Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cheap at Half the Price

One day the streets will be littered with discarded CDs. Thousands of them smashed and cracked, just thrown out of car windows and left on the floor in the newsagents, people not even bothering to pick them up along with the advertising inserts and free listings magazines. It’s been quite some time since I saw a spool of tape swirling in the breeze caught in a tree and wondered what was on it. Technology; it moves on I guess. Perhaps one-day people will use the Internet as a marketing tool to get free songs? Until then we still have the hastily arranged free CD compilations strapped to the front of magazines and inserted into newspapers. Mostly they are full of toot, or something so old there are only 17 people left in the country who haven’t bought at least one copy of the song in one format or another at some point.

Over the years I’ve acquired loads of these free CDs, although for me the hey-day was during the indie Britpop days of the late 1990s, when I bought the NME and such like every week. It seems that most of these CDs spread out on the floor behind me represent that period of my youth. I’ve got hundreds of the things and the desperate need for space has made go through them, and coldly get rid of most of them. However, buried in amongst the chaff and the obvious are some buried b-sides, rare live versions and good memories.

The Flaming Lips – Waiting For A Superman (Xfm Session Version)

Taken from 'The XFM Live Sessions' - Select Magazine, January 2000. A lovely, simplified piano version of the song from 'The Soft Bulletin'. Other artists on the CD included Mercury Rev, Shack, Suede, Catatonia and Travis.

David Devant and His Spirit Wife – Everything Fits Into Place

Taken from 'Sessions 3' - Sessions Magazine, 1997. I think this track was originally a b-side. I can’t recall too much about the magazine I plucked this disc from, except I’m pretty sure there wasn’t ever a 'Sessions 4'. Other bands on here are James and Laxton’s Superb.

Primal Scream – Swastika Eyes (David Holmes Remix)

Taken from 'The Deep End' - Select Magazine, May 2000. Fairly rare remix of one of the best songs from the 'Xtrmntr LP', and much better than the Chemical Brothers remix which was also on the album. Other stuff on this CD includes previously unreleased (at the time) tracks from Mogwai, Super Furry Animals, Eels and Elliot Smith.

Spiritualized with Suicide – Rocket USA (Live at the London Astoria)

Taken from 'Clean Sweep' - NME, February 1998. I can remember trying to get tickets for some of these NME gigs in ’98. I failed. The CD also includes the Super Furry Animals, Mogwai, Asian Dub Foundation, and Lo-Fidelity Allstars.

Discography of free CD's given away with Select
The Flaming Lips website
David Devant and his Spirit Wife at My Space
Primal Scream website
Spiritualized website
Suicide fansite


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Holy Grail

Imperial Brothers - We Come To Rock (Club Version)
Imperial Brothers - We Dub To Scratch (Be Bop Scratch Mix)

This 12" has proved to be a bit of a Holy Grail for me, in that I have been trying to get my hands on it for years now. It's been repressed a few times, plus there was a UK release on Morgan Khan's Streetwave Records, but I only wanted the original Cutting Records pressing from 1984. I used to be very hung up about original editions, but lately I've come to the conclusion that it's more important to have the music than to worry too much about the authenticity. But this record is one of my absolute favourites of all-time, so it had to be an original or nothing. I want to know when I'm holding it in my hands that this piece of vinyl came straight from the pressing plant in 1984 and into a New York record shop, where it was picked up by one of the original old school DJ's who dropped it into their set at a block party somewhere in the Bronx. I know it's wishful thinking on my part, but you never know...

I almost got it from the Record and Tape exchange in Notting Hill about 10 years ago. The guy in the shop was playing it as I walked in, so I made a beeline for the counter, probably drooling, and asked if I could buy it, but there was a guy standing next to me who said, "Nah mate, it's mine. Just checking it doesn't pop too much." I've seen it come up on eBay a few times over the last five years but I've always been outbid. Never by very much - a couple of dollars here or there - which makes it even worse. One time I did see it go for nearly £50, so that gives you some idea that it's a rare piece of vinyl that is eagerly sought by collectors. Anyway, I finally succeeded a couple of weeks back, and for the tidy sum of £29 I now own an original pressing of Imperial Brothers' 'We Come To Rock', and am immediately sharing my good fortune with you lot.

So what's so special about it? Well, it's an absolutely stunning piece of music. 'We Come To Rock' was a joint production between Aldo Marin (owner of Cutting Records, who went on to record the proto-techno cut 'Let's Get Brutal' as Nitro Deluxe) and Jerry Calliste Jr aka Hashim, responsible for the seminal electro classic 'Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)'. The 'Club Version' is great, with fresh party raps from the Imperial Brothers, who were a collective of four MC's, all of who’s names are etched onto the run-out groove of the record's B-side - O.G. Rock, Mr Ice, Mark Ski and Soul Supreme. But it's the 'Be Bop Scratch Mix' that is the one. An instrumental version with awesome scratching from Tommy Boy's Whiz Kid, it's got the best electro bass drum ever, and some melody lines that still send shivers up my spine. The scratching of the kid coughing and the dog woofing is inspired!

One of the real reasons for my fondness for this track is its appearance on 'Electro 3' (one of the best compilations ever), sandwiched between Divine Sounds' 'Dollar Bill', and the mighty 'Jam On It' by Newcleus. The album was mixed by Herbie 'Mastermind' Laidley, and he does this incredible mix between the 'Club' and 'Scratch' mix of 'We Come To Rock', but also incorporates elements of Newcleus. This combination probably surpasses any of the featured tracks in isolation, but it's still great to have finally picked up this record. It's a glorious one-off electro classic, sampled by Altern-8, and featured on mix tapes by DJ's like Freddy Fresh, Dave Clarke and most recently, Simian Mobile Disco, who went up even further in my estimations when I heard them drop this in one their sets.

Search eBay for the Imperial Brothers
Buy the repress from Flexx
Imperial Brothers' El'don at My Space
Imperial Brothers discogrpahy


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Late in the Evening...

Today’s post is a bit of promotion for a gig I am involved with. On Wednesday 27th June 2007, Late in the Evening are taking over the magnificent Luminaire in Kilburn, London, for a night of fine music featuring three great artists. LITE are new to the promoting scene, but judging from the line-up they have pieced together for the opening night, they are definitely going to be one’s to watch. Despite an eclectic bill, LITE are keen to stress that each night is structured so that there is some cohesion between the bands on the bill, thus ensuring that if you like one of the bands performing on the night, there’s a strong chance the others will appeal.

The Longcut - Idiot Check

There’s an indie-meets-electronic feel to proceedings for this opening night. Headlining the festivities are the Longcut, a scintillating live proposition, who have apparently made a bit of a Joy Division to New Order transformation, with their latest batch of recordings taking a more electronic, dancey direction than the material on last year’s debut album ‘A Call and Response’. The Manchester three-piece have been described as “the most exciting band this city have produced in nearly a decade”, and they are planning on performing plenty of new material, alongside old school favourites. For your listening pleasure, I am posting ‘Idiot Check’, the AA side of their recent single released on Melodic, which also included a cover version of Candi Staton’s ‘You Got The Love’.

Morton Valence - Outskirters

Second on the bill are the enigmatic Morton Valence. I’ve got to be honest and admit that I didn’t have a scooby who this lot were until I saw the full line-up for the gig. An electro-pop six-piece from London, they were the winners of the Fopp Award for New Music in 2006. Since then they have been described as "genius” by Drowned in Sound and "the most interesting and intriguing band on these shores” by Metro. The only way to find out whether they are deserving of these bold superlatives is to come down on the night and see for yourselves. I’ve been furnished with an mp3 of a track called ‘Outskirters’ from a session they recorded for Resonance FM. It sounds suitably chaotic and infectious enough – punk funk with a Jarvis-style lyrical slant and a vast array of squelchy noises - to lead me to look forward to observing how it unfolds live on stage.

feedle - ducks

Kicking it all off is Sheffield’s Feedle. I’ve pimped his wares on these very pages on a number of occasions, including conducting a rather enjoyable interview with the man himself back when he released his acclaimed debut album ‘Leave Now for Adventure’ in March 2007. A purveyor of the finest odd, melodic noise, Feedle’s live set will be accompanied by wondrous visuals from the boys at Media Lounge. One man, his laptop, some moving pictures, a right old racket and some songs you could probably dance to if you were drunk enough. As a bit of a treat for you all, I’m posting an exclusive new track, called simply ‘ducks’, which was recorded for a session for XFm’s John Kennedy, and forms part of his current live set in an elongated form. It should also feature on his second album, which is currently being written and recorded.

And if all that wasn’t enough, I’m dusting off my headphones, putting some records in a Woolworths carrier bag, and bringing The White Noise Revisited roadshow out of retirement for a one-off, never to be repeated (unless someone else asks me) DJ-set of epic and shambolic proportions. I’m playing from 7.30pm until 8.30pm, at which point Feedle will unceremoniously drag the needle across whatever record I was playing, slap me across the face with a wet fish, and blow your minds.

As you can see, there’s something there for all the family, so please come along – and if you do – say hello. It’s always nice to meet new people. Tickets can be bought in advance for the very reasonable sum of £6 from We Got Tickets, but if you’re not that organised it’s £7 on the door, on the night - though if it does sell out, you’ll be sorely disappointed, so get them in advance! I know it’s on a school night, but the whole event will be over leaving you plenty of time to get the tube back to wherever it was you came from.

Wednesday 27th June

Late in the Evening presents:

The Longcut
Morton Valence

The Luminaire
311 High Road
London NW6 7JR

Doors: 7.30pm

More information here
Tickets can be purchased up front for £6 from here
Everything you need to know about how to get there is here

Late In the Evening at My Space


Saturday, June 09, 2007

House Music All Night Long

As a bit of a purist when it came to hip hop, I observed the coming of hip-house in the late 1980s with the sort of disdain I usually reserved for Tory politicians (right kids?). It seemed like an incongruence to me; a bit like an ear grown on a mouse’s back. Why would anybody want to fuse these two things together? Keep it pure, yeah? Keep it real. Don’t fuck with the formula. Of course, I was just being a miserable sod, and if you can excuse the fact that the hip-house movement was probably responsible for the inexplicable rise of Snap! and Technotronic, then it did actually turn out a few decent songs here and there. It also got my reluctant ass back onto the dance floor for the first time since a slow dance to Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ at a school disco in 1984.

It wasn’t all about the supa dupa producer Tyree Cooper. Oh no. In fact, despite his claims to the contrary, the UK outfit Beatmasters beat Tyree to it in 1987, with ‘Rok Da House’, featuring the Cookie Crew on vocal duties. After these early skirmishes, hip-house finally achieved crossover success with the release of two tracks – Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s ‘It Takes Two’ (which was described by Hip Hop Connection as, “…the first palatable form of hip-house for hardcore hip hop fans”); and the Jungle Brother’s ‘I’ll House You’, which was essentially a reworking of Todd Terry’s ‘Can You Party’ (under the Royal House alias). I was an enormous fan of both these tracks, but started to lose interest when all the mysterious continental types like the aforementioned Snap! and Technotronic bastardised the format in search of chart success.

While never really establishing itself as a genre, hip-house has swung in and out of vogue a few times after its initial successes in late 1980s. Missy Elliot had a crack with her tribute to ecstasy, ‘4 My People’ back in 2001, and P. Diddy collaborated with Felix Da Housecat on 2006’s ‘Jack U’. It even appears to be making a bit of a comeback in 2007, with the latest Simian Mobile Disco track, ‘It’s the Beat’, featuring vocals by the Go! Team’s Ninja, and bearing a passing resemblance to tracks of old. So to celebrate this, I’m posting up a few of my favourite tracks from the original era of hip-house; some obvious classics, and others that are just too damn funky to be ignored despite being rather tenuous examples of the genre.

Twin Hype - Do It To The Crowd

We kick things off with ‘Do It To The Crowd’ by Twin Hype. I actually thought the rapping twins (Sly and Slick) were a bit rubbish, and were probably chosen for the gimmick factor, but the track itself is a stone cold classic. Even Jeff Mills used to drop this one in his sets back in ‘89. It’s a dance floor destroyer, with exemplary production from Rick ‘The Hollywood Impact’ Pagan and the engineer Brian Stroh, and brilliant scratches of all manner of dope rap samples from the DJ King Shameek. Check the comedy Monkee’s intro. Blinding.

Roxanne Shanté - Go On Girl

Next up is the Queen of Rap herself, Roxanne Shanté, with ‘Go On Girl’. I’m sure you all must be sick to death of ‘It Takes Two’, so I’ve put up this banger from Shanté, as it utilises the same “Whoo! Yeah!” break as ‘It Takes Two’ (‘Think (About It)’ by Lyn Collins), but has some super fresh raps from Roxanne and awesome production from Marley Marl. I guess it’s not strictly hip-house, but still rocks the house.

J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E - We Got Our Own Thing

‘We Got Our Own Thing’ turned up as a bonus track on the reissue of J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E’s debut album ‘Doin’ Damage’. I guess it was their take on the hip-house sound, but deemed superfluous to the original release, which was a real shame as it’s a beauty, with that bumpin’ Chicago 4/4 beat, and a live funky bassline, plus the inimitable lyrical skills of AJ Rock and B-Luv.

Twin Hype - For Those Who Like To Groove

Back to Twin Hype and their second sure-fire dancefloor smash (do I sound like Radio 1’s ‘Ooooh’ Gary Davies or wot?) in the shape of ‘For Those Who Like To Groove’. This pretty much does exactly the same as ‘Do It To The Crowd’, but has live drums from a man called C-7 (no relation to K-9). More rhyming fluff from the Twins, made up for by the drums, bass and Shameek’s sterling deck work. “89’s the year, House music’s in your ear” - Yeaaaaaaaah booooyyyyeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jungle Brothers - I'll House You

Boom!!! It’s the Jungle Brothers and ‘I’ll House You’. It’s probably about as pure a hip-house track as you’re ever going to hear. As mentioned before, it was a reworking of Royal House’s ‘Can You Party’ - raw house beats and string stabs, and rabble rousing raps from the boys. I love the fact that the JBeez’s were always going on about taking the ladies back to their ‘huts’, rather than pads or houses. They were the original junglists. Phrases from their raps ended up being sampled by everybody, most memorably by 2 Bad Mice on the rave monster ‘Hold It Down’, which lifted the “Jump, jump, a little higher, Jump, Jump until you get tired” part to great effect. I actually posted that one a while back.

EPMD - I'm Housin'

To close matters, I’ve put up EPMD’s ‘I’m Housin’’ from their superb debut LP 'Strictly Business'. Again, this isn’t strictly a hip-house track, despite what the title suggests. Having said that, it’s about as excitable and uptempo as the notoriously horizontal duo ever got, so I’ll take it. 'I'm Housin'' is a prime slice of their funk-fuelled, sample-heavy hip hop, with slurred lyrical flows. You can definitely dance to it, and I reckon it rounds things off quite nicely.

Search eBay for hip-house
Buy Twin Hype 'Do It To The Crowd' 12" from Boomkat
Roxanne Shanté at My Space
Buy the reissue of J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E’s ‘Doin’ Damage’ from Boomkat
Jungle Brothers website
Buy EPMD 'Strictly Business' from Amazon


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It Must Be Nice to Be So Unexplained

S.K.A.W. - Without You
S.K.A.W. - Are Yer Chickens Laying Eggs?

I don't know about you, but I'm one of those people who needs to know about the music I'm listening to. I like a bit of a story - the history of how the band came together, the group dynamics, what makes them tick, their influences - whatever. I lap it all up like a thirsty dog. I don't know why it matters so much to me, but it does. I guess that's evident from the sheer amount of words I type on here sometimes. I find it very hard to just write something brief - I love to spin a yarn myself, whether it is telling the story of the song or band, putting the music in context or imparting my opinion and the significance the music has to me.

So that is why I find it frustrating that I know absolutely sod all about S.K.A.W. All I have to verify their existence is a 12" single, featuring three tracks, two of which you can listen to above. There is absolutely no information about the band anywhere on the record, and even an extensive trawl of the Internet has turned up nothing. Actually, that's not strictly true - there is a reference at that lists the band members as Andrew Frank and Damian O'Malley. Frank resurfaced a few years later as the front man for skag-rockers Pusherman, who were signed to Oasis manager Marcus Russell's Ignition label in the mid-90s. When I first heard Pusherman, I thought I recognised the singer's voice, but it took me a few years to put two and two together and link Frank back to S.K.A.W. The band (S.K.A.W.) are also mentioned on listings for the label, Vinyl Japan, but only in name. There’s fuck all else, anywhere.

I've made a few assumptions myself. The 12" was released in 1990, and probably intended to take a ride on the good ship baggy. The beat for 'Without You' is lifted straight from Paul Oakenfold's 'Think About the Future' remix of Happy Monday's 'W.F.L.'. Andy Frank has a wonderfully gravely and powerful voice, that sounds better suited to proper rawk (think Led Zep - OK, maybe Reef!) than indie dance. I also love his inability to pronounce the word ‘You’, preferring, ‘Yow’ or ‘Yar’ or even the piratey ‘Yo-Ho-Ho’. There's a soaring chorus, a funky bassline and an epic guitar solo, all over a brilliantly frazzled fade-out. There was also a Beat Junkies mix that did pretty much the same thing for a few minutes longer. I reckon it would have blessed the dance floor of most indie discos during the early 90s. The b-side was always my favourite track on the 12". 'Are Yer Chickens Laying Eggs?' is an instrumental number, opening with atmospheric guitar licks, before a bluesy harmonica, a funky (sampled from Soul II Soul?) beat and a groovy bassline that again, appears to be lifted from the Mondays, kick off. The guitars crash, the harmonica wails and we all we all lollop around Bez. I can remember being at the summit of a mountain in Austria, my mind thoroughly rearranged by psychedelics, sharing an earphone each with my best mate as we freaked out listening to this on a Walkman. Fond memories, which is a maybe why I long for some solid information on the band...

...which is where I'm hoping you lot will come in. Surely somebody out there remembers something - perhaps you saw them live. Maybe you own the record too and recall reading an interview or a review at the time. Or are you a member of the band who can't believe that somebody out there cares enough about the music you made to write something about you? If so, please leave a comment or get in touch via the e-mail over there on the right hand side. I guess it doesn't really matter, or as Frank sings in 'Without You', "It must be nice to be so unexplained" - I know he wasn't talking about the band themselves, but it fits pretty nicely. I've lasted for the past 17 years, and could definitely go to my grave untroubled if I never found out anything further about them, but if you do know something – please share. I'd especially like to know what S.K.A.W. is an acronym for, or if indeed it is. Cheers!

Buy the 12" of 'Without You' from eBay
Vinyl Japan at TweeNet