Saturday, July 28, 2007

Death Served Three Ways

David Holmes’s ‘Don’t Die Just Yet’ is basically a remix, or maybe even a cover version, of Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Melody’. Whatever it is, Holmes does a damn fine job, adding an immediate, edgy sound to it, and opting to remove the lyrics. Released in 1997, it sits perfectly on the excellent ‘Let’s Get Killed’ LP. Job done then? Well, no, not when you can get a selection of the choice bands of the day to remix your remix, which is what Holmes (or the record label?) did for the single release. I like the way that even though it is essentially the same song, each remixer stamps their individuality on it, relative to the respective character of the bands. As well as the mixes I’ve posted below, there were also versions from La Funk Mob, the Max 404 Optimystic Disco Dub, as well as the lengthy ‘Don’t Chant Just Yet’ mix by Holmes himself.

David Holmes – The Holiday Girl (Don't Die Just Yet) by Arab Strap

Drunken, bearded, Scottish lo-fisters (!) Arab Strap do a brilliant arrangement of the song, transforming it into a standalone Arab Strap song by adding a typical Aidan Moffat vocal over the downbeat, piano looped track. In ‘The Holiday Girl’ Moffat tells the story of a romance that could have been at a hotel while on a family holiday when he was 13. “I was’nae into it. So I went outside an’ stood on the patio, looking at the night sea, trying to look deep.”

David Holmes – Don't Die Just Yet (Delakota Mix)

Delakota. Now there was a band. One minute they were pegged by all and sundry to be the next Primal Scream, and the very next minute they were gone. Hmm, maybe a post on them could be in the offing? Anyway, another solid effort, perhaps a little more plodding than the others and it is over seven minutes long, but it maintains the dark feel of the package, adding some sinister vocal samples with a violent story about a couple getting into a big stabbing match. “Don’t worry son, these two do this all the time.”

David Holmes – Don't Die Just Yet (Mogwai Mix)

Typically fierce, starting with a recurring looped voice sample, gradually drowning out the funkier bass elements of the Holmes original and lulling you into a false sense of security before bludgeoning you to death with a mass of loud white noise and feedback, and finally slamming you back down to earth with the end of the vocal loop. Again it is very Mogwai, which I guess is the point of this post.

Full David Holmes discography
Buy David Holmes from Amazon
Arab Strap RIP website
Delakota discography
Mogwai website


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Henry... Have a Cookie.

Chris 'The Glove' Taylor - Itchiban Scratch

I don't think there has ever been a series of albums that have introduced me to as much incredible music as Morgan Khan's Street Sounds Electro compilations - the first 10 volumes in particular, even though the series would run to 22 in total. From volume 11 onwards they were billed as Hip Hop/Electro and it wasn't quite the same, despite the track quality still being high. My initial exposure to many of the stone cold classics of the genre's prolific mid-80s period came through these compilations. The first time I heard the extraordinarily weird but very, very good ‘Itchiban Scratch’ by Chris ‘The Glove’ Taylor was on ‘Electro 7’, which was released in 1985 and featured one of my favourite generic covers from the series. With appearances from Roxanne Shanté, Knights of the Turntables and the Egyptian Lover, and over on Side B, ‘Itchiban Scratch’, sandwiched between two rather traditional old school rap songs in the shape of the Fearless Four’s ‘Dedication’ and the B-Boys’ ‘Stick Up Kid’, which made The Glove’s track seem even more out-there and odd. Released on Dave Storrs’ Electrobeat Records in 1984, ‘Itchiban Scratch’ is an experimental instrumental track in which The Glove cuts and scratches up a bizarre selection of vocal samples over a sparse, futuristic electro backbeat from Dave ‘The Alien Wizard’ Storrs himself. Legend has it that The Glove turned up at the studio where the track was to be recorded and randomly selected the records he cut up from a pile he found lying around. Hence you get Japanese phrases, an eerie recital of ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ by a children’s group, someone clearing their throat, hysterical cartoon laughter, gongs, horn stabs and god knows what else chucked in the mix. Despite the randomness, it somehow all comes together, resulting in a crazy and original piece of music. The bass line is sensational too! Towards the end of the track the 303 kicks in and it becomes proto-acid techno, demonstrating how far ahead of his time Storrs was as a producer.

Chris 'The Glove' Taylor, Dave Storrs & Ice-T - Reckless

Chris ‘The Glove’ Taylor is perhaps best known for his appearance in the original ‘Breakdance’ movie, as Ice-T’s scratch DJ in the scenes at the Radiotron. I made the mistake of watching the film again recently, and my childhood memories of a cutting-edge portayal of the breakdancing scene were replaced with the reality of a hilariously camp 'dance' movie, ruined by dreadful acting and a risible plot. The only redeeming feature (aside from Turbo's broom dance to Kraftwerk's 'Tour De France'!) were the battle scenes, where Ice and The Glove provided the soundtrack for a dance battle between the rival crews. Even though Ozone (I’d been labouring under the misapprehension that Ozone was cool for over 20 years) looks like a complete tool in his fedora hat, the rival crew Electro Rock are amazing dancers, and Ice-T's staccato raps and The Glove's scratching (in studded leather gloves!) add a rough authenticity to the scene (the track is the awesome 'Tibetan Jam', not featured on the soundtrack but released on 12" by Polydor). A live version of 'Reckless' (posted above in its edited version) is the song that is playing during the second battle scene, and it's another outstanding Dave Storrs production. However, I've posted the link below to the first scene as it is much better, and doesn't feature Kelly's (the female lead) cringingly awful gymnastics / breakdance hybrid.

Buy the repressing of 'Itchiban Scratch' from Flexx in Belgium
Chris 'The Glove' Taylor at West Coast Pioneers website
Interview with Dave Storrs at the same website
Search eBay for 'Electro 7'
Full Street Sounds discography
Search eBay for the Breakdance soundtrack
Website for 'Breakdance: The Movie' here


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

If It Doesn’t Come Bursting Out of You

Max Tundra - Gondry

It’s been five years since Max Tundra last released an album, the truly remarkable ‘Mastered by Guy at the Exchange’ that surfaced on Domino back in 2002. Five years is a long time to wait for new material, but after watching a recent interview with Max Tundra’s handler Ben Jacobs, it all starts to fall into place. This five-year hiatus isn’t due to a sudden case of lazyitis, or a drug habit spiralling out of control. It isn’t even down to an elongated case of writer’s block. I recently found a video interview with Ben online, and in it he reveals that he has been trying to come up with something that hasn’t been done before. It is incredibly important to him that he makes music that sounds original. His reasoning is as follows –

"There is music everywhere that is very, very similar to music that already exists… making records and CD's from an environmental perspective, there's all this new plastic in the world, which is so wasteful. That's such a responsibility, that you have to justify the existence of that product in the world. And if it's really similar to something that already exists then you're just messing the world up really, you're polluting it."

These are admirable sentiments, and if you listen to Ben’s previous recorded output, you’d have to agree that there isn’t really anyone else out there quite like him. A while back, when I was uploading his music onto iTunes, I was faced with the dilemma of what genre to log it under. I gave up in the end, and just created a new sub-genre - Tundrastyle. If you still don’t believe me, then listen to ‘Gondry’ from ‘M.B.G.A.T.E.’; a heartfelt plea to the filmmaker Michel Gondry to make a video for him, set to soulful techno with rambling, gorgeous analogue melodies.

When I was at college, I wrote a really bad poem, juxtaposing Sting’s selfless (ha) battle to save the world’s rainforests, against the evils of CD manufacture, detailing all the chemicals present in Compact Discs and the fact that they will never biodegrade, thus making Mr Sting a big, fat hypocrite. I was an opinionated sod back then (and a dreadful poet), but the point I was making wasn’t that far away from what Ben is suggesting in the video interview.

I don’t believe that for many current bands their art is essential to them. It sounds to me like many are just going through the motions, especially the dearth of sound-alike bands out there, who aren’t doing anything new with the gear available to them. I’m talking about Razorlight, the Fratellis, the Kooks, the View – the list is endless – bands that deal in derivative indie rock that doesn’t actually need to exist. To this list, you can add the Rolling Stones, who for some unfathomable reason continue to record and release albums in the mistaken belief that there is a need for new product from them. Their back catalogue may be packed with classics, and I’m sure people still enjoy watching them play the hits live, but can you really tell me even the most dedicated Stones fan would combust if there wasn’t a new album?

There’s a brilliant poem by Charles Bukowski that a friend turned me onto a while back. Entitled, ‘so you want to be a writer?’, the opening lines go:

“if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.”

This is how it should be. Don’t bother if it doesn’t come bursting out of you. Stop going through the motions. I’m talking to you, Paul McCartney. Earlier this year, my Dad was pondering buying the new Macca album, so I went online and grabbed a few songs from ‘Memory Almost Full’ to send him to see if he wanted to make the purchase, and I was thoroughly under whelmed. Considering most reviewers considered it a timely return to form, I found it a lacklustre effort, and hardly a worthy addition to the man’s considerable musical legacy. So why did he bother? Because it’s his job? That’s not good enough. If something you create won’t ever biodegrade and will eventually end up sitting in a landfill until the world explodes, make sure it needed to exist in the first place and wasn’t just a way of killing time.

Max Tundra - Coming Up

I shouldn’t really be picking on Macca, as there are artists far guiltier than he is, even if he did sign to Starbucks. No, I’m singling out Mr Thumbs Aloft because it brings me nicely back to Max Tundra, as I’m concluding by posting his cover version of ‘Coming Up’, from ‘McCartney II’, one of the few McCartney solo efforts worth a purchase. This bonkers slice of glitchy electro jazz pop makes Macca sound essential again. Imagine a world where rampant experimentalism was encouraged rather than marginalised. Uniqueness seems to be an underrated commodity these days. I hate that clichéd phrase, “…in an alternate universe, this would be Number One!”, but I do truly believe that if a few more people thought like Ben Jacobs, the musical landscape would be a much more interesting place.

Max Tundra's third album is due in Spring 2008.

Buy Max Tundra from Boomkat
Max Tundra website
Max Tundra at My Space
Max Tundra at Domino
Watch the video interview with Max Tundra that inspired this post at
Buy 'McCartney II' by Paul McCartney from Amazon
Read the full poem, 'so you want to be a writer?', by Charles Bukowski here

Public Image Limited - Theme

I’ve wanted to post ‘Theme’ by Public Image Limited for a while now, and what I’ve got to say about it follows on from the above post, especially the quote from the Bukowski poem. New bands take note – this is the sound of music bursting out of a band - nine minutes of raw, inventive, thrillingly vital music. Simon Reynolds described the album this was taken from (PiL’s 1978 debut, ‘Public Image’) as the pinnacle of what came after punk. He wasn’t wrong, and ‘Theme’, as the album’s opening track, set the tone. ‘Public Image’ was the sound of a band inventing something completely new. John Lydon described his voice as an ”instrument of torture” and it was; an abstract and frightening caterwauling. Lydon’s demented delivery was married to Keith Levene’s savagely jagged, phasing riffs, Jah Wobble’s fluid, thunderous dub bass, and Jim Walker’s vast, sledgehammer drums, to produce something properly cutting edge. So good in fact, that it was universally panned by the critics of the time! The legendary music writer Lester Bangs said of the album, “PiL’s first was just a big fuck you to all the people who bought the Pistols on sight and never heard a word…” and perhaps there is some truth in this. What a fuck you though!

Buy 'Public Image' by Public Image Limited from Amazon
Public Image Limited website
John Lydon website


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Jackin’ to the Blitzen Remixen

I’ve been rocking to the music of the mysterious Principal Participant for a while now, but he’s been keeping a low profile so you might not have heard of him. In fact, his real identity is still being kept under wraps, but I don’t think I’d be giving too much away to say that it’s the side project of a mythical electronic artist. All will be revealed soon, but you ain’t gonna hear it from me. So, PP is finally sticking his head above the parapet with the release of his debut single ‘Wonderful’, which drops on Monday 23rd July 2007, and has already picked up radio play from Radio 1's Zane Lowe and John Kennedy @ XFm.

PP deals in gloriously funky techno, managing to be minimal and wholesomely tuneful at the same time. A key PP influence is the US Garage producer Todd Edwards, and this is evident in the bumpy, melodic nature of the songs. Check ‘Principles’ on the PP My Space page, which works around a cyclical synth loop and jackin’ percussion. It’s all so simple but as addictive as crack. Every time it surfaces on my iPod, I want to break out into a stupid Crouchy robot dance. It’s properly quality gear.

Blitzen Trapper - Sci-Fi Kid (Principal Participant 'Kingswood' Remix)

As well as releasing his debut single, PP has been busy remixing luminaries from the indie kingdom. His remix of The Cribs’ ‘Men’s Needs’ is apparently available to download, though I can’t find it anywhere. You can listen to an unreleased remix of Bloc Party’s ‘On’ at the aforementioned PP My Space page. However, I’m posting his remix of the Portland, Oregon sextet Blitzen Trapper’s ‘Sci-Fi Kid’, which is taken from their self-released third album ‘Wild Mountain Nation’ (though I’ve heard a rumour that they’ve recently signed to Sub Pop). Blitzen Trapper do a sort of bonkers Pavement-go-bluegrass, with elements of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Beck chucked on the campfire for good measure. PP turns in a clever rework, weaving the acoustic guitars and vocal refrain of the original through an itchy, bleeped-up techno thumper, which should translate brilliantly onto the dancefloor and deliver the band to an entirely new audience.

'Wonderful’ by Principal Participant is released by Part One on 23/07/07 on 12” vinyl, featuring a remix from Ben Fat Trucker on the flip.

Principal Participant at My Space
Blitzen Trapper website
Blitzen Trapper My Space


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trust is a hard thing to come by these days

Here we have the video for the brand new Gravenhurst single 'Trust'. This is the first chance to check out the direction of the band's fourth album (the third to be released by Warp Records), 'The Western Lands'. The album is the follow-up to 2005's morbid and macabre 'Fires In Distant Buildings'. If 'Trust' is anything to go by, it appears the bleak mood has lifted slightly. Though still dark and twisted, this is a love song. Well, of sorts, as the line "She will suck you in, she will cut you up, she will throw you away" testifies. This is brilliant, fuzzy guitar pop, reminiscent of classic 1988-era Creation records. There's a bit of House of Love, JAMC and even My Bloody Valentine in there, with a droning Velvets guitar line, and main man Nick Talbot's vulnerable, detached vocals. The video itself is a nice mix of animation and live band performance. Not sure when the album is released, but 'Trust' is available as a digital download from on July 17th 2007, and a limited 7" is out on 30th July 2007. I'm expecting great things, and may even have an exclusive track for you at some point over the next few weeks.

I've been a huge Gravenhurst fan for a while now. I kind of sneaked in through the backdoor as I first came across Nick Talbot through his work with the horrortronica outfit Bronnt Industries Kapital. I saw them play a hideously disturbing set in the Blackout tent at the Ashton Court Festival in 2003. Once I had stopped shaking, I tracked down a BIK 7" on Silent Age and from here, I found Gravenhurst, named after a song by David Pajo. I'll leave you with the epic title track from the Gravenhurst mini-album 'Black Holes in the Sand', which came out on Warp in 2004, and featured six tracks of intense, sonic folk-influenced murder ballads, including a wonderful cover of 'Diane' by Hüsker Dü.

Gravenhurst - Black Holes In The Sand

Gravenhurst are performing at this year's Ashton Court Festival - this Saturday (14th July 2007) in fact, so try and catch them if you can. The Fall are headlining and Mad Professor is also playing! All the info you need is here.

Buy Gravenhurst from Norman Records
Gravenhurst website
Gravenhurst My Space
Gravenhurst discography


Monday, July 09, 2007

The further I go the deeper I fall

Herrmann & Kleine - Where Have You Been
Herrmann & Kleine - Kickboard Girl
Herrmann & Kleine - Wonder

Sometimes you listen to a record or a song and it makes such an impression on you that it sparks an obsession of fierce intensity. Some records are OK, you enjoy them, listen to them a few times and then they are put on the shelf to gather dust, eventually ending up on eBay. But there are others that grab you, take control of your heart and mind and make you believe that because of this record, something irrevocable has happened. The ‘Transalpin EP’ by the German production duo Thaddi Herrmann and Christian Kleine was one such record for me. It was released in October 1999, and despite already being a massive fan of electronic music, it ignited a passion that lead to me buying every single release on the Berlin-based labels City Centre Offices (which was owned and run by Thaddi) and Morr Music for the next couple of years, and listening to little else during this period. All the vinyl releases on both labels were lovingly packaged and often extremely limited, making them highly desirable and collectable, and the music more than matched the thought that had gone into the presentation.

‘Transalpin EP’ was a sublime four-tracker, featuring two extended workouts (including ‘Where Have You Been’) and two shorter pieces, combining gently distorted breakbeats (betraying Thaddi’s previous role in Digital Hardcore noiseniks Sonic Subjunkies) and sublime electronic sounds. It was everything electronic music often fails to be – warm, emotive and evoking a mysterious yearning within me that I hadn’t really felt since my years as a teenage shoegazer. Oddly enough, etched into the run-out grooves of both sides of the vinyl of the EP were lyrics from Slowdive’s ‘Dagger’, so it was clear at this point that the artist’s influences were outside of the usual reference points for makers of music by machine. Herrmann & Kleine followed the release of the ‘Transalpin EP’ with a second EP in 2000. Entitled ‘Kickboard Girl EP’, it followed the same pattern as their debut offering, mixing gorgeous, melodious electronica with expert, intricate beatwork.

By now, a scene was building around the labels and the artists (which also included the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Lali Puna and Arovane) under the horrific banner of ‘indietronica’. I guess all scenes suffer from a collective need to pigeonhole music into neat genre-boxes, but this was a particularly clumsy effort, focusing on the fact that the key players of the scene listed the likes of Slowdive and the Smiths as their influences, as well as name checking Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Squish the two together and you have ‘indietronica’. Urrrghhh. The founder of Morr Music, Thomas Morr, even coined his own term for the genre – plinkerpop - which despite sounding like something you might do in the toilet, actually made some sort of sense in terms of the sounds being created.

Herrmann & Kleine released their one and only album, the excellent ‘Our Noise’, in April 2002. As Boomkat said, the album was “…a sun-drenched halfway house between the ethereal/lush guitar strums and electronic sceneries that Kleine has mastered across his work for the City Centre Offices and Morr Music, and Thaddi’s delicious, crunchy beat work and his adherence to all things analogue and blue.” In particular, the majestic ‘Wonder’ did what it said on the tin - a joyous evocation of sheer heart-bursting bliss, perhaps even outdoing the best efforts of Ulrich Schnauss to recreate the classic shoegazing sound from an electronic perspective. Shoetronica perhaps? This musical union was stretched to breaking point when Morr Music released an album of Slowdive covers by various electronic artists (entitled ‘Blue Skied An’ Clear’) on their roster. After this, the scene died a death, ending up on a life support machine with only Thomas Morr keeping a watchful vigil.

‘Our Noise’ was the last music created by the duo, though they didn’t officially split until 2005. Christian continued his solo career, releasing two well-received solo albums, the last of which, ‘Real Ghosts’, was released on CCO in 2004. Thaddi continued his work at the helm of CCO, undertaking the occasional remix, including a stunning acid house rework of Hey-O-Hansen’s ‘Moon’ in 2005.

All of the Herrmann & Kleine releases are no longer available, but you can purchase mp3's from or Boomkat
Herrmann & Kleine discography
Herrmann & Kleine website
City Centre Offices website
Morr Music website
Slowdive fansite


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Watch Yer Bassbins...

Higher Intelligence Agency - Ketamine Entity (Axiom Mix)

It's been ages since I've thought about speakers, though there was a certain point in my life when everyone I knew was completely obsessed with them. I wasn't really into cars, but I was capable of having lengthy conversations about speakers with anybody who'd care to listen. God knows what the content of these conversations were, it has all thankfully dribbled out of my head now. What boring gits we must have been.

Speakers are important though. Especially if you want to piss someone off. I used to live above an absolute dickhead in Halls at college, and once borrowed my next door neighbour Mark's gigantic bad boy Wharfdales, rested them face down on the floor, stuck the Hypnotist album on repeat at an insane volume and went out for the day.

And what about speakers in cars? Judging by the sounds I hear emanating from vehicles careering about the streets around my house in South London, we were pretty clueless back then when it came to souping up a soundsystem for the car. I can remember a particularly cheap car stereo exploding when John Peel played the KLF and Extreme Noise Terror's collaboration on his show one night when we were driving around. Smoke was pouring out of it and we were in hysterics. My mate Russell had the right idea. He wired in some ancient yet fuckingnoisy 5-foot high speakers and lobbed them in the boot of his camper van. Now that was what we called a car stereo...

These days, we've got the same Missions that my wife has had since 1992. They do the job, especially considering these days I like my neighbours and rarely play music louder than speaking volume unless I am paralytic or off my face. In which case, they do the job nicely. Not bad considering they're 15 years old.

Back in the day, if anyone wanted to test out the power and capability of their new speakers, there were certain songs that always did the job. 'Ketamine Entity' by Higher Intelligence Agency was one of them. You won't get it if you just play it on your computer or iPod. You really need to play it through some serious speakers to properly understand the ridiculous levels of sub-bass at work here. The song was a wibbly-wobbly anthem in praise of everyone's favourite horse tranquiliser, with echoey dubbed out drums, twisted acid lines and a fractured vocal from an alien being. And that bass line of course. Give it a rinse and piss your neighbours off for old time’s sake.

Higher Intelligence Agency hailed from Birmingham, and pioneered the ambient dub movement during the mid-1990s through a series of brilliant albums, and the Oscillate club nights in Birmingham. 'Ketamine Entity’ is lifted from their debut album 'Colourform', after originally featuring on the first 'Ambient Dub' compilation, released on Beyond in 1992. It's weird, because when I looked up HIA on, there was one comment from someone about ‘Colourform’, which says - "My friends and I used to use 'Delta' as the standard test of bass response for speakers." Despite preferring different tracks, we weren't alone!

Search eBay for Higher Intelligence Agency
Higher Intelligence Agency at
Higher Intelligence Agency website
Read about the Oscillate Sound System here
The home of Mission speakers