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…
We did it kids! Made our way to the second letter of the alphabet. B. B is for bass. So hopefully we can highlight some nasty bass as we travel our way through this letter. One last entry for A, though. A curious record by Kozue Ayuse. Two originals and one remix and one instrumental. Remix by Shy FX and T Power. Nothing too complicated, just throwing her voice over a breakbeat and adding some rave horns. But it’s the kind of stuff you’d find on some one’s iPod and they would deny liking it in front of a large group of people. I don’t know how everyone else feels about J-pop, but except for all the boy bands like Kat Tun and the like, I’m a sucker for some feel good Ayumi Hamasaki et. al. Quick tip for those who are enamored with Lady Gaga right now. Ayu’s first break out single way back in ’98 was “Poker Face.” We may have, in some respects, invented the pop star, but our pop stars are sophomoric compared to Japan’s. She’s got her own Pachinko machine, gag on that bitch!
This blog, to a large extent, is trying to see if d&b is still a viable format. If it’s still a wide enough net to catch new talented producers and provide them with an interesting set of rules from which to build electronic music. Or is it just passe. I was listening to Dr. J on Sub FM (which I recommend you do also) and there seems to be a kerfufflle over this Doorley cat. Seems as if he’s riding the line between house/dubstep/grime/d&b and making everyone upset in the chats. Doing a lot of remixes, so it’s kind of easy to achieve that if your picking any fruit that falls to the ground. But his originals are somewhat confusing, I guess, to those who put things in genre boxes. There seems to be an issue of branding, and I think that’s what people are having a problem with, saying that he’s ruining dubstep. I consider d&b to be a fairly broad spectrum of rules and musics, with the two hallmarks being a BPM of 160-ish and emphasis on bass production trickery. And to its credit, the genre has been pretty much anything that falls into that category can be put in the d&b section at even the most boutique of record shops. And I hope to illustrate that kind of like jazz, although I know I’m going to get rebuttals from that comment, d&b has in large parts avoided the dissection of genre and sound that has trapped other musics such as house and rock & roll. Now the question becomes “Does d&b benefit from this loose definition of its boundaries, in the fact that the genre can draw from a larger pool of talent? And also validate itself as not only more than an underground phenomenon, but possible the first electronic dance genre to define a new set of rules worthy of academic study?” Or “It’s a stagnate form. Relegated to selling Scions and being the touchstone for media and advertising whores who are trying to evoke some sense of the future.” To be sure the d&b template has found its way into advertising, the same way house and bigbeat has in the past. But as we now go into a period of underground music where new producers are looking back to beats on DJ Trax and International Trax for inspiration, but I wonder: will we ever get past permutations of disco’s 4/4? I thought that d&b might have done that. We’ll see. Moving forward.
Babylon Timewarp: Durban Poison (Original/Intense Kashmir rmx)
Some time you can’t argue with the classics. I would bet good money that you’ve heard this tune at some point if you have ever caught in your non-dominant ear something that made you think “Is that what Jungle sounds like?” Yep, a true one hit wonder. Something you don’t really see now-a-days, what with the interweb and all. Making it necessary and easy for everyone to release whatever has just been freshly saved to their desktop. This tune has been around and remixed by a lot of heads. Truly bedrock sound here. And I’m sure BoomKat would tell you that this nice 180 gram re-press in an “essential purchase.”
Black Ice Inc: Black Key/Badder than bad
Nice little 12″ on Reapa. Which is a nice little home grown label that’s run by DJ Reapa, and is pretty much a platform for G.P.K., who’s from/attending State College, PA, U.S.A. But the label is based in the U.K. Another international oddity pushing the boundaries of d&b/techno exersizes
)EI3(/Codename: John/DJ Trace: Connexions E.P.
So Here we are in B and it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Bad Company. )EI3(, Bad Company U.K. “A group of unanimous artists commonly misrepresented by an unpronounceable logo.” or whatever you choose to call the 4 man group that changed the face of d&b as we know it today. A couple of things worth discussion here. We’ll start first with the actual release. And it’s label. Prototype. They don’t come much more legendary than Prototype. The brain child of Mr. Bingham, know to you as Grooverider, on this release as Codename John. Which is another lecture once we get to G and how influential Grooverider was in not only making the London scene healthy but providing a useful link with indy rock kids and d&b heads with remixing “I’m Rolling” by Soul Coughing (I’m not sure what you’d call Soul Coughing, so forgive my short hand). As well as being an ambassador par excellence for all things London/Bristol based, when not being thrown in jail for being a pervert that is. Anyway, his label Prototype survived 14 releases before Bad Company stepped in and flipped the script. On those 14 releases you can see a who’s who of late 90’s early 00’s d&b. Photek, Lemon D, Cybotron (AKA Dillanja) and of course Ed Rush and Optical, both with separate releases at first, then as this release that set up the next 10 years of nero-funk. Prototype was HUGE. These records were twisting people’s heads into something beyond base face. But now let us turn out attention to Bad Company. Although I must stay that the ‘Sonar’ remix by Optical and Trace is also a huge track also. Let’s talk about the Bad Company track here. The Pulse rework by Bad Company themselves. This track was released in a non-rework form earlier on Prototype. I always like the flip ‘China Cup’ on that other record better, but this was still a heavy weight track being played by DJs ad nauseam. Bad Company had already rewritten history with “The Nine” It’s literally rave legend that Ed Rush dropped “The Nine” to some unsuspecting audience in Germany, I think. To be sure that someone remembers the first time that “The Nine” was played out. And boy was it a revolution. Tech-Step proper. I hate to have to wait until T to talk about Technical Itch, my absolutely-with-out-a-fucking-doubt-in-my-mind favorite ‘tech step’ artist, but Bad Company will do. The original BC was Maldini, Vegas, D Bridge, and Fresh. They have since become some of the luminaries of the the London d&b scene, but let’s just take the chance to get nostalgic about BC for a while, in their 4 Horsemen of the apocalypse incarnation. At the turn of the century there was nothing this 4 man collective couldn’t do. I invite you to check the whole back catalog for example of hotness. I remember hearing “Nitrous” being played on Pittsburgh public radio late night, when I would sit on my front porch and tape DJ mixes. I remember Dieselboy playing for free at Kent State U and dropping “Snow Cat” and “Torpedo” like a fucking bass bin bombs on a auxiliary field’s worth of co-eds. I remember getting (in let’s be honest rural Ohio, AKA Athens) a copy of “Coma/Spray Can” and not knowing what the hell to do with it DJ-wise. Bad Company records were for me a re-thinking of my speaker set up. That sub-bass was something that I zoomed in on and fell in love with. That stereo separation was so sophisticated compared to all the other records that I had, it was the revolution that I’d been looking for in sound at that time. And they were like this super group. I’m sure nerds had A4 size magazine pictures hung on their walls of Bad Company, wishing that more than a few of their IRC friends were into d&b. At least that’s the way it was for me in Ohio/Pennsylvania, in the States. I knew of other scenes in NY and SF d&b oriented. But that was just so far away from me. And all the other kids in town who had even heard of d&b were trust-funding rich assholes. Already familiar with acid, techno, house, and jungle. And ready to dismiss d&b as another new fad. The Bad Company records I have are for me a throw back to when electronic music was still small and so underground that it was actually hard to get records that you’d hear on a regular basis on independent radio. And like I said, Bad Company was the first super group to not embarrass themselves the way that Reprazent did by just cashing in on “the new style.” They were 4 heads pushing a counter culture sound. These rude boys even chose to go on a safari, in Wiltshire no less, to shoot clay pigeons and talk about their new album and all of their splinter labels in ’03. But eventually the collective ran it’s course and disbanded, and then still ruled the savanna with their respective lion parts. Like Voltron, right? What with the collective spirit and their moniker being the black lion? Anyway, Maldini and Vegas have been hit or miss on the d&b scene for the past 3 or 4 years, usually pairing up with the mighty DJ Fresh on BC Recordings releases. For the most part Maldini and Vegas were know as Bad Company UK after the split. dBridge and Fresh went their separate ways with Exit Recordings and Breakbeat Kaos respectively and are doing very well these days thank you very much. But for a good 4 and a half years, it seemed like if really boundary expanding d&b was to cross over and still have some street cred, it was to come from this brood of Detroit techno and jungle know as Bad Company. In my opinion, those hard core/rave roots were left to cash in on some over production and house sensibilities, mostly coming from Fresh on his Breakbeat Kaos bizness. It is noteworthy that Maldini recently appeared on an Upbeats chune, on The Upbeats’ own label, Non-Vogue. So maybe that tech-step sound that was so well refined in those early Bad Company records has a chance to grow farther towards the sun. We’ll most definitely go threw the releases put out by Bad Company’s individual parts once we get to them in the alphabet. And there’s also some more prime cuts from Bad Company for sale up on this particular Juno page. “Spacehopper” on Ram Records is also a great tune. But for now, sit back. Get a good dhram of Scotch. Pony up for “Book of the Bad” pt. 2 on Discogs or any where you can find it on vinyl. And bast off into future astroid fields.
Bad Robot: Forever/Skyrider
Australian production duo Bad Robot have always impressed me, ever since I got my first white labels of some M-Atome release in Shinjuku. Proper futuristic sounds. There seems to be some sort of Road Warrior angst going on in most of their productions. Some of “We have a responsibility to the future.” rhetoric in their vocal samples. But all the excitement of traveling to a distant planet for the first time. This release on Black Sun Empire’s seminal BSE label, the flip is actually Black Sun Empire and Chris SU and a bit heavier than the Bad Robot tune. Unfortunately the only record up for grabs this time around on Juno, but I hope to see more releases from Bad Robot in the future.
Bal: Out There EP, Marquee Moon/Blow Up
This gives me my first chance to talk about InFluence. A record label that I’m really in love with right about now. It’s sooooo hard to do minimalism right in a d&b. And all of the releases that I’ve hear have been sexy d&b minimal work outs with bass and soft synth cords in all the right places. I’m not really sure how to put it, but these releases could sound like a thousand other d&b releases by Icicle or Switch. Or Icicle and Switch. But theses tunes have that something extra or off about them that make them better to my ears at lease. Actually “Blow Up” sounds like a Icicle and Switch rip-off, on a bad day, trying to phone it in. But all the other stuff on InFluence I’ve heard makes me really hopefully for d&b in the future. There is a very pop aesthetic to the releases but something slightly off and intelligent about the tunes that just make them these enigmas of d&b. Very engaging stuff. There’s a 12″ b-side by Sinistarr called “Leeroy Jenkins” that is easily as crafty and sexy as anything Ramadanman or Appleblim have come up with in the last year. Unfortunately you only get to listen to maybe 2 minutes of any of the tracks at Juno. You really should buy at least something on InFluence and listen to it the whole way through. There’s a subtle evolution to the material that needs to be listened to to appreciate. Not just a couple of records you and mix the intro, body, or second drop in any order and get the same effect of the dance floor. Recommended.
Lastly I’ll wrap up this post with a few more guilty pleasures. Baron and Fresh on “Supernature/Shakedown” For no other reason than when it was first released I had just bought my iPod shuffle and the only music that I could put on it were 2 minute downloads from Juno and any of the other CDs that I had at the time. I went to several internet cafes in the greater Yokohama area and put about an hour’s worth of Juno clips on my iTunes and walked the land from Shibuya to Shin-Yokohama with “Supernature” and “Funk Academ” by Fresh on repeat. Very much my pump up music going to the train/bus station before going to school and teaching. And a wag of the finger to Basher for being a fucking piece of shit and sampling Vangelis on “Biometrix” the flip to his latest Frequency release. There’s nothing more painful that listening to someone figure out how to use software by releasing 12″ on some of the better record labels like Ram Records and Frequency. It’s like watching a rich kid learn to parallel park with a Ferrari. You know he’s going to fuck it up, there’s nothing you can do, and well there goes another catalog number to leap frog over to avoid the pain of hearing how ridiculous it sounds. There is also a d&b lighter being offered in the back catalog section by Aural Carnage.
So it goes.