26 November 2007


I read a comment from someone (can't remember who or where) suggesting that the current excitement about Burial is akin to that enjoyed by Stefan Betke when he unleashed those early Pole albums at the end of the '90s. It seemed a strange comparison at first, but it kinda stuck in my head and then I began to think it might be an accurate statement. I can't really remember what the critical reaction to Pole was at the time (I wasn't even online back then!) but I can well imagine, in that period of pre-millennial tension, that those crackly, distressed dub emissions must've felt like some sort of last word on the whole deep/dub techno thing, the point where the Berlin sound finally dissipated in a puff of reverberation; it's myopic, grainy, lo-fi textures as poignantly wounded as anything that Burial offers us today. It wasn't the end of anything, of course. In fact it helped spawn a whole new style of clicky, messed-up tech-house, and deep/dubby techno is currently thriving. Nothing ever really ends. The cycles just keep going round.

These days, Betke has moved on somewhat. The latest Pole album, "Steingarten", retains some of the distressed textures of old, but the overall sound is crystal clear and he's not afraid to use proper drum sounds now, rather than the unpredictable spitting and popping of a malfunctioning filter! It's an 'interesting' album, in the chin-stroking sense - an album to admire and appreciate, but not something you can really cherish like his earlier work. It's too muscular, too self-assured, too near-focus for a truly immersive experience. With the notable exception of "Dusseldorf", most of the tracks operate at a hip hop tempo, so it's not even that useful for djing with. Perhaps mindful of the lack of dancefloor contenders, Betke commissioned a series of remixes, released on a series of three coloured 12 inchers. The first two installments focus mainly the more minimal side of tech/house, with some solid, useful reshapes from the likes of The Mole, Dimbiman and Thomas Melchoir, though I couldn't help but be a little disappointed with Mike Huckaby's remix of "Dusseldorf" - sure it's got that deep, dubby Detroit sound I like right now, but it feels a bit lazy, like it needs a bit more development (Huckeby's recent "My Life With The Wave" 12" is a far stronger display of his talents).

But it's the third installment that really stands out, with Betke hiring the talents of two of the UK's hottest visionaries (who just happen to be friends of mine!) Tom 'Peverelist' Ford and Sam Shackleton. Peverelist's remix of "Winkelstreben" completely re-imagines the original's potential, and is one of the most complex arrangements I've heard from him yet - a constantly shifting matrix of rhythm and texture that reveals more detail the more you listen to it. Unbelievably, Tom told me that Betke didn't actually like it at first, but after a week he'd been seduced by it's charms. When dealing with music at such an advanced level, sometimes you need a little time to acclimatise. As for Sam's "Achterbahn" remix, well...what can I say? It's fucking awesome! Gliding on a warm, cushioning bed of sub bass, the beats are as unique as ever, but now with added processing power - the snares and percussion glistening in a fine spray of filtration. I think this might be the single most impressive piece of work I've heard from Sam so far; clearly he has no intention of going off the creative boil anytime soon. Recent sightings by Martin and Derek confirm his status as the most innovative dubstep maverick on the block, and I can't wait to hear what else he's got cooking in the lab.

25 November 2007


Since the mid-90s, Torsten Pröfrock has been steadily releasing music under various alias for labels like Chain Reaction and his own DIN imprint, as well as collaborating with Monolake. I heard a rumour that he was the man responsible for "Infrared Glow", the fourth release for Sleeparchive, too. At the end of last year he released two simultaneous twelves for the Erosion label, under the new moniker T++. Of the two, it was "Space Pong/Space Break" that really stood out as some kind of new direction - like he'd invented his own microgenre that combined spacey elements of dub techno and abstract minimal digitalia within an extended, organically undulating breaks style far removed from anything conventionally labeled 'breakbeat'. The beats were synthetic and heavily processed but a million miles from the Nu Breaks scene, so I just call his sound Spacebreakz. Earlier this year he followed up with "Allied/Tensile", which added some serious low-end frequencies into the mix, and now comes another chapter in Pröfrock's rhythmic voyage, in the shape of "Worn Down/100 Bar". Once again I find myself listening in a state of fascination and incredulity: what the fuck is this shit?! The discombobulating beats continue to writhe and morph into unpredictable shapes, whilst somehow retaining an irresistible funk factor. There's no discernible basslines, melodies or anything approximating a conventional structure, yet the tracks are packed with sonic information; an hallucinatory miasma of warped frequencies and noxious clouds of synth texture that collide and coalesce in startlingly unfamiliar ways. Abstract, amorphous, yet primed for dancefloor devastation, it seems like Pröfrock has struck gold with a sound that, to my ears at least, simultaneously moves techno, breaks, dub and leftfield into a genuinely new creative zone. I hope everyone's taking notice...

23 November 2007


Following a minor scuffle in my comments box (wherever Dubmugga/Pollywog lurkes, trouble invariably follows!) I figured in was time to look at the new Hotflush compilation "Space and Time". I love Burial's calcified 2 Step beats, but there's room in my life for other modes of rhythmic expression too. I admit I hadn't really been taking much notice of Hotflush's output for the past year or so, but then their new admin guy Alex sent me some promos to chew on. The label has been operating for quite a while now, much longer than most of the dubstep labels that have sprung up in the past couple of years, yet it never seems to get the kind of respect that DMZ or Tempa enjoy. Maybe because Hotflush has always championed the breakier end of the garage spectrum, aka breakstep, which a lot of people consider to be the 'lower' form of the music, yet spawned some early classics like Toasty's "The Knowledge" and "Angel" plus the first Boxcutter EP which set the standard for, erm, 'intelligent' breakstep. When I wrote my Breakstep post in April 2005, I was virtually a lone voice in the blogosphere to cover that sound, and frankly I don't see much change of attitudes since then.

But Breaks was only one aspect of the Hotflush sound. As far back as 2004, they released Distance's vastly underrated exploratory early effort "Nomad/3rd Wish" and of course label-head Paul Rose has been investigating various other avenues via his Scuba project. But what does Hotflush represent at the end of 2007? Well for me "Space And Time" is a mixed bag. Opening track "One" by Jazzsteppa starts out nicely with some authentic-sounding Rootsy atmosphere, but is quickly let down by the predictable wobbly bassline and lumpen halfstep beat. I'm not completely anti-halfstep (as I will shortly demonstrate), but this sort of plodding kick-snare pattern is becoming a real fucking drag, merely marking the passage of time like the most unimaginative sludge-rock. This is quickly followed by an even worse halfstep offender from Vaccine, featuring that awful, dominating snare on the 2's and 4's. It really is like listening to a macho industrial-rock group (despite the female vocal) - all testosterone grunt and thrust with absolutely no Fwd propulsion. To hell with it, I say.

But halfstep doesn't have to be so dull and unimaginative - there's plenty of space between the kick and snare for further percussive ingenuity (go ask Pinch) as ably demonstrated by Intex Systems, who's "DS9" is a real highlight of this compilation, with it's edgy, restless groove skittering under soft-focus chords. The dub techno producers should take note of this track too, because it shows you can be texturally deep without falling back on that basic kick/hi-hat 4/4 beat which plagues that scene at the moment. Top tune, although I'm a little wary of those languid 'blue notes' - let's not get too mellow and jazzy just yet, please.

I wasn't too keen on previous Gravious tracks, but "Subterfuge" is the best thing I've heard from him so far. Yes, the halfstep beat is a bit orthadox, but at least it sounds proper electronic and snappy with a nice rollin' conga loop in the second half, but what really sells this tune is the grimey cello riff and the bright, tumbling melodic elements that give the track an urgent impetus. Slaughter Mob make an appearence with "No Big Deal", the title of which says it all, really. Of course, the 'Mob have been reppin' for longer than anyone else on this collection, and none of us are fit to lick their boots, but they do seem to be riding the Coki-clone wobbly-halfstep current a bit too heavily here. I'd rather listen to the stuff they released on Rephlex and Soulja three years ago. Scuba contributes two solid tunes, of which "Inmost" is the one that moves me the most, mainly on account of that gorgeous evolving analogue-style pad sweep offsetting the bell-like digital tones - another deeply personal track from Paul there, I reckon.

Elemental is possibly one of the strongest exponents of breakstep right now, and his "Raw Material" cements his reputation further. It's a busy tune full of frantic randomised arpeggios and metallic chord stabs, but keeps the shit dirty and funky the way proper breakbeat should be. Boxcutter contributes two typically cerebral variations on the breakstep theme, with "Infraviolet" being a particularly intense textural extravaganza, and also remixes Elemental's "Sparkle" into a cavernous tunnel of dub-matter. If you like these then make sure to get hold of "Glyphic", his superb second album for Planet Mu. Toasty's aforementioned breakstep classic "The Knowledge" gets another makeover courtesy of Vex'd, who apply their trademark caustic sound palette to deadly effect. The original "I seek knowledge" sample gets heavily timestretched, and the effect is a bit similar to the woozy vocal sampledelia of Boards Of Canada circa "Geogaddi", but with added murderous intent. Si Begg undertakes a remix of Toasty's "Angel" that's surprisingly respectful to the original and shows that an old techno dog can still learn a few new tricks from this dubstep lark.

So maybe some of it isn't to my taste, but all told I think Hotflush have come up with a pretty adventurous collection that reflects the various aspects of dubstep as it stands. Recommended to anyone looking for a good scene primer that doesn't focus on the 'big names' (you know who I'm talking about) in a genre that still doesn't have enough useful compilation albums.

16 November 2007


Coming back briefly to riff on that Moby comparison, I was listening to the Burial album (again!) today, and was suddenly struck by "Raver"s more than passing similarity to Moby's 'classic' 1991 hit record "Go". Something about the melancholy soundtrack strings (stolen from Angelo Badalamenti's "Laura Palmer's Theme" on the Twin Peaks soundtrack) offsetting the ecstatic vocal samples, making them sound a bit forlorn, and the slightly viscous nature of the 4/4 rhythm track. Perhaps some subliminal childhood memory of "Go" leaked into Burial's consciousness...or maybe it's just a coincidence...or maybe Burial really is Moby!

For those too young or too stoned to remember "Go", I should point out that I, erm, really liked it at the time. Remember this was back when nobody really knew anything about Moby; we had no reason to despise him then. It was just another great dance tune. I made a lickle discomix of the two to illustrate my point...

Moby Vs. Burial - Go Raver)

I just bashed this off about twenty minutes ago on the cd decks, and its a bit sloppy. Very sloppy, in fact. In a revisionist measure, I edited out the shite piano solo in the middle of "Go" cos it's the most dated aspect of the track. If anyone out there fancies doing a proper discomix version I'd love to hear it!

15 November 2007


I've had quite a lot of Dubstep coming my way recently, but I've chosen to review most of it for the next issue of Woofah, mainly because I want to lend some support to John and Paul's endeavours. I really enjoyed issue #1, though I felt that the dubstep reviews section was a bit weak (not the quality of the reviews, just the meagre amount). Plus it was interesting for me to try working in a different medium from the blog, giving me a bit of focus and discipline to get stuff written for the deadlines. I think issue #2 is due early next month. Looking forward to it. In the meantime, I need to write a few things here on stuff that arrived too late, or was already being reviewed by someone else, or isn't officially released yet. I'll try and get a little dupstep round-up post sorted soon, but for now here's some thoughts on the album of the moment...

Y'know, I tend to avoid writing about stuff that's already getting heavy coverage elsewhere, and certainly it seems that everyone has an opinion on Burial's second album. The Dissensus thread is currently over 30 pages long, and is just one of several forum threads full of heated discussion on this album. The reviews are coming thick and fast, even Doppelganger's had a stab at expressing his reaction to it, and Carl at The Impostume made me chuckle with his acerbic wit. With so much opinion flying around, my natural reaction is to just sit back and watch. I really don't think I have anything to say on the matter that hasn't already been expressed somewhere. But Hyperdub sent me a complimentary copy of the CD (after I'd already bought the vinyl edition!) so I'm honour-bound to give it some coverage. Of course, I should mention that I've been reppin' Burial from very early on - who remembers my highly influential "23 Minutes Under Croydon" mix from May 2005? (the same month that I dropped "South London Burroughs" into my dj set at a Venetian Snares gig in Cardiff, to the utter indifference of all who witnessed it). And then in January last year I made the connection with Hauntology, three months before K-Punk stuck his oar in on the eve of the eponymous debut album. Man, I am all about Burial. I dunno who he is, nor do I need to know. I could try pumping Kek for info seeing as he's interviewed the man face-to-face, but I wouldn't want to put that sort of pressure on the old bugger. Besides, I'm terrible at keeping secrets (guilty of having 'outed' a couple of artists in the past) so I can't be trusted with such information anyway. It's bound to come out eventually anyway - remember when everyone was debating who Scuba and Caspa were...?

But I digress. "Untrue" is fucking lush. Anyone who says otherwise needs their ears syringed and their head examined. Yeah, maybe it's a bit 'samey', in the sense of ever-changing same, but I love that. I love albums that totally fixate on one sound, locked in an obsessive-compulsive cycle. To hell with eclecticism, cos eclecticism is just another word for unfocused, and Burial is very fucking focused (in a soft-focus kinda way). Each track is just one facet of the whole picture, which never actually gets completed. It's more like a scrapbook of watercolour sketches, applying subtly different shades and barely noticeable change of angle. When the finished masterpiece is finally completed, that's when we can all switch off. Mind you, "Archangel" is getting dangerously close to nailing it. Maybe the albums dips a bit in the middle, but so what? I can think of plenty of great albums that sag in places. Were the vocal samples a good idea? Definitely. They bring the deeply emotional music into sharper focus. I'm enjoying "Untrue" even more than the first album. It's basically a bunch of standard R'n'B singers (plucked from who-knows-where?) but set within the music, caked in crusty layers of sonic dust, they sound so fucking sad and yearning, literally like lost spirits caught on tape in a haunted tenement block. The vocals on "Near Dark" have a particularly spectral quality about them. It's like when you place two mirrors together at right-angles and view an infinite number of reflections of yourself. Those vocals sound like they're trapped somewhere down the line, past the twentieth reflection, where the image starts to get blurred and tinged with a green hew, and they're creeping me out.

But will "Untrue" become the coffee table/TV advert muzak of 2008 as some suggest? It's possible, I suppose. And maybe I'll grow to hate it as much as I did Air's "Moon Safari" (which I fucking adored when it first came out). Maybe Burial will join Moby, Royksopp, Boards Of Canada and Aphex Twin on heavy rotation on the telly. If Nick Drake can sell sinus decongestant and Suicide's demo tapes can sell Tia Maria, then I see no reason why Burial can't sell panty-liners. Art and commerce aren't always easy bedfellows, but Richard D. James made a shitload from licencing his music and I wouldn't blame Burial if he did the same. I probably would too. But whatever the future holds, right now, this minute, I can't stop listening to this utterly bewitching album.

12 November 2007


Items in this order (#174894) remaining to be shipped:
(You have *NOT* been charged for these!)
Ordered Title Price (GBP) Remaining Subtotal
1 DEEPCHORD, Grandbend, 2x12" £ 14.99 1 £ 14.99
Subtotal: £ 14.99


DEEPCHORD - Grandbend
2x12" // £14.99

DEEPCHORD - Grandbend, Echospace

09 November 2007

LOL - Don't do it, mate...it'll bring nothing but misery...

06 November 2007


They do things a bit different down in Yoevil. Last night I had my first experience of Ice Bird Spiral, the duo comprising of West Country dad-bloggers Kek-W (of Kid Shirt fame, among other things) and fellow psychedelic astronaut Cloudboy. As you can probably tell from the above picture, this wasn't the usual Gutter-fare that I generally write about. This was a beatless free improvisation performance using all manner of objects to create sound. Just a quick glance around their 'instruments' (see pic below) revealed various electronic toys, a thumb piano, kitchen utensils, an '80s Casio keyboard and a Stylophone, all linked in some arkane organic modular system, with the jack leads snaking out from the motherboard like umbilical cords. Almost everything was close-mic'd rather than d.i.'d, but then fed through the mixer into a signal chain of reverberation, echo and distortion, so it was really an electro-acoustic performance. There were a few pre-prepared backing CDs, emitting subliminal loops and occasional bursts of subsonic throb, but there was a continuous flurry of activity from Kek and Cloudboy as they strove to capture something tangible from all this junky gear, searching for sonic possibilities in found objects. At one point Cloudboy began 'playing' some circular metal discs, without much success...but then he returned to them later and got the right combination of movements and mic-placement and made those discs sing like banshees into the ether. Kek's all-too-brief Stylophone solo was a blood-freezing hauntological blast from some half-remembered past, momentarily transporting me back to somewhere around 1973. Then there was the 'primal screaming' section, where the lads' phlegm-encrusted yelps and screeches were made even more creepy and disembodied emanating from their expressionless skull-mask features. I thought it was great, and really funny in the peculiar and 'ha-ha' sense. I even bought a couple of their lovingly hand-assembled cd-r packages. Nice to see a small delegation from the local dubstep scene turn out in solidarity (big-up Appleblim, Peverelist and Gatekeeper) plus fellow dad-bloggers Doppelganger and Loki, and not forgetting my old mucker Mike.

The bonus ball was seeing headliners Sunburned Hand Of The Man afterwards. They're one of those groups I've seen mentioned a lot, especially in The Wire, but never heard anything by. Kek explained that their line-up and musical emphasis was a bit fluid, but on this occasion they were a five-piece playing extremely groovy acid rock jams, combined with electronics, vocals and a mellow interlude section where they started building sculptures out of bit of mannequins and tree branches. You had to be there. It was a bit traditional in some ways with the wah-wah guitar solos and such, but there were some really intense peaks of energy and sonic overload, and it was the most enjoyable live band experience I've had in a long long time, definitely worth checking out if they're ever in your area. I bought a copy of their new limited vinyl LP "A Taste Of Never" from the stall afterwards. Nice to have a little memento.


Blogariddims reaches it's 30th podcast, with Slug's excellent Krautrock special. I went through a bit of a krautrock phase a few years ago too. I wouldn't say I was a hardcore aficionado, but I'm pleased to note that, of the 35 albums featured, I own 21 of them! This is very much the sort of stuff I used to go for - Cluster and Harmonia were some of my favourites as well. The only group missing that spring to mind are Faust, who I adore in their original incarnation. Get your arses educated, kids....

04 November 2007


Childhood Records

My Dad's Records
Unsorted Records (1)
Hall & Oates Records
Moog Records
Unsorted Records (2)
Electric Eighties Records
Euro-trash Records
Unsorted Records (3)
'Nuum Records
Mike's Records
Unsorted Records (4)

03 November 2007


Busy with deadlines and re-organising my vinyl collection right now. Actually, perhaps I should simply say 'organising', as there was very little order or logic before. The collection was out of control. Part of the problem might be that I've never invested in purpose-built storage, which is why I'm making preparations for delivery of some Spyboxes. If they're good enough for Woebot, then they're good enough for me!

01 November 2007

Another installment of Punch Drunk's ongoing exploration of the Bristol underground, this time focusing on Forsaken, aka Pete 'Bubonic' Thomas. Although the title is inspired by a trip to Thailand, the main focus of 'Boat Noodles' is a chiming acoustic guitar sample of Vietnamese origin, combined with tablas and snatches of ethnic ambiance, resulting in an unusual hybrid of world sounds. The samples are heavily edited, reversed and filtered to create a sense of constant flux, held together by glutinous, undulating sub bass and a galloping rhythm track. On the flip, Pete reworks Peverelist's "Erstwhile Rhythm", processing the original's piano motif through a modulated filter effect, tweaking the beats, adding choppy breaks and mellow pad chords. The resulting groove is more like a heavily swung House track - highly infectious and one of the prettiest makeovers I've heard in a long while.

Bristol's Headhunter gets the doublepack treatment for his second solo flight on Tempa. Anyone who's heard his recent dj mixes will have noticed a minimal/dub techno element creeping into his sets, and the influence is made explicit here on tracks like "Locus Lotus" and "Quanta", with their steady 4/4 heartbeat, trancey riffs and soft-focus chord stabs, but souped-up for the 140bpm crowd with added bass weight, staggered percussion and an ear for a good key-change. Elsewhere, "Sushi Brain" and "Spyro" return to the immaculately crafted halfstep sound that first brought Headhunter to our attention, the latter a particularly magnificent arrangement of spine-chilling synth sweeps and pensive chords that tint the euphoria of the pitched-up diva sample with a streak of anxiety. "Drop The Waste" lowers the temperature further, with a relentless wobble bass throb that takes Coki's austere rhythmic template into harder, more clinical territory. Overall this is a solid five-track showcase that by turns enforces the status quo whilst pointing to future genre-splicing possibilities. Cautiously innovative .


First release from new Hotflush side-label, featuring Slaughter Mob's MC Vicious on another solo mission. "Bionicle" is an alarming barrage of robotic voices, sibilant metallic riffs and oscillator ripples underpinned by a tremulous bassline and brash, almost rocky drums. "Shamanu", meaning 'Japanese Wolf', does exactly what it says on the tin with it's Koto-like plucked string melody and howling wolf samples, but also adds oldskool vinyl scratch effects and a subbier bass sound, rounding off a distinctive yet slightly unhinged release.

(first published in Woofah #2)