Thursday, January 29, 2015

garage rap #2

I've no idea who the GK Allstars were, where in London they're from, or indeed what GK stands for....  Just one of a rash of post-So Solid crews who wound up on this compilation Garage Rap Vol. 1. Which I seem to remember hearing advertised on the pirates, but having to search really hard to find, and finally picking up a copy at an urban music shop on Portobello.  No idea if there was ever a Garage Rap Vol. 2

Apart from "Garage Feeling"  the sole other thing I've heard by GK Allstars is "Can You Handle Us", which I have only as the segment of pirate radio below - some kind of guest spot on a show? It goes into a remix of "Garage Feeling."  

What I like  about "Feeling" especially is that So Solid-like pinched-throat quality to the flow - something that marks the track as garage rap as opposed to grime. Grime MCs tended to roar a bit more -  the timbre is richer, there's a bit more character perhaps.  Garage rap MCs  tended to anonymity, reflecting perhaps their collective nature, their team-player function. 2001-2002 was still the era of crews, rather than break-out individual stars. 

Here's what I said about "Garage Feeling" at the time, when it made #5 in my Faves of 2002

“Garage Feeling” (GK Allstars) 

This chart’s fastest riser; a week ago it would have been just crinkling the edge of the Top 20. “Garage feeling, come on ravers, feel what I’m feeling” is the chorus lick, but it doesn’t feel like garage: the ominous glower of suppressed thunder running behind most of this track is more redolent of the blaring noise-riffs on Trace/Nico/Ed Rush/Fierce tunes from ’96 (i.e. the kind of dirgefunk that originally drove the jungle massive into the garage in the first place). A lot of garage rap, it’s like No U Turn if they’d used MCs, and the MCs tried to match the sheer toxicity of the noise with their lyrics. The No U Turn boys talked about wanting to “hurt people” with their beats, of being on a “hurter’s mission”, and that’s what most of the MCing is about: verbal maiming, ego-mangling, rubbing people’s faces in their nobody status. Not this tune, though: “Garage Feeling” is a celebration, albeit one queerly pitched between euphoria and dread: a communal anthem for a scene organized around the dream of leaving behind your community and achieving mega-stardom. What’s to celebrate? Just the struggle, the determination, the confidence that you will triumph. Shining in the darkness.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Enjoying this six-track self-titled EP by Stromboli  on Maple Death Records.

Made by a mysterious Bolognese using lap steel and analog organ, it's basically post-rock. Not the loud-quiet-loud that passes for p-r these days, though....   closer to the p-r of the early Nineties wot got me excited enough to conceptualise the terrain in the first place. Think Main (before they went totally musique concrete), Seefeel, Labradford, that sort of thing. (Also Cluster II.  -  proto-p-r, essentially.) Isolationist, even - a word which pops up in the press release:

You are across the road, staring into a building, it’s dark outside and you can just make out a light shining inside from a distant window. Stromboli’s debut EP is that light: a dense ambient propulsive opera created over the course of two years in Bologna. The man behind Stromboli is inspired by limitations, it’s his area of expertise, his confidence. Balance and composure as a mental state, only hinting at harsh noise, an isolationist toiling over his 4 track tape machine, a lap steel guitar and an ancient analog organ. Describing boundaries and territories through drones, city dwelling rhythms, noise landscapes and elegant melodies, Stromboli defies what is traditionally associated with the ambient genre, by creating a beautiful dark psychedelic rotating world.

Stromboli’s self-titled EP is Maple Death Records’ second release and was mastered by Brian Pyle (Ensemble Economique). It comes as a limited edition yellow-ochre (100 copies) cassette tape, inlay printed on thick Modigliani Neve paper. Photography by Giulia Mazza and design by Emanuela Drei. Mp3 download card is included.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

garage rap #1

What better way to kick-off a series of garage rap clips than God's Gift's hectic homage to the first division of UKG MCs?

Praising a pantheon that's just about to be eclipsed by the upstarts of grime, he expertly imitates their catchphrases and signature mouth-music FX.

There are about four or five other versions of "Mic Tribute" on YouTube but they all sound wrong to me. because this version (taped off an unknown pirate radio station, summer 2002) is the one I heard first. This -  God's Gift riding a breakneck UKG-meets-D&B hybrid track built by Teebone - is the one that's burned into my brain, that I love to the bone.

The other (earlier?) versions are all 2step and much slower, with GG twisting his flow around Dem 2-like pretzel grooves. So you don't get the same thrilling rush of rapid-fire impressionism  - 32 MCs in a little over four minutes.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

garage rap, grimestalgia, etc - a.k.a Garage Rap # 0

Bunch of things came to mind when I saw this great little snapshot, mentioned en passant in a Clive Martin piece on "The Cutester"

1/ Only two more years to go now and it will be the 20th Anniversary of speed garage. Think on that a moment.

2/ Always meant to do a round-up of the promo videos for UKG and 2step, because nearly all of them I never saw - never knew even existed, in fact - on account of living in America.  Turns out there were a lot - because 2step virtually was chartpop, annexed that whole terrain, in the U.K.for a year or two. Most of them appear to have been comically poor, yet still oddly vibey.  (Same applies to ardkore - had no idea so many rave hit-hopefuls had been promo'd).

3/ As chance would have it, I was listening to "It's A London Thing" only the other day, after getting ambushed by a sudden fit of grimestalgia.  "London Thing" features on a mix-cdr I did ages ago called "The History of Garage Rap, Volume One". Remember that little period of about eighteen months or so, before the scene settled on "grime" as its name? The great Nominalist Vacillation, a/k/a Wot-U-Call-It.

 "Garage rap" was actually a term with a little bit of currency for a while - there was at least one CD compilation called that. And it does strikes me as still quite a useful term for the build-up to grime proper: that prequel period when MCs gradually became more prominent in UK garage tracks (if still just "featuring", a definite second fiddle to the DJs and producers). They began to drop verses, not just catchphrases and chorus licks.   N ' n'G featuring Creed, M-Dubs featuring Emperor Richie Dan, DJ Luck and MC Neat...  Then the crews took over (Heartless, Genius, K2 Family, et al) and soon after that, came the single artists.

(Somewhere in there, the MC supergroup Da Click. Which I left off "The History of Garage Rap" cd-rs, because it was so lame, but then again, it was Important and Epochal - MCs flexing their new power).

By the end of 2005,  grime had pooped out as potential pop take-over (after the unfollowed-up chart invasion of "Pow").  And in the ensuing years I've only rarely gone back to classic-era grime. The disappointment of its failure to bust through in uncompromised raw form (instead it sidled through in pop disguise) made it painful to revisit a sound with such heavy personal investments. If I have dug out the old comps and tracks, it's been for writing purposes - the update to Energy Flash, sleevenotes for Terror Danjah, or writing the nuum-series essay "Masculine Pressure".

But time heals all wounds and suddenly I'm feeling like hearing the stuff again.

Nostalgia - it's 13 years since "I Love U" smashed up the pirate radio waves, almost 15 since "Bound 4 Da Reload".  And grime was probably the last true fanaticism for me, the last spasm of unnaturally extended adolescence (I turned forty the year of Boy in Da Corner!). By fanaticism, I mean belief in something to the point where it takes precedence over all the other deserving excellences competing for one's attention at any given point. And belief that others could and should feel the same way: that this music deserves to take over, that it's the music of its time. I've loved quite a few things since, regarded them as timely and resonant to varying degrees. But I never believed that e.g. hauntology could or would or even should "take over". The very thought is ridiculous. But it wasn't with grime.

Another reason to listen again to the prime-era grime: the zombie-like after-life of the genre as an art-i-fied sound. Makes it all the more piquant to hear specimens of the genre  from back when it actually carried weight and packed heat.  

So tempting to post 38 YouTubes clips at this point...

I still  regard this one of the great grime performances, and lyrics - not least because it's about the nature of performance. Also Bruza is one of those "do you really get this genre?" tests. Durrty Goodz, to take one of many examples, would make it as a great rapper by international benchmarks; Bruza is pure grime, to the point perhaps of being un-exportable. The meter or scansion or whatever's the right word ("flow" is too vague) for what Bruza is doing in his verses and in the chorus is literally staggering. The missing link between Bob Hoskins and Beefheart.  The other MCs on "Not Convinced" are great too.

Another classic, which I don't think ever came out in the original form aired here, but made it to vinyl with a much-reduced battalion of talent.

Favorite bit:

DRILL SERGEANT: "who you repping?"

SHIZZLE: (languidly, almost feyly): "my self"

(where the other MCs all say a crew, or an area - Nasty, East etc)

More to come in the days and conceivably weeks ahead (and in a way, you could say it's the continuation or an offshoot of the Mouth Music series)

Weird synchrony / "something in the air" corner  - as I'm writing this, Legendary Luka pulls together a 1001 YouTube Playlist dedicated to the UK MC tradition + things that have fed into it

Monday, January 19, 2015

mouth music (just keeps coming)

see also "Scenescof Dynasty" with its Steve Peregrine Took backing - vocal FX, shrieks, whoops, hisses, mouth-percussion

Thursday, January 15, 2015

mouth music (Woebot edition)

Looking through The Big Book of Woe the other day, I reread the classic Woebot's Top 100 Records of All Time piece and realised that

1/ a good 25 %  of the list I've never heard, still.

2/ some of Matt's inclusions count as "extremism of the human voice", or at least mouth-music.


Tibetan Buddhism: Tantras of Gyütö

Centrafrique Musique Gbaya

Brigitte Fontaine - Comme A La Radio

Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux - Mandjou

Vocals incredible, obviously... but the guitar playing, phew...  the everything really....  Nearly swooned. And what a great, wavery, ghostified clip.

Flourgon & Ninjaman - "Zig It Up"

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Heavy dude, Donovan

Thursday, January 08, 2015

mouth music (not-so-slight return)

late breaking flurry of suggestions:

A. Parker with another goodie - weeping ceremonies on this ethnomusicological field recording Music of Oceania: the Kaluli of Papua Niugini 

which you can get here

while we're on the ethno-exotico-voyeur tip, in the tradition of Missa Luba, and also My Life In the Bush of Ghosts, here's Gilles Aubry "performing" the glossolalia of charismatic churches in the Congolese capital Kinshasa. As suggested by E. Anderson

another good one, from B. Cole  - Filipe Pires

"Homo Sapiens - 1972
At the heart of this work is the human voice, used as the symbol of earth and creation. It is phonetically framed towards movement, elaboration, and the fusion of disparate sound elements. Homo Sapiens is a revision of the first part of the Nam Ban ballet, composed in 1970. The present version was composed while Filipe Pires was studying at the GRM in Paris."

see also "Canto Ecuménico", also using voices of ethnological provenance, on this recent Creel Pone reissue

S. Spiers-Conte materialises from the ghostly mists of memory to point out the startling omission of Bo Anders Persson 

R. Rosengarde proffers

A. Thompson, with just a tinge of asperity, draws attention to the non-inclusion of the sound poems of Gil. J. Wolman, such as this, one of his mégapneumes

Two Swedes for the price of one (suggested by H. Blumner)   

Another Swede - Ilmar Laaban - brought to my attention by J. Lyons

Did I not do Francois Dufrene already? M. Brewer thinks not. No harm in duplicating, I suppose

J. Maynard seems genuinely shocked by the omission of Karl Stockhausen's theatre of voices

Eerie-lovely choral music with serious hauntological pedigree - the theme tune to Children of The Stones, suggested by A-J. Kirby.  You can hear the main theme right at the start but other outbursts of vocal strangeness crop up throughout the series, which is well worth watching in its entirety.

But who made the music? Revelation courtesy of A Sound Awareness

"The music was composed by Sidney Sager who used a combination of a cappella vocalizations of a single, repeated Icelandic word ("Hadave") to create a terrifying and dissonant score. The vocals were provided by the Ambrosian Singers who during their long career have provided choral work for both Ennio Morricone and Nino Rotahe score for this series has never been commercially issued, which is a shame as both the "Start Title" and the "Ritual And End Title" are some of the scariest music I've heard on television."
And finally (?) - J. R. Press, points out an absolutely heinous absence - Yoko Ono

Thursday, January 01, 2015

in case you haven't seen it, Dominic Morris's piece on Deep Tech in  The Guardian.


recent thoughts from me on the purposeful vybe of this bass-intensified house c.f. bassweightless nu-grime / nu-IDM pallor.

Where will this sound go in 2015? Excited to find out.