27 May 2008

Oh fuck, it's Captain Croc...

26 May 2008


Got passed this latest blog meme t'ing by Paul over at Deeptime...

‘List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to’.

1) No.1 Astronaut - Soundesign
Delightful little home demo recorded back in 1995 by Bob Bhamra (who now records as one half of Data 70). Over a ramshackle tropicalia loop Bob weaved some beautiful melodies using the same sort of delicately distressed keyboard sounds that Boards Of Canada would become famous for a few years later. Amazingly, to this day Bob still hasn't heard a single thing by BoC, yet this suggests that there were strong points of parallel progress between him and them in the mid-90s. Forthcoming on the album "At Home With No.1 Astronaut" via Bleepfiend.

2) nøvim - Other People's Bees
Another '90s home demo, utilizing very basic drum machine + fx to create an intense rhythmic flow of scuttling percussion and distorted tom-toms, underpinned by a solemn low-pitched melodic drone, like a lo-fi Pan Sonic drum workout crossed with early Autechre. Forthcoming on Bleepfiend.

3) Dusk + Blackdown - Focus
See my album review in previous post. I might well have gone for "Rolling Raj Deep", but as Paul already nominated that one I thought I'd go for this wicked Croydon-meets-Detroit-via-Bristol-inspired piece instead.

4) The Stranger - Inverted Burial
The most bleak and depressing V/Vm alter-ego. This track comes from the appropriately named 'Bleaklow' album and is fairly typical of the thunderous, cavernous atmospheres on offer. The nearest comparison I can make is with the heavier end of the dark-ambient/Isolationist movement that briefly flourished in the mid-90s. It's a bum trip, baby, but the perfect soundtrack to another wet, miserable English Bank Holiday. More info here.

5) The Caretaker - Long Term (Remote)
Another V/Vm side-project. With so much haunted music drawing from childhood memories of the '60s and '70s, The Caretaker steps back even further, seeming to dredge the past of our grandparents youth, with this track being a particular favourite from his latest collection "Persistent Repetition Of Thought". Impossibly ancient-sounding, spectral ballroom music caked in a dense layer of static-noise. Alzhiemer-ambiance...the soundtrack to a dying generation's collective memories. Extremely fucking deep. Further info here.

6) Ice Bird Spiral - 5 Black Yachts For Jean
My man Kek and his partner-in-improv Cloudboy unleash another horribly mangled cacophony full of jagged fretboard abuse and other noxious noises, interwoven with seagulls, passages of unfathomable French dialogue and a dispassionate female intoning about morphine injections...transporting me into some kinda TG-circa-"Heathen Earth" nether-zone. Bloody horrible racket yet strangely compelling. Available via Classwar Karaoke net-label.

7) Hot Gossip - I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper
Well after listening to the last three, you need a bit of light entertainment to keep you from falling into the pit of despair, and what better than this magnificent slice of space-disco nonsense, which I played three times in a row earlier on today. I have no idea where this is available to buy/hear these days...I have it on a K-Tel compilation elpee called "Action Replay" from 1978, which also features, among many others, Cerrone's "Supernature", Boney M's "Rasputin" and, somewhat improbably, "Come Back Jonee" by Devo.

Tag you're it:

Kid Shirt

Pop Life

Spen 78

Farmer Glitch

A Personal Miscellany

An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming

West Norwood Cassette Library

25 May 2008


Perhaps the most genuinely fascinating long-play experience in recent times, Dusk + Blackdown's "Margin's Music" is a concept album of sorts. As a music journalist, Blackdown (aka Martin Clark), has almost single-handedly mapped the evolution of London's Grime & Dubstep scene(s) via his blog and regular Pitchfork column with a rigourously analytical eye, so its no surprise that, as an artist/producer he and his partner Dusk have come up with such a complex, detailed concept piece. The basic premise of "Margins Music" is to create a kind of audio journey that "meanders around the Capitol's edges", documenting the beats and atmospheres that emanate from the nocturnal avenues.

Beginning in East London's Limehouse district, the first couple of tracks are, beat-wise, in a pretty recognisable zone, with very dry halfstep beats of the kind we've been hearing since around 2005, but still brimming with viscous layers of textural atmosphere. A good scene-setting intro. Then comes the familiar opening bars of "Lata"...but then the track drops down to the vocal before suddenly ramping up the energy with a new 'V.I.P.' riddim. We're now in the thick of London's Asian community, from Green Street through to Wembley, and for me this is the absolute highlight of the whole album, with both "Kuri Pataka (The Firecracker Girl)" and “Rolling Raj Deep" brilliantly merging elements of Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu vocals, Bollywood soundtrack strings and rippling tabla percussion over throbbing sub-bassic beats and swooping synths. Shockingly great stuff!

"Concrete Streets" introduces a very direct grime element care of Durrty Goodz, providing guest vocals with a splintery Bollywood sample chasing his tail as we move into the grimey heartlands of Bow, Hackney, etc. The track works well, very authentically produced, and I guess it had be in there to represent that side of Blackdown's world, but still I can't help feeling that the MC element works better when used as an ambient sound source in it's own right; as ominous background chatter and looped phrases as displayed earlier on. It sounds just like a Grime track, rather than a fleeting snatch heard from a car stereo or whatever. I guess I'd rather keep that feeling of 'audio tourism' (similar to what David Holmes achieved on "Let's Get Killed" - though of course that really was tourism, rather than documenting his own surroundings). But then Trim takes a turn on the mic on "The Bits", which is the half-way point of the album that kinda plods a bit for me. Maybe it's Trim's resolutely 'London T'ing' attitude - all that talk of "I didn't grow up with you, we didn't go to the same nursery, I ain't got no love for you, you weren't there when I was thirteen" is just alienating and off-putting to me, but this is their world and I can totally understand why Blackdown takes the tour down this route. He wants us to take a real hard close look at the psychological make-up of this scene, even if some of us aren't really in the mood to deal with it.

The tone is temporarily lifted by "dis/East" - a superb melange of glassy, gloopy texture over taught, staggered beats, that feels like gliding through pristine cosmopolitan enclaves, before descending into the hellish nether-world of the Turkish/Kurdish areas on "This Is London", a low-slung, dirt-ravaged quagmire where furtive, shady characters loom from the shadows to impart a few harsh realities.

From there we begin to move south towards Norwood, Purley and, inevitably, Croydon, for the final leg of the journey, with the music getting noticeably more 'tracky' whilst introducing African and Japanese sonic elements. Both "Iqbal’s Groove" and "The Drumz of Nagano" are further brilliantly realised instrumentals full of textural detail flickering furtively around the central core of molten bass-pressure and reverb-drenched percussion. But then final cut "Focus" is another matter entirely: a chink of light shining through after all the oppressive darkness. Clean, synthetic, full of bubbling synths and 808 rimshots, "Focus" seems to find salvation from inner city life through a kind of Technofied vision of Utopian futurism, similar to the Detroit artists, though in fact the track was inspired by Dusk witnessing a Peverelist dj set at Subloaded in Bristol. Which means that, in a funny sort of way, my own personal journey through this album ends up back home. What could be more perfect than that?

"Margins Music" is released in July.

23 May 2008

So anyway, I was on one of those family outings to the big soulless out-of-town shopping mall. Casting my ultra-critical eye over the dross in the music section at Waterstones bookshop, I came across the updated/expanded edition of Simon Reynold's "Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture ". I'd been meaning to check it out anyway, yet, even though it was reasonably priced, I couldn't help but wonder if it was worth £8.99 to read a few extra chapters covering developments in the ten years since the first edition. Yes, of course I wanted to read them, after all Simon's been inspiring me with his writing for nearly 25 years. But still...I could buy an album with that sort of money.

So then I said to myself: right, if he's mentioned me in the 'Acknowledgments', I'll buy the damn thing.

Suffice to say, I did buy the damn thing, and I recommend you do too, especially if you never bought the first edition.

In the meantime, keep an eye on the Energy Flash blog, which Simon's been updating on a frequent basis recently.

Currently listening to this. Incessantly.

21 May 2008

Still haven't got our 'products' sorted out yet, but the Myspace promotional tour has begun...mainly to try and attract potential contributors, really. C'mon now people, don't be shy...


17 May 2008


Had a great evening at Tape last night. Me and Doppelganger arrived early when the place was still empty to chill with some deep house vibes from resident Taper Richard Carnage. Then we witnessed Patchwerk Man's first public engagement in over a decade. The old codger gave a good account of himself, with an uncompromising set of driving minimalism that built to a crescendo of droney/noise-based intensity. He brought along some fresh exclusives on cd-r but the management hadn't laid-on any cd decks for him so he just span vinyl, and even managed to entice some of the early arrivals up onto the dancefloor. The young lady who kept blowing him kisses made him very happy. Let's hope he gets a few more opportunities to play out soon, eh?

Then came the main event. I'd been tantalised with rumours of a full-on live hardware set from Pendle Coven but, due to some technicals, they settled for a stripped-down laptop approach with a midi-controller and some kinda Waldorf rack-synth. It was all going well and the set was just starting to get into it's stride when the Coven were beset by further technicals. The laptop decided it wasn't gonna play ball anymore and started glitching the tunes (in a not nice way), so the live set went out the window and Coven's dj Miles (MLZ) hastily broke out the vinyl and proceeded to tear the roof off for the next hour and a half. It really was an exceptionally good selection that mixed-up the best of the current Techno scene with old classics like "Energy Flash" and occasional bits of proto-dubstep (Artwork, Search & Destroy, etc - "the best stuff", according to Miles). At one point some mystery grime MC turned-up with his own microphone, jacked it into the mixer and proceeded to spit a few bars just as Miles went into a particularly intense broken/twisted section. Everyone got a bit over-excited and the levels were all in the red and the soundsystem was screaming in pain and...it was just one of those wicked moments when everything goes a bit weird and unpredictable and might all explode in a mess any second, but just manages to keep the shit together.

Appeblim followed, though I must admit I missed most of his set cos I was outside in the 'smoking garden' (actually a cramped, dingy alleyway at the side of the building) chatting away with Pendle Coven whilst Miles was treating himself to a well-deserved spliff. What a lovely couple of geezers they are. Although they've only come to international attention in the last few years, they've been active on Manchester's underground scene all through the nineties and they're a proper pair of old ruff diamonds, so full of enthusiasm and love for what they do. My kinda people! Watch out for their album coming out on Modern Love in a couple of months...

Richard Carnage On Warm-Up Duties

Patchwerk Man

Pendle Coven's Waldorf Synth

That Mystery MC

Party People (1)

MLZ Handing Over To Appleblim

Party People (2)

Appleblim In Tha Zone

15 May 2008

Extracts from e-mail exchange earlier today...

Me: i'm trying to get a veneer respectibily with this net-label thing by only using music where i have the permission and involvment of the original artists. i've got some wicked cassettes of forgotten stuff, some by people who i used to know but have long since lost contact with, but i won't be using them until i've tracked down their creators and gotten their agreement.

Him: that sounds like a rather difficult task but I suppose you will have to rely on stuff that has been released previously but just no longer available, correct?

Me: I don't want to use anything that's been officially released, only stuff that's private home recordings or very limited cassette demos. pretty crazy idea isn't it lol!! but i've just got a hunch that a few old soldiers will crawl out of the woodwork when it gets rolling....

Him: fantastic idea - so what you're looking for is 1) unreleased material 2) that's really good that's been sitting around for 15-20 years that 3) you also really like.

have you heard of unicorns? Might be more of a realistic hunt :)

Me: yep that pretty much sums it up, lol!


Bleepfiend is a totally independent net-label, primarily dedicated to releasing lost/forgotten/unreleased electronic music recordings that we feel deserve a wider audience, to the best of our limited abilities.

Why bother?

Because we want to tell a story: the story of a generation's struggle to realise it's ideas under limitations that would be unthinkable for electronic artists today. This is music made at subsistence level, harnessing whatever technology was available or affordable at the time, from analogue synths to cheap home keyboards, extinct micro-computers to domestic tape recorders. It is the sound of struggle - the creative urge pushing against limitations, forcing the artists to develop their own recording strategies.

The music on offer was recorded in a time before the Internet made it possible to upload, share and promote work to a wider audience. This is music that never had a chance to be heard by anyone outside the artist's immediate circle of friends. But still it exists...it's forgotten potential locked in the ferric particles of dusty cassette tapes.

Although committed to the pleasures of hard-formats, Bleepfiend is currently only in a position to offer digital downloads in MP3 format. These downloads are completely free, but if you enjoy the music and wish to make a donation towards our running costs, please click on the Paypal button below...

Bleepfiend operates a strict 'No Soft-Studios' policy.

The above is a draft copy of the blurb I'll be sticking up at the home page of my little net-label that's currently under construction. I'm still in the process of sorting out the 'release schedule' (lol!!) but already got some cracking stuff from a few friends like Ed DMX and Bob from Date 70. If there's anyone out there who thinks they've got anything I might be interested in, please get in touch (I imagine this is something that only people over a certain age will be eligible for). In particular I'm looking for tracks for a compilation that will be a survey of early home demos by electronic artists who started out using Casio and other home keyboards with domestic tape recorders. Obviously tape hiss and degraded audio quality will be intrinsic to the project..the important thing is to show character/creativity in the face of grinding technological poverty.

Contact: bleepfiend[at]gmail[dot]com

08 May 2008

2562 - AERIAL (Tectonic CD)

Cast your eye over a map of Europe and you'll see many places that have, at some time or other, been hot-beds of creativity in the ongoing evolution of this thing we call 'dance music'. But there's only a handful of places that can claim to have had a fairly steady influence on the course of events. Two of those places are Bristol and Berlin, both of which are currently going though reneaissance periods once more.

Having been a major centre of innovation for Trip-Hop and Drum 'n Bass, Bristol currently enjoys the status of Dubstep's 'second city' (though some might argue it's already become the premier source of Fwd>> propulsion). Meanwhile, Berlin has been a focal point for all things Techno since at least 1992 (remember those legendary Tresor compilations?)with it's main avenue of innovation coming from the Dub Techno stylings of Basic Channel and their followers in the ever-expanding Hardwax galaxy. But to the best of my knowledge, neither city has had any major influence on the other...until recently.

Dubstep, born from the asphalt jungle of South London, is the perfect point of contact - it's clinically electronic riddims allied with dub-infused bassweight provides the necessary space for the Bristolian skunk-fuelled head-knodding fraternity, whilst at the same time suggesting fresh directions for the Berliner's ongoing mission to find the perfect blend between Techno and Dub Reggae. Dubstep suggests a new way forward for both cities and as a consequence they have finally, almost imperceptibly begun talking to each other.

Now, go back to that map of Europe you were looking at earlier, and draw a straight line between Bristol and Berlin. Almost dead-centre between the two you'll find Den Haag in The Netherlands. Though not as infamous as it's neighbour Rotterdam (the city that gave us Gabber), Den Haag is currently the home of Dave Huismans, aka 2562, a man of highly refined tastes and armed with formidable production skills . Being so perfectly positioned in alignment geographically speaking, yet with the necessary distance to imbue a sense of objective balance, it's entirely fitting that Huismans is the first producer to successfully distill the finest elements of the Bristol and Berlin sounds within an album format. It also seems entirely fitting that Huismans' music is being released on the Bristol imprint Tectonic, headed by Pinch, a man who originally emerged from the city's ubiquitous D'n'B scene but subsequently became a passionate advocate of both Basic Channel and the nascent Dubstep sound.

But "Aerial" does not display it's influences in perfect harmony or symmetry. This is very much a dubstep album, it's internal clock synchronised to Bristol's heartbeat, both in terms of the beats-per-minute and also in it's sense of timing. Nearly all tracks clock in around the five minute mark and are tightly arranged into concise blocks of information, as opposed to Berlin's predisposition to expansive linearity and micro-tonal increments of track development . Rhythmically too, the album adopts the hair-trigger patterns, staggered syncopations and pure sub-sonics typical of Bristol's leading figures (Gatekeeper, Headhunter, Pinch, etc). The only instance of orthodox wobble-skank tactics appears on "Moog Dub", which is one of Huisman's earlier productions, having been in circulation on dubplate for over a year. By contrast, opening track "Redux" sounds like the truncated twin of Appleblim and Peverelist's "Circling". It features a similar cloying wash of nebulous dub-matter and is a perfect exercise in subtraction; the arrangements hollowed out until only the barest, most spectral elements remain. That's where the Berlin influence is most sharply felt, connecting with the textural language of dub techno, perhaps most intensely felt on "Greyscale", with it's iridescent echo-chamber dynamics and grainy layer of pink noise anchored to a steady kick/hi-hat pulse, yet still unsettled and unsettling, scarred by jagged sonic interjections and knocked out of phase by daring rhythmic counterpoint.

Huismans never allows his music to lapse into stoned, meditative repetition. His recent 12" releases, "Techno Dread", "Kameleon" and "Channel Two", are all present on this album and show 2562 at his most hyper-sensitized, taking the 'echo-chord' template of dub techno and twisting it into every conceivable shape, upending the usual instrumental hierarchy of dubstep, allowing the bassline to take a more subtle, sensual role whilst the chords swerve across the beat in a constant state of fascinating flux, simultaneously reinvigorating dubstep with harmonic thrust and techno with rhythmic ingenuity. And there's no reason why these tracks can't be classed as Techno simply because of their tempo - listen back to mid-90's Basic Channel and Chain Reaction and the bpms are operating nearer to 140 than 120. You could easily mix 2562 with early Maurisio or Monolake. The difference is that Huismans has extrapolated the elements of dubstep that make 140bpm feel comfortably groovy again.

Having said that, the final track on the album eases off the tempo dramatically, dropping down to dub techno's current 120bpm pace whilst maintaining dubstep's restless, uneasy rhythm patterns. Perhaps this track is intended to show the other side of the equation, another possible route for fruitful inter-generic discourse, but for me the effect is too stark, the groove too displaced for dancefloor consumption. But as a shadowy downtempo chin-stroker it works just fine, and this is the perfect place to try something like that, so it's hardly cause for complaint. All told, Dave Huismans has delivered an album that may well become an influential landmark. Don't sleep on this one.