GUTTERBREAKZ FM - FEBRUARY 2006
Boxcutter - Hayfever Dub (forthcoming on Planet Mu)
QPE - Kitty (The Agriculture)
Copy - Plagiarhythm (Audio Dregs)
Secret Agent Gel - Reprise (dub)
Kion - Kubla Rmx (dub)
D1 - Identify (Tempa)
Cyrus - Prophesy (Tectonic)
Scuba - Thank You (Hotflush)
Starkey - Shoot The Messenger (dub)
Fuze - Noizu (The Thing Is...)
Mathhead - South Bronx (dub)
Atki2 feat. Renee Silver - Shocking Out Proud [DTL Salty Mix] (Shadetek)
Various Production - In This (Various Production)
Really tough to choose the playlist this month. In terms of unsigned/exclusive/demo material the backlog is getting bigger all the time. It's fantastic that so many people feel compelled to send me their tunes, for whatever reason, and sometimes I think GutterFM should just be focusing on these. But I want it to be a snapshot of everything I'm listening to, plus I still prefer to spin tracks in off vinyl whenever possible. Perhaps I should make the show longer? I quite like the current 45 minute format, which was originally dictated by the fact that I always record onto one side of a C90 cassette first, with the record levels quite high, in an attempt to add a bit of tape compression. This, combined with the low bit-rate, contributes to the suitably ruff, 'piratey' aesthetic that I aspire to. Incidentaly, I was amused to see this thread at the Dubstep forum, concerning bit-rates for Rinse FM recordings. It's great that there's people out there diligently recording and sharing these sessions, but I sometimes wondered why the files were being rendered at such high bit-rates, when the source material was obviously of a much lower audio quality. Rinse actually streams at 64kbps, the same as GutterFM, which is a nice coincidence. The analogue FM signal is a different matter though, and any high-quality downloads from this source should obviously be your preferred choice. But on with the show...
You've all been thoroughly spoilt with previews of Boxcutter's forthcoming "Oneric" album via his exclusive Breezeblock session. Of course, I've already got all those tracks on cd-r, cos Baz always looks after his Uncle Gutter, but it was interesting to hear all the extra loops and fx he added into the mix. I thought I'd let you hear a track from his other album, which I believe will be released shortly after "Oneric". When I first heard it I was a bit confused, cos it was quite stylistically varied, but then Baz explained that its actually a little anthology of his earlier work and it all made sense. More on that another time, but for now I hope you enjoy the lush, watery dubtronics of "Hayfever Dub".
There's quite a high proportion of North American music on this month's show, starting with a track from QPE's "Gentrified" album, the latest release from Brooklyn-based label The Agriculture. The quality is always high from this label, but I reckon this might be my favourite release so far. QPE is Kacy Wiggins who's combination of dreamy, soft-focus textures, warm, dubby bass and stoned beats puts me in mind of Push Button Objects. It's a mellow, reflective take on instrumental hip hop, with deceptively simple, loop-based arrangements. I quite like that sense of not being too structured...many of the tracks seem unresolved, creating an odd sense of tension as you wait for the climax that never comes. Kacy's choice of sounds is spot-on too; full of spectral wah-wah guitars and amorphous, indefinable pad sounds, that conjure indistinct images of a nocturnal city, like the Manhattan skyline depicted on the cover.
Next it's over to Portland, Oregon, and a track from Marius Libman aka Copy, who's album "Mobius Beard" is released on the local Audio Dregs label this month. This is a fun little elpee, full of retro-tinted arrangements including '80s Linn Drum electro workouts and cute computer game tones that remind me of some of the old games I used to play on the Amiga years ago. Anyone remember Lemmings? I used to love the music on that game, and it's the sort of vibe I'm picking-up from Copy. Indeed, the press-release states that "80's video game music featured heavily in Libman's musical development". Another comparison that keeps coming to mind would be Aphex Twin at his most unashamedly melodic and wistful. Most of these tracks are built around layers of monophonic melody that entwine and mesh in a highly agreeable fashion. If I had a complaint, it would be that the dry, transparent production does feel a bit samey after a while - I'd would've liked a bit more 'wetness' in the fx department occasionally to add a bit more spacial depth. But that aside, its a thoroughly enjoyable selection. This isn't the first time I've playlisted a track from Portland - the very first GutterFM included a track by Nice Nice, and I've also been sent some weird releases from Audio Dregs' sister label Fryk Beat, including the very strange sound of Panther, a manic, damaged soul singer who works with minimal electronic beats. Although there doesn't seem to be a specific sound, I get the impression there's quite a healthy scene for electronic experimenters on Portland. Intrigued, a few weeks ago I spoke with Matt Wright, the guy who's been sending me this stuff, to find out what it's all about....
Gutta: Do I assume you've got a quite vibrant underground scene there at the moment? Quite a few little indie labels starting up etc?
Matt: Yes, I think you could safely say that. Portland has kind of had that going for over a decade now tho. I'd say there's been a bolstering of the electronic music community in the last couple years due to the opening of the club Holocene. Other local electronic staples are Audio Dregs records, Audraglint, Outward Music, Aesthetics, and Orac (in Seattle).
G: Is it getting national/international attention or is it one of those super-localised situations?
M: There is some national attention for individual artists. Strategy and Nudge have gotten some love from Kranky / Tigerbeat 6, and the other labels get some attention in places like the Wire, XLR8R and blogs like yours.
G: Is there any guiding principles behind it all? It seems like everyone's doing their own thing but with weird electronic twists that stand out as being quite original. I mean, do all the artists hang out together, share gigs etc, or what? Is there a strong live scene too?
M: If I had to pick a guiding aesthetic I'd say maybe a marriage of the cosmopolitan futurist vibe of the international techno community and the Northwest's DIY spirit. Some of the local electronic musicians identify strongly with as "Cascadians" - a reference to the geographical region comprising the Pacific Northwest. There's regional pride, and post-national inspiration.... maybe?...and yes, most of the people making electronic music here at least know each other, and many of them are friends. Makes for interesting cross-polinations and such.
G: Who else to you really rate in the Portland scene?
M: There's a lot of great stuff here. Electronic-wise I dig Strategy, Copy, Nudge, YACHT, The Blow, e*rock, the Snuggle Ups, Sensualists, Strength, uhhh...some other stuff. Non electronic: Nice Nice, The Planet The, Talkdemonic, Blitzen Trapper, Alan Singley, Menomena, Wet Confetti, The Kingdom, uhhh...some other stuff.
G:Why are you guys sending me this stuff? (not that I'm complaining - just curious!)
M: Well Brian who sent you Nice Nice and I are friends and we both read your blog. I can't speak for him, but I sent you Copy because I was curious to hear what you'd think. It feels like a fairly unique (maybe even uniquely Portland) record to me, so I kind of wondered how you'd react, given how far away you are from all this. So there's that. I'm also the publicist for the record so of course all press is good press, and hopefully helps people find out about the record who would be interested in it.
Check Matt's blog.
Moving on, but staying Stateside, I'm pleased to showcase some exclusive beats from Secret Agent Gel (Corey H.Maass from Pennsylvania), Starkey (from Philly grime crew Slit Jockey) and another track from New York grimecore exponent Mathhead, who's ferocious "South Bronx" is approaching the blitzed-out, DSP-annihilation of Grime that I've been fantasizing about for some time. Let's hope he gets a few releases under his belt this year. Here's a good start.
This month's selection of dubstep vinyl releases includes a real beauty from D1's second 3 track EP, released on Tempa. His beats and bass are as heavy and original as anyone else's, but its his wonderful flare for rich melodic timbres that really defines his sound for me. Listening to "Identify", I'm struck by the classic, almost romantic emotional display, that's up there with the best Carl Craig or B12 tunes. I get a sense that D1 is striving to reach a higher spiritual plain, using the language of machine-rhythm as a window to his soul. That's what it's all about, at the end of the day.
Finally, I'd just like to give a mention for The Thing Is..., a sort of multimedia project that's a compilation CD and also a cd-rom magazine featuring articles and short stories. I didn't manage to make the launch party last year (though it was nice to be invited) but had a copy thrust into my hands at Dubloaded last month. Apparently it's available in Bristol, Bath and Brighton, so look out for it if you're in any of those areas. The audio is generally of a high standard, featuring some interesting electronic experimenters like Fuze, who's Grim-inflected track "Noizu" kicks things off in fine style. Not sure about the hiphop-jazz-fusion track though!