Friday, 26 February 2010
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Yo Majesty's! ex-tour DJ, Orion, who hails from Austin, Texas, is a big cumbia fan. According to XLR8R, Austin is one of the homes of cumbia in the States which is new to me. Anyway, Orion has put together an album of cumbia refixes called 'Carajo Colombia', and it's really quite good. Thankfully, unlike some of the other cats in the genre, he doesn't fuck with the originals too much. An extra kick here, a touch more bass there, and that's it. The thing about cumbia, is that most of, if not all the tunes are good enough to stand on their own two feet. I don't really see the need to retouch them to make them more accessible for hipster parties in Brooklyn. I mean, you wouldn't start messing around with a Lee Perry track, or some rare Ali Farka Toure cut would you?
The album can be downloaded in its entirety, and for free here.
PS. There's more mentions of Barranquilla, Santa Marta and la costa caribe than you can shake a stick at.
Here is my latest LWE review on Jellphonic ft. Zacky Force Funk's '1000 Snakes' EP, 'the wheezy west coast sound taken to its illogical antipodean extreme, a synth(etic) ass wallop of electric boogie-woogie that constantly threatens to collapse under the various anxieties of influence the record operates under.'
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
In between leaving Berlin and arriving in Colombia, I spent three very happy days at home with my parents in Oxford. These consisted of purhcasing an external hard drive, buying US Dollars, and, perhaps most pleasureably of all, meeting up with my old friend Tom White. I hadn't seen Tom in well over a year, maybe even two, as he had chosen to move to Beijing. Over a couple of pints, we got to talking, and he mentioned this idea he had about the dance track so perfect that one would fall down dead (quite literally dead) listening to it. It would be so perfect in its execution, so sensitive to the needs of the dance floor, so punishingly severe, that the body would surrender any pretence of putting up a fight, and dissolve there and then into nothingness. Cool idea I thought. So I asked Tom to write me a little piece on this ideal for the Wunderkind blog, and this is what he came back with:
I was converted to dance music in a cow shed. Previously something of an indie kid, I had drifted into the agricultural margins of a guitar band festival and found said shed, where drum n bass was being pumped into a grateful crowd. The music, 'characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats' (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), was a revelation to someone accustomed to keening vocals and emotive strumming. I also saw several groups of young men in the cow shed manually pleasuring their girlfriends, who looked a bit bored, but which only added to the sense of occasion.
I've since moved on from drum n bass to other kinds of repetitive beats, but I'm still toying with the question that struck me after my Road to Damascus moment that day in the shed: why do I like this? Bear with me while I grapple out loud with this weighty question.
I remember once hearing a rumour of a rogue Anglican clergyman somewhere in the north of England who would hold 'religious raves', involving dance music, ecstasy and Jesus. I could almost believe this; the similarity between dance music events and religious ceremonies is clear enough for music journalism to be awash with religious cliché: the dj as 'high priest', for example. This of course brings to mind appalling images of a late 90s superstar DJ – Paul Van Dyk perhaps - decked out in the regalia of an archbishop, wielding a crozier and blessing an audience of gurning fools.
But I was recently listening to Frankie Knuckles' Motivation Too mix and wondering why I didn't find that the overtly religious vocals – 'he moves in mysterious ways' – grated on my deeply agnostic sensibilities. I realized it's because I'd been prepared for this religiosity by my previous dance music experiences. All that 'put your hands in the air' and MCs speaking in tongues that I'd heard first in the cow shed was just a bastardized Pentecostalist service.
Dance music as religious ritual is a bit old hat though, and it's not nice to think too much about Paul Van Dyk. While I'm sure the atavistic religious element is very important, there's something else which contributes to my enjoyment of dance music, something a bit more, well, post-Enlightenment. More than other kinds of music, dance music has a particular function: to make people dance. This means that dance music is more quantifiable: this particular track is good because it makes me want to dance; this track is better because it makes me want to dance even more.
Once I'd decided that certain tracks were good because they made me want to dance, I started to wonder how they made me dance. If I could say how certain tracks were better than others at making me dance, then I could perhaps say what would constitute the best track; I started to imagine that there existed an algorithm for my ideal dance music.
Dance music is wonderfully simple (IDM is awful). Made up of a few basic building blocks which are then repeated, it's very honest about how it works. Why does dance music keep going back to its roots? I don't think it's just a reflection of the nostalgia embedded in pop culture; I think it's because the most satisfying dance music is crudely cobbled together, the seams showing, as much of that great 80s house/techno is. Juan Atkins was, after all, no Phil Spector. Bits of vocals stuck on top of an 808 loop, samples laden with sci-fi doom, crisp hi-hats and a bassline that bounces; dance music works best when it's stripped down so we can see its mechanics. Once you've listened to enough of it, it's quite easy to say which elements work, which elements you want where, as you mentally assemble your ideal. Add that trampolining bass; move the antique siren. Perfection appears very much within reach.
Unfortunately I'm no mathematician, so I can't say what my algorithm might look like. And of course it would be different for everyone else. I know, however, that my appreciation of any particular track relates to my hazy perception of how much it diverges from my ideal track. The more I listen to dance music, the more this ideal track takes shape. I know now that it includes shifting minor 7th synth pads; a vocal sample which has been wrenched out of context – Civil Rights-era sermons, for example, or a German ethnomusicologist introducing his field recordings among the Congolese pygmies; and a four to the floor beat which cuts out ¾ of the way through, only to drop back in 23 seconds later. Very soon I will have worked out the entirety of this ideal track.
One day I will learn how to use Fruity Loops. Then I will retire and spend the rest of my life in the bath listening to this one tune, trying to dance while lying down.
Some crude choons (building blocks for an ideal):
Sunday, 21 February 2010
This one's really divided the critics. It's the original that has got everyone in a tiswas. I like it, but I have to agree with RA's Will Lynch, and say that the Dub works a lot better. I really am all for Steffi, and by extension Ostgut, busting out more vocal house jams. I think it complements the overall aesthetic that the club pushes. I'm pretty sure those that disagree have never even stepped foot in Panoramabar.
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
I'm not living in Berlin anymore. I've moved to Barranquilla on Colombia's Caribbean coast, the land of my father's birth. I'm working for a newspaper called El Heraldo, the newspaper where Garcia Maquez got his lucky break so fingers crossed. All my articles can be checked on their website. Barranquilla has a pretty famous carnival, and I've been covering it quite extensively.
Here is an article on the carnival's lack of infrastructure.
Here is one on backpackers in the city for the carnival.
Here is a piece on the American ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield.
Here is a piece on a dancing troupe made up of street sweepers.
Here is one on a Sikh visitor from America who has really confused the Colombians.
The tune above is pretty much THE hit this year. Everyone is playing it. It's been really interesting to see the evolution of champeta from something that was laughable, to something that is now thoroughly mainstream. Any genre from pop to to the most underground of electronic Colombian music has a distinctive champeta flavour that wasn't present last time I visited in 2005.
The carnival is a wonderful experience, full of life and colour. Unlike Europe, life is lived on the streets here, which makes my work intersting and rewarding. More than that though, life is soundtracked here. Every shop, car, private home or dwelling seems to have a PA parked outside it, banging out tunes throughout the day and night, which makes thinking outside that tropical/champeta/cumbia/salsa/merengue/reggaeton mindset quite demanding. I shall however endeavour, and have more special mixes and interviews lined up. I will aim to post some photos of the carnival in the next few days.
Monday, 15 February 2010
Over the Christmas period, I met up with Fred P in New York, and we had a great chat. He also agreed to do a mix for the site. Don't miss this mix, it's just as amazing as you would expect it to be, if not more so. It's also crammed full of unreleased material from Fred, Jus-Ed, DJ Qu, and Move D.
I want to ask you about the modern notion of deep house. If you listen to the type of music that the modern deep house is based on it claims to be based on the Strictly Rhythm, the Nervous, the MAW records. Listening to it now though, I don’t feel like it necessarily sounds so much like those records. I wanted to ask you if you think this idea of deep house which has been so prevalent this last year or two is actually a more modern invention that it perhaps claims to be?
I think it borrows from everything that came before it. For me, what I do with my production is a part of everything that I like, and a lot of that music is music that I grew up with. In the beginning I was listening to all of that. Everyone has their own way of putting their sound together, whatever gear they use, but the setting is the core of what it’s all about. As far as it being a modernistaion, house music is connected to disco, is connected to rnb, is connected to the blues, so all it is, is just a different expression of the same thing, and over the last couple of years, more producers are moving that expression forward. In that sense, deep house is as old as music itself.
Deep house is currently en vogue, in the way that minimal was a few years ago, and if you imagine that people who are perhaps bandwagon-jumping onto that sound, if there will be a critical backlash against that. I was wondering what you think 20ten might hold for that deep house sound now that it is becoming so prevalent, and so popular.
The bandwagon stuff will fall away, because if you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s not going to stand for very long, and I think that’s what makes good music, if you believe in what you’re doing. You’re at your most honest when you are expressing that. If you’re just doing it because it’s in, or because you want a piece of the market share, or whatever, that’s going to show in the music, because it won’t stand. It’ll be the track of the week versus the song of the century. Anyone who’s doing it from an honest place, and honestly expresses themselves, the music will tend to have a timeless nature to it no matter how simple or complicated, there will be something the people will connect with. Trends don’t have a habit of doing that they come and go as artists and musicians have a level of integrity where they can continue to do what they are doing because it’s real. I think that deep house doesn’t have that thing. People are starting to notice it because it sounds a little bit different now, but it has always been around and it will continue to be around because there are a lot of people that love it and that dedicate themselves to it. Everything happens in cycles, and there will be a new sound at some point, and I’m sure it already exists. It will get some light and be exposed, but when that happens, deep house will be just as dope as it is now. In terms of a backlash, that will only happen if it becomes cheesy. In a physical world, the derivative deep house won’t last. Perhaps in a digital world, but not in a physical one.
You originally started off coming out of a hip hop tradition, and quite a lot of house musicans also started off coming out of a hip hop tradition. I was wondering if you think a love of house coming out of a love hip hop is a natural progression?
My first experience of it came from listening to 98.7 Kiss FM. They would do like a 3 hour hip hop show , DJ Red Alert or DJ Chuck Chillout, and afterwards would be a 3 or 4 hour show where you would hear nothing but jazz music: Kenny Carpenter or any one of the DJs of that time, I mean I’m going back to like 85/86. I didn’t start going out to clubs until like 89 or something when I was in High School. Hip hop is electronic music whether you like it or not because it uses samples from rnb and soul and so forth, it’s just a different vibration. I think as you get older and you want a little bit more substance to feed your mind, and that’s what happens as you progress as an artist: you start to look for things that give you more food for thought. Hip hop shares that thing with deep house where anything, say over 120 bpm, is stimulation for you mind, and an artist is always looking for food for thought.
This whole idea of a New York house renaissance, how real do you think that is? Is that something that exists or is it more of a media hype. I mean, NYC has always had a strong affinity with house music and now it really seems to be rediscovering that past, I was wondering if that is something you can feel as a NYC based musician.
As I said before, deep house has always been around, and everything goes in cycles, but it is really being noticed. What’s going on right now, what is being brought to life, with UQ, and with everyone under that umbrella, is what really brought attention to what’s been going on. I think it is very real, and I think it always has been, it’s just that it being noticed now.
You’ve been a long admirer of the UK broken beat scene – groups like 4Hero, Bugz in the Attic – I was wondering how that chimed with you? What drew you to that sound?
Basically, at the time that I was introduced to all those artists, I wasn’t making any music. I had quit production, sold everything in my studio, and bought a car, and I was working a security job in Brooklyn, because I was totally disgusted with music, and I bumped into a friend of mine, Jay Locke, who I have known for 16, 17 years and we had lost contact for a while. I was on my way to work and we bumped into each other and we reconnected. And he would start bringing me these mixtapes, with 4Hero, the whole Bugz crew, all of them and along with other artists like Space Time Continuum,. I would listen to these tapes on my way to work, coming home, day in day out. They were like a release. I had previously been deeply interested in the hip hop scene productionwise and I had not listened to any dance music since like 1990 or 91 and this is like 99, so to make a long story short, it was these tapes which made me remember why I loved music, not just hip hop or house, but music in general: broken beat to drum n bass to ambient, to downtempo, house, deep house. It was a multi-level mix of music on every tape, and it reminded me of my love of music, and why I enjoyed the process of creation, the art of sound. It made me want to build up a studio again and to make music, not to put anything out, but just to make music, which is what I love to do. And that’s what happened. If it wasn’t for listening to those guys, my sound wouldn’t sound like it does now. I was inundated with all these beautiful chord structures, sound effects and things like that and what happened was that with all the rhythmic changes of broken beat and drum n bass, lead heavily to how I construct some of my beats now. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we would be talking, I’d be doing something else.
Was there a direct link between that west London sound and your current sound?
I still do the melodic thing, but it is more rhythmically stripped down. I would say it is a happy meeting of the two. However, I have a new album coming out that I’m stretching a little bit. I’m adding a bit more of that rhythmic chaos that I’m used to. I’m not trying to scare anybody, so I’m being very gentle with it. I’m not going to give it to you all at once. I want to show different shades of it over time so its not such a dramatic change from one thing to the other.
UQ has received a lot of praise, especially in 2009, and also the associated labels: Novel Sound, Deconstruct, Soul People Music. I was just wondering what you think that is down to and why it really exploded this year?
Well, everybody worked really hard. With Levon and Novel, he’s done some incredible music and deserves all the accolades he’s getting, and Anthony Parasole as well. He’s worked very hard with Deconstruct, and also Qu with Strength Music. But UQ really set the example. Jus-Ed with his work ethic and everyone followed in suit. We all worked very hard at putting forward our best effort to represent the type of music we like to hear both in production and playing out-wise. Everyone has different tastes and that is what makes the collective so interesting because no one is doing the same thing, we are all doing different things that complement each other and that is very unique when looking at a collective. You know, very few have been able to achieve that. We all have different points of view and that is important and I think that’s what has really made all of this so special.
I want to ask you the work you’ve done with Move D. How did that come about?
My first solo EP was called No Looking Back and it was on my own label, and the record did really well and I got invited to play in Heidelberg and Offenbach at this club called Cube and I played there with Move D and we met, had a great time at the club, he’s an incredible person, one of my favourite people, and also one of my favourite artists and from there, we stayed in contact and David went to Japan and did a live set he had come up with Jonah Sharp of Spacetime Continuum, and this is where it gets a little cosmic because he is a hero of mine, and came up with the song 'Keep Building', and it was put together over the course of a year, sending the track back and forth. I added a bit of vocals, and some sound effects and some key work, and I sent it back to them, and they both loved it. Then they performed it at PS1 on July 4th and what they did was perform the whole album, and the track was part of the album. It was then that I got to hear the finished article for the first time and I was blown away by it. I was having a hard time concentrating on my part because I had listened to that arrangement for the first time that day and it was incredible with everything put in its proper place. Hearing the record at the end of the process made me very proud to be a part of that project, because these guys, and particularly Jonah Sharp as Spacetime Continuum, was part of the inspiration that got me back into production. To build a project with him and Move D, is like a high point, or a really bright spot in what is becoming my career and I’m very very proud of that project and that record in particular. One of the most special records I have done this year.
Why is it do you think that Germans have such a love and affinity for house music?
They feel the music. You can tell if someone is feeling the music because they move voluntarily. I know whenever I’m feeling the music I’m moving voluntarily. Not only that, it’s detail. They pay attention to everything that is there, very in the moment. That is the highest complement you can get from an artist, and as an artist, to be present. You know, every second, there is detail there, and for people to notice that, is huge. And the Germans seem to have that, they care, and you can notice it right away, because you feel connected and the connection is strong. It’s a humanity kind of thing as well which is really cool, and a lot of folks can learn from that.
So how is 2010 looking for you, DJwise, releasewise ?
Wow, well it is a very ambitious list of things. Right away at the top is my first real collaboration with Move d and myself on Soul People Music. Then there’s the Deep Things album which is part of the Black Jazz Consortium project, which is probably going to be the only BJC project for a while, as I’m starting to do a lot of collaborations. Digitalwise, there is my first mix which is called ‘Sound Travels Vol. 1’, which is basically music from the vault, music form 2005/6, which never really got heard. Maybe a European tour as well.
And that’s just your music?
No that’s music from all the artists on Soul People Music. Just that never got heard because of distribution issues or false starts or whatever. Just stuff I still have in the vault and deserves a chance to be heard. Then a number of digital releases that will be coming out and also more Fred P single releases on vinyl. Maybe another mix or two before the summer, but we’ll see what happens. Oh and the Analogue Diaries which is me and Anthony Parasole on Deconstruct.
1 DJ Jus Ed - Teckno Soul Vibe mix - CDR
2 Joey Anderson - Oval - Strength Music
3 Move D - Aspiration 2010 - Soul People Music
4 Fred P - Project 2 - Underground Quality
5 Marathon Men - Sweet Exorcist - CDR
6 Monolake - Stratosphere
8 Dario Zenker - Down,Then There - Esperanza
9 Black Jazz Consortium - The Om - Soul People Music
10 D' Marc Cantu - No Control (JTC Remix) - Creme JAK X01
11 Santiago Salazar - La Minora - H&V002
12 Levon Vincent - Late Night Jam - Ostgut
13 DJ QU - Law - CDR
14 DJ QU - Party People Clap (Anthony Parasole, Fred P Remix) Deconstruct
15 Fred P - Untitled - CDR
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Latest RA review on Julio Bashmore's 'Um Bongo's Revenge'.
From the lazer flares to the not-quite congo house meets Funky tabla riddim, by way of the '90s kid's fruit juice-referencing title, Julio Bashmore's "Um Bongo's Revenge" wears its British heart on its gravy-stained sleeve. More than that though, the release marks a seminal moment of sorts: It's the first major Funky release on a traditional house and techno label.
Dirtybird has made its name with a barmy, Bay Area brand of tech house, but Claude VonStroke's A&R ear clearly extends much further, as UK Funky arriviste Bashmore's debut rips that template to shreds, not so much desecrating past glories, but pointing the way toward richer, more innovative sonic pastures. "Um Bongo's Revenge" is without a doubt the standout track here, and seems almost to have anthem status written into its molecular structure, but its success should remind how useful such generic/scenic miscegenation can be. The oft-repeated "Um Bongo" refrain should be annoying, but isn't. The various illogical breakdowns, usually the hallmark of a producer with either ADD or a severe lack of discipline, should grate, but somehow arrive like manna from heaven, while the lazers and sirens fuse organically with the track's more Teutonic elements.
"World Peace" cannot help but come up short in comparison, a whirling organ ride that sets its cross hairs more intently on Berlin than London, replete with Rhodes and tambourine tropes. Nonetheless, with San Francisco, London and Berlin all in the mix on this EP, you get the sense that this globalisation thing might just work.