27 February 2006


Lohan @ Noir

Friday was a busy night, and my loyalties were split three ways. What to do? Where to go? Phone calls were made, texts and e-mails were exchanged, set-times were noted and routes were planned like a military operation. I left the house just after 10.30pm and headed over to my first port-of-call - an intimate little basement club called Cosies on Portland Square, where DJ Pinch was due on the decks at 11.00. I believe this was the first time dubstep had been featured at Cosies (the night in question, Steamrolla, is generally known for drum'n'bass) and rather than his usual peerless dubplate selection, Pinch was spinning primarily a 'greatest hits' package to introduce the clientele to the sound. That meant a heavy dose of DMZ classics, like "Da Wrath V.I.P", "Mood Dub", "Neverland", etc, but of course Pinch couldn't resist slipping in a few exclusives including a dutty new Mala tune which, in an uncharacteristically informative way, he revealed is due to be released by the respected re-issue label Soul Jazz very soon (which confirms the rumours I'd heard). Along with Distance's "Fallen", Pinch also dusted-off Benga's old Big Apple classic "Walkin' Bass". Its a great tune, still, but its surprising just how 'garagey' it sounds in comparison to what's happening now. So much has changed in the past couple of years since I first got into this music, but the increments of innovation occur at an almost imperceptible rate, so you don't realise just how much the sound has changed until you listen back to the older stuff. Incidentaly, for those who haven't heard, Benga is making something of a comeback right now, taking the unprecedented step (in dubstep terms) of releasing a bunch of his tunes as a self-financed CD album. Check his Myspace page for the details. He's also making a rare public appearance at Dubloaded in March, but more on that another day.

Another interesting aspect of this particular gig was how low the volume was. Cosie's soundsystem simply wasn't prepared to deal with dubstep frequencies and it kept cutting out! A compromise was found, but it meant that the volume was really quiet - almost background music - it was easy to hold a conversation without having to yell in people's ears (which actually made a nice change). But I think it was Jaki Liebezeit of Can who once said that the best rhythms work at any volume, and I must say that dubstep still sounds rhythmically compulsive even when its just mingling with the conversation. Its fantastic ambient/background music!

It was good to link-up with the H.E.N.C.H. crew at Cosies, too. This is a little Bristol collective of like-minded dubstep producers - Headhunter, White Boi and J@kes - and they're busy hatching plans for world domination. I'm feeling their beats, and will definitely be keeping an eye on their activities, maybe even getting involved with some of their planned club events. But again, more on that another time...

No sooner had Pinch lifted the needle for the final time, I was saying my goodbyes and marching off to the Croft, where R.L.F. (aka Bass Clef) was due on stage at midnight. I got there just in time to hear the opening unearthly tones of "Welcome To Echo Chamber". Anyone who enjoyed that track on 64kbps GutterFM in January would've been thrilled to hear it blasting at full-frequency. In fact the first half of Ralph's set was all super-subby halfstep rollers of the finest quality (he's been spotted at DMZ, so I guess the experience has rubbed-off on him). As the set progressed, Ralph moved into more familiar territory (for me at least) with the Amen-driven sublow bounce of "King Of Stokes Croft" (an ode to the very street in which The Croft is situated) and the freaky sliced string-sections of "The Pembury Riddim". These are serious beats that you could rinse in any dj set, but the big difference here is the method of presentation: R.L.F. is essentially a one-man live act, triggering sounds manually and adding various fx, plus anything else he feels the urge to play. One minute he's giving it some on his trusty trombone, the next he's waving his hands in front of a Theremin (the Kaoss Pad of the 1930's) making wobbly swooping sounds, then he's banging the shit out of a cowbell or blowing a whistle, and so on.

R.L.F. 1
R.L.F. gets horny

But that's only part of R.L.F.'s unique allure. His whole demeanor is that of the genial Butlins holiday camp compere, or a novelty cabaret act - the softly-spoken light entertainer par excellance. He chats with the audience between tracks, makes self-depreciating little wise-cracks and generally doesn't take himself too seriously. The fact that some of his beats are as heavy and inventive as anything else coming from the underground is the delicious juxtaposition in the whole R.L.F. package. Its hardcore, Jim, but not as we know it. Ralph is a real breath of fresh air, and I'm happy to admit that I'm absolutely crazy about him! Expect more R.L.F. coverage from me in future...

R.L.F. 2
Vintage wobbles from R.L.F.

Next it was another brisk march down to the other end of Stokes Croft, to the Blue Mountain Club's monthly Noir party. I didn't get a chance to check out the d'n'b stuff in the mainroom, but upstairs the vibe was a little bit subdued, with just a handful of devotees scattered around the room. Pinch and Headhunter had arrived from Cosies and the familiar faces of Monkey Steak could be seen lurking in the shadows. Atki2 and Hanuman were eager to tell me about their new live set-up, with full sequencer control and MIDI link-up between laptops, which they were intending to road test the following evening at the Black Swan. This was also where I linked with my photographer Jack who, on the strength of the shots he's been taking for the blog, had been invited down by the Noir organisers to document the event. Madboy was there as well, gathering more footage for his documentary. As I wandered around chatting I started to become increasingly aware of how weird the music was getting...

Elemental on the buttons

It was a decks 'n' laptop set from Elemental, a name I've seen mentioned quite a lot but who's work I hadn't really been exposed to. Despite the fact that the Roots Radical soundsytem wasn't really on form that night, his style (an abstract, dubbed-out variation of breakstep) was certainly intriguing. I need to hear his work in more focused circumstances before I try to describe it properly, but the fact that the next Hotflush release is by him indicates that he's already gaining some serious recognition. Nice bloke, too!

Elemental 2
Elemental staring into the future

I've been diligently buying their records for well over a year now, but this was the night I finally got to meet Lohan and Prior aka headliners Search & Destroy. My favourite track of theirs is still "Wavescape", b-side of the first Storming release. I like that more cold, minimal approach best, which comes mainly from Prior, who's similarly alien "Auto" (under the Flatline alias) , was included on "Our Sound", the compilation released on their own Destructive label last year. Prior was spinning a few dubs in a similar style which sounded great and I was urging him to hurry up and release them all! Hopefully the release schedule for Destructive (and sister label Pitch Black) will pick-up a bit this year, so he tells me.

Search & Destroy
Search & Destroy: Prior and Lohan
(look closely at the poster on the left for sneak preview of next month's awesome line-up!)

gutta & Lohan
Lohan ripping it up, observed by Gutta

Lohan's more maximal tendencies showed themselves with a ferocious breakstep rinse-out, but unfortunately the soundsystem just wasn't doing it any justice. It was getting late by this point, so I said my goodbyes, promising all concerned that I would do my best to represent at the big Heatwave/Ruffnek party the following night. I finally hit the sack about 3am, but it took me ages to get to sleep - I couldn't switch off, cos my brain was still buzzing from all the sights, sounds and information I'd been absorbing. But eventually I must've drifted off....

24 February 2006


Color StripLong, long term readers might recall that (prior to my immersion in all things grimey) I was hailing a young Detroit producer called Jimmy Edgar as the new Messiah of electronica. His first two EPs on Warp, plus the outstanding "My Mine's Eye" album (released on Merck in 2002) ushered in a new sound that built on the soulful electronics of Detroit's rich heritage whilst skillfully bending it into new shapes that were, frankly, irresistible. I still love those records, but its been over a year since the last one and I'd all but forgotten about young Mr. Edgar. Then I heard a few whispers that his debut long-player for Warp was finally due to drop, and my innate curiosity (and sense of loyalty to the boy who rocked my world so vigorously back then) led me to get in touch with my 'friend' in the Warp organisation to see if there were any promos floating around. A couple of days later the postman called with a finished vinyl edition. Now that's what I call service - cheers mate!!

My initial reactions to the album were a mixture of surprise, consternation, doubt and disappointment. There's a handful of tracks that come close to the Edgar magic I know and love - the gorgeous opening skitter-rhythms and creamy key-changes of "Pret-A-Porter" being of particular note, along with the distinctively supple, organic blipscape that is "Hold It Attach It Connect It". But for the remaining 75%, Jimmy's decided to make a retro album. A fucking decent retro album, admittedly. All those people in the 'pro-DMX Krew' camp will surely cream their jeans at the utterly authentic, classic '80s techno/electrofunk vibe that Jimmy's created. Just check the opening bassline on "Jefferson Interception" - a straight homage to Model 500's "Off To Battle", surely? And what's with all the sexy-but-monotone vocals a la Juan Atkins? Is that Jimmy doing the vocals? Or Juan Atkins himself?! (sorry, I didn't get a press release and the album sleeve has no credits, so I don't know the answer). 808 beats abound throughout the album, often treated with that distinctive sharp '80s gated reverb effect, and the trainspotter in me is wondering if Jimmy produced these tracks using the original machines or software. My ears just ain't sensitive enough to call it (probably wrecked anyway from too much sub bass exposure recently) but the fact is if you'd played me "My Beats" blindfold and told me it was an obscure (and exceptionally fine) Cybotron electro tune from 1983, I would have no reason to disbelieve you. Another interesting point: having spent practically all my time for the past year listening to music made by people pushing boxes around on Fruity Loops, hearing Jimmy's remarkable keyboard flourishes again is quite startling. Remember, this boy is so bloody talented he can hold his own as a musician anywhere. Hearing his keys makes me wanna dig out those old Herbie Hancock and Alexander Robotnick records again! I can't not like these tracks - that type of music's in my blood - so why all the consternation?

I guess its because I was expecting more of that next-level shit. After such a lengthily hiatus, my appetite for further Detroit futurism was pretty keen, but mostly I'm just hearing all the great bits from its past being artfully resurrected. Too much 'where I'm from' and not enough 'where I'm going'. Plus the thing about DMX records is that they always come out sounding 'Ed DMX-y', but most of these Edgar tunes are just so accurate you can't really tell them apart from the originals. What's the idea behind it all? To introduce a new audience to the 'old' grooves? Fair enough, but maybe that should've been kept for a separate project, rather than the big Warp debut album. Maybe I just worry too much. To be honest I'm over most of the disappointment now, and just enjoying the music for what it is. 'It Is What It Is', as the grand master once said.

Perhaps to reaffirm his experimental credentials, when you order the album from Warpmart, you get a bonus mix CD called "Rhythmic Denial" which, as the name suggests, is supposed to be a beatless version of the album. Not that you can hear much of the original album in there. Its an extreme exercise in minimalist sound shaping, a sort of 'drift study' utilising elongated shafts of metallic soundmatter, only leavened briefly by some funky sequencer and reversed beats, finishing with an outlandish series of slow-scraping sounds, like snare drums time-stretched into infinity. Its way out there, but still not entirely satisfying cos it goes too far the other way. Jimmy's best music never let's the innovation obscure the emotion.

So I guess I have to admit in the end that, yes, I can't help but feel a little disappointed with Jimmy Edgar's new album. But that's only cos of the incredibly high standard he'd already set himself. It fails only on his terms. By everyone else's its a top-of-the-range model fresh from the Motor City. I just hope Jimmy's finest hour lies ahead of him, rather than two years' past...

21 February 2006


Ruffnek Vibes

Thanks to Appleblim, it looks like I've been put on the Ammunition mailing list, and the first fruits of this arrangement arrived in the post last week, in the form of a promo of Kode 9's astounding "Dubstep Allstars Vol.3" mix. Last year's "Vol. 2" was great, but Youngsta follows a very specific vibe that only a small handful of artists can provide. It needed to be documented, but Kode 9's offering feels like a far more generous, expansive exploration of the current state of dubstep, featuring 28 tracks from 16 different producers. It's a wild ride - the dubplates crackle, the energy levels build and subside, and the occasional evidence of 'platter pushing' only adds to a sense of of-the-moment urgency.

All the tracks are, of course, exclusive and unreleased (apart from Pressure (The Bug) & Warrior Queen's "Dem A Bomb We"), and its great to see that Kode has seen fit to include nearly all the dubplates that have caught my attention in recent months, like Digital Mystikz' "Intergalactic", one of the most insane riddims I've had the pleasure to experience, reminding me just how weird and alien those guys can get. This, followed by Loefah's "Ruffage" is just an explosive combination of jaw-dropping proportions. Skream's other big 'arpeggiator' tune "0800 dub" is also on there which, with the addition of the wise, authorative flow of 'dub poet' the Spaceape, raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Spaceape is the perfect MC for dubstep, his lyrical embellishments never obscure the sonics, if anything they add further depth and brevity to the proceedings. The brilliant D1 is also well represented, particularly with the sublime melodies of "Bamboo", plus a bit of grimey dub action from Geneeus and Plastician and some much-needed exposure for N-Type, Random Trio, DJ Krave and Benga. Good to see a bit of Blackdown in there, too (btw, thanks to Martin for linking to this interview with Kode 9 - check it).

But who the hell is Calenda?! His "Forever" features a whirlwind of dramatic strings that sound like they've been sampled from an old Wild West movie! And who is Geiom? The distressed electric piano tones of "Overnight Biscuits" conjure vague memories of 70's John Barryesque TV soundtracks, as illusive and haunted as Burial's closing number "Prayer".

With dubstep's profile and status rising dramatically this year, I imagine there's a few people wondering when the bubble's gonna burst, but on the strength of this mix alone, there's enough sonic weapons armed and ready to sustain the scene for the foreseeable future. Release date for this CD is 6th March. Make a note in your diary. It's the soundtrack to Great Britain 2006 and you'd be crazy to miss it. Buy it here.

(Bleep exclusive!)

19 February 2006


Ruffnek Vibes

It was a wet, miserable Thursday night in Bristol, and competition amongst the city's clubs was fierce. Early signs suggested that the Ruffnek Discotek, committed to pushing new sounds from the underground vanguard, might suffer a low turnout if the punters took the easier options, or simply stayed at home. I arrived at the venue shortly before 10pm, slightly damp and weighed down by a hefty bag of twelves. Timbuk2 is a cool little space - a shady, labyrinthian old wine cellar with a low arched brick ceiling. For many years it was a funky little restaurant with disco, called The Spaghetti Tree. My dad used to throw Xmas parties for his employees there back in the '80s. I'd often tag along to those parties as a young teenager, and so I guess some of my earliest experiences of adult nightlife occurred there, observing all the grown-ups getting pissed and making arses of themselves whilst I sat in a corner sipping a coke. The dining tables, chairs and cutlery may have disappeared, and the decor might be a little different, but essentially it looks the same as it did back then, and my vague memories of an earlier generation's revelry often superimpose themselves against the activities of the venue's new clientele, many of whom were probably still in nappies, or maybe not even born, when I first started going there. Mrs. Gutta used to hang-out at the Spaghetti Tree with her mates from work back in the '90s, but she steadfastly refuses to join me for a night out at Ruffnek. All this combines to make me feel a bit out of place, like I should be involved with activities more befitting of a man my age and 'status'. But the music keeps me young (mentally, if not physically) and so do the people I've been getting to know this past year. I do feel slightly concerned by certain aspects - I gave up smoking weed years ago, but I've noticed a gradual slide back into it, just from accepting offers of a hit on the various spliffs being discreetly passed around. I've gotta keep that situation firmly under control!!

Gutta winging it.

I think I just about acquitted myself during my hour 'pon the decks. The tunes were, of course, hot, but the guy spinning them was luke-warm at best. I reckon barely 50% of the beatmixing went to plan, further hindered by the fact that I hadn't really planned the set properly. A couple of times I gave up completely and had to draw the tracks from the edge. There was barely a handful of punters in the room at that point, so it didn't really matter too much. Surprisingly, the feedback from those that were there early enough to catch The Gutta was generally positive, especially in terms of the tunes I played. Despite harbouring ideas of spinning a few exclusive beats, on the night I was far too cowardly to attempt to use the club's intimidatingly complicated-looking Pioneer CD decks, so just stuck to what I know - the vinyl - playing a selection of quality instrumental grime tracks from Black Ops, Slew Dem, Imp Batch, Eastwood & Oddz, Agent X, Plastician, various Southside classics from the likes of F1, DJ Q, Mr Keaz and Mark One, a bit of Grim and Warlock (Rag'n'Bone) and some Philly Grime from the Slit Jockey crew's debut 7". I thought most of it was all really obvious, well known stuff, but several people were asking me about the tunes, wanting to know who they were by, etc, which was surprising. The thing is, although I tend to focus on dubstep at the blog, I follow the grime scene in tandem, cos I get different stimulation from both and I think they compliment each other well. I could be way off on this, but it seems to suggest that, in Bristol as least (which has never had much of a UK Garage scene in the 'white' sector) many people are coming to dubstep via drum 'n' bass, without really being exposed to much grime/sublow.

Gutta & Kymatic
Gutta under the watchful eye of Kymatik

KymaticTake Kymatik (left) for example - a confirmed long-standing d'n'b head, involved with the Inperspective organisation, with a massive record collection (apparently it takes up an entire wall in the house he shares with Pete Bubonic), but now totally hooked on the dubstep sound (forum members might know him as Neil@INP), as confirmed when he opened his set with a track from "Skreamism Vol.1". He's even hinted that Inperspective might actually be releasing dubstep records soon. Although no doubt having to hold back tears of mirth at seeing my half-arsed djing skills, Kymatik appeared to be enjoying the grimey numbers I was playing, many of which he didn't seem to recognise. The first track I played was the "Mission Riddim" by D-Dark, one of those beautifully melodic, orchestral things that came out last year. I haven't heard it played out anywhere, or noticed anyone mentioning it, but it caught my ear and I really like it, still. Kymatik was feeling it too. This experience has shown me a potential niche market for myself - a non-threatening, slightly flabby white guy playing grime instrumentals at these almost exclusively white dubstep parties (where the crowd usually want to focus on the beats, rather than lyrical flows), providing a bit of yang to dubstep's ying. Afterall, Blazey can't be reppin' at every gig, can he? This idea was further fueled when organiser Krys said he really enjoyed my grime set and reckoned I should play on a later time-slot in future! Cripes!!

DJ $hyUnfortunately I missed nearly all of Kymatik's set cos I was off doing my 'networking' thing. Actually I spent most of the next hour nattering with 'new hairy' Psychbloke and his mate (who's a dead ringer for Richard H. Kirk) in the bar. By the time I returned to the main room, DJ $hy (left) was already well into his set and the crowd and vibe had swelled significantly. $hy is part of the After Dark Productions team and you can hear him playing every Tuesday evening on Sub FM. At Ruffnek he was spinning a heavy breakstep selection, focusing on artists like Search & Destroy, Toasty, Distance, Slaughter Mob, etc, and the energy levels were high. Mind you, some of these tunes seem to have only the most tenuous links to what some people might define as dubstep. Take the latest release from Storming Productions, for example. Darqwan's "Bigger Times" is a great track, really heavy and well produced, but to me it sounds like a straight Metalheadz tribute. It could almost pass for a Dillinja cut circa '95. Some people wanna give Ed DMX grief cos he doesn't list his influences on the records? That seems a bit suspect to me, but by the same criteria Darquan (aka Oris Jay) should be listing his too! Whatever, $hy smacked it hard and I'm looking forward re-living it with my copy the cd-r mixtape he was handing out. I'll let you know if he puts it online.

Man like Skuba

Next up was the evening's headliner Skuba, aka Hotflush supremo Paul Rose. Funnily enough, $hy's set was how I imagine Paul's might have been a year ago, cos Hotflush did a lot to push that dubby-breaks sound. But now he seems to be moving ever closer to the more spacious, half-steppy sound of 'pure' dubstep. Along with his own productions, there were several Digi Mystikz tracks in evidence (including Coki's timeless "Officer" - I swear, people are gonna be playing that tune out in ten years time). Btw, have you checked the latest Hotflush 'remix' EP? Loefah's completely re-structured version of S&D's "Candy Floss" almost totally dispenses with the original, and the end result sounds like a breathtakingly heavy DMZ release, rather than a Hotflush one. Clearly, Paul is starting to align himself with the DMZ axis, but he still found room for some utterly spellbinding Boxcutter tunes - "Brood" and "Bad You Do" (from the forthcoming album). I realised that I'd never actually heard any of Barry's tracks loud through a PA before and they sounded absolutely fucking mindblowing. Yes, he uses breaks and quite a few tried-and-tested production tricks, but the end result is just so unique and unearthly. Its too early and potentially damaging to start with the 'genius' hype, but Barry does seem to be a bit of a 'lightning conductor' right now. But then, as if to prove beyond doubt that we're on the same wavelength, Paul mixed The Plastician's "Cha" into "Bad You Do" and I was on cloud nine. I sometimes find it hard to reconcile my ongoing love of complex electronica with hard, minimal grime energy, but right then Paul brought them together in perfect harmony, the circle was squared and my eyes were rolling back in my head with the sheer fucking orgasmic pleasure of it all.

Smiley Skuba
Gutta worshipping at Skuba's alter

Paul played quite a few exclusives (his whole set was spun off cd-rs) including one with a really clean, distinct electro vibe (in the sense of busy '80s-style Kraftwerky "Tour De France" electronic percussion blips). When I asked him about it afterwards (in the gent's toilets, no less!), Paul said it was an old Skream tune that nobody else had picked-up on. It harks back to the more elektro-fried stuff he was releasing on Big Apple a couple of years ago; an interesting avenue that seems to have been (temporarily?) abandoned.

Ruffnek Crowd
Ruffnek crowd in full effect

Beforehand, I wasn't sure what to expect from Skuba, but I must say it was an inspirational set. Forward the Hotflush empire!! Special mention also for Urban Collective's Roguestar for providing solid MC hosting throughout. Dunno much about him, although I've heard him guesting on Q-Gritty's Rinse FM show in the past. I was too knackered to hang around for Obscene's jungle set, but I'm sure it was cracking. Big-up everyone who braved the elements to make it down - it was a decent turn-out in the end. I noticed that Mike 'Madboy' and his chum were busy filming for their forthcoming dubstep documentary. Apparently they want to interview me for it, too! Blimey, I'm honoured. Nice to see Wedge and Headhunter in attendance too (more on them another time) plus Atki2 reppin' as always, and thanks to Tim and Krys for putting on another great event and to Jack once again for doing the biz with the camera. Ruffff!!

15 February 2006


Dirty Stank Beats Vol.1So I picked-up the first release on Dizzie's Dirtee Stank label last week, featuring two wicked beats produced by Footsie, one third of East London grime crew Newham Generals. "Dirtee Skankin'" is an almost perfect collision of ruff grimey square-riffery with deep dubstep exotica, whilst "Scars RMX" features some fantastic beat-juggling dynamics. This shit is hot, and bodes well for the forthcoming album. There's a really good interview with the Generals over at Blackdown. Go check the word on the street. Interesting to note that Footsie does feel a strong allegiance to the FWD>> scene, and I think the Generals are gonna be bringing us some of the most interesting hybrid sounds from the underground this year. Get your copy from Rooted whilst stocks last!

Another interesting thing about this release is that its one of the first I've seen that lists a Myspace page as the band website. It really does seem that anyone who's anyone is building their own Myspace page right now.

13 February 2006


Mala from Stage

Another month, another Dubloaded, and I just can't get enough! Anticipation was particularly high this time owing to the Digital Mystikz headlining and I made sure I got there earlier than normal for fear of being locked-out! I wandered into the back room to check out Stealth, warming the room up in fine style with a solid selection of dubstep standards, although at that point the brand new 'High Pressure Sound System' was clearly in need of some adjustments, as there was a big hole in the sound and the treble was almost non-existent (yeah, I know its all about bass weight, but I like my high frequencies pretty sharp too!). Not to panic though, as Mr. Pinch was on hand to fine-tune the beast, and before long full frequency range was achieved. By the time Stealth was finished, a respectable crowd had already gathered and the vibes were, as always, good natured . Mrs Gutta worries about me going out to these strange clubs, but as I keep telling her, the sort of clubs I'm going to are for groovy people who just wanna hear some good music and make friends. No fucking attitudes, no idiots looking for trouble...just a bunch of mellow bass-addicts looking for their low-end fix. Its kinda beautiful, maaaan...

Bubonic - shocking out proud

Next to step-up to the decks was Pete Bubonic , who also records as Forsaken (you might've heard a couple of his tunes on GutterFM). He's got a little website here, where you can listen to some of his productions. I've known Pete for a few months now, but this was the first time I'd seen him live in action and was suitably impressed with his energetic performance. Pete's one of those guys who doesn't hold back - jumping around, grimacing and gesturing wildly - the sort of unbridled enthusiasm that is very infectious. About four tracks in he dropped Jammer's Grime anthem "Murkle Man" (which, funnily enough, I'd purchased myself at Rooted earlier that day) and you could feel this wave of electricity flowing through the crowd. I reckon Pete peaked too early there...he should've saved that one for later, or maybe kept it grimey for another 20 minutes or so. "Murkleman" delivered a massive adrenalin rush, but then there was no follow-up! This makes me ever more convinced that dubstep 'needs' grime (and grime needs dubstep too, of course) to provide a sense of pace over the course of an evening's entertainment. There wasn't really any other grime represented last night (Blazey was in the building, but only as a spectator) and I missed it, y'know? But regardless of that, Pete's set was thoroughly entertaining and I'm looking forward to seeing him play out again.

DJ Pinch - The Man Machine

By sharp contrast to Pete's hyperactive, emotional performance, our host DJ Pinch was a fucking machine. Kicking off with his remix of Atki2's "Guilty Pleasures", Pinch dropped his immaculate dubplate selection with clinical precision; cool, assured, chain smoking, with barely a flicker of emotion apart from the occasional grin when the crowd begged for a rewind. Hard to believe that he was making it up as he went along. Don't ask me what half the tunes were. Fuck knows. You'll notice in the above pic that he doesn't even have labels on his dubplates, so no chance of having a sneaky peak there either. He definitely played the VIP mix of "Qawwali", which should be released on Planet Mu next month, and I'm pretty certain I heard an Omen track that's coming out on N-Type's Terrain imprint soon and a few other vaguely familiar sounds, but to be honest I'm terrible with keeping track of the dubplates. I should be making notes, but ID'ing dubs is something for people with more time on their hands than me. An amusing aside: during Pinch's set the Digital Mystikz were waiting in the wings and I noticed that Coki and Sgt. Pokes were pissing about with a Kaoss Pad, adding live bleeps, bloops and Theremin-like warbles over the top. Pokes seemed quite familiar with the Kaoss Pad's controls and was showing Coki how to use it. Coki in turn seemed fascinated with the thing, a child-like grin of wonder spread across his face as his fingers swept across the Pad's touch-sensitive interface and another weird burbling oscillator tone echoe'd out across the room. Could this be the start of a new craze in dubstep? Live improvised electronic waveforms? Ha! Why not? Bring it on...

Sgt. Pokes
Sgt. Pokes - pausing for thought

Fiddling with the Kaoss Pad seemed to be Coki's sole contribution to the evening (apart from briefly filling-in for Pokes on the mic at one point, plus I heard a lovely little dub with a very "Officer"-like keyboard skank that suggested his sure hand on the production buttons), but I gather he doesn't really play out much. When I asked him if he enjoyed the New York gig he said that he didn't go. When I asked him why, he said simply "I wasn't invited". I guess the Dub Wars organisers couldn't justify the expense of an extra plane ticket for the non-DJing Mystik. So that meant that the final hour of Dubloaded was left in the capable hands of Mala, who delivered the sort of deep, spiritual set we've come to expect from the dreadlocked Mystik. Yes, he played that wicked remix of "Request Line", plus loads of other stuff that I barely knew. There was one track with a straight 4/4 909 kick drum running through it that led my photographer Jack (by that point a bit worse for wear on the Guinness) to start babbling excitedly about dubstep being the perfect marriage of classic techno, garage and dub reggae, which made total sense at the time - in fact I'm sure I must've said something similar in the past.

Mala - meditating on bass weight

Then at 2am it was all over. I think there must've been the inevitable party somewhere else afterwards, but as usual I ducked-out early to get home for some urgently required sleep. Personally, I think a 2 o'clock finish is perfect for a night out. I really can't deal with these all-nighters. Interestingly, I often hear reports of big raves like DMZ being practically deserted during the final couple of hours, so I guess I'm not the only one who struggles with the late bashes. When you think about, a 6am finish is for people running on ecstasy or Cocaine time, but most of the people I see at dubstep nights are operating firmly on beer 'n' spliff time. They tend to wanna fall over by 3-4am. Dubsteppers (and dad-bloggers) need their sleep!

Bristol Dub Souljahs

Special mention for the two old geezers I spotted skankin' to the Mystikz. I swear they must've been in the 50-60 age bracket, either that or they'd done some seriously hard partying in their time. 'Nuff respect and thanks for making me feel like a young person by comparison. Shout-outs to all the regulars in attendance (Delsa, Atki2, Appleblim, Wedge and the Bath massif, ThinKing and Kid Kut...), and to Dub Boy and the Heatwave crew running t'ings in the front bar. It was quite 'blokey' this time...I didn't spot quite so many ladies winding their waists as usual, although there were still quite a few there (another special mention for the brunette who staggered up to me and Sam and started babbling incoherently - the only bit I could understand was "god, I am soooo pissed...") Hello to Mike, the guy who's in the process of making a visual documentary on the Bristol dubstep scene - looking forward to seeing that when its finished - and also Joe(?), the guy reppin' from C90 in Sheffield. Nice to meet ya!

Gutta & Pinch

Lastly, extra special thanks to Jack for doing the business with the camera work. He's already been paid his commission - one pint of Guinness - which will hopefully encourage him to do it again sometime! Not so sure about the above pic, though - Gutta caught unawares hangin' out with Pinch. God, I look awful in profile, and I'm sure I used to have a nice strong jaw line. Where the fuck did it go? I think I need to lay off the pies! As for next month's Dubloaded line-up... hold-tight and all will be revealed...

PS. A few more of Jack's pics here.

09 February 2006



Not literally this time, I'm afraid. But thanks to Ed's new webpage, we can all take a peek at his studio and see what equipment is used to create the DMX Krew sound, right down to the choice of monitors and USB interface! You can listen to audio clips of his impressive modular synth, read his thoughts on the Bel digital delay unit and even listen to the click-track of his beloved MC-500 sequencer. It's a delight for all fellow synth-geeks and tekky-trainspotters to feast their eyes and ears on. In honour of the occasion, I recently interviewed Ed to discuss his musical heritage, his career and the timeless joys of hardware-based electronic music production....

Gutta: Before we talk about your studio, perhaps we could begin with an overview of your music tastes. For me, one of the fascinating things about DMX Krew records is the way they seem to trawl through my own musical upbringing. I sometimes wonder what specific styles and records 'shaped' you as an artist. What were you listening to back in the '80s?

Ed DMX: I've always had a blind spot about "genres", or whatever. I could never have told you what "type" of music I liked as a kid, but looking back it was mostly things like Kraftwerk, Howard Jones and Herbie Hancock that I was buying. I mean records with synths and drum machines, and not records with guitars. But I didn't realise it at the time. I just listened to the charts on Sunday and bought the singles I liked a lot. I totally wore out my 7" of "Tour de France", and I remember going to WHSmiths every Monday for weeks before Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel-F" came out, asking for it. I had heard it on TV. But I never would have said there was a fundamental difference between, say, Kraftwerk and The Clash. It was all pop to me, its just that I liked Kraftwerk and I didn't like The Clash.

G: Yes, when you're younger it takes a while before you start to actually 'define' what it is that you like. Then you begin to analyse the sounds in your head. There comes a point where you go from just listening to 'pop music' and begin to focus on certain styles. Like me, I guess your head must've been turned by all the new 'dance music' sounds that started appearing in the mid-late 80s....

DMX: In the late '80s I heard the odd house or techno tune that made the charts. Dave Pearce played them on the radio, along with things like M/A/R/R/S or Bomb The Bass, etc. I kinda liked hip hop although Public Enemy was too heavy for me to start with - I liked the stuff that was just rapping over a simple drum beat and a bit of scratching. But I also liked embarrassing stuff like Level 42, and a lot of things like Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire and so on, that I used to scour record fairs for. Those records were cheap in the mid-80s - they weren't collectible yet.

G: Some very familiar memories there...although I'm not prepared to admit liking Level 42! Had you already started making your own music at this point?

DMX: Well, as a kid I had a little Casio and then a Yamaha Portasound keyboard, and there was an electric organ in the dining room - wow, that dates me and puts me firmly in the middle class!! I was always into playing on them, then as I got older I got slightly better things, like a cheap Boss DR-110 digital drum machine around 1988. Then I got a Roland SH-101 out of the local paper from someone in 1990 or so, when you could pick them up for about £70.

G: My first analogue was a Moog Prodigy, bought from a local music shop for £90. Hard to believe they were ever that cheap! I imagine the SH-101 must've been a turning point for you...

DMX: Yeah, I remember hearing one for the first time and having it explained to me that it was how you made those noises on Acid House records. I had been wondering why I couldn't make acid tunes on a Yamaha kids' keyboard!

G: So how did the studio evolve from there?

DMX: The first setup you could really call a "studio" was the SH-101, the Boss drum machine, a Yamaha DSR-2000, which is an FM-based, almost-preset home keyboard with a basic drum machine and sequencer with no quantise (!), and a tape deck. When I left home at the end of 1991, I went to college in London and you could still get a grant in those days, so I got mine and blew it on an Akai X7000, which is a keyboard sampler with a tiny memory - much worse than even an S900 - plus a Roland TR-707, which I used mostly for syncing the SH-101 to MIDI, though nowadays it's starting to look like a classic drum machine! Then a Roland MC-500 sequencer, which has 4 tracks! I still use it to make almost every track.

G: Really? You never went down the Atari/Amiga sequencing route?

DMX: No, I have never used a computer to sequence my synths.

G: Presumably you must've bought some outboard gear with your grant money as well?

DMX: Yes, a Yamaha FX500, which was a very cheap multi-effects unit, and a Fostex 2016 mixer. Everything came secondhand from Loot because ebay hadn't been invented yet. I should add that I never finished the course at college....

G: Ha! It's good to hear that the Government basically financed your first studio! What kind of records were you listening to by that time?

DMX: Leaving home is a big thing and getting to London and hearing dance music properly was amazing for me. I spent £100 on records for the first time when I got the grant, and I bought in all the big rave anthems on R&S and XL, plus things like 2 Bad Mice, Eon and so on. I bought 27 records in one go at Unity Records on Beak Street. You can tell it was a big deal cos I still remember it was definitely 27 records.

G: Presumably the move to London, along with the grant money, helped to focus your ideas?

DMX: I didn't know what kind of music I wanted to make before moving to London, just that I liked music and did it for fun. Kraftwerk and funk were the biggest influences before then. But the whole rave and acid thing was a big deal cos it showed that it was possible to make some good music on cheapish synths. Before that I was just realising that I was never gonna make a whole P-Funk or Kraftwerk album using a couple of keyboards, then this music came along which was totally satisfying but existed inside the limitations of having been made on a couple of keyboards and a drum machine.

G: That right...it was great music that seemed to be achievable within a limited budget...

DMX: Yeah. It's hard for kids to imagine now but you had to get hold of so much money in order to make music back then. Even the cheapest old seconhand junk was totally unaffordable. Nowadays you can just get a PC and some hotware and you're away, which is a good thing in a lot of ways, although there are arguments that having to work like hell for something makes you appreciate it more.

G: I take it that after the grant ran out you had to work a 9-5 to finance your musical dream?

DMX: I worked in record shops and music tech shops, working inhuman hours and never going out, so that I could save money to buy equipment.

G: Presumably you were also sending demos out to labels all the time?

DMX: Yeah, I decided to have a go at getting a record out and sent out a lot of demo tapes.

G: Here's where our paths diverge, cos I never managed to carve out a career in music. What do you think were the main factors that helped you to establish yourself?

DMX: Detroit Techno and early Rephlex were big influences at that time, but I think a turning point for me was realising that I would never make a better techno record than Jeff Mills and deciding to try and make records that sounded like old electro instead, because nobody else was doing it. I thought I had better find a niche for myself. It's quite Darwinian, isn't it? And that seemed to work cos I got a couple of records out, and I think it's due the fact that I stopped trying to sound like everyone else who was selling dance records at that time.

G: Returning to the studio, from experience I know that a hardware set-up tends to change and evolve over time, selling things to buy new things, etc. Is there anything you've ever regretted selling over the years?

DMX: No, but I miss my Moog Source. That was an awesome keyboard, but it kept breaking. Every time I got it fixed it cost about £100. I spent a lot more repairing it than it initially cost me so in the end it had to go. Aww, but it was great when it worked.

G: Conversely, are there any machines you're still longing to own?

DMX: An Oberheim DMX!! Just for the coffee table, not for using particularly. And an Oberheim Xpander but I can't quite justify it to myself.

G: Are there any machines in your current set-up that you couldn't work without?

DMX: The MC-500, cos I know it so well. I can sequence really fast - it would kill the vibe to have to use a computer instead.

G: Yet you've mentioned to me before about using Reason and making grimey tunes on a computer. Would I be right in saying that you're one of those artists who straddle the hardware/software divide?

DMX: Not really. I almost never use software, although I did have a little affair with Reason when it came out. It's nice because you can save what you're doing and go back to it later, which is impossible with analogue. But I try to think of music as a hobby, and enjoy the time I spend making music, and not let it become work. That leads me to use "real" equipment because it's fun, and easier on the eyesight too.

G: So do you use the computer software just for very specific applications/projects/styles?

DMX: Well I did make a few grimey or dubsteppy tunes on Reason, but I also made some very '80s music with it, kind of as a game or challenge with myself to see if I could do it. I ended up spending ages moving all the notes a bit out of time and adding hiss to make it sound like tape, etc. It's possible to make it sound believable but it's a lot of work. It's funny, because it's the opposite process to recording using analogue, where you're always trying to minimise noise. But the computer's awesome for recording and editing stuff. Before, you had to write down massive lists of things on bits of paper like "move fader 3 down halfway at the beginning of bar 72" and try and do them while you were recording. Now you can just jam away for 20 minutes and then edit out all the rubbish bits. Plus you don't have to sell all your belongings to pay for reels of tape like in the old days!

G: Apart from the obvious 'hands-on' interface, what still attracts you to analogue synths that softsynths can't provide?

DMX: Well, that's it - it's hands-on, battle stations, plus you can edit sounds very quickly. It's fun, you get to stand up and walk around the room, you get to play an instrument, you can have mates round and have a jam, you get to use your ears more than your eyes. Also I find you get a sound very quickly that sounds natural in a mix whereas my experience of computer-based synths is that you have to work hard to get them to "sit right" in a mix... but I haven't got a lot of experience with software. I wouldn't like to diss it, I just have more fun with my synths and have some kind of emotional investment in them. I can tell you a story about where each one came from and how I got it and what happened at a gig with it or whatever. Not just "I downloaded it". Plus I like playing keyboards as opposed to moving blocks around a screen.

G: Do you find that there is a more creative exchange with these machines? I mean, do they suggest sounds/ideas to you? Do you find that you build a 'relationship' with them?

DMX: Yes, my friend Nick always says that synths are like members of a band or a choir, each with their own "voice". They definitely each have their own sonic character, but on the other hand, the first thing I did on Reason sounded exactly like my old analogue tracks, so I guess a lot of it is to do with your way of working, or what you aim towards, which comes from inside you.

G: Does the analogue gear's limitations help to focus creativity?

DMX: You can be creative with synths or with a guitar or with a computer, it doesn't really matter. They all have limitations as well as strengths. I just happen to be into synths. I know what you're getting at - some great tracks have been made with a TR-808 and a TB-303, but I think if you've got 8 different synths in a room, it's less limiting than, for example, guitar, bass and drums...

G: For someone with an '80s fixation, I'm surprised you don't have a Yamaha DX-7! Have you experimented much with FM synthesis?

DMX: Yep, there's a TX81Z tucked under the MS10 - go and take another look!

G: Oh yeah! That little rack module underneath the Korg! What's your opinion on it?

DMX: I like how it sounds. It's not analogue, but it's not like Virtual Analogue, which is trying to be something other than what it is. It is unashamed digital, and it sounds cool. But it's really hard to program so I'm afraid I mostly use the famous old presets. By the way, I don't really have an '80s fixation, I am just a bit old! You make me go all defensive and want to write a list of the records I like from 1990-2006......

G: We'll save that for another time! Speaking of Virtual Analogue synths, I notice you mentioned that you sold your Korg MS2000. I had one myself, but sold it as well. V.A. synths just don't cut it, do they?

DMX: Yeah, it was shit for me. It was okay for doing uk garage/grime basslines but you can use a computer to make that kind of music anyway. I found I was only using it to make a hi-hat or something so I figured I could use the money for something better, which I did! The vibe of what you're using is important too. I like all the old-looking stuff. Futuristic things from the '70s and '80s are so much more futuristic-looking than contemporary futuristic things...who said "futurism isn't what it used to be"?!

G: Completely agree with you there, Ed. Despite the obvious attempt to give the MS2000 a retro style, it looks and feels crap compared to, say, the Korg Mono/Poly. I used to own one of those too, and I really regret selling it, along with my beloved Roland Juno 60.

DMX: Yeah I like both those synths. The Juno is one of those things that "on paper" looks really rubbish but somehow comes together in real life to be a really nice musical instrument. The Mono/poly is like a poor-man's Oberheim 4 Voice - a lushly weird piece of design.

G: Returning to the present, your recent output on Rephlex seems to have a taken a slightly different - dare I say 'mature' - direction. Has your mission statement changed significantly since the early 'retro-electro' angle?

DMX: I don't really have a "mission" but what I want to do musically changes all the time. Sometimes I try and copy things I like and get it sufficiently wrong for it to sound interesting - I hope! Lately I have been trying to invent something that is my own sound. These days I am more aware of how things are perceived by others and the divisions between styles, and I have more production skills. In a way this is useful, and in a way it's a shame to lose that innocence, or what they call "beginner's mind" in zen - the state of having no preconceptions. When you don't know the "right way" to do something you've got more chance of coming up with something original. At the moment originality is quite important to me. It hasn't always been.

G: Coming back to that point you made about making music as a hobby, that's an interesting attitude from someone who's lucky enough to still be able to make a living from electronic music! Could you finish by describing a typical day in the life of Ed DMX?

DMX: Um, these days I get up in the morning, check e-mail, eat breakfast etc, then any of the following: lots of e-mailing to arrange gigs, flat-hunting, making music, preparing for gigs, burning cds for people, accounting-type boring stuff, visiting friends....weekends usually involve going to the airport or train station with a box of records or a laptop traveling to a gig, which is what pays the bills. Basically I am a jammy sod.

G: Too right!! Oh, one last thing, Ed: I love all that vinyl scratching in the clip that accompanies your SL1210 page. Is that really you on the decks? If so, that's some serious skills you got there, bruv!

DMX: Yes, but I confess there was lots of editing. That's a few hours' worth of scratching with all the shit edited out!

End with a song, as they say. Ed's generously donated an exclusive tune to accompany the interview - a tasty little dubstep-aware analogue number which, like all Ed's best work, takes his sound FWD>> whilst simultaneously casting a wistful eye BWD<< to the lush, emotive tones of the past. It sounds a bit like Mark One jamming with Juan Atkins. This is my idea of a valid future-retro vision. Check it out and feel the love, kidz...



DMX Krew Website

DMX Krew @ Discogs

Buy DMX Krew @ Warpmart

02 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".

GentrifriedThere'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.

Mobius BeardNext 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.

D1This 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!