29 November 2004
This comment from Mark Spit in response to my previous post is spot-on, I reckon. Hadn't really thought about it much before (maybe I'd be ashamed of what I'd discover about myself?) But what else could possibly be driving us to give-up so much of our free time? Of course it's ego. The egotistical belief that we know more about our given subject than anyone else, that we're so bloody righteous and generous by educating the masses with our frenzied, ill-conceived opinions on music, art, politics and such like. Really, this is just one last desperate attempt to gain some sort of fame - MP3 bloggers in particular are just frustrated DJ's who's dreams of being the next John Peel, Carl Cox or whoever have long-since evaporated into the dust. And worst of all, those like myself who believe that people should be interested in some half-arsed demo we recorded ten years ago - christ, is there no limit to my conceit?! Then there's the petty jealousies and rivalries that are never addressed directly - but you can feel them bubbling-up under the surface - "how dare that bastard not include me in his links bar?", "how come so-and-so blog gets more comments than me, when I'm obviously coming up with far superior, more thought-provoking posts?". It makes you sick, don't it?
Still, at least we can say that we're at the cutting-edge of expression within the media. The stuff that's going on right now is historically important. The NME might try enticing readers with fancy hologramatic covers, but the fact remains that it's days are numbered. All these individuals/nobodies that inhabit the blogosphere are the new taste-makers and trend-setters of modern culture. I'm looking forward to seeing the first example of an unknown band becoming mega-successful after being featured/bigged-up by a blog. It'll happen one day soon. The future is ours.
Blimey, there I go again - delusions of grandeur still firmly in place. Wot a tosser!!
The referrals feature has already highlighted a couple of interesting things that I might not have noticed otherwise. For instance, I spotted that my mate Aaron has been talking about me with John Eden at some Reggae nerds message board . Presumably this is where all the Blood & Fire refugees are hanging-out now.
Far more interesting though is a recent post at MPC blog. The really fun thing about my Grime Scene Investigation series is that I really don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, and the fact that far more knowledgable individuals have been inspired to add their own spin on my confused ramblings is fantastic. MPC certainly seems to know his stuff (or at least gives a strident impression of knowing it) and his definitions of the various sub-genres within Grime are some of the most explicitly clear so far. The one point that all these aficionados seem to agree on is that Rephlex Grime is actually Dubstep. Now let that be an end to the matter!
Sorry, what was that? Something about MP3s? Oh christ, what with all this tracker fun I'd completely forgotten that I'm supposed to be posting MP3s and writing interesting things about them! Well, er....okay. Think I'll stick on a mid-90's drum 'n' bass tip for now, with an essential slice of urban paranoia from Photek. These Tracker programs are a bit like virtual closed-circuit television systems, don't you think? Endlessly recording the comings and goings of visitors to one's 'establishment', while some faceless operator analyses all the data: times, dates, locations...how do you know when you're being watched? "The Hidden Camera EP" came out in 1996 and it still sounds pretty good, although some of those Jazz pretensions are in evidence as on the the title track's double-bass figures and 'blue' chord changes. The 'Static Mix' clears most of that away though, leaving a skeletal, jittery groove of hair-trigger intensity that's like a soundtrack to all those late-nights walking home through a dangerous part of the neighbourhood; senses alert to every possible hint of danger. This is edgy, lip-biting stuff - an accurate reflection of 'inner city pressure', where paranoia is the only healthy state of mind. And to my ears, it hasn't dated one bit.
This is Nick Gutterbreakz, watching you watching me....
28 November 2004
A couple of weeks ago I hit on what I thought was a brilliant idea to take the strain out of MP3 blogging. To wit: find an interesting post at a non-MP3 music blog, link to it with a suitable MP3 to illustrate it's content and bob's yer uncle, job done!
So today I would respectfully ask you to read this and then listen to:
Respect to the man similar to Derek Poplife for bringing Platinum Breakz back on the agenda. As long-term readers might remember, this was in my Top 100 British albums rundown - a seminal artifact of the '90s drum 'n' bass era, before it all went a bit shit.
While I'm at it, I might as well rinse some extra mileage out of Derek, 'the scribe with the vibe' , after he posted this comment here recently; "For me Wiley is as bouncy and luscious as G Funk, those synth sounds are like little flecks of colour- this aspect of eskibeat could almost be the theme tune to Pengu (sic) (or some other chidren's TV programme)."
After that, how could I resist posting this little nugget of Grimey tomfoolery?
As any dad-blogger worth his salt will know, Pingu is seriously essential viewing for all ages. If you disagree, you're a miserable old tart who urgently needs to connect with the child within.
Who will be the next blogger to have their ideas ripped-off by Gutterbreakz?
26 November 2004
"Dubstep, Sublow, Techstep, 8 Bar"etc. How many of my fellow bloggers, even the London-based ones, are really that switched-on that they could make those distinctions with 99.9% accuracy? I mean, what the fuck is Sublow (Sub-Lo?) when it's at home? I recently came across a live DJ set on Soulseek from the Pay As You Go Cartel with Slimzee at the decks. I think it's actually a couple of years old (ancient history to all the hipsters), but it's a pretty cool set featuring mainly Speed Garage tunes with MCing skills provided by Godsgift and Wiley who, even on these bouncy uptempo numbers, was already going on about "Everyday I live flow like a shadow/I'm so cold and I feel so cold/and I spit a new flow still goin' on cold". Damn, that's deep! Anyway, there's one track early on that's a bit edgier than the others (the tune is "Shocka" by Geeneus) and at the beginning Godsgift actually says it's Sublow and advises turning the lights down. It sounds like a premonition of some of the FWD/Rephlex tracks I've heard this year, but also features one of the best lines I've personally ever had the good fortune to hear: "I flow like a sawn-off shotty/we are way to hotty/we were doing this since pissing in a potty". Marvelous stuff. Right, so this is a Sublow track, okay?
Now then, our mysterious reader states that Grime 2 is actually "dubstep in it's purest form". My initial reaction to Rephlex's second compilation was a bit unenthusiastic. I guess I was hoping it would be more extreme than the first one, when in fact it's much subtler. I'm starting to appreciate it more now. Taken on it's own terms it's got some really interesting ideas on it. Probably in five years' time I'll be hailing it as the most important document of this era! I realise that I haven't actually posted a track from the album yet and thought now would be a good time to do so. As I've already posted tracks from other releases by Kode 9 and Digital Mystiks , I've chosen one by Loefah. All three of his offerings follow a similar path: sparse arrangements with clunky kick/snare pattern offset by rolling eastern percussion loops, subby bass vibrations and so forth. I picked this tune cos it's got the best snare sound and a somewhat confrontational dialogue sample ("don't you rely on your special techniques - I might just beat them!") that suggests Loefah thinks he's got the edge on his colleagues...
So that's a Dubstep track, okay? Everyone clear on the distinctions now? No? Me neither. Fuck it, I'm taking Ed DMX's advice: it's all just bloody Grime from now on. Ignorance is bliss....
Simon Silverdollar gives his spin on Grime definitions, plus some wise words from Derek Poplife, who seems to be upping the pace recently. Respec', as always...
24 November 2004
Tasty post from John 'Uncarved' Eden on Homophobia/Sexual Health in Reggae music. The writing and record label jpegs are, as usual, superb - but it's times like this I can't help wishing that Uncarved would magically transform into an MP3 blog too. Remember John, to share is to care...
Scissorkick offers a track from DJ/Rupture. Also interesting to note Rupture's views on MP3 blogs: "posts shouldn't just be random, but rather should communicate a bit of the personality of this person, this blogger, who is truly nothing but the most noble of pirates. " Isn't that what I've been trying to do? Eventually, I'll have written my entire lifestory at this blog...you just have to look out for all the little details. I feel slightly vindicated, though frustrated to note that Scissorkick still doesn't think I'm worthy of inclusion in his links bar (cue strangulated sobbing noises).
Respect to 20 Jazz Funk Greats for hipping me to the fact that there is a band called Selfish Cunt. How cool is that?
Also back after long absences: Telephone Thing , with a fresh fistful of MP3s, the terminally reticent Dozer, and Paul Meme's Industrial Mix is once again available for the download.
THE BIG THREE:
Things are still desperately quiet at Woebot. I guess Matt's still putting all his NRG into moderating and cooking-up hot new topics of discussion over at the Dissensus forum. Oh, for another Jpeg extravaganza! I shall have words with him about this when we meet-up for lunch next month...
It's picking-up a little at over at K-Punk, though I'm sure Mark's a bit miffed that the rest of the Kollective aren't taking up some of the slack during this relatively lean period.
Blissblog still quiet as the proverbial grave, though check Simon's review of 'Run The Road' here.
Yesterday I joined a band. But it's already falling apart in a squabbling riot of rampant acrimony, petty jealousies and enlarged egos. So it goes...
I've read the odd unkind word about B12, but one man's 'testcard muzak' is another's 'balm for the soul'. That the DJ played B12 at all was great, the fact that he played my undisputed fave track from "Electro-Soma" was the bonus ball! Okay, maybe B12's take on Detroit purism was a little on the anaemic side (and the album title's reference to the fictional drug used to pacify the proletariate in Huxley's "Brave New World" could be construed as proof of it's mind-wiping blandness) - but still 'Bio Dimension', with it's pensive, fussy snare pattern, somber, reflective atmosphere and bulbous, ungainly bassline hits the spot for me everytime.
I don't think I've ever mentioned Richie Hawtin in this blog before, which is slightly unjust. Admittedly, much of his Plastikman material left me a little cold, but the earlier Fuse output is serious nourishment. 'Theychx' is the centerpiece of "Dimension Intrusion", the Fuse anthology released by Warp (in association with Hawtin's own +8 label) as part of the original Artificial Intelligence series. The full track clocks in at nearly quarter of an hour, so I've slimmed it down a bit for all you impatient downloaders out there. If you like what you hear, track down the full album (or dust off that old, unloved copy lying at the back of your collection and let it back into your life).
That whole Artificial Intelligence period had such a profound effect on me at the time. As I mentioned in my Belgian post, before that I was strictly bangin' hardcore addict. I guess it must've been Aphex Twin's first Selected Ambient Works collection (itself released on the definitive Belgian label R&S in 1992) that first drew me into the more sedate, contemplative aura of the first wave of 'intelligent' artists. Along with "Dimension Intrusion" and "Electro-Soma", Warp's seminal series of albums also included Black Dog's "Bytes", Speedy J's "Ginger", Autechre's "Incunabula" and of course Aphex's Polygon Window album. Maybe it was all coinciding nicely with my own gradual change of lifestyle...I bought my first house around then, got married in '93, started spending a bit more time at home, and these album-length excursions would've fit in nicely with that whole situation. As a consequence I missed out on some of the really interesting things going on in the still developing hardcore/jungle scene - I took my eye off the ball - and I'm still catching-up with a lot of that stuff now. Still, at the time I was perfectly content to drift in the currents of the Ambient/Intelligent axis, and much of it is still very close to my heart. Other formerly hardcore labels like Rising High also went down that route too, throwing up some occasionally brilliant albums. I'm resolved to unearth and reassess more of this era in the next few weeks - undoubtedly resulting in a series of occasional posts on the subject, which'll make a nice contrast to the Belgian ones (which are coming soon, I promise!).
23 November 2004
RETRO CHICKS WITH CHUNKY HEADPHONES
Disclaimer: No Auto-Critique; no Post-Ironic Reassessment; no Re-contexturalisation...
(copyright Kek-W 2004)
Okay, now let's wipe away the comforting patina of retro-kitsch irony and bring the concept bang-up-to-date, with a little unmitigated smut for the MP3 generation:
I wonder what she's listening to? Here's something that might get her 'in the mood'...
Beat that, my fellow pervy sad-dad bloggy friends...
21 November 2004
I last saw Kirk in the flesh about two years ago in London. I wrote about that here. I assumed that my next opportunity to take holy communion with Him would involve equally long-distance travel, so reacted with a certain degree of disbelief when the rumours started flying around that He was planning on doing a performance in my home town. It wasn't until I was finally holding the advance ticket in my sweaty palm that I truly believed that it was gonna happen; that this wasn't just some hallucination - Kirk would indeed be playing in Bristol, less than ten minutes drive from my doorstep. For one night only, the tiny Cube cinema would become a remote outpost of Sheffield - a h(e)aven for all the local weirdo disenfranchised industrial/electronic headz to congregate and take a lesson from The Creator.
(Please note: all MP3s featured are NOT bootlegs from the actual gig, they're the officially released versions, which I offer up to give all interested parties a 'flavour' of what we experienced that night. Sorry, no Jpegs - there was a strict 'no photography' rule in place. )
This was a performance in two halves. First up, an hour-long film of archival material, kicking-off with a cut-up sequence soundtracked by "This Is Our Religion", an early Cabs outtake available on Mute's rarities compilation "Listen Up With Cabaret Voltaire". A perfect opener - it's mantric repetition and sentiment drawing the audience into Kirk's unique vision, as a series of lo-rez video images flashed before our eyes: a surgeon peeling skin from a female patient's forehead, hardcore porn penetration close-ups, original Dadaist Hugo Ball in performance, Arabic slogans, warfare...all edited together in a typically random messthetic of dark sensations, fleeting horror and throw-away banality.
Then, straight into some footage of the Cabs miming along to "Why Kill Time..." (from "The Crackdown" album) in a television studio. I've got plenty of bootleg Cabs TV appearances, but I ain't never seen this one before. Kirk and Mallinder looking gorgeous in make-up, putting on a spirited performance for the cameras like some New Romantic act from a twisted para-reality. A fleeting glimpse of what mainstream pop entertainment could, and should, have been.
Then another cut-up sequence backed by the opening track from Kirk's recent "Earlier/Later" anthology. My feelings for this particular work of genius are well documented in the review I posted earlier this year, but suffice to say that prescient early-80s future funk tracks like this are sure to give me the goosebumps every time.
After some brief TV documentary footage about the reopening of The Lyceum as a live venue, we were then 'treated' to what appeared to be a home-made film of the Cabs rehearsing the set for their Lyceum gig (documented on "Live At The Lyceum") at Western Works. The blurry, virtually static 'performance' by Kirk, Mallinder and original third member Chris Watson, coupled with the muddy, amateurish sound quality of the audio blasting through the PA system was admittedly a challenging experience even for a die-hard fan like myself. As my learned colleague Richard Lord remarked directly afterwards, "I feel like I've been hit by a bloody truck!" In light of this, the ten minute intermission was a welcome relief, as we staggered back to the bar for refreshments. Then, it was back to the auditorium for Kirk's live performance...
Against a silent backdrop of further grainy, processed video imagery, Kirk shuffled onstage with a plastic carrier bag and, without ackowledging the reverently silent crowd - you could've heard a pin drop - sat down behind his gear, rifled through his bag, pulled out a stack of minidiscs, spent a few moments studying them intently before loading one into the player, took a sip from some alcoholic beverage, pressed 'play' and unleashed the destabalising rock/dub mash-down that is the opening title track from his latest album. This was quickly followed by several as yet unreleased stompers, dominated by some fierce bass oscillator riffs that sent ripples of pure energy coursing through my body. Remember, this venue is primarily a cinema, and so the audience were all seated. I couldn't believe that everyone around me seemed able to sit there motionless - I was practically vibrating out of my seat, the bass frequencies jerking my limbs in involuntary spasms. The sound was sort of Grimey, but Grime where the relentless 4/4 kick of Hard Techno had reasserted itself as the primary source of propulsion. All the while, Kirk was fiddling around at the mixing desk, adding colossal surges of delay, echo, reverb detonations and improvising violent bursts of eardrum-splitting noise frequencies from a nearby synth. All this against a backdrop of distorted images of the Twin Towers crumbling in an endless horrifying loop.
Kirk took things down a pace after, taking the highly unusual decision to play what was, by his standards, a couple of ancient tracks from "Chant To Jah", the Dub/Dancehall influenced album first released by Touch in 1998 (subsequently re-issued by Soul Jazz in 2002). Perhaps he thought the skanky grooves would appeal to a Bristol audience, though he's not usually known for making the slightest concession to what the punters might want. Whatever, it was a fucking pleasure to hear "Scientific Exploitation" at high decibels.
As the set neared it's apocalyptic finale, Kirk proceeded to shred what was left of my nervous system with the final cut from last year's awesome "Bush Doctrine" album - "I Got Weapons". If ever there was a track that could genuinely be described as 'electro-punk', then this is it. The guitar loops were a solid wall of hi-frequency whiteout, completely swallowing the rhythm track and causing some nasty crackling sounds of distress to emanate from the right-channel PA speaker. A final, nullifying shriek of blind rage, the like of which has surely not been performed in the name of entertainment since at least 1978.
As the performance ended, the crowd responded with a warm round of applause. But Kirk, without even glancing in our direction, took a step back, stared intently at his gear for a moment, then abruptly turned on his heal and existed stage left. I got the strange impression that he was almost disappointed with us. We'd come here to be entertained, but had we really got The Message? Whatever it was Kirk was trying to achieve, the look on his face suggested that it had fallen short of his expectations. Earlier on, during the intermission, we'd spotted him darting through the crowd on his way to the stage area, politely ducking the friendly back-slaps of the fans, seemingly unwilling to interact directly, and he never showed up in the bar afterwards either, which Mr. Lord and myself were a little disappointed by, as we'd both found him very approachable on previous meetings. Clearly Kirk was on a mission, and hanging around getting his ego massaged by a bunch of raving sycophants was not on the agenda. He expected more from us. More what? Fuck knows. The Lord works in mysterious ways....
18 November 2004
Judging by the bandwidth activity, yesterday's Schematic post was popular (not that you'd know it from the comments box - I mean, who the fuck are you people? - say hello, why dontcha...) I'm resolved to write more stuff about IDM now. I get the impression there's quite a lot of anti-IDM feeling at certain message boards, which just makes me more inclined to write about it! Maybe I'll lose a few friends, but there you go. In fact, the Schematic post was really just a reaction to all the Miami-bass excitement I've been reading. I'm a contrary bastard, me...
Whether by coincidence or as a direct result, I got an e-mail last night from Andrew at Merck Records, that other 'intelligent' Miami label, with links to a whole bunch of MP3s, so I'm passing them on to the good readers here at Gutterbreakz. Haven't had a chance to absorb them myself yet, but there should be plenty for you all to listen to for the next few days.
First up, Ilkae. Andrew sez: "Ilkae is a two piece with two albums on merck, Pistachio Island (which is amazing) and Bring More Dragons which is a 12". Their selling a cd-r through their website of stuff with silk-screened covers etc. Some of the tracks off the cd are available for download so check it out. If I had to describe it, it's kinda like Plaid's Double Figure only willing to take more chances and a little more garage sounding".
Check their website here and listen to a full track here. I've had a listen to this one, it's quite cool. Reminds me of my childhood, for some reason.
Next up, "Lackluster has a huge selection of stuff for download, he's the man
behind 2 releases for us, and releases for Defocus and others.
Spans strangulated eighties tunes to plugged-out frenzies of Autchere
There is indeed a shitload of free MP3s at his site. Check here. Let me know what's worth hearing.
"Oh yeah and intelligent toys 2 has been out for awhile with a few folks off Morr Music on it"
Moving on, for more free downloads, take a peek at Boltfish Recordings. This is a label that gives it's music away for free and when it does release actual CDs, it sells them at cost price! I guess they do this 'cos they have to, which I can entirely relate to. Again, I can't personally endorse the quality of the music as I haven't had a good listen yet. Make up your own minds.
One artist featured that I'd like to give special attention to are Polestar, a Bristol-based IDM project, with a website here. I don't know them personally, although I hear they might be at the Kirk gig tonight, so maybe I'll bump into them there. There's a 28mg live recording from the Arc Bar to download, plus one studio track, the rather lovely "Computer Says No", which is a mellow, pastoral slice of clicky melodiousness that I find quite agreeable. "Gutterbreakz says Yes".
Have fun, see ya soon..
16 November 2004
I associate Miami with sun, sand, Gloria Estafan and the 2 Live Crew. But then, I've never actually been there (unless you count that time hanging around for an hour at the airport waiting for a connecting flight to St. Lucia). Yet it's a place that has spewed-out some of the most twisted, oblique extemporations of the "Tri Repetae++" blueprint, and central to all this activity is the Schematic label.
This track is from "Expect More From A Past Life", the label's first CD album (I think!) back in 2000. I know very little about this artist, but here's his profile at Schematic's site. Specialising in densely-packed clicky rhythm-patterns that always manage to sit just on the right side of groovy, but occasionally sinking into a deep reverie of melodic melancholy, as on this one, which I find particularly satisfying.
First came across the work of Edgar Farinas on the "Day In The Life" EP released appropriately enough on Autechre's Skam label back in 1999. More Hip Hop flava to the beats, combined with some spine-tinglingly evocative arrangements, that occasionally verge on 'haunting'. A bit like Boards Of Canada, only not quite as good. I really love those beats, mind. This track comes from the "Dirty Dozen" album, again from 2000. The sort of tune I play on the iPod late at night, sitting in the garden, staring at the stars, supping on a can of Stella and puffing my way through a pack of Lambert & Butlers. Bit too chilly tonight, though.
Schematic's catalogue has been available at Bleep for quite a while now, so it's easier than ever to sift through their output. To be honest, I find a lot of it hard-going. Maybe I'm not as hardcore as I make out! I can take any amount of queer sound-bending, but I like a good groove going on underneath. One should never lose tha phonk, no matter how glitchy-twitchy-abstract-shitty things get. Seen?
One recent album that's really up my street is 09's "Church Of The Ghetto P.C." Described at the site as "a kind of graffiti action-script dedicated to all the industrial back-alley disjecta of our Bill Gates-induced modernity", this is a sprawling urban epic that flows through many moods, from chystalline slivers of juicy electro to icey slabs of sustained atmospherics. Like Mark One in the UK or Jimmy Edgar in Detroit, 09 is creating an audio reference map of his environment, the way he sees and feels it. A great record, although I would hesitate to claim it's as "important as the fucking Bible". But maybe time will tell...
o9 - Terminal Orange
Currently my top tune on the album, a breathtakingly seductive blend of watery beats and bleepy staccato synth patterns. This may be beaming-in from another continent, but I bet it'll hit the spot for Psychbloke if he plays it on his new iPod next time he's wondering around Stokes Croft....
Some readers might be aware that I've been intimating that there's gonna be a BIG series of posts on the subject of Belgian Hardcore. This is a pet project that's been going on for weeks now. It was meant to be the definitive account of the genre, covering all the facts, people, labels, essential tunes and all that. The research has been blowing my mind. Everytime I think I'm nearing the finish line, I realise that there's some new piece of info that needs following up which then takes me to whole new areas I hadn't even considered. For instance, I soon realised that I couldn't narrow it down to simply artists and labels from Belgium itself. The scene was interlocked with pockets of like-minded activity in places like Rotterdam (in Holland), New York, Germany and even London, and that all these needed to be chronicled to explain how the scene developed. Now I realise that it's never gonna be finished. I simply lack the time and the skill to put it all together in a satisfactory manner. I've been deluding myself - getting ideas above my station. So...I'm GIVING UP ON THE WHOLE FUCKING THING. Bollocks to it!
But rather than waste all that work, I've decided to sift through the debris and use some of it over the coming weeks for a series of occasional, discreet posts, focusing on a few favourites of the era with a little historical background where appropriate, but basically just me saying "this choon fookin' rocks, it's bangin', and I love it!" which was really the whole point in the first place.
In truth, I'd pretty much forgotten about most of this stuff for years but then along came Matt Ingram in August, professing a new-found appreciation for early pre-Jungle 'ardcore over at Woebotnik, talking in positive tones about "a thuggishness to these plodding 4/4 rhythms laced with geriatric breakbeats that you just _know_ is completely moronic. It's certainly before you could make arguments for the "artistic qualities" of rave". It got me thinking about the kind of music I was listening to back then, before I was seduced by 'Artificial Intelligence'. I was a total Hardcore prole! Early Warp, Bleep 'n' Bass and Kickin' Records stuff was coveted, but my fondness for the Belgium axis was particularly acute. I've been delving into the recesses of my collection, reacquainting myself with my earlier obsessions. I like what I'm hearing. A lot. Although I have a small amount of 12 inches, the vast majority of my Belgian collection was on cassettes, either readymade compilations from React and R&S or homemade C90's full of forgotten nuggets. Over the past few weeks (or is it month's?) I've been gradually rebuilding the collection in MP3 format, either encoding from my own analogue sources or, where possible, tracking down good quality versions on Soulseek. Having both a high-speed connection and Soulseek privileges, it's actually quicker and easier for me to do it that way. So I'd like to extend my thanks to those faceless file-sharers out there, keeping this music alive and unknowingly helping me to put this project together, even though it's a non-starter.
What really amazes me about that time was the way that a nation that had previously contributed virtually fuck-all to music could suddenly be galvanised into such an astonishingly fruitful period of creativity. Prior to this, the only significant Belgian act to break in the UK was Plastic Bertrand (aka Roger Jouret) in 1978, with the Top 10 hit "Ca Plane Par Moi" which, with it's moronic yet joyfully enthusiastic hijacking of Punk's energy, could almost be considered an early blueprint for the Hardcorist's similarly insolent takeover of Techno. The 80's produced the first critically acclaimed Belgian act, 'New Beat' pioneers Front 242. They considered themselves the next stage on from the German new wave groups like D.A.F., renouncing the American-influenced music that had dominated their country's airwaves for so long, making a case for a new electronic dance music that was firmly rooted in European traditions, much the same way that Krautrock acts like Neu! and Kraftwerk had done over a decade earlier. Whilst New Beat (or EBM if you prefer) had it's admirers in the UK (me included) and certainly showed the first stirrings of a new force to be taken seriously in Europe, it failed to crossover to a sizeable audience over here. The problem was that it wasn't particularly funky or danceable; it's doom-laden, post-industrial vibe was hardly the stuff of mass-appeal. It wasn't until the next wave of artists began incorporating House, Techno and breakbeat elements that the Euro producers really began to make an impact. One of the most distinctive features of the 'classic' Belgian sound was it's pulverising riff-heavy relentlessness, which has been on occasions described as the new Heavy Metal. I reckon a full-on Belgian revival now is what is needed to bring the kids back to the dance floors!!
A couple of 'tasters'...
First released on the Ghent-based Music Man label in 1989, "Acid Rock" is the work of Frank De Wulf, who would become one of the premier 'auteur' producers of the Belgian scene. This track is like a crossroads point between the plodding sub-120 bpm grind of New Beat and the riff-driven frenzy of Hardcore. The track's title spells out the purpose clearly enough - to combine the mantric lock-groove of Acid House with the pummeling rifferama of Metal (some mixes featured a Black Sabbath-style intro, although I find that a little too overt for comfort) revealing that De Wulf was thinking along the same lines as Joey Beltram over in New York (more on whom another day). "Acid Rock's" tempo seems desperately slow by today's standards, but I still get a kick out of it. Check those 'aah' samples on the breakdown, lifted from Kraftwerk's "Techno Pop". De Wulf would thieve more Kraftwerk sounds for his more sedate "B-sides" series the following year. Tracks like "Reforced" were basically rehashes of "Home Computer". I'll probably do a whole post on De Wulf at some point.
This cut works on similar lines to "Acid Rock", but came out in 1991 on the "Enter The Darkness" EP (Hit House Records). You can hear how the sound has developed in the intervening years. The collision of functional breakbeats over stomping 909 kick drums was everywhere in 1991. Hip-House's decent into hell. I love the piercing high-pitched tone that comes in on the breakdown..Guaranteed to send your dog crazy!
Okay, prelude and excuses over. Look out for further Belgian posts in the near future....
15 November 2004
11 November 2004
It could be argued that Cabaret Voltaire were largely responsible for the rise of electronics-driven American angst-rock that developed in the late '80s. It's surely no coincidence that much of it, like the dreadful Nine Inch Nails, came along shortly after "Code", the Cabs' first album to be properly distributed in the States. Admittedly Al Jourgenson had been around for a while before that, even helping out with sequencer duties on Alan Vega's 1983 album "Saturn Strip" and is, I suppose, the godfather of the scene. But if one were to look into it really closely (which I won't) you could probably trace a lineage from "Code" to Marilyn Manson. Nothing to be proud of, but that's what happens when ideas get adopted, misinterpreted and bastardised. At least the Cabs can legitimately claim to have had a more positive influence on the American 'black' dance music scene. In fact, they were in Chicago working with House legend Marshall Jefferson on some tracks that would later appear on the patchy "Groovy, laidback & Nasty" album, when they got the call from Jourgenson to ask if they fancied popping over to the Wax Trax studio to collaborate on something. With Paul Barker, William Rieflin and Chris Connelly all in attendance at the session, it must have been a wild party, the results of which appeared on a Wax Trax 12inch "No Name, No Slogan", under the name Acid Horse (later re-issued in 1992 by UK label Devotion Records, which is the pressing I've got). Presumably the bare bones of the track were devised during that brief meeting in 1989. Then each party worked on their own version separately. Side A is Jourgenson and Barker's version and side B was produced by Kirk and Mallinder back in Sheffield. Here they are for any curious punters to compare...
I'm not out to diss Ministry completely. There's bit of records like "The Land Of Rape And Honey" that I could still sort of appreciate (if I still owned a copy!). This is an enjoyable enough little romp, I suppose. I really can't think of anything else to say about it, to be honest. I quite like Connelly's disengaged vocals. Make up your own minds!
Ah, this is better! But I would say that, wouldn't I? It's quite a curious approach for the time (late '80's)...sort of retro-electro flavoured with vocoder robot vocals, a bit like some of the Jedi Knights stuff that Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard were doing a few years later. I'm feeling tha funk here. The whole track is over nine minutes long, which I thought was maybe a bit excessive for all the dial-up bods, so I've edited it down to a friendlier 4m46s. If anyone really fancies having the full track just give me a yell and I'll e-mail it to you. Anyone know where that Scottish-sounding bit of dialogue at the start comes from? Seriously, I'd like to know!
On a final, vaguely humorous note, all members of this 'super group' came up with alter-egos for the project, as follows:
Harold Sandoz (Richard H. Kirk - first use of the Sandoz moniker)
Alien Dog Star (Al Jourgensen)
Tennessee King (Stephen Mallinder)
Biff (William Rieflin ?)
"Gallopin'" Scorpio Saddlebutt (Chris Connelly)
10 November 2004
The action has been taken by the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), the record labels' trade association. It is the first step in the industry's "rolling programme of legal action" against the 15% of file sharers whose music it claims constitutes 75% of the illegal music available to download on the internet.
The lawsuits will tackle those who illegally provide large volumes of copyrighted music, video and software for downloading at any time.
(Extract from Computer Act!ve Magazine.)
...and so it begins. I wonder how long it'll be before the humble MP3 bloggers start getting penalised? Of course we're only providing small doses for 'evaluation purposes' usually for a limited period, and in some cases simply making 'lost' music available again, but I can't help wondering how long it'll be before the suits turn their attention to us. Watch you backs, brethren....
On a more positive note, I sometimes get e-mails from people wondering about how to get into MP3 blogging/creating/editing. There's free software available to download called Audacity, which you might like to try. I've had a play around with it and got some good results. I used it to clean-up those Peel tapes I posted yesterday and create the fade-outs. If you've got a half-decent soundcard and a line-in on your PC, then a program like this is all you need to get going if you want to digitize some of those old vinyl and tape treasures.
Not much else on the agenda today, I'm afraid. My batteries need recharging. Some new stuff in the links bar, though. And for anyone who's been missing some fresh writing from Blissblog, check out Simon's DFA article at The Village Voice. Note James Murphy's 'Can - Future Days' T-shirt - very topical subject over at Dissensus right now. I also noticed Simon couldn't resist taking a quick verbal swipe at "glitchy laptop musicians". Harsh! Add all those nasty comments I've been reading at Dissensus about Warp, Jimmy Edgar etc and I'm feeling a bit 'down-in-the-dumps'. Maybe I'm turning into the post-rave equivalent of the 'jazz-bore'? Am I championing Warp for what they were, rather than what they are now? Have they really lost the plot since Rob Mitchell died? Is it all about chasing the £££ now? I've never really thought about it before. I don't slavishly consume everything they release, and never have. I don't like all of it. But the stuff I do like, I usually love instinctively. I need to work this all out in my head...
09 November 2004
One of my favourites. This is the sort of avant garde, anti-music that I always thought Hip Hop should be. Absolutely no concessions to melody, basslines or even conventional instrument sounds - it's just beats, scratching and sound FX. Who the hell was Witchdoctor? The guy was a visionary! Nice stealthy delivery by the Dominating Three too...
The great Marley Marl wrecks shit big time on this jam, 'dedicated to the white DJ's'. Violent scratch breakdowns, blasts of rock guitar (very popular at the time) and what sounds like a dentist's drill making an appearance at one point. I never really got into stuff like Eminem or even Wu-Tang. It just don't sound as good as this shit to my ears.
Being a teenager with a busy social life and no concern for future historical documentation, I wasn't too concerned with making a note of things like track titles or artist details. I just wanted some cool noises to play on my walkman or on the stereo in my battered Ford Cortina. I've only just located the correct credits for the above tracks by searching Discogs, using the lyrics for clues.
I just figured out that this is Ice Cube with K-Dee and Sir Jinx. This track is a riot - the MC's really go at it, like an old skool L.A. version of Lethal B's 'Forward Riddim', and the turntable skillz are bloody savage. And if you look closely at the label jpeg I found (see below), you'll notice that this was produced by Dr. Dre. Wow! Nice little historical artifact from the NWA axis.
More another time, maybe....
08 November 2004
I've used quite a few of the damn things over the years. During more affluent times, I had anything up to eight or nine of 'em at a time! These days I have very little equipment at all. Looking at these superbly reproduced close-up images is almost like seeing an intimate photo of an old girlfriend. The 'hands-on' nature of analogues, coupled with their unique features and quirks, does tend to make one build up a sort of 'relationship' with them. They can be stubborn, unpredictable lovers, capable of blowing your mind or trying your patience, in a way that virtual software plug-ins never could be.
I'm inspired to take a trip down memory lane. I dug out some old DATs full of early analogue experiments - non-midi improvised stuff. Having begun making music with cheap Casios, followed by an Amiga computer, the shift backwards to analogues was a whole different experience. Later I would begin to integrate these synths with Midi/sampling, but the initial 'honeymoon' period (roughly mid-1993 to early '94) was all about pure analogue exploration, playing 'live' and building the music using a multi-track.
The first analogue I ever bought was a Moog Prodigy in early 1993. My mate Neil had spotted it in the window of a music store, with a £90 price-tag, and thought that it might be my sort of thing. A quick try-out in the shop was enough to convince me to part with my cash.
I reckon this is probably one of the first pieces I did with the Prodigy, maybe within the first 48 hours of getting it home. Of course, it had no manual with it and I had no previous experience, but the clear, intuitive controls were fairly easy to get to grips with. A perfect learning tool, no less. It had no memory patches, so everything was created from scratch, sculpting the sounds from lumps of audio clay. Analogue = subtractive synthesis; everything's there already, it's what you choose to remove that dictates the sound. Clearly, the droning, swooping monotony of 'Throb' is the sound of me getting my rocks off. I hope you'll forgive me...
My next vintage synth was the Korg Mono/poly. I remember buying it in August '93, shortly before I got married. If my fiance had ditched me at the alter, I would've rushed home, grabbed the Korg and married it instead. Four independently tunable oscillators and a wicked arpeggiator were just some of the new features for me to explore. I used the arpeggiator to build-up some glitchy rhythmic backing tracks, as on this tune, which is a personal favourite from the period. The lead melody was supplied by the Prodigy, the rest is all Mono/Poly madness with some digital delay effects.
I seem to have made quite a few atonal experimental pieces with the Korg. It was capable of some really avant-garde sonorities, which I exploited to the max. This is one of the (thankfully?) shorter pieces, probably done in one-take with no overdubs; 100% improvisation.
My first proper polyphonic analogue was the Roland Juno 60. It had digital oscillators (so very stable tuning) and a memory bank (!) but otherwise it was strictly old-skool. The Juno was a much more 'smooth' sounding synth, capable of harmonically rich, crystalline tones...perfect for mid-90's Neo-Detroit sophistication (more on that another time) and with a beautiful built-in chorus effect that livened-up even the dullest patch. "Datasea" is a pleasant example of the tranquil moods (don't say 'new age'!) that it excelled at.
But just to prove it could sound a little more gutsy, here's a track where I used the Juno to create a stampeding pseudo-kick drum rhythm overlaid with some vaguely spooky sound effects.
Well, I think that's more than enough to try everyone's patience for now. But what the hell, it's my blog so I'll indulge myself if I feel like it. Remember folks, Gutterbreakz is an entirely selfish enterprise - it's all ME ME ME first. Feel free to slag it off. I could do with getting my ass kicked. Let the backlash begin!
05 November 2004
Today's post is over at The Idiot's Guide. It feels more appropriate there.
By the way, I was wrong. There's another Jimmy Edgar long-player called "%20" under the alias Michaux, released by Dutch label Audio.nl Records in 2003. More on that some other time, I need some sleep...
04 November 2004
From their first album "Who's Afraid Of The Art Of Noise" (ZTT, 1984) , featuring news footage samples relating to the invasion of Grenada in late 1983, during the Reagan years. A bloody coup in Grenada, along with a perceived threat to American students on the island provided the U.S. with an excellent excuse to eliminate a Marxist regime allied to Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Opening track on the Cab's 1987 album "Code", co-produced by Adrian Sherwood. Uses samples from a 1945 US army training film, "Your Job In The Army", which was designed to teach GI's how to behave in occupied territory.
Nothing ever really changes, does it?
02 November 2004
Who else but Mark Bell would have the balls to mess with perfection? The original track came out last year and, to date, is probably the defining masterpiece of the whole NYC Disco-Punk scene. A sort of modern-day 'fight for your right to party', "..Giuliani..." is a sprawling epic featuring some of the finest rhythm guitar work I've heard for ages. Now Warp have released a limited one-sided 12inch of LFO's remix which is available to buy and listen to at Warpmart or you can download the MP3 for a mere 99p over at Bleep. Do one or the other, 'cos it's fucking ace. Bell has elected to strip the track right down and gradually introduce his own brand of brash, snot-nosed techno-thuggery. When that wave of skittering handclaps come in it's like a natural E-rush...pure energy like a goddamn rhythmical forcefield. Mr. Bell, you're a bloody hero.
Another LFO-related track I came across recently whilst browsing on Soulseek is a bootleg mix combining the awesome "Freak" with Dizzee Rascal's "Fix Up, Look Sharp", which is rather enjoyable. I'm not sure if Dizzie's rhyming flow sits particularly comfortably on top of Bell's hyperactive electro beats, but there's still a fair bit of entertainment value to be had. Turns out it was posted-up at Boom Selection over a year ago, which just shows how behind the times I am! I couldn't get the link to work, so maybe it's been taken down now. Here it is again, in case you missed it first time too...
In other news, I'm extremely pleased to announce that Detroit's sensational techno-prodigy Jimmy Edgar is finally set to release his new EP "Bounce, Make, Model" on Warp this Monday (8th November). Fucking hell Jimmy, you little prick-tease - what's the big idea making me wait all this time for a fresh fix of the Edgar magic? Christ, this kid is taking his time...which I s'pose is good 'cos it means we get top-drawer material every time, but the hunger pains have been harsh. I feel the same way about Jimmy as I did about Aphex in 1992. His music just feels so fresh, original and sensually beautiful - he's got a special talent, no mistake. And so young too...
Pre-order the chunky double-vinyl or CD and listen to clips at Warpmart and scag a free MP3 download of opening track "I Wanna Be Your STD" from Better Propaganda.
You might remember I got all excited about Jimmy's 2002 album "My Mine's I" (released under the double-pseudonym Kristuit Salu Vs.Morris Nightingale - to date, his only long-player) back in June. My desperation to hear it led me to swipe a copy off Soulseek. Shameful behaviour. Since then, the label that released it, Merck, has added it's catalogue at Bleep, so the album is now easily available to download legally. Here's a typically delicious slice of Tech-Hop perfection from the album, which I hope will encourage a couple of people to buy it and assuage my guilty conscience.
Finally, I get the impression that a few people were turned-on by that Shitmat MP3 I posted-up recently, so thought I'd better make sure that everyone was aware that his new album "Full English Breakfast" is out now on Planet Mu. More unashamed Amental insanity full of mind-blowing breakbeat science coupled with outrageously insolent samples from things like the 'Grange Hill Theme' and even a bit of the theme to that other '70s kid's show "Why Don't You?" (where the fuck did he source that one from?!). The man simply don't give a shit.
The album was preceded by three vinyl-only EPs, and all the none-album tracks are never to be released on CD. However, they've been compiled as "Full English Breakfast Vinyl Tracks" as an MP3-only release over at Bleep. Here's the opener, which will send you hurtling back to Happy Hardcore heaven in seconds. Feel the love, baby...