Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Various, Ammunition & Blackdown Presents: The Roots of Dubstep
Took a couple of go’s before it clicked, but yeah, niiiiiiiice (faintly embarrassed that only one or two of these “epochal” tunes I’d heard or even heard of… never much cared for Ghost and that kinda late 2step stripped-down, ooh-what-a-tasty-snare-sound-we-have deal i must admit). This comp confirms my feeling though that dubstep is fundamentally a “deep” genre rather than a rude’n’cheesy bashment one; it’s all about the subtleties, the exquisite details, the holding back from the anthemic. (There’s one tune on here, forget which, that’s so Looking Good/Fabio it’s unbelievable). So for me there’s a slight cognitive dissonance when you have this deepness-oriented sound but with all the accoutrements of ritual that pertain to a big bashy anthem-driven scene, ie. the rewind. It’s like a vestigial aspect hanging over from pirates culture/the Nuum, something that doesn’t really fit anymore.

Various/mixed by Manu Le Malin, Biomechanik III: The Final Chapter
Lenny Dee & Radium, Noise Brulee

Gabba lives! Apparently the numbers these records do in Europe are quite staggering. (And someone told me happy hardcore was stronger than ever in the UK). The same old pounding surge, the only difference I can detect being that they’ve upgraded their gear like everybody else so there’s all kinds of wispy sound-detail flying by vaguely redolent of ooh sasha/digweed actually, and the piledriver beat has this 3-dimensional girth to it. Wonder what Marc Acardipane’s up these days….

Clipse, “Mr Me Too”
Unexpected flash of life to the “just how weird can we make this beat and still be funky” thing… this one so abstract and noise-burbly it would not have disgraced the catalogue of Force Inc back in the day..

Def Leppard, “Rock On”
Tis the season of unlikely covers (Coal Chamber featuring Ozzy Osbourne’s impressively ugly version of Gabriel’s “shock the Monkey”). Actually this isn’t unlikely at all, given the Leppard’s glam’n’glitter roots. And it’s a well-chosen comeback single for a band entering its third (or fourth?) decade of existence. And it’s surprisingly well-done: the first bit, a sort of Pro-Tooled update of the dubfunk groove as originally done by Essex and producer Jeff Wayne, would, if not for the singer’s vocals, be getting plaudits in certain quarters as we speak if slipped out on a label like Perlon or Get Physical. (Well, they always had a “dub element to our sound” didn’t they, Def Leppard--the great cavernous guitarsound-streaked middle bit in the fabulous “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.). And then it goes into a sort of panoramically-produced chrome-plated blues-boogie a la “When the Levee Breaks” or “Gold Dust Woman”.

Wolf Eyes, Human Animal
Surprisingly agreeable--lots of bleak hollows and desolated spaces in the sound making it more like an isolationist record that neo-noise. Talking of which

Wasteland, All Versus All
A dose of desolationism from I-Sound and Scud... rave-survivors stalk the serotonin-parched endzones of South London ... a sister record to Burial's.

really feeling

Various, The World Is Gone
Impossible to describe without it sounding a bit wank really--dubstep/grime meets Britfolk. But it works and it’s not wank, not at all.

Mordant Music, Dead Air
Possibly unfair to make this comparison, I daresay this lot have been pursuing this tip for ages, but it certainly hits this listener as a post-Ghostbox record. Electronic music flitting between eerie and whimsy, baleful and jaunty; discernible influences from library music (the band have apparently just done some work for Boosey & Hawkes)… then there’s a trace of the Skam/Boards of Canada end of things…. and when it gets more beat-y and driving I think of early 90s UK techno: Ubik and Holy Ghost and stuff on Network and Outer Rhythm... pirate radio tunes before it all went totally breakbeat… lots of fun samples to spot as they whiz by… the Survivors theme tune: that shudder-ripple of electronic sound just when the bacterial-warfare scientist drops the vial of plague…. and ooh, that’s descending reverb-trail, that’s from Another Green World, “Sombre Reptiles” maybe … and the clincher for the Ghostbox comparison is the involvement of Philip Elsmore, whose warm, soothing tones will be recognizable to anyone who grew up in the UK in the 70s, on account of his being a continuity announcer for all the ITV regional franchises like Border, Tyne Tees, Southern and Thames… the mysterious Baron Mordant informs: “we tracked him down and interviewed him on the South Bank...he was delighted and mildly bemused to provide our continuity...originally it was slated to involve continuity only but the actual interview yielded so much that we cut and pasted him all o'er the tapestry...he was an abbo perb gent on all fronts”. So definitely on the hauntological tip. Excellent stuff, and it comes in great weird-shaped mustard yellow cardboard packaging. Here’s the band’s myspace ---their website proper is but seems to be on the blink.

Lady Sovereign, Public Warning (Def Jam)
Every bit as good as one could have hoped, and they seem to have refrained from doing an indie/Noo Wave makeover as in the grimette Gwen Stefani worse case scenario. in fact a bit more of a X Ray Spex/Selecter vibe might have been nice (a last minute swerve to avoid the gross outrage of being perceived by the public as a Lily Allen copyist, one wonders?)

not really feeling (yet)

Basement Jaxx, Crazy Itch Radio

Party like it’s 1999! It’s always a difficult one for any band--but especially an electronic band--trying to do the album after they’ve put out their Greatest Hits. The G.Hits is like a death knell, career-wise, generally. Orbital eked another album after theirs, didn’t they, before splitting, and following their greatest the Chems put out one that won a fucking Grammy in the Dance Musics category (bit like jethro tull winning the Best Hard Rock album in 1989 or whenever it was, though). My mate Andy Battaglia thinks highly of this so I will give it another go, although it sounded a bit toned-down and chastened on first listen. Plus the title Crazy Itch Radio adds another level of curse in so far as it’s never good when a band sums up too snappily its whole sound’n’vision-thing.

retro feeling

Sebadoh, III

Surprisingly enjoyable but the killer is the last track on the bonus disc, this insane self-hating tape that Lou Barlow made to play before the band went onstage back in the early 90s. which appeared once before on a SubPop compilation called Curtis B. Pitts, employee of the Month or something like that. The tape is Sebadoh savagely mocking themselves for being James Taylor with a fuzzbox, prostituting their own neurosis, self-absorbed little fucks, or something--it has this genuinely self-poisoned tone of ingrown and auto-mutilative sarcasm that is really quite as a powerful and telling a document of the slacker era as Slacker itself... some choice extracts:

"three guys who think it’s much more important if music is heartfelt rather than if the music sounds like shit or not -- SEBADOH

"figuratively pissing in your mouth, humiliating and subduing your spirit, exposing every nook and cranny of the human psyche -- way to go, SEBADOH

"searching for the lowest common denominator, resorting to tired tales of naughty boy boredom, asking annoying questions and providing ogus answers, self serving closet fascists, making money from marijuana masturbation, incompetence masquerading as inspiration, inspiration mistaken for true talent, a specter of egocentric behaviour sputtering wildly out of control -- ladies and gentlemen, indierock’s newest unrecognized genius of songwriting sucker punch… in a minivan for a six week tour -- SEBADOH

"borrowing the vast energy of positive pus monkey, Sebadoh snaps forth with remarkable agility -- nodding solemnly in sad resignation -- three guys who never went to college

"driving dozens of college age lemmings off the cliff of limited imagination, smashing their soft skulls on the jagged boulders of our bitter sarcasm -- three assholes --SEBADOH

"boring you shitless -- yet no one is approaching baldness -- laughing at your shortcomings -- tactlessly wielding destructive honesty to protect themselves from true feeling -- eagerly buttfucking your grandpa -- turning personal vendetta and small minded revenge tactics into eventual cult status - the only man in the world who truly appreciated the genius of the Swans -- LOU BARLOW"

Retro Really Feeling

Various, Popular Electronics
Dutch avant-classical from the 60s and 70s, some well avant and others of quite whimsical raymond scott/joe meeky nature, lots of radiphonic workshop style miniatures (79 tracks on one of the four discs!), at times so Ghostboxy it's untrue. See below for link.

Douglas Lilburn, Complete Electro-Acoustic Works
Antipodean composer, quite similar to the above, totally ace (courtesy the benefactor from down under as referenced below)

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