Thursday, August 01, 2013

Some photos of my Sweet/Sour tape, by paolo

I never put photos up earlier, so here they are

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review of Paolo's Sunshine Mix Tape, by Owen Griffiths

Paolo's Sunshine Mix from Glasgow- Vitamin D

Vitamin D side A

All right, I couldn’t resist a sneaky look at the track listing before slotting the tape in. Only recognised one name out of the corner of my eye and after a second or two decided to go at the tape completely blind. Makes things more interesting that way. Ideally with this tape swap I want to come across scenes I’m not familiar with, so this blend of (presumably current) slowish house/ techno/ tech house definitely fits the criteria. Not exactly a Theo Parrish level of sluggishness or his type of production style- something slightly different thanthat. I’ll state from the start that I didn’t find a lot of this dark natured music particularly summertime focussed- it belies tapes' name but that's not a criticism overall. So track by track:

A1. Weird beatless intro that surely samples a movie from the early days of colour cinematography; imagine the twisted court music of a 1950’s Macbeth feature film or the soundtrack to Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’.

A2. Elgato is someone I remember from the Dubstep forum days. I’m probably committing a cardinal sin in Hardwax circles when I say ‘if I heard this record in a record shop’s headphones I wouldn’t buy it because the tune doesn’t  reallygo anywhere’. Super-repetitive for sure, but in the context of this tape it scrubs up well enough and I can understand why some people are happy to fork over 6.99 for it. Not a bad inclusion for Paolo’s set but a piece of plastic unlikely to find a place in my record box.

A3. I really like this one, properly atmospheric deep house tune that sounds great mixed out of the previous one. More of this kind of stuff please.

A4. Skilful blend into this appealing harmonic breakdown- doesn’t quite live up to it’s initial promise though, especially when it goes all techy in the second half.

A5. Big track that upwardly slides us out of the trough created by the rinsed out previous record. Proper late 80’s/ early ‘90’s US house but no doubt a recently produced bit of mimicry. Good.

A6. It appears that this is the illusive Dub Techno genre that everyone talks about but I’ve somehow managed to avoid up till now. Bit of a short filler track (presumably) designed as a bridge between this and the much more upbeat upcoming tune. Okay but too much of this stuff would be irritating.

A7. I could swear by that saxophone that this is a Marc Kinchen track (edit: it is). This is more my sphere of influence I suppose though it’s a good one I haven’t heard before- no doubt because it’s a Summer 2011 release rather than from nineteen ninety-whenever. Judging by the Defected records adverts that plague Youtube at the moment for their new DJ mixes the recent MK one seems uninspired- though that could just be the A&R people only showing clips of the radio friendly singles on the short adverts even though there’s plenty of other gems on the actual CD/ MP3 whatever. Apologies for my ramblings- it’s hard to get the bad taste out of my mouth looking at what Strictly Rhythm are playing at by gently pushing former production kings Mood II Swing towards making lowest common denominator Ibiza house, ie. the antithesis of what classic NYC house is all about. Whereas FXHE/ Omar S clearly don't give a fuck.

A8. The closest house gets to a Gatecrasher style euphoria hands in the air moment. Sensibly calms down before the high pitched keys causes the track to rise upwards out of the earth's atmosphere.

A9. A slightly soulless Todd Edwards sound a like fresh from the cutting house floor. Can’t hold a candle to vintage Todd of course, but a track in this vein is a welcome release for Summer 2013.

Vitamin D- side B

B1. Nice beatless intro track. I forgot to mention that all the tracks on side A are beatmatched. The tunes on this side are not. It’s not entirely clear whether this record is left over from the earlier set as a bridging track to the decidedly eclectic & more laid back second half. Perhaps the tape ran out too soon. But if we assume otherwise and pick up on that word eclectic

B2… this one sums up the aesthetic very well. It’s some weird live band with a half-strangled woman singing a disturbing lullaby, alongside one of those repetitive guitar twangs that I’m guessing reggae musicians invented and refused to give up on. I must confess to being one of those few people who don’t know who Hype Williams is (isn’t he a millionaire hip hop producer? Edit: no he’s a video director) but I know Shangan as being one half of the notorious North Dublin Ballymun estate. Perhaps this studio hook up was a misguided experiment by some well meaning new age drugs councillor to get her class of poor junkies to describe their anxieties through the medium of experimental music. What was it the liberal teacher said in the film heathers- “Whether to kill yourself or not is one of the most important decisions a teenager can make”. Incidentally this record has a short period of silence in the middle that had me twice rushing to my cheap ghetto blaster to make sure it wasn’t chewing up the tape.

B3. How I imagine a Kraftwerk LP sounds, really. I’m a bit ignorant on that count. Turns out that this is the Human League in art college mode, before they discovered catchy choruses. Had they waited ten years before making it they could’ve shrink-wrapped the twelve and punted it round Berwick Street stores pretending it was a hot US import from some precocious black producer from Chicago or Detroit.

B4. Teutonic sounding female vocals on a live sounding band. Not my favourite track from the tape. Has what seems like an exciting key change at the end that actually turns out to be…

B5. A perfectly clean segue into this track here. Not sure how to describe it really. Say no more

B6 Now this Faust record is a nice and cheerful indie ish thing that could arguably have been made anytime in the last forty years. Proper sunshine stuff at last. Though it seems like it was cued up at the fag end of the track, I would’ve appreciated hearing it in its entirety before it goes into the jingly jangly guitar feedback outro.

B7. Borderline fiddly dee music with hippyish overtones, perhaps found by Paolo digging through maw & da’s dusty twelves that have languished in the loft for years. The lyric comes correct with a chorus of “this morning I woke up”. It is safe to say that Sunshine has arrived.

B8. Picking up the pace with an uptempo ‘70’s guitar instrumental a la Fleetwood Mac. I mean that in a good way, not in an ironic hairstyle way. Clearly the peak hour track of this side of the tape as we’re coming up to the final furlong. This is the second time my wikipedia searches have turned up the work Krautrock. Not sure what to make of that given my ignorance of the style. Owen's’ opinion- “nice enough”. The Red Army Factions verdict- “Vapid imperialist music purveyed by the Fascist Pig State to anaesthetise the German youth to the existentialist Capatalist corruption that stunters their growth, swinehundt"”. I'll let you decide whose view is more accurate.

B9. A clean break and then a well-chosen punk tune to round things of. “Do we miss you, do yes we do. You’re father sends his regards to you. Will I write, well once in a while. I’ll send my love and a molotov cocktail too!” Late 70's cockney Punk at it's more accomplished.

All in all I think this cassette has parallels with my own in that one side is definitely stronger than the other one. I’ve listened to side A half a dozen times (and will put it in again) but despite a few okay records the b-side can be a bit more of a chore- saying that I will make effort to get into it. Top marks for effort. Was this the kind of thing I expected from the Dissensus Tape swap? Fuck knows, because I didn't know what to expect really.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Sweet/sour tape review by paolo

I got my tape a few weeks ago. I have no idea who it's from but it's nicely packaged in gold chocolate-type packaging, like you'd find around a Galaxy bar or a Ferrero Rocher. One side is coloured pink with the word SWEET, the other side is coloured green with the word SOUR.

I've never reviewed anything before so I'm just going to go through it track by track and sum up at the end.

Sweet side

1. Lady singing a sad, wistful song over a 4:4 beat. This sort of sounds like something that you might hear in Starbucks or possibly on a moody advert for Apple, which I would normally hate this stuff but it actually works well. It's quite emotionally affecting. Off to a good start

2. Nice head-nodding house tune. Not exactly bedroom music but not a big dancefloor tune either. Would be good for doing housework to on a sunny day

3. Slightly more downbeat house tune, with bittersweet, yearning vocals and strings. Nice bassline

4. I think this is what would be called 'boogie'. I saw Krystal Klear DJ recently and this is like something he would play. It certainly is a sweet summer tune.

5. Going a bit deeper here but still house. Features a glockenspiel and a voice saying 'you're searching' a lot. It's been pissing it down with rain all day but the sun comes out when this track is on (I don't think the two things are connected but it fits with the summertime vibes of this tape)

6. More boogie, this time with cut-up vocals about looking into my eyes. Still rolling along at about 110 bpm. Goes a bit piano house about halfway through

7. Tempo goes up slightly (I think). This one has a sort of dark yet funky bassline, a bit like 'I Feel Love' by Donna Summer. There's a woman saying the same thing over and over but I can't make out what it is

8. This is bouncy as hell. There's a big fat bassline and a really low voice talking with a high-pitched voice about something or other, and a bunch of people singing about how much they like techno funk. This would be great to dance to when drunk

9. More chilled but still funky. Somebody sings about electronic funk and how it can't be stopped, and there are also robot voices

10. Lipps Inc - Funky Town. This is the only track on the tape that I recognise and it's a belter. Amazing disco-pop, if you've never heard it

11. Eighties-sounding synthpop/house/electro tune, with big room vibes and a catchy synth line. Also someone saying 'move up, get down'

12. The start of something a bit more downbeat with sad-sounding piano that is cut off by the end of side one

Sour side

1. Sleazy electro funk, nice and slow. Carrying on where the first side left off, with  a lyric about hugging your brother from another town. Very eighties in a good way

2. Disco pop about having a high school crush with a catchy hook. Could be described as sultry

3. Boogie disco with a sample from 'The Hall of Mirrors' by Kraftwerk and French vocals. Still got the bouncy summertime vibes of the first side

4. More boogie but more house than disco, complete with vocals about the beat not stopping until the break of dawn

5. Upbeat house tune which just seems a bit nondescript/bland to be honest

6. This is better. Vocal classic-sounding acid tune with loads of energy, must be an excellent club track

7. Bouncy house tune with a big fat bassline and a deep vocal asking if I'm afraid of the boogie monster (I'm not)

8. Cool, almost garagey house track. Quite deep but maintains the bounciness

9. Big room tech-house stomper, which I'm not really feeling so much. Maybe just not in the right mood

10. Wicked hardcore tune to finish the tape. Has a guy singing about not speaking the language or understanding the words and awesome synth stabs. I feel I should recognise this for some reason but I don't. This perks me up a bit and gives me a wee adrenaline buzz

Overall, this is ninety minutes or so of choice summertime house/disco/boogie music which I imagine would be ace to dance to. Whoever mixed it is solid technically and allows each track to play out for a decent amount of time, which I like. Also exposed me to a bunch of music I'd never heard before because I don't listen to a lot of this sort of thing

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Noughties Cower Behind Me And Are Abased

I don't think anyone had sent me a cassette for about a decade when I received this FOUR YEARS AGO. Several years down the line I've started buying them again and they've plopped through the letterbox with reassuring regularity.

I shat myself when I saw the new Tape Swap on Dissensus. After a mild heart attack about not having reciprocated last time with a tape of my own it turns out that I had. Thank fuck. I don't want to get into Danny's bad books.

Also, incredibly, I managed to find the one (or at least I think it was this tape?) that Bassbeyondreason (if it was him?) sent me. It's a Maxell UR C90, which came wrapped in the cover of a Toyah single, which is still around here somewhere and regularly confuses the shit out of me when I am rifling through my sevens.

The cassette case has “hope you endure the music!” written on it in black felt tip pen. Which I have. Several times I think, but not for several years now. It's good – a proper “everything but the kitchen sink” affair which still has a slightly drunken aesthetic of its very own. I assume there was a track-listing but I suspect that this would have been on a piece of paper which has long since been recycled or perhaps lies hidden in a secret compartment of my former abode. So I shall do this review “blind” and promise not to use spotify and google or whatever.



(1) Starts off in fine style with some anarcho punk crud-fi business about not wanting to die in a nuclear holocaust. Good bass. Had finished before my laptop hard started up.

(2) Then some vintage disco funk. The daughter taps her pencil along to the drum break. Which is as close as you get to an endorsement in this house.

(3) Spoken word about some woman named Barbara losing weight. “What are you listening to Dad, it sounds like The Muppets?” 

(4) Yankee hardcore: “there's nothing wrong with being sensitive and looking like a dork”. A searing critique of jock culture? Kinda. I have to explain to the daughter that the vocal about treating women like shit is a parody of idiot men. Hmmph.

(5) FEEDBACK AND THRASH! GRUFF MALE VOICE INTONING ABOUT SOMETHING UNPLEASANT! Realm of grindcore, methinks! Good testosterone music. Followed by a slightly bizarre segue into...

(6) Harry Enfield's “Loadsamoney” novelty single from the Stock Aitken Waterman era. It's not very good, but seems recorded quite badly which makes it tonally interesting at least.

(7) “BLEEEEAAAAAAAGH!” More thrash. I was never really into all this but it still takes me back to my youth. Men with denim and lots of bad hair trying to persuade me that I will really like some album with cliched horror lettering on the cover. Good times. This one goes on too long though I reckon.

(8) Ska punk? We are truly taking the scenic route here! We should all unite, apparently. Why not? Seems to have keyboard horns - a pet hate of mine, but it's OK when the double speed skank kicks in. I suspect the curator of this tape has had as many drunken dances in seedy punk clubs as I have.

(9) Then some Vybz Kartel (?) on a repetitive gynaecological tip which I am really really hoping that the daughter doesn't hear. Awkward. Good tune though.

(10) More your anthemic balls-out epic rock with loooong intro. Great riff but terrible slurred rawk vocals.

 (11) Gospelly soulful funk. With a bit of distortion which I think is unintended but pretty crunchy and great nonetheless.

(12) Some folky christian hallelujah stuff. Yep. A bit stiff compared to the “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” OST. Possibly because this is more modern and more european? It skips a bit, which might be Satan's influence.

(13) Nasty X-rated anti-social American punk about a security guard who calls up working girls on the job. “I watch topless dancers and I wonder if I have cancer”. Riiiiiiiiiight. Quite cool – exactly the kind of thing you want on a mixtape – I know there's a tonne of good USA punk out there but I'm fucked if I'm going to wade through it myself.

(14) A folksy reel, I guess you would call it. Good accelerations. I point out to junior that this is a weird tape. “Oh yeah, like none of your other stuff is weird, Dad...” Fair play. Oh hang on – this has sort of a breakbeat thing happening as well? “World” music alarm is twanging?!

(15) Screams and incoherent vocals. Japanese? The Boredoms or something? Ace. Lots of short bursts of noise. Then MOAR thrash. It's good to have some of this now and again, it certainly stops things getting too polite. It has also driven the daughter from the room, although the cat remains. This sounds like one of those seven inches which has 18 tracks on one side.

(16) Some kind of militant female chanting call and response.

(17) A female vocal intones “Free Jah Jah Children” and there is about 10 seconds of bassline. END OF SIDE ONE.


(1) Kicks off with a song from the TV show Lassie which is all campy country and pretty great for an opener.

(2) We are then into some hey nonny nonny folk stuff with a female vocalist doing something “until she is sore” which is pretty great, in a Wickerman kind of way?

(3) An ace thrash cover of what I assume is a Wurzels song about cider? I went to a posh Hauschka and Johan Johannsson gig at the Barbican last year and the guy I was with bought me cider by mistake – I got a proper suburban teenage flashback off it. Mixtape novelty business! Someone knows my level...

(4) Next track is folksier again with more of a glam rock feel somewhere and a male vocal. Appears to be a penny whistle solo. Hmmm. Much of this track was obscured by my better half coming in having just finished her work and wanting a chat. I bet Simon Reynolds never gets that.

(5) Some proper vinyl clickery heralds the next track which takes us to... AFRIIIIIKKKKKKAAAA! Bhundu Boys twinkly guitars and maybe the sun will stay out tomorrow. Hard to know what these chaps are singing about but it's a million miles away from all that “Afro-Noise” dreck. It's got a long freakout at the end where the tempo ramps up. Proper.

(6) Then someone is gargling over bar-room bluesy rock. They are “lie-ing in a bed of fire” apparently which seems like a serious health and safety violation. This is exactly the sort of music I don't have any of. Nor do I want any of it, really, except perhaps as a soundtrack to some demented roadtrip?

(7) Boom! Hip-house techno redemption! With snare rolls! Hands in the air! And a bit of echo in the breakdown. This sounds like 90s and possibly German? That rather good midpoint between the Venga Boys and Happy Hardcore. FUN and not for the purists. (which is perhaps the over-arching philosophy of the tape). Some nice hoovery bits with breakbeats. First tune that I am tempted to find out what it is...

(8) Piano balladry? Why? WHY? “In the spiritual sky”? Like a hippy Elton John. “If you are so attached to the material world - it is hard to see the one you looooove” it seems. I can only imagine the look of utter ridicule I would get from the one I love if I mooted detaching ourselves from the material world.

(9) Some funky jazzy breakbeat electronica follows. With kung fu film vocal sample? We must be back in the 1990s again? Not a complaint from me – far from it! Little bit of wobble going on also. Fair takes me back innit. I'm impressed that all this stuff is completely new to me, man is doing good. Some fucked up bits on the vinyl it seems too. Proper. Goes on a bit long though.

(9) Some NOISE! Feedback and shit. Plodding rock submerged beneath it. Fab. Glitched up or maybe a jumping record? Possibly this is a mash up of an actual metal record and an experimental noise thing? Great idea. Doom! Sweat! An exhortation to “KILL! [something indistinguishable]”. This is what I hope Wolf Eyes would sound like, but I bet they don't.

(10) Cheesy disco, OBVIOUSLY. Oh actually it's a Sesame Street tune. GOLD. Not heard this one either, even though I grew up on Muppet Show LPs (and have encouraged my own offspring to do the same). Various characters over slap bass – what's not to like? Cuts short. END OF SIDE TWO.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Danny L's tape  

I must say I was chuffed to receive a really eclectic tape (despite taking the one-genre route for my own compilation) that still hangs together and provides a narrative of sorts. I’m glad to say Danny L pulled it off here. Luckily I happen to be a big fan, if not an obsessive collector of Blues, Reggae, Psyche-punk and folk so this tape really hit the spot and gave me what I wanted. I did fret about all this when deciding on what to do for my own tape. Usually when making a comp. for someone you’ll know a fair bit about the recipient’s tastes beforehand but this Dissensus Tape Swap thing was a bit more of a shot in the dark. There’s also something wickedly self-serving about making a mixtape that can backfire badly if you’re not careful. Ooh the pressure…
I'm not much of a writer, so I decided to pad this review out a little with a few relevant youtube links. Hopefully this hasn't violated the code of the Dissensus tape swap and Danny won't be too offended...

The first side serves as a nice illustration of the various and varied permutations of Rhythm n Blues music: Ska, rock n roll, rockabilly twang, urban sleaze-rock and garage psyche.
The tape kicks off with ‘Blue Monday’ by Louisiana bluesman Smiley Lewis, then into the laid back “Jack and Jill Shuffle” by the splendidly named Theophilus Beckford. This latter track’s offbeat piano skank is a clear precursor to Ska, and The Mellow Larks’ ’Time to pray’ is a great example of the Gospel influence in Reggae, long before the Rastafarian faith dominated the Island’s musical ethos.
It can be easy to underestimate the fundamental influence American Rhythm and Blues music has had on Jamaican music after the wild sonic innovations of Dub and Dancehall, but this is the stuff that rocked Jamaican sound systems for years until the island forged its own distinct sound. So it was nice to hear this stuff juxtaposed. Tracks like The Gaylads’ ‘Lady with the red dress on’, Andre Williams’ ’Pearl time’ and The Marathons’ ‘Peanut Butter’ all share a certain raw energy and sense of playfulness.

Hasil Adkins’ She Said was the only song on the tape I was really familiar with, and it’s a long-term favourite of mine. More wild and deranged than anything else at the time, and that’s saying a lot for Rockabilly. The Cramps knocked out a rockin’ version of this too and the rest of Side 1 is dedicated to the sort of scuzz rock that would have floated their boat.
There’s more demented rock n roll from a very strange sounding man named Homer Edison: a cautionary tale about the perils of that most foolish of teenage automobile-related kicks, the ‘Chickie Run’, illustrated nicely by this classic film clip:

Trouble is James Dean made it look cool didn’t he?

The moody twang of Duane Eddy‘s, ‘Stalkin’ is next. I’ve always loved this sort of guitar sound, drenched in reverb and tremelo, yet still crisp and cutting, sending a shiver down the spine. The production and arrangement on Duane Eddy’s records was superbly loud and crisp, the sax sound on here is almost obscene in its raunchiness. There, I’ve said it…sometimes I love a bit of raunchy sax! Ahem…
Arnand Schuabroeck ups the sleazometer next with the charmingly titled ‘Ratfucker’, sounding uncannily like Lou Reed. Its a compelling slice of New York trash-rock if a little off-putting in its nastiness. Armand sounds like a truly unpleasant man, but I enjoyed it nonetheless in the same way that I enjoy listening to Johnny Rotten singing ’Bodies’, or any number of gangster rappers and grime MCs digging in the dirt. Its perhaps slightly too beholden to Lou Reed to be truly great though.
Side one ends with a sequence of ’Nuggets’ style psyche-punk tunes, all in thrall to The Rolling Stones and The Who at their most amped up. The Misunderstood must have deafened themselves in the studio recording ‘Children of the Sun,’ so loud and raucous are the guitars and drums. Love it!
Morgen’s ‘Welcome to the Void’ and Colosseum‘s ‘The Kettle‘ (famously sampled by Norman cook) are no less hard rocking. This strand of Hard-psych is probably much more Rock than it is punk really, the sort of stuff that lead to Black Sabbath rather than The Stooges I reckon. Anyway, I couldn’t resist cranking these up to get the full effect, and they make a great end to side one.

So solid so far, but things started to get really interesting for me on Side 2. I was on much less familiar ground here. After another decent psych-rock track from Factory , came the spooky theme tune to the 70s Sci-fi TV series, The Tomorrow People. A long way before my time, but it’s the sort of thing I would have liked as a kid, and it’s a brilliantly evocative slice of Radiophonic uncanniness.

There’s insect related balladry next of course with ‘Lacewing’ by Chrysalis (according to the you tube blurb here Spider Barbour, the author of this song is now “a naturalist devoted to the lives of moths and butterflies.” funnily enough….). The flutes (or mellotron?) give this song a similar sort of vibe to ‘The Fool on the hill’. The melody is very pretty but it’s a terribly miserable song ; ‘Oh how I dread to go on…’. The next choice doesn’t let up on the misery either: Julie Felix’s version of Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle of Death’.
'Harrowing’ would be a lazy description of a song like ’Needle of Death’. While I quite like this song and Julie Felix’s cover version, I’m probably more conditioned to prefer the Lou Reed approach to this subject matter which seems much less simplistic and immediate than the sad eyed misery ballads of the folkies (I’m thinking of Neil Young’s “Needle and the damage done’ here. Always one of my least favourite Young songs). For those early sixties folk singers the loss of innocence is always mired in regret, rarely accompanied by euphoria and release. They can get a little wearing as a result and I’d probably reach for the fast forward button say, seven times out of ten when it gets to this track. Same goes for Lacewing I’m afraid…

You’ll be glad to hear that I cheered up immensely when I heard the next track; Annette Peacock’s ‘I’m the one’. The centrepiece of the tape for me, I was genuinely stunned when I heard it. After an ominous intro of mournful horns and free jazz drums, a sort of strange electronic cyber-chirrup suddenly enters and the song begins. Its difficult to describe but what followed put me in mind of some of the most far out and groovy music of the late 60s/early 70s: Sly Stone, Miles Davis, even The Beatles of ‘I Want You’ and ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun‘. Heavy, moody music, sweaty with desire. That weird electronic skronk that lifts the track into the realms of the truly strange turns out to be Annette’s (stunning) voice fed through an early synthesiser. Wow…

The next three songs on the tape are all taken from musicals.  Haunting jazz with Jean Pace's 'Afro Blue' (here is John Coltrane’s version of it) and Mary Lou Williamson’s ‘The Devil is a Woman with a Red Dress on’, with its fantastically complex vocal arrangements. I’m feeling it…

An all time Children’s classic next with Inchworm, taken from the film Hans Christian Anderson. It’s beautifully sung and arranged, and educational too!
. . Funnily enough it turns out that John Coltrane also featured this song in his sets for years, and would have played it along with tunes like ‘Afro Blue’ and his classic version of ‘My Favourite things’. So there you go…

Some obscure 60s jangle-folk from Judy Henske comes next. ‘Charity’ is a pretty good song, lifted by a rousing chorus, picking up the pace a bit.
The selection takes a rather more bizarre turn with the English poet John Betjemen reading his own ‘Licorice fields at Pontefract’ over a sort of soft-psych backing track. It’s a little daft and whimsical for my tastes but it at least prompted me to read up a bit on John Betjemen, who I’ll admit I knew next to nothing about until now. Interesting chap…

Next, another familiar melody in an unfamiliar context with Paul Mauriat’s sitar-driven, orchestral version of the Supremes’ classic ‘You keep me hanging on’. Like the Tomorrow People theme, the arrangement features these great tremulous melody lines that seem to be a blur of horns, strings and human voices all singing in unison, in an echo chamber. At least that’s what it sounds like to me. Who knows?
(a completely irrelevant aside, but check out this video of the original in which at around 1.24 mins Diana Ross is momentarily possessed by the Devil! This really freaked me out… )

Fresh’s ‘Borstal Theme’ starts with a narration from an authentic sounding young Borstal tough before a big OTT rock opera piece of silliness kicks in. To be honest I’ve always disliked rock opera’s like Tommy or the Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow and this is definitely along those lines. (Apparently the ’Fresh out of Borstal’ concept album was inspired by a conversation with Pete Townsend).

By now I’m wanting to hear something more soulful and rootsy after all this weirdness so I’m happy that the tape ends with a couple of fine reggae selections, book ending the tape nicely. Glenn Miller (no, not that one…) is also known for making American style Soul records like this,
but this tape’s selection, 'Dungeon' is a lovely piece of rocksteady with those fantastic backing harmonies in the style of The Heptones.

Then the tape runs out halfway through the final, unlisted reggae number. I press eject and turn it over…

Saturday, April 11, 2009

STN - “Up Against The Wall, Mum!”

First things first, the packaging and name of this tape are a little unsettling. The cover features a demonic-looking puppy and enclosed was a picture, I presume of STN, sporting a gas-mask and apparently “fucking suffocating” in a Morrison’s photobooth. In-keeping with the slightly disturbing art, the tape’s title, Up Against The Wall Mum, had me worried about the contents as particularly aggressive music is generally not one of my more preferred types. I had a while to dwell on this prior to listening, as tracking down a tape player proved more difficult than I had expected.

I was finally able to check out Side A on a tape machine at the university library, sat right next to the microfilm viewers. Things start off pretty tough with Kurtis Mantronix “Mad”, Cutty Ranks, Capleton and a particularly hard-edged cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bounty and Lady, but by the middle of this side things are about as far from aggressive as you could imagine. STN drops in some religious words from Harold Smith and clean soul from Clem Curtis and Lord Large. Such are the twists and turns on this side that in the second half there’s doom metal from Pentagram, as well as some psychadelia from GOD and Love. Yet despite the twists and turns, the side never feels disjointed. The mood changes from Mantronix through other bass driven music – Capleton, Yusk 2k, Barrington Spence – gradually getting older and more chilled out, until finally at Clem Curtis things turn around, and the jam at the end of “Stuck in a Wind Up” leads on to the guitar driven end of side A.

I drew an entirely un-musical, un-scientific graph of three of the elements I thought were prominent in the first side, swing, looseness and toughness:

As you can see, tuff-ness forms a nice “U” shape, with Clem Curtis marking the middle. The three elements combine in equal measure for track 5, Yush 2k’s “Fade Away”.

Side B’s title “Screamers and Howlers” is a little misleading. I was expecting a direct follow-on from the metal and rock from the end of “Stompers and Lurchers” but in fact the opener is “No Government” by Nicolette, a post trip hop piece. This is nicely followed by Shakleton’s “New Dawn” which makes me think once again of the sonic proximity of dubstep and trip-hop. The Eastern vibes of “New Dawn” are taken even further in Old and New Dreams' "Chairman Mau" and this is followed by possibly my favourite track of the tape “Sound of the Rain” by Death Chants. It features acoustic instruments, some wailing and morse code-esque electronic beeps, all combined in a intriguing fashion. After Death Chants, the tape runs through a near gamut of styles. Foot tappin’ blues from Sonny Terry, spiritual sounds in Lloyd Chalmer’s “Conversation with death” and Skinny Puppy screaming “I know where the monster is!”

It’s difficult to really do the tape justice in writing. Partly due to my lack of knowledge about many of the artists, partly because I’m crap at writing, but mostly because of the breadth it covers. There are individual tunes I’ll track down (Death Chants, Sonny Terry, Alan Vega), but mostly it’s the subtle cohesion and themes that make this mixtape work perfectly as a whole.

Side A – Stompers and Lerchers

Kurtis Mantronik – Mad (Bleeker Street Hip-Hop Forumla)
Cutty Ranks – Armed and Dangerous (Goldie’s Beef Bass Mix)
Capleton – God Mi Love
Bounty + Lady – Ain’t No Sunshine
Yush 2k – Fade Away
Barrington Spence – Go Deh Natty
Alton Ellis – Preacher
Harold Smith + His Majestic Choir – We Can All Walk a Little Bit Prouder
Clem Curtis + Lord Large – Stuck in a Wind Up
Gary Walker – No No No
Link Wray – Deusces Wild
GOD – Mo Pal
Pentagram – Nightmare Gown
Roky Erikson – The Creature With the Atom Brain
Love – Discharged

Side B – Screamers and Howlers

Nicolette – No Government (Plaid Mix)
Shackleton – New Dawn
Old New Dreams – Chairman Mao
Death Chants – Sound of the Rain
Sonny Terry – Lonesome Train
Lloyd Chalmers – A Conversation With Death
Skinny Puppy – Monster Radio Man
Alan Vega – Cry A Sea of Tears
23 Skidoo + Pharoah Sanders – Dawnin’
Resess – Study #1 for Symphony #1

(Review from Tox)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

IdleRich reviews Matt B

OK, well the other reviewers have done something more interesting than merely listing the songs and saying what they like about each but, in the absence of any clever ideas I’m going to do it the old fashioned and simple way. Got the cd through the door already knowing it was from Matt but not really sure what to expect except for a vague idea that he was a contributor to Woofer and therefore likely to be into reggae and other related music…. to my surprise however, after a spoken sample the tape kicks off with a couple of hard rocking tunes from Bitch Magnet and Fury. I really struggle with this kind of stuff I have to be honest and I don’t think either of these is going to be the one to reel me in. Of the two I much prefer the second, which is far more aggressive and raw with a desperate and on edge sounding vocal ramping up the excitement levels and competing with the pummelling drums to force its way into your head. It does what it wants to quickly and effectively making its predecessor seem bloated in comparison.
After these things take an immediate turn for the better; I’ve always enjoyed Captain Beefheart without feeling the need to track down all his stuff and the next track – Here I Am I Always Am – is new to me and also rather good. It’s catchy and filled with tempo changes and sticks in your head to the extent that I’ve often found myself humming it at random points of the day. The next track is an uncharacteristically (from what I’ve heard) hooky number from Albert Ayler – it’s quite similar to Beefheart but also somewhat odder with the way that bits unexpectedly drop out and the vocal is stuttered or just stops at one point. Love the all over the place drumming later on that sounds like some nutter whacking fuck out of some pots and pans…. but I think I’m noticing a pattern of sorts here now with tunes coming in pairs that are arguably similar. This continues with Patches by Clarence Carter and a disco tune from Barry White. I did some research here (did I cheat?) and apparently Patches was a big and “sentimental” hit for CC in the seventies but it’s new one to me. Well, it certainly is sentimental, it’s also fucking brilliant with a massive chorus and a great cheesy story of battles against poverty and adversity that has me almost in tears when I listen to it drunk and which I listen to many times when I’m drunk. I love this kind of stuff and this is great. Also enjoy the next one, a relatively restrained vocal performance from White over a slinky, multicoloured slice of disco. Not quite as good as its predecessor but a worthy follower I think.
OK, after the last pair we get a couple of more electronic things. The first – Cathart by Isan – sounds like it would fit easily on to a seventies electronic library (kind of reminded me of the Klaus Weiss one I put on the tape I made for Matt in fact, in feel and sound if not really in song structure) except rounded out to give you a full experience - instead of frustratingly finishing after 38 seconds and leaving you with the dawning realisation that the rest of the album is total bobbins which is the listening experience I associate with the average library track. It feels cold and sounds like a signal from outer space though probably not one to us, just something we might catch part of by accident as it passes through our galaxy and that we will never be able to understand. Yeah, I like it a lot.
Some of this feel is preserved for the next track - Shackleton remixed by Pole – except the sounds this is created from seem to be more earth bound, sonic detritus in fact, unwanted noises from machines that are designed for other purposes – which is a round about way of saying that the I’m pretty sure that the main instrument here is a photocopier fleshed out with a few more exotic bendy sounds as it nears the end. It’s got a kind of funky little groove to it with Pole’s trademark warm glitches on top, another very nice track.
And now some of the predicted reggae starts to show up beginning with LV feat Dandelion and a track called CCTV – an inspired follow up to the previous track as it keeps the same kind of low key groove going and uses a related sound palette, becoming more cinematic and slinky in feel as it continues until finally it’s replaced with another cinematic and ghostly (and wicked I should say) reggae tune from The Shanti-ites. Next more reggae and I don’t really need to say much about this track having already asked what it was on dissensus (it’s listed as “?” on the listing as it’s an uncredited b-side) and bought it – I will say that everyone who has been round my house when I’ve played it has asked what it was so it should be clear that it’s really good. Then some Lee Perry with a track that reminds me in a weird kind of way of Double Heart by Robert Rental, one of my all time favs – although it doesn’t really sound anything like it, must be something similar in the lyrics I suppose although it’s called Nuh Fe Run Down which doesn’t tie in too well either.
Then our selector obviously decided it was time for a change in pace, DJ Vadim feat Demolition Man with a hectic (or at least hectic compared to the last few tunes) slice of reggae hip-hop, good fun and with one really cool noise that keeps cropping up when you least expect it. The next track raises the energy levels higher still, K-Rock/Linda Lovelace “Brock Up, Mash Up” consists entirely of those lyrics in a brilliant/annoying high pitched voice over huge electronic bass and beats. It’s effervescent and another I find myself humming after just one listen. The next track I can’t quite read the title of but it could be Cancer Queen which would be good because it’s the name of a book I just read. Either way it’s made from a vocal loop and sirens and a wired bassline which crashes in every now and again for that added danceability factor, after a few listens it struck me what a funky track this is. Saying this is strikes me that one thing I ought to make clear in general about this tape is that I’d definitely like to hear a few of these tunes out – although probably not the next one, a reworking of the Penis Song from Monty Python over some breakbeat drumming with the odd bit of computerised stretching thrown in every now and again.
Two hip-hop tracks next – Murs first up and I’m not really feeling it that much I’m afraid. A powerful lyric is backed with a beat that’s not really interesting enough to engage you for the whole thing and the hodge-podge of samples doesn’t really grab me either. The next track from Mr Lif starts more interestingly but again doesn’t really keep that interest until the end.
Then Fairport Convention, a band I’ve never quite been able to make my mind up about. My friend played me some of their stuff that was nice but some of it is just plain annoying. This one – Angel Delight – is somewhere in the middle for my money. It certainly has an annoying edge to it but somehow survives that to make it a kind of marmite type pleasure. I need to listen to the lyrics more carefully to figure out even roughly what is going on in what appears to be a narrative but it seems to be something a little strange to say the least.
Then finally a track called Fucked Up, an appropriate ending to a great mix. An irreverent bit of exuberant punk swearing that sounds as though the band are enjoying it and you can’t be going too far wrong if you’ve got that coming through in your tunes. So overall, a really good mixture of styles with some killer selections (Isan, Clarence Carter, ? etc) and, inevitably, a few I wasn’t quite so keen on and which never takes itself too seriously – which is exactly what you’re hoping for when you sign up here, to find out about someone else’s tastes and what makes them click musically. I think I’ve had a good whistle-stop tour round part of Matt’s collection and I like it – sounds like it would be a good place to go and visit properly and spend more time in the bits I liked the best. Thanks a lot for this Matt and same to Dan for organising.