Thursday, 30 July 2015

DJ Mustard - The Mixtape Volume 1 (10 Summers)



DJ MUSTARD - THE MIXTAPE VOL 1 10 SUMMERS
After the disappointing 10 Summers album of last year I didn't think I'd be going back to DJ Mustard at all. I thought his time was up and it was time to move on but after listening to RJ & Choice's Rich Off Mackin my mind was swayed to believe he still had something to give. You would have thought he'd have distanced himself from the 10 Summers title though, so it's a little odd that he recycles it for this much improved release. I assume Choice who turns up here is the same man as Royce The Choice of the great Midnight Run which was my favourite tune from DJ Mustard's brilliant Ketchup mixtape from 2013. Anyway Choice along with RJ dominate this mixtape appearing on a third of the tunes. Mustard's old mates Teeflii, Ty Dolla $ign and TC4800 pop up on a tune or two each. YG is is conspicuous by his absence. Iamsu! from the HBK Gang is a fabulous new Mustard trump card. Iamsu! should be as big as Kanye and perhaps he will be. He's got the pop smarts with a delivery that's 2010s rap perfection. Broke Boy is soo good, surely it would be a no 1 smash if released as a single. Mustard is upping the R&B dosage and cutting back the banger intake but that's not a bad thing at all. There's nothing worse than a tune wanting to be a banger but not working. RJ & Choice are pretty much killing everything they do in 2015 and somehow Mustard leaves room to let their idiosyncrasies ferment even further. Dijon (Mustard geddit?) surely realises he's struck gold with these two artists and compliments RJ & Choice with his beats rather than upstaging them. Previously it sometimes sounded like Mustard's rappers had been given a completed beat where they had to try to fit their raps to it, no matter how unaccommodating it may have been. Now it feels like Mustard is more flexible, organic and collaborative. I don't know if he's changed his working methods but it sure sounds like it. Last year I thought DJ Mustard had reached some kind of sonic arrested development but here he proves, with a little perseverance, that he is still mutating. Regression is part of this move ie. several tunes go further back than his past retro-activities ie. some songs reference stuff earlier than Dre circa 92/93 or mid 90s Three Six Mafia. Some of this stuff has got 80s R&B, funk and slow jam vibes. I guess he was always tipping his hat to these zones but perhaps not as deliberately or explicitly as he does here. Then you would swear Shooters was an instrumental outtake from Tricky's Maxinquaye. Actually come to think of it a few tracks have a Massive Attack/Trip-Hop feel. I haven't counted but there seems to be less military chanting on Vol. 1. which is probably a good thing as that started to seem a little formulaic and stale. I don't know who Justine Sky is but fuck she gives Cassie and Tinashe a run for their money on Love. This mixtape ain't no Ketchup but it also ain't no bloody 10 Summers either ie. I'm not deleting this off my computer, I'm about to give it another spin. Dj Mustard is transitioning. Let's hope he continues to in a good direction.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

On The Hi-Fi Part ??? - Jungle/Tech-Step Special


DA INFLUENCE MIX PART 1 - BASIC RHYTHM
I can't really remember how I found this mix. I'm not even sure who Basic Rhythm is but this is a mix of some choice mid 90s jungle cutz. Dillinja is in there and DJ Krust. Plus a whole bunch of stuff I've not heard, heard and can't necessarily id. 


TECHSTEPPIN - VARIOUS (EMOTIF RECORDINGS) 1996
Keeping the hardcore vibes going, I finally got a copy of Techsteppin. After re-appraising Tech-Step a while back when listening to the excellent No U-Turn comp Torque, I thought I'd check this out. While it's still got very faint traces of jazz (the darker side of 70s Miles Davis) there no lightness like there was was in in intelligent or jazzy jungle. Distress, claustrophobia and paranoia are at the heart of darkness in these tunes. Torque, released a year later, would pummel out any source elements of jazz in Tech-Step. Actually by the end of this cd that's pretty much what's happened anyway. This is Drum & Bass that's all about the bass. While the beats keep to an almost military-esque stringency like industrial but vaguely funky, the bass is like subterranean scud missiles breaking through the earth's crust. This thick bass goo hits you like a vengeful blow to the body. Techsteppin contains tracks from No U-Turn luminaries Ed Rush plus Trace & Nico under the aliases of Skyscraper and Rollers Instinct. I guess Doc Scott is like the godfather of Tech-Step who was from the original milieu of Darkside Hardcore (NHS EP, Here Come The Drumz etc.) and he shows up here with a sterling performance on Machines. His Tech-Step swarms, buzzes and drones with astonishingly ominous dread. Techsteppin's harsh urban nowhere reached a bleak dead end and I mean that as a compliment. This is another reason to prove that getting off the hardcore continuum around 1995/96 (which is what I did) was wrong. Get numb.

*"It's too purple. Reading that felt like someone doing a bad impression of you."

*Special comments from Mrs Space Debris. She doesn't pull any punches does she? She didn't appreciate me describing the bass as 'like underground thick pools of mutant goo'. So I rewrote it. Is she my new editor? I don't necessarily take purple as a criticism. I mean the best part of reading Melody Maker in 87/88/89 was the purple prose they used to excite me about the likes of Young Gods, AR Kane, My Bloody Valentine, Loop, Butthole Surfers etc. I was never disappointed when I got my hands on those records either.


PEARSALL PRESENTS SURGICAL SOUNDS - DOC SCOTT
Continuing on with the hardcore........Pearsall presents a mix of the aforementioned Doc Scott. This set includes Scott's remix work for the likes of System 7Spring Heel Jack and Goldie. Then we've got his own solo tunes plus those under the pseudonym Nasty Habits. Pearsall points out Doc Scott never phoned in his remixes, he makes them his own. Doc's own trax are even more outstanding. Another mix that's a bewdy from Mr Sonicrampage!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Eva Luna - Moonshake

UK POST ROCK TOP 14: PART 3

Moonshake have got to be one of the oddest bands ever. Not in a 'hey look at me, I'm freaky!' way though. They were kind of really normal which gave them an unsettling edge. You could see yourself in these guys and perhaps what you saw wasn't quite right. You felt like the daily grind of urban life had taken a toll on these people. A duality was at play here with two singer/songwriters tag teaming at opposite ends of the rock spectrum. Dave Callahan was kind of angry and on a vociferous rant while Margaret Fiedler was muttering to herself disturbingly. While Callahan and Fiedler got all the notoriety, this band wouldn't have been half as good without the most underrated rhythm section in rock history. John Frenett was on bass and his style was a marvellous intersection between dub and funk. Possibly the most awe inspiring element of the group though was the drumming/percussion of Miguel Moreland. It is hard to ascertain though how much of this dizzying percussive display is him or sequencing/sampling. I couldn't really give a shit because whatever it is, it's fucking great! Moreland made this band worthy of being named after a classic Can tune. Has drumming on an LP ever captured so much of the percussive spectrum? Moreland's playing can be really fucking heavy but he's also very nimble and can be light as a feather. The percussion here is all that and everything in between. Moonshake created this music which was an incredibly idiosyncratic expression of who, what and where they were at the time. Not only that, this must have been what they saw as a possible future pop template. It was all about strange blends and weird paradoxical amalgams. Moonshake were shouting out against the world and wanting to hide from it at the same time. They had a No Wave-esque negation happening and yet they embraced current state of the (pop)art technology. Reverence for music's past and musicianship was part of the equation too. Moonshake could only ever sound like Moonshake. Imitating this motley crew would be fucking impossible.

Ultra funky deep bass, groovy congas, surreal guitar squalls, flute, layer upon layer of sampled noise, taught guitar lines, saxophone squiggles along with Callahan's classic post-punk snarl are all jumbled into this kitchen sink mix and that's just on the first tune Wanderlust. Disconcerting atmospheres, black holes of dissonance, guitars bent way out of shape and Fiedler's cloying yet creepy vocals battle it out for a piece of centre stage action on Tar Baby. The title of Bleach & Salt Water says it all as this track is an ambient underwater urban dub whiteout. The beat here is whirling through a vortex to a startling degree. Moreland makes 3 minutes 40 seem like an eternity and I reckon I could definitely go another 20 or 45 minutes of this incredible groove. Little Thing meanwhile is rhythmic psychedelia, that's spaced out to the max. Only Moonshake could make a tune so ambient yet so tense. City Poison is like a history lesson in underground guitar noise. This is like a tribute to all the Posts ie. Post-Psych (cf.Krautrock), Post-Punk, Post Hardcore and Post-MBV. The beauty of this tune though is that it only really sounds like Moonshake. How the fuck did they do that? Spaceship Earth's clangorous guitars fly into an intense slide frenzy, then keep infinitely spiralling. Jesus, even Callahan gets melodic here! Beautiful Pigeon finds Moonshake at their most pop. Massive drums tumble wildly amongst the rest of the noise, while the bass stalks threateningly trying to hold things down as Margaret's eccentric whispers reach melodic levels as well. It was the grunge era so this could have easily been a hit but.......(?). They save the best till last, Mugshot Heroine closes this classic LP on a triumphant note. Horns go haywire, the rhythms get incredibly funky, discordant horror soundtrack strings jolt you out of your seat, ghost(town)like trumpets appear and all hell breaks loose.

Moonshake arrived at a sound (jam packed layers of samples that are piled up to bursting point that still feels like a mine field listening to it today) that was nearly pop. When you had a closer look at its dense layers of detail though it was all, well... quite bizarre. It may seem like an almighty chaotic mess but this LP is meticulously crafted down to every last microscopic sound. Producer/engineer Guy Fixsen is probably to be thanked for that. I've listened to this record hundreds of times and trying to write about it has got to be one of the hardest tasks I've ever set myself. Whatever I write will never do Eva Luna justice. You never know what's going to pop up or which turn it's about to take. This is a trip where the turbulence becomes so disorientating it sort of becomes beautiful.........(sort of....not really....I dunno....does it?).

Stupendous. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Re-Entry - Techno Animal

UK POST-ROCK TOP 14: PART 2

This is a fucking out and out (there) classic of absolute epic proportions. Jesus, was there ever a band name and album title more fitting? Never has a band sounded so primordial, cyberdelic and interstellar at the same time. What was happening sonically here was a journey through the stars that eventually reaches the atmosphere and crashes back to earth. This was infinite yet restricted all at once. Re-Entry was a hell of an artistic feat. Here we had Fourth World music taken beyond the stars and its limits. Techno Animal didn't just reference Jon Hassell (like MBV) they got him to play on two of the album's finest tracks. Real time playing was at a bare minimum here with only Hassell's trumpet and a couple of other instruments used. Then Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin abused those source sounds by pummelling them into shapes barely resembling their origins. The rest of the soundz come from samples that are so deformed there is no way of telling where they came from. Techno Animal get so lost in their machines that it feels like a miracle that they ever make it back out of them.

Today this double cd is still soo irresistible I can barely believe my ears. Re-Entry starts out astronomical and ends up depleted. While on paper it may seem like an absurd and potentially clunky smorgasbord of aural debris, somehow it comes out sounding fucking amazing. It's like they've stolen the soundtrack from a parallel universe. Jazz funk permutations, gonzoid sirens, buckled noise, malignant trumpets, bent hip hop, acid squelches, unsettling frequencies, out of shape drones and nightmarish mutant gamelan are all put through a demented cyber dub echo chamber. Phew...and that's just the first cd. Then on the second cd the beats slow down and dissipate into the polluted air of this vast desolate terrain. Tainted bells appear and a peculiar shape shifting tense ambience takes over. This is where dubbed out contaminated drone-ology reached perfection that remains unrivalled 20 years later. This is undoubtedly a masterpiece and quite possibly the best album of the 90s. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Evanescence - Scorn

UK POST-ROCK TOP 14: PART 1

Someone once niftily described Evanescence as Metal Box meets Bernard Hermann. That's way too neat a summation of the panoply of sonic experiences contained within this cd though. Evanescence was an incredible solitary sonic document of what musicians were attempting within these musical spheres at the time. Sure there is deep dub bass and spooky horror motifs but a whole lot more was going on here. While other UK Post-Rock groops like Stereolab, Pram and Laika were influenced by the great fluid Krautrock beats of Neu and Can, Scorn's beats were informed by hip hop. Along with darker ambient vibes they had traces of metal (Mick Harris & Nick Bullen were ex-members of the ferocious and funny metal band Napalm Death), goth, post punk, industrial, techno and drone-ology. The grooves are infectious and even sometimes mellifluous. Getting lost amongst these deep and heavy riddims is all part of the attraction of Evanescence. I recall being rather confounded upon first hearing this LP due to its musical juxtapositions and I guess, what I saw as contradictions, but that didn't last long as I kept coming back for more. The occasional vestige of a riff even drifts in now and then. Dread was a major part of original 70s dub reggae and on this recording Scorn certainly captured a unique British gloom. A doomed feel permeates the entire record. Unlike other ambient dub acts of the time this was not good time E-head chill out music. It had mysterious lulls into nightmarish worlds containing all the colours of the dark. Scorn at this stage were like a lethargic cousin to UK's darkside hardcore scene and a precursor to future genres like dub-step and hauntology. On Dreamspace Scorn even give us a bit of bass drum girth gabba/gloomcore style, which is fucking wicked. Exodus, one of the stand out tracks, was like a forlorn My Bloody Valentine with an ominous didgeridoo instead of an ecstatic flute. The lost generation of original UK post-rock were trying to push things forward and this LP stands as a testament to that vision to this day. It was quite an achievement and I kinda can't understand why a hundred groups didn't take up this as a blueprint but I guess the future was still up for grabs at the time and bands were forging their own identities, not wanting to be mere Scorn acolytes. The copyists and clones were gathering together over near or in the charts under the banner of New Wave of New Wave and Brit-Pop, nowhere near these outer regions.

Scorn's Evanescence is magic from the margins.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

UK Post Rock - The Lost Generation


In keeping with my recent recent posts about MainIce & Techno Animal I thought I'd go into a bit more detail on UK's Lost Generation of Post-Rock. Good ole Professor Reynolds was writing about these groups in the pages of Melody Maker from at least 1991 onwards. There's was an article in the 91 Christmas issue of Melody Maker with no byline that I assume was penned by Simon. It documented the first stirrings of a new (non)scene that included a bunch of disparate musical units committed to taking their music to the limits well away from the commercial alternative business of the time. Cranes were the hot topic with their 91 classic Wings Of Joy but they weren't what was soon to be called post-rock. They were a one off post-goth/industrial band with, and I quote 'a lush Scott Walker/Euro cabaret grandeur.' Anyway AR Kane's (forefathers of UK post-rock) label H.ark get a mention with their roster containing Papa Sprain & Butterfly Child. Kevin Martin's label Pathological rate a mention too with his own great band Techno Animal plus Oxbow (whatever happened to them?). Avant Yanks Cop Shoot Cop and Twin Infinitives era Royal Trux get thrown in the mix as well. But it was future post-rock icons Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis and Main who were the most celebrated/anticipated in this article as some kind of future saviours of what was still being called Avant-Rock. Two years later in 1993 the lost generation were still dubbed as Avant-Rock along with the speculative term Cyborg-Rock, which never really gained any traction. I guess weird non UK bands like Young Gods and The Boredoms would have fitted this category with relative ease. In the UK though more and more groups like Insides, EAR, Moonshake Scorn, Ice, Seefeel were displaying un-rock tendencies in a beyond rock context so this wasn't a classification that was to properly fit. Avant-Rock still implied that the genre was still rock'n'roll at its core despite innovations and modern tendencies. While half of what ended up being called Post-Rock still rocked in some mutant form, the other half was not so rockin. Hence the term Post-Rock making perfect sense.

The thing is this music was already under my skin so by the time Simon Reynolds came up with the term Post-Rock for these bands in an article for Wire magazine's May 1994 issue (reprinted in Bring The Noise pages 186-193) it kind of didn't really matter. I've never really thought about it before but I guess it was named in hindsight as the scene had been going for 3 or 4 years already. As is usually the case with these things a demise was on the way with only a few classics of the genre to be released after 1994. Post-Rock now also included the likes of O'rang, Laika, Flying Saucer AttackPram & Movietone. Parallels were being drawn to other artists on the outer musical limits like Paul Schutze, Jim O'Rourke, Thomas Koner, Aphex Twin, Eddie Prevost, Zoviet France etc. In an article in Melody Maker in July 1994 past artists were retroactively inducted into a post-rock hall of fame lineage from The Velvet Underground to Krautrock legends Neu, Faust & Cluster to Brian Eno to Post-Punk groups like PIL, Cabs and The Pop Group to 80s UK noise/bliss rockers from JAMC, MBV, Spaceman 3, Loop, The Cocteau Twins, AR Kane etc.

Post-Rock was all about samplers, drum machines, studios, effects, sequencers, jettisoning the guitar as a riff apparatus and integrating the techniques of dub, 70s Miles Davis, Can, hip-hop, ambient & techno into rock. Guitars were still sometimes used but in more of an unfamiliar and un-rock way. Mixing real time instrument playing with sampling was the raison d'etre for some which gave the recordings a really strange edge. Others opted for a wholly synthetic approach. This bunch of groups rarely sounded like one another, they were on the outside, went out into these zones alone and wore that status like a badge. Some were beat scientists, while others severed beats altogether and space was the place. Anyway that doesn't really sound like Explosions In The Sky does it? This UK shit was the shit! This was the sound of my bedroom in the early 90s while your more accessable rock/pop stuff (Shoegazers, Breeders, Pavement, Mazzy Star, Portishead etc.) from the era made it into the lounge rooms of the share houses I lived in at the time, Post-Rock was not embraced by all and remained in the ghetto of my bedroom (along with strange septic tanks like Slint, Trumans Water, Thinking Fellers Union 282 et al.). This parallelled how Post-Rock was pretty marginalised in the outside world too apart from Stereolab who were quite the cult band.....I suppose.

I think a top 14 of the original UK Post-Rock is in order. This is when the term made sense, meant something and the music was bloody great.

THE TOP 14
Hydra-Calm (compilation) - Main [1992]
Eva Luna - Moonshake [1992]
May - Papa Sprain [1992]
Transient Random Noise Bursts With Announcements - Stereolab [1993]
Iron Lung - Pram [1993]
Under The Skin - Ice [1993]
Quique - Seefeel [1994]
Hex - Bark Psychosis [1994]
Evanescence - Scorn [1994]
DI GO POP - Disco Inferno [1994]
Silver Apples of The Moon - Laika [1994]
Herd Of Instinct - O'rang [1994]
Further - Flying Saucer Attack [1995]
Re-Entry - Techno Animal [1995]


*The top 14 has just one record per artist.
These are in chronological order.
This list is by no means comprehensive.
Each of the top 14 will be featured in a future blog post.

**Stereolab, Flying Saucer Attack & Third Eye Foundation all released gems after 1995. I must admit I didn't really follow the next wave of  Post-Rock groups from the UK. I'm actually struggling to come up with any of their names beyond the Flying Saucer Attack affiliates Piano Magic, Crescent and Amp.