Friday, April 28, 2006

It's a Blog so its got to have something about Dubstep...

There hasn't been much Dupstep shopping done around these parts of late but its clear that things are picking up for South London's best-kept secret with BBC Collective recently delivering a short assessment of the scene.

Its a little perverse that while 'the scene' seems increasingly to operate for itself and its mates (doing away with the concept of financial reward with the 10" dubplate culture that renders the commercial release of tracks almost an afterthought) it's finally gaining popular ground.

Listening to Kode 9's Dubstep Allstars Vol. 3 there are some fine tracks, particularly those from Pressure & Warrior Queen, Blackdown and Burial. But there's much aimless post-Rave doodling as well. Over the course of an hour this mix becomes a little oppressive, the music dehumanised by its obsession with urban dissonance, never kind enough to offer resolution. You feel like taking these kids on a trip out to the countryside on a sunny afternoon and reintroducing their faces to 'smile'.

And am I the only person that found the concept of the "dub poet" irritating enough back in the 80s not to wish for its reincarnation in what purports to be one of the most forward-thinking musical cultures of the moment? The entire mix is draped in an echoing, formless monologue that recalls the dark days between Linton Kwesi Johnson and the On-U Soundsystem. Benjamin Zephaniah's recent LP if we're being really uncharitable.

Meet, then, Dubstep's antithesis: "Return To The Sea" by Islands, a group formed from the ashes of Unicorn, and fronted by that band's Nick Diamonds. Unicorns, I'm reliably informed, shared the arguably slightly twee musical sentiments and joyful rhythmic sense on offer here. So, I've got some shopping to do. There's a Wolf Parade/Arcade Fire connection as well it seems, although none of that everyone-at-the-local-youth-club-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to noisemaking.

At this early stage, all I can tell you is that these songs have none of the human absence of Dubstep and a surfeit of glowing, human pop brilliance. And that I'll be listening to this record again and enjoying it in months to come.

Monday, April 24, 2006

London, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Rio, Berlin and Ibiza Town

To kick things off, a brief jaunt around the record shopping globe finds us touching down in Rio for Bossa and Tropicalia reissues, getting the latest click and groove from Berlin, trying to beat the NME 'Radar' with the help of Pure Groove in North London, getting to grips with the first lady of Crunk in Atlanta and much more...

Modern Sound, Rio De Janeiro

Diplo, who draws influence from the tropical bass sounds of Brazil’s favela scene, reckons this is the only decent record shop in Rio. Don’t expect Favela Funk but you will find a great choice of current Bossa, Samba and Forro, along with great Tropicalia reissues. Also sets a very high bar for record shopping luxury… I’ll publish pictures soon.

"Carolina, Carol Bela" – Os Brazões (Som Livre)
This track features on a reissue of Os Brazões self-titled album with its fittingly psychedelic cover art. They were the backing band for Gal Costa’s first few excursions into Tropicalia so fans of Brazilian Psyche will have a good idea what they’re in for here. It’s another version of the much-covered song by Jorge Ben and Toquinho, and pretty straight by Costa’s standards, but with typical Bossa charm.

"Visconde de Sabugosa" – Joao Bosco (Som Livre)
"Chovendo na Roseira" – Osmar Milito (Som Livre)

Pure Groove, London

An ace little record shop on the Holloway Road in North London, Pure Groove is the homebase of 679 Recordings and the currently on-form new Brit band tipsters, Marquis Cha Cha. It’s one of the best places in London to tap into the current mayhem surrounding bands with stripey jumpers and limited chords, as well as the electro that’s doing the biz on indie dancefloors.

"Brainless" – Sunny Day Sets Fire (Brikabrak)
SDSF supported the equally indie-poptastic Spinto Band on their UK tour and this debut single is their anthem - irresistible pocket symphonic indie loveliness.

"Pride Before The Fall" – The KBC (High Voltage Sounds)
More disco rock frenzy along similar lines to The Sunshine Underground, We Start Fires and iforward, Russia! This lot from Preston thrash away at their guitars in suitably angular fashion whilst hanging everything around great big gloopy funk basslines.

"I Don’t Want To" – Example & Rusher (All The Chats)
"Hands of a Stranger" – Teenage Bad Girl (Archibell)
"Mr Milk" - Errors (Rock Action)

Dub Vendor, London

Hardly needs any introduction to Londoners with a passing interest in record shops. Dub Vendor actually have three shops across the capital but are probably best-known for the Notting Hill branch on Ladbroke Grove with the rasta mural painted on its wall. The best place for the latest Jamaican 7”s.

"We Set The Trend" – Beenie Man (John John Records)
Not exactly fresh out of the box this one but still very much my favourite dancehall offering of recent weeks. Beenie does “Ghetto Story” on the Nukie riddim which is essentially the Eighty-Five riddim (a la “Ghetto Story”) revisited. Elephant Man take note… less is more.

"Folk Song" – Black Uhuru (Pressure Sounds: reissue)
Seemingly, this Black Uhuru reissue from 1972 is a version of a song first recorded by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions called, “Romancing To The Folk Song”. Fascinating to see how directly JA artists were influenced by R&B acts during the development of Roots Reggae.

"Dreadlocks Fi Grow" – Anthony B (Reggae Fever)

Reckless Records, Chicago

This is a Chicago institution with a great website and online shopping. Shares the same kind of institutional status that Other Music enjoys in New York and is the very first stop for Chi-Town’s leftfield rock scene.

"Sorry Cloud" – A-Sides (Prison Jazz Records)
Much love for the Beach Boys here from this Philadelphia band with a hint of The Kinks lending some meat to the harmony pop. Hardly radical but song writing this compelling doesn’t really need to be does it.

"The Honeycreeper Smiles" – Colossal Yes (Ba Da Bing)
Utrillo Kushner of Comets On Fire is the man behind this exquisite piano pop marvellousness, joined by members of Drunk Horse and The Cuts on the first Colossal Yes LP, “Acapulco Roughs”. “The Honeycreeper Smiles” is possessed of a totally enchanting blissed out, drunken grace.

"Disco Connection" – Lord Rhaburn (Numero Group: reissue)
I’m completely new to this stuff but apparently there was a pretty convincing Funk scene in Belize in the 70s and Lord Rhaburn was its leading light. Most internet posts have General “Lord” Rhaburn pegged as Soca, Calypso, Reggae and Bruckdown (rural folk music - not the Belizian proto Grime that it sounds like it ought to be) but this track is undoubtedly dancefloor Funk. Taken from the “Cult Cargo: Belize Boil-Up” compilation.

"Interesting Results" – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (Paw Tracks)
"City Crazy" – Bridget St. John (Cherry Red: reissue)
"Toe The Line" – Deadstring Brothers (Bloodshot)
"Mind Your Own Business" – Delta 5 (Kill Rock Stars)
"Plagiarhythm" – Copy (Audio Dregs)
"Shoes & Ships" – Fuchsia (Night Wing: reissue)

Hard Wax, Berlin

The back of this appropriately minimal and austere concrete bunker houses the famed Dubplates & Mastering plant where Pole and Basic Channel perfected the glitch that would become a building block of the current European electronic scene. Their stock is as up-to-the-minute as it gets and their website is a great resource for all fans of electronic music.

"Dancingbox (Sleeparchive Remix)" – Modeselektor (Bpitch Control)
The not-really-that-mysterious-after-all Berlin producer responsible for the Dubplates & Mastering dispatches, Sleeparchive 1-5, delivers a harder flavour with this remix on Bpitch. All the trademarked interference and reverb are present and correct but bolted to a far more ‘Das Techno’ vibe. Essential, plus you get the marvellous Siriusmo remix of “Silikon” (see review) on the flip.

"Valparaiso (Pt. 1)" - Atom & Pink Elln (Logistic Records)
A live recording of inspired Acid improvisation from this duo operating a couple of laptops and a TR-808. “Valparaiso” is a 12-minute journey into Acid, which culminates in Jackin’ mayhem.

"Machines Doll" - Rodenion (Still Music)
"Auto Disco (Soundhack Remix)" - Autorepeat (Low Cut)
"Masque Unvisible" - Shed (Soloaction)
"Steam Drill" - DJ Yoav B (Delsin Records)

Ear Wax, Atlanta

Small but perfectly formed, this is the first choice for Dirty South hip hop and carries a fine selection of commercial rap.

"Touch Ya Toes" - Rasheeda (D-Lo Music)
After an inauspicious start to her career, Rasheeda is set to release another LP, "The Georgia Peach". This taster is promising and, at least, suggests that the ugly testosterone stench of the Dirty South may be offset by something a little sweeter in coming months.

"What’z Up" – Bohagon (BME Recordings)

Vinyl Club, Ibiza

Located in Ibiza Town and run by the massively enthusiastic local man-about-the-clubs, Luc, Vinyl Club fills its shelves with the seasonal sounds of the European club scene. It’s also a great place to stay in touch with the Spanish wing of the currently dominant minimal scene.

"D1" - Alex Under (Apnea)
Another release from the ever-prolific Alex Under, this time on his own Madrid-based imprint, Apnea. This is on a similar dancefloor-friendly tip to “Las Bicicletas Son Para El Verano” with a kind of chugging minimal rhythm that conjures images of clubs dancing in unison. Around the four-minute mark everything goes nicely Sleeparchive-esque as he hits the reverb and rewind buttons. Great club music, essentially, which we should probably embrace right now before it becomes a guilty pleasure.

"Primer Rojo" – Tadeo (Cyclical Tracks)
"Yoko" - Reynold (S'Hort Records)

Fat Beats, New York

Long the HQ for east coast hip hop, the Manhattan outpost of the Fat Beats empire is a compact crate-digging dream. Since they distribute most of this stuff, it makes sense to go to them for the selections.

“Lyrical Swords” - GZA & Rass Kass (Babygrande)
Two priceless emcees on one straight-up hip-hop banger with a choppy NYC-style production that doffs a cap to classic Wu. The single is drawn from the overlooked “Think Differently” LP which saw the mighty RZA collabo with the ever-prolific MF Doom. btw. look forward to more Doom and Ghostface goodness which didn't make Ghost's "Fishscale" set coming through Lex soon...

"Gs Like Us" – Red Rock (ABB Records)
"Balls Out" – Stick Figures (n/a)

An introduction to TUNETOURIST

Welcome to the inaugural post of TUNETOURIST in which I’ll attempt to summarise the highlights of a frenzied month of record shopping around the world in places as diverse as Chicago rock temple, Reckless Records, minimal electronic bunker, Hard Wax in Berlin, North London’s acclaimed Desi emporium, ABC Music, and even South East Asian Gamelan specialists, Kharisma Records in Bali.

Along the way I hope to shine a light on new music which will be available to a greater or lesser extent to those resourceful enough to find it and also offer something relatively unique in the micro-specialised world of blogging: a truly rounded perspective on the world’s latest sounds.