Amen to Zombie: December 25, 2009

In a world where experimental electronic music exponentially splinters into a multitude of rogue genres that slowly shuffle the globe from demilitarized dance floors to sleeper cell bedroom studios and back, a team of disparate scientists tracks this solanum-like pandemic while desperately trying to interpret cryptic field recordings of Samhain’s past, not one day at a time, but from Amen to Zombie


Not no Parkay, strictly butter.  Moving along here with the B’s.  Couple of sundry items before we get down to the next page of the saga.  This past November The Upbeats release “Big Skeleton”  I’m never one for D&B albums.  I’m convinced that the genre should stay single or mix oriented.  Audible: has anyone else noticed that most electronic music podcasts are getting back to more of a radio format?  If you listen to anything worthwhile on Sub FM the DJs will keep you up-to-date with what tracks being played.  D&B Arena et. al do the same thing.  It’s kind of a weird circuit that underground electronic music on the radio or some sort of broadcast has run.  It began with just endless mixes on public radio and heads trying to frantically track down what track is what, to the saturation of producers and splintering of electronic music into a genres within genres and the DJs now have to announce who’s producing what so that even other high profile DJs can keep abreast of hotness.
Getting back to The Upbeats.  This is one of the best albums I’ve heard period in recent years.  Maybe it’s possible now that d&b has shrunk the average track time from ~7 minutes to about 4.5-5 minutes, for there to be a good d&b album that isn’t filled with epic tracks with stupid sketches or loops thrown in to make it album-ish.  And this is no simple collection of singles.  I think it’s gotta go down as one of the milestones or warning signs that the album is still relevant in a 50 minute incarnation/completely dead now that a genre of music that should have nothing to do with albums can put out something so good.  It’s all there, every flavor of d&b, some dubstep, big bad bass, and The Upbeats very fine tuned studio production.  Highly recommended.

Notable Releases

Paul Blackout: Simulated Demons / Psychic Experiment Rmx

Hard fast edits from Austria.  Never heard from the one like Paul, but he’s trying to push the breakcore/d&b line further with the remix.  Original is pretty standard tech-step stuff to start out with, good but nothing special, breaking into some Slayer riff-age at the first break, paying around with some amen edits.  Not great.  But the Rmx is like short bursts of hard edited beats that’s pretty visceral.  Not for the weak of heart, or for people who can’t see music in noise or vice versa.

Black Sun Empire

The rest of this particular page of Juno was monopolized by the triumvirate know as BSE.  Dutch, prolific, and ubiquitous with d&b.  Chances are that you’ve heard a BSE track at some point.  Techstep, Neurofunk if you want to lump them in with the splinter genres, but there’s something more to their music than that.  How can I explain, when I say ubiquitous I really mean that.  They’ve somehow managed to make their music distinctively theirs, but without any of the huge signposts that other producers have.  Like Photek‘s Asian drum work, or Ed Rush & Optical‘s Reese work.  It’s hard to put in words, its some sort of audio illusion.  If you listen to a lot of d&b, you’ve most definitely heard a similar style in other producers, but there’s something unique about BSE that denotes it as the real deal.  BSE are also ones to point to when people listen to d&b on iPod headphones and go “I don’t like this, it’s the same thing over and over again.”  This music was built to be played on a louder than hell sound system, or at least your home ghettoblaster on 10.  Try an experiment: download one of the tunes below and listen to it on your computer speakers first.  Then play it on as proper a sound system as you can find.  See the difference?  Speaking of the music, this time around instead of choosing individual records, I though I’d skip around a bit and do a little pick and choose with all the records up for grabs at Juno.  So I’m just going to list of a mix of BSE tunes that would be a good intro to the sound, and I think would make a nice little d&b mix.  Any one of the tunes is worthwhile, but investing in the mix will give you the width and breadth of what BSE is about d&b wise.  Here we go:
BSE & Noisia: Winter War -> BSE: Fearless -> BSE: Potemkin -> BSE: Boris the Blade (Optiv Rmx) -> BSE: Stone Faces -> BSE: Are You There? -> Dance 4 Life: Breathe (BSE Rmx) -> BSE: Unfamiliar -> BSE: Crash Bunny
Finally this month, I did want to make one comment on Jungle/Reggae/Dub samples.  Things like “when it come, it come like a blood clot heart attack”  are no longer necessary.  At least not at the level that these samples find their way into tunes these days.  Knock it off d&b.  I understand paying homage to your roots, but lets move on.  I had to plod through some rough sounding Jungle stuff on this page.  It’s like if a House producer would start talking about Jack in the middle of some record that came out today.  Yes, it’s that embarrassing and your referents are even older than that.  It’s a spice people, and a rare one you don’t cook with as often as you do salt & pepper.  Like mace.
So it goes.