27 April 2008

Just noticed that Simon's 'Bleep 20' is now up at one of his sub-blogs, Energy Flash. Thanks for the Gutter-linkage at the end, mate!

26 April 2008


Like barely-remembered flashbacks from the shadowy corners of memory , the beautifully brief 'Space Loops' series from Data 70 have been quietly burrowing into my subconscious, spreading their hauntalogical toxins and taking firm root in my cerebral cortex. Now my memories are mingling with theirs, but I'm not sure who's is who's, but it doesn't really matter cos it's like we shared all those experiences in the first place, we lived through something, growing up in a certain point of history, physically apart but still absorbing the same information - psychic time-bombs that gently explode in the mind's eye whenever we come into contact with the right stimuli - frequencies, textures, colours, melodies - which Data 70 skillfully unlock with their minute-long audio vignettes.

I think of Data 70 as part of a loose collective of memoradelia technicians, which includes Boards Of Canada, The Caretaker, Belbury Poly, Rolan Vega and Johnny Trunk in it's ranks. So far they've released two splendidly presented 7" eps on the Enraptured label (the first of which is a double-vinyl gatefold thing), which between them contain 26 miniature sound-sculptures that connect to the inner-child of a generation. The sweeping, warbly tones of opening track "Departure" picks-up from where the coda of the Blake's 7 theme left us on it's final transmission, hanging in deep space, on the threshold of manhood, cruising into the cold vacuum of the eighties. but then "Heartfelt Science", smothered in a veneer of delicate distortion, draws us back, back...to the deep-phased seventies swoops of "Original Transmission", and from there into the reassuringly gentle echo-droplets of "Inner Circle". Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the fucking zone.

Like some expert hypnotists , Data 70 draw the listener's psyche away from all current earthly concerns in the space of barely four minutes. The trance is only broken by the gentle popping of the needle as it hits the run-out groove. And that's just Volume 1, Side 1 - there's another five similar experiences awaiting you on these superbly realised recordings. If you can find 'em, grab 'em!

Q&A WITH DATA 70 (Bob Bhamra and Jon Chambers)

Q1. Are you familiar with the so-called 'hauntology' genre? Do you feel any affinity with practitioners like Ghostbox/Mordant Music etc?

Bob: I’d like to say that I’ve read all of Derrida’s works (not least to give my day job at Verso Books a plug – you see what I did there?) but alas, I haven’t. I love the artwork on the Ghostbox releases though.

Jon: I'm not familiar with the 'hauntology' genre, I'm afraid. With regards to the Data 70 project, I don't feel an affinity with anyone except Bob.

Q2. What's the significance of the '70' in your name? is it a birth year, or some general invocation of the '70s?

Jon: We took the name from the Data 70 typeface by Bob Newman. I understand the '70' refers to the year it was designed. Coincidentally, it is also the year Bob and I were conceived.

Q3. Do you take inspiration from '70s culture, or at least some half-remembered childhood memories of that decade? Any specific music/artists that influence you (ie Radiophonic Workshop, Boards Of Canada, etc...)

Jon: Bob and I grew up together in the 1970s and I'm sure there's many aspects of 70's culture that have inspired both of us. I certainly have vivid and fond memories of my childhood, many of which feature Bob and his ability to make me sing into cassette recorders when I really didn't want to. Musically speaking, most of my influences come from the 1960s.

Bob: I met Jon at Infant School in 1976. For me, Data 70 is all about our shared experiences stemming from then, taking in our youth and beyond – nicking keys from shopping centres, sitting in wardrobes listening to 'More Specials', posing in our new Carnaby St. gear down Maidenhead High Street, writing fanzines together and making music with whatever was at hand. Musically, I’d say we’re both influenced by a vast array of stuff, not exclusively a 70’s or retro thing and not always the same things.

Q4 . Why do you work with short looped phrases? Is it a deliberate attempt to emulate library records/TV sound fx, etc? Any plans for more long-form compositions?

Jon: I think working within set parameters and limitations can often prove a more creative way of working, and I believe the one-minute loop format was an original way for us to achieve that. It certainly wasn't a deliberate attempt to emulate library music, even though design-wise our sleeves do reflect the library music aesthetic. There are no plans for longer pieces. Bob would get bored.

Bob: Personally, I have a very limited attention span so a one-minute loop or a three-minute pop single or a quick mix DJ like Jeff Mills is where it’s at for me. I think the short loops give the project an identity and a sense of humour and we can get more of our ideas onto one piece of vinyl.

Q5. Your music is recorded at the West Norwood Cassette Library (which is also a blog). Could you describe this place and what it contains? Do you really have a cassette library, or is that simply another retro-invocation?

Bob: WNCL is located in sunny SE27, London, where the streets have no lightbulbs and the pavements are lined with dog excrement and KFC aftermath. The ‘studio’ itself is a cosy basement with everything we need in one room - if you look carefully, you’ll find boxes of old cassettes waiting to be archived on to microfiche.

Jon: Inside it's like a big, orange, womb-like bubble with every creature comfort one could wish for. A home from home - if your home is Saturn.

Q7: Any new releases in the pipeline?

Bob: Space Loops Volume 3 promo's are nearly ready - still finalising track list and all that. We'll be sending them to a few select people shortly, including Dr Alex from The Orb, who has charted Vol. 2 at #1 in some French mag apparently!

Q8. Bob, you lead a double life as a dj, spinning more upfront dance styles. What's you top tunes at the moment?

Bob:These days I dj when I get the chance and when my old bones feel like they can keep up with the yoot'. Currently on the WNCL gramophone player:

1. RAMADANMAN – “Offal”(Soul Jazz Records)
B side wins again. 2 step beats, bouncing sub bass and a bleep. It's got the funk. What’s not to like?

2. RADIO SLAVE – “Grindhouse Tool (No Sleep Part Four)"(Rekids)
Eat this, Villalobos! Long, dark and super minimal. Sometimes I could listen to a kick, hat and a clap all day long.

3. DEBRUIT – “Coup Decale” (Musique Large)
Scottish bloke living in Paris apparently. Don’t know what this is. Wonky, electronic hip hop cut ups. Sort of.

4. TRG – “Broken Heart” (Martyn’s DCM Remix) (Hessle Audio)
Proof, if you needed it, that Dubstep can be soulful without going down the same chicken-in-a-basket blind alley that “jazzy” D&B did.

5. QUANTEC – “Circular” (Styrax Leaves)
Clearly influenced by Basic Channel and every bit as good.

Incidentally, Jon’s other hat is Sunray, who have been described as 'disciples of the school of mind-bending melodies' and has a couple of albums and singles under his belt.

Thanks to Bob and Jon for taking time out to talk to Gutterbreakz.

Myspace links:

Data 70

West Norwood Cassette Library


Enraptured Records

24 April 2008

Yeah, I'm feeling these new tracks coming on the Hotflush sub-labels. After slagging-off Vaccine a while back, I gotta eat humble pie now and admit that the new one "Fever/Concussion" (VAC002) is pretty tasty. Deep atmosphere but with much more rythmic imperitive. Also the TRG & Dub U release "Losing Marbles" (HFT 002) is of similar quality - I actually prefer the original to the 2562 refix, but both tracks hit the spot for subby meditivity. Check the Hotflush site for all the details and take a peak at all those free mixes they have on offer.

20 April 2008


Me and Doppelganger arrived at Ruffnek Diskotek early. The intimate surroundings of Cosies were eerily quiet: a sparse crowd and even sparser sound as the Doomstep thud of Forensics penetrated insidiously into the dark corners of the room. Apparently Krys has already sold out the first batch of CDs of his album. Maybe there's a market for this stuff afterall.

By the time Appleblim arrived a couple of hours later, the scene had changed dramatically - standing room only and the crowd nicely hyped by Brother Wetlands, followed by The Bandit. 'Blim's selection was dominated by the awesome liquid dub of 2562, who's clearly reaching out to whole other levels of techno-inflected depth. Watch out for his next Tectonic 12", "Dread Techno/Enforces"- a delicious taster of his debut album. Also heard were some nice spangly Martyn remixes, a couple of tasty RSD cuts and a surprising excursion into Peverelist-style hypno-dub from Kommanazmuk. The track's called "Bad Apples" and it's bloody great. Appleblim still found room for the more atmospheric end of the halfstep/wobble equation, including a track by Breakage (better known as a brand-leader in the drumfunk scene) which sounded very impressive. Apparently he's made quite a few tunes in this style. For me the set did start to evaporate into a wobbly stupor towards the end, though finished on a sublime note with "Circling".

We hung around for the early part of Dub Boy's set which was a showcase for some wicked Atki2/Monkey Steak tunes due for release on the new Steak House label soon. The kids were loving it and the party looked like it could've gone on all night, but these old bones were ready for bed. As always, a pleasure to link with all the crew in attendance - Thinking, Peverelist, Kid Kut, Atki2, Richard Carnage, Gatekeeper, Wedge...and good luck Beavis with the exams!

16 April 2008


From a simpler time. If you liked House, you probably liked Hip Hop too. This Stylus compilation (which peaked at #5 in the album charts in April 1988) provides a near-perfect snapshot of what was popular in the UK at the time. Among others you got Coldcut rubbing shoulders with the Beatmasters, Salt 'n' Pepa, The Real Roxanne, Spyder-D, Cookie Crew, Derek B and Eric B, Bomb The Bass and Rob Base. This is the shit that was blasting from the cassette player in my Ford Cortina back then. I loved it all. No micro/niche hang-ups back then. My hatred was reserved for indie shamblers, leftie-pop bores, hair-metal buffoons and, worst of all, the casual U2/Dire Straits/Genesis/Huey Lewis fans. Like the politics of the '80s, everything was clear black and white. Us against them. Viva the dance revolution!

This record has a gatefold sleeve, and one of the fun things in the centre-spread is a "Hip Hop & House Speak" glossary. Some of those imported words and phrases (like 'chillin', 'illin' and 'dissing') have since become part of the everyday language of the generations that followed, whilst others have faded from use or never caught on (I can't recall ever using the word 'bussing' to describe 'pumping up the volume'). James Horrocks' short essay provides us with some background on da scene's development:

"...While Hip Hop and House battled side by side for floor space in London - the north of England had adopted the up-tempo rhythm of House, replacing the Motown-inspired northern Soul scene as the north of Watford sound".

The 'North Of Watford Sound'? So the divide was already in place in '88, with the North eschewing Hip Hop's influence for a purer sound that would shortly develop into the homegrown 'Bleep' scene (in 1990, Original Clique actually released an EP called "North Of Watford"), whilst the Capital kept the Hip Hop connection running from early 'ardcore and ultimately through to jungle. A neat view of history, but then how do you explain Bradford's Unique 3 with their schizophrenic mix of UK rap/breakbeat and minimalist bleep-house or DJ Hype bringing the hip hop flavas to the early Warp catalogue? Clearly the battle lines couldn't be quite so neatly drawn on the map.


On the subject of Hip-House, how about a drop of the hard stuff...

Found this double-vinyl set for £3 in a charity shop recently. He's one of those characters I'd almost forgotten about, but Fast Eddie (along with fellow Chicagoan Tyree) was up there with Todd Terry for a time - a prime exponent of export-strength acid-hip-house ruffage. I liked the brutality of his sound (compared to the more precision-tooled UK copyists) the raw breakbeats and rare groove samples looping over tuff 808 house beats and 303 squiggles, best exemplified on tracks like "Acid Thunder", "Yo Yo Get Funky" and of course the genre-naming "Hip House". This Radical Records compilation came out in 1989, just at the peak of the Hip House phenomenon. I would've almost certainly bought it back then if I'd known of it's existence, but now it's nice to reacquaint myself with him 20 years on.

Side 4 is one of those 'megamix' things that were so common back then - all Eddie's best bits edited together by Double Trouble in an exhausting 10 minute collage that's surely ripe for a bit of mp-freakery...



#1 in an occasional series...
Just spotted this Dissensus thread on '80s R'n'B/Electro/Soul. Luka's on a Youtube mission!

Resonates nicely with my recent mention of Midnight Star and Colonel Abrams.

A great era - get to know!

14 April 2008


Thanks to Paul for some additional thoughts on Imagination's "Night Dubbing". Fascinating to read an alternative view of this album's relevance from someone who was actually into it at the time.

As I mentioned in my post, Boards Of Canada sampled Imagination on the track "We've Started Up", which appeared on their privately released cassette "A Few Old Tunes Vol.2". I wrote a bit about that nearly four years ago in this post on bootleg recordings. I made my own one-of-a-kind bootleg cd-r of "A Few Old Tunes Vols. 1 and 2" which I'm very proud of, though I'd still buy them if they ever got an official release!

I find that I play these discs just as often as the official releases. I find it fascinating to hear all those early stages of their development, many of which are very sketchy, and particularly those little fragments of '80s pop music that crop up (there's one track that features a pitched-down loop of Toni Basil's "Mickey"). For a group who are now known for being very conceptually deep, and who trace subliminal audio links to the 1970's (true hauntology pioneers, these boys) I think it's wonderful that they once messed about with the detritus of 80s pop, made most implicit on the "Unreleased Tracks" promo 12" that appeared last year.

This highly suspicious item, possibly of Dutch origin, is almost certainly an unsanctioned release. Even the title is a misnomer, as three of the tracks were originally released on Skam's Mask series in the late '90s under the Hell Interface moniker (the fourth track only ever appeared on the "A Few Old Tunes Vol.1" cassette). But for those of us who weren't hip enough to notice those first time, and aren't prepared to pay the massively inflated prices to obtain secondhand copies today, this ep plugs a hole in the collection for now. Although "Korona" is a straightforward instrumental, it's "Midas Touch" and "Trapped" that really do it for me. Both sample the full vocals from the '80s hit records of the same names, recorded by Midnight Star and Colonel Abrams respectively. As such they were dodgy bootleg mixes in the first place, so BoC shouldn't feel too aggrieved about this cheeky re-issue. The decision to 'borrow' those vocals might simply have been down to providence, as the original 12" singles featured acappella mixes on the b-sides, but still I think it's great that BoC should own those records in the first place and feel suitably inspired to absorb them into their own mythology, revealing once more that sense of shared history and experience I get from their music - just one more reason why they'll always be 'my band'.

Don't sleep on this one, you lucky Sheffielders!
R.I.P. Mark Speight. Okay, so maybe he wasn't fit to lick Tony Hart's boots, but you wouldn't wanna wish that on anyone. Except maybe Jamie Oliver.

13 April 2008


One High Street chain still doing a roaring trade in Yate is of course Woolworths, that bastion of family-orientated entertainment and clothing products.

Idly glancing along the racks of chart CDs, I had to raise an eyebrow at the wealth of dance music compilations/mixtapes on offer - everything from r'n'b to d'n'b to oldskool rave to funky house to...well you get the idea. Get yer Pure Garage Rewind here, and take note of the tracklist on that bonus 'Nu Skool/Bassline' disc. Never thought I'd see Benga and Coki's names on a CD in Woolies! (Speaking of which, although I didn't see it in the store, Woolworths are stocking Benga's album as well).

Or why not go straight to the Bassline with this 3 disc set of 'Niche, 4x4 and Bassline Anthems' - yours for a mere tenner!

Who needs Blackmarket, eh...?

But me being a boring old vinyl fetishist and inveterate snob, I left the shop empty-handed.


Another nail in the High Street coffin witnessed by Kek.

In related news...

Yep, the Yate branch of Oxfam finally closed it's doors for good.

Man, I scored some tasty vinyl in there over the years, but it now appears that Yate shopping centre is a vinyl-free zone. Now I've got absolutely nothing to look forward to next time I take the kids to the dentist or whatever.

04 April 2008


LINX: Turn-of-the-eighties Brit-funk ensemble, fronted by David Grant (vocals)and Sketch (bass). Had a couple of decent hit singles, then it all went pear-shaped.

(from the Gutterbreakz Guide To Pop Antiquities, 7th edition)

Linx were one of those groups from your school days that you just kinda forgot about, until someone like "Rachel" (aka Marcello Carlin) starts poking around in the pop embers in what might well be my favourite Dissensus thread ever, from September 2006, which started out as some kind of Mel & Kim appreciation (more on them another time) and turned into a free- association thing covering Pete Waterman, Sailor and, I notice now when re-reading it, Imagination's "Night Dubbing" (well done Mister Sloane!). Shame it only reached four pages before the crash and burn. In a moment of near superhuman clarity, Marcello posited that "Showing out" was the "missing link between Linx and Nitzer Ebb". Then, in a supernatural moment of synchronisty, Marcello claimed that "the first Linx album (Intuition) is a somewhat neglected Britfunk classic" on the same day that I found a near-perfect copy in the local branch of the PDSA charity shop. Never doubt that there are strange forces at work that we do not fully understand.

So then I got curious to find out what happened to the enigmatic bassist, Sketch. And of course John Eden (closet '80s pop fan that he is) had the answer. Turns out I already knew what he was doing, I'd just never made the connection that he was the same Sketch who joined avant-funkers 23 Skidoo and who later got ripped-off by those pig-faced cunts the Chemical Brothers on "Block Rockin' Beats". Small world, eh?

And as for David Grant? Well as the above clip mentioned, he became famous all over again with his wife Carrie on Fame Academy, but right now he's flying high on children's TV in Carrie & David's Pop Shop (which I'm pleased that someone picked-up on in my previous post). For the benefit of any childless readers, here's a clip showing what us dad-types have to endure at 5pm every weekday...

Carrie really is dangerously skinny, isn't she? But my four-year-old is completely under her spell. I really think he's got some sort of crush on her. When asked who he loves most, his Mummy or Carrie Grant, he was unable to give a straightforward answer.

David's looking amazingly good for a guy who's nearly fifty, eh? What's his secret, I wonder. Fucking media whore-bag. I'm down with the Sketches of this world.


Imagination: Distinctive London-based trio, who created a unique blend of soul and dance music. Leee John (vocals), Ashley Ingram (vocals, instruments), Errol Kennedy (drums). One Of the most original British acts of the early 1980s, they were fronted by a charismatic lead singer.

(From The Guiness Book Of British Hits Hit Singles, 14th Edition)

What a great pop group, eh? Did you know they were one of the first acts to use the Roland TB-303? They may not have unlocked it's acid-potential, but listen to that distinctive swerve on the bassline, achieved with the 303 sequencer's unique 'slide' function. Remember all those other hits - "Body Talk", "Music & Lights", "In And Out Of Love" and "Flashback"? (as sampled by Boards Of Canada on early unreleased track "We've Started Up"). Yeah, proper pop from the days when pop mattered.

That last sentence is of course nonsense. Pop matters today as much as it ever did, it just doesn't matter to me anymore. Retro-pop matters to me because it reminds me of days gone by, when things like that were far more important to me. Lot's of stuff was far more important to me when I was a kid, and I think that's true for a lot of people. We spend our adult lives indulging in all sorts of activities buying loads of stuff and imbibing substances trying to get that feeling we had when we were little, when the world was all new and exciting. I've never bought a record that ever gave me as big a thrill as, say, getting that Action Man tank for Xmas when I was five years old. I see my own kids today getting so incredibly excited by the most mundane things like toy trains, or football trading cards or Carrie & David's Pop Shop. The items I own that I truly cherish are those bits of bricker-brack I've had since I was little, cos they resonate with those old feelings of heart-stopping excitement, which occasionally I might feel in my heart for just a flickering moment when I look at those old talismans. There's nothing more important than having a good childhood, I reckon.

But I digress. Let's get to the main thrust of this post - another charity shop find, in near mint condition, still in original shrink-wrap, for a mere 49p...

Did you know Imagination made a dub album? I didn't until I found this. I can quite happily listen to a reggae dub album without having heard the original versions, though it does sometimes concern me that I'm not really appreciating the engineer's art because I don't know the original song. In pop terms, it would be like listening to The Human League's "Love & Dancing" remix album without having ever heard "Dare", which would be an insane thing to do, surely? As I sort of suggested in my Dennis Bovell post recently, dub's transformative powers can sound most shocking when applied to music you're already very familiar with. That sense of disruption to recognised song-structures creating a destabilising effect in the mind.

Imagination's "Night Dubbing" is interesting for this reason, but also as an unusual early example of dub strategies applied outside the context of reggae music, feeding into the mainstream. Mixed by Tony Swain, Steve Jolley and Richard Lengyel (apart from "Changes", reshaped by Larry Levan in NYC), it's a collision of Jamaican-style echo dubbing and disco-style re-editing that picks all those hits apart and re-arranges them in more abstracted form, fragmenting the vocals and destroying the song narratives along the way. Hardly avant-garde by today's standards, but it must've sounded quite weird in the pop landscape of 1983. Even the sleeve image seems at odds with Imagination's usual upfront image, with the boys peering moodily from the shadows.

A lovely period piece, but let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill....

03 April 2008

No Fucking Way


I first heard of Trojan's "Tighten Up" series back in the late '80s when reading an interview with Mick Jones. He was explaining the inspiration behind "Tighten Up Vol.88", the title of Big Audio Dynamite's third album. These reggae compilations were quite popular in their day, and over the years I've been patiently scooping them up from the bins in charity shops. Yes, I know I could track down the missing volumes online easily enough these days, or even buy shiny new CD editions, but where's the fun in that, I ask you? As I've said before, vinyl thrills are increasing hard to come by in charity shops these days (some don't even bother stocking wax anymore) but still I persevere. One of my favourites in the TightenUp series is Volume 4, which I found in a shop just half a mile from my house.

The sleeve's in a terrible state - looks like it must've had something sellotaped to it at some point, but the vinyl's in pretty good shape, so I stumped up the quid asking price. Hopefully I'll find a nicer copy one day, cos it's a lovely sleeve. The uncredited female model looks gorgeous, and luckily her face on the rear sleeve is unblemished...

She's probably a big ol' mama these days, but she was damn hot in '71, yessiree. I must admit a general weakness for old records with female models posing on the sleeve, especially from the '70s. There's a playful, almost innocent sense of gentle titillation about them, which you don't really see in the more hard-edged modern world.

The album itself it full of tasty treats, kicking off with the proverbial "Blood & Fire" by Niney, and also featuring the mournful harmonies of The Ethiopans on "The Selah", ushering in the Roots era after the previous late '60s period of pop-ska, and alienating all the skinheads in the process. Nice to hear The Slicker's version of "Johnny Too Bad" (later covered more famously by UB40) and an appearance from Jean (otherwise known as Judy Mowatt, who later joined the I Threes) with the Gaytones. The album finishes with a flabbergasting rendition of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" by Merlene Webber. Wunnerful...

01 April 2008


John Eden reports on recent Jah Shaka session. Funny how John chides himself for not having witnessed the great man for five years...I've never seen him ever! One of those things you hope to witness before you (or he) dies, but I never hear about them until after the event. Guess I move in the wrong circles/check the wrong forums, but then I'm only a casual reggae fan afterall. My relationship with Jah Shaka is entirely through the records, though unfortunately not any of those insanely expensive singles, just a handful of the standard '80s albums that I've picked up over the years. Occasionally, when I have the house to myself, I'll crank up the stereo to breaking point with these babies. One of the things I notice, particularly with the first "Commandments Of Dub" album, is all those future-echoes of Jungle leaking out from the extraneous sound effects and vocal utterances that have been sampled and recycled...though it's not always easy to place where I've heard the samples. But that's just one reason for revering Shaka and his towering influence on British bass-culture.

Will someone please forewarn me if he's ever passing through the West Country??!!