28 September 2005

RUFFNECK #3

Right, here's the full line-up for next week's bash:

Ruffneck (back)




































Not sure what the running order in the main room will be yet, but here's my guess:

10.00pm - Yours Truly.

Yes, Gutta's managed to blag another live appearance. Unbelievable, eh? I've been busily planning what I'm gonna play on the night, and made the decision last week that the first 20-30 minutes of my set will be on an old skool tip. And when I say 'old skool', I don't mean it in the way that most of these grime djs do. To them 'old skool' seems to mean tracks from 3 or 4 years ago! Sign of the times, I guess. Me, I'm going deep old skool, winding the clock back 15 years with a connoisseur's selection of prime 89-91 Bleep 'n' Bass. Why? Three reasons. Firstly, cos I'm arrogant enough to think I can actually educate all those twenty-something wipper-snappers on how fucking cool all that bleepy pre-jungle hardcore was. Secondly, from a purely selfish point of view I just want an excuse to hear all those old tunes loud through a PA again. Thirdly, in the interests of scientific research, I'm curious to see how well the sub bass on those oldies compares with that of current dubstep. As I've said before, I think there's a lot of common ground between the two. The fetishistic obsession with bass weight being the obvious one, but let's not forget that B'n'B also drew influence from Jamaican soundsystem culture. Ital Rockers could almost be the bleep equivalent of DMZ! And let's not forget all those icey yet emotive melodic hooks and Detroit-tinged string pads. I listen to tracks like Digital Mystikz' "Stuck" or D-1's "I Dream" and I feel similar emotions. The riddims might've changed, but the feeling remains. There's some big differences too, of course. B'n'B represents a time when it was the Drumz Of The North that were really innovating. The sounds emanating from places like Sheffield, Bradford and Leeds were (in my view) superior to the more breaky rave style that was developing in London at that point. At it's heart B'n'B was mainly driven by the (by now) innocuous pulse of the 4/4 kick drum, which has been almost completely abandoned by dubstep (although maybe it shares some commonality with4x4 garage, which I've also heard referred to as 'Bassline House'). Yet the other percussive elements of B'n'B are far from the standard cliches of 4/4 house. The snares and hi-hats weave complex steppy patterns across the beat, often with a strong electro flavour, and there's all those other weird percussive hits clicking and clonking in the background. You listen to something like Unique 3's "The Theme" today and it still sounds incredibly raw and strange. The first time I ever heard one of Wiley's Eskibeats, my immediate reaction was that it was coming from a similar zone. Although I love my breakbeats and have much respect for the junglists that came afterwards, Bleep 'n'Bass is still probably my favourite 'hardcore' micro-genre of all time - the first British dance movement of the post-Acid era to truly transcend (and maybe in some cases even eclipse) it's American forebears. Hopefully next Thursday I'll be able to make a few local headz understand why I feel that way. Although admittedly I doubt there'll actually be many people there at that point! Then I'm gonna play me some dubstep, some grime and probably finish with a bit of Grim. Atki2 reckons he's got a test pressing he wants me to drop in the set.

11.00pm - EL KANO

El Kano!

"Who the hell is El Kano?",
I hear you ask. At least, that's what I asked when I first found out he was playing. I like to know who I'm sharing a bill with, so I got in touch with the man himself. So, El Kano, who the fuck are you, mate?

I'm part of the collective Adverse Camber and we've done a few pretty successful parties in London over the last year or so, mainly on the breakcore/ruff electronics tip. Our site is a bit wack at the mo' but there's some info on there. As well as djing I do all the artwork (excluding the current site) for Adverse Camber, including the posters and flyers for Night of Awesome Power and the Knights of Awesome Power and the CD packaging for the Adverse Camber "Wreckage" compilation. My page at the website has a few mixes for download. I recently did a set on Resonance FM of metal, grind, death, doom and noise, and before Ruffneck I'm also playing at Volks Tavern, Brighton on 1st October, with The Bug, Shitmat and The Gasman.

If all those mixes at his web page aren't enough for you, here's another one that I'm hosting. This is El Kano's "Slowcrusher" mix, displaying his instinctive ability to cross various stylistic boundaries, yet maintaining a strong, unified mood. The segue from Skream's "Angry" into a slice of typically dark, ambient dub from Scorn makes perfect sense to my ears. Tracklist as follows:

Nettle - The Ballad Of Arthur And Johnny (Joseph Nothing Remix)
DJ Distance - Swarm
Skream - Angry
Scorn - The Distance Between (Surgeon Remix)
DJ Distance - Dark Crystal
Tipper - Dissolve (in) (phoenecia remix)
Digital Mystikz - Give Jah Glory
Kode 9 & Daddi Gee - Stalker
Nettle - Myanmar (Timeblind Remix)
Loefah - Twis Up (Youngsta & Task VIP)
Horsepower Productions - Hand Of Death
Filastine - Judas Goat
Mutamassik - War Booty
Enduser - Not So Distant Drums (Line 47 Mix)
Cannibal Ox - Vein
Wasteland - Doomed
Cristian Vogel - Trope

12.00am - BLAZEY

Man like BlazeyBristol's premier Grime DJ! Top geezer too!! You might remember I hosted one of his mixes earlier this year. I'm hoping he's gonna do me another one in the not-too-distant future. He's been a busy bunny of late, organising lots of events in the area, and now he's started his own blog ! Fans of Prancehall will enjoy this I'm sure. It's interesting that, as I'm trying to move into his world, he's started muscling-in on mine!


1.00am - DUB BOY


Ruffneck's (joint) commander-in-chief and King of the 7 inch, Tim 'Dub Boy' Rayner will probably be playing the final hour, no doubt involving lots of naughty ragga/dancehall bizzniz. He's got a mix online here, if you fancy it. Special thanks to Tim and Krys for giving an old bastard like me a chance to strut my stuff on the deckles once more. Hope to see all my West Country massif in attendance...well, Psychbloke maybe?

25 September 2005

THE BOREDOM OF SHEER ABUNDANCE

I have this obsessive streak when it comes to my music collecting habits. Detroit Techno, Chicago Acid, Krautrock, Hip Hop, '70's funk, Industrial, '60s Psychedelia, Moog-kitch, Belgian Hardcore, 70's roots/dub reggae...just some of the genres that have held me in their grip for months (or even years) at a time, to the detriment of all other styles. True, I go through phases where I'm listening to all kinds of stuff, but that's usually during an aimless period where I'm waiting for the next big lightening strike that'll take me down a whole new avenue of intense single-genre exploration. At the tail end of last year, the thunder clap hit me once more and since then I've been pretty much absorbed in the whole Grime/Dubstep/Sublow scene, blind to so many other potentially exciting possibilities. Although initially facilitated by downloading MP3s, my grimey epiphany ultimately led me to shun P2P networks simply because I lost the curiosity to listen to other styles and artists that were outside that scene. I started buying 12" vinyl again, started following key innovative artists and labels closely...really investing in it. I now prefer to spend fifty quid a month on a small selection of vinyl releases and really get into the details of the sound, even though my broadband connection gives me the capability to download an almost limitless amount of music for free. In this age of information overload, the genre-ist, tunnel vision stance is the only sane response left. Combined with my belief that dubstep is the true champion of the sonic values that I hold so dear, my standpoint equates to cultural and mental survival. I'm deep in this sound, and I don't need to hear much else in my life right now.

Sometimes I worry that it's affected my blog for the worse. I started out quite generalised and writing about lots of different (mainly electronic) music from the past and present. Now maybe Gutterbreakz has become a bit one dimensional, to the point where it gets referred to as a 'Grime blog'. But the fact is I've got to write about what I'm feeling in my heart and everything else can go to hell. This isn't a catch-all magazine, it's simply a personal viewpoint.

Which brings me to this. A 'reprinted' article originally written by the Blissblogger in 1995. I would ask you all to read it, because whether or not you approve of my standpoint, Simon's words just explain it all so perfectly. But if you haven't the time, let me just leave you with the final sentence:

"...if you're lucky enough to get obsessed with something, go with flow, forget about the rest. Music should be precious, not something you channel-surf through."

Then check out Nick Southhall's recent article for Stylus, which inspired Simon to revisit his earlier writing in the first place. The similarities with my own downloading experiences are uncanny, as is the failure to 'get' "Astral Weeks".

20 September 2005

REVOLUTIONARY DESIGN

Following on from my little rant about labels on records being the wrong way around, I was pleased to see words of support from Dan Pope (of Gussetblog fame), who added further food for thought with his comment "...closely related to my #1 pet hate, not printing the play speed on the label artwork. That wouldn't be too much to ask would it?". No Dan, it wouldn't. When exactly did it become unfashionable to print the rpm playspeed on a record, eh? Although it's can be generally assumed that a 12" playing only one track will be 45rpm and 2 or more tracks at 331/3rpm, the fact is that it doesn't always happen that way. I've no idea why. And yes, it can be bloody annoying at times, especially as it's would be such a simple thing for the artwork designers to incorporate. I recall an example of a fellow blogger who ripped an Aphex Twin track at the wrong speed once (although it sounded pretty creamy at 33!). Maybe these young guns running labels today don't actually remember that there was a time when rpm speeds were noted on labels...

Take this example from 1985 - a 12" with each side playing at different speeds. Designer Neville Brody made sure that no one would be confused by making the play speeds the main focus of the design:

campfire


























campfire

























...and how do I know that this was released in 1985? Because it clearly states the copyright date on the label. Why does nobody bother with that anymore either? In years to come, when I'm flicking through my dusty old pile of dubstep slates, it'd be nice to have an idea of what year they were released without having to check at bloody Discogs!

I reckon me and Dan (and whoever feels the same way) should start a campaign to bring back the rpm speeds, copyright dates and all the other helpful little bits of info that we used to take for granted. Who's with us?

Before I go, here's another example of cool rpm design, care of the mighty Designers Republic. Not on the actual label, but as a sticker on the sleeve:

campfire







Now that's the shit, ain't it?









Oh, hang on - a couple of honourary mentions for labels keeping the flame alive:

campfire


Shout-out to the geezer who designs the labels for Various Production. They don't give much away, these people, but at least you know the playspeed and the year. Respec'!














campfire
























Fuck me! Big-up Sting Recordings for keepin' it real with the 33 flava and the copyright date action. All other underground labels take note!


Oh, one more thing - how about noting the bpm counts too? If it's not too much fucking trouble, that is...

RANTING ON...

Good to see that Geroyche, Serpico009, Loki and (I think) JW are all backing my 'bring back the rpm speeds' campaign, although Blip's against it (though he does agree about the copyright dates) and Blackdown just thinks I'm losing the plot, which is probably true.

My other pet hate was rekindled yet again today when I popped into Rooted Records to grab a copy of the latest DMZ release. Got home, slapped it on the turntable and lo and behold - the labels are on the fucking wrong way round!!!

DMZ005At least there's no chance of me making any embarrassing mistakes this time, cuz I'm very familiar with "Neverland" (it's been caned on dub for ages) and spotted the error immediately. Top tune of course, and no surprise that it's been so popular with the DJs - listening to it all the way through at last, you realise how perfectly designed it is to be 'mixable', with generously long drums-only intro/outro sections and a classy breakdown two thirds of the way in. But actually it's the flip "Stuck" that really does it for me, with the haunting pads, cascading droplets of echo-drenched melody and bulbous subby b-line. Righteous emotional music. Pure class.

Still pissed-off about those labels though. Don't really like that colour scheme either. Actually, what is that colour - mauve or summit? At least it's a thumbs-up for including the copyright date!

16 September 2005

PLODDER MIX

Surely one of the most devastating beats to emerge this year is Mark One's 'Plodder' riddim. First heard as the backing track to the Virus Syndicate track "Slow Down", it's since been released in it's own right on the Contagious label, which is great because, even though the Syndicate's rhymes are essential, I can now hear the music in it's raw form and really get deep into Mark One's sound. His particular fetish for certain soundbytes and textures really comes out here, with the whirring noise that makes me think of surveillance cameras (although I reckon it's a hydraulic sound effect from Alien II), gothic choral ambience and portentous orchestral riffs combined to create a horrified/paranoid mindstate that, for me, is the true soundtrack to Britain in 2005. Whilst other genres bury their collective heads in the sand, wallowing in fantasies or mindless hedonism, Mark One (along with other key artists like Vex'd, Plasticman etc) are staring reality hard in the face, mapping the pressures of the age in sonic form as brutally and effectively as Cabaret Voltaire did with "Red Mecca" back in riot-torn '81.

The "Plodder/Slow Down" sound palette is rinsed even further on the respective b-sides "Devil Boy" and "Devil Man" adding further bleak, stripped-down possibilities, which got me thinking about creating a mix that brought all the facets together into one long, sustained landscape. Working on a 'one-riddim' mix seemed like an interesting project, allowing for some serious beat-mashing potential, aided by the features on my new mixer which allow me to 'kill' certain frequencies or perform choppy hip hop-style cut-ups with the 'tap' buttons. I recorded a fifteen minute jam earlier today, and present it here:

Gutta's Plodder Mix

It begins with "The Industry", taken from last year's "One Way" album, which features most of the sounds that would coalesce into "Plodder". From there, it's just two 12" singles (four sides of vinyl) mixed-up ruff. Of course, it wouldn't be a Gutta mix without a few fuck-ups, and it didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped, but hopefully you'll get the idea of where I'm coming from with this thing. Welcome to reality...

Post Script: Some geezer over at Dissensus seems dead certain that the track I'm calling "Plodder" is actually "Devil Man", and vice versa. I was basing it on the info on the sticker and run-out grooves, but maybe it's wrong. Come to think of it, it would actually make sense to call the "Slow Down" instrumental "Devil Man". But both tracks are in the mix, so I'm still calling it the "Plodder Mix", okay? I had a similar embarrassing moment back in January concerning Vex'd Subtext 001 "Pop Pop/Canyon". How difficult is it to get the fucking labels on the right way round?!

14 September 2005

CAMPFIRE SONGS

campfireSo at last the new Boards Of Canada album has arrived. When I say 'arrived', as far as the general public are concerned it hits the streets on 17th October. But I've already got it. And no, I didn't get a promo from Warp (I tried, but they didn't have any spare copies for lowly bloggers like me!). No, the album came to me as a 192kbps zipped file via Yousendit - a surprise gift from one of my fellow bloggers (and I've no idea where he got!). Then I notice a thread started up at Dissensus already. Wow, information moves around fast these days. Is it already on Soulseek? I haven't been there at all this year cos I'm completely bored with the whole file-sharing thing, but it's a bit depressing if that's the case. My initial reaction is that it's classic BoC in terms of the melodies, textures etc, although - perhaps due to my prodigious intake of grimey riddims these days - the beats do sound incredibly slow and dull now, with the odd exception like "Dayvan Cowboy", which goes off on one with the sizzling cymbals. Like Daft Punk, BoC seem to be re-exploring the guitar once more, although in a much gentler, traditional fashion. And what's happened to all the 'found' dialogue samples? What will all the obsessive fans do now they can't play the tracks in reverse to find the hidden messages 'n' shit?

True, they haven't moved on that much, but it's sort of comforting to know what you're getting with BoC. My main problem is that it's all quite enjoyable as relaxing listening experience, but there's nothing here yet that sends a cold shudder of fleeting recognition for a buried memory down my spine like the older stuff. Maybe it'll come in time. I wasn't massively impressed with "Geogaddi" at first, but christ, did it ever grow on me! For the record though, I still think they peaked with the "Beautiful Place In The Country" EP.

definitely more listening required yet ...

Anyone wishing to get a taster of what's in store should check the exclusive track available at Bleep:



-------------------------
Update: Oh wow, check this Pitchfork interview with Boards Of Canada. Revelations. Explanations. The new album will make a bit more sense if you read it. Don't miss!

"The Campfire Headphase" has been steadily working it's way into my subconscious. There's still a couple of tracks, like "Peacock Tail", that just float through one ear and out the other cos they're just so pleasant and nondescript, but when it's good it's awesome. The final triad of slow-burning melancholic dreamscapes, particularly "Tears From The Compound Eye", get the hairs up on the back of my neck like "Selected Ambient Works II"-era Aphex. Yeah, it's that good. BoC still rule their own particular little niche-genre, whatever that is. Just don't call it IDM, okay?

11 September 2005

KEEPIN' IT RUFFNECK

Another damn fine evening at the second Ruffnek Diskotek last night, where we were treated to another set from local 16-year-old wunderkind DJ Joker and his crew. Full-on bad bwoy grimey bizzness, Bristol style! I'm not gonna say too much else about him for now, cos hopefully he's gonna be putting together a special mix for me soon. The Joker don't talk much, but he doesn't need to, cos his partner MC Shadz does all the talking for him! Seems like the crew are up for the idea and will record a mix, complete with MCs, exclusively for Gutterbreakz at some point in the near future. Stay tuned...

Next up, Monkey Steak rocked the house with their Grim laptop set, dropping some seriously lean, punchy wobble-bass riddims, with digi-skank and bollywood soundtrack overtones that've got me drooling for their forthcoming Werk Discs EP. They applied just the right amount of splatterbeat trickery as punctuation, ensuring the grooves stayed innovative yet still solid enough to keep the crowd moving. Atki2 was the consummate head-nodder, barely looking up from his Traktor software, whilst Hanuman was a bit of a showman - bouncing around behind the mixer in true beardy-weirdy-mentalist-raver style. But that was just the first half of their set. Things got truly sublime when guest MC Miss Rennee Silver (as featured in Atki2's mix last week) took the mic. Over a shit storm of Monkey beats and microphonic feedback, she proceeded to teach the kidz a lesson in the fine art of freestyle MCing, barely pausing for breath as she unleashed a bewildering speed-rap assault that had my jaw on the floor and my heart bursting out of my chest. Yes, I've fallen in love with MC Renee. A member of the audience challenged her to make a rhyme about chess, which she actually pulled-off. Then she asked the rest of the crowd to fire twenty random words at her, which she wrote down on her note pad and then proceeded to use as the basis of her next rhyme, which again she improvised without so much as a single stutter. I swear I was getting a bit tearful about the whole thing. I'd forgotten how exciting this type of MCing can be, and I think I've written before how I've always had a fondness for the lady rappers. She had the kind of gutsy delivery I used to admire in Roxanne Shante, my favourite female mc from the '80s, but with a London accent of course. Later on, after their set, I spotted Atki2 deep in conversation with DJ Pinch in the corridor outside. I wonder what Bristol's premier Grim and Dubstep exponents were talking about?

The evening was rounded off with a wicked bashment/dancehall set from Ruffnek-high priest Tim 'Dub Boy' Rayner back to back with Henry (Turbo Dominator, Heatwave) and Top Secret (aka Krys Forensics) providing some 'have-a-go' MCing - a true jack of all trades, eh Krys? Interesting to note that Tim kicked off his set with Monkey Steak's "Ruff Ting King" (that's the track on the 'bar code' side of Grim Dubs Vol.1). Having heard it in Monkey's set just beforehand, it really was struck home to me how much more powerful Tim's 12 inch copy sounded, compared to the 'live' laptop version. It just goes to show you - at least in terms of soundsytem requirements - that even the highest quality digital media cannot compete with properly mastered vinyl. Fact.

It seems there are several places in Bristol where you can get dubplates cut now. There's one somewhere on Stokes Croft where you can get a two-sided, ever-lasting plastic dubplate cut for 25 quid (although if you asked Loefah about that, he'd tell you plastic dubs are shit, and only proper metal acetates can truly give you the full sound quality!) But I'm quite tempted to give it a try. Not so much for my own stuff, but for some of the unreleased material from other artists I'm sitting on. The fact is, I've managed to blag a dj slot for the next Ruffneck Diskotek on 6th October (back at Timbuk2, where they've secured a monthly residency) and I'd quite like to play out a few tunes from some of the unsigned artists I've been featuring on GutterFM. They don't seem to bother with CD turntables at these events, so I'd have to cut some dubs if I wanted to play 'em. Problem is, a lot of these tunes I've only got in MP3 format and it would seem a bit daft trying to cut a decent dub from a basic 192kbps file. I shall have to have a think about this...

Speaking of dubs, Pinch, Loefah etc, I was amazed to receive a cd-r in the post last week containing the next two releases from DJ Pinch's Tectonic imprint. You might recall I wrote about TEC001 a few months ago - the excellent collaboration between Pinch and P.Dutty. The second release, a three-track EP from Australian dubstep pioneers Moving Ninja is out now, and it's great - check the generous selection of MP3s at their website for proof. Pinch must be commended for his commitment to putting out tunes from relatively unknown artist like this, although by contrast TEC003 is gonna be one of the biggest releases from two of the biggest names in the scene. It's a collaboration between Loefah and Skream. The a-side will be "28 Grams", as featured on Youngsta's "Dubstep Allstars Vol.2" mix, and it's one of the heaviest half-step anthems on the planet right now. But wait till you hear the flip! "Fearless" is absolutely essential - a stripped-back landscape of dread bass pressure, ominous atmospherics and metallic, reverb-drenched percussion that's got me completely spooked-out. Dubstep at it's darkest and deadliest. Not sure when the exact release date is yet, but fear not - I'm on the case. TEC004 will be a four-track EP from Random Trio, who I first wrote about back in January with their "Lost City" EP. Another excellent selection of tracks, but I'll write about that a bit nearer release date.

09 September 2005

OH NO, IT'S TRANSMISSION #5

gutterfmlogoWhy do I bother with it, eh? There's so many mixes to listen to out there now - just check Dubway's blog for starters. Why bother putting together these amateurish 64kbps sets? Vanity? I guess it's just because I enjoy doing it and, whether it's listened to by 5 people or 500, the end results give me enough pleasure to make it worthwhile. True, it started out as a fantasy idea - if I had my own radio show, what would it sound like? - but there's also the potential to bring together all those interesting yet obscure, unsigned artists who, for whatever reason, feel motivated to send me their work. Incredibly, GFM is actually putting artists in touch with each other in the most unlikely places, as those lonely producers in faraway places discover that there are like-minded individuals in their own backyard. Admittedly, I didn't feature all the people I wanted to this time, on account of having lots of new twelve inchers to get through too. But their time will come very soon. This month I'm particularly pleased to feature a couple of exclusives from Geroyche and Mathhead. Geroyche is a German producer who has, until now, been building a reputation in the local breakcore scene, but his forthcoming "Voxxx Series A.1" EP sees him in a transitional phase, featuring a more grimey influence on a couple of tunes. "Death" in particular is a wonderfully evocative piece of music, with a hard step riddim drenched in melancholic ethereal sweeps and processed tremolo drones that remind me of Fennesz. Quite outstanding, though I'm not sure how widely available the 500 copies will be. Mathhead is from NYC (I think) and his track "Skyjacker" will be released on new Peace Off-offshoot Ruff Records soon. It's a wicked adrenalin rush slice of hard Grim with a fair bit of breakcore dynamics too. Very impressive. The show opens with another weird offering from the mysterious Various Production (make sure to check the site cos they've got some free exclusive MP3s up now). This is the second 7" single they've sent me and, like the first, comes with no press info but does feature an electronic piece on the A-side and a folky-acoustic number on the flip, along with another beautifully rendered, semi-erotic sleeve design. "Faller" is a lovely little ballad with yet more exquisite vocals from the still-uncredited lady singer, yet the song is propelled by ominous wobble-bass pressure and looped waves of digital detritus revealing that this is a group who know how to combine traditional songcraft with forward-thinking production skillz. What a fascinating proposition! Buy it here. I'm also very honoured to get another exclusive tune from Appleblim, who's "Cheat I" takes the stress levels to new extremes of shuddering low-end tension. Abso-fucking-lutely horrible. Big-up, mate!

geminiI should also add that, although my set-up here is still embarrassingly basic, I've recently bought a new dj mixer. New to me, that is. It's a second hand Gemini that I spotted at the local Music Exchange for £90. It's got eq-kill switches and other things I didn't have before. Hopefully it'll help to improve my mixing although this recording is the first test-run with it. But I'm still using the same belt-drive 'beginners' turntables that I bought nearly fifteen years ago!! I did add Stanton cartridges at some point in the mid-'90s, but there's no denying that these decks are bloody dodgy. Still, a good workman never blames his tools, as they say. This month's show features the usual 'train wreck' beat matching, relieved by occasional, fleeting moments of inspiration. Why do I insist on doing all my learning in public? Dunno, but I apply the same basic philosophy that I used when I started this blog. I may not be a writer, producer or dj by profession, but I'm gonna fucking do them all anyway for the hell of it. If a few voyeuristic people want to observe this whole sorry mid-life crisis unfolding, be my guest.

At least the tunes are great. Gutter Muzik for Gutter People. Check this shit out....

GUTTERBREAKZ FM - SEPT. 2005

Various Production - Faller (Various Production)
Geroyche - Death (Ventilator Tontrager)
Appleblim - Cheat I (forthcoming on Skull Disco)
Kode 9 - Kingston Dub (Hyperdub)
D1 - Steam Roller (Soulja)
Skuba - Sleepa (Scuba/Hot Flush)
Search & Destroy - Cave Dweller (Halo Beats)
Moving Ninja - Lost Tribe (Tectonic)
Roi Masters - Bedoin (dub)
Mark One - ????(Southside)
DJ Oddz - Strung Out VIP (Black Majik)
Macabre Unit - Lift Off (Terrorhythm)
Forensics - Hiding Place (dub)
Mathhead - Skyjacker (forthcoming on Ruff/Peace Off)

06 September 2005

AN INTERVIEW WITH ATKI2

THE RECAP:

"Grim. Dublame. Wackstep. Different people call it different things, depending on their age, haircut or shoe size. If you listen to the music we love the chances are you probably call it something different from us. Shite. Awful. Unlistenable. It's been the same through the 80s and 90s. We've called it so many different things that the journalists can't even be arsed to listen to it now, let alone pigeon-hole it. This is a good thing - it's music. Mongoloid, multi-mingmong music made by middle-class myrmidons with misshapen genitalia. Music that's great for hoovering to, perhaps while injecting PCP into your pancreas with a cake-icing pipe. It's instrumental dance music that's clearing the dancefloors across Croydon, Wolverhampton and King's Lynn. It's the perfect forum for anemic doombrains with bad haircuts to create music that few people like, then earnestly brag about their revolutionary genius. That's why we here at Werk Records are calling it Grim, to try and dress up another set of releases as a new musical movement, outside the specialist world of ourselves and our sad little circle of friends. And hopefully help us sell a few more records. Some people will say we're just zeitgeist chasing, trend-hopping, jumping on an imaginary genre and greedily trying to fill our boots with the rest of them. To those people, let us say this: we're going to ride that bandwagon all the way into town, whooping and cheering, with our trousers round our ankles and cans of Special Brew clutched to our breasts. Chances are you're already listening to Grim, trapped there in your tin-pot rave-den in suburbia. And by God, if you're still reading this drivel, you might just be the kind of person creams their pants every time someone invents a new genre. Now is the time to change those pants, and the soundtrack is Grim."

ATKI2The above press release, issued by Werk Discs to accompany their "Grim Dubs" series earlier this year was, on the face of it, an insolent/amusing statement of intent that also contained some serious nuggets of truth. Some people were offended. Others grinned knowingly. Yet with Grime's Eastend originators currently engaged in a compromised 'war on pop' and the latest crop of dubstep innovators still mainly banded into tight, protective units, clustered around certain influencial DJs, observing dubplate culture's strict codes of conduct, the Grimists are free to dance mischieviously in the margins, cherry-picking the best ideas and bending them to their own Warped vision, cross-breeding with other styles to create weird mutant hybrids. It's a parasitic, white, middle class phenomenum of a kind that's been occuring cyclicly for many years. It's lineage can be traced to the appropriation of dub, funk and disco by experimetal acts like A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo and Cabaret Voltaire in the early '80s, through to Graham Massey's 808 State injecting new possibilities into acid house in the latter half of that decade and on to Rephlex affiliates hijacking jungle's hardcore essence in the mid '90s. In the wake of Grime's blindingly original explosion of energy, Grim had to happen. Whether it has the longevity to develop into an established sub-genre remains to be seen, but with Grim now starting to appear on forward thinking club flyers alongside it's more firmly rooted cousins Grime, Ragga-jungle, Bashment etc, the immediate future looks decidedly Grim. But as yet Grim has no focal point - no FWD club or Rinse FM to call it's own. It needs exposure and I'm hoping that this will be the first in an occasional series of posts exploring it's development.

werk03Appropriatley enough, my first guest is 23 year old Bristol-based producer Sam Atkins aka Atki2 who, as one half of Monkey Steak was responsible for Volume 1 in Werk's series. I got to meet Sam last month when he performed a solo laptop set at the Ruffneck Discotek (see picture above), and he kindly agreed to do an interview and also record an exclusive mix for Gutterbreakz. This is his story (so far)....


THE INTERVIEW:

Gutta: You started your recording career in a group called Anarchic Hardrive. Could you tell me a bit about that project?

Atki2: We formed Anarchic Hardrive in 1999, comprising of myself, producer Razor Passive and lyricist D'Herbalis'. We worked together until 2004. Our efforts culminated in the "Feeding Our Paranoia" CD album released on Peace Off . During that time we gigged round Bristol, including twice at Toxic Dancehall, with artists such as D'Kat, Parasite, The Bug, Venetian Snares, etc... played at the first Kamikaze Warfare party in Rennes, and released tracks on a few compilations including "Ballroom Blitz" on Bristol's Death$ucker Records.

G: You're now best known as one half of Monkey Steak. When did that collaboration begin?

A2: Jon (Hanuman) and I started making tunes together in 2001 - we were both studying in South London at Goldsmiths College. Initially we experimented in quite a few styles - jungle, hiphop, garage etc - writing music in our spare time. At that stage I was into breakcore and electronica, while Jon was listening to jazz and indie - we had a pretty eclectic influence of sounds! But we both quickly got into the early grime sound through listening to lots of local pirate radio…

G: Your first release was Vol.1 in Werk Discs' "Grim Dubs" 12 inch series. Who came up with the Grim Dubs concept?

A2: The guys at Werk Discs. They came up with the whole anonymous mysterious twelves format.

G: Are you happy with that situation?

A2: Yeah. The whole Grim 1 thing was fun - it got people speculating about who was behind it and what it was all about.

G: Did you already know the other artists in the series, or was it just the guys at Werk creating a concept to hang over a bunch of disparate demos? What I'm trying to get at is whether you feel that you're all part of something together, or have you been absorbed into someone else's concept?

A2: Well we didn't all know each other beforehand like some collective of artists. Werk pulled in work from all of us and created the Grim Dubs series. But it’s certainly not a case of them pulling the strings in that we (Jon and I, or myself) are in that lovely position of having complete control over the music we’re making. At the moment the partnership is working very well in terms of both our interests and the label’s.

G: I'm just wondering if Grim is a genuine movement, in terms of building/developing into something on the scale of, say, breakcore. Has there been a bit of a 'buzz' on the series?

A2: That's the impression I've got from the Werk guys and certainly that's the impression I get from people I've met at our Monkey Steak gigs. But it's hard to get a real sense I suppose. It's interesting that you mention breakcore. A kind of mashup / hybrid of breakcore and grime was my initial idea for the Atki2 project.

G: Would you say that the whole drill'n'bass/breakcore thing seems a bit stale now? That every possibility has been explored?

A2: A lot of the output is fairly samey. There's still a few artists I really rate though. Electromeca for instance. His grooves are very fresh and properly filthy! But you're right, a lot of this Amen mash-up is boring. I wish some of the producers would try incorporating some different sounds and styles. I think exploring riffs, rhythms and basslines from Grime is the way to go - pushing all that into new extreme patterns!

G: Just like what you're doing!

A2: I'm glad that's coming across!

G: I'm calling this sound Grim for now, although it doesn't quite fit for me...

A2: It would be too early to coin a term for an experimental, digital kind of grime. From Werk's point of view, Grim isn't the start of a new movement but a way of testing out new artists. But I like this tag and I quite like adopting it for what I do. I like this idea of Grim being a bit separate from dubstep / grime.

G: It has to be, I think. Otherwise it would be like calling Squarepusher 'jungle', if you understand my meaning.

A2: Indeed. I do. I've been listening to Squarepusher for a long time and always really appreciated that "composed" quality to his work.

G: A lot of these underground artists have never used anything apart from software/sequencers, which is brilliant, 'cos they think outside the boundaries and create new styles, but I still think it's fascinating to see what more musically trained artists will do with that blueprint. With Squarepusher, it was his virtousty on real instruments that gave him the ability to work with jungle in new ways. It's different viewpoints pulling the sound in different directions, which is all good!

A2: I play proper instruments too. Classical piano, mate. I'd definitely say my early music training has a sizeable influence on my approach to making this grim stuff - simply because I started playing very young and the disciplines are engrained. I think there's a lot of space to incorporate some of the techniques into writing Sublow - I mean, why not? During my teenage years in Bristol, I was exposed to an unusual mix of classical and d’n’b. For me, it was all good. I think musical hybrids are the way forward.

G: Have you felt any negative vibes from the 'underground'? I know a couple people were a bit annoyed about that Grim Dubs press release...

A2: I guess that's the risk with a blurb like that. Some people think that we're taking the piss or somehow we look down on grime/dubstep. As far as I'm concerned, that couldn't be further from the truth. I love this music and have a lot of admiration for the guys pushing it.

G: Speaking of which, any particular artists or tracks that inspired you?

A2: Well Vex'd are certainly up there...Slaughter Mob...that new Kode 9 & Space Ape tune is killer. I’m very impressed with Skream’s recent mix for Blackdown’s blog too, some really innovative work in that, mixing up lovely jazzy licks with those heavy growling basslines! Also been getting into some of the Rag 'n' Bone/Dirty Needles stuff - there’s a great rawness to their tunes.

DUDES EPG: I think Vex'd are gonna be so influential on the way things are going, especially now they're on a high profile label. Alongside your work in Monkey Steak, you've also got a solo track on the latest Shadetek release, "The Dudes" EP. How did that come about? From a demo?

A2: That's right. I sent them a cd and they liked it.

G: Are there plans for any further releases with them?

A2: There's an Atki2 EP coming out - pretty soon I think - called "Sweaty Palms", featuring a collaboration with South London MC Renée Silver and a remix by Drop The Lime which is proper grime/breakcore mashup! Quite similar to the b1 track on his Mirex 12". I forget the name of it. There’s also some more Atki grimness planned for release on Werk, but that’s all pretty hush-hush at the moment…

G: Any further releases planned for Monkey Steak?

monkey steakA2: Yep. We have a forthcoming release with Death$ucker and are just completing a 6 track EP for Werk Discs. The former is actually on more of an old-skool jungle tip, while the latter has a fair amount of grim on. I’m really excited about the Werk EP in fact, we’re taking our grim sound and mixing it up with different styles. One track uses Ska for instance, and another has more jazzy brass riffs. We’ve also collaborated with a couple of vocalists on some of the tracks, including Indi Kaur who guests on one of the tracks in my mix. Indi is a fantastic singer I met through Renée. Her vocal training is in the classical Indian approach. It’s been a pleasure to work together - and to mix up the tonalities!

G: You've also been playing live quite a bit, haven't you?

A2: Past gigs include Alt*Ctrl in Brixton, the annual Werk Das Boot! knees-up (see photo above), Toxic Dancehall and Sheffield's c90, with artists such as Radioactive Man, Christian Vogel, Vex'd and Werk associates Actress and Po-Ski.

G: And I'll be witnessing you in action in Bristol again this weekend, won't I?

A2: Yep. Monkey Steak play at Heatwave vs. Ruffnek Diskotek with MC Renée Silver at The Croft, this Saturday (10th September) with DJ Joker, Turbo Dominator and Dub Boy.

G: See you there, mate....

THE MIX:

At my request, Sam has generously given his time to record this exclusive 20 minute mix selection, showcasing some of the tunes he's got nestling on his hardrive awaiting release. At once familiar and yet decidedly strange, this is the sound of Grime shredded through the sonic mangler of Grim. It's a complex, jittery music yet still retains a hard steptime undertow and a spacious, bassline-driven flow that allows it work as dance music for the mind and body. The Grim sound is now online - things may never be the same again....

ATKI2 SESSION - SEPTEMBER 2005


Tracklist:

Atki2: Duty Free
Atki2: Tantrum
Atki2: Old Sow Caught In The Fence
Atki2: Stoop Beat
Atki2 & Renee Silver - Shocking Out Proud! (Guilty Pleasures Mix, feat. Indi Kaur)
Atki2 - The Crabs
Atki2 - Duty Paid (VWE Mix)
Atki2 with D'Kat - Untitled

05 September 2005

ALLSTAR CAST

TEMPACD004D1's "I Believe" is a featured track on Tempa's superb "Dubstep All Stars Vol.2" mix CD, released this week. DJ Youngsta, a veteran of Rinse FM and the FWD club has come up with a blinding selection of pure, almost all unreleased dubstep plates from the heaviest players in the scene - Digital Mystikz, Loefah, D1 and of course Skream (but where's Kode 9?!). Keeping things mainly on a smokey half-step vibe, with dread basslines to the max, it's great to hear all these tracks in clear high quality digital sound after having to make do with all those grainy Rinse broadcasts previously. An essential purchase, especially for all those non-vinyl people who've been trying to hear this stuff legitimately. I was also pleased to see two of my blogger colleagues are involved as well. Martin 'Blackdown' Clark provides the sleeve notes, and Georgina 'Infinate' Cook was responsible for the lovely photos. For further insights, check Georgina's enlightening interview with Youngsta at her blog Drumz Of The South. I'm pleased to see that this CD is also available at Warpmart, although I picked it up (along with a fresh stack of twelves) at my local dubstep emporium Rooted Records this weekend. Sorted!

WARPED FUTURE

SOJ08There are some, like myself, who have been suspecting for some time that Warp has lost it's way a bit in recent times, trying to diversify a little too much and maybe forgetting the core values that made it so special in the first place. True, Jackson is an encouraging new prospect, but how many of us still uphold total trust in everything that Warp releases? Does Warp still have a soul? One of the best releases this year isn't on Warp, but it should be. As it is, D1's debut solo release is out on the renowned post-garage label Soulja. It's magnificent and, whether intentional or not, recalls much of Warp's classic lineage - bringing in the sub-bass pressure of bleep & bass and the sweeping, evocative string melodies of Detroit techno that was such a big influence on Warp's Artificial Intelligence period in the early '90s, yet propelled by the urgent, economical riddims of dubstep. Tracks like "I Believe" and "Belong" have a depth of emotional intensity that doesn't need gimmicks or clever production tricks. It's music that's built to last. At least (thanks largely to Marcus' efforts) EPs like this are now available at Warpmart, an acknowledgement of sorts. Maybe they're just biding their time, waiting to see if this sound really starts to spread through the electronica community. But with other high-profile labels like Planet Mu and Rephlex already supporting dubstep, it seems to me that Warp are lagging behind a bit.

04 September 2005

GIFT FROM WARP #2: SOME KINKY FRENCH WEIRDO

WAP194Warp's latest signing is a young Frenchman going by the name Jackson & His Computer Band. Something of a prodigy, he's been making tracks since the age of fifteen and getting them released since the late '90s. But it's his most recent output for French imprint Sound Of Barclay that brought him to Warp's attention. His debut release for them is the "Rock On" three track EP, which features compressed, distressed disco beats, juddering post-"Windowlicker" edits and the sort of dense, mangled soundworld that reveals his obsessive production techniques. Apparently his tracks are built-up through constant layering and re-recording, either at home or in 'dingy Paris studios' and the resulting "antique futurist" vibe is certainly impressive - mutant French disco colliding with the complex recording processes of established Warp artists like Boards Of Canada and Chris Clark. The sleeve design is pretty striking too, featuring a blurry painting of some depraved sex-dungeon with a man tied-up in rubber bondage gear, a hint of stocking-clad female thigh, machine guns and...a corn on the cob?! Kinky bugger! This EP is a taster for his album entitled "Smash" which is released on 19th September. I haven't heard that yet, but Warp's press release describes it as "magnificent and messy, daring and original....the record electronic music has been crying out for for far too long...four years in the making...heralded by those who've heard it as one of the finest debuts in years." Crikey, better watch out for that then!!

03 September 2005

GIFT FROM WARP #1: CLASH OF THE TITANS?

WAP195This may not rank as the best work by either artist, but it's a split 12" from Aphex Twin and LFO, two of my biggest heroes ever!!! I would've bought it anyway, regardless of quality, cos it's a 'fan thing', innit. So I was well pleased to receive a gratis copy from Warp's web promotions office this week, especially when you consider that this release, limited to 2,000 copies and only available exclusively through Warpmart, will probably sell out without any help from me. In fact, just checking the page, it looks like they're almost gone already! Which is why I'm rushing this review out tonight for any Gutterheadz out there who hadn't heard about it and want to bag a copy for the collection.

If you'd played me these tracks blindfold, I could've been easily convinced that all four tracks were by the same artist. Interesting that Richard James and Mark Bell, both originally unique innovators, each with their own distinct sound, have arrived at the same point - producing relentless, efficient, acidic tracks that are as impersonal as they are briefly invigorating. If I had to name a winner, I think Mr. Bell just clinches it - his riffs, and textural nature thereof, have more bite and originality, especially on "Flu-shot [kringln]" which also boasts a frantic electro rhythm which follows on from the direction unvieled on the excellent "Sheath" album a couple of years ago. Of the two AFX offerings, I think "Naks 11 [mono]" is the best, although either track could've been culled from the Analord series, so no real surprises on offer, I'm afraid. But it's a nice little thing to have and it comes in a transparent purple plastic sleeve that looks cool. I always like it when Warp get back on a purple design tip. Okay, enough of my nonsense, get over to Warpmart and grab the last few copies. At the very least it'll be a wise financial investment!

01 September 2005

CHILL PILL

nnngThe latest CD from The Agriculture label has arrived. "Monkey Straddle" is the debut album from a Brooklyn-based artist called nnng (pronounced "inch") and it's been my top chill-out CD during the holidays. Waaay mellower than the sort of thing I usually listen to, but very agreeable on a warm summer's evening with a few cans of Red Stripe and a bit of herb (or in my case 20 Lambert & Butler - I've been off the silly stuff for ages, apart from when Pinch offered me a hit on his spliff recently. It would've been rude to refuse. Good gear too - I only had a couple of puffs but I was sailing!!) . nnng's vibe is warm, watery soft-focus dubby electronica, drenched in atmosphere but with some pretty groovy downtempo beats keeping the head-nodding facture at a high. This is my idea of a good easy-listening record, apart from those spooky intro bits where it gets a bit dark 'n' droney. Immaculately produced, tastefully arranged, 'roof music' at it's finest. Check the free MP3s at the site, where you can also order the CD.

CRAZY RIDDIMZ

rvngmx4This was my top Party CD of the summer. It's a mix CD called "Crazy Rhythms", compiled and mixed by Mike Simonetti and Dan Selzer. I know Dan is a regular reader here, as he sometimes drops by with a comment. Despite being clothed in a tasty designer plastic wallet, I think this is, at best, a 'semi-official' release (it ain't got a bar-code!) so not sure how widely available it is. Looks like you can order it here and I notice it's also in stock at the Rough Trade shop, if anyone feels suitably inspired by my ramblings to seek a copy. Maybe when they've sold out Dan might let me host it for awhile, cos it's seriously cool. That is assuming you like a big dose of obscure Italo-Disco with a dash of punk-funk and retro techno. This project is basically about showing-off all their rare 12 inch treasures and I for one am glad they did. After opening with the majestic string-synths 'n' tubular bells of Giorgio Moroder's "Night Drive", it's a solid rollercoaster ride through the nether regions of vintage electro-disco, including some wicked tunes from Klein & M.B.O, Vortex, Belle Epoque and a bunch of others I ain't even heard of. Top marks for also including the brilliant "Galaxy" by War (as covered by the Cabs' Stephen Mallinder in his short-lived Lovestreet project with Dave Ball and Rob Gordon in 1988). Biggest moment for me though is the unexpected appearence of "Obsessed" by Musicology (aka B12) mid-way through the mix, and suddenly I'm back home. I just love that early-90s Detroit-inspired vibe. It's in my blood. Despite the occasionally wild changes of style, this mix hangs together beautifully, to the point where it makes perfect sense when they drop the Ben Liebrand mix of Ram Jam's "Black Betty". I always was a sucker for that track anyway (I've still got the original 7 inch somewhere). Top mix, lads. Cheers. Do me another!!