Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Current Listening Feb 2017: A Quick Rundown of What Hip Hop Is Floating My Boat Right Now

Album of the year thus far I reckon is the new Quelle Chris. Just an astonishing piece of work, his
best yet, start to finish utterly compelling.

Also floating my boat this set of reblends of classic beats from Real Live's massively underrated lost masterpiece of 90s rap 'The Turnaround' with freestyles of the era. Shouldn't work, does a fucking treat. You can also download it from here.

Don't give a fuck that rap-fans with skinny jeans who read Noisey probably don't dig Your Old Droog. His new EP 'What Happened To Fire' if fuckin' boss.

And yeah, I must admit, I find it very difficult to drag my sorry ass away from Chief Keef's 'Two Zero One Seven' right now and why would I want to. Yes some of the tracks are indistinguishable but did you ever hold that against Monster Magnet? Exactly. The flickering half-dead roachtwitching drive and dissipation of right now summated better than anyone. Smear yourselves with it until your skin bleeds pure barcode.

You KNOW I love Strange U. You should too. Album finally here and it's an absolute livid motherfucker.

Oh and very much digging this str8 fuego from Oh No & Tristate

Finally, haven't even got to the belly of this beast but if the singles were anything to go by this will be one of the year's highlights. See y'in March my darlings.


Current listening Feb 2017: GQOM.

14:18 Posted by neil kulkarni No comments
Never knowingly ahead of the curve. Yes, I'm slow. But this video peaked my interest.

which then led me to this which is just fucking wonderful and astonishing and utterly addictive. GQOM is Durban-based, SA bass music that makes you step right. Obsessed with these sounds right now. If anyone can tell me/feed me more, please do.

Thursday, 9 February 2017


10:00 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , No comments

 Melody Maker, 20 November 1997
UNDERGROUND/OVERGROUND, spectacle/black-out, in-yer-face/faceless, pop/music. Dance has to make its choices. Either it believes in its own unique power, rejecting stages, identification, authenticity and the audience/artist gap of reverence and tries to create a totally new kind of night out, or it can be just better rock'n'roll, filling stages with enough flash and bodies to kick shit off, still playing on the same ideas of spectacle and acceptance that rock thrives on.
The trouble tonight is that we fall between dance's radical potential and a trad need for "legitimacy"; on the one hand, music so heavenly it makes minds and bodies pop, on the other hand, a spectacle and set-up so dim and dull that hearts and souls wither. Torn between celebrating 12-inch culture and shoring up album culture, it sells both short.
Tonight, everyone's made to wait in a heaving Astoria til 11pm, then, a pause, a glance, and "is this them?" You have to applaud Daft Punk's successful stab at anonymity, but it's all very well being anonymous set behind a pair of decks in the middle of a dancefloor or perched above (as they were when I saw them tear up Glastonbury something fearsome this year), but when you're on a big stage, when people have stood for two hours looking stageward waiting for something spectacular, to simply slope on unannounced and start spinning out the hits isn't enough.

And it's a shame, because in terms of sheer ear buzz and booty quake they're phenomenal — harder, more concise and 
propulsive than the sometimes
 wayward LP "808 Revolution" 
sounds like just that, the 
four-to-the-floor thump speeding 
into pure electro-spark and hiss,
 the beats warping into levels of bitchy ruffness worthy of Mantronix at his finest.
A lot of Daft Punk's bite tonight is determinedly old-skool — 'Daftendirekt' and 'Burnin'
 come on as straight-down-the-line Bambaataa to this sourpuss, and 'Around The World' is the best diva-less disco ever. All night, Daft Punk have an uncanny knack of splicing the best chops together in a mixology that's never in service to correctness, but purely in the interests of the sheer, rubbery danceability of the groove. In many ways, they do to 20 years of dance music what Jon Spencer does to rock — purify, distil, amplify — and their retreat into the shadows is entirely in keeping with that history. But it's a con to perpetrate it in a venue made for visuals and, by the time an admittedly storming 'Da Funk' hurries us out, you catch the nothing lights, the empty screens, you catch yourself, and you have to wonder if this is £12 better than hearing it in a club, whether this crush and heat and fever are somehow improved by simply being in the same room as the people who make the sounds. If they're even here. If they aren't, it doesn't matter, and maybe Daft Punk count that as a victory. I call it a bank raid. Hands up.
© Neil Kulkarni, 1997

Wednesday, 1 February 2017


This was my dream. 

And it was so vivid it really happened. 

I hired a van. The expense was a concern but I needed the capacity. First the long drive north to Middlesborough. I knew he'd be at home, visiting relatives. Made sure my HeadBag was packed. Blindfolds and ballgags. Rope. Some starved, stroppy badgers. Maxi-pack of chloroform-seeped bogroll from Costco. Masking tape. As I eased onto the M1 I told myself again the story of how it was developed from the need for waterproof ammunition casings in WWII. I had to, I was bored, and it's a long schlep up to 'boro. Idly, after securing a mortgage for a bacon roll at Tibshelf, I had an argument with my other personality about whether Middlesborough was in North Yorkshire, County Durham or Teeside. 

Nothing got resolved. A plain-clothes officer pulled me off in the hardshoulder near Malton and issued stern words about punching myself while driving. No hilarity did ensue. I needed to focus. This was a serious business. By noon I was in Middlesborough. Found the address, knocked the door, strode in, found  him, chloroformed the cunt, explained why to his fam (who to be honest with you seemed grateful) bundled him into the back of the bus. James Arthur. One knocked off the list. 

He started gurgling just south of Leicester Forest East where I took out a payday loan for a Kinder Bueno. Releasing the hungry badgers kept him quiet and he huddled by the wheel arch, trembling for the remainder of our journey as my marauding mustelidae mob sniffed the air and bared their fangs, seeking moisture, sound and heat, sensing fear. I chuckled at the sounds of his bowel-evacuation as we took the exit for the A14 and plunged eastwards. The next prize was perhaps the most important. Framlington seemed to take an age to get to. I found the local pub buzzing with activity. Asking a local what was going on I was told to fuck off back to Afghanistan which I took as a sign to go into the lounge and try and blend in. With my pint of Cherry Bols in hand I surveyed the locals and they surveyed me. This continued for a few hourly silage-deliveries until suddenly the impasse was broken by the arrival of my next target. The locals got selfies. I waited until he needed a slash & followed him before chloroforming him as he pissed, letting his inert torso fall with a light forward slump and squelch into the urinal. Reaising I'd left the masking tape and ball-gags in the minibus, I improvised by forcing 3 compacted Bloo Toilet blocks between his purulent lips and pitched him out of the bog window before dragging him by the cock to my vehicle, his muffled squeaks of panic and terror sweetly mellifluous to my ears in a way his music has never been. Ed 'Cunting' Sheeran, number 2 on the list, safely bagged. 

I tied him and Arthur together, gave them an admittedly somewhat spiteful drink/bath from a bucket of my own piss and pushed down hard on the accelerator. I had to make it to London. The Brit awards were happening. And I had so much chloroform left. 

Pulled up outside the O2, told the valet to ignore any whimpering and keep the engine ticking over. Got my James Corden outfit on and my mission started moving on quick. Amazing how celebs are willing to talk to that grotesque bolus of ambulatory ordure but with my pally-mask on, and my air of desperation assumed, they started tumbling like dominos into my traps. I just kept grinning. It's my glands. 

Sam Smith? Invited down an alley with a fake bag of coke and then coshed with a barbell. 

Charlie Puth? Mollified with a shiny object, pulled aside into an alcove by the BPI stand, then accu-pressured into submission by the careful yet brutal application of mallets to his kneecaps. 

James Bay? He certainly couldn't 'hold back the river' of his own micturation once I'd zapped his balls with a cattleprod and gamboled him into the back of the van. 

Now they were five, which was plenty. Turning Talksport up to maximum, I drowned out the by now insufferable muffled snivelling and sniffling from behind me with the robust dipshittery of Andy Goldstein and Jason Cundy. It was near midnight by the time me and my captives pulled into my secret location. I pulled off their blindfolds and their darting eyes blinked against the harsh neon striplights of the cold concrete bunker. As they lolled around the cold floor, their legs twitching in pain from the pins and needles (mental note - next time prepare actual pins and needles), from behind my dais, for the first time, I spoke 

"Polluters of the soul. I bring thee thence. You have not evaded punishment for your crimes, your crimes against humanity in the name of humanity. 
You who have stole pop, and make pop speak for your wretched beige hearts. 
You who destroy possibility. You who have reduced music to an endless biscuit game, an endless nauseating exploration of your revoltingly mediocre innards, a soundtrack to nought but consumption and neediness. 

You who enact the same old games of cultural imperialism, making black music's cutting edge a dull blunted backscratcher, ripping off black innovation to feed white greed. You diluter of grace to make gruel. You MOBO-winning motherfuckers. You whose art is proudly akin to 'lifecoaching'. You earnest providers of a soundtrack to an endless consumerism. You wallpaper-excreting blanchers and repackagers of  black music's marginalisation. You 'grassroots' artists who keep industrial exploitation alive. You non-threateners of entitlement and stasis. You who have reduced music for a whole generation of young people to the ability to vlog an acoustic cover and BOTHER people with it.  You who bleat about the power of self-promotion while exploiting nepotism to its utmost. You venal visible totems of the great lie - the new meritocracy of pop. 

You who hate pop. You who have destroyed it. You keeping us in this endless 1985. 

You who call yourself 'musicians'. You marketeers. You sucklers at the diseased teats of Britschool-pop. You decadent dimwitted apolitical degenerators of the national life. You friends of royals. You craven wanksnaps. You reducers of the song to the personal, to the self-help-manual, to the e-mail from middle-management, to the 'holding on'. You conflaters of pity with compassion and metaphor with depth. You solipsists of self-regard. You con-men. You cunts. 

You who hate pop so much you are transforming the form of pop into infantile nursery-rhyme pasquinade  under the guise of being faithful, respectful, reverent to the lineage. You who insist that the human voice and the human lyric must always spiritually upwardly inflect, with the truly bile-scraping timidity and earnestness of the irredeemable dullard. You slimy seekers of our fondness. You 'nice guys' and 'legends'. 

You who will have us striating our wrists and necks with blunt sporks with your calamitous influence, your withering of future expectations, your spray-on world-weariness and the 'really meaningful' empty blaring shitcuntery of your music. You friends with Jools and Jo and all the curators of Sunday Supplement Pop. You lamentable live-lounge lingerers. You Sainsburys soundtrackers. You ad-men. You shitehawks. You propagators of 'crossover'.  You denigrators of true standards in the name of 'quality', you 'decent' writers of 'top' 'anthems' of such unmoreish plasticity and state-of-the-art rootsiness they're downright fucking emetic. 

You boring cuntlords. You dull pieces of shit. You robbers of hope. You destroyers of joy. You friends of Fearne Cotton. You supplicants of power. You Tory shitsuckers. You singer-songwriters. You endless travellers within the windy windswept lower-colon of your soul. 

You who soil our radios,  contaminate our shops, corrupt our young with your faecal whining. You who mistake vagueness for profundity, chattiness with wit, pointless detail for illumination. You who think of  nought but'likes' as you sew your cliches together, you who all good people wish could be done for shoplifting in Saudi, you rollers of dungballs from your own self-pity and poesy. You walking ball-aches. You of such very very punchable 'fragility'. You whose falsettos are designed to show you have a heart rather than the turd on a rope that truly swings within you. You with bruises near your elbow from so much playing of that machine you use to enable fascists. You who lyrically peer down from your promontory of smugness while feigning 'compassion'. You who will endlessly postpone the future. 

 I condemn you to this hell on earth and welcome you to your new home. Your final resting place."

All I see then is their eyes dilating in terror, and a concomitant  sense of immense imminent joy. And then I wake. 

I can't wait until I dream part II. 
Stocking up on Red Leicester to ensure it comes soon. Will keep you posted. 

(thankyou to my dear friend Sam Webb for the 'Thinning The Herd' title and idea)

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Ashamed to admit I was unaware that Ustad Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan passed on last week. Some of his records are among my favourite sitar albums and this cassette from 1989 features 13 typically exquisite tracks. Enjoy.

Tabla accompaniment is from Ustad Nizamuddin Khan. This tape is also hosted over at the fantastic http://oriental-traditional-music.blogspot.co.uk/ for which many thanks. RIP


Putting these here as a note to myself so I don't forget - a few new things and a couple that sneaked in at the tail-end of 2016 too late for my best-of-the-year lists. Currently these are the only things digging me out of the Miles Agharta/Pangaea/Dark Magus/Complete On The Corner Sessions Box I currently can't seem to stop scurrying down . . . . . 

(Witching Hour Productions)





(Below System)




(Run The Jewels, Inc.)

(High Focus)




. . . some of these I'll be writing about for money if I can find anyone daft enough to hire me. Until then DONATE at paypal moonbear69@live.co.uk cheers m'dears x

Wednesday, 7 December 2016


09:59 Posted by neil kulkarni , , 2 comments
Yup, inevitably I forgot loads in my first end of year list. Here's everything (I think) I forgot with wee quotes of what I wrote at the time of release.  Doubtless PT III will be here anon. Anything I've missed let me know. 

" wonderful, including a gratifyingly rugged cameo from Griselda Gang's mighty Westside Gunn that's almost worth the price of admission in itself. Great hip-hop is still being made in America. Don't let the media tell you otherwise." 

CAPPO ETHER (YNR Productions) 
"Though he's not a rapper who shouts about his talent, Cappo really has produced some of the finest rap music of the decade so far, so always glad to hear he's still making incredible tracks like this. 'Ether' has a truly startling production, a beat over which gorgeous sighing humming synth textures ebb and flow with real mystery and magic and suggestiveness, like a Kevin Shields production or a Boards Of Canada track. Cappo's flows are, as ever, utterly engrossing and the way the track fades with each fourth snare hit, accompanied by the sound of smashed glass, is just astonishing. Cappo doing what he does — don't let the 'customary' nature of his brilliance stop you listening. A national treasure."


"Didn't think they'd be able to pull it off but Inspektah Deck, 7L and Esoteric have done it again. The new Czarface LP, 'A Fistful Of Peril' is perhaps their best yet"


"What a year for High Focus. Too many classics of which Dabbla's was the latest to break but perhaps the most satisfying and enjoyable."

"It was the Chemo production-credit that made me explore this and I'm so glad I did. 'Yamata No Orochi' is a follow-up to 'Wu-Baby' and is a homage to DFH's primary influences, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah — great sharp rhymes and sublime production throughout. I'm gagging to hear the debut album not only cos if it sounds like this it'll be awesome but also because it's called 'SCUM — Supreme Cut Untouched Magnificence' and it may well prove useful in the apocalyptic shitfest that 2017 is surely going to be. Arm yourself."


"If you haven't heard Dumbfounded's 'We Might Die' set get online and download a copy as soon as you can — not only does the production find fresh life in trap-paced beats, it also injects real oozing vibrancy into its bass frequencies and snare-hits, an addictive soundworld that booms in headphones and in your car with equal suspension-worrying brilliance. 'Harambe' showcases not only Dumbfounded's on-point rhyme skills but also gives you a hint as to the dark, doomy, supra-aware world his verbals emerge from. A talent to watch in 2017."

 "Last time we checked in with Ed Scissorhands (2014's imperiously odd 'Theremin EP') he was getting weirder, detaching himself from conventional hip-hop instrumentals and stepping out into his own territory, carving out his own path. He continues to tread that uniquely wayward journey onwards on his startling new full-length LP for High Focus, 'Tell Them It's Winter', allied with Weegie beatmaker and like-mind Lamplighter. Over an arrestingly lo-fi backdrop of nylon-string guitar, gently unhinging radiophonic keyboards and brute-basic electro beats he intones lines of true poetic depth, lines about despair and inertia and nightmares and visions that are never afraid to silence themselves and just let the music build the mood. I'm so glad that in an increasingly identikit UK music scene, Ed is involved in making rap music — and you will be too. Listen." 

(Glorious Dead Recordings) 
'My semi-automatic will splatter a n**** like Jackson Pollock/LSD drops in my eyelids...' Predictably hearing a lot of comparisons to Wu-Tang and Gravediggaz regarding Flatbush Zombies' new opus '3001: A Laced Oddyssey'. Truth be told, what this recalls to me is the bleaker parts of the Pharcyde's best work — elegiac, mournful and yet possessed of a life and a terpsichorean urge that's irresistable, enough diverting characters and back-and-forth intrigue to keep you hitting that rewind button. The beats are hard, the loops spooky and spaced, the final effect devastating. Get the album. Superb."

"'Patterns Of Escapism' absolutely nails a recurrent subject for High Focus artists — the desire to escape reality and identity in a world getting increasingly harsh and difficult to survive in. Great stuff from a great artist on a great label."

"Giggs doesn't have "keeps the vibe both hot and ice-cold — lyrical slackness that makes you giggle as much as it makes you check your wing-mirrors paranoically. Get the album 'Landlord' on your Xmas lists now."

MANSION 38 (Soundcloud) 

"A Chemo production nuffsaid - ESSENTIAL"

 "Yes, THAT K-Def, of Real Live fame and with Damu Tha Fudgemonk on vocals you just know this is going to be a scintillatingly hot, massively rewindable, hugely-bumping stagger-n-stumble into summer. Love the way, just as he did back in RL days, K seems incapable of giving his beats anything but the heaviest thump, the snare and kick a dancer's delight of humming depth and neck-snapping treble, even as the loops are such a dreamy-lush delight.Someone get this guy working with rap's biggest names right now — he's lost none of his grace and power."

"While mainstream rap deoderises and cleanses itself ready for crossover in a permanently constricting hell of autotune and EDM-style 'state of the art' over-texturalisation, loving the fact that out on the edges hip-hop is getting even fucking noisier, darker, angrier and more fucked up (Charles Hamilton, Conway, Westside Gunn, Slayter) — as heard on this latest from ex-Visionarie LMNO. Dutty dutty dutty beats, a filthy bass-saw as thick as a whale omelette, freaky wibblery and loops sparking off in every periphery. Love it."

 "Bizarre. Conceptual. Esoteric. Compelling. Orange & Lif were never going to create just another set of jams and their new opus 'The Life & Death Of Scenery' is a cerebral masterpiece portraying a world in which art has been banned on threat of death: DJ QBert, Gonjasufi, Akrobatik and Insight are some of the guests which should give you a hint as to what an eclectic stew it is. Tantalising glimpse of a wild world of weirdness from these two. Get bit by it and then dig into the full-length. And can I just say — GOD BLESS MMG? Always bringing the intrigue."

  "...like Hunter S. at his blunted best..." — Morriarchi's 'Buggsville Sessions' is probably the greatest set the inestimable Blah Records have ever given us . . . .Sublimely effective production from Morri . . . absolutely nothing stopping this being huge, bar media silence and our own inaction. Make it as big as the pictures it draws in your head."


"I feel like fuckin' SISYPHUS", oh god, so great to hear Thes One and Double K back together under the PUTS moniker, dropping a new EP every now and then as part of series of six-track EPs they're calling 'The Getting Off Stage' (this track is from 'Step 2', the latest in the series). If you've heard PUTS before you know what to expect, jazzy, psychedelic beats and loops and razor-sharp back'n'forth between the two MCs — if you're not familiar with PUTS go get 'The Next Step' or 'Question In The Form Of An Answer' and work your way forward from there. LOVE the radiant rhodes and deep funk cuts going on on this track — somehow they always manage to balance their internal intrigue with a real sense of their Cali roots. We've ALL got some catching up to do here. Seek and be blessed again." 

"...had to pen them bars/got out the street life had to mend them scars/Praise God or Allah whoever sent us Nas".One of them there Euro/NYC hook-ups that occassionaly deliver embarassment, but sometimes straight-up gold as we have here — Phantasm you might remember from when, alongside partner UG, he made up the Cella Dwellas, one of Loud's impossibly impressive roster from the late '90s. 'Louder Than Ever' is the result of Phantasm hooking up with Germany's own SP1200 maestros 12 Finger Dan and B-Base (aka Soulbrotha). True school feel, dope scratch hook, sharp delivery, this is unforgivably unfuturist and therefore massively enjoyable as just a boombap blast. Tuck in. 


"'Line up your poo and get your shit straight...' — fucking hell man, when Problem Child get round to dropping their next album it's going to be utterly astonishing, and if 'Creeper' is on it consider it essential already. Twisted production, hysterical and massively incisive rhymes, you know the score. Absolute fucking dons." 

PUSHA T H.G.T.V (G.O.O.D/Def Jam)
"I find PT's voice remains one of the most compelling in hip-hop. The music here is as basic as it can get, a single bass note repeated from which the programmed snare and hi-hats seem to to flow with a truly awesome anti-groove that's so reminiscent of the kind of polyrhythms Miles used to fuck with in the early '70s. Thing is, cos it's so short, I've already played it a dozen times in the last half hour. Goddamn. Muhfukka's got me addicted like crack.For all those who really, really couldn't give a shit about the latest Cudi/Drake beef, pump this LOUD."

 "Oh my word — WHAT a stunning production. Remulak, Cappo & Lewis Parker recently released a stunning seven-inch called 'Karma/Maintain' on Village Live, and here the label deliver the next bomb-drop from this previously unheard but astoundingly accomplished-already producer. The loops and beats on 'Highlife' are just utterly sublime, gorgeous unfolding shadows of stealth and shade, thrumming cello and delicate percussion swooping with an orchestral beauty redolent of Vaughan Williams' folkiest work, a beat plucked from a gorgeous place somwhere between Canterbury and California. M9 comes more than correct as usual with Skriblah on the hook and the mighty Evil Ed lacing together a gorgeous re-rub on the flip. A slick full colour cover with free stickers shows that Village Life are clearly a label who CARE about every aspect of what they put out — from front to back and everything inbetween. Essential, and a label to definitely watch."

Great combo this. 'Meteorite' is the single from the album of the same name and it's just wonderful. Great full-fat loops and beats from Itachi and Juxx snarling with real aggression and bite. If it's any pointer to the long-player, it's going to be an essential.

SLAYTER DIRTY GAME EP (Cold Game/Home Team) 

"because fuck you, that's why."

 "I'm looking in the mirror like, Well, well, well — you're a handsome fucking devil and you're going to hell'". Like Black Josh, what raises Sleazy above the herd is his compelling stage presence and delivery. Where alot of the greatest UK rap this year, understandably given current events, sounds broken, hopeless, strung out, Sleazy still sounds close to fury, close to exploding outwards, close to the edge rather than already fallen over it. Essential music from an essential label for anyone wanting to hear the true sound of the UK in 2016 and onwards." 

"because it's funny and fierce and sharp and fuck Donald Trump obviously."

  "Raw, raucous, fuzzy, fucked-up hip-hop from the superb 'Save Yourself Kill Them All' EP. If you like that Action Bronson, Roc Marc thang then I consider you a traitor to this country if you don't support their UK equivalents! Get on it immediately."

 "Utterly unmissable release from The Purists' ever-reliable Daupe imprint (you haven't picked up the Westside Gunn reissues? Y'eejit! Geddem!). Sonnyjim, as any fule kno, has been spitting out flames from the UK's second city for some time now but here he brings together a selection of self-produced tracks that's just devestating — musically as fired by Ka and EL-P as Roc Marc, lyrically as scattershot yet lethally devestating as we've come to expect from Sonny. Fantastic cameos from Westside Gunn and the unimpeachable Quelle Chris seal one fucking beauty of a deal. Essential release of the month by miles. Do not pass summer until you've scored yourself a fix." 

 "A heads-up that alongside that astonishing Ocean Wisdom LP — another UK release that should absolutely be dominating your days right now — is the astonshing 'Delta Bravo Kilo' from Bristol's mighty Split Prophets, of which 'The Mo' is just one among an array of highlights. A totally in-house production throughout its score of tracks, the album is a refreshingly focused and incisive listen and 'The Mo' showcases exactly why — fantastic production and rhymes from all involved. Like Manchester's Levelz, Split Prophets aren't from London and so consequently won't have the mainstream press or radio paying them much attention, but anyone who wants to hear the true sound of the UK right now should be tuning in (and nary a fucking guest pop vocal or mind-numbingly dumb cameo in sight). Stupendously good."

Monday, 28 November 2016


Don't need to go into why 2016 was the shittiest year in living memory for the planet and its people. Here's my best of 2016 i.e the music that helped me through it, with my thoughts at the time of release.  If you have anything you think I need to know about before we call it a day on this year, please let me know in the comments. Doubtless there'll be part 2 along soon when I remember everything I've forgotten here. 

50FT WAVE BATH WHITE (StrangeAngels)

"The heat remains, the thump, the fuzz, the noise, the sharpness, the blast. What Bath White also gives is space, dazzle, a little more psyche, a little more shape, a little more glimmer. It's a total delight from front to back."


"I'm an old man, if guitar solos and dead-obvious riffs can be done with the kind of full-tilt gusto displayed on 'Belfry' give me more give me more."



"stoner-estate doom and despair, fractured fucked up sounds that mirror the slow unpeeling of one's own eyeballs, loops and beats that sit in this strange queasy place dead-centre between old-skool grit and nu-skool electronics."


"Loving Black Josh's 'Ape Tape' — just one in a welter of ace releases from Blah of late. Beats and loops that make Danny Brown sound like Drake and rhymes that cut like a scalpel to your skull.  Don't leave 2016 behind without it."


". . . them and you perhaps truly over on the other side of life, perhaps finally rewound/fast-forwarded into the freedom of total disappearance. Beautiful music for the doomed. That means all of you. Seek and get lost."

Thursday, 10 November 2016


Don't get me wrong, press releases, sleeve-notes, ad-copy, that's different, I seek copy approval in those instances. No, what I'm on about is something that occurred to me yesterday, something that's never occured to me before in nigh on 25 years of doing this. Something I'm alarmed to find is happening increasingly in the world of mag journalism, specifically music journalism. And I blame it almost entirely on 'creatives'. Beardy fuckers. 

Long story short - I pitched a feature on a label I've loved for a while to a mag I've written for for awhile. The editor, a long-term colleague and friend and all round ledge yayed it, and actually gave me more pages than I expected. Started compiling interviews with label boss and roster. This is where the oddyssey of bullshit started but you don't need to know all the details - suffice to say the finickity sense of maniacal control over me (coupled with his operational ineptitude) that the PR seemed to be demonstrating was already ringing alarm bells through the whole process. The artists also showed signs of that generational gap between my generation of writers and artists and the current self-regarding fuckers currently calling themselves 'creatives'- the old pros on the label were swift and sure, knew the process, played the game like pros. The rest moaned about the questions, only got me answers three days after deadline day and generally acted like the spoiled little bitches they clearly are. 

ANYHOO - before I disappear up that particular alley of anger (been very radgy this week tbh) the crowning turd in the whole shamoli was 3 days after deadline day when I got this e-mail. Remember, I fought for this feature. I pitched it and secured it. I've been positively and proactively writing about the artists on this label for nearly a decade cos I think they're ace. And liddrally a minute before I was gonna click on 'send' I get this e-mail. Not from my editor, or a section editor or anyone from the mag. From the fucking PR. I quote it verbatim and with its original spelling. 

"Can i PLEASE have a look at the final piece before you submit it. We definitely need approval. This is very importnat to us!"

I know. 
I know. 
I couldn't believe it either. 

Exclamation marks, the last refuge of the scoundrel. TBH, when I first saw that it was like someone shat on my soul. I was shocked. I felt violated. And fuck you if you think that's an overreaction. Almost immediately fired back the following. 

"Approval? Never ever in 20 odd years of writing had to send a feature for approval first.   By the way,  I am the writer of the article. I pitched it, got commissioned and now I'm delivering it. This is called 'journalism'. If you wanted an advertorial you should've paid for it.  Or perhaps you would've rather written it yourself?"

Was trembling with rage. Still am, recalling it. I'm sorry but the fucking ENTITLEMENT of this generation of 'creatives fucking STAGGERS me. Unsurprising when they've told themselves and are told by others of similar guilessness and gauch that they're special, superior to those drongs in 'non-creative' jobs (i.e people who have to survive without pater/mater's help).

E.G - check THIS out and see if it doesn't make you simultaneously want to vomit and kill. 

What's perhaps more disturbing is the utter obliviousness as to why seeking copy approval for a mag-feature might snag so much, is actually so totally offensive for any writer. For so many of these cunting new 'creatives' the idea of 'journalism' is indistinguishable from PR, synonymous with the regurgitation of press releases to the point where they can see no reason why final say-so of the copy shouldn't be down to them, just as it would be with entirely corporate work.

This wasn't someone overstretching their bounds, rather for this generation of 'creatives' the map has been redrawn - copy is something they feel they can dictate if they are involved in any way in the process. The idea of stepping off and back and then trusting the writer to do his/her thing is anathema to them. Writing has to, at some point, be a private non-collaborative act, and for magazine work it's between the writer and whatever ed has commissioned it. Modern creatives, and I'm including some new eds as well as PRs in this, simply don't understand this. The writer is a lackey to them, and consequently can be treated with nil respect, just ground like a barrel-monkey, puppet-stringed through the writing process. This is what happens after a whole decade-long generation of people involved in magazines have all been all too happy to talk about content-provision and s.e.o: with mercenary pusillanimity smearing and blurring the lines between ad-copy and editorial to the point where the writer's job, his or her task, is simply to be the workhorse behind cranking the words out, collating the PR guff and turning it into copy. 

 With such a degenerated role - which I entirely blame not on PRs or publishers but on the craven fucking cowardice in not standing up to these cunts of way too many magazine editorial staff in the past decade-odd - the writer should presumably just acquiesce, reduce their writing to something almost 'guided' by the PR, surrender any creativity and any actual pleasure in writing to the business of keywords, target-reach, marketing and managing 'the message'. I can't stress to you how depressed this tiny wee e-mail exchange (and of course, my e-mail was ignored/breezed over) left me. Cos if this is what writing means now, magazine writing - fuck it, I don't wanna fucking do it anymore.

That's what was so soul-sappingly depressing about this tiny little aperture through which I glimpsed the world of modern journalism. I realised that now, I'm dealing with a different type of PR, and a different kind of conception of what writing and press coverage is about. What simply didn't compute, doesn't compute with these people is the idea that a writer might actually care about what they create for money. That a writer might actually have their own things to say within their writing which might not entirely tally up with what's in the PR strategy. Because I still believe this, my communication with this new generation of media-people suffers from a definite gap in our thinking, our syntax, our meaning. For this particular guy I was dealing with a category error was going on in his thinking, and my thinking - it felt like I might as well have been talking Swahili . For him there was NO difference between writing a press release and writing a feature. For me, obliterating the difference between the two is equivalent to obliterating my identity as a writer. Yes I'm aware that I should just get with it. I'm aware that those getting ahead are precisely those people who can synonymise ad-copy and editorial. Too late for me now. Thank fuck.

Of course, what this largely rests on is a breakdown of trust - and for anyone who's worked in an institution that's dying you KNOW that breakdown of trust is one of the first signs and symptoms of deterioration. I think increasingly PRs don't trust writers anymore and they've learned not to, encouraged by editors and magazine staff who also don't trust writers anymore. Once that trust breaks down there's no rebuilding it. And so the media conducts its work in a constant air of suspicion and second-guessing. Everyone tries to interfere in the writing process. And at no point is the writer trusted to simply get on with their job. At all points the writer is prodded, pointed, guided, dictated to. And so what emerges from such a process is anaemic cowed writing. Don't get me wrong - there's a ton of great PRs out there who understand what a bad idea for their strategy asking for copy approval can be. But I think those kinds of PR are a dying breed. Partly also it's down to a movement I detect within PR and PR training in which writing skills have become less important than general management skills - consequently there's a farming out of writing to copywriters and hungry hacks. When those same hacks are used by papers and mags for writing editorial, PRs increasingly see no reason why their presence during that process shouldn't be exactly as over-seeing and intrusive as it is (and should be) for corporate work.

Us hacks are outnumbered massively now. There are way way more PR people than journalists in the UK and inevitably this poses dangers for journalism.  The growth of 'native ads' (shudder) and their commercial success is going to further blur the categories for this generation of PR and writers. For readers, used to clicking and digesting stories quickly, the checks for authority, veracity and motivation I try and teach my research students simply won't occur. Existential threats like native ads are not normally responded to well by journalists or print-media organisations. If those organisations recruit their management (as is increasingly happening in all management) from purely corporate non-journalistic backgrounds then why should we be surprised if within print journalism corporate etiquette changes in coming years in favour of cutting costs and purely acquiescing to PR? If editors increasingly see no reason why editorial staff shouldn't be primarily engaged in the worlds of marketing and advertising, lubricating the cashflow from corporate coffers to publishers by generating the correct content, to the detriment of less-lucrative actual opinion and investigation? Currently everyone seems to dictate 'content' apart from the fucking writers - the idea of 'reader-led' content itself seems keen to obliterate the notion that now and then as a writer there are things you WANT and NEED to tell the reader about, even if the reader hasn't previously expressed an interest in that subject. In truth readers NEED that, want occassionally to be told about things they don't know about and about things they haven't already expressed an interest in via clicks or social media interactions. The language of empowerment-of-readers masks a huge underestimation of readers, and a fundamental misunderstanding of what reading can feel like precisely because it's those intangibles, those affections and relationships we build as readers and writers that are unquantifiable and unamenable to statistic analysis.

The revelatory power of journalism will be extinguished if readers, or rather the algorhythmic agglomeration of reader-interaction (which is a totally diff. thing from an actual reader but is handy for ed's and publishers bereft of imagination), becomes the sole consideration of mags and papers. The youth of those involved, the shedding of old heads for new shills, also worries me because I remember being a young writer and being scared - wanting to get everything right, wanting to stay a writer. 24 hour news cycles means that press-releases, things that journalists used to disregard now go straight from e-mail into print saving time and money. Because it's assumed that the young are more 'in touch' with the digital world young writers with few contacts are learning that as a writer they have to suck up to PR, agree to things like copy-approval, skewing of stories, keeping questions easy. Again, don't get me wrong -  PRs should certainly be a source for journalists and some of my oldest and dearest friends in the music industry are PRs. Some of the most exciting writing I read is from young journalists. It's just that increasingly I feel the new generation of PR is all about bossing the journalistic process itself and is finding increasingly that young journalists, keen to keep what precarious toe-hold they have in such a nepotistic and incestuous industry, are more than keen to play ball. These are not 'transitional' times. They're tragic times. 

What startled me, in online discussion with editors and colleagues, was the stories I heard about demands for 'copy approval' becoming a fairly common occurence - not just from the big names and stars but the tiniest poxiest little labels and artists. Undoubtedly fear of stitch-up is a driver too, and the press can't exactly cover themselves with glory on that score. But the ASSUMPTION behind the e-mail I mention, the sickening feeling that THIS IS THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE NOW GRANDAD really shocked me to my core. With increasing amounts of journalism students seeing Marketing & PR as more viable career roles than the dwindling amount of remaining writing jobs we should be worried about how soon unfiltered corporate communication will entirely replace journalism altogether. 

For now - Hacks - if a PR seeks 'copy approval' grass them up to your editor like I did and then tell em to go fuck. We are NOT fucking finished yet. 
NB: At least the whole experience inspired me as to an easy starter for my next Print Media lesson in my proper job. Gonna sling up on the board 'Publisher', 'Editor', 'Advertiser', 'PR', 'Section Editor' and ask my group - who is your PRIMARY responsibility to when writing for magazines? 

I hope one of them gets the right answer which is of course not even on the board - the reader. The writer and the reader are the two most devalued people in current media thinking. But THAT is who any writer should care about first and foremost, the reader. Cos unlike all the other people in that list the writer and the reader BOTH WANT THE SAME THING. Friendship. The chance to say and hear things you won't say or hear anywhere else. The chance for intimacy, for sharing, for making someone laugh, think, feel. Friendship. Never ever ever fucking forget it.