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…
Back into the Juno catalog, just about finished with the Bs. The sands of Juno are ever shifting, so my new strategy is to actually go through one letter at a time, instead of looking at the whole catalog. Hopefully I won’t miss as much of the new stuff as the changing stock list pushes or pulls records in their position in the catalog with this new strategy. And speaking of new stuff…
Loads of new albums coming out this spring. On Hyperdub, Ikonika‘s debut long player, the mighty ASC with the first album on the impressive NonPlus+ label, and Fly Lo comes back to Warp with a new album and headlines MAH’s stage @ the Sonar festival with a live PA gig. It’s always sort of a naive thing to say that this year will be a big year for music, but any fan of underground electronic music would be excited about any of those albums. Let’s hope that the album will continue to be a viable format for electronic artists.
Speaking of which, our rogue scientists are brewing a special head to head edition of Amen to Zombie. Phace + Misanthrop have just put out From Deep Space and Noisia will be soon releasing Split the Atom. Both collectives are well regarded as at the forefront of d&b and both albums I think will be amazing. A perfect chance to talk endlessly about d&b and pit two new albums against each other for no reason other than useless analysis.
And now a segue way to something useless and this week’s recommended releases. Brother‘s release on In:Fluence on this page of releases. I’m into In:Fluence, but this one is weak and kind of a let down as far as the rest of the catalog goes. The samples were just misplaced in the tune. Meaning that the note of the bass and the key or note of the samples were just a bit off, or re-tuned with some program so that they matched. Just sounds a bit off. Moving on…
BTK & Jumpat/Proktah & Sleeper Cell – Funky Monkey/Resurrection
Hucking fell! Serious rolling bass on this one. Just saw a full release on Cyanide Records, but it’s been around on promo for a while. “Funky Monkey” is where the action is at. “Resurrection” is pedestrian, and I’m not entirely sure of what is being resurrected with the tune. Ed Rush & Optical released an album just last year, and “Resurrection” sounds a lot like their sound. More of a tip of the hat though, right? “Funky Monkey” has got skitty little bongo work, a punchy bass drum, and sub-bass like a fucking bridge cable slowly swinging in a hurricane. Heavy.
Not so much as one release that is important, but really the name and the sound behind it is epicly important to the art of d&b. For now we are limited to the releases.
This one makes me chuckle for a number of reasons; probably not the ones you’re thinking of, though. First, Bukem is not the artist’s last name, its Williamson. Daniel Williamson to be exact, AKA LTJ Bukem. There’s quite a bit of info on him on Wikipedia; not sure if it’s all true but it sure is entertaining:
The name “LTJ Bukem” is a contraction of “El DJ Book ’em”, a nod to the Spanish for “The DJ”. “Book’em” (or “Book’em Danno”) is the well-known catchphrase by Steve McGarret, Senior Officer to “Danny Williams” on the television series Hawaii Five-O. Together we get “Ltj Bukem”.
You can catch up on the history of LTJ there if you like. To be sure, LTJ is a very key player in d&b’s rise to popularity in the late 90’s early 00’s. I used to see his Progression Sessions mixed CDs right next to Under The Table and Dreaming back at university in friends’ dorm rooms. By the time I got to exploring them I was well into the more moody, dark corners of d&b so I wasn’t ready for the jazzy spacey style that got dubbed “intelligent” d&b.
The second reason this patch of records in Juno makes me laugh requires some listening, so I’ll set it up.
First, get your headphones all set up and listen to this, with your eyes closed. You know it’s a LTJ Bukem track but no peeking at the ID.
Next, listen to that, again with your eyes closed.
Now admittedly the first mp3 is a bit tinny, but the task now is to guess what year they were produced in. If you have no timeline or frame of reference for d&b, then this will serve as a history lesson. If you do then I hope not only to illustrate how consistent LTJ has been, but also how vital he still is.
Ready for the answers?
Okay, so the first is a tuned called “Demon’s Theme,” produced in 1992. An absolute classic tune, bridging the gap between hardcore, acid, and jazz and, in a lot of ways, forging the template for one of d&b’s many sub-genres. LTJ also deserves credit for his production values. If you do listen to a lot of electronic music, it may sound dated to you due to the sounds and samples used. But it was built in ’92, when squelching 303s were still the norm. To even be able to listen to something so underground from that time today is a major feat. And “Demon’s Theme” has stood the test of time in my opinion.
The second is a tune called “Switch” that was built in ’08. I hope you can see the thread between the two tunes. I think this tune sits well with some of the experimental corners of d&b being championed by Sabre and Consequence and other “minimal” d&b producers. I think “Demon’s Theme” would also sit well in said set.
Both tunes I think can be flagged for, in some ways, borrowing jazz sounds and samples and not really engaging in the formal rules or improvisation of jazz. But it is still supposed to be raving music, and I think to a certain extent you can draw lines from many of the drummers on Electric Miles era records to some of the drum patterns used in d&b. And if your hang up is that it’s a bit carpetbagging, LTJ can boast remix credits for Herbie Hancock as well as Jodeci. That’s enough street cred and pop cultural cache for me. The flip to the “Switch” 12″ is “Drum Tools.” That’s a pretty badass break work out a la drum funk style.
But buyer beware! The Progression Sessions DJ mixes are hit-or-miss. In a bit of marketing genius, they have come with two discs. One mix is with an MC, usually Conrad. I’m not one for MCs mucking up my groove with shitty lyrics, so I go straight to the second CD which is just of the mix. When I picked up the very first Progression Sessions and listened to the straight mixed CD I was astounded at how badly such great tunes could be mixed together. LTJ absolutely makes some very listenable d&b. I haven’t checked up on his DJing skills lately, but as long as he’s not an absolute train wreck the way Mampi Swift still is you’re alright. I think you’re also safe just as long as you don’t look too close at the track lengths and how they balloon for no reason and stress the idea that a DJ is an editor. Which could be a long discussion, paradoxically.
So it goes.
Photo above by nsdesigns.