall Allen’s playing for the Sun Ra Arkestra, and in particular his attempt to get that thing to speak on “When Angels Speak of Love.” Finally, the sound more often than not becomes drenched in the synaestehtic signature of Cosmic Sleaze. The solar heights of the squeal meets the libido, cosmic dust becomes cosmic lust. The obvious reference points for this signature are the likes of Prince, P-funk and even Rick James, who take Funk out beyond the auditory and into its olfactory and sensuous terrains. Yet we can hear cosmic sleaze being reprogrammed by the likes of Jodeci and R Kelly into what our own poacher calls a simulacrum of lust. Taking this sleaziness out even further, there is the rabid (one could even say rapid) hypersexuality which dominates Charles Mingus’ extended self analysis in his “Beneath the Underdog”. Mingus’ grandiose libido speaks to the “huh” that fills the ensembles pause on “Old Blue’s For Walt’s Torin”. And finally we even have Miles Davis’ tales of nightly cocaine and sex binges during his self imposed exile from playing. Possibly a necessary rerouting of the machinic throbs and moans that can be heard throughout “On the Corner”.
The energies of Goodman’s and Eshun’s paper were then the result of a unique investment in types of sonic oscillation. Their redrawing of Afro-Futurism in light of the nuum emerged from and generated further dislocation. To reorganise a phrase which I tend to quasi-obsessively return to from Nathaniel Mackey, they appeared to be working on the crux of multiple yet broken claims to connection.
A couple of cool recent mixes to draw your attention to: the first is an exclusively Eno based mix by Low Light. It draws on some of his vocal stuff and there are even a few tracks from Another Day On Earth which plenty of people hated but which I actually really enjoyed. Heard like this, you get a real sense of the melodic themes that have obsessed Eno down the years and his canny grasp of basic melody patterns.
There's also a new mix from Grievous Angel: Dubtech, which is dominated by the more techno end of dubstep - Martyn, 2562 and the like. Martyn's album is due soon and promises to be a scene summing up. Grievos Angel has also just published his Funky Manifesto which I haven't had the chance to listen to yet but which promises to be entertaining.
Of course, if you had asked me at the end of say, 2004 what are my favourite LPs of the year, my answer back then, would I imagine, be very different to what I would say now. The end of the year is of course far too soon to make such a list. Not only have I had little time to source many of the LPs I would liked but I have had far too little time to digest many of those I have.
But I’m a boy and this list means something.
2008 has been a disappointment for me. It’s not so much there aren’t LPs out there I like. On the contrary there are many and I have excluded many worthy records from my list, but I never found that genuine classic. This feeling of dissatisfaction is accentuated by the sheer blandness of bands forming the centre-left of pop. When bands such as TV On The Radio, although competent enough, are being hailed as cutting edge and groundbreaking then I believe this reflects a year where pop has lacked innovation and excitement. Alternative music has to be more than just pop/rock bands using production values associated with dance music. My tastes have traditionally been mainstream as well as leftfield but the lack of creativity from more middle of the road artists has, to paraphrase Neil Young, forced me towards the ditch. I know there is something else out there for me I’ve yet to find and I could really use a life-affirming album to get me through this cold and dark, credit crunched, British winter. Records which were close to making this include those made by Distance, Portishead, Al Green, DJ Rupture & Skream. This is my top ten right now for whatever it is worth...
Artist: Dusk and Blackdown
Album: Margins Music
Label: Keysound Recordings
This is a vivid collection of snapshots of multi-cultural London in 2008. Target’s hypnotic meandering vocal in the opener is sublime.
Album: Knowle West Boy
It is difficult to provide a balanced assessment of this LP, as I so want to like Tricky’s albums. He is an artist capable of the producing work of the highest order with unique insights into the human psyche. And this is a more than a fine piece of work with exceptional tracks like Past Mistake & the incredible single Council Estate. The drumming on this gets me every time. Tricky was never just trip-hop. How was his cover of Public Enemy’s Black Steel ever trip-hop? And this record uses rock, ragga & blues, all stamped with the authority of the utterly incomparable & unmistakable sound of the Tricky Kid.
Accompanying Track: Tricky - Council Estate
Artist: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Album: Dig! Lazarus Dig!
Cave is on a roll. By a distance the best rock album I heard released in 2008. Although not as filthy as the garage rock as found on 2007’s Grinderman’s record, The Bad Seeds have clearly been given a kick up the arse. An LP that is great to drink bourbon with, which further cements Cave & The Bad Seeds as one of the all time greats. And few can curse quite like Cave.
Accompanying Track: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - We Call Upon The Author
Artist: Various Artists
Album: An England Story (From Dancehall to Grime: 25 Years of the MC in the UK)
Label: Soul Jazz
So I’m cheating already as this compilation features few releases from 2008. Based on no. 10 of the stellar Blogariddims series by The Heatwave, Soul Jazz has put together the four records that have been stuck on my turntable most this year. It’s really hard to pick my favourite. There is General Levy’s Champagne Body. Or Stush with Dollar Sign. Estelle sounds incredible on Uptown Top Rankin. But it’s probably Papa Levi’s My God My King. If you haven’t much of this kind of thing in your collection it is essential.
Accompanying Track: Papa Levi - My God My King
Artist: Various - Mixed by Appleblim
Album: Dubstep Allstars Vol.6
Same thoughts as the Poacher on this I suppose. Appleblim’s smooth groove was the natural riposte to N-Type’s more fractured style evident on Vol.5. This release reflected the trend within dubstep this year as discussed with regards to 2562.
Artist: Fuck Buttons
Album: Street Horrrsing
I can’t stop playing this record. Sweet Love For Planet Earth, the opener is so completely engaging I have found myself going back to the beginning on numerous occasions. But I love it that this has been recorded with the tracks mixed into each other.
Album: Soundboy’s Gravestone Gets Desecrated By Vandals
Label: Skull Disco
Another collection of 12” singles from the Skull Disco label. There is the also the bonus of a whole disc of remixes from the likes of Bass Clef & Rupture. I have been trying to get hold of as many the 12” records from Skull Disco as I can. With their lovingly designed covers & incredible production values, they push all the right buttons aesthetically. Just as with 2007’s collection, Soundboy Punishments, Shackleton dominates procedures with his ultra dark and percussive take on the dubstep genre. Another great album title …and I wonder what this would sound like at a rave.
Accompanying Track: Appleblim and Peverlist - Circling Bass (Bass Clef Mix)
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: Vampire Weekend
This is a little gem of a record, lovingly recorded with instruments & vocals given ample space to breathe with a gorgeous clean guitar sound. We all know about the African influences & their New York savvy, but at the end of the day it is about the tunes. In an era where too many bands concentrate on the sound they create and neglect the craft of actually writing songs, Vampire Weekend was most welcome.
The trends within dubstep this year have witnessed a reduction in the use of the signature ‘wobble’ bass. As the sound has become global there has also been a shift from the original dub/2-step style, which served as its blueprint. Dubstep in 2008 has increasingly merged with techno and minimalist electronica & the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred. As discussed previously in this blog, 2562 is Dave Huissmans (2562 being his postal code I have read), a Dutchman. He has produced a beautifully formed electronic record, with lush, sensual sounds that suggests, at least internationally, dubstep need not always be dark in tone, texture and mood. This was quite a revelation for me. Indeed, Aerial could be considered a minor classic.
Accompanying Track: 2562 - Redux
Artist: The Bug
Album: London Zoo
Label: Ninja Tune
Essentially a contemporary dancehall record made & informed by the London bass scene. Kevin Martin is the man behind the beats & bass but the album intriguingly features a stellar cast of toasters including Spaceape (you will never hear him sound as good and pissed off as this), Flowdan, Tippa Irie and the wonderful Warrior Queen. The bass is incredibly full & loud, noticeably so compared with other bass-heavy albums this year. Although a record filled with drama, passion & urgency, Skeng, Insane & Warning to name a few, there is also the instrumental Freak Freak & Too Much Pain providing more subtle moments of contemplation. Although the lead singles were from 2007, this is the record that sounded most like 2008 to me.
Accompanying Track: The Bug (feat Spaceape) - Fuckaz
Listen to all accompanying tracks: