Sunday, 18 October 2009

Not Dead

Just resting.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Teen Horror Movie Gone Wrong

[This is the most recent short story I've been working on. As you'll see, there's still a couple of bits that need expanding or ironing out. Enjoy.]

This is how it all happened. The place was about 30 miles out of town. Which wasn’t really so far, with the new main road most of the way. But the point was once you got there it was like being right out in the middle of the country, in the open air, with nobody watching you, nobody getting in your way. Now that a few of them had driving licenses anyway. Just the two cars was enough, plenty of space left for equipment and booze. Cruising along the road and you could hear everything clinking and sliding about in the back.
People had different reasons for coming along, that was important to remember, but they were mostly keeping them to themselves for now. Crushes long held, drugs stashed away, rivalries boiling up and waiting to be settled, it was all there. But when they pulled up at the end of the road by the loch, just for a minute all they were thinking about was the sunshine and the air and the breeze, summer was here and you could tell it just had to be the start of something good. The rules were supposed to be that you camped up past the far end, about a mile or two’s walk on. But there was a beach around the corner, with some good flat ground at the top, so what was the point in going further, who was going to stop them out here? A big ‘No Camping’ sign right enough but that just meant that they had a bit of shelter if the wind got up. That was Chris’s take on it anyway, and people usually listened to what he said. Chris prided himself on being the faster driver. There were three of them that had got there a little ahead of the rest, in the Rover. They stood looking around the curve of the loch to their chosen site. “Really quiet out here”, said Kev. “Yeah, well spotted like”, sniggered Chris back and they all laughed awkwardly. “You’re right enough though, once you get off the main road you really notice it. Not another soul about, twisting and turning about, must only be a few miles but you feel like you’re heading into the back of beyond”. There was another pause. The sun beating down seemed to fix the scene in place, stop anything from moving. “Well, looks like someone’s beaten us to it”, Sarah piped up, pointing over to the old car sitting away in the corner of the car park. “Reckon there’s plenty of space for both of us”. Chris grinned smugly. “Jeez check the state of that banger eh?”.
What was going on between them all, how did they fit together? Well, it was simple really. Kev was into Sarah but Sarah was with Chris. Chris was into Jane but Jane was with Tom. Nobody had asked Tom what he wanted. But you know the score, it was an old story. [This para can probably go].
Right now Sarah and Chris were putting up their tent. Or rather, Sarah was putting it up and Chris was supervising. He could pull off a good supervisor pose, Chris. Always one arched against his side; a keen frown of concentration across his brow. Sarah stooped to hammer in the third of the pegs. “Mind you get it deep enough yeh”, Chris called over, “last thing we want is it blowing over in the night”. He peered hard at the numbered instruction diagram. “Now once you’ve finished with the pegs, the next thing we need is to hook up these red togs onto those blue straps. They should keep the front holding up nice and sturdy”. With the corner of one eye he caught sight of Tom and Kev coming back over from the cars bringing more booze. “Here let me give you a hand”, he said, bending down beside here. He started hammering in another peg. As the lads drew closer, he called over to them. ”Can’t trust women to put a tent up eh? If you want something done properly you’ve got to do it yourself”. Sarah looked on but didn’t say anything.
This was early afternoon. It was about the first time that Kev saw the man. Just wandering into his vision, a tall figure getting out of a white car, nothing weird in itself; but it made him jump, silhouetted against the falling sunlight like that. The man took a couple of bags from his boot and then moved away in the other direction, up into the hillside. “Jesus, look like you’ve just seen a ghost”, Chris sneered at him. “Piss off” Kev muttered back, but in a way it was true, the figure was an intrusion from somewhere else, somewhere inexplicable. You couldn’t register it as a person, not at that speed or distance, just a rapidly shifting mass of stuff.
Jane and Tom were up by the top of the loch; Kev could see them away on the horizon, Tom had his hands up waving above his head. Every now and then, if he strained a bit, he could catch snippets of their conversation.
“Well I’m just saying, maybe it would have been better to wait a while”.
“Oh thanks, you’ve changed your tune. I seem to recall you were quite keen on the idea at the time.”
“But it’s just, I feel like... what are we really getting out of it right now?”
“Thanks for that, thanks a fucking lot – you want to stick the knife in a bit further?”
“Oh don’t be like that, please”.
But then the breeze changed, and Kev couldn’t hear any more. He stood there for a minute, watching their overexcited gestures like a distant puppet show, then moved on back towards the campsite.
“Anyone up for some fishing?”
“Nah you’re alright Chris, maybe later”.
“Telling you Kev, what it’s all about”.
“I might go and take a wee dip actually, now it’s brightened up”.
[More description in amongst this]
Chris looked over at Tom and Jane coming back over, Jane’s top tight against her chest in the summer breeze, her hair strewn across her face. “You go on ahead love, I’ll be down in a while”.
Kev bounded over to her as she started to wander down towards the shore. “Hey, I’ll join you.”
Jane gave him a dubious look over, just for a second. “Yeah alright then, let’s go”.
Kev and Sarah came running up from the shore. They were yelling. “Here, I didn’t mean to, I swear, it was an accident.”
“Piss off Kev, you knew exactly what you were doing.”
Sarah was in a swimsuit. Quite a small one. Chris came striding over to them. Kev was awkwardly trying to throw a towel around his trunks and chest.
“Hey now what’s going on, is everything all right babe?”
Sarah went as if to speak, then stopped. Her face flushed red. Then she started again.
“Nah it’s fine Chris, it’s nothing”.
Chris glowered over at Kev, who was staring down as if he’d found a complex pattern in the grass.
“Did you touch her, mate”.
“Look I said it’s nothing Chris, leave it”.
Another pause. Chris looked back over to the campsite where Tom and Jane were experimenting with some sausages. “Well screw it, I don’t even know what’s going on with you anyway. I’m getting a beer, and seeing what’s going on with the food”.
They’d made an awkward circle around the fire, chewing away on burnt sausages. Cans and bottles were out. Chris was shouting, still.
“I’m telling you, it’s always the same. You just don’t give a toss about what I’m into these days. You’ve changed, you’re all sticking to yourself now.”
“Oh give it a rest Chris, you’re pissed.”
“And you, sitting there smoking that crap. Who the hell do you think you are?”
Kev scowled up at him. “I swear it’s always sniping with you, isn’t it? Can’t give anyone else their own space”.
“Their own space! Listen to you, ya div”.
“Look just calm down a bit eh Chris”.
“Screw the lot of you then, I’m going fishing.” He looked over at Sarah hopefully.
“Yeah go then, go fishing. I’m hanging out here a while longer”.
Chris gave a last sour look back, grabbed a couple of cans and stomped off.
There were four of them around the campfire now. There were drink cans strewn round about. And the girls were starting to act differently from how the guys had expected. “Well”, Sarah piped up, “are you going to pass that over here or just smoke it all yourself.” Tom gave her a surprised look but did as she asked.
“Is that it then? It doesn’t do much eh?, I was expecting something a little more mind-blowing”
“Well, it’s not instant you dummy, you have to give a while to take effect. And probably keep smoking”.
Everything around was calm, growing calmer. It must have been gone midnight already, but with the sky a perpetual half-light, never quite seeming to darken, it was impossible to keep close track of the time. Things drifted.
“Oh hang on that’s alright yeah, that’s more like it I think. Here Jane, you should take it a while”.
Jane shrugged. “Ok then, anything once.” At that moment, Jane and Tom linked eyes for the briefest of moments.
Kev leaned up for a second from his hunched position. The rest of them had almost forgotten he was there.
“Telling you, there’s some bad things in the world. Like when they kill people by paying them to stare at goats. Or maybe it’s the goats they kill. Someone told me though”.
Jane looked over at him. “Kev, what the hell are you talking about?”.
“You’re losing the plot man”, Tom chuckled nervously.
“Nah, you lot just aren’t paying enough attention to the world around you, is what it is. And you’ll end up regretting it. Eyes peeled at all times, ‘cause you know for sure they’ll be watching you back.”
Sarah tried to hide her face, creasing into a sad chuckle.
Jane stood up. “C’mon Kev, we’d best be getting you off to bed”.
Kev shook away her helpfully extended arm. “Jeezo, ‘s alright, I can take care of myself, know when I’m not wanted”. He began to wander off, vaguely in the direction of the tents.
“Hey don’t worry about it Kev”, Sarah called back at him, “you get some rest, we’re just going to stay up a while longer, do some more.. talking”.
“He’s well out of it. Been smoking too long”. Tom was muttering into the campfire, at no-one in particular. After a while Jane replied, in the same tentative tone.
“Sometimes it’s maybe just better to let things go, no when it’s best to stop”.
Another flicker of glances exchanged.
Then it was Sarah’s turn again, talking slowly but surely.
“You know what, I’m fed up of all this paranoid thinking. Kev, Chris, they’re all the same. Right now I’m more interested in thinking positive. You’ve got to believe that you matter, that what you’re doing in this world is worthwhile. It’s weird, it’s like the way we’re brought up, that’s almost something you’re taught is bad, but truth is you need a little pride in yourself. You don’t get anywhere if you think you’re just human waste.”
There was a silence all round. Then Jane give a little laugh.
“Yeah, I like that. Dunno what it means really, but it sounds good”.
And this time they all laughed.
Moon blue, water green. Hills falling purple into sunset. Breeze lapping smoke lapping faces against deep flame of the campfire. Tents fluttering. Just a little.
Over back, out of sight amongst hills, a man stalked. Stooped, serious, dragging behind him an unknown weight. Through the trees, ever onward, ever closer.
Backs sprawled against turf, arms stretching, touching, lingering. A peel of laughter ringing across the grass. A pause, then another. Eyes meeting, flickering apart then cautiously drawing back.
And still the man came closer.
Confused touchings, awkward recoils and whispered apologies. But only for some, and only at first. Pale blink of stars, shading into the halflight. Murmurs, barely words now, but still communicating deeply. Slowly one of the three slips away, leans back into the comforting whirpool of sleep.
So then in the late twilight all was still except for the steady shaking of Sarah’s tent. Which should have been what was right in Kev’s focus as he came out of the trees, but he was a man on a mission and oblivious to everything around him. As he trotted down into the campsite the shaking grew louder and faster, as if rushing towards a secret goal. And then nothing, absolute stillness, all tension wholly absent from the scene. But not for long.
“A man with an axe has got Chris! He’s killed him!”.
It was Jane who was the first to stir, lurching up from her sprawled position beside the embers of the fire. “Huhwhat.. Kev , ‘sappenin.. ‘slate”
Kev lauched into his speech again, chanting the words as if in a trance. As he carried on, Sarah began to stumble slowly over from her tent. She had a towel draped over bra and panties. Her hair had reached a new degree of dishevelled.
Tom crept out from the back of Sarah’s tent. He was in boxers with a t-shirt half on. As he came up behind the group by the fire he hoped nobody had clocked where he’d come from. He coughed.
“Jeez, Tom, where’d you spring from?”
“Eh, nature called. I was just about to come see if I could you back to the tent, you were out cold. What’s going on?”
“It’s Chris. Kev’s saying he saw him attacked.”
They both looked Kev hard in the face.
“It was all in front of me, frozen like a photo. I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t stop it.”
“Now steady on Kev, what are you saying? You saw Chris get attacked, or you just thought that you did?”
But they got no reply.
All frantic bursts of movement now, raking, calling, flashing torches. Back and forth across the campsite.
“Someone check down by the shore. He said about fishing, didn’t he?”
“Crap, Sarah says he’s not in his tent”.
They clambered down the slope towards the shore.
“I still reckon he was just sleep-walking. I mean look at him, he’s out of his mind still."
“Shh, he’ll hear.”
Torches came streaming, wobbling back up from the shoreline. “Still no sign of him. Shit, what the hell’s going on here?”
And then in straight into the middle of the panicked silence, an almighty snore. Followed by a weird, panicked laugh from Sarah.
“Hey that’s him! I’d know that sound anywhere!”
“He’s alright then. But where the hell is it coming from?”. Tom looked around, trying to follow the sound. It was coming from a tent, all right, but not Sarah and Chris’ own.
They pulled up the zip on Tom and Jane’s tent, and hesitantly peered inside. There was Chris, lying half-asleep on top of a sleeping bag, an open beer can wobbling in his hand. He greeted them with a bleary smile. “Jane darlin, I knew you’d make it. Come in and make yourself comfy. Oh hang on, you’ve brought company.”
There was a prolonged silence. No-one knew where to look. It was Jane herself who piped up.
“What the hell are you playing at Chris? We were worried sick looking for you and now this crap”. Chris looked a little confused.
“Look don’t mess about, we both know you want it”. His face creased into a leer. “Better off with me than that wimp Tom, I can get rid of him easy if that’s what you want”.
“Oh fuck off Chris”.
They backed out of the tent again. Sarah turned round to them.
“I’m not sleeping with this waste of space tonight. Can I come in with youse two?”.
There was the briefest of pauses. It was Tom who replied.
“Aye alright. Kev you should get some sleep too, you need to get yourself sorted out pal.”
And so they awkwardly dispersed again. This time the excitement for the night seemed be all over.
Blue sky in the morning but nobody smiling. Everyone was wanting just to get home with the least amount of hassle and talking possible. But Sarah had this certain something going on, this secret look in her eye you could see if you caught it right. Tom had it too, that little twinkle and sideways glance at her when he thought nobody was looking. Kev was speaking to nobody, not even looking at them if he could help it. The old Vauxhall was gone when then got back to the car park. But by this stage nobody really registered it. As they pulled off onto the road, the landscape still sat there, impassive, as if nothing had ever changed.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Tentative Mixing aka Shameless Self-Promotion

Most of the people who are in contact with me through various combinations of Dissensus/Twitter/Facebook will already be aware of these couple of recent mixes I've put together, but I thought it would be worth archiving them here too. Here's the first -
Cooly G - Narst [Hyperdub]
Geeneus - Yellowtail VIP
Shystie - Pull It (Ill Blu remix) [It's Funky]
Roska - Gone to a Better Place [Roska Kicks and Snares]
Emvee - Nocturnal [Wireblock]
Alison Hinds - Roll It Gal (remix) [1720 Entertainment]
Roska - Our Father [Roska Kicks and Snares]
Royal P - Like That [Rhythm Division]
Cooly G - Love Dub [Hyperdub]
Stush - We Nuh Run (Sirens riddim)
Maxwell D - Industry Watching (Inflation riddim)
Benga - 26 Basslines (L-Vis 1990 edit)
Untold - I Can't Stop This Feeling [Hessle Audio]
Wiley - Eskimo [WileyKat]
Gremino - Be and See
Untold - Anaconda [Hessle Audio]
DJ Oddz vs Tempa T - Strung Up Hype (Oneman blend)
Burial - Unite [Hyperdub]
Kode 9 - Babylon [Hyperdub]
Benga - Roller [Tempa]
Joker & Ginz - Re-Up [Kapsize]
Zomby - Aquafresh [Hyperdub]
Starkey ft Durrty Goodz - Gutter Music [Keysound]
Rustie & Joker - Play Doe [Kapsize]
DVA ft Badness, Riko, Flowdan, Killa P - Bullet A Go Fly (Dusk & Blackdown remix) [Keysound]
Zomby vs The Streets - Sound System Banger (Bare Bones blend)
Joker & Ginz - Purple City [Kapsize]
Gemmy - BT Tower [Planet Mu]

And here's the second -
Rustie – Zig-Zag [Wireblock]
D-Malice – Gabrielle refix [Diamond In Da Ruff]
Sticky ft Ms Dynamite – Bad Gyal (Crazy Cousinz remix)
Slackk – Bambara Fly
Hard House Banton – Reign (edit) [Spoilt Rotten]
Perempay & Dee – Buss It [self-released/Ministry of Sound]
Maxwell D – Blackberry Hype (Different riddim)
Moony – Donnie [UK Funky]
MJ Cole ft Digga – Gotta Have It (funky dub) [Prolific]
Roska – Elevated Levels [Roska Kicks and Snares]
Apple – Chantes [Ministry of Sound]
Mala – Left Leg Out [DMZ]
Ramadanman – Revenue (Untold remix) [2nd Drop]
D1 – BG [Tempa]
Sticky ft Ms Dynamite – Booo [Social Circles]
Zinc – 138 Trek [Bingo Beats]
Dusk & Blackdown ft Durrty Goodz – Concrete Streets [Keysound]
Newham Generals – Mind Is A Gun [Dirtee Stank]
Maniac – Ugly [GPP]
James Blake – Air & Lack Thereof [Hemlock]
Footsie – 3 Plates [Dirtee Stank]
Mark Pritchard & Om’Mas Keith – Wind It Up [Hyperdub]
Jamie Vex’d – Radiant Industry [Planet Mu]
Joker – Hollybrook Park [Kapsize]
Rustie – Tempered [Kapsize]
Ikonika – Phonelines VIP

To justify making a blog post of this I should probably have a wee rambling chat about the thought process behind, in my typical style. Read if you want, skip if you want:
I'm still very much at the learning stage with this whole thing, and these two mixes represent my first attempts at putting togther something for other people to listen to. As I've made sure to say wherever I've posted them, I'm not under any illusions as to either of them being some kind of masterpiece: they're done on software, there are certainly a few clangs and clatters, and also some points where although the tunes are in time and in harmony with each other they just weren't the best choices to put together.
Just by looking at the tracklistings you'll see that the mixes span different genres, primarily house/funky, grime and dubstep shading into wonky/purple/post-dubstep stuff (btw, can we please start a campaign for better genre names in UK bass music, starting this instant? It gets embarrasing writing/talking about these things!) You'll also that they incoporate some older tunes in among new or recent ones. However, I wouldn't want to overemphasise any eclectic or free-floating aspect to my mixing. There is a kind of logic to how I put these together.
Mainly it's to do with energy. I'm rather dissapointed and suspicous of the way that in the last couple of years (particularly in the dubstep sector, it has to be said) the old opposition between a 'mainstream' centred on the dancefloor and an 'experimental' fringe aimed more at the head has crept back into dance music discourse. Insisting on this rigid distinction, in my opinion, can only lead to both sides losing out drastically. Historically the best raving music has always been populist and cutting-edge. Therefore in these mixes, I am totally unabashed about aiming to keep energy levels high throughout, but equally I want to express this energy in a variety of ways, including by showcasing what I take to be some quite forward-looking music.
Of course, in part this style of mixing is imposed on me by not being a dubplate DJ, by mainly only having access to released material. As I hope to discuss in future posts, my belief is that notwithstanding its venerable tradition, the dubplate approach currently has as many drawbacks as it has plus-points. I both hope and believe that we'll start to see more people doing it differently. Not being able to rely on hype surrounding the newness of a tune or the priviledged access of a particular DJ to it has forced me to really think about my selection and make sure each tune both stands on its own merit and contributes to the whole mix.
Increasing the tempo gradually over the course of the mixes works as a simple way to build them to some kind of peak. But at the same time, having each of them end in tracks which use the halfstep should ensure that the contrast between beginning and end isn't too sharp. (In the near future I want to try doing mixes which go from faster to slower to faster again, again to allow different kinds of intensity to come through). Different styles of UK bass music are placed side by side not to show off my diverse taste, but instead to explore the inherent similarities and points of overlap between them, and challenge the way people have divided themselves over very minor distinctions. The same but different. Similarly, when I include an old tune, it's to highlight the way they can sometimes uncannily foreshadow what is going on now.
At the most abstract level, I want to use these mixes to explore the emerging aesthetic which I've mentioned in previous posts, which is this slightly odd combination of tension and euphoria, where the two elements don't so much balance each other out as both conflict with each other and reinforce each other.
I should state absolutely, though, that I do not take myself too seriously in all this. I'm practicing quite hard with this - indeed harder than with anything for a long time, and it's something where I can experience myself progressing along the learning-curve in real time, which is both a big pleasure and something of a rarity for me - but ultimately I see it as a hobby. I hope a few people that I know download and find something to enjoy in the mixes, and probably my long-term aim would be to play in person for friends and acquainances, just for fun. If the opportunity were to arise in the future to do local or internet radio, or indeed play out at a club night, that would obviously great, but it's not my main aim, and the chances of it transpiring this way are low.
I've added a somewhat patchy discography on to these, for those wanting to chase down any tunes they don't have. I decided it was best to restrict myself to the tunes that were fully released and where (or so I think ;D ) I knew the label, due to the rather uncertain status of some of the other tunes (how do you label them? - forthcoming, unreleased, unknown, legitimate free release, semi-legitimate free release etc etc.... ). Any corrections or additions to this would be welcome, go to the comments box as usual.
Should have another mix, in similar style but hopefully a bit longer, done soon. But for now, enjoy these!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

FAO all Glasgow readers

Some big musical goings-on coming up between now and early September time. Collecting the details here so that we don't miss out:

Friday 14th August
A Night with Berkane Sol.
Geiom (Berkane Sol, Skam, Wigflex)
Brackles (Berkane Sol, Applepips,Planet Mu, Pollen, Blunted Robots)
Spamchop (Berkane Sol, Wigflex)
Electric Eliminators
Pivo Pivo (Waterloo Street)
11pm - Late
£7 on the door

Saturday 15th August
Joker (Hyperdub)
Spencer (Wireblock)
Production Unit (Highpoint Lowlife)
VJ Retina Glitch
Numbers @ Stereo (Renfield Lane)
11pm - 3 am

Sunday 30th August
Electric Frog Street Carnival
Yorkhill Street
2pm - 11pm
Featuring Theo Parrish, Roska, Jackmaster and many others. Full line-up + details here:

Friday 4th September
Moderat - live!
aka Modeselektor & Apparat
+ The Village Orchestra & Goodhand
Live visuals from Pfadfinderei
Numbers @ The ABC, Sauchiehall Street
8pm - 11pm
Advance tickets £12 + bf, available from Rubadub, Ticket Scotland (Argyle Street) and the ABC box office (Sauchiehall Street). Or online from Rubadub or Ticketweb.

Very swiftly followed by...
Friday 4th September
Official Moderat afterparty
Untold (Hessle Audio/Hotflush)
+ Spencer & Jackmaster
Numbers @ Sub Club, Jamaica Street
11pm - late
Free entry with Moderat ticket stub / £10 otherwise.

Friday 11th September
Prefuse 73 live
Jamie Vex'd
Ballers Social birthday night @ Stereo
8 pm start
(no other details about price etc available yet, will update when I find them).

Sunday, 12 July 2009

'Order now, to avoid dissapointment...'

Okay, before I get started with tonight’s post, allow me to get up on my soapbox for a minute. There’s a part of me that’s rather dubious about the idea of regularly using this blog to promote new music releases. I think it risks becoming part of a wider trend – seen regularly in review sections of magazines, papers, tv shows etc – that patronises and exploits the audience by making each supposed critical discussion of the arts into an opportunity to manoeuvre them into a new purchase. “And if you like the sound of artist xyz, why not pick up their album at.....”
So when I discuss the current and forthcoming releases below, I do so according to the following ground-rules. I’ll only promote stuff that I’m really feeling, and that I regard as underexposed and potentially difficult to track down, especially for those without a strong existing investment in the music. These records on the whole are small releases on small labels – they represent some of the few remaining flourishing of genuinely independent, non-corporate music production and distribution in the UK, and for that very much deserve support. Finally, highlighting new releases becomes important at a time like now when many small, independent records are appearing; lists like these are then useful just to keep on top of things, not least for myself, and prevent worthy music from slipping through the cracks.

First up, the Blunted Robots 001 release that I’ve been banging on about since time. Mickey Pearce – Innami on one side, Martin Kemp – No Charisma on the other. This is currently OUT, in fact has been so since 6th of July, this last Monday past. To my knowledge there are still plenty of copies available, but y’know, don’t sleep on this if you want get one. You can order a copy here; only vinyl at the mo but apparently a digital release is planned for the near-ish future. The BR label is run by Brackles, whose DJing has been widely praised of late ( including by me in previous posts) along with a bloke called Shortstuff, who has done some nice co-productions with both Brackles and Pearce; hopefully we might seem the come out on BR later. Also already on release is this cracker of a package - 4 remixes of Tempa T’s Next Hype, from Plastician, DVA, Brackles (there he is again!) and Starkey, downloadable here . So that’s four pretty major current figures, covering a decent stylistic range, and of course the original is a modern classic, grime anthem of the year. The Starkey mix is an excloos, or so I’m led to believe. A vinyl follow-up run is planned for the near future, which is excellent as to the best of my knowledge Tempz’ original crazily never made it onto wax. No sightings of the mash-up mixes by Oneman and co yet – in fact, my wager is that licensing issues mean that they’ll never see the light of day beyond radio rips. But we can still hope, and in the meantime we’ve got this.
Now onto Keysound, a fine imprint which is the brainchild of Rinse DJ and production duo Dusk and Blackdown. Currently they’ve got Bullet A Go Fly, produced by DVA, out on vinyl and mp3 release here . This tune’s a bit of a monster, featuring Riko, Flowdan, Badness and Killa P all taking a turn on mike – that’s pretty much the biggest patios-style grime MCs all right there! At first the brutality of the lyrics was almost a bit too much for me, but I’ve warmed to it; the production def helps, there’s a cold, barren element that prevents it from coming across as purely as a swaggeristic macho celebration, more like a resigned acceptance of impending doom, whatever the lyricists intended. The real one for me though is Dusk and Blackdown’s remix on the flip – boosting the bass, slowing it down a touch, focussing in on the sinisterly shuffling cymbals, it’s both more danceable and even more ominous.

Not resting on their laurels though, they’ve also got a fantastic double-header forthcoming on the 27th of this month. On one side, Grievous Angel’s VIP remix of Soundclash by Naptha; on the other, GA’s own tune Harpy. I’m not sure I can do justice to these tunes – basically the former is 2-steppy garage but with a hard junglistic feel to it, while the latter is wonked-out dupstep-ish business with a real swagger going on. Best way to get a proper feel is to listen to the clips here though. Big release.

Mr Grievous is in fact being pretty prolific right now; in addition to the above, he also has his funky remixes of Move Down Low and Loser coming out on the 13th - that's tomorrow! -through his own Devotional Dubz label/project. Copies of the vinyl will be available at both Boomkat and Redeye, so should be easy to pick up over the net. Anyone who’s seen and/or heard a Kode 9 set over the last few months will know that both of these tunes mash up the dance – now they’re finally leaving his clammy exclusive grasp so the rest of us can get our eager hands on them.
A very interesting project is forthcoming on the Planet Mu label – Gremlins, a retrospective compilation of classic beats and mixes by Terror Danjah, one of the legendary all-time grime producers, and to my mind simply one of the most innovative and consistently exciting figures in electronic music that this decade has seen. Piano Madness, Zumpi Hunter, Code Morse, Boogeyman, Radar, they’re all here plus plenty more. Also being released alongside the comp is an EP, the 4th instalment in Terror’s Industry Standard series, which features new material - Sidechain is a personal fave. Release is due on September 28th. Oh and you gotta check the Gremlinz cover! -

From that to something a little different – I’m sure that if you follow the little pirate/internet radio/blog/website circle of which this page is a small part, you’ll have either heard or at least heard metion (usually in the form of ecstatic praise) Joy Orbison’s recent tune Hyph Mngo. The full tune can now be heard, in fairly glorious audio quality, through this youtube vid.

At first, although enjoying it, I wasn’t as fully sold on it as many peers seemed to be. But then a few days ago it just clicked – this tune is just pure euphoria, anthemic hands in the air biz, with a vibe totally reminiscent of sentimentality-overload, ravey early 90s material (check that wordless diva vocal snippet!) but with sonics that are fully up to date. Love it. The news currently is that it should be out on the Hotflush label in the near future - sadly no exact date seems yet to be announced. In a somewhat similar vein (for me at least) is James Blake’s Air and Lack Thereof, just recently out on Hemlock, the mini-label run by major current don Untold; pick it up here.
In previous posts I’d touched on the fact that along with those pushing a forward-looking (post) dubstep direction through experimentation with big, freakish synth melodies and unusual, ear-twisting textures (Zomby, Joker, Ikonika, Guido, Starkey, Gemmy etc.) there was a parallel development, influenced in certain cases by grime but more strongly and across the board by funky, focussed on complex percussion and off-centre but highly danceable rhythmic structures – the sound associated with artists like Untold, Martin Kemp, Mickey Pearce, Shortstuff, Geiom, Pearson Sound, Brackles and others. To my ears what Blake and JO are doing slots in as part of this mini-movement; in fact I might tentatively go as far as to say that their tunes represent part of the ‘deeper’ end of it. But in this case the d-word shouldn’t be taken as the instant par it can sometimes justifiably be, because these tunes are far from tepid or headnodder-ish, they manage to combine rich textures and interesting emotional moods with real energy and immediacy; in fact if anything the former factors intensify the latter. All of this is of course not to say that this direction is the way everything should go, of course; there’s plenty of room, indeed need, for tunes experimenting with harsher, grimier textures as well. (And neither would I want to suggest that there's some sharp dividing line between the two approaches). More of everything please!
Seeing as how this whole post has a had a bit of a ‘surveying the terrain’ feel to it, thought I’d round it off by quickly giving some praise to a few other blogs that I’ve been appreciating and that have been exploring similar avenues of enquiry to mine. Something which again I don’t want to do too much of, ‘cause it create a smug in-crowd sort of vibe and just generally not be of much interest to those involved. But in this case I’m allowing it, both ‘cause these are newish blogs that I think need and deserve the exposure, and because it’s useful to see confirmation that certain ideas have a degree of common currency and are not just the fevered fictions of my paranoid mind!
In addition to blogs which you’re likely to already be familiar and having a look at (and if not, why not, eh?) like Blackdown, the Heatwave and Lower End Spasm, and ones that I’ve praised before like Colz and Butterz, I draw your attention to the following:
Main mention has to go to Corpsey of the Ol Dirtnap blog, who like me has been investigating the recent trend for cross-genre fertilisation, focussing particularly on the DJ end of things. His reflections come from a slightly different angle to mine, given that he seems to have the background of being more of a dubstep follower and expert – so this gives an interesting twist to the way he approaches things. He’s also got some intersting things to say about contemporary r n b and its innovative production values. Like many with a background in both rock and ‘serious’ music, I have that slight inexplicable squeamishness when it comes to r n b, but I think I’m starting to overcome it of late. Anyway, the So Bones mix Corpsey discusses and links to comes highly recommended. Also well worthy of mention in terms of blogs covering the new music as it happens are AlgeirsTwin at Just A Moment , Alex Deamonds at It's All About and Jeff Pestario with There Was Always Doubt. All three have provided me with invaluable information of late.
So there’s loads going on at the moment, now that you (hopefully) know something about the state of play, best thing to do is jump right in there!

PS – I’ve recently joined the world of Twitter, here. Still rather uncertain about the whole concept of it, but I’ve already gotten plenty of fresh musical info off of it. Big up everyone I follow :D .

Friday, 19 June 2009

Meanwhile, outside....

In case any of you were starting to become (understandably) worried that I've withdrawn myself totally into some esoteric little realm of purple-wonky-psych-funk-mutational-nuumoid-tension-step, I am aware that there is some fairly serious, important stuff going on out in the wider world right now, particularly as regards the aftermath of the Iranian election.
This has so far been my main source for keeping track of events. It provides a sort of meta-level commentary-on-the-commentary, with links to Twitter tweets, photos, news reports, opinion pieces, plus informed discussion on all of the above.
Sending out massive respect, sympathy and hope to all those risking their safety and security on the streets right now...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Bonus extra unity

(Just when you thought it was over...)
Whilst many of the readers of this blog will already be as familiar, if not more so, with the music under discussion as I am myself, I am aware that some of you out there may not be. So I thought a nice way to wrap up the topic (for now, at least) would be to share some of what I think are the best introductions to it.
I am rather wary of the blog becoming an mp3 dump cum link-fest, but I'm going to allow it in this particular case becasue it serves a specific purpose. I reckon that mixes are in many ways the best way to hear this music, partly because of practical reasons - many of the tunes are unreleased or from artists with so far a very small output - but also because, as I've mentioned a few times below, this type of music 'mixes well' in a way that's somewhat hard to specify; a lot of its excitement is generated by pushing one tune up against another, seeing how what might seem like disparate material can form a coherent whole. The Pangea mix for Reprise linked to in the last post would be an excellent place to start. I can also wholly recommend the following:
Jackmaster's recent mix for the Wire - A true musical thrill-ride from start to finish. (The degree of ecleticism here, I should point out, goes beyond what is the norm in UK music right now, particularly in the ammount of hip-hop material used. Though perhaps this is not outside of the norm for the Glasgow scene in particular: more to come on that at a later date).
Bok Bok's new guest mix for the Lucky Me family - Just beautiful, with loads of woozy psychedelic synths.
Jamie Vexd's mix also for Lucky Me - A bit older this one, but still sounding exciting and relevant.
Marcus Nasty MC special on Rinse FM - Bit of a different take on the unity concept this one, but a classic and pretty much an instant historical event from the moment it was broadcast last November.
Terror Danjah's May mix for FACT magazine - More recent excursion into grime/funky territory, with plenty of Terror's own amazing instrumentals.
Ben UFO, Oneman and MC Asbo doing a recent Ruffage Sessions show on Sub FM - high-energy stuff from start to finish with surreal hosting chat from Asbo.
Also make sure to check out Colz' blog, which hosts a proper shedload of relevant mixes, including plenty of recent radio sets.

Finally, I thought it might be helpful to share links to blog posts and articles that have been of use to me in attempting to get to understand 'the new music'. Along with those linked to in the original post, the following are well worth a read (tending perhaps to focus on the w*nky concept, but covering other stuff too).
(+ follow-up posts)

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Enhanced Unity

Thanks to everyone here and on dissensus for their kind comments on the last post. I've spruced it up a bit over the last couple of days with lots of extra Youtube links to tunes which I mentioned but didn't embed.

As promised/warned, here are some afterthoughts and further enlargements on the topic, but this time without any pretence at an overarching framework. So you're left with the top-of-the-head ramblings for now:

"4th – there’s an overall trend in the beat grids, away from ease of release and towards a certain tension, seen perhaps most obviously in all of grime, in wonky’s unquantised beats, and in the broken-clave patterns underlying funky. Also in dubstep, most obviously with the return to 2-step among some producers, but also with halfstep beats when done well, the hesitation about what the ‘real’ tempo is, the tension between elements pushing forward and pulling back. I have a growing feeling that this tension could be said to ‘reflect the times’ in an abstract sense, but this idea clearly needs elaboration at a later date ."

Well yes, I'm going to stand by that, though it's phrased clumsily and still needs more thought. But what I ought to have said also is that alongside the tense rhythms, another almost if not equally important component of many current tracks is the multi-tone-coloured, three-dimensional, joyously hyperkinetic melodies that leap out to grab the listeners' attention. These come through most strongly and obviously in funky, bassline and wonky dubstep, though examples could be found elsewhere. What is interesting though is the way these melodies both contrast with the percussion structures, making the tunes attractive and catchy, often adding a certain lightness, even nonchalance of mood, but also complement them, sharing the same twisted, off-kilter effects which disorientate the listener, setting them excitedly on edge.

Thinking about the beats like this has also brought home to me that I have next to no idea how to talk about the basic rhythmic templates in grime with any accuracy. And I'm not the only one here: the standard critical terms for dealing with grime beats seem to operate at the most general level, characterising them as stiff, cold, hard, twitchy, tense and so forth. Not having a dig here; the terms are accurate enough at their intended level, and useful in a way as an introduction to the newcomer, but y'know, we could do with something more. It's not that there is a lack of understanding either - follow an internet or other discussion between experienced, engaged grime fans and it's clear that they have a grasp of various beat templates operating in the genre, and that their understanding of these help shape the meaning and expectations attached to new tunes for them. It's just that there doesn't seem to be any standardly agreed on terms which would help express these conventions more clearly.

Anyhow, here's some other examples of generic mutation and cross-genre fertilisation that I either neglected to mention before or that have only occured/come to my attention after I published the post:

* "Dubblestep": Bit of a gimmick, a one-trick pony even, this one, but none the worse for it in terms of fun and immediate impact. See here for the dubblestep refix of Benga's 26 Basslines; supposedly there are others either in the pipeline or hiding unaired somewhere. It does exactly what it says on the tin really - rejigs the percussion on a half-step dubstep track so as to put the emphasis back on the full 140 bpm side of things, thus raising the energy levels and extracting the latent intesity from the tunes.

* The recent productions by Emvee. These I really should have mentioned before - released on Wireblock, these tunes operate on the borderline between funky and dubstep (his Myspace also has clips that throw bassline elements into the mix, though not yet too successfuly imo). Sadly there doesn't seem yet to be a Youtube clip for Nocturnal, my favourite from his current release, but there is one for the its flipside track, Glitch Dub, which is almost as good.

*Going back quite a bit further in time, on the funky refix front, I can't believe I missed this one, a classic of its sort that was big early last year just as that scene was beginning to rise to prominence and establish self as genuinely distinctive UK variant of traditional funky house.

(And the Benga and Coki original of this was a BBK Napa favourite in the summer of 2007, which played a part in it being one of the first and biggest dubstep tunes to cross over to a wider audience. The major previous one being Midnight Request Line, the melodicism, synth sounds and quirky/spooky atmopshere of which is now seen as a seminal influence on Joker and the Bristol 'purple' post-dubstep sound...... But you're getting the picture by now, I'm sure).

*As I mentioned Dexplicit's productions before, here's a link to excerpts from two recent bassline tunes by him that I'm really rather keen on.

* Been looking around for more tunes like Innami, not had much luck, the closest is perhaps Ramandanman's remix of A Nie Dyamata S Bobi Peim Kafe. However, whilst this tune is excellent, it is perhaps not wholly relevant to my case as it takes its source material directly from an existing non-UK track (still struggling with easily accesible on-line audio for both of these tunes: check that Night Slugs radio set posted in April that I love to bang on about for the Ramadanman, whilst Pearce's Innami can be found on this excellent mix by Pangea done back in March). But in the process I did remind myself about the following tune, one very much in next-level/wot-do-u-call-it territory to my ears, and which exhibts another kind of relationship to the existing UK post-garage styles, whilst still mixing very well with them, as demonstrated in various recent radio shows.
(Although having said that, I half-expect someone to pop up and point out that it's not quite as original as I'm making out, as I rather suspect it might also derive elements from the various established international forms of house music that I don't listen to much. Will have to look into that more. But don't let that distract you from how great it is!)

(The track title is nicely relevant too!)

Finally, in a nice little bit of synchronicity (which I've not yet decided helps prove anything or not), it's been pointed out to me that many of the points from my original post, especially those relating to the grime-funky relationship, were discussed in this recent Grime Debate on Rinse FM, featuring major DJs from the scene such as Spyro, Vectra, Scratcha and JJ. Between them they represent a case rather similar to mine and the opposing argument. Please do also read Elijah's contextualising post for the debate; in some respects he is on the other side of the debate to me, but it's well-expressed and again carries special weight coming from a currently operating grime DJ. You would do well to check his radio show archives too while you're there, the last 3 in particular have been fantastic.

*STOP-THE-PRESS EDIT* : You can now listen to a teaser clip of Innami here, and it will be out to buy on the Blunted Robots label from July 6th. Good times. (Thanks to Alex for the heads-up on this one).

Saturday, 23 May 2009


***Disclaimer: This should perhaps go without saying, but the following article, like all of those on this page which relate to music, is written from the perspective of a fan. As such, it represents the views of someone who is interested and enthusiastic about the music, but who not only lacks technical understanding about it but also is often quite new to the sounds under consideration and because of geographical location not with much opportunity to experience them first-hand. So this piece may very well contain opinions which could be taken as contentious; despite my best efforts to properly research it, it may even contain factual inaccuracies and displays of ignorance. Alternately, it may state a good deal of what to people more directly experienced amounts to the bleeding obvious. Any improvements, corrections or disagreements that you might like to add after reading it are more than welcome, and should be directed to the comments box. Now with that out of the way, to business... ***

Some of you out there may be aware that a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a night in town featuring Hudson Mohawke and Kode 9 on the decks. I had a fantastic time - in fact, the experience has pushed me yet further into more excited about music again than is probably healthy for someone of my increasing years. I'd planned a big write-up on the night, as per my DMZ post below, but found it was difficult both to find enough interesting things to say and to stay true to the experience of the night at a level that went beyond sudden, vivid impressions, of which the following are some of the most memorable: tight mixing from 9, a good ¾rs of an hour of funky, Hud Mo giving us a mini blast of classic Chicago house, Grievous Angel getting played to top reaction, Glasgow going mad to the Bug’s tunes again, tons of jungle from Kode 9, loads of girls dancing and invading the stage, friends that I’d dragged along ending up getting into it. So all in all a great night.

But what seemed like a potentially much richer project was to write something about the thoughts the night had set off in me about the current music I'm into more generally. The thoughts were along these lines:
It's been occurring to me for quite a while now that the various styles of UK music that myself and a lot of the people that I chat with and read stuff from on-line - call them hardcore continuum, UK bass, post-garage, whatever - have been moving towards some kind of convergence.
I'd be hard pressed to pinpoint an exact starting point for this trend, but at a push to nominate a time and place I'd go for Ayia Napa from the summer of 2006 onwards (Martin Clark in this old Pitchfork column seems broadly to agree with me, which is promising). Since the time of 2-step garage's peak popularity around the turn of millennium, the Cyprus resort has been established as the prime holiday location for the UK's 'urban' demographic, with pretty much all the euphemisms and different nuances that term covers at play in the location. The holidaymaking clubbers brought with them taste for diverse but at some level related styles of UK music, which the djs and crews would quickly learn to cater for by playing genre-hopping sets. Marcua Nasty, one of the leading DJs playing the vanguard sound in UK funky house, rose to prominence here, but probably the most important figures in this regard were the grime collective Boy Better Know. A BBK Napa set, among the most popular in the resort, might feature some of the biggest, most crowd-pleasing tunes from grime, old-school garage, bassline, dubstep and funky house.

As the clubbers and performers returned home each year, this taste for genre-mixing seemed gradually to seep into the indigenous British music circuit. This process of intermixing has occurred at various levels: probably the first to really take off, and perhaps still the dominant medium, was that of DJ sets in clubs and on radio. Many of the most exciting figures in tune selection of the last 2 or 3 years have established part of their reputation through the ease and coherence with which they mix styles, hyping up the maximum excitement in their audience: Kode 9, Bok Bok and L-Vis, Ben UFO, Oneman, Brackles, the Bruk crew and others have all excelled in this regard, with their shows forming a major part of their output of popular and influential pirate stations like Rinse and Sub FM, and their sets making regular appearances at prominent, trendsetting London club nights such as FWD and Night Slugs.

Inevitably, this pan-hardcore unity displayed by the DJs had begun to slowly filter down into the actual new productions themselves. An early taste of this was given in 2006 through the brief, rather tentative interaction between grime and bassline. Skepta of BBK produced the massively popular Duppy which displayed grime and bassline's shared heritage in old-school speed garage, and the tunes' bassline elements were brought out more strongly in the remix by Jamie Duggan, that scene's major DJ. Producer Dexplicit, meanwhile, has gone from making crucial grime tracks like the Forward riddim to gaining widespread acceptance in bassline with productions like his banger Bullacake. Also from this time on, bassline tracks with grime-style mcing became common, seemingly especially amongst Birmingham/West Midlands artists, though often they were rather awkwardly executed.

But the real fruits of the cross-genre interaction has probably only become apparent over the last year or so. Many of the most striking examples have been quite isolated and sporadic rather than amounting to any coherent 'movement': along with his DJing rennaisance, Kode 9 in his
own productions has increaingly featured unusual beat-templates showing the influence of funky and broken beat, whilst recently several grime MCs such as Nasty Jack have vocalled tracks by dubstep-associated producers such as Zomby and Joker. Dirrty Goodz is perhaps the MC who has taken the grime/dubstep interaction the furthest (though Roll Deep's Flow Dan also deserves a mention here, especially for his long-term involvement with the dancehall-infused dubstep of the Bug). First collaborating with Dusk & Blackdown on the Concrete Streets on their 2007 album Margins Music, Goodz then went on to vocal Starkey’s killer tune Gutter Music, their version being released in March this year.

One of the most straightforwardly enjoyable and entertaining upshots of generic flexibility has been the recent spate of mash-up remixes. To my knowledge there could already be as many as half a dozen remixes of Tempa T’s huge current grime anthem Next Hype – some of the most interesting (no on-line audio as of yet for these) include the blends with the bangin grimey garage of DJ Oddz’s Blade Runner, the sinister whining synth-sleaze of Joker’s Hollybrook Park and the surreal kiddies-playgroup style experimental dubstep of Untold’s Anaconda, along with the more conventional mixes by Brackles and Plastician. Another blend doing the rounds is the thoroughly compelling mix of Zomby’s Aquafresh with the vocals from Dizzee Rascal’s Stand Up Tall.
Relevant here also is the increasing awareness of producers of the newer ‘wonky’ strands of dubstep of those executing similar strategies, but in the context of hip-hop and related styles like crunk. So Joker and Rustie have collaborated to make the Play Doe track, while Rustie has also remixed Zomby’s Spliff Dub to produce what is often taken as the definitive version of the tune. Kode 9’s Hyperdub label provides a shared home and distribution method for artists across different styles but sharing the same wonky aesthetic.
Also very important to mention is Mickey Pearce’s thrilling recent track Innami (again, sadly no on-line audio) which deploys discernable influences from funky, dubstep, dancehall and grime but generates an end-result which does not seem to be reducible to a mere addition of elements, a true ‘next-level’ tune. (To my knowledge there simply aren’t many other comparable tracks around yet; one possible point of reference is the spacey, twitchy rhythms of forward-looking Hessle Audio acts like Martin Kemp, Untold and Joe, though these artists, excellent though they are, seem more clearly rooted in dubstep).

The most fully-developed and probably up to now most discussed result of these cross-fertilisation, however, has been the spate of Grime-influenced funky house records. Once again, there are several observable layers to the developing relationship between grime and funky. It was first noticeable, from around 2005/6, in the influx of established grime DJs like Marcus Nasty, Supa D, Mak 10 and Geeneus (who has also become an important producer in both scenes) into the funky house circuit. But then, as these DJs looked to their production contacts for new beats that fitted with their own tastes, we saw the emergence of grime-influenced funky instrumentals from around the beginning of 2008. Traces of grime, in terms of textures, sounds and beats, can be found in virtually all examples of the forward-looking vanguard sound in UK Funky, but (to these ears) the most notably grime-influenced producers would include Lil Silva, Roska, Scotty D, DVA, Sami Sanchez, and Mario, and indeed the simplest research into the background of these figures shows that many of them had attempted to make grime beats, with varying degrees of success, prior to funky’s explosion. In some cases, the lineage has been made explicit in almost tribute-like fashion, with the production of several funky refixes of classic grime tunes: for example, Lil Silva’s reworking of Musical Mob’s Pulse X into Pulse vs. Flex, Grievous Angel’s recent refix of Riko’s version of the seminal Ice Rink riddim by Wiley, Roska remixing Scratcha DVA’s Nasty Nasty Nasty, and Gdub’s updating of When I’m Ere, the Roll Deep anthem. The popularity of this grime-flavoured funky has lead to another wave of major grime DJs such as Spyro and Maximum incorporating them into their sets.

And completing the picture is the much-debated development of grime MCs vocalling funky instrumentals. This first came to the fore in late 2008 with the popularity of ‘skank tracks’ (see here for some of the biggest ones), featuring MCs calling out dance moves in what often seemed like a nursery-rhyme esque style. Personally I was initially rather annoyed by the overtly cheesy novelty aspects of these tunes, but over time have come to enjoy most of them for precisely these same factors. But also notable about the tracks was the way that they often featured ‘failed’ grime artists like Gracious K and the KIG Family who have been on the margins of the scene for some time. And now as we’ve moved into 2009, the success of these tracks has drawn in some of the more established MCs to make their own attempts, leading to productions which undeniably sound like a more polished ‘finished article’, with the funky beats and grime flows gradually starting to sit more comfortably with each other. By far the best track so far in my opinion (and that of many others, it needs to be said) is Maxwell D’s infectious Blackberry Hype, which uses Lil Silva’s Different instrumental. Ghetto’s Came in the Game is also a more than decent effort, based on another Silva tune, Seasons. BBK have jumped into proceedings again with their funky-influenced single Too Many Man, of which I have mixed opinions. Also of great interest currently is grime giant D Double E’s radio freestyle on Reign, one of the big tracks of last year from Hard House Banton.

So these are, roughly, the facts, but what might it all mean. The broad point is that this united direction seems to be somewhere that the music, its producers and its audience want to go, not something being forced on it externally. Eclecticism and genre-merging are often, with a degree of justification, treated suspiciously as an attempt by non-aligned parties to cherry pick the most appealing elements from various fashionable scenes, without taking the effort to engage with those scenes on any deep level. Apart from this being a potentially dubious way to behave, the implication is that since these eclectic movements are dependent on prior scenes for their existence, and also tend to lack the strong social and geographical base of those core scenes, there is no real pressure or drive for them to develop innovative, exciting, important music of their own.
While this model does no doubt accurately describe many past occurrences, I (of course!) think something rather different is going on this time around.
Think of the complaints and concerns that have been raised consistently within the various scenes over the last couple of years. Within grime, there were eternal worries – there weren’t enough girls or enough femininity, there was too much focus on aggressive posturing, the tunes weren’t danceable enough, the MCs had come to dominate too much at the expense of the producers and DJs. Within dubstep, a similar set of endlessly-rehearsed complaints: the scene was too focussed on a certain notion of darkness, the music lacked life and humour, the increasingly dominant halfstep/wobble-bass format was plodding and monotonous. As funky house emerged, it was frequently suggested that the music was too tasteful, not banging enough, and also that it was too closely derivative of traditional US house. Whereas with bassline, the complaints centred on the music being too repetitive and the scene being too parochial, cut off from other currents of UK music and therefore developing at too slow a rate. With the recent focus on ‘wonky’ flavours of dubstep, and similar flavours that relate to instrumental hip-hop and in some cases to grime, a number of inter-related criticisms have been raised, even amongst those who enjoy the actual music as music: they are too esoteric, too centred on tongue-in-cheek humour, they are made for other producers rather than dancers, they are parasitic upon existing scenes and sounds which they can be construed as taking the mickey out of, they are an internet-driven phenomena lacking in real social energy.
Now is not the time to pass judgement on whether all these criticisms are valid, or whether the apparent deficiencies are or can be rectified. What interests me is that many of the most interesting debates centred on there being a certain lack in the styles of music, an absence of crucial elements which meant that the music wasn’t quite enough to stand on its own as the vanguard of UK hardcore music. (Speaking from an honest personal perspective, though I have loved and continue to love music from all these scenes, I have always felt very wary of aligning myself with one of them in particular, for fear that I would end up disappointed and disenchanted. None of them seem to have quite what it takes to make a zealot, a die-hard). *
This crisis seems to call for the existence of a new meta-genre which can combine the strengths of the different styles, plus generate new developments from their combination – I believe we are now witnessing the emergence of this meta-genre.

The unfolding of this process also seems to show that people still care about the music, and providing possibilities for it to continue to grow. And we can see that, despite people’s fearmongering, there have been new hardcore genres that have emerged in the 2000s. However, there are clearly differences, (not necessarily in themselves indicative of a decline or deficiency, just a change) in the ways that things operate. Observations on these will have to basically stay in note form for now, as time and space are against me:
1st – scenes and genres develop more slowly, or at least, over longer periods of time, and 2nd - scenes and genres co-exist for longer spells, without one having to replace or supersede the other, both of these points probably relate to the fact that the basic templates for the styles, esp. in grime and dubstep, are quite open, have room to be filled-in in many different ways.
3rd – the scenes and genres aren’t so strongly tied to a single, physical geographical infrastructure, i.e. there is more of a contingent of international outposts and especially more of a feedback loop from the use of the web. But this shouldn’t obscure the fact that there is still usually a localised centre for each style of music. E.g. with dubstep, very rapid international spread, in part due to ties with drum & bass, but the core of the scene is still in London with DMZ and FWD; witness here the eternally-stated importance of hearing dubstep out on a big system to fully appreciate it. A plus side to this partial dispersion, though, is obviously that new people will have access to the music, and hopefully make something of it. Pirate radio over the internet seems to be esp. important here; people's suspicion about the internet as music distribution method seem to be partly based on concerns that it makes listening a solitary, isolated experience. But in fact people share their responses to the broadcasts in real-time via the various combinations of MSN/forums/ live-chat associated with each station (the live response to Logan Sama’s shows on Grimeforum being a particularly notable example here).
4th – there’s an overall trend in the beat grids, away from ease of release and towards a certain tension, seen perhaps most obviously in all of grime, in wonky’s unquantised beats, and in the broken-clave patterns underlying funky. Also in dubstep, most obviously with the return to 2-step among some producers, but also with halfstep beats when done well, the hesitation about what the ‘real’ tempo is, the tension between elements pushing forward and pulling back. I have a growing feeling that this tension could be said to ‘reflect the times’ in an abstract sense, but this idea clearly needs elaboration at a later date .
A 5th point, and one which really can't be fully developed here: in addition to the cross-genre interplay already discussed, there seems to be a strong current of influence from non-UK music, including styles outside the usual contact zone of the US, Jamaica, and certain parts of Europe. The most obvious of these are the elements drawing from soca and also sometimes from strands of African house and pop in funky. As stated above, discussion of these sounds takes us beyond the concerns of this article. Those who are interested should have a look at this article
on the Heatwave blog, plus shorter updates on the site from there onwards, which deal particularly with the interaction between UK funky and Jamaican dancehall, also this post on Lower End Spasm, discussing various Carribean influences on funky, plus an interesting comment-box debate where sceptical points are raised as to how strongly the new UK music is influenced directly from Africa, as opposed to sounds found 2nd or 3rd hand via US house.
But I would like to briefly address the occasional insinuation that this acceptance of new global influences is a sign of weakness and poor health in the music, as the new sounds are being interpreted and re-worked within the context of the UK scenes. Simon Reynolds, in his recent influential FACT talk (which I wanted to link to here but was defeated by broken htmls) emphasises the way that UK hardcore scenes are at their strongest when producers are listening outward to other contemporary styles of music and incorporating their influence, but working through this influence using their existing home-grown framework - both in terms of the current musical format and the wider cultural context of the scene.
This post is meant, then, as a sort of bedrock for discussion of the current state of play, and there are various parts of it which I hope to expand on in the near future, but this will have to do for now!

* And while I could make out a decent case for being justified in 3 out of the 4 cases, I can acknowledge that in the case of grime, the problem largely lies on my part rather than with the music. Despite its fluctuating levels of popularity, grime consistently seems to perform best in the UK hardcore scenes in terms of generating fervour and commitment amongst fans, amounting in some cases to an almost life-changing impact. And I can certainly see why. Not only is the music strikingly original, but it addresses social issues in a direct way, has DIY production ethos which encourages participation, and is an adsorbing, immersive culture with its own slang and own set of folkways - sending etc. The reasons why despite loving much of the music I've always held back from becoming a full-time grime head are more to do with my personal expectations - perhaps because I'm still new to this tradition of music as a whole, and still totally enamoured by rave and jungle, I always get stuck on this ideal that the central UK hardcore sound should primarily be about dancing. Now I do think that a lot of grime beats are actually very danceable, in a certain fashion, in contrast to what is often said or assumed about them. But it remains the case that danceability and the dancefloor are not the main concern of grime; it takes its identity from being a self-consciously MC-led sound. I'm not the only person to raise these concerns of course, as mentioned earlier on. However, it would seem that actually requesting that MCs fade back into the background of a sort of rave-host role and that the beats become more linear and locked into a groove would be perverse, as it is precisely these aspects which make grime a distinctive genre. So instead of projecting my ideals onto it, I choose to appreciate it as it is.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Sound of Now

Everyone has to download and listen to this radio show as soon as they can! Get if from here:

Scroll down the page a bit. It's Alex Bok Bok on Sub FM with guest dj L-Vis. I downloaded this show soon after it was posted up, when it appeared in my blog updates, but then didn't get around to listening to it for a couple of weeks. I was missing out! These couple of hours pretty much sum up what I think is exciting about new British music right now. Even if you're not familiar with the type of music being played, just take a wander in, you honestly won't regret it. You can catch Alex on Sub FM every alternate Saturday from 5 - 7 pm, links to the stream on the above page.

Edit: as some of you may have noticed, I had the time of the show completely wrong the first time around. Lol. Thanks to 4linehaiku for the correction!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Initiation in bass weight: DMZ

So last Friday, I finally made it along to a dubstep night. DMZ made the trip up from London to play at the Art School, and they brought along their core crew: Mala and Loefah djing with Sgt Pokes on the mic.
Over-preparing for any potential queues or complications, I arrived at 11, with the doors to the union just freshly opened and only a handfull of people about. I was flying solo for the night, which tbh I'm starting to find a bit of a drag these days. I mean, I long ago got over being self-conscious about it and I nearly always manage to have a good time regardless, but it just feels unnatural and adds an extra layer of stress to preceding. In fact, sitting on one of several empty and extremely comfy old couches along the side of the union's main room, I felt strangely like I could have been relaxing back in my living room. A version of my living room with a collosal soundsystem freshly installed, however, as Electric Elimantors, the night's regular residents and a more than worthy opening outfit for the night, were already banging out tunes on the decks.
One of the bonus benefits of the night was the way that it gave me, after a long abscence, an excuse to experience just how fun and well-equipped a venue for a night out the Art School can be. The soundsystem for the night was simply but expertly organised, with a hefty bank of speakers placed haflway between the stage/dj area and the bar, providing everyone in the main dancefloor area with deep, enthralling surround sound. The Eleminators stretched out for a good couple of hours, and were a worthy opener to the line-up. As far as I could tell, they operated as a kind of revolving team, with about four different people taking turns on the decks. Their early material was closer to instrumental hip-hop than dubstep, but after about 20 mins, as people steadily streamed into the room, I first heard what I'd come for: the bass.
I may as well get if off my chest at this stage: prior to this night, I had been a sub-bass virgin. Well, sort of: it had been a part of much of the music I know and love, and for some time I’d roughly understood how it worked in principle, bit I’d never experienced sub pressure out over a big system. My speakers at home clearly couldn’t compare. Sub-bass produces a rich, unusual sensory response; the sound is physically felt as much as it is heard. Sitting there, adsorbing the music, it felt as if each bass note was pinpointing and focussing in on me directly, in a similar motion to the stroboscopic lights beaming across the dancefloor. As the Eliminators’ set continued, and the room began steadily to fill up, I made my way over to stand by the speakers, and from there gradually found myself starting to dance in what I hoped was a nicely inconspicuous spot of my own. Nothing but good things to be said about the rest of the crowd though: as far from oppressively student as was ever going to be possible for a night held in a student union, there was very little of the ‘professionally scruffy’ stereotype for which dubstep fans are sometimes slagged off on display. Another nice blow against the preconceptions was the healthy proportion of females in attendance, at least 40% of the crowd in my estimation, all totally into the music.
Electric Eliminators stetched out for a good two hours, and played a varied selection which reached beyond strictly dubstep. To my delight, there was grime in the form of Wiley’s Bow E3 ( possibly in remix form, I couldn’t be sure), which drew a great crowd response, seemingly telling against the perception that grime travels less well outside of London than dubstep. We were also treated to some dancehall, with Warrior Queen’s anthem Almighty Father getting a play (I only realised recently just how filthy the lyrics to this song actually are, luvvit though). And perhaps best of all, I was very pleased to hear the appearance of some UK funky house, as the Eleminators dropped NB Funky’s big current tune Riddim Box towards the end of their set. I have a lot of hopes that this sort of music could do well in Glasgow, given the city’s longstanding appreciation for soul. Certainly, there were plenty smiles around me on the floor while it played, although many people still seemed to be learning how to dance to the new kinds of grooves. Riddim Box was also important for marking the first rewind of the night. Indeed, this was the first time I’d heard records being rewound in a Glasgow club, but the crowd seemed to get into it straight away. Over the course of the night, the djs seemed to strike the right balance between hyping up the crowd and interrupting the flow, with about 5 of the big tunes getting pulled back.

With the dancefloor now increasingly busy, the DMZ crew finally took over the decks at about 1 am. I was to recongise only a small fraction of the records that they played, but this element of surprise only seemed to add to the experience. Mala was up first, and it quickly became clear that he had an expert grasp of how to structure a set. Although the majority of the tracks that he chose fitted into the half-step format, he seemed to know exactly when to switch it up by reaching for some, erm, ‘full-step’. I was impressed by the flexibility, complexity and enthusiastic energy of the percussion on the more uptempo tracks, provoking plenty of rapid hand movements and upper-body action from the dancers. Just seeing and experiencing the particular type of dancing that this music enforces – a strange, somewhat jerky movement equally balanced between skanking and moshing – was a revelation. His selections with a slower feel were dark, appealingly so from my perspective, but also contained plenty of breathing space, and featured a certain sort of sonic depth. Both of these factors seemed to demonstrate a flourishing of the ‘dub’ aspects in dubstep in a way that avoided being strictly imitative.
Along with the music, the other key factor in the performance was Sgt Pokes’ MCing. As with the rewinds, to the best of my knowledge this was the first time I’d experience someone chatting on a mic over records. Pokes worked up the crowd with ease, his controlling impact aided by his imposing physical presence. His repeated catchphrases – ‘original skankage’, ‘this one’s industrial’, ‘eyes down!’, ‘fortified!’ and others which were sadly half-forgotten once the night was over – often helped set the tone for appropriate type of dancing to match each tune. My one gripe with him would be that he repeated his cackling, demonic laugh to the point where it became a bit corny – although I was certainly impressed by the perfect accuracy with which he reproduced it each time.
Slightly over an hour into proceedings, Pokes began to chant ‘last one Mala’, and with applause for all involved, Loefah seamlessly took over control of the turntables. It quickly became clear that his set would focus more closely on the ‘standard’ half-step sound with which dubstep is now widely associated, and sometimes criticised for. However, his particular take on it appealed to me a good deal, as it tended to center on the caustic, heavy, bordering on industrial textures which represent one of the substyles within this template that I find more exciting (the other being the tunes that take the wobbling basslines in a more fun-centred, jump-up direction). Around 30-40 minutes in, there was a short spell where he seemed to be losing us; the tune selection shifted more into the sort of buzzing mid-range riffs combined with uneventful beats which have drawn some legitimate discontent. You could see the change on the dancefloor; it might have been the time of night as much as the music, but the energy levels dropped, people began moving in a more sluggish, trudging fashion.
But Loeafah must have quickly noticed the change in vibe himself, and he reached for an anthem, dropping the Bug’s collaboration with Warrior Queen, Poison Dart. This received the biggest crowd reaction of the night, with cheers and a huge surge towards the stage. For the next 20 minutes in he kept the energy level right up, with a continual flow of bangers. The Bug’s album London Zoo must have made an impact up here, as Ganja, his b-side featuring Flowdan, garnered another strong response from the floor. As the immediately following tune entered into the mix, we were already beyond 3 o’clock, and so were treated to the house lights being turned on, in combination with various organisor-looking types wandering on to the stage and gesturing to DMZ to start wrapping it up. This seemed merely to work up the crowd even further, with one lad even leaping up to dance on stage. As Loefah finally wound to a stop, he was greeted with cheers, hearty applause and chants of ‘one more tune’, but I decided that with licensing laws involved an encore was unlikely, so began to make my way home (would love to hear from someone if I turned out to be wrong!). The end to the night strengthened my longstanding conviction that extended licenses ought to be granted more readily in Glasgow for these sorts of events. But I’m not going to let a moan spoil my judgement of a fantastic night. It was a night of important musical firsts for me, and well worth the wait.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Glasgow writers: taking over the interwebs

Well now, just as I'd got over the shock of EGJ's increased on-line presence, I was thrown into excited delight by the sudden arrival of......

..... MISS LOGAN!!!
(Bells, whistles, sirens, airhorns, foghorns, trumpets, gun shots, bomb sounds, claps and cheering etc. You get the picture)

Seriously, please give the site a look. She's a very talented writer, and the site contains links to several on-line texts of her recent publications (and she's been on a bit of a publishing blitz of late!) along with up to the minute info on her current projects.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Yet more silliness

courtesy of the Ghetto Puppets:
Great for when a cheer-up and/or boredom-killer for a few minutes.
How brilliant is the actual song btw? Yet another one I must have missed at the time.

(Proper post coming soon, promise, it's been a busy few days at Andy Towers. Likely topics - Skins, prequels, the postal privitisation).

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Let The Sunshine In.....

Hahaha - from today's horoscope which pops up on my Google homepage - "The metaphysical sunshine has returned ". What a wonderful turn of phrase! This should become an established philosophical position I reckon - metaphysical realism, metaphysical skepticism, metaphysical idealism, metaphysical sunshinism. :D

Push the red button!

Creepy yet fun....

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

An intro without a story

The following was selected at my last workshop session as the best of two possible short story openings. (Much love to all of my fellow workshoppers btw, hopefully we'll be seeing more of them on here in the future.) So have a read, let me know what you think if you feel like it, let me know where you think it should go next if you're really interested. Been going through a fairly serious spell of writer's block so hopefully this will be my route out of it.....

Only In Dreams
Sleeping in novels is a funny thing. It turns up, it turns up a lot, but only in a particular way. You only get the kind of sleep where the dreams are really clear and lucid, you only get the kind of dreams that are symbolically important to the development in an obvious, and therefore the sleep-time, the sleep-world always follows the lead set down by the events of the waking-world, never the other way around. This story is an attempt to see what things might look like turned the other way around. This is how it goes –
One day a man lay down on his bed, drifted into sleep, and dreamt of a land in which he was the only person. It startled him, right away, being in this world, and yet he immediately recognised it as inevitable according to the logic of the dream, as if the world has always been like this and always would be. He had found himself walking down a long straight road. In the distance was the skyline of a great city, but it seemed to move steadily backwards with the horizon as he tried to progress towards it. To his left, he passed a solitary tree, its branches bare of any leaves. He passed over an enormous flyover junction, feeling himself become engulfed in the geometric lines of dark concrete, but there were no cars to be seen. After further walking, a row of shabby brown tenements appeared on his right, which at least gave him a hint that he might be getting somewhere. At the end of the row was a little shop.
The man had the instant realisation that he was hungry and must do something about it, so he wandered into the shop to look for a snack. It was one of the places that seemed to have about three too many shelves, piled high with newspapers and cheap biscuits and endless old tins of soup, meat chunks, fruit chunks, pet food, with barely enough room to squeeze between them. The man grabbed himself a chocolate bar, packet of crisps and a decrepit looking sausage roll in a wrapper. Inevitably, there was no-one behind the counter, so no need to pay, but he had to clamber awkwardly halfway over it to peel himself off a plastic bag.
Outside, the dream no longer had any need for him to eat, so soon he had forgotten the food and it vanished from his hands. A little further down the road, he came to the start of a long bridge, over the other side of which the city seemed to have finally settled into position. As he began to walk over, however, the consistency of the bridge’s surface became unpredictable: gaps began to appear, inclines would suddenly rear up, sometimes the tar of the road would drag him to stop like quicksand, other times it would become slippery as ice. The man wasn’t so much alarmed or scared by this, so much as he was just frustrated. There was the city within reach, but he was having to jump through all these hoops to reach it. After a couple of minutes of struggling on, though, the city began to disintegrate, de-realise in front of him just like the bridge was, until gradually he was left in an empty grey-brown surrounding, and then nothing.
The man awoke, morning outside, his dream buzzing right through his brain, but keeping him puzzled completely as to what it meant, what it could be telling him to do. Like most people in these situations, he didn’t spend long scrutinising it explicitly to himself, but instead got up and started to go about his daily routine.
The man worked a very ordinary job, in a very ordinary company. It was based around buying and selling, managing people’s money. The man’s specific tasks, though, You might suppose that the man felt himself as a drone, just going monotonously through the motions of his job, but that wouldn’t be quite right. He add all kinds of justifications and explanations for doing what he did, most of which made the work sound quite a bit more dramatic that it actually was. He often found himself, though, holding these views rather half-heartedly, certainly not in the strong way that his co-workers seemed to. When they were about, spouting their ideas, this usually sufficed to give him the confidence to keep going, but when working in isolation, the confidence began to sap, and then he indeed felt himself as drifting along without meaning.
That morning, they had all been in full flow, pretty much as soon as he’d got in. It seemed to have started with a run-in one of them had encountered with a cousin, a high-school kid who thought he was smart.
“It’s the same old crap I hear all the time”, complained Jim, the colleague in question, perched on the corner of his desk with a mug of coffee in hand. “Having a go about how all we’re doing is ‘exploiting’ people, whatever that means. The problem these lefties have is, they can’t understand that there’s no way you can exploit someone who’s freely entered into a financial agreement with you. The market is just a method for individuals to exchange things of value with each other. And that’s the other thing they don’t get, that when you slice it right down, the basic level of humanity is individuals, not collectives. The kid kept going on about ‘group rights’ like they all do, as if they could even exist.”
The man nodded his agreement sagely, as he usually did, but this morning there were doubts at the back of his mind. The world Jim had described, of solitary individuals trapped on their own, concentrated on satisfying their personal needs, sounded a lot like the world he’d encountered in his dream. And he’d yet to decide what he thought of the dream-world, whether it was welcoming or frightening.
And so the man set to his daily tasks, but with the anxious feeling of something indefineable creeping up behind him. It was there, leering in the background, as he talked to people over the phone and tried to fulfil his role of blandly reassuring them about everything. The hours passed quickly, and soon he found himself sitting back on his couch, guzzling a couple of beers and pushing some tasteless food into his mouth. He slept early, barely managing to force himself through to his bed as the eyelids began to draw together.
The man found himself on the road again, but this time he had an immediate awareness that he was further along