Monday, 23 March 2015

A MASSIVE MUSICAL DUMP

My mixcloud page has gone just a bit fucking nuts. Have put ALL my long-used but still-ace 'Spare Hours' mixes up, also all sorts of other bootlegs and gubbins and good stuff - crucially I'm clearing the decks a little before I start recording my own proper weekly podcast coming soon. So if you're stuck for something to listen to at the moment you're lying aren't you. 


Stay tuned to here, and there, for more annoyance and irritation soon. Thanks for listening.

Friday, 20 March 2015

THE F.U.N.K SINGLES PAGE : SPRING 2015 EDITION

The superb Primitive Man 
AXEL F 
SCREECHIN WHITE WALLS
(BangYaHead Entertainment)
Nothing to do with Harold Faltemeyer, Axel F is the nom-de-plume of J. Rocc of Beat Junkies & MED aka Medaphoar. Their soon-dropping 'Theme Music' album is phenomenal and probably won't get picked up by any cognoscenti until 2018ish. Get in early on this astonishing track — nowt but a wobbly, disturbing slab of bass slammed down over progressively more tense and turbid beats. Guilty Simpson's verse only adds to the dread and chaos. If you say you were into this now you're gonna be the hippest motherfucker on the block come next year. Get in and get in early.

JOEY BADA$$
BIG DUSTY 
(Cinematic Music Group)
I know I know, this has been rotating awhile round your way, but after recent disappointments (that frickin' single with Kiesza + the album 'B.4.DA$$' aint so great) still sublime to hear Joey rip it on a track that suits his voice, that matches it for grain, oddity and barely-held-in paranoia/hysteria. Smart of Kirk Knight of Pro Era to slather the stereoscape with his vocal during the chorus, the little bits of echoey wibble he seems to coat every single loop with contrasts beautifully with the sharp heaviosity of the beat here. Great jazzy vibed-up outro too. Superb.

BADBADNOTGOOD & GHOSTFACE KILLAH feat DOOM
RAY GUN 
(Lex)

Always worry when live bands and hip-hop meet — for me always in danger of slipping into noodling jazz-funk territory and surrendering of the essentially mechanical, inhuman and futurist elements of hip-hop production that have always most excited me. Hats off to BADBADNOTGOOD for managing in a live sense to actually replicate a dementedly clipped kind of nu-school production, a meandering slice of jazz-funk played as if it's a loop, strings and colour building the intrigue until 'Ray Gun' reaches the kind of lush and lurid heights and depths of a primo Lalo Schifrin production. Ghostface and Doom on point but wish I could hear more of them — the aptly-titled album 'Sour Soul' is on the shopping list for shitsure.

BIG SHUG Ft. TERMANOLOGY & SINGAPORE KANE 
OFF RIP 
(Brick Records) 
Can't stop listening to that Phryme album partly because Premo seems so liberated by finally collaborating more on the musical side of things, contributing only as part of a team — here he's back on his own producing but does seem to have been affected by his experiences with Adrian Younge, the strings here descending like black clouds, the orchestration as sublime as an Axelrod or Barry. Massachusetts heavy hitting veterans Big Shug and Terma (and new Bostonia spitter SK) add to the growing sense of apocalyptic doom and menace — this is determinedly grainy, rainy, East Coast hardcore hip-hop that bodes enormously well for Shug's soon-come newest opus 'Triple OGzus'. Superb last blast of winter.

BURGUNDY BLOOD 
PHIL COFFINS
(Fresh Herring Records)
Manc MC Burgundy Blood's debut album 'Suede Comet' has been leaking tracks for a while now and this is the latest joint — typically dusted insanity ("I'm like Orpheus/pop a tampax in every orifice") and production part Bollywood, part Pete Rock. The album also features cameos from Kool Keith, Sadat X, Meyhem Lauren, X-Ray, Konny Kon & Chalk. Check this and you'll want to check IT. Make sure you do both.

CANNIBAL OX ft. MF DOOM 
IRON ROSE 
(IGC Records) 
Cannibal Ox have been elliptically travelling the solar system a while now, but their 14-year orbit is nearing its next pass of earth — 'Iron Rose' is the first probe they're dropping before the release of their newest opus 'Blade of the Ronin' and it's... nuts. As you'd expect. Antarctic-cold, as jagged and rugged as a meteor-belt, Doom side-eyeing Vast Aire and Vordul Mega to the point where you can't tell if he's a willing participant or a terrified hostage. No-one else sounded anything like them. No one else sounds anything like them now either. Superb and a cold fuzzy to all psychonauts who remember. They're back.

CHERYL 
ONLY HUMAN 
(Polydor) 

Sorry Chezza but I can partly trace my parentage back to the mole-volk of Enceladus actually. Don't beat me up in a nightclub toilet please y'racist bitch.

CHLORINE 
DEMO 2014
(Bandcamp) 
Nasty, brutish, short 5 tracker from Toronto. Reminds me of Kepone and Jesus Lizard. Not a single song over 90 seconds long. Grab it before it self-destructs.

DJ CONNECT 
THE JAZZ JOINT
(Creative Juices Music)
Oh man, when your ears are as old as mine the incessant diet of deodorised-noise and digi-cleanliness so much modern hip-hop production gives you can grow exhausting — see this as a nice deep bath to get properly cleansed in, Maylay Sparks and Jeru the Damaja adding a few neat verses to DJC's jazzy loops and post-hardbop abstraction. These cats can really swing.

CONSTANT DEVIANTS 
BREATHIN' 
(Six2Six Records) 
Loose, langourous, jazzy track from CD's just-dropped 'Avant Garde' set. Could be from any point in the last 30 years but no less on-point for it: good to hear razor-sharp clarity in the beats, loops and rhymes here as opposed to the overly-impressive racket so many crews shoot out there. Tasty.

Sick twists Cult Mountain

SINGLE OF THE SEASON 
CULT MOUNTAIN 
CULT MOUNTAIN EP
(Bandcamp) 

"Tomorrow's looking shit and it's Tuesday" — OMFGodfathers, what a twisted collection of talent has come together here. Milkavelli, Lee Scott, the mighty Trellion and Sumgii (producer behind the equally mind-bending Piff Gang and Problem Child) knock six tracks together, available as limited-edition cassette and also download and vinyl.  Groggy, wasted, drugged to the eyeballs, trippy-as-fuck production populated by nowt but Theremin and slo-mo dub dementia, truly diseased rhyming particularly from Trellion, a general feel of deranged untrammelled nastiness and 24/7 fucked-upness that's addictive and compelling. If you don't understand how to listen to massively offensive music and read it like an adult then please disregard. If I was editor of the NME I'd have these sick bastards on the cover like fucking YESTERDAY. The true sound of the estates. Search for Cult Mountain on Bandcamp and gorge yourself soon as. Single of the year thus far.

DEFENDERS OF STYLE Ft. SPLIT PROPHETS 
FERME LA BOUCHE/SMASH & GRAB 
(Bandcamp) 
Dubby, spacey stuff from the ever-essential Defenders and Prophets, 'Ferme La Bouche' is perfect for this cold weather, so damn spectral and suggestive it feel covered in stalactites, sharp rhymes from everyone concerned and a unique vibe I'm not hearing anywhere else. On the flip 'Smash & Grab' is a little more conventional, but even here you find glimmers of oddity, a strange keyboard creeping into the chorus, rap music absolutely possessed and infected by its own unique northern sense of place and space. Go get.

PETER DOCHERTY
FLAGS OF THE OLD REGIME
(Walk Tall Records) 

I remember him playing Cov and out of sheer desperation interrupting the gradually deteriorating chaos with a chorus of 'In Our Coventry Homes'. Fuck off Pete, sorry PeteRRRRRRRRRR. You're from Beduff! You don't speak with an accent exceedingly rare and if I wanted a cathedral you WOULDN'T have one to spare.  ANYHOO - here's his comeback single in which the overrated yet cleaned-up turnip sings a heartfelt song about Amy Winehouse/himself. Best thing he's ever done by miles. A fucking shit-awful dirge.

ERIC PRYDZ Vs CHVRCHES 
TETHER 
(VIRGIN EMI) 

Love what Prydz has done to yet another typically tedious Chvrches track here. Ripped out the verses pretty much entirely and taken them down the tip (hope he's correctly put it in the non-recyclable hatch so there's no danger of them reappearing ever again) pulled out the chorus hook and slapped it atop his usual euphoric, exquisitely appointed widescreen bounce. A brutal act of butchery that has salvaged gold from gruel. A properly irreverent, brutally efficient rerub.

SINGLE OF THE SEASON
FAITH NO MORE 
SUPERHERO
(Reclamation/Ipecac) 

Now THIS is how you do a comeback. Still sounding as fresh as when they first got pinched off, set on fire and left on our doorstep FNM channel the best bits of 'Album Of The Year' and 'Angel Dust' into this five-minute pocket rocket. Love the drama, the desert-psyche bridge, Patton's growl recalling Chris Cornell back when he wasn't an international embarassment, Billy's keys as ever vital in tearing FNM away from the potentially macho expanses of chest-beating rock and to their unique place between grand-guignol, cabaret and pulverising pop metal. Superb to have them back and seemingly at their best. Can't wait for 'Sol Invictus'.


FONO 
REAL JOY 

(Relentless) 
Dig the big fat brassy synths this starts off with, wish 'Real Joy' could stay a little dry, close, intense rather than losing itself a bit in the big space opened up once the kick comes in but it's still a wickedly punchy thumping track good enough to make it into Zinc's sets so most definitely good enough for me.


FUSE ODG FT. KILLBEATZ
THINKING ABOUT U
(3Beat Productions)
Look, Fuse ffs - if you're gonna push a crossover-crockashit like this out there crucial thing is you do it with conviction.  'Thinking About U' sounds like something you've been frogmarched into, a forced euro-friendly over-autotuned nursery-rhyme vocal so shameless in its aim for radio-friendliness and enforced catchiness (that's how so much pop works now, not by being catchy by dint of personality or idiosyncracy but by closely cleaving to the most anodyne jingle-type infantile constricts it can, so it sticks like velcro shit) you almost sound ashamed singing it. You certainly sound non-committed, like you clocked on, sang this with one eye on your phone, and then clocked off and went home. Lazyness abounds. Lazyness everywhere.

Haim & their biggest fan
CALVIN HARRIS FT. HAIM 
PRAY TO GOD 
(Sony) 
Fucking HELL. See? Guess how long it takes before you can hear that chugga chugga 'Edge Of Seventeen' guitar in this? Gwan guess. Five seconds? Nope. Ten seconds? Nope. 2 Seconds, nope.

ONE FRICKIN SECOND. That's all it takes. And almost immediately you know every single thing you're in store for on the ensuing 230 seconds of time-wastage on offer here. Are the vocals double-tracked? OF COURSE THEY ARE. Is the verse an entirely forgettable run of cliched melody and lyrics only in place to build towards the sea-of-hands anthemic chorus? YR DARN TOOTIN. Is there a moment when it breaks down to an overly busy 20-odd tracks of backing vocals in a straining, pathetically inadequate homage to Stevie's finest moments of studio-bound sorcery? Oh yes. Sound that tastes glossy, that coats the mouth with a thoroughly un-moreish plasticity because nowhere within this music is a single unique or original idea. I LOVE dated music but I hate being told I should be impressed with this kind of utterly emotionless assemblage. Well done everyone, you sure do have expensive studio facilities. Well done.

HIGHER SELF FT. LAUREN MASON 
GHOSTS 
(Parlophone)

Nice memories of Crystal Waters 'Gypsy Woman' sparked by Lauren Mason's vocal here on this otherwise fairly pedestrian house tune - thankfully HS know they're onto something and foreground her as much as possible, keeping the rest minimal, repetetive, undistracting. I would turn this up in the car. That's the only objective criteria I have left anymore to be honest.

BEN HOWARD 
RIVERS IN YOUR MOUTH 
(Island)
HUDSON TAYLOR 
WORLD WITHOUT YOU
(Polydor) 
LUKE FRIEND
HOLE IN MY HEART
(Simco)
In one of the greatest children's books ever, 'Charlie & The Great Glass Elevator' (far more worthy of cinematic treatment than its more famous prequel just don't let that Tory fecker Tim Burton near it please) Willy Wonka gives the bed-bound grandparents a shot of Wonka-vite to get them up and at 'em upon the families safe return from space and the battle with the Vermicious Knids. The inevitable overdose necessitates a trip to minus-land to retrieve Grandma Georgina who has gone beyond babyhood and backwards beyond her birth into a strange netherworld. In minus-land Willy Wonka hits Georgina with a puff of Vita-wonk which has the unfortunate affect of making her 358 years old. Vita-wonk is what modern British male singers are injecting into their voiceboxes (or spraying with newly available atomizers) on a daily basis. Like steroids, Vita-wonk's consequences for cock-size are all too counter-intuitive and imaginable but more importantly for those of us who would like to listen to daytime radio without wanting to striate our wrists and neck with a blunt spork it's having a truly calamitous effect on young male voices, and future expectations/limitations of young male voices. Why do these young men with guitars want to sound so fucking old? Like the beards or dreads these witless bores always sport, it's a false and easy earning of gravitas, an affected spray-on sense of world-weariness that can't mask the utterly empty blaring shitcuntery of their music. Luke Friend is merely the latest casualty of this current vogue for men whose balls haven't dropped sounding as if they have leathery auld knackersacks that they trip over when running for a bus but he won't be the last. Utterly grisly music.

INJA 
SPEAKER ATTACK
(Audio Danger Records)
On the quiet, AD are sending some great stuff outta Cambridge (check out the superb 'Moose Funk Volume 1') — the key to why 'Speaker Attack' is so brilliant is Sumgli's production, a sparse, eerie mix of decaying synths and dubby slo-mo grime that's utterly undistorted, completely clear and yet somehow pumped full of just the right balance of low-end punchiness and trebly spookiness. Great verbals as you'd expect from Inja combine with Sumgli's soundpad to create a track that immediately hooks you, demands you check out more of AD's brilliant output. Don't sleep. The sun rises in the east.

INTERPOL 
ANYWHERE
(Matador) 

Oh BOY did these guys have me fooled. Remember when the Strokes came along and killed rock forever by being so good and so sexy at it the legion of copyists that came in their wake just seemed like they were trying to suck off a dead horse?

I'm being serious. I fucking loved those first two Strokes albums. Anyone with ears should.

Well, from the flotsam and jetsam that was DJ-able soon afterwards (Art Brut, Pink Grease, Maximo Park etc) Interpol's 'PDA' was a fucking amazing thing I used to play out regularly. The album that came . . . . wasn't. And since then it would appear they're freefalling into turgid turbid cesspits of enshittitude that show no signs of abating on 'Anywhere'. Lumpen, dated, a song that's wearing a very very long coat but hasn't got the balls to roll it's sleeves up. Makes both The Killers and Arcade Fire sound 'edgy'. Apprehend for a moment just how pisspoor a song would have to be to achieve that. Apprehended it? Good. Swerve this shit.

JAM BAXTER 
INCOMING
(High Focus)
What's so thrilling about the rise of High Focus is both how aware they are of hip-hop history but also how irreverent they are to any perceived limitations behind the form, just how fully they explore all the possibilities still inherent in the hip-hop blueprint. Love the sound of 'Incoming', a spectral, suggestive, almost haunted set of hypnotic loops over a droning one-note bass and exquisitely measured beats, JB dropping lines that increase in intrigue all the way to the inevitable rewind you have to pull at the end. Superb production from Chemo aka Telemachus (and my god, his new album's a doozie too) throughout the new JB opus 'So We Ate Them Whole'. Get it in your life now.


JAMIE T 
RABBIT HOLE 
(Virgin)
I ask these questions cos I know the answers and just want someone to prove me wrong - Why the fuck would anyone want to still make music like this? To JT's credit he's produced the absolute living fuck out of 'Rabbit Hole'- armed himself with a rhythm section and a fuzz pedal that takes his essentially tedious buskery-bollocks and chrome-plates it for battle. But seriously - why would you want to make music like this? To just contribute more to the piles of this kind of stuff that have already been created? To be an inspiration for Jake fucking Bugg? I mean, we have enough 'spikey' music don't we? Enough 'punky' troubadourism? Something about guitars, how flaccid they look now when playing this kind of dull dickcheese, how spunk-encrustedly dull this old toy for old boys looks when used to make such frighteningly conservative music.
   An old hobby, like battle-recreation at the weekends. Hope JT still enjoys it, that's the main thing. I only listen to guitar music now that sounds like it was played on guitars shaped like battle-axes and I suggest you apply the same rigid criteria to your listening too. Parses out alot of this kind of shit for a start off. You can thank me later.


SINGLES OF THE SEASON 
MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD 
NACHTHEXEN 
(Tape Worship Records) 
WATCHTOWER 
RADIANT MOON EP
(Magnetic Eye Records) 
 Fr'instance. SO MUCH ACE doom/sludge/crust on Bandcamp difficult to know where to start (check out Watchtower's mighty 'Radiant Moon' EP seeping out of Melbourne, Oz right now btw) but 'Nachthexen' kind of bullies its way to the front not just by dint of its sheer length (30 minutes odd and nary a moment you'd excise) but because it takes those vital steps away from the Sabbath/Kyuss/KarmaToBurn imprint and stumbles into moments of Goblin-style guignol and Amon Duul-style space opera that are totally convincing, crushing beautiful and entirely ace. Up there with Sonance's magnificent 'Blackflower' as new noise you absolutely need.

MUMFORD & SONS 
BELIEVE
(Island) 
Yeah right! As IF I'm gonna listen to this. I'm not getting fkn paid y'know! Instead, please to be reading a review I wrote of Coldplay's last single that I never got to use and is now massively out of date, a bit like M&S's conviction that the Hothouse Flowers were the pinnacle of Western pop culture. You might think this is irrelevant. I don't care, I KNOW it's absolutely crucial before we can go any further . . .

COLDPLAY
A SKY FULL OF STARS
(Parlophone)
Chris sat alone, trying to work out the song, fidgeting. He felt sick and bloated from the McDonalds he'd just eaten in a fit of macho pique, couldn't deny that her Pappardelle Duck Ragu that she did every Tuesday night was much missed. The song, Chris thought, and whispered, THE SONG. Concentrate. Images came to mind, the same images of vaguery and faint urgency that the band had put out before. It comforted him. Stars. Rhymes with 'heart'. That's good, thought Chris, that's good. What then? Dry. What the hell he thought - yeah, that bit after can be an instrumental. I can do my shit dancing on that bit if we need to do it live. Was he losing his motivation? Undoubtedly he was lonelier than he'd ever been before. Still, a verse and a bridge, that's not bad work for an evening he consoled himself. The band can fill in the rest with their usual gubbins, thought Chris. Some twinkly Radiohead/U2isms, they always work - desperate to turn his procrastination into worthwhile conceptualising he flailed around for impetus - I'll get a friend to make it dancey, a remix might make a few more ackers, maybe get Diplo involved? His thoughts, unformed as they were, were suddenly interrupted by a ring on the doorbell. Who could be calling at this time? Punching the intercom button with trepidation Chris pondered - who the hell? Lawyers? Management? HER?
It was David. "Hi Chris, it's you-know-who". Sighing, Chris hit the entry buzzer. He'd been expecting this. David had rung as soon as it had all fallen apart, had offered help ("I'm here for you Chris, just like Coldplaywere there for us"), but Chris had been in too dazed and despairing a state to process it. Now, with his fresh flush of inspiration, but with a growing sense of isolation and purposelessness, he needed some company, some warmth. A minute later, David stood frozen at the apartment door momentarily as Chris sized up his paunchy yet appealingly pink frame, clad in loosely-tailored chinos and old denim shirt. Heart starting to race, Chris let him in: 'Hi David, what's up?" he asked nervously. "One guess" growled D, eyebrows rising, then gaze dropping down to his own rapidly tenting groin. "I want to talk to you about the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony . . .". "But Prime Minister" stammered Chris, "this is all so sudden". He knew he was lying. By the wicked leer on D's face, Chris could see HE knew he was lying. "Shut up Chris" barked Cameron, "what was that song you wrote, The Hardest Part?" . . . Chris nodded, jaw dropping . . . "well I've got a real Rush Of Blood To My Head, can you help me out?" snarled the Prime Minister. Behind them the door slowly swung shut on a world that didn't matter tonight. A world that could never know . . .

NUTSO ft. BLACASTAN, GENERAL STEELE & CHINCH33 
STR8 TALK 
(No Label Just Us) 

A mean, nasty, twisted little track. Crucial are the drone keyboards, keys jammed down with the weight of a dead body, Divided Souls producing things with immense control and the clear intent to utterly unhinge the listener. Good work you freaks. Essential.


O.G.MACO 
FIVE AM IN L.A
(SoundCloud)

 Oh fuck — something about the phrase 'Vine sensation' has me immediately thinking 'flybynight', but don't let the means of Atlanta upstart OG Maco's meteoric rise blind you to his skills. '5.am In LA' is only one-hundred-and-ten seconds long but within that time-frame he absolutely grabs you by the lapels and makes you listen. There's an insistence and grain to his voice that suggests a deep intent to communicate, there's a brilliant sparseness and robot-like repetition to the track that makes a minute-fifty both fly by and loop in on itself. What you'll keep rewinding for is the verbals though, tangled, suggestive, great punchlines, truly atmospheric. I'm going backwards from this to the '15' EP and holding tight for the 'Children of the Rage' album that'll be dropping later this year. I stongly suggest you do the same.



SINGLE OF THE SEASON 
ONOE CAPONOE 
DISAPPEARING JAKOB
(High Focus Records) 


 Stunning production as ever from Chemo — a spooked, deeply haunted, trippily psyche mix of phased honky-tonk piano scattered like skimming stones over an ocean of bass and kick, perfectly suiting Onoe's reflective unfathomable leaps from street to Marianas-Trench depth to vertiginous overview. An unsettling track in the best possible way, less interested in simply laying the rapper's mind over a pre-determined track, rather having that more natural relationship 'tween production and voice where each seems to be emanating from the other. The soon drop 'Voices From Planet Catelle' album from Onoe coming soon on HF is entirely produced by Chemo, and just might be that amazing label's greatest masterpiece yet. Pre-order NOW for one of 2015's undisputed highlights. Essential.


Prhyme

SINGLE OF THE SEASON
PRHYME
YOU SHOULD KNOW 
(Prhyme Records) 

Phyrme is DJ Premier and Royce 5'9 and this introductory salvo from the just-dropped self-titled album indicates everything that makes it a new lease of life for everyone involved. Premo seems to enjoy being pushed to the edges a little, collaborating with more musicians to limit his role has refined what he does, made him just an awesome player with a set of other likeminded headz. And Royce's verses are just sublime, passionate, direct, angry, punchy, packed with drama and intent. The album crept out just before Christmas and may well have slipped under your radar. Don't proceed with the rest of the year without checking it. Superb.

SINGLE OF THE SEASON 
PRIMITIVE MAN
HOME IS WHERE THE HATRED IS
(Relapse) 
'Scorn' from 2012 revealed just what a unique slab of monstrous molten heaviosity this Portland 3-piece can cook up - the split 7/10/12"s that have come since with Xaphan, Hexis, Fister and Hessian have only deepened the awe and intrigue and this new EP is yet more addictively aggravated mayhem. Truly a mirror to our times and absolutely essential.

PROFESSOR P & DJ AKILLES Ft. RAH DIGGA 
FOR THE CITY 
(Ill Adrenaline) 
Yes it was the Rah Digga cameo that suckered me into this but damn glad I investigated cos this is, as we used to say, some ill shit. While normally resistant to the US MC/European producer matrix that seems to be becoming a habit for so many US rappers in search of fresh inspiration, Pro-P & Ak have been creating great beats for a long time out of Upsaala, Sweden, and 'For the City' is no exception, a simple but rich and warm roll and ruckus, not especially innovative but as comfortable and enjoyable as anything off those Phryme/Bada$$ albums you're all bumping right now. And of course, a joy to hear Dirty Harriet herself Rah Digga spitting on such a sweet backdrop. From an EP called 'All Year: Every Year: Winter' that forms one seasonal quarter of a soon-come album. Love it.

THE PURIST FT. MICK JENKINS 
TOUCH ME (Soundcloud) 

 "Backwash, I just keep tasting the same old" — totally fresh spice from The Purist, who previews his long-awaited new collabo EP with this slow-burning corker, featuring the ever-compelling Mick Jenkins (whaddayamean you've not heard 'Free Nation Rebel Soldier', GTFO of here!). A smeared, sexy, diseased, febrile, ice-hot production laced with exquisitely fragile piano and unearthly b-vox, Jenkins hook-vocals slurred and slowed like Spark Master Tape, the utter fearless genre-carelessness of the joint bodes well for an EP that will also feature Freddie Gibbs and Roc Marciano. Welcome back nutter. 

RAPPER BIG POOH 
AUGMENTATION 
(Mello Music Group) 
"Beat box, this is back to the block/Before every rapper sold rocks/Before everybody needed rocks in their watch/ Just watch, now it’s all about board rooms and stocks/ Words paint pictures, I’m an artist non-stop/Raw beats, raps, this is called hip-hop"... beautiful reaffirmation of what's important, what's generous, what's giving, what's funny, what's crucial about hip-hop. For all true believers.

THE SCRIPT 
MAN ON A WIRE (Sony) 







ED SHEERAN AND RUDIMENTAL 
BLOODSTREAM 
(Asylum) 
No, sorry, can't weigh in. I detest Sheeran's music with a passion only rivaled by my passion for 360° commissioning-models and dwelltime dashboard paradigms, but so does Noel 'Hates Women And Black People' Gallagher. Noel Gallagher has been way more damaging to British pop than Sheeran (& don't forget, Sheeran did make the best Music Of Black Origin in 2014 and according to 1Xtra is the most influential black artist of the decade). Yes I'm sick of 'down to earth, lovely chaps' in pop. But if the alternative is what's posited by Gallagher, i.e gobby thick prejudiced narrow-minded English Rock Defence League fuckers then count me out. Let Sheeran sell his cheese. At least he's just a thief and a bore, not a thief, a bore and a bigot.

SIGMA FT. LABRINTH 
HIGHER
(3 Beat) 
Dogshit. Absolutely everything that's wrong with 'drum and bass' at the moment (although using those words in association with music like this always seems like a misnomer - after all there's NO BASS and what beats you can hear hit you with all the punch and incisiveness of a wetwipe). Of absolutely no interest to anyone else, or anyone who actually likes music - this is most assuredly snowboarding music.  For snowboarders.

SLAVES 
FEED THE MANTARAY
(Virgin/EMI) 
What an absolute pair of fucking cuntbubbles. Just watch the video for this. The fact that this ugly unfunny duo of ambulatory Dick'n'Dom burdturds have been signed by a major and are having their utterly shit mix of sub-Therapy/Feeder rawk and 'zany' lyrics boosted by said major (yeah, cheers C.Montgomery Beard) is angry-making enough. But the style in which they throw this reheated diarhoea in your face, in a manner that suggests they're not only the wittiest band on the planet but also the most 'attitudinal' will seriously make you want to put your spikes on and kick the fuckers in the face repeatedly until their gurning punchable phizogs are a tattered mess of ribboned cheekflesh and seeping unhealable puncture holes. Doubtless like their god Timmy Mallet they'll count any irritation they cause as some kind of justification but 'Mantaray' is by some distance the most aggravatingly pissweak thing you'll hear all year. Here's hoping they become the hapless victims of a major slurry-spill incident soon, just to wipe the smirks off their hateful fucking faces. Definition of cunts.


SOLO 45 ft. PREDITAH
FEED EM TO THE LIONS
(Island)
Boy Better Know better start doing better. A crock of shit.

SUBLIME WIZARDRY Ft. EXILE 
KEEP LIVIN' (Show & Prove) 
If there's any left by the time you read this, snap up this corking little 7" from Brighton (MCs The Remarkable One & Native Son) via Hamburg (producer Merlin), featuring Exile and some tasty cutting from DJs Highfly & Tones. Noisy as fuck, like a good marble-red 7" should be.

SWAMP THING 
MEAT LUMP 
(Urbnet) 
"ONE OF YOU TURDS IS ABOUT TO GET SMACKED IN THE MOUTH" — hell, I'm a sucker for a great intro and I'm loving this daffy, goofy, B-movie-rap little gem. The last thing I'd expect from Toronto but there it is, backwoods-bound space-age boombap, Timbuktu, Chokeules and Savilion swapping rhymes with a beautifully nonchalant ease and charm that you can't buy or pre-program, but that oozes from every groove. Gonna go check out their latest 'Outer Limits' opus on Bandcamp right now and strongly recommend you do exactly the same. Oh Canada.

TCHAMI FT. KALEEM TAYLOR 
PROMESSES 
(Ministry Of Sound)
Noooo! WHAT THE FUCK have you done you pricks? The original of this that came out in 2013 on Fool's Gold was an absolute fahooking barnstormer, just a peach of a pop/club house track, big fat slabs of synth, brilliantly bassy danceable pop music. In repackaging it for 2015, with new vocals, Ministry Of Sound have somehow managed to suck all the life out of it, deoderise it (perhaps with an eye on day-time radio, perhaps just operating under the hypnotic aegis of their C.E.Overlord the one they call Mephistopholes, Beelzebub, Lucifer, Ozmodius, the beast, the fallen one, the Prince Of Lies, Abbadon, the archangel of human sorrow you get the jist).
   It's actually intriguing seeing how they've done it. Deflated the beats. Fatally made the bass fit correct notions of compression and 'sitting in' the mix, rather than the belligerent bullying brilliance of the lo-end in the original. Added new lyrics that stop the voices warping and wefting around the peripheries and make the whole thing a more 'centred' performance from a clearly identifiable ego, rather than the liquid polymorphous identity-blurring bliss of the original. NATAS SI DROL.


Tink

TINK
RATCHET COMMANDMENTS
(Epic)
"If you know your rent's due get the fuck out da club!" — something about Tink I like. I think it's her unwillingness to fit with any of the previous archetypes for femme-MCs, her guardedness, her refusal to give everything just yet. Also the girl can spit — there's great lines here that you feel are only scratching the surface of everything Tink has to say. Just wish Timbaland would find some more interesting beats for her to spit on.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

THE F.U.N.K 2014 END OF YEAR LIST - MY YEAR IN MUSIC



Couldn't believe most of the end of year lists I've seen. Not just cos I've never heard or listened to any of the artists who have featured, I've come to expect that in recent years not just cos of general decrepitude but also as my estrangement from the industry accelerates through  a mutual forgetting, as the footfall of jiffybags through my door dries beyond a trickle to outright silence and emptiness. An exile that suits us both, it's just that now I can't waste anyone's time talking about all that white music I don't really understand anymore because I never get sent it and have so little time to seek it out. Thought it might happen eventually, I'm a lazy lazy man and they're getting younger and younger.

   Anyhoo, no, it wasn't the content(mentof the lists that threw me,  I just couldn't believe the TIMING of the lists. In much the same way that shops start hawking Xmas shit as soon as the Halloween tat is taken down so I couldn't help noticing that people were bringing out their end-of-year-lists when it was still November. I was getting e-mailed lists of label-releases for end-of-year chart consideration when I was still slopping rotten pumpkins into the garden wheelie bin. Why the gun-jumping? Why the rush? Why the desire and the assumed ability to call a year out musically well before that year has actually drawn to a close? And why are so many critics, though unable to deny the utterly transformed nature of music-access and distribution in the current age, still so tethered to those old traditional industry-cycles of December shutdown?

Little Simz' last release of the year came out 2 days before Christmas

   Partly it's about over-enthusiasm. Critics LOVE doing end of year lists. Makes them feel all important and criticcy, cloak themselves in an eclecticism that justifies their political silence, 'corrects' the limitations of what they've been allowed to write about all year. Partly though I think it's about something going fatally wrong with music critique at the moment and it's a problem beyond my usual whining about lack of purpose. I checked the NME list, the Wire list, the Q list, the Mojo list, the Uncut list and noticed one very telling thing best expressed in a double negative: next to nothing on those lists WASN'T on a label, didn't arrive in those writers lives via a jiffy-bag or a friendly e-mail. And that's at such utter variance with the way I've experienced music in 2014 I start wondering whether I can even call myself a music critic anymore, whether being a music critic now in a palpable and powerful sense means you're plugged in, PART of the industry, another PR tendril, doing favours for mates. Because for me, and for alot of people I know, music is found now anywhere BUT major labels, music is found in places that seem ripe with possibility not constricted by committee-think commercialism, crucially music is found and got from places where it's either free or you feel that the money you spend on it goes directly to the person making it. The idea of giving money to a corporation to give me music, to not find a way of getting that money to the artist another way, via some method that doesn't imply a system of indentured debt and slavery, via some way that's direct - it's disappeared for me in 2014. It has been a year where bar-coded major-label/major-subsidiary-indie product hasn't really been a part of my listening. It's been the year of Bandcamp and direct purchase from tiny labels. Bandcamp perhaps more than anything else.

Strange U emblematic of what's ace about Bandcamp

    It's in its infancy but I can't think of a more exciting place to hear music on the planet. Best bit of music news I heard all year was its taking care of potentially threatening changes to digital V.A.T legislation. So much of it to wade through yes, so much dross yes but some real fucking gold as well, especially in those marginal musics so forgotten about by most established labels. All you need is a nod, a wink, a pointer in the right direction from somewhere or someone you can trust and before you know it you can get lost in Bandcamp, following up supporters and like-minds, finding oceans of all kinds of music that even when applying the most stringent of criteria (I still say every bit of music I hear has precisely 10 seconds to grab me & lead me on and if it doesn't it's dispensed with) still deluges you with too much to hear, an endless game of catch-up.
   Because Bandcamp isn't really a 'community' it's genuinely diverse. There's no bullshit 'shared spirit' behind the millions of artists on Bandcamp. Each one is allowed to be themselves. Because Bandcamp isn't a label or part of a racist sexist industry there's no racism, no sexism on bandcamp unless you're actively looking for it. You can explore genres if you wish but it's way more fun to just follow trails and digressions, previous releases, namechecked friends, other artists, links to mixes. And the fact most of these artists and bands can't get record deals, don't want record deals, have committed themselves to bringing their music out on a platform they can control, means you hear alot of astonishing music absolutely shorn of any of the mainstream's ideas of compromise or presentability. Because this stuff isn't hand-fed to journalists, and consequently remains untouched by music journalists' suffocating rhetoric of cross-reference and hyperbole-of-the-mediocre you have to make up the mythology yourself. Bandcamp fundamentally for me is a place where the mystery and magic of music is allowed to remain intact and where something like a fair way of making a living out of it is emerging. Slowly I know. Very slowly. But as an alternative to those venal corrupted traditional channels, Bandcamp is something that needs exploring, supporting, rhapsodising about. Besides anything else it's made buying music in 2014 feel right. I haven't bought much product from labels this year. I've mainly exchanged money for music from people. And hopefully helped them to continue. Bandcamp feels pure, untainted. The only thing I can see that's wrong with it is that the bands can't compete in a promotional sense with the powers-that-be. In every other sense that matters, Bandcamp kicked ass in 2014. I hope music fans start to catch up more. I hope it becomes the primary platform. I've stopped listening to much else.

The unique Gavlyn


   Similarly and analogously - I've stopped listening to critics to be honest, to the point where I find it hard to name names, only really remembering the few I trust. Loads I wouldn't trust to organise their own shit into the pan without help, usually from those places that try most closely to cleave to auld habits, insist on a general optimism to masque their reshuffling of the same old shit, their adrev-friendly corporate cheerleading. In 2014, like most people the places I find out about music has been forums, fan-reviews, the odd straight-up music site  where you feel that people untutored and unhinged enough can show you the way with genres you might not have time to get fully absorbed by. Long been convinced that crossover is anathema to good music/stuff I wanna hear. Rather it's those things furthest WITHIN their respective genres that are most pleasurable, the darkest metal, most un-chartfriendly grime, the harshest d'n'b, the strangest most unsignable pop. Thus, it's sometimes those writers who you feel absolutely DON'T listen to loads of different genres who are most useful at the moment, those bloggers and monomaniacs who can pick through the surplus from deep within their respective obsessions and bring you the golden nuggets. Quietus and Resident Advisor for electronica, CVLTNATION for metal, directly from DJs (community stations and places like Rinse/Itch have been goldmines all year) and fans for hip-hop, d'n'b and grime.

As heard on Rinse FM, Sir Spyro

Speaking of which, Grime's been a totally refreshed love for me this year. BOYA DEE, THE CLICK, FOOTSIE, SLIMZEE, D DOUBLE E, MANGA, RIVAL, GHETTS, EYEZ,  JME, FRISCO, P.MONEY, BIG NARSTIE, M.I.K muscled themselves back into my days, courtesy pretty much of one radio show. SIR SPYRO'S show on RINSE FM is a weekly check-in I get alarmingly excited about every Sunday night - then the wait until the morning for the podcast to be up so I can dl it and burn it to a disc and stick it in the car and on the stereo (hooking my deck up again has meant that computer-sized music simply doesn't satisfy anymore, has to be room-sized, house-sized, car-sized). Simply put, with its futurist beats, dubby bass-heaviness and total lyrical freedom and fury and finesse and fuckery it's two hours of the most exciting British music every week, ever-surprising, ever-joyous, ever hilarious, ever mind-blowing. Some of the guest cameo freestyles he's had on this year have been the most free-wheeling, intellectually far-ranging, hysterical human transmissions from anywhere on the planet in 2014.  Spyro knows his shit, has the best guests, plays the best music.  Make his show, downloadable from the Rinse podcast site,  a part of your weekly digest immediately.

D Double E


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In drum and bass, WITH ONE CRUCIAL EXCEPTION I'LL RETURN TO LATER,  I've liked the dirty stuff, the attention to detail stuff, the stuff that sounds like the best EBM, prime Front 242, the industrial strength stuff that remembers the bass part of drum and bass (far too much stuff out there, especially now the Americans are involved, that just coasts on trebly Skrillex-style EDM noises and ballachingly predictable builds/drops). Stuff like XTRAH ft. MIKAL's chrome-plated fucked up masterpiece 'No Good' (Metalheadz Platinum Breakz). Stuff like ANTAGONIST & PARAGON'S 'Deadly Design EP', four tracks of ice-hard brooding d'n'b so dark the only place you could hear it on the radio this year was on DOC SCOTT's always superb Future Beats Radio Show (also on the intriguingly shady NurturedBeatz check out INTERLINE's bruising 'Mentality' EP). Stuff like SCAR's 'Fairgame' (a revoltingly wonky bass-heavy monster from Survival & Script), everything I've heard from BATTERY, OPTIV & BTK's self-descriptive 'Zero Tolerance', EPs like MINDSCAPE's brutal 'Rat Pack', MAKO & DLR's 'Hungry For Atmosphere' IVLAB's 'Missing Persons' and MISANTHROP's nutzoid 'Greed Of Gain' (which crosses into the same electro-harshness as everything I've greedily devoured from BODIKKA this year).

  


As with grime, Podcasts and specialist Radio have been the best way to find out about d'n'b this year. Doc Scott's show does it exactly right, chat to a minimum, no pointless guest-interviews (as a rule d'n'b creators don't make for the most fascinating chats), just two hours of ace music every month. DJ FLIGHTs show on Rinse FM was a similar goldmine, a brilliant mix of her own wayward musical consciousness and exclusive dubs you could only hear via her, a real shame to hear her 'Next Level' Rinse show is coming off the air and hope she re-emerges with something new in 2015 cos she's that rare thing, a DJ you can trust, a DJ genuinely there to show you music, not themselves. Rinse are saying it's all about 'giving new people a chance' - I fucking hate that kind of thinking. Flight is awesome and as a rule any company that starts getting rid of awesome people for the blind stupidity of pointless 'change' is fucked somewhere, fucked somewhere centrally just under the ribs. Her shows are archived on her mixcloud page and are as good an index as to what was happening in 2014 as you'll find anywhere.

The superb DJ Flight whose Rinse show will be sadly missed




   Oh yeah, I said re: d'n'b that I've been into the dirty stuff in 14 with one exception - that exception is the utterly ravishing 'Fourfit EP' on Marcus Intalex' Soul:R records. Intalex was previewing stuff from this in November 2013 and is a master at playing dubplates well in advance of release to build anticipation, anyone who heard LSB's startlingly beautiful 'Leave' on MI's superb Metalheadz podcast back in November 2013 was pretty much gagging and dribbling innappropriately by the time it found a home on the four-track 'Fourfit' come September this year. The EP was everything that liquid d'n'b COULD be, everything it seemed so rarely to attain bar the most gorgeous Calibre productions (Cal's rerub of BREAK's 'They're Wrong' was an undeniable highlight of the summer). 'Leave' itself was hypnotic, oceanic, subtle, magical, Boymerang/Spring Heel Jack in its delicious detail, pure club-roller in its rampaging warmth. Also on the EP was FD's 'Ice209' which similarly skewed dreamy drift with diamond-hard beats and ANILE's stunning 'Depths', hinging on a piano-hook that lanced you like an unplaceable untraceable childhood memory, bustling on beats that hit with the pleasure of full-phat Dillinja. Just a sublime record from front to back that I shelled out cash-money on cos I had to have it in my life and my god on vinyl it sounds awesome. Don't let 2014 slip by without checking it.

In hip-hop, well - it's been a year for hip-hop to do its job. I can't remember  a year in the recent past that's been as healthy for dissident voices, contrary perspectives, hip-hop fulfilling ALL it's functions and not just adhering to the commercial entertainment strictures it's been so willing to fall into for so long. Again, not for me a year of albums per se, more a year for individual single transmissions that are inarguable, crash in and take you over. Emissions and emanations like 7EVENTHIRTY's 'The Problem' . . .



Stuff like COMMON & AB-SOUL's bruising 'Made In Black America'


From the US in general I was digging the isolated, the cut-off, those too busy zeroing in on the unique thing they had to say and the unique way they said it rather than engaging in twitter-beef and diss-tracks and the other forms of connected tedium yr whiteboy hip-hop critics get so excited about. PARANOM & PURPOSE's 'Microphone Phenomenal', RAVEN FELIX' hilarious 'Girl', ROC MARCIANO's unique 'Trying To Come Up', JAMAILL BUFFORD's dazed disasterpiece 'Oh My God Forever', GAVLYN's haunting 'Guilty Pleasure', JUNGLE PUSSY's ribald & rude 'Satisfaction Guaranteed', catching up with everything I could find by SPARK MASTER TAPE, MICK JENKINS 'Free Nation Rebel Soldier', FIDDY's impossible good 'Hold On', AMIRI's 'Still' & VON PEA's 'So East Coast' both on the ace HipNott Records, THE GROUCH & ELIGH's awesomely wasted 'My God Song', 9TH WONDER's incredible 'Jamla Is The Squad' comp, SKYZOO & TORAE's superb 'Barrel Brothers' LP, STEPBROTHERS' amazing and vivid and deliciously lurid 'Lord Steppington' album, BADA$$ & FREDDIE GIBBS on 'Carry On', J-LOVE's ace collabo with Ghostface & Cormega on 'Glorified Excellence', MAX MARSHALL's sweet-as-anything 'Your Love Is Like', DENZEL CURRY's febrile funkadelia on 'Stadium Starships', NEHRUVIAN DOOM on Lex, JUNCLASSIC's 'No Realer', PLAYDOUGH & SEAN PATRICK's awesome Edan-like 'Been Dope', ENDEMIC EMERALD's 'Cardinal', OPEN MIKE EAGLE's truly bizarre transmissions and CASTLE & HAS-LO's hilarious 'Return Of The Gas Face' LP both on the ever-engrossing Mello Music Group, the long-awaited returns of BLACK MILK and also J-ZONE . . . . phewff, it's been a fucking awesome year and Iggy and Banks and Kanye and all the people the twats on twitter twat on about have absolutely fuck all to do with it.

Open Mike Eagle



    Massively exciting year in the UK, from the WHOLE UK (if you're only looking in London my god you've missed out, especially on the amazing stuff coming out of Bristol, the South Coast, East Anglia at the moment). SLEAZE & REKLEWS cone-destroying 'Heads Will Know', BILL NEXT & PARO's 'Weedmasons EP', MELANIN 9's wonderful 'Amulets', ED SCISSORTONGUE's amiably ambient 'Theremin EP', ROCKFORMZ grainy & paranoiac 'Grow Room', FLIPTRIX and JAM BAXTER and BVA on the rising High Focus Records (keep em peeled on HF in 2015), ILLINFORMED's ace 'Rld' tape, KINGDOM OF FEAR's 'Be Still' and CONFUCIOUS MC's 'The Highest Order' LP and JEHST's fucking awesome 'England (Boot Remix)'  all on the ever-ready YNR . . .




Couple of names really stood out from the UK this year for me, STRANGE U just got better and better and stranger and weirder and mightier as the year went on, culminating in their utterly startling 'EP#2040'
and I also massively dug the oceanic, sharp-as-fuck, beautiful work of LITTLE SIMZ this year - her 'E.D.G.E' album from June was one of 2014' most criminally undersung highlights.




The wonderful cover-art to Mizmor's astonishing 'Hell'

What with 2014 not being a year where either THROWING MUSES or JUANA MOLINA released records, records with guitars on didn't bother me much this year bar IAN CRAUSE's stunning 'Songs Of Phaethon' and 'Vertical Axis' releases  Everything else I heard still tethered to the six and four sounded both appallingly dated (forgiveable) & just plain weedy (unforgiveable). Something you could ever accuse 2014's best metal albums of being - here was a genre where I actually treasured the long-form, the album, here was a genre where once again untraditional avenues of investigation & discovery yielded gold, another genre best served by Bandcamp. All of my metal this year was on Bandcamp. All of it.
  HIghlights for me in 2014 (once I'd caught up with 2013's two most vital metal releases, BOLZER's astounding 'Aura EP" and PRIMITIVE MAN's scarifyingly awesome 'Scorn' LP) included מזמור aka Portland fuck-ups MIZMOR's utterly utterly pitiless "VII - Epistemological Rupture", NOÛS' 19-minute megabeast "ἀηδής", NAUGHT's really quite unpleasant 'Tómhyggjublús', THRESHING and GATECREEPER's s/t debuts , the charred pustulence of ALTAR's 'Plague Pit', Londoners QRIXKUOR's 'Consecration Of The Temple', tapes from Nashville's GRACELESS RECORDINGS (check out PISSGRAVE and SEWER GODDESS) and Northern Idaho's SOL Y NIEVE (check out NEMORENSIS 27-minute nightmare-scape 'The Lady In The Lake' and HELLEBORE's 'Anouf Thwo'). The growth in tape culture, especially in metal, isn't just an empty retroism, it's both homage to the way metal found its underground in the 80s and also an attempt to drag metal back from hi-fidelity commerce to a new murk, a new dankness, an artistically untrammelled, fan-controlled place again. Two things stood head-and-shoulders above the pack in 2014, IRKALLIAN ORACLE's simply staggering 'Grave Ekstasis' (only available on tape before 2014) and Portland bass'n'drum duo TOWERS' P.I.L/Scorn-style dub noise on the utterly fucking awesome 'II' from Eolian Empire. Wrote about the former here,  and the latter here.  They both warrant repeated revisitings and cannot wait to hear new things from them both in 2015, horned hands crossed.

Towers (photo by James Rexroad)


Although a good year, I worry about 2015. I wonder, with Flight's departure, how many other supposedly 'underground' places will start mindlessly chasing/boosting youth in a way that serves neither young nor old. I worry, as I hinted here, about the BBC. I worried like fuck about the V.A.T thang for Bandcamp, succumbed to the sense that things like that were too good to be permitted to carry on under the grind of greed from everywhere else. I hope that in 2015 its potential is tapped, especially politically - this year I want to hear music from those places where music is an important choice, not a hobby, those places where music is increasingly being demonised. Stay vigilant, stay busy, stay lost. In a years time lets hope there's more people we can trust. More people we help to make music.



Tuesday, 25 November 2014

IAN CRAUSE - THE SONG OF PHAETHON




IAN CRAUSE 
THE SONG OF PHAETHON
(Bandcamp)

   I worry about my friend Ian. Going through some tough times. Aren’t we all? Yeah, but not all of us have created one of the albums of the year and seen their work utterly unheralded. I thought that ‘The Vertical Axis’, Crause’s masterpiece from late 2013 was something it would take a while  for the ex D.I frontman to move on from, so stunning an inversion of all musical rules and habits was it, so total was its blazing of a trail, scorching the earth behind it, making forward motion the only option. He’s found a way though. By pushing ‘Songs Of Phaethon’ back out there, three songs from his recent past, a call, a zenith and a fall. Three songs that utterly reconfigure your expectations of what listening to music can be.  It’s music that, as you listen, scares you because it’s rubbing so much music out, erasing so much of the timewasting retrograde cowardice of contemporary pop, not ‘introducing’ you to a new kind of music but plunging you into it headfirst, dazzling and disturbing you sonically, intriguing and immolating you lyrically. That’s perhaps, beyond the substance & sound of these songs, beyond the allusions and suggestiveness of the lyrics, the most headwrecking thing about ‘Songs Of Phaethon’. It does that thing that you’d almost forgotten music can do. Bullies your head away from all distraction. Takes you on, takes you somewhere. Insists that only honesty can get us out of our present stasis, only fearlessness can destroy our fear. For all Crause’s isolation, his is some of the most giving, the most generous music being made on the planet right now this side of Juana Molina. Impossibly, irresistably, it believes in its marrow that new things can be made.


   New and ancient. I thought I was too dumb to unpick the wider metaphors and allegories behind Crause’s choice of Phaethon as the protagonist and arc of this record – but I’d heard the word before. I remember Richard II in Shakespeare’s play camply submitting to his pursuers with the line ‘Down, down I come; like glistering Phaethon/ Wanting the manage of unruly jades in the base court’. Reading the incredible lyrics Crause has written for ‘Songs Of Phaethon’ I’m wary of accepting what I’ve been told about him using the Phaethon motif  as a direct allegory for the primary political fracture of our recent history, our entry into the Iraq war. I can see it, I can let it work, but it’s not the limit of this art.  For me, the songs here are about the unpicking of both god and man’s arrogance, the destruction of grace and the scattering of will to the shifting sands of time, change, the incessant brutalisation of commerce, the collosal hubris that comes from a holy war. And its message is genuinely timeless, always timely, will still hold as this planet creeps towards solar death. These are songs in which aeons pass, civilizations grow and fester and die, songs where temporally you’re continually moved between modernity and the ancient and classical world by the imagery but simultaneously skewered right here right now by the sheer rush of the sound, the suggestiveness of the samples and textures, by the splicing and dicing and playfulness with source that can only be from now or the future.




 As with all Crause’s solo work, this is a riot for the ears, a palpitating ebbing living sound you can touch and taste and feel, a sound that doesn’t happen in the room you’re in but actually becomes the world you are in. Not quite a conjuring because Crause always walks that essential tightrope between total control and prone vulnerability to his own music, like he’s set something in motion he can’t commandeer, can only join, cling on to, try and be heard within. Like Public Enemy and Young Gods, still to me his clearest influences, he upends the reverent rules of sampladelia, exerts infinite finesse to create something that sounds both feral and mystical, documentary and magical. Opener ‘Phaethon’s Call’ seems structurally to flow from no kind of music any of us have ever heard, an imagining of ancient form, a white griot, a futurist plainsong. Reading lyrics like “Every day their shadows ran / down Asia like a lyre, strumming / past his village, swinging down at perihelion / to touch upon his mother’s house / then over dark and quiet woods – / their distant hawks and watching deer / oblivious in bending shade – / descending into seacloud mist, / and down towards the gull-cloud cliffs / to pour their jewels and precious metals / out along the sea” I’m reminded of Fairport at their most timelessly dream-like but what truly makes the song work is Crause’s infinite attention to the details of the sound that bleeds over and swells under his words, his total refusal to secure what he does in habit or the familiar.
   ‘Phaethon’s Zenith’ reveals that Crause’s sounds are familiar but not musically, they’re familiar sounds of life, of the body and the street and the temple and the warzone marshalled, twisted, opened up and splayed open in a way that pulls you close up, sends you to a satellites-eye view, sends you through undersea tunnels, scorched desert trails. I don’t know how to listen to this music, I just know that while it plays it possesses me completely. This might not be what music’s meant to do anymore. Might be considered rude, inappropriate for music to refuse to slot along lifestyle and actually engulf you in this fashion. Crause’s music is a constant reminder of the kind of possibilities of sound and word that his aforementioned heroes and others (I also hear Kristin Hersh, William Blake and Jimi Hendrix) have always pushed towards. And hearing it now, in 2014, is like stumbling across a new colour, something that hasn’t been commodified and could not be. So rare. So precious.


   Perhaps the most incredible half-hour of music you’ll hear all year (and certainly by light-years the most absorbing and disruptive music with guitars on it you’ll hear all year) closes out with ‘Phaethon’s Fall’, an immolation, a total war. Sirens, horses hooves that become helicopter blades, carnage, star-glimmers that turn into firestorms. Startling and yet so immediately and instinctively understandable, clear. And all the way through, Crause keeps his voice in a unique place in modern music, not quite obliterated, not quite foregrounded, central and dangerously exposed like a looped magnetophone abandoned on a battlefield. “The deserts melt, the northern woods that kiss the sun are cinderised, the very earth is carbonised, jets of fire plume the earth’. And we, the listener, where are we? Not hearing this from a safe remove. In the thick of it, as alarmed, as tense and calm as our interlocutor, joining the death march. “Who’ll pick at this and chew on their dusthole graves . . . all will be just words by then, chewed nutrient in lawyers mouths and bank accounts”. And, once you have a chance to catch your breath, you realise how silent music has been about the world of late. In taking the world on, in refusing to hide, in finding such a poetic way of rendering the political, Crause knows he’s isolated. But he, and us, shouldn’t accept this music’s current obscurity as an expression of a natural artistic order. Go to bandcamp, buy this thing. In that act you are defending music, you are standing up for its possibilities.  Ovid had Phaethon’s epitaph as ‘Here Phaethon lies who in the sun-god's chariot fared/And though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared’. It’s only us who could let Crause fail. His continued unsigned status isn’t the inevitability we’ve been tutored to think intense art experiences have to emerge from, it’s a shameful stain on the supposed health of our music culture, could be if allowed to persist a dark despairing stop to any hope one can conjure about the future of music. Hope, vision, wonder however are things that Crause’s music, even in its bleakest traumas,  gives you in a ceaseless rolling tide, again and again, every time you hear it or let it in. Don’t let this year pass without hearing one of its most mind-melting, heart-stirring, soul-swallowing transmissions.  For the ages.

http://iancrause.bandcamp.com/album/the-song-of-phaethon

Monday, 17 November 2014

Band Aid 30: Love Can Kill You


Hey, they're not making it easy for me to get behind this. I think part of the problem with Band Aid, both in its original 1984 incarnation and its new re-tooled 2014 version, is the utter fucking horribleness of everyone involved. If we're being forensic then we could blame Michael Buerk for starters. Michael Buerk's currently making 150 grand for appearing on a I'm A Celebrity, and could last week be heard on the open turd-strewn sewer that is The Moral Maze defaming a victim of rape. It was Michael Buerk who helped break the Ethiopia Famine story in 1984 and at that time, he had a choice as a journalist, to represent the famine and suffering as an act of nature or an act of politics. Fatally, as he continues to do, Buerk chose to treat us like idiots, giving out a totally simplistic and false portrayal of the situation that inevitably led to simplistic solutions, a headlock of simplicity that's endured ever since in most reactions to 'third world crises'. A 'famine caused by drought'. A 'biblical famine'.




The road to misery is paved with good intentions. Oh they all meant well, didn't they? But the Band Aid trust, set up to distribute the relief the record and gig generated, in dealing with Mengistu and his murderous government in the first place, immediately invalidated any good intentions behind their work. It was Mengistu who caused the famine through his resettlement and depopulation plans, Mengistu who used the aid and relief from Live Aid and Band Aid to continue his plans to brutalise and starve his people, using the advice and the conventional and chemical weaponry the Russians were more than willing to send his way. As a reaction to an in-itself misleading news-broadcast, Geldof's spasm of self-righteousness did more harm than good, politically as well as in terms of pure human suffering, aiding resettlements that killed people faster than any famine. This is what happens when you say something is beyond politics. You raise a shitload of money, expiate guilt from government, seemingly 'forget' about September 84, a few months previous, a month before Buerk's famous news reports, when Mengistu diverted 200 million dollars of foreign aid and spent it on a party celebrating Haile Selassie's overthrow, the first time Western journalists got to see the starving masses of Ethiopia, wandering into the swinging capital from the ravaged countryside. Irrelevant by Christmas. These powerful scum become people you 'need to work with'. You fund their killing, torturing, raping, imprisonment of their people. In refusing, like Buerk to acknowledge that famine is a POLITICAL problem, putting it down to bad luck, climate, you let the tyrants and murderers off the hook. You let the money raised to feed people to be used in 'counter-insurgency'. You balance what little help you give with the fact that without a doubt you are extending the life of an insane, destructive regime. Propping up despots is never a price worth paying. Live Aid, and Band Aid were COLLUSION in Mengistu's regime, collaboration when nothing but outright denunciation should've been our standpoint.




Yeah, check out the new logo. Cos Ebola of course, is affecting the WHOLE OF AFRICA (shhh, doesn't matter that it isn't, after all, how are Africans gonna complain about such misportrayal?) It's a good story, the old gang back and swinging and just this morning we have the unedifying spectacle of pal-of-Blair Bob Geldof singling out Adele as someone who hasn’t answered his calls. Just fuck off you bullying ego-trip addicted wanker. Let’s get this straight – the kind of ‘celebrity humanitarianism’ Geldof engages in has nothing to do with ‘changing’ things. Band Aid, just as it did in 84, legitimises and promotes neoliberal capitalism and the global inequality that is the inevitable result. The whole project is immediately contaminated by its corporate endorsement, self-serving to its coordinators and participants and designed to self-aggrandize celebrities’ brand identities, nothing else. The idea that a wodge of cash (thanks George for the V.A.T waiver you evil fucking lizard) can sort out the endemic and long-running infrastructure and health-provision fuck-ups that have enabled the latest outbreak to gain a foothold is a joke. 'Feed The World' is nothing anyone in the west should be proud of. It's a song whose central conceit is that we can bring a new thing, Christmas, to the huddled African masses (ignoring of course the fact that Ethiopia has a longer tradition of Christianity than anywhere in the West). It's a song that perpetuated a picture of Africa that still dangerously endures today, that allowed rich white pop stars to appoint themselves spokespeople for 'voiceless' Africans, rich white hypocritical pop stars like Geldof and Boneo who use tax-avoidance tactics to sate their own greed while exhorting governments to spend more of other people's money on their own pet causes. It's a song that is still perfectly emblematic of all that's wrong, arrogant, dumbly oblivious to complexity, about celebrities 'raising awareness' of 'third world issues'. The same conceit that thinks a concert can end poverty or a twitter-campaign can bring kidnapped girls back to a school. It raises awareness of nothing, only salves the conscience of the wealthy, was always a fucking horrible song that seeks to reduce Africa to a monolithic helpless place that can only be understood in terms of its desperation and desolation, a basket-case in need of our salvation, a place without rivers, without hope, without snow a place waiting for OUR benevolence again (faint hint that we should never have left). And yeah, lets thank god it’s those Africans suffering and not us. Hold the phone though. They've had a rewrite. FUCKING HELL, check this bullshit.




If, and it must, 'Feed The World' can be seen as one of the most singularly objectionable songs ever, the fact that in the new version those 'controversial' lines have been changed matters not a jot. BandAid30, just as it was in 84, is fundamentally depoliticizing despite its pretentions to activism, says the only power we can exert is as consumers, sucks up to any corporation or government willing to ‘lend a hand’ (including a chancellor busy in a government absolutely committed to destroying the health structures of this country and the lives of many of the people who depend upon them), allows politicians to posture and pose their supposed altruism, rationalising the very global inequality it seeks to redress. It’s akin to ‘corporate responsibility’ i.e BULLSHIT, like a fast food company fucking up forests and running sweatshops while blathering about ethical/green policies. Decaf capitalism, a sustaining narrative that’s useful to elites as issues of social justice get transformed into technocratic matters to be resolved by managers, experts, NGOs and, increasingly, celebs. Just as in 84, Geldof’s self-sanctimony, as with all celebs who ‘speak for’ the ‘third world’ on issues of debt/poverty reduces ‘victims’ into passive idiot bystanders, focuses attention on the spectacle of disaster or relief, diverting attention away from longer-term structural causes behind inequality and poverty and the recurrent health disasters that result. 
We the audience have a chance to not be complicit in this. Hope folk reject these twats (made easy cos it’s a terrible song performed by terrible people once again) and their hypocritical moralising and if they want to help investigate the mess of politics behind things rather than the crayon-sketch reductivism of Geldof and his ilk. How dare a song insist that a whole section of a massive continent have 'no hope' bar survival, have no 'peace and joy'. They're PEOPLE you fuckers, not cartoons. Don't give this Geldof cunt any fucking more of your fucking money. Hoping for an X-factor number 1 more than any year previous.