Thursday, 27 October 2011

Disco? Very!

Every now and then we develop new musical tastes and find a niche genre which we simply can't get enough off. You know you've developed a niche love when you suddenly can't stop listening to a couple of tracks from a particular mix or artist and suddenly you find yourself hunting down as much as you can and becoming alarmingly discerning as to what 'good (name of niche genre) is'. Every time you play a friend a track they love it, but somehow not as much as you because my God you love it! Don't worry though, they do like it but they've got their own niche and unfortunately with niche genres you can only them love one at a time.

My various partners in crime have each found their own particular niche genre, for Niel it's Electro-Swing which he has been rinsing almost none stop for the past six months. For those who are interested perhaps the most well known purveyor of the genre is Parov Stellar and here is his massive tune 'Catgroove' from his 'Coco' album performed by the exemplary TakeSomeCrime. Once again the best place to get your hands on as much as you can is Podcasts and fortunately has a fantastic one. Electro Swing did gain some brief mainstream attention in 2010 with Gramophonedzie and his delightful (if overplayed) remix of Peggy Lee's 1947 version of 'Why Don't You'. Other tracks worth exploring are DKS's rework of Louis Prima's 'Sing With a Swing', and the simply gorgeous 'Wash My Hands' by Kormac off his rather interesting 2010 album 'Word Play'. The word for this genre is fun! Its throbs House Party madness and screams for a total loss of inhibitions, the wonderful added bonus being that is draws attention to some classic works from the thirties and forties confirming that swing is by no means dead... it just got louder.

For Oli its a relatively new one called Moombahton, take you're favourite dutch house record and tweak it down to 108 bpm and you've got it! The genre has been developing nicely since late 2009/early 2010. Here's Munchi with 'Esta Noche', Benga's classic 'Night' remixed by Sabo and the apparent creator of Moombahton Dave Nada remixing Sidney Samson's Riverside. The whole genre reeks of drunken, sweaty, body on body filth and is probably going to go huge quite soon for three very good reasons 1. Its relatively simple to make 2. It remixes Afrojack quite a lot and perhaps most importantly 3. Drunken, Sweaty, Body on Body FILTH! I'm personally totally sold on electro-swing and am beginning to develop a fondness for Moombahton (apparently the way to get it properly is to hear it live, another one for the long, long list). But as with all niche genres every one has their own personal favourite, nay, their definitive sound which they seem to love more than anyone else. For me? It has got to be Disco House.

I love disco and thats putting it mildly. Its a genre which frequently gets a lot of stick but for me not much else compares. Think Donna Summer (The undisputed Queen of Disco), the incredible Bee Gees (soundtrack gods for the film Saturday Night Fever), the ridiculous Boney M, the ultimate survivor Gloria Gaynor, Barry White! and killer groups like the supercool Kool and the Gang, the unstoppable KC and the Sunshine Band (and this one!) and the unbelievable Earth, Wind and Fire to name but a few. Actually I'm going name some more, Baccara, The Trammps, Lipps Inc, Wild CherryAnita Ward, ABBAAlicia Bridges, BARRY WHITE!, Cheryl Lynn, A Taste of Honey, Hot Chocolate, Rose Royce, Tavares, Sister Sledge (Jesus Christ I love Sister Sledge!), SylvesterHues Corporation, The Silver ConventionMichael Jackson, Chic, Diana Ross, U.N.Dynasty and so many others (Dear Readers, Matt has had to take a two hour break to dance his ass off and will be back shortly) and thats before we even begin to go anywhere nearer the much larger realms of Funk and Soul. Disco marked the birth of the big Dance clubs, Dance moves and generally Dance music.

Fast forward from the late seventies and early eighties to the late nineties and early noughties and you've got the French House explosion with a heavy disco influence (the running joke in Daft Punks titling of their 'Discovery' album) flowing throughout. This can still be heard today when you listen to artists like the scintillating Breakbot, the gorgeous Justice, and the massive Cassius (or to put it another way anyone associated with Ed Banger Records).

Which brings me to 2010 where I stumbled upon the gent who, I think, is doing it better than anyone else, GoGoBizkitt. I first stumbled upon GoGo whilst going through (you guessed it) a Podcast, Fresh Mesh's Podcast to be exact and his Disco Damager mix, its definitely worth a listen and got plenty of play on my old Ipod until I noticed something unusual. As with many podcasts you usually get parts that are better than others, in Disco Damger there was a particular twenty minute slot that I just found myself constantly repeating. Turns out that the twenty minute slot was solid Bizkitt (along with a few other tunes on the mix) and from then on I was hooked.

The first love was easily Earth Wind and Fire 'Let's Groove' (GoGoBizkitt Remix) that four on the floor thumping beat with the samples deliciously chopped and reworked back into the groove. My favourite part is the drop into the original lyrics, we've been building for a while, teased with the prospect then we're treated to the full glory of the original before being hurled back onto the 21st century dance floor with a cheeky brake and rewind.

Next up is Dynasty 'I don't wanna be a Freak' (GoGoBizkitt ReRub) which is so funky it starts to hurt after a while. Wash that down with Silver Connection's 'Get up and Boogie' (GoGoBizkitt's Shimple edit) it's the bass in this one that really pulls you in and the well sliced vocals once more throw you round the floor, before the freaking string section comes in and frankly, I just lose it. This on is dangerous and beautifully captures the disco spirit which is nice considering it comes from a lesser known disco group.

Now for a biggie. It's Daft Punk's Technologic (GoGoBizkitt Remix) and I frankly I think it's the best remix of this track I've ever heard. The real beauty is listening to this track on the disco damager mix where it is expertly introduced and slips the bass in underneath you like a limbo dancing carpet fitter. Needless to say within twenty listens of this track (how long ago that was) an intricate choreography of UV painted burlesque dancers had neatly formed in my head with the words to the song painted out on their bodies and their movements having a kind of Daft Hands effect.

And I thought that was it, luckily however I was very wrong. GoGoBizkitt's soundcloud should provide you with everything you need (along with free downloads yay!) and I really must insist you check out Touch That (jumped about a foot in the air when I heard this one, Bad Girls is a favourite) and Crave You (a remix of the wonderful Flight Facilities, although admittedly this one is better).

I should also recommend N'Joy 'Do Whatcha Gotta Do' Thony Ritz Remi, 'I'll Get You' Classixx feat. Jeppe/Kitsune, and a rather recent find Sarlat 'Diskokugel' who is just fantastic! 

I'm keeping my eyes on this one, strictly for my own personal benefit of course but I hope you can find some pleasure in mixing the old with the new and having a shuffle through a decade or two. I should mention that before I was into Disco House I was a massive fan of Balearic Beats another gorgeous little genre that I will discuss some other time, but to give you a taste and in the spirit of Disco here's Rubber Room and Cockroach.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Songs about New Jersey? Sure!

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run

Okay this one is a particularly big one. The whole album is about being trapped in your dead end town or city and desperately trying to escape anyway you can however briefly or futile, the whole thing leads like a stunning rock opera, its heroes being desperate teenagers turning rock stars and villains in the shit hole they hate to call home, grab a car, a car is freedom. ‘Thunder road’ sums up the need to drive so you can escape, snatching a few brief hours of mad delusion with some girl and forgetting you’re a part of the world. ‘I got this guitar and I learnt how to make it talk and my cars out back if you’re ready to take that long walk, from your front porch to my front seat, the doors open but the ride ain’t free’ there’s a petrol fuelled tension between them, it’s juvenile and youthful and hopeful but at the same time clawing and snatching knowing that time is running out.

‘Tenth Avenue Freeze Out’ rides through the city on the back of a scooter with a nice upbeat feel and sustained piano throughout. It loosely tells the story of the forming of the band (Bruce Springsteen’s band was named the E-Street band) and is a particularly nice tune, when Bruce mentions Big Man he is referring to the saxophone player Clarence Clemons who sadly passed away this June, he was loved throughout the industry and the name Big Man comes from his incredible stature (giggity) you’ll hear more of him later on in the album.

‘NIght’ is literally about the night, working all day for a crap boss doing a job you hate but pushing through to the darkness of the night where you can sense freedom, you get in the car and grab the girl and go! Its the feeling you can get as your muscles ignite with the highway burning out the night.

‘Backstreets’ is a cool song, it kicks of with a beautiful piano and organ intro played by Roy Bittan, it sets up the song for the lyrical content and the beauty of the story. It’s the story of our young male protagonist and his love Terry and how they met and survived ‘trying in vain to breathe the fire we were born in’. Terry eventually leaves our protagonist and we hear his anger and pain as he screams out at his lost love and the man she left him for. The lyrics are stunning and are classic Springsteen at his poetic narrative best. So here they are:

One soft infested summer me and Terry became friends 
Trying in vain to breathe the fire we was born in 
Catching rides to the outskirts tying faith between our teeth 
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house getting wasted in the heat 
And hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets 
With a love so hard and filled with defeat 
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets 

Slow dancing in the dark on the beach at Stockton's Wing 
Where desperate lovers park we sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings 
Huddled in our cars waiting for the bells that ring 
In the deep heart of the night we cut loose from everything 
to go running on the backstreets, running on the backstreets 
Terry, we swore we'd live forever, taking on them backstreets together. 

Endless juke joints and Valentino drag 
where dancers scraped the tears up off the streets dressed down in rags 
Running into the darkness, some hurt bad, some really dying 
At night sometimes it seemed you could hear the whole damn city crying 
Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that ran us down 
You can blame it all on me Terry, it don't matter to me now 
When the breakdown hit at midnight there was nothing left to say
But I hated him and I hated you when you went away 

Laying here in the dark you're like an angel on my chest 
Just another tramp of hearts crying tears of faithlessness 
Remember all the movies, Terry, we'd go see 
Trying to learn how to walk like heroes we thought we had to be 
And after all this time to find we're just like all the rest 
Stranded in the park and forced to confess 
To hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets 
We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end. 
Hiding on the backstreets, hiding on the backstreets.

Imagine being born to run, the day you were born you were going to spend the rest of your life running. Running from the cops, running away from home, from your job, your city and trying desperately to escape to run to somewhere better but always, always running. That’s what ‘Born to Run’ is about, it’s written beautifully in the form of a love letter to a girl named ‘Wendy’. It is one of the most uplifting and depressing songs of all time and the best thing to do, in my opinion, is give you the lyrics.

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway american dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and stepping out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
Its a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while were young
`cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
Well run till we drop, baby well never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
`cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real

Beyond the palace hemi-powered drones
Scream down the boulevard
The girls comb their hair in rearview mirrors
And the boys try to look so hard
The amusement park rises bold and stark
Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist
I wanna die with you wendy on the streets tonight
In an everlasting kiss

The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight but there's no place left to hide
Together wendy well live with the sadness
Ill love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don't know when were gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run.

The track is deliberately epic sounding and was Bruce’s last ditch attempt to make it big so he wrote the song big, his planned worked spectacularly. Quite amusingly when Bruce Springsteen plays this live he doesn't usually sing, there’s not much point as everyone in attendance sings it as loud as they can whether he likes it or not. Luckily he doesn't mind.

‘She’s the one’ is about the classic rock standard, an incredibly beautiful woman with a heart of ice. Our protagonist knows she lies but all he wants to do is believe her and so on and so on... it’s classic rock and roll and takes influences from Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly. The album is set in New Jersey, (yes ‘Jersey Shore’ territory, but please for the love of God don’t think of it like that but as the shit-hole it clearly is in this album) but there is a point where the protagonist crosses over to New York city which is described in the last epic track ‘Jungle Land’. 

The bridge between the two, both literally and metaphorically is the song ‘Meeting Across The River’, the song has a delicious film noir style to it and tells the story through the eyes of a petty criminal on a last ditch attempt to get it right. The lyrics are sympathetic to the criminal and his friend eddie who our hero needs to help him make the crossing and to do what needs to be done. All we know is he’s got to meet with a man on the other side. He asks Eddie for a few bucks and a ride, he is desperate and this is made all the worse by how his girlfriend is thinking of leaving because he sold her radio, he thinks if he can make this work he can save himself and his relationship, he drags himself deeper into this hole he has made for himself. The song doesn't give much away about why he has to meet this man, but it seems that if he messes it up the consequences will be very serious, the song has a foreboding quality suggesting that they are perhaps not likely to succeed or indeed survive. It’s a great, great song and paints a beautiful picture with enough space left for the listener to fill in the details.

If ‘Born to run’ was epic then ‘Jungle Land’ is explosive. The song sums up the entirety of the album, the initial desperate optimism and hopefulness ultimately ending in despair and defeat. It’s a story of love set against the backdrop of gang violence and the death of ‘the rat’. They are my favourite lyrics on the album, particularly the last two stanzas, which rank in my favourite lyrics of all time.

Beneath the city two hearts beat,
Soul engines running through a night so tender,
In a bedroom locked, in whispers of soft refusal and then surrender.
In the tunnels uptown
The Rat’s own dream guns him down 
As shots echo down them hallways in the night,
No one watches when the ambulance pulls away
Or as the girl shuts out the bedroom light.

Outside the streets on fire in a real death waltz
Between what’s flesh and what's fantasy 
And the poets down here don't write nothing at all, 
They just stand back and let it all be,
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand,
But they wind up wounded, not even dead,
Tonight in Jungleland.

I could happily analyse these lyrics for you, or even the whole song or the album and I would probably write about five to six thousand words on the subject. But that would be no fun, well it would be for me but it would be very dull and tedious for you and besides it is much better to find the beauty in them yourself (so gay). Needless to say it’s an amazing album and my favourite narrative album of all time. I rinsed the hell out of it for about three months when I was eighteen and still know all the words to a few of the songs. Incidentally ‘Born to Run’ is one of the best karaoke songs to sing when you’re pissed. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Walking through the Air

With new music developing at an incredible rate (for various reason which I will discuss some other time) it becomes important to cast our minds back to the 'tunes' of yesteryear. It amazes me when I speak about artists such as 'Massive Attack', 'Portishead', 'Everything But the Girl', or 'Hall and Oates' that all I get back is 'who?' 'erm?' er?' and 'Oh Yeah thats the tune from 'House'. So lets kick off with a classic. Air: Moon Safari.

The year is 1998 and home improvement, interior design shows and art galleries  are about to get their best soundtrack ever. Moon Safari is the first album from french band and the album reeks of polished Franco synth emanating from the end of the 20th century electro-pop movement. The album is an absolute standard and you may be surprised how much of it you have already heard, samples of it cropping up everywhere from Grand Designs to children's television shows and everything in between. A very nineties album indeed, its got lots of potential as a soundtrack to life and as provider of one or two absolutely essential tunes to have in your library.

La Femme d’argent’, the first track, is instantly the most recognisable and will hopefully ring a few bells, it’s also on my top ten Mupping tracks of all time, get very, very comfortable for this one and it will take you to another level of enjoyment, great on your own or with one or two like minded people and perfect with a J.

Sexy Boy’ rolls up on beautifully constructed synth work and really shows what you can get out of a Korg with love and attention, try it with your headphones on when walking down the street and wishing your life was like a French movie. Got a nice little edge to it. 

All I Need’ sound harsh at the beginning but floats you into a gentle guitar driven melody with the beautifully simple tones of Beth Hirsch (Who crops up on a Jakatta single ‘one fine day’ also worth checking out, Jakatta did the remix on the American Beauty soundtrack which you’ll recognise the second you hear ‘it’). Lovely track, brings back the chill, great for a summers day particularly the nice little keyboard riff at the end.

Kelly watch the stars’ is so French electro-pop it nearly ended up defining the genre and is thought of something as a standard of the era. Enjoy as you see fit, its a little fun and hippy dippy niceness without any seriousness.

Talisman’ starts deep, beautifully deep, floating down a slow slow river kind of deep. Fall into this one, it’s got great emotion and a soul all its own. It gets grander and grander as it layers the score with orchestral strings, lifting you off the river until you’re flying through blinding sunlight and cloud hoping with every atom in your body.

Remember' comes right back in on the electro-pop circuit whilst it might sound harsh a first develops a charm all its own when you give it a bit of breathing space. Definitely twisty in places but worth it for the complexity it offers.

You Make It Easy’ brings back Beth Hirsch again and is gentle and easy listening, with nice seeing-the-world-from-afar kind of feel to it, again it sounds like the soundtrack to a French film and oozes cinematic potential.

‘Ce martin la’ will at first sound strange and unfamiliar but then a strange sense of recognition will arise with the chord structure, by the time the brass section come in you’ll probably be going ‘oh it’s that track!’ I know I was. A definitive summer tune if there ever was one, it says it all, long winding roads to nowhere and hours spent aimlessly cruising the forgotten countryside in a convertible with no end to the day in sight. One of those really perfect tracks.

‘New Star in the Sky’ has a wistful delicacy to it, floating in orbit around some beautiful world very gently taking in the beauty of the view and the comforting weightless momentum. Potentially a great Mup track but requires a very delicate touch, for as we know space is deep on many levels.

‘Le Voyage de Penelope’ is defined by its dirty synth guitar riff, characterising the song with a delightfully sultry edge to it. Its sounds lonely at the end of the album but acts as the platform to Air’s later works.

Definitely an album to get stuck into, sorry I couldn't find good links for all the songs, beg or borrow to get your hands on this one and enjoy!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Neurofunk and WTF?

Scanning through the you-tube on a daily basis for new music or musical that's new to my ears. The latest finding coming from a tip-off from a Nitros powered film editor 'check out neurofunk'. Totally freaking worth it! I've always trusted Drum and Bass (always as of four years ago) as a reliable source of wonder in the music scene, yes it has fallen victim to commercialisation and nearly every other genre of music has, though when you've grown bored of everything else (as we all have from time to time) you can always come back to Drum and Bass.

Despite the significant watering down of the genre, the best of DnB still lies in its edge, the only difference being that now you have to look a little harder to find a sharp one, enter Neurofunk - a techstep or teckstep or even tekstep (depending on which article you read) nightmare which acts as the delightful opposite to the floaty/spacey DnB you may find on a Matrix and Future Bound EP or  High Contrast album. Just because it's dark don't let yourself think 'dub-step' and if you did think that then shame on you, but if you didn't then shame on me for thinking that, Neurofunk takes DnB to a vicious, heads down, intense, one to one battle for the bass between you and the nearest Funktion-One sound-system. Don't expect to be talking to your friends whilst listening to this stuff, it reeks of a proper dirty-no frills-night out, just what we like.

My favourite find from the genre so far isn't exactly the newest release to date, it's one from 'Billain' a standard name on the scene and it sound like this - watch out for the bass - get this on some seriously decent headphones (I use Sony XB-700s which are the best bass for the price) or beg/borrow/steal the best speakers you can lay your hands on.

If you like the sound of this kind of thing then I must recommend NeurofunkGrid's channel on you tube which showcases a great selection of mixes and tracks from tons of artists and is a truly dedicated source of everything Neurofunk. Wikipedia boasts quite an interesting and apparently well researched article on Neurofunk and is worth checking out for some light reading and a little modern music history - words and lyrics-.

The only problem with this genre seems to be it's difficulty in tracking down live sets of the stuff,    so far I can't find Billain live anywhere or Yanntek or L 33 or Rregula or anyone for that matter... and so the search continues, good luck to you if you decide to go hunting for a live show and please don't hesitate to tell me if you can track one down.

This sub-genre will probably stay just that, a sub-genre but then again you never know certainly with Dub-Step reaching maturity and everyone desperately trying to find a term to describe the newly spawned genre ('Comm-step', 'American Dubstep', 'Dubstream', 'Skrillefxts') which isn't Dubstep at all (as more and more people are coming to realise) people are going to start looking for a new sound, sadly I believe this search is about to soak up electro fidget, as hinted by the electro style dub-step we have been hearing so much of late, and introduce the masses to the likes of Jack Beats, AC Slater and Mr Oizo (okay forget that last one, if you haven't heard of Mr Oizo then go out and walk around until a tree slaps you, nah just go and google Flat Eric and say 'oh that's Mr Oizo!'). Then again everyone's heard of Fake Blood and I personally rinsed 'Mars' and 'I think I Like It' so much that I ruined two pairs of jeans (from dancing so much...obviously). Perhaps Electro has already fallen prey to public demand, but I don't think so just yet, in the mean time rinse your tunes and put on something dirty!