29 April 2004

Received a nice big package from Mute Records this morning, a full three weeks ahead of the release dates. Sometimes it pays to pre-order. Let the Richard H. Kirk feeding frenzy commence!!

28 April 2004

Fave track on "Treddin' On Thin Ice" so far is "Special Girl". Love the FM-sheen, old skool 808 beats and those pitched-up diva sample loops that reveal a surprising (unintentional?) mind-meld with Kanye West's album. Lovin' the whole damn thing, actually. My only critisism at the moment being the fact that the 'defining' instrumental tracks like 'Eskimo' and 'Icerink' have been reduced to brief interludes. Shame, 'cause these tracks deserve a wider hearing in their full-length glory. A follow- up 'Instrumentalist' collection is sorely needed, in my view. Somethin' fer the chin-strokazzz...

26 April 2004

Looks like there will be two Limited Edition remix 12 inchers to coincide with Mute's Richard H. Kirk albums:

Limited Edition 12"
4 exclusive 2004 remixes of Martyrs Of Palestine & Street Gang by
Richard H. Kirk, only available on this 12" and only for a limited

Limited Edition 12"
4 exclusive 2004 remixes of Sandoz tracks by Richard H. Kirk, only
available on this 12" and only for a limited period.

This info from Mutebank, with details of special 'Multi-buy' offers:

Both double CD albums £12.99 each / Both EP 12" singles £3.99 each

Available to order from The Grey Area via Mute Bank 3 weeks ahead of
the UK release date (17th May)


Special MULTI-BUY Offer

KIRK-MULTI1 - Both CD's for £20.00 (saving £5.98)

KIRK-MULTI2 - Both 12"'s for £6.00 (saving £1.98)

KIRK-MULTI3 - Both CD's and 12"'s £25.00 (saving £8.96)

To order please click here:

25 April 2004

"Gutterlectuals unite, down with middlebrow!"

Yeah! Great rallying cry from Blissblog, there. On the subject of Grime, I've never written anything about it and I don't think I've any right to write about it, as I've always been a fairweather Garage listener, merely dipping my toes in occasionally but never committing any allegiance. A lot of it leaves me cold, especially when it gets a bit too 'urban', but prior to the imminent release of Wiley's long-player I'd just like to say a few words on the subject of Eskibeat. I bought the new single "Wot Do U Call It", but other than that all I'd heard previously were various MP3's. I like the instrumentals best. Tracks like "Freeze","Blizzard" and especially "Icepole" are definitely on my wavelength. To me, Wiley should be viewed outside the confines of UKG/Grime, as the latest visionary in a long line of electronic innovators within dance music. I hear echoes of Richard H. Kirk's early-nineties electro experiments like "C.C.E.P." (as Sweet Exorcist, with Parrot) and "The Mood Set" (as Xon, with Robert Gordon). I would also put forward the idea that Wiley is Britain's answer to Juan Atkins. I always felt that Atkin's sound was colder than that of other Detroit artists; soulful but with a dagger of ice through it's heart. He developed a new sound, 'Techno', from the ruins of a previous genre, 'Electro', just as Wiley has created his Eski mutant from the ashes of Garage. And it took one of Juan's disciples, Derrick May, to 'break' his sound to a wider audience, much the same way that Wiley's protege Dizzie Rascal broke into the mainstream first. "Wot Do U Call It" is as potent a statement of intent as Model 500 classics like "Off To Battle" or "Techno Music". Whether or not you think that's just bollocks, I'm really looking forward to hearing "Treadin' On Thin Ice" next week. ....

Excellent piece on Rephlex Grime by K-Punk. I've really gotta hear this shit too!
More info from Mute on the new Richard H. Kirk retrospective here. Check Kirk's mullett on the cover photo!!

Also, info on the simultaniously re-issued Sandoz album here.

15 April 2004

Been a bit tardy with the ol' music reviews recently. Apologies, but I need to tap into a certain zone to come up with anything worth saying. That's why I would never attempt to be a 'proper' music journalist - it's just too damn difficult. Anyway, here's three quick reviews of some shit I've been digging recently....


As intimated in my last post, I'm seriously under these guy's spell at the moment. Apparently it's their second (and final?) album, but my first exposure to the work of these Ohio-born HipHop astronauts. I connect with the ancient, grainy quality of their sound sources, which have distinct parallels with Boards Of Canada's sound (no surprise then that BOC were commissioned to remix one of cLOUDDEAD's tracks). Not ancient like the pyramids, more like the strange noises dimly remembered from '70s children's TV programmes: eerie, alien, yet warm and woody at the same time. Keyboard textures are unclassifiable soft-focus melodic tones that might have originally been church organs. Beats are smudged, crackly, lo-rez rhythmic apparitions that wheeze and cough in a (no doubt) spliff-induced fog cloud. Samples of English children reciting nursery rhymes turn into needle-jumping lock-grooves. This alone would guarantee a first-class trip-hop album, but then add in the totally unique 'rapping' style and bizarre observational lyrics and we're into a whole new territory. There's also the fact that all these tracks have structure, they work like classic songs. In places you can almost detect a Beach Boys flava - but not 'Pet Sounds' Beach Boys - more like the moment five seconds before Brian Wilson blew his mind and collapsed in a pool of his own piss (possibly) during the torturous 'Smile' sessions - that moment when talent and inspiration start misfiring, spitting out in unpredictable new directions. Another soundbite view would be that "Ten" is HipHop's "Meet The Residents". 'Nuff said.


Brilliantly reviewed by Tufluv ages ago, but I finally got around to checking out Hell's latest offering recently. Anything with a couple of Alan Vega guest appearances is always worth checking out (except for maybe that 'Sisterhood' album). My favourites are the tracks like "Control", where Hell fearlessly cooks up some retro '80s-electro minimalism. Nothing new about it, but if it ain't broke, don't fuck wid da flava, dig? Then there's "Follow You", with the most withered analogue synth tone I've heard for years. Sounds like Hell found a synth that was just on the verge of breaking down and coaxed one last gasp out of it. Best of all, "Let No Man Jack" makes me wanna jump up and kill stuff. We're talking Hard Acid House (not Acidic Techno - there's a big difference, baby), with a brilliantly twisted vocal that encourages us to 'mosh', 'slam' etc, whilst the title lyrics' word-play seem to forbid Jacking, despite the fact that the 303-saturated groove makes you wanna Jack till you have a heart attack!

Of course it's not all up to that standard. For me, the collaboration with Billy Ray Martin just ruins the vibe. Sounds like Hell's trying to do some sort of Portishead-type thing, but I expect at least some 'electro' and/or 'punk' from a Hell track, and here he gives me neither. Bah! "The Ambient MM" also takes an unexpected turn - this time into Ambient Techno chill-out mode, but I'll forgive him for that one, 'cos it reminds me of old Aphex Twin tracks like "Tha".


Again, Tufluv gave it the thumbs-up weeks ago, but I've been taking my time with this one. Even though it's not the focused perfection of "Go Plastic", I'm starting to believe that this might be my favourite Jenkinson effort yet. The unadorned cover portrait sums it up really: this is Squarepusher letting his guard down, allowing us to peer into his mind and see how all the different elements of his muse function. It's dysfunctional, it's egomaniacal, it's farcical, it's often brilliant and occasionally makes me wanna burst into tears 'cause it's so overwhelmingly beautiful.

The bass virtuoso shit is indeed back with a vengeance, but it's nowhere near as indulgent as one might think. I love the way he'll get a real fast, tricky bass run going, but then unexpectedly drown it with digitally processed junk-noise. It's like an artist deliberately defacing his work when he senses he's falling back on old habits. But he leaves it on display so the public can see the rough sketches that, when combined and sharpened-up, lead to a masterpiece, of which there's at least two on this collection. "Iambic 9 Poetry" is initially startling for it's naturalistic, acoustic-sounding drums (not one of TJ's usual moves), but it's the constantly evolving waves of keyboard melody that really grip the soul. For this is Soul music in it's purist form: an uplifting surge of emotion that seems to be reaching all the way to heaven. You can feel your spirit recharging it's batteries everytime you play it. The other gold-plated work of genius here is "Tetra-Sync", which over the course of nine minutes transports us through an undulating, constantly evolving Odyssey where all the disparate elements come together in one glorious euphoric celebration of Mr Jenkinson's skills. Seriously, when this guy's good, he's fucking amazing

12 April 2004


Last year saw a revival of interest in Cabaret Voltaire, and this year, we should all be focusing on their central figure - the Cabs' heart of darkness - Richard H. Kirk. In the next couple of month's we're gonna see a slew of re-issues and unreleased material from the great man hitting the streets. Here's what's happening:

19th April
URP VOL. 2 (Intone CD)
The second installment of unreleased dance projects from the mid-late '90s. Expect more latin-tinged hi-octane electro/disco.

19th April ?
BCD/Biochemical Dread - False Kings Of The Earth/Indiana Cuba 7 (D-Pulse 12 inch)

Lifted from last year's "Bush Doctrine" album, this has taken a while to get completed, as explained by d-pulse's Dean:

"It's been a very long time coming, but the oft-delayed dPulse/Pulsolid release of the Biochemical Dread 12" 'False Kings of the Earth' b/w 'Indiana Cuba 7' has finally entered its final stages.

A good deal of the delay was stemmed from remastering the original Bush Doctrine version of 'Indiana Cuba 7', a process that took two mastering engineers to capture the essence of the track and translate it to vinyl.

The second (and final) master has now been approved by all involved and the record will hit the presses early in the week.

Of course, we are immensely proud to have the opportunity to release 'False Kings of the Earth' and 'Indiana Cuba 7' on vinyl and are looking forward to the release of this record...

This edited and mastered for vinyl version differs slightly from the album version of 'Indiana Cuba 7', most especially in the outtro...

For more information on the release:


Thanks for your continued support!"

17th May
Sandoz - Digital Lifeforms (CD)

A re-issue of one of Kirk's early-90's technofunk albums. This is one of my favourites. Apparently it'll be a two-disc release...not sure what's gonna be on the second disc yet. Can't wait to find out....

17th May
Richard H. Kirk - Earlier/Later Unreleased Projects Anthology 74/89 (Grey Area Of Mute CD)

This is the big one....Kirk's own 'Attic Tapes' - a two disc collection of never- before-heard audio experiments from the early days, although it will also include the excellent 12inch mix of "Martyrs Of Palestine" from '86. Mandatory listening for everybody, understand?

Kirk will also be playing at Throbbing Gristle's festival thingy in May.

More info/reviews to follow....
Although I hate jumping on other blogger's bandwagons, I must just add my support to Matt and Mark's exultant praise for the Kanye West album "College Dropout". I checked it out purely because of their enthusiasm and thank christ I did. Nothing else I can really add, Mark pretty much nailed it. Buy it. Download it. Whatever, just hear it....

Love that latest cLOUDDEAD album too. A completely different take on Hiphop's future. My mind was suitably fried.

03 April 2004


...or electropop, or neo-futurism or whatever you wanna call it. Once again I'm left a little disappointed with a compilation that attempts to represent current trends in electronic pop music. I'm referring to Robopop Volume 1 from Lucky Pierre Records. So what's my problem? I put synthpop on a pedestal, revere it for years as the Great Lost Hope for pop, but when it finally makes a comeback I'm full of doubts. Maybe I care too much.

It just seems that there's a spectacular lack of imagination going on here and far too much emulation rather than innovation. How can so many acts make synthpop sound so damned ordinary? Too much 1983 and not enough 1981? And when groups like Baxendale or Spray incorporate post-'88 elements, it's just yer bog-standard House/Techno grooves that've already been done to death by the mainstream. It's like they're drawing out all the most anemic elements of electronica, but it's the black stuff - the spaces within the grooves - that I always responded to. That's why I really liked that Metro Area album, even when it occasionally veered into Shakatak land. But these Robopoppers tendency to fill their tracks with unnecessary MIDI-gravy just drowns whatever potential they might've had in a pool of over-production.

Macondo's 'Disappointed' is really awful, less interesting than a Pet Shop Boys b-side from 1989 with a doleful indie vocal telling it's tawdry kitchen sink drama and not an ounce of funk in it's bones.

Hearing the overtly Martin Gore-esque vocals on Wave In The Head's 'Progress' makes you realise that the boundary between genre-study and outright pastiche has been well and truly crossed. Several of these tracks, like Canadian Gary Flanagan's "Every Friday Night" sound like a fucking joke. Several groups are from across the pond, and they all sing in English accents which sound as crap as English people trying to sing in bluesy American accents.

Of course, there are some tracks that I actually do like. Jyoti Mishra aka White Town returns from one-hit-wonder oblivion with an interesting tune called "Panoptician" which features possibly the best chorus lyrics I've heard in years: "I Retreat From You" (repeat 7 times). His nicely paranoid world view is backed up by a tight groove that remembers to add a funky bassline. My ass was suitably moved. And I couldn't help but like Vic Twenty's cover of Lynsey De Paul's '70s pop-fluff classic "Suger Me", even if it is a bit clumsy. There's a certain clammy texture to the synths and a clunkiness in the beats that I find quite agreeable.

But generally, this new Conservative Synthpop Orthodoxy is as myopic and irritating as the C86 indie stuff was back in the '80s. Maybe the biggest problem is that, in this day and age, making 'synthesiser' music is as limiting and luddite in it's approach as The Wedding Present were back in 1986. With the sort of technology and sampling power available now, it seems kinda crazy to stick to such a limited palette of sound. There's an interesting, off-the-cuff comment made by Fridge/Four Tet mainman Keiren Hebden in this month's Wire magazine, where he states:"(electronic) music's not about synths and drum machines now, it's about process and editing". Having heard his latest Four Tet album "Rounds", I can see his point. The sound he creates on his computer has very little in the way of pure electronic sound. It's all digitally manipulated samples of 'real' instruments, lifted from countless old Folk albums (which has led to his music being described as 'folktronica'). Coming from a similar angle as Prefuse 23, Hebden mangles familiar acoustic sounds to quite startling effect, such as the shards of cut-up acoustic guitar that start skipping haphazardly across the beat on the track "She Moves She".

There's an 'ocean of sound' out there, and the future belongs to those who can soak it all up and channel it into something radical....and intelligible.

Having said all that, I still worship the original 'first wave' electropop artists and, for the sheer hell of it, here's a few examples of less-celebrated 'classics' that still thrill me....

THOMAS LEER & ROBERT RENTAL - Day Breaks, Night Heals (1979)
Ahhh, the 'Scottish tinge'. These purveyors of fine lo-fi electro angst-pop got together at the behest of Industrial Records to create "The Bridge" album, which is the official post-punk response to Bowie's "Low", being half experimental pop and half ambient soundscape. Interest in Leer is currently escalating, on account of the recent re-issues of his late-80's work with Claudia Brucken as Act. But it's Rental's ghostly vocals, coupled with the utterly Martian rhythm track that makes this the highlight for me.

JOHN FOXX - Touch And Go (1980)
The final track from the ultimate electrofuturist manifesto LP "Metamatic". After all the ice-cold Ballardesque alienation, "Touch & Go" is the big emotional release. Foxx almost breaks into a chuckle at one point. And it's such an irresistible groove...the best bit is the extended instrumental section at the end where he takes the track right down to the bare bones before bringing in those ethereal waves of synth texture. Interestingly, the main melody is exactly the same as that used on "Mr. X", a track on Ultravox's first post-Foxx album Vienna, which was released a few months later. I wonder what the story is there...did anyone get sued?

SILICON TEENS - State Of Shock Part 2 (1980)
Now I know that a lot of people were a little confused by Daniel Miller's decision to make an album of electronically performed hits of the '50s and '60s, but tucked away on side 2 is this little self-penned instrumental that is perhaps the nearest we have to a follow-up to his groundbreaking work as The Normal (along with "Cleanliness and Order", the track he did with Boyd Rice). Very sexy, very groovy and still sounds like the future. What the fuck ever happened to Part 1?! I call on Daniel to release a Silicon Teens rarities collection NOW!!

THE HUMAN LEAGUE - WXJL Tonight (1980)
Final track on the League's "Travelogue" album. There's so many of their tunes I could single out for recommendation, but this one sums up what was great about the Marsh/Oakey/Ware line-up perfectly. It's so clumsy, yet so ingenious. So daft, yet so heart-felt and soulful. And the arrangements are a delight. When the staccato synth arpeggio kicks in mid-way, it's like a wormhole just opened to 1990's euphoric techno.

FAD GADGET - Lady Shave (1981)
One day, I'll make a pilgrimage to Frank Tovey's grave. That's how highly I rate the man. Although I can't agree with the sentiments of the lyrics, 'cause I'm a chauvinist pig who always complains if the wife's legs aren't smooth enough, this is a wicked, intense, muscular slice of dark dance music. The bit near the end where Frank's shriek is shot through echo & distortion is very Suicide - the sort of thing I'm a total sucker for.

LANDSCAPE - Norman Bates (1981)
Okay, they weren't a very good group in general, but this track just fucking slays me. Over a minimal, ominous groove, a treated voice repeats the phrase "My name is Norman Bates, I'm just a normal guy" until another voice shrieks out "Mother! Oh, my God!" which leads into one of the coldest, eeriest synth lead solos of all time. Still gives me the shivers...and they performed it on TOTP!

YAZOO - Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)
Are Yazoo hip these days? I've no idea. But this Alison Moyet-penned slice of electro blues still rocks the floor here at Gutterbreakz HQ.

CYBOTRON - Alleys Of Your Mind (1981)
Over in Detroit Motor City something was stirring. This first release by the young Juan Atkins and his then partner 3630 pays heavy dues to it's European inspirations, but adds a big dollop of the black stuff to create one of the stiffest funk grooves of all time, displaying the sort of attributes that the current crop of American synthpoppers would do well to observe. No doubt Junior Boys will show them the way....

01 April 2004

Coinciding nicely with the heated MP3 debate that's been raging in blogdom, International DJ magazine runs a cover story special report on the downloading phenomenon in the April issue, investigating the impact that the internet is having on the dance music industry. Definitely worth a read, for those who still read printed words, that is.

A few points of particular interest:

But for all the negativity, there are many who believe that digital downloads have actually helped boost sales of their singles by allowing people to "try before they buy". In a BPI study conducted in 2002 - at the height of the wars between the major labels and file sharing websites - 60% of respondents said that trying a track out before they bought it was one of the main reasons why they downloaded music illegally.

A nice thought, but deeply suspect in my view.

Just as music buyers have been given a choice, so too have dance labels. On the back of the success of iTunes, the majority have been scrambling to add their catalogues onto the numerous paid-for download services cropping up.....
.....one major factor in the popularity of download sales for labels is the ease with which they can turn a profit. Without the major overheads of a traditional release, you can swell your coffers - and those of your artists - fairly easily. Likewise, you can keep making money on back catalogue, without the need for expensive represses".

I find this very encouraging. The dance labels are getting stuck in and making it pay. Creativity can still be a bankable commodity, even in the MP3 age.

"To be honest, I haven't played off vinyl for over a year now," admits John '00' Fleming. "I'm fully CD and Final Scratch (a hardware/software interface that allows digital music files to be played, scratched and manipulated). I think the kids nowadays are used to looking at waveforms, at home on computers, and that's the format that they want to spin their music off"

John's almost certainly right about that. As the authors humourously suggest in their opening scenario: "..a world where vinyl is purely the stuff of fetishists' fantasies, CDs are our generation's Betamax tapes and Technics 1210s have been replaced by laptops, next generation MP3 decks and portable music storage devices no bigger than your hand." Us (slightly!) older consumers need to get on board now, before our CD collections become useless scrap and our belief-systems shatter into a thousand pieces....

"The problem is" Amon Tobin told us "so far the sound quality of MP3s or whatever is just not good enough. Any digital records I use in my set I make myself or just record from vinyl. This way I can play WAV files, which are better quality then MP3 - similar to CD quality, which is ample for club soundsystems."

I was worried about the sound quality issue too. But for my basic needs and hi-fi equipment, I really can't tell any noticeable difference between CD and MP3 quality. Maybe I've just got crap ears.

"If anything's going to die, it'll be the CD", Amon Tobin says. "I think downloads will replace CDs but not vinyl. My guess is that eventually we'll see all digital formats from CD to MP3 consolidated and streamlined, becoming more and more convenient to use until eventually we're all beaming files through our eyeballs and mapping them into our brains, or whatever. Vinyl, on the other hand, has never been about convenience and will continue to survive, appreciated by a minority for it's unique qualities."

Yeah, I can relate to that. I feel like CDs were just an intermediate holding pattern until something better came along. Even though I've been predominantly buying music on CD for the past 10 years or so, I don't really feel that much emotional attachment to the objects themselves, apart from some of the more lavish packages. But I still have a great deal of affection for certain vinyl treasures. Also, because it's now commonplace to burn your own CD-rs, it's taken all the magic out of the CD format. I remember being very excited the first time I got my own music onto CD, but now I master onto CD-r as a matter of course. Getting music onto vinyl on the other hand, still needs specialist knowledge and equipment that requires a certain level of outlay, belief and commitment from the artist/label. To enshrine your work in wax is to truly immortalise it. That's why vinyl will always have a special appeal, beyond the convenience of digital formats.

By the way, for all you Grime/Eski heads out there, Wiley's "Treadin' On Thin Ice" got the album of the month. "Explosively original"...okay, I'm sold on the idea.

I'm still experimenting with iPod's shuffle play experience, but no new insights yet. But interestingly, the first track that iPod elected to play today was "Rise Up (vocal mix)" by fellow blogger Grievous Angel. Now when he finally gets his shit together, I think Mr Meme is gonna be one of the real pioneers of the MP3 age. An artist who communicates his thoughts and opinions freely and makes his work instantly accessible to anyone who wants it. I will be watching developments at his new blog closely, taking notes. Incidently, I agree with most points that Paul makes concerning download culture. In particular, the freedom to experience a wide range of music without the weight of ownership, particularly resonates with me.

But I much prefer the "Hard Dub" mix, Paul....