Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Oi oi boy!

Here's an offcut of an interview I did with Skream for a fanzine to promote the application phase of the next Red Bull Music Academy (he gave a lecture at the last one). Might be of interest to Dummy's dubstep fans. A mix of Klaxon's Not Over Yet? That's got to be anthem-in-waiting...

Obviously you've got some big releases coming - what's next?
Skreamizm 3 ft. Losing Control, Chest Boxing, Make Me, Check It. I’m doing some remixes for Hot Chip and I'm doing a remix for their new label Greco Roman, it's a remix of David Sugar's Oi Oi London. And there’s a Klaxons remix coming of Not Over Yet.

When's your new label going to start? What can we expect from it?
Mongrel Music’s gonna start later in the year and the first release is pencilled in. I’m keeping it to my chest for the moment tho! Just expect some new artists and some fresh trax.

And what advice would you give anyone starting out in music?
Be original, work hard, try and listen to constructive criticism and try and take it in a positive way - which I'm not very good at!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Pale Fire' by Team Shadetek

Team Shadetek know their snares. On Reign, they borrow a reggae clang from Wiley; on Just Begun, they borrow a funk thunk from RZA; on Kalamata, they borrow an r'n'b click from the Neptunes. On every track, the snare slots in with all the precision of a space shuttle part, and it's just this attention to detail that often lets the duo surpass the producers they're supposed to be imitating.

While Burnerism, their 2004 EP on Warp, was an arduous experiment in glitches and distortion, Pale Fire is a dark engagement with grime, hip hop, and dancehall. With fifteen guests on sixteen tracks, it's a bit like an underground version of Timbaland's forthcoming Shock Value (except thankfully without, like, Deerhoof taking the place of Fall Out Boy). And although Matt and Zak come from New York and recorded a lot of Pale Fire in Berlin, they get grime. You may already have heard Brooklyn Anthem, on which dancehall MCs 77Klash and Jahdan yell about their borough over a hail of handclaps that recalls Dexplicit productions like Pow! and No!: as a transatlantic response to the London sound, it's almost as extraordinary as when Jay Z and Memphis Bleek got an actual string section to play Pow! at the Royal Albert Hall. Elsewhere, Shadetek bring in proper grime MCs like Skepta and Jammer. The latter's track, Separating, is great, mostly because of the total incongruity of the peppy vocal with Shadetek's funereal bleeps and flares of dubstep echo.

Other highlights include Make It - which is a surprisingly straightforward stab at some Kanye West/Just Blaze-style gold-tooth party hip hop, the squealing soul sample making a nice change from the arid synth textures of the rest of the LP – and Ka Rock, with rapper Rustee Juxx over an orchestral battalion that could soundtrack the trailer for Blade IX.

The only real problem with Pale Fire is that Shadetek are just too faithful to their source material. These guys know their old-skool jungle, they know their Aphex Twin, they know their Basic Channel, so why don't we hear any of that? They seem so eager to prove that they can be insiders in all their favourite genres that maybe they forget they can be more interesting as outsiders. Still, there's probably no one in grime or dancehall producing albums as consistently tough (but entertainingly varied) as this. In the words of KRS One, Brooklyn keeps on taking it - except that KRS could never have predicted that Brooklyn would take it quite like this.


8/10

Out now on Sound Ink.

iPod Battle, Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, London, 22.3.07


'I'm sure they are filming a second series of Nathan Barley,' I overheard as the UK's first iPod Battle commenced. And boy did it feel like it, as folk from Mystery Jets, M.I.A, Wowow, Radioclit, Fabric, Gucci Soundsystem, Vice and their entourages took to the stage of a working men's club armed with their iPods to do battle (which entailed them playing five songs each - the loudest cheer from the crowd for the best set sent the teams into the next round).

The idea was coined in Paris by rappers TTC, and they all hopped on the Eurostar to host this inaugural UK event. It seemed like it was all about having a big entourage as Shaun Roberts and Tim from the Filthy Dukes (wearing cardigans) were left facing a ten strong, garishly dressed Wowow team. It was as if James Stewart and Cary Grant were taking on the cast of Taboo. The Vice team featured People Are Germs and a rather coy looking Uffie - all dressed as red indians - and M.I.A also had a hefty ten strong crew which saw her through to the final taking on the French TTC team. Special mention must go to Ben Fat Trucker who appeared solo, but had some great iPod battling 'moves'. M.I.A's team proved victorious (if it had gone to the French there may have been a riot) ending another typical night out in Shoreditch. Oh, the music? It seems that R Kelly, Aha, Black Box, the Bugsy Malone soundtrack, cheesy euro-pop and jungle versions of Easy by the Commodores are what are considered prime weaponry. Me? If I had taken part I would have put my iPod in a sock and swung it around and taken everyone out. Especially the French.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stripped Bare

One thing that the dubstep massive never seem to be shut up about - justifiably, I suppose - is the friendliness and sincerity of their scene. But this weekend, dubstep has been in uproar over a shock business move by Ammunition Promotions (the Shoreditch company that run the holy trinity of record label Tempa, club night FWD, and pirate station Rinse FM). In 2005 an eighteen-year-old Londoner who calls himself Deapoh set up barefiles.com, a site where you could grab MP3s of dubstep and grime sets from Radio 1, Sub FM, and, in particular, Rinse FM. A gazillion downloads later, barefiles.com can take quite a bit of credit for dubstep's zooming worldwide profile, making pirate radio practical for the majority of dubstep listeners who are beyond the range of Rinse's transmitters and can't be bothered to wait for their dodgy streaming audio to work.

But Rinse are rumoured to have grand plans - they apparently want to sail away from pirate waters and get a proper licence, as Kiss FM once did. This may be why Deapoh got an email earlier this year telling him that he couldn't carry on hosting audio from Rinse FM, or any other sets by Rinse FM DJs, and if he did 'the governing copyright protection agencies' would get on his case. Since then, barefiles.com has redirected to Deapoh's record label Baredubs.

Ammunition haven't come forward to give us their side of the story, so it would be unfair to come to a verdict quite yet. But over on dubstepforum.com, they've been making three very persuasive points:

1. Ammunition got big because dubstep got big, and dubstep certainly wouldn't be quite so big if Deapoh hadn't put hours and hours of unpaid work into barefiles.com. This seems like a remarkably ungrateful way to treat someone who'd been promoting Rinse FM for free.

2. Rinse can't take the legal/moral high ground when they have to operate in total secrecy themselves to stop the DTI crushing them.

3. And if they really had to shut down barefiles.com, they should have waited until they could offer a decent alternative, rather than a few random podcasts.

Maybe everything will be resolved happily when Ammunition realise how unpopular they've just made themselves. Until then, expect more worries in the dance.

Update: Ammunition have responded, saying that they only made their decision because Deapoh wanted to start charging money for Rinse FM mixes off barefiles.com and give them only a percentage. Very hard now to say who, if anyone, is in the right.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Feeling the pinch

Pinch, aka Robert Ellis, is leading the charge of non-London producers taking dubstep in new, exciting directions. The man behind respected 10” label Tectonic and the chest-rattling Subloaded events – as well as cooking up a storm in both the studio and the DJ booth - gives some lowdown.

How did you get into dubstep?
I was playing jungle and drum'n'bass in local clubs and in Newport, where I grew up, but had got bored of the sound. Then towards the end of 2003 I went to (weekly London dubstep HQ) FWD>> and heard Kode 9 play – and it opened me up totally. I instantly fell in love with the music.

What made you get involved in terms of actually doing something?
I was DJing already so I didn’t learn from scratch. My night Context started in Jan 2004 and ran for a year, by which point I’d started Subloaded. I started making beats because there wasn’t enough records being put out to make a set that I wanted to play. Qawwali was one of the first tunes I wrote, in 2004. First one is a beat called Deserted Island which never came out. I got involved because I knew this was something special. It touched me.

Why do you think people get so obsessed and involved with dubstep? People seem to dive headlong into it once they first get converted…
When you first hear the music and connect with it, it’s a very deep feeling. As I say – it’s not for everyone – but if you feel it, you feel it deep because it’s not like anything else out there – even though it references the familiar.

How important is the soundsystem to your event?
With bass, the space you put the speakers is as important as the system itself. The shape of a space makes a huge impact on the sound and the pressure. I’d still say the bass was more fierce at Subloaded II than I’ve heard elsewhere, ever. But the council fitted limiters in that club after that one and it never sounded quite the same, which is why I’ve moved it to a new venue.

You’ve got a very different style to most other dubstep DJs. It’s more like the way a techno DJ might play. What do you do differently?
Just what I want to without boring the crowd too much! I like a deep session but I also play to the moment – sometimes minimal/deep is right – other times it’s better to belt out some big riddims cos it’s that time.

You’re DJing with techno don Ricardo Villalobos on Mary-Anne Hobb’s Radio One show…
I’m just repping a ‘techno-referenced’ edge of dubstep for the show, showing some Bristol sounds.

I played one of the releases on your Tectonic label, Loefah’s System to my friend and it made a picture fall off the wall. Have you had similar experiences?
I played Skream’s Bahl Fwd in Berlin once and it made everything jump off the table – including someones laptop and the mixer itself.

There's a global scene too – how important is it to dubstep?
This music is global because it makes sense to people beyond their immediate cultural surroundings. That is very important for the music to grow and touching to see. It’s gone global so quickly because of the power of the internet – resources such as Rinse FM online and Barefiles.com have given people access to the sound, undiluted.

MP3 - Roll Deep

From their forthcoming second LP Rules and Regulations, here's some real grime from Roll Deep. 'Youths go missing in the system, get banged up like Sonny Liston...'

MP3: Roll Deep - Badman

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dummy Magazine Spring Issue Out Now



The latest issue of the mag is out now with cover stars Bloc Party photographed by Turner Prize winner Wolfgang Tillmans, Andy Perry on The Horrors, the world according to Good Shoes, on tour with Klaxons, in depth with DMZ plus Gallows, Kate Nash, Simian Mobile Disco and more...it's the best issue yet - of course!

You can buy your copy here
for £3.50 and postage is free or you can get it from any Borders store or local indie record shop or newsagent

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Obsession continues...

Last Saturday's DMZ is still sinking in. I don't think I've ever been anywhere so mentally energetic and hardcore positive – and I've spent a lot of time in nightclubs over the years. Seems like every time the scene reaches a tipping point it just gets bigger and better. The music's getting crazier, too - who knows about Skream's 2D or Matty G's 50,000 Watts or D1's Mind & Body? One's a modernist Aphex tune, the other's like Marly Marl after 48 hours at DMZ and the last is just a hyperkinetic bit of wicked garage soul. That's some serious different styles. And I'm not even going to mention the new Rusko tune with Ray Winston shouting FACK every other bar.

Rinse are streaming 70,000 listeners right now. Who's betting it's 100,000 within three months? Me, that's who.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hold tight Kool FM

Dug up on dubstepforum.com, here's a good 1996 documentary about London pirate radio. Part one below, part two here and part three here. I love it that the guy complaining about damage to rooftops is called George Grime.

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Foley Room' by Amon Tobin

So you're in DJ Shadow's house in Mill Valley, California, waiting to interview him. Looking over his bookcases to pass the time, you reach for a dusty leather-bound copy of David Axelrod's diaries – but wait: it's not a real book - it's some kind of lever! The bookcase rotates, and you're tumbled into a huge, gloomy underground cave. You can make out pianos, guitars, drum kits, a decrepit church organ, and, hanging from their feet like bats, a Mississipi gospel choir. Before Shadow creeps up and knocks you on the back of the head, you realise it's all been a lie: Entroducing, the 'first ever album built entirely from samples' was nothing of the kind.

Back in the nineties, that would have been a scandal. These days, not really. Is anyone in the world still making music with nothing but two turntables, an MPC, a collection of obscure soul records, and a fetish for vinyl crackle? RJD2, DJ Shadow himself, and practically everyone on Ninja Tune have moved on to making music like 'real' band, often with disastrous results. But the reason Foley Room succeeds is that, rather than, say, switching to mincing indie pop like RJD2, Amon Tobin has thankfully done his best to disguise the change in methods. This album has all the same epic ingredients as 2002's Out From Out Where: cascading cymbals, post-jungle bass, tropical squelches, and spaghetti-Western guitar and strings. Without reading the press release, you'd probably never realise that Tobin has been recording everything from chickpeas to tigers to the Kronos Quartet; and unlike Matthew Herbert or Hecate or Matmos, he neither draws attention to his trickery nor gives it any political pretext (which is probably a good thing, since Matmos already decisively triumphed in the 'clever-dick samples' contest by building an entire LP from the sound of a rat running around in a cage). For some, Tobin's familiar palette will read like a fatal limitation, but it also means that he still doesn't sound like anyone else.

Questions of technique aside, Foley Room is some of Tobin's strongest work. Without either pop touches or dancefloor potential, stuff like this lives or dies on building a mood: and while, for most Ninja Tune artists, that mood is 'sucking beatifically on a hookah', for Tobin it's more 'midnight car chase through post-war Vienna', which he does very well indeed. On The Killer's Vanilla, an organ out of Rick Ross' Hustlin' ducks to avoid a strafe of snare-drums, then calls in the horns for back-up. On Keep Your Distance, paranoid surf guitar and cosmic synth sweeps mingle unexpectedly into a moment of remarkable grandeur. Esthers, meanwhile, goes back to the drum'n'bass rhythms that preoccupied Tobin's classic debut Bricolage. Throughout, you're free to put your ear to the speaker and listen for ants chomping grass, or you're free just to close your eyes and pretend you're in a film. Stay alert, though: if you buy Foley Room, you won't have to be in Amon Tobin's basement for him to sneak up and knock you out.

8/10

Out now on Ninja Tune.

MP3 - Maps

Today's free, legal and exclusive MP3 downloads come from excellent Northampton indie-glitch-popper Maps, recently signed to Mute. You've heard of sonic cathedrals but this is more of a cosy sonic bedsit. No word yet on whether he's named after the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song.


MP3: Maps - Don't Fear
MP3: Maps - To The Sky

Sunday, March 11, 2007

DMZ, Mass, London, 10.3.2007

A year ago DMZ got so busy that they had to stop the party half way through Joe Nice's set and move everyone upstairs to the main room. At their second birthday last night, a similar tipping point was achieved; the world's favourite dubstep club was sold out by ten o'clock and they had to open the downstairs 3rd Base – where the club started – to cope with the overflow. Now that's what I call massive. The international crew also thought so too: over sixty people travelled from America and mainland Europe for it - and to hear the biggest international dubstep tune so far, Matty G's 50,000 Watts, get wheeled four times.

Big things!

Ned adds: I didn't notice more than a dozen indie kids on Saturday, even after last week's rather belated dubstep primer in the NME raised fears of an invasion of four-dimensional fringes and fluorescent green waistcoats. A good thing too: as Emma says, the place was sold out long before most people would even think to leave the pub. Opening up 3rd Base gave the promoters an excuse to let in a few more people, but since everyone crowded in to the big room anyway for Digital Mystikz (and DMZ seems to attract a lot of mountain men) the result was a fatal lack of skanking space. Luckily there were no such problems during the earlier set by Pinch and Distance, the highlight of the evening, with Pinch's tributes to minimal techno flawlessly balancing Distance's tributes to metal. By the way, I'm delighted to report that ponderous half-step, which I've been moaning about for ages, has been mostly banished in favour of gut-shot kick drums all over the place - although I'm starting to tire of those little gulpy percussion sounds which sound like someone slapping a water pipe with a metal ruler and which seem to turn up in every single Mystikz track.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

MP3 - Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

Today's free, legal download is a track from Tongues, the forthcoming third LP of twirling, bleepy psychedelia to issue from the ongoing collaboration between Four Tet and the legendary jazz drummer.

MP3: Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid - The Sun Never Sets

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Explosions in the Sky, Koko, London, 1.3.07

When I first saw Explosions in the Sky in 2003, the crowd begged for an encore, and guitarist Munaf Ruyani had to come back out on stage and apologetically explain that they didn't have anything else to play. Exactly the same thing happened on Thursday night at Koko. This confirmed two of my suspicions about Explosions in the Sky: that they plan and rehearse their gigs with the precision of a string quartet – there wasn't a note's difference, so far as I could tell, from the album versions of these songs, and it almost felt wrong to clap between 'movements' – and that they're aware of the danger of diminishing returns. You might feel ripped off when a headlining band with five albums on which to draw only play for an hour, but the the fact is the quiet; quiet; quiet... LOUD trick, like fireworks, will only thrill a certain number of times before it gets boring, and it's to Explosions in the Sky's credit that they both admit this and overcome it. Unlike Mogwai, they never quite make you feel like a flaming 747 is about to crash directly into your head, but there's still something transcendent about their crescendoes. They're sparing with the distortion, and most of the time their guitars are achingly high and clear, which means that even when they can't go any louder, they can still go fiercer, because you can actually make out their chord-changes.

I'll be honest: I was expecting a crowd composed entirely of sullen 28-year-old males wearing black ATP T-shirts. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...) But actually the audience was mostly pretty young and there were a lot of girls; familiar opening chords from breakthrough album The Earth Is Not A Cold Place got whoops and shouts of 'Brrrap!' Explosions in the Sky have snared an indie audience, which is impressive given that they're basically as anonymous as techno producers – but, on the other hand, with at least one recent high-profile British indie album totally wrecked by its lyrics, maybe people like a band who aren't afraid to shut up. You might say that Explosions in the Sky are just trying to be heroic in an age of fatuity.

Despite the band's meticulous methods, the best moment was unplanned. A bloke managed to get up on stage during the last song, and as the security guards were tackling him off, they accidentally pulled out Michael James' guitar lead. Frantic roadies couldn't fix it, and it looked like the gig's climax was going to be botched. But at the very last moment, there was a crackle of distortion as James plugged himself back in, lifted his guitar over his head, swiped out his first howling chord, and punched the air. It was like when James Bond defuses a bomb with the timer at 0:01, except much better, and the crowd were ecstatic. I'd like to say that this proves that Explosions in the Sky should embrace the chaos of rock'n'roll, but really we don't need any more bands that rely on 'the chaos of rock'n'roll' instead of actual commitment. Still, everyone loved it when they tried out some serious eighties metal poses in the gig's closing moments: why is there no equivalent of the devil-horns gesture for post-rock?


[Read our review of All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone here.]

Dummy Blog Album of the Week: 'Neon Bible' by The Arcade Fire

Unexpected distributions of radiance: that's what you expect from titles like Black Mirror and Neon Bible, and that's what you get on The Arcade Fire's second album. A xylophone outshines a church organ, a cracked syllable in a verse outshines a whole chorus. (And, incidentally, this album outshines the last twelve months of British indie put together.) There is no Power Out here: the electricity is always, always on. The Arcade Fire, in other words, have no sense of proportion, and God bless them for it. So far all the reviews have been proclaiming that Neon Bible is a vision of the apocalypse; and yes, I suppose it is, except that this is a band who have always worn doom-tinted spectacles - for whom, everything, from a light snowfall up, is a vision of the apocalypse. If the next Corrine Bailey Rae LP is a vision of the apocalypse, then that's notable, but not so much for a band who get through more apocalypses daily than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Sorry, that reference is a bit 1998, but I can't really bring myself to compare this band to Heroes.)

And this time it's not just horns that are bringing down the Walls of Jericho, but also harps, flutes, strings, a hurdy-gurdy, etc etc. But this isn't the same kind of precision pop orchestration that you get from, say, Sufjan Stevens – every band member seems to be trying to drown out his or her neighbour. And Neon Bible does sometimes slop over into a bit of a soup; the album is really at its best when there are only, like, seven instruments playing instead of, like, nineteen.

The gloomy swell of Windowsill and the danceable joy of No Cars Go are as good as anything on Funeral. But, despite Régine Chassagne's backing vocals sounding more alarmed than ever, Neon Bible never achieves quite the same consistency of tear-stained teenage passion which made its predecessor one of the best albums of 2004. The weaker tracks here, like My Body Is A Cage and Ocean of Noise, have wonderful moments – sometimes involving the whole band shouting something, and sometimes just in the details – but, droning on, they just lack those emotional hairpin turns that make other songs so strikingly unpredictable. I think this band can really do whatever they want: it's just their ambition that sometimes fails them. Lead singer Win Butler said in an interview that on Antichrist Television Blues, for example, he wanted to do a very conventional Springsteen-style rock song. And he did, and consequently, yeah, it's a bit boring. So skip tracks like that and wait for the moments when The Arcade Fire pull out all the stops, both figuratively and literally: they will amaze you.

8/10

Out on Monday on Sonovox.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Best things in life ain't free

Get your fingers on the dial - right now. Why? Cuz Bestival tickets go on sale this Friday. Tickets for everything else have been selling out in, oooh, seconds, so if you want to spend the last (and best) weekend of the summer having enjoyable chaos on Britain's favourite 1950s outpost, The Isle Of Wight, you'll have to be quick. Is it just me, or has the western world gone music mad?

There's no need to be afraid of the fancy dress part, either. It all makes sense once you're there.

www.bestival.net / 08700 667753