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 .