Friday, January 22, 2021

Confinement Diary 10: Track Lists

More than at any time, now it is so important that anyone producing a mix to be published online takes the trouble to write the track list. I have no idea of how record sales, vinyl and digital, are faring. However, it’s clear that people are still playing music and uploading the results. Music production hasn’t slowed down, but artists are finding it more difficult to make ends meet. Track lists should be published as a moral duty to help those in need. One of the best places to go for new music, Rinse FM, hosts an amazingly diverse range of DJs representing all stripes on the electronic spectrum. They, and others like them have it in their power to make publishing a full and detailed track list a requirement of all shows. Of course there is the thrill of the hunt. Discovering new music on one’s own is always the best way, but for now at least, the time to keep tunes secret should be over. There should be no competition anyway. Some DJs will always have new music first, and sharing information about it won’t directly result in others being able to access the same tracks unless they have a direct line to the supplier. It’s childish to be selfish about this and to indulge in oneupmanship. It doesn’t improve any skills, rather it enhances the idea that curation is everything, and that those with the best collections are superior. They aren’t, but making use of as much music at one’s disposal and sharing it is something to be celebrated.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

E-FAX009 - James Bangura (Art-E-Fax)


Title: E-FAX009 

Artist: James Bangura

Label: Art-E-Fax

Cat Number: 009

Genre: Breaks

A1: Cleanse

A2: Denita Junction

A3: Interpretive Dance

B1: Incoherent Response

B2: Silk Work

B3: Texts Of Murakami

James Bangura might be a relatively new name with a small discography, but on the strength of these releases he is in the process of establishing himself as the thinking persons’ cosmic stoner sound tracker. I say this because that’s how I feel while listening to his music, even in the depths of an early December evening in Suffolk. It’s dark outside and pouring down, but of course I’m not here. I’m off practicing primal scream therapy and doing double jointed yoga in the shadow of the Pacific coast. That’s how I’ve been rolling most of the year as it happens. I do love releases like this though: concise and dynamic with amazing range and imagination with a great use of samples and an unwillingness to be pigeonholed. Listening to this in December thinking that it’s never too late to release one of the most complete records of the year, then realising it doesn’t come out until January, so it’s never to early either.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Confinement Diary 9: Old World Order


Confinement Diary 9: Old World Order

Something always happens to break January’s monotony. This time it was the fascists getting into The White House far too easily. A singularly unique event which, two days after it happened, has once more been superseded by the eternal loop of ‘Frasier’ on Channel 4. We are living through “interesting times’ a cliché only marginally less annoying than ‘lessons will be learnt’ or ‘history will judge them (harshly)’. I have always classed myself as a louchely productive person. Although time has marched on and I have dragged it, anchor-like, behind me, I have managed to generally do what I want, be happy with it, but never really achieved anything of any lasting value. This is the first post on this blog since just before Christmas, which is a lengthy lay off as far as I’m concerned. Because no matter how many people read these posts, it matters to me to get them out there. Christmas, which is a time of the year I have always enjoyed, passed by pretty much as normal in spite of the pervasive restrictions. It’s the music, football, food, film, running and the arts that keeps me going, and I’ve still got easy access to this. More and more important is getting out in the fresh air. I can empathise with anyone who has felt themselves going a bit west since the first lockdown. Anyone who has young kids and lives somewhere without access to a garden must be finding it hard. Keeping busy is so incredibly important, but I’ve been as affected as anyone who has suffered a dip in productivity. I’m still of the mind that I’m an artist of some self-repute, I like to create and to document this process. I’m also incredibly receptive to the efforts of others and sensitive to their needs. The past year has been a massive struggle for most of us and if one is involved in the creative industries seeing a point to all of this without no clear end in sight is very demoralising. It’s so important to keep going though, and to not lose hope. If I’ve learnt one thing from the start of this situation we all find ourselves in, it’s that we adapt at a remarkable speed and that we are stronger together. I’m amazed at the resilience on show from all communities and hope, that once things get back to normal, the same level of motivation and invention will be applied to normal life. At the moment it’s difficult to imagine things going back to normal ever again, but they will, and all of this will be a distant memory. It feels a bit worse at the moment because it’s winter. I still haven’t recovered from the post Christmas hangover. I don’t commute to work at the moment and am sleeping better, and more than I ever have. I love all of the seasons, but like everyone am looking forward to the Spring. One of the things that made the last lockdown easier was that almost from the word go the weather was good. The British summer will always disappoint however, and although conditions were good up until early-mid July, they fell off throughout August, only to pick themselves up a little in September. I also left my job of twenty years which, although I took it in my stride, was a big deal. I had been looking for a way out for a long time. My workplace had, all of a sudden, become an unpleasant environment to be in. It was a big deal no matter how it’s framed. Family has been great because I have occasionally been a pain in the arse, but I have seen next to nothing of any friends since March. Social media has of course helped in this regard, and as I’m mostly a voyeur on it it’s been very manageable. I am mainly on it to say stuff about football and music, mostly linking to posts on this blog. I’ve always been able to step aside from the chaos it engenders and cherry pick what I like. The main reason for getting on it in the first place was so I could link to blog posts and that hasn’t changed. So, let me take this opportunity to thank all the artists for continuing to produce music, which some say is best heard in sweaty, COVID infested dives, for home listening. I hope that its continuing consumption proves to all doubters that even though it would be better if clubs and dances were still allowed, the music will continue to flourish because headspace is just as important as floorspace. My aim is for this blog to continue to flourish and to post most days. I will continue to write reviews and try to incorporate a longer piece regularly. I will also continue to regularly link to mixes, and a huge thanks goes out to those DJs who keep the fire burning in their metaphysical bedrooms. It would be interesting to see how the mindset has shifted and how worthwhile everyone thinks working under the current raft of restrictions is. What’s certain is that the real music heads are still being catered for and will continue to thrive under the prevailing conditions. Not to be dismissive of the clubbing experience, the sooner it comes back the better, but when it does it won’t be the same. I am hopeful that there will be a return to underground values as the skills, strategic thinking and patience learnt during lockdown will manifest themselves in the most positive of ways. I could be talking out of my arse of course, but if the font of resourcefulness previously referred to hasn’t run dry, then once this is all over I believe that clubbing is going to experience a spiritual rebirth which will be a paradigm shift for the better. What would top things off nicely would be the slow, painful death of corporate clubbing, but it’s a thing apart. Annoyingly though, it tarnishes everything with its shitty brushstrokes. To most people a DJ is a DJ is a DJ. There are no distinctions. I suppose the scenario is similar to being asked if you like any old shite on the radio which is vaguely synthetic because an interest in electronic music has previously been declared. The irony is however, that whenever I’m asked to describe the music I like and define it, I get tongue-tied and inarticulate. I’m certainly not one to over explain/intellectualise, still, it’s really difficult to be succinct. With so much cross-pollination going on how do you explain the difference between house, techno and electro and get out alive inside a minute? And how necessary is it to be able to explain these distinctions anyway? Not as much as is made out, but eloquence in these situations is a skill which isn’t to be sniffed at. On another tip I recently made my Discogs business pay by acquiring a pair of Pioneer XDJ 700s. I haven’t bought any new records for almost 6 months. I’m still lucky enough to get lots of links sent to me from various promo providers on the undertaking that I will write reviews about some of the releases in question. I barely have time to listen to 10% of what I am sent, so like lots of people in similar positions have to sometimes randomly select what will and won’t be covered. I’ve always had the same policy regarding reviews. I don’t listen to the release before reviewing it in order to guarantee some impartiality. However, I try not to be negative if at all possible. It’s bad enough for artists at the moment without some no mark blogger sticking their oar in. In any case, I’m very much enjoying using the Pioneers. I had been meaning to buy a pair for around a couple of years, but a mixture of procrastination and intrepidation stopped me. I had been accumulating the lion’s share of my new music digitally and still hadn’t taken the plunge. My set up was a pair of 1200s with a pair of Pioneer CDJ 200s, which I’d had for around 12 years. As CD players they are as good as anything, apart for a lack of flashing lights, and I had, up to a couple of years ago, always used CDs with vinyl in my mixes. The process of burning had got laborious though, and the discs had become redundant. I had always wanted to buy a CDJ with the idea of using it for CDs as well as files, but what’s the point of CDs anymore, except to play as an album? The price of CDJs which double as usb file played is prohibitive, and when buying second hand there are bound to be risks, so I took a punt on the 700s. I got a brand new pair for less than the price of one new state-of-the-art CDJ, and they’re great! I’m playing in my house, not a nightclub, so there is no point in spending a stupid amount of money trying to pretend my back room is Berghain. They are incredibly easy to use and oce the usbs have been loaded you become familiar with all the tracks on them remarkably quickly. It’s almost as if the constant scrolling up and down on the display immediately endows you with some sort of 6th sense. The best part of it is that I haven’t even begun to explore Rekordbox yet. I doubt I need to, and I’m not going to pay for it, but I’ll dip my toes in soon enough. The most frustrating thing though, is the amount of labels who are still vinyl only. I don’t get it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech - DJ Godfather & K-1 (Databass)

Title: Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech

Artist: DJ Godfather & K-1

Label: Databass

Cat Number: DB-094

Genre: Electro

01: Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech (Version 1)

02: Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech (Version 1 Dub Mix)

03: Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech (Version 2)

04: Detroit Electro Ghetto Tech (Acapella)

It’s not difficult to know what’s going on here. DJ Godfather and Keith Tucker, two of Detroit’s most illustrious electro exports, join forces to produce something which, even though I love it, is preaching to the converted. The two tracks, versions 1 & 2, are different enough from each other to maintain interest; K-1’s filtered vocals being spoken in the former and more lyrical in the latter. The funk is also variable, with both versions rolling in a suitably sinister fashion, version 2 being more offbeat and liquid, version 1 more angular and throbbing. The ‘Version 1 Dub Mix’ is the same as ‘Version 1’ without the vocals, and the acapella should yield results as a ring tone, as well as a mixing tool. Everything is nice and in its correct place, but one has to wonder if there is any more room to manoeuver?  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Z@p at The MUDD Show


Basement Jams - Ruskin & Broom (Blueprint)

Title: Basement Jams
Artist: Ruskin & Broom
Label: Blueprint
Cat Number: BP057
Genre: Techno

A1: PR1
B2: SN7

In spite of its name, this latest offering on James Ruskin’s evergreen Blueprint feels anything but spontaneous. Expectation often ruins joint ventures like these, but this collaboration is both raw and oozing class. The four tracks have reductive titles which all sound like the serial numbers of particularly deadly weapons, which is nice for that is indeed what this collection of loops of fury are. I wouldn’t say there are any stand out moments here, rather the whole listening experience is a hypnotic funk-filled abattoir from start to finish. Cymbals cut through the air like carving knives, kick drums thud into the heavens and there is such an abundance of synth play and acid squelch to keep any beat junkie happy. ‘OCS’ is perhaps the tune where it all comes together best; an undulating, visceral, bass-driven syncopated throb which Fred Astaire would be throwing shapes to if he were transplanted into the modern dance consciousness.