Monday, 27 September 2010

James Blake – The Bells Sketch [Hessle Audio] / CMYK [R&S] / Klavierwerke [R&S]

Where to start with James Blake? He’s a unique talent making seriously twisted synthesized gems that can range from full on dance floor movers to bittersweet introspective soul. One of my blog projects Sonic Router was probably one of the first to interview and get an article on him via Oli’s column at The Quietus right after before he dropped the ESSENTIAL ‘Stop What You’re Doing’ remix and after the sublime first 12” on Untold’s Hemlock label. A release that is still in my bag and a firm favourite sounding as fresh as it did when Distance first dropped the dub on his Rinse show that got everyone’s attention. Ever since he’s been making waves, getting attention outside of the scene and dropping some seriously good 12”s/EPs. A low-key collaboration with Airehead on BRAiNMATH, one for the always on point Hessle Audio, whose quality control is just insanely high and another for legendary old school techno label R&S who seem to be making a return to my radar for the first time in years after dropping a brilliant few records from Pariah and now the guy in question.

For some reason I’ve not got around to writing much on him here so a rundown of his last three EPs is in order because I can’t stop playing them. He shows some range over the three from the stripped back percussive elements on The Bells Sketch EP to the shape shifting R&B sampling gems on CMYK or the mellow eerie bedroom soul on the latest addition Klavierwerke.

The Hessle release has a percy on it in the form of ‘Buzzard & Kestrel’ the rhythms are irresistible, they subtly roll out with a heavy groove before the synths are unleashed in a sudden flourish. It’s the paired back minimal clicks and booms of the percussion that do it for me here. The title track and ‘Give A Man A Rod’ are something else too, both melodramatic synthesizer jams that make people move in strange ways when they’re dropped in the dance. The collision of laid back funk and twisted synths on ‘The Bells Sketch’ is a killer combination, it’s a huge sounding track with so much pent up energy its unreal. ‘Give A Man A Rod’ is a subtler affair, a spaced out funk number that seems like its been beamed in from an intergalactic cocktail bar.

The two R&S EPs come from different angels CMKY plays around with that popular production trick of taking slinky R&B vocals and twisting them into new shapes. But instead of re-treding that post-Burial emotional landscape Blake morphs the likes of Aaliyah and Kelis into freaky funk jams like the anthemic title track with its looping mantra of ‘Look I found her, red coat, look I found her’ over bleepy melodies reminiscent of Peverelist’s ‘Roll With The Punches’ a track which he’s also made a cheeky remix of, but its the twisting euphoric synth rushes that lead into the big bass drops that really shake things up. The rest of the EP is a more low key affair reaching for subtler highs and drops that are designed to tug at your heartstrings rather than make you loose your shit.

It’s the latest EP entitled Klavierwerke that takes that mellow side and really runs with it though. James has hinted at his paired down vocal side for sometime with covers of Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ with him accompanied by piano. Here he doesn’t go into full on vocal mode but hints at it by using his voice as another instrument, chopping bits in and out here and there. It’s all pretty chilled out, haunted and melancholy, really introspective. The title track has a late night deep house feel running through it that’s channelled through a hazy bedroom soul. At many points in the EP like on ‘Tell Her Safe’ when the hazy piano and vocal loop intro takes hold you think he could break out into full song at any point, but it’s the restrained mellow vibe that wins over and it’s a killer EP for it. The fragments of song get twisted into these new shapes and contexts that’s way more interesting than straight up song craft, but then that’s a talent he no doubt has somewhere too.

Who knows what else he’s got up his sleeve, go and see him DJ and you’ll see yet another side to him. As well as fresh dubs from the guy taking in all those vibes mentioned above you get some seriously adventurous combinations in the mix. It’ll make you wonder why Coki doesn’t produce for Beyonce for one… Plus if you’ve never experienced his remix of Untold in the flesh on a crowded dance floor you’re missing out big time. Now my catch up session is over you go and do the same.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Pamelia Kurstin and Seb Rochford duo @ The Shed, Brawby Village Hall. 25 September 2010

The Shed goes back to its original home of Brawby for a special show from Pamelia Kurstin and Seb Rochford who come together showcasing an interesting project; one I’d never thought I’d witness, let alone in a Shed… Pamelia Kurstin on theramin and Seb Rochford on drums. Plus Seb Rochford went on the road the day before in a van taking in hotspots such as Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley, pulling up and playing with the doors shut. Something I missed unfortunately but this lot didn’t… But tonight its time to head to Brawby for some Shed Bitter and a good show, what to expect? No idea.

Pamelia Kurstin hails form California has a background in upright bass, a skill she adapted and really ran wild with to create a unique and creative theramin playing style of her own. The sounds she creates is something else, I’ve never heard anything like it. One minute she’s creating low-slung slow motion funk by messing with frequencies and looping them into new shapes with pedals, synths and effects. The next its eerie b-movie soundscapes via a Aphex Twin–esq Selected Ambient Works collage of sound or a Herbie Hancock electro-funk. Whole tracks were created live with such control and precision. Seb Rochford accompanied her with some seriously creative drumming; accenting the compositions with anything from incidental meandering through lilting funk and intense shed rattling drum workouts. It was a hypnotic experience swimming in layers of theramin built from the ground up infront of you.

My prediction is that drum & theramin will take off just like drum & bass did, expect to hear it take over soon. The pair have an album on the way for the Slowfoot label and after tonight’s performance its one I’m keeping an eye out for. As always The Shed continues to be one of the most inspiring and entertaining venues around, bringing something new to the table with each season.

*Photo by Susan Balf in Kirkbymoorside market place, 24th September 2010.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

T.Williams – Chop & Screw EP [Deep Teknologi]

T.Williams’ EP on Local Action is a personal favourite; he’s rolling on a dark, techy flex that gets pretty addictive. After the last two quality releases on Deep Teknologi from Zander Hardy and J.Bevan recently the label boss steps up with a three track EP all of his own that picks up where the Local Action EP left off and even shows off a bigger room sound on one track.

Opening with ‘Chop & Screw’ we walk right into peak time on some hazy Ibiza dance floor, bumpy disco, funk loops build like a filter house track. A trick I wasn’t expecting to hear on a dark techy, UK funky release and at first it was hard to get on board with. But when the beats drop into a punchy, rolling rhythm with a deep flexing bassline and skittish snare hits its hard not to feel it.

Things get darker with the rest of the EP, ‘Hard Cash’ and ‘In The Deep’ sound like they’ve been carved out of heavy summer heat. They bump and flex shaking themselves free from a dense haze of bass and dubbed-out frequencies. The basslines on both of these get thing moving, ‘Hard Cash’ pulses and drones until unleashing deadly down turning rave stabs and ‘In The Deep’ has a pulsing funk to it. Maybe its T.Williams grimy side coming out again, these are dark with a restrained swagger that means business.

Another solid EP coming out of the Deep Teknologi crew, if you’re looking for a fix of that dark, rolling, techy stuff with enough flex in it to get things moving then you can’t go far wrong.

Originally written for Sonic Router.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Breach – Fatherless/(Doc Daneeka’s Mrr Snrz Rmx)/Man Up [PTN]

PTN are on it right now, the new offshoot from Ramp specialising in variants of the house persuasion from, for want of a better word the bass scene… featuring artists like Hackman, Doc Daneeka, Hypno and now Breach, PTN reaches its forth platter with the tribal anthem ‘Fatherless’, which has been hitting dance floors hard for some time. Breach is the ‘house’ alter-ego of Ben Westbeech a multi talented musician/producer who’s turned his hand to anything from d’n’b to dropping soul-addled vocals for people all over the place, but that’s another story…

It’s the raw physical power the simple elements of over the top tribal drum workouts and looping flutes combining that make ‘Fatherless’ such an anthem. Not since the Beastie Boy’s ‘Flute Loop’ have I heard such a killer hook from the instrument. It keeps rolling and rolling pretty relentlessly over the booming kicks, snare splashes and tribal percussion you can pretty much sing-along to. The icing on the cake is a quick fire sample declaring the mantra ‘Fatherless’. Doc Daneeka brings the originals almost dubstep sounding lilt further into house territory with a four four kick, relentless fizzling snares and pulsing bassline. It doesn’t add much but doesn’t detract either for that slightly different vibe. The b-side cut ‘Man Up’ is subtler but just as tribal, echoing the likes of Julio Bashmore, looping chants and swirling tabla’s that get twisted out of all proportion bring the energy before the drop.

This 12” is pure dance floor fire, big and brash and seriously addictive. ‘Fatherless’ has summer anthem written all over it’s grinning face. This track is getting rinsed all over the place and rightly so. It wouldn’t be surprising if the big room house and electro guys found it too, it’s just to much fun. Enjoy it while you can.

Written for Sonic Router.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Last Ever Mary Anne Hobbs Show w/ Kode9 & Burial

It’s was the last Mary Anne Hobbs show last night, she’s a legend and has introduced me to so much music over the years. Big up Mary!

Listen again here. It features a quality mix by these two…

Kode9 & Burial

01. Speedy J – Tesla
02. Zomby – Natalia’s Song
03. Brandy – Never Say Never (El-B version 1)
04. Brandy – Never Say Never (El-B version 2)
05. Brandy – Angel (X-Men vocal mix)
06. Laurie Spiegel – Voices Within – A Requiem
07. Alena – Turn It Around (Hard House Bantons Mandy Mix)
08. Cooly G – Him Da Biz
09. Theo Parrish – Soul Control feat. Alena Waters
10. KMFH aka Kyle Hall – Girl U So Strong (Wild Oats)
11. Terror Danjah – S.O.S.
12. Darkstar – 2 Chords
13. Prince – Condition of the Heart
14. Erykah Badu – Telephone
15. Foul Play – Being With U Rmx
16. A Guy called Gerald – Silent Cry

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

V.I.V.E.K. – Feel It EP [Deep Medi]

Four track double pack from one of Deep Medi’s finest new signings V.I.V.E.K. It comes on the back of his first Medi release last year ‘Kulture/Meditation Rock’ and countless dubplates that you can hear when you go see him play or tune into some Anti Social Entertainment on Rinse FM. He fuses digidub soundsystem deep bass culture with some seriously rolling percussion, a hint of Berlin techno and those Medi vibes, eyes down, blissed-out, heavy weight music.

The title track kicks things off in fine style, ‘Feel It’ has some of the most infectious rolling Tablas, the percussion is sublime. A vocal sample declaring the weight of your bass and the largeness of your soundsystem is all you need to usher in a chest thumping sub sonic bass tone and the track is off, there is no way back you’re sucked into that soup of sub bass frequencies. Tick-toc its ‘Grandfather Clock’ a big track, the clock counts down to a dance floor meltdown when the metronome-like sample, half tempo drum patterns and hefty bass melts into blazing techno buzzes that just keep coming, it’s those killer synths that make it, they come from nowhere. It’s one for the big rooms.

The deeply blissful ‘Motherland’ is one for the eyes down crew, subtle but weighty bass pulses roll off half stepping rhythms, Tablas and all that good stuff all accented with Indian vocals instrumentation. It’s so deep, minimal and all round good vibes. It would make Youngsta proud. The final track ‘Strategy’ is a roller with a garage kind of swing to it, it skips along with big room dub techno chords twisting in and out of the bumpy beats it really comes alive and picks up the pace. The Feel It EP is pure vibes all the way: Subtle, heavy weight music from V.I.V.E.K.

Originally written for Sonic Router.
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