Amen to Zombie: Sept 14th, 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…
Back once again is the incredible. Couple of things to mention this time around before we get to the next 20 records. I mentioned Shackelton in the last Zombie post. You may not still be able to get it on the MAH page, but you should try and find some one who ripped or edited out the exclusive mix that Sam did for BBC’s Radio 1 experimental show. They archive the show for one week and then it’s on to the next show, but you really should try and track it down. Shackelton’s music is like nothing I’ve heard in recent times. It’s got a dubstep tempo and has emphasis on the bass production, but it’s such a singular sound. Buy anything with his name on it or on the Skull Disco label and you’ll be sitting pretty.
AIM recordings Vol 4: “Devils Cave/Ruby”
Way back in ’04 there was four of these releases, I think coming outta the DOA website, where a bunch of “no-names” traded sound files on AIM and built some tunes. This is my kind of idea. Not that producers don’t swap stuff around on AIM now -a-days, but this was before Indaba music, and before Myspace was a music and digital media dirt mall. And download speeds were getting so that it didn’t take you a thousand years or more than an hour to download a chunk of sound. So some mystery men decided to float the tracks around, work on them, and then pass them along to be tweaked by the next producer. And when it was all done, they put out the tunes anonymously. The result is some nice grimy rollers. All peppered with classic samples. This Vol. 4 record has been hanging out on Juno for the last 5 years, so no big rush to pick up a copy. I remember the other 3 volumes being in my want bin at the time too. And even though you can’t get a pristine copy of any of the other volumes at Juno, Discogs is sure to have a few copies up for re-sale. That’ll help you out if you want to collect ’em all. And I do recommend, no digital downloads of these tunes out there. You gotta but the vinyl. Which makes them useless collectables, documenting some of the more interesting possibilities that tech-step is capable of. Collect all four and then make a drinking game out of trying to guess who the mystery producers are!
AK 1200: “Junior’s Tune (Zardonic rmx/Digital rmx)”
Not really feeling the Zardoinc mix, and the Digital one is nice but the main reason I’m putting something up here by Dave, is that he’s one of the Titans of the American d&b/jungle scene. Chances are that you wouldn’t have really know about d&b or jungle in the States unless AK 1200 was in the second room at your favorite monthly rave pushing new records from the UK way back in ’93. That’s right, AK 1200 is mid-90’s-old-school. Meaning that even though he’s put out an album, managed to squeak out some 12″s here and there, always has his name before rmx on all sorts of high profile tunes (which you’ll never get out of his box), Mr. Minner is first and foremost a DJ. A super-star DJ at that, meaning that he’s from that time when DJs had to track down records to stay on top of their game. There was still a continental gap and not only were their musical genres you haven’t heard yet, but there were genres you didn’t even know existed. DJs could get by just on programing/mixing skills and their producer friends flowing them exclusives. Then at the end of the 90s early 2000’s , Sasha said something to the effect that ‘real’ DJs know how to produce and then the steady stream of bedroom DJs who knew a little about a AKAI sampler came out of the woodwork. DJ-ing became less of an art and rested on the idea that DJs were first and foremost supposed to push what just got pressed yesterday, and really didn’t care if it sounded like shit or not. Dave soldiered on and in 2000, I think, started POD with two other high profile Titans that will most definitely be discussed at a later date. Point being is that Mr. Minner is to be respected and seen if he is in your town. His name is still on the very short list of d&b DJs that are still relevant after their initial two year honeymoon. He’s got classic mixes on Moonshine and Sub Base Records, released tracks on Breakbeat Science, and just started his own imprint Big Riddim. I highly recommend his colab with Gridlok, a mix called Autopsy on 51 records, If your feeling sinister.
Alaska & Nucleus: “Ataciara/Araicata”
So now let’s talk about one of the best producers you’ve never heard of. Usually Alaska comes with either Nucleus or Seba. We’ll get to them later. Alaska is also know as Paradox or rather the other way around as Alaska is somewhat of a side-alias, AKA Dev Pandya. The style is of something called Drum Funk (maybe a little ambient-hop for the B-side here.) Paradox has been in the game from ’91 and only performs live as a one man PA. He’s released on something like 50 different labels. Remember when I warned you about 4 Hero. Go back to the Reinforced catalog and grab anything that says Paradox on it. As the moniker implies, this is very icy, space-y, esoteric music. And those three words come up in track titles all the time. This also leads to a very consistent sound, which if you like you’ve got a lot material to put into your ears. Here Dev plays the Alaska card, which is some of the more subdued material that he comes up with. His music is what I consider what d&b sounds like when it sounds its best. Lots of rude-boy ragga/ska/dub samples, lots of smoked out reverb, lots of tight sidewinding drum breaks, and that nice deep sub-bass that makes you want to curl your hand up like a talon and go “WoohmmWhoommmm!” (AKA bass fingers). I think the line of logic looks like this concerning the name Drum Funk: it was jungle, but now we’ve got better kit and more control over the frequencies and we’ve added a bit of minimal aesthetic, so now it’s Drum Funk. I love this type of music, it sounds great at 4 am and at 4 pm to me. It’s got what I think most d&b lacks, proper space in the music. To be sure there are some non-stop breaks rattling on here, but in most cases those breaks are built on the idea that these drum patterns are just out of the reach of a normal drummer. Instead of getting a tune with the only thing you recognize as a drum sound is the louder than hell snare that is propelling the whole track, Drum Funk is all about taking a few good samples from a trap kit and then programing the shit out of them. This leads to the music to sound sparse and expansive yet busy and driving. Back at the turn of the century, there was a big divided between tech-step and “intelligent” d&b. The heavy Reese sound prevailed for a while and d&b was in a very dark place, both figuratively and literally. I remember going into a Cleveland area record shop this year and asking if they had a d&b section and the clerk said “Yea there’s a pile on the floor over there, but drum and bass is dead, like ever sense 1999.” All the while Alaska/Paradox was refining this other “intelligent” sound. Then the media lost interest in d&b, Jump-Up got dusted off and re-vamped because London didn’t want to seem like they were all moody berks, and synthetics replaced weed. I’m sure it was a hard time to live in Bristol around 2003. Then something amazing happened. DJ Marky, as much as I don’t care for his style, showed London that d&b was germinating elsewhere in the world, and was doing a better job of servicing the scene, thank you very much. And tunes from Brazil, New Zealand, Toronto, Russia started to filter into the UK d&b scene. Not that non-UK artists haven’t released big tunes before, but this time around the foreigners had their own record labels. And their own mutant forms of d&b to share with London. And in the case of Offshore Redordings it was this Drum Funk sound that was being filtered through New York and sent forth. I think I’ve drifted enough into the ether with this one, so I’ll close with the disclaimer that the previous statements are editorial in nature, and this isn’t WIRE, and I’m not Lester Bangs, so don’t take it that seriously.
Allied: “Arts & Science EP”
Something new from Sinuous records. Sinuous started back in 2002, when it was en-vogue to print up stickers with the artist/label/track info on them and slap them on white record sleeves , á la all the bad house/techno remixes you see in your electronic dollar bin at the record shop. But as a marketing device it works properly. Sinuous stables some of the bigger names in the techno-d&b scene, Cooh, Limewax, Raiden to name a few. Allied has put out a stream of techno inspired d&b for a couple of years and this by far is his best offering to date. I went back and listened to some of Allied’s other releases and they don’t sound as accomplished as this one. Which if you are going to do the whole “futuristic running down a techno ally being chased by androids” you’d better bring your a-game. Glitch-y, warble-y, and completely synthetic this EP is a good example of what ever you want to call the genre. It’s fast and repetitive, with lots of metallic sounds fading in and out of the chase. Completely appropriate for playing video games or running around the streets of Kawasaki to. I like what I’ve been hearing from some of the artists that are putting out similar material. I think it’s a sound/set of rules that’s really exploring new sounds, but still staying within the boundaries of electronic dance music. To be sure this sound is aimed at a very specific dance floor, and if you’re going to last more than an hour listening to this type of music, some sort of energizing drug would be worth while investing in. But if you just want a quick shot of dystopian future check this EP. It’ll be like a RedBull to perk you up from your boring modern life.
So it goes.