Thursday, January 29, 2009

Golly Ghosh, Summer's Come Early!

Koushik - Lying in the Sun

I only knew Koushik Ghosh from his uplifting guest vocalising on fellow Dundas, Onatario homeboy Manitoba’s awesome ‘Up in Flames’ LP, so I was very excited when I unearthed his latest offering ‘Out My Window’ in a box where I work. What it was doing at the bottom of a box with a load of other unwanted CDs I’ll never know, such is the loveliness contained within these lasered grooves.

‘Out My Window’ is the debut album from Ghosh, following a series of singles and EPs on cracking LA-based label Stones Throw. It is a proper summer record – track titles like ‘Lying in the Sun’ confirm as much – so it does seem rather incongruous to be listening to it in the depths of winter. But, like a drowsy hip-hop Panda Bear, Koushik works his magic with this delightful stew of 60s psychedelia, pastoral whimsy, smooth soul, shimmering funk and beats, with soft, echo-drenched dreamy vocals and Peanut Butter Wolf’s deft hand on the production tiller. Lush and highly recommended.

Buy 'Out My Window' from Norman Records
Koushik at Stone Throw
Koushik MySpace

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'll Wax You Down Like a Candle

J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E. - Strong Island (The Blue Mix)

The original 12” pressing of the ‘Blue Mix’ of ‘Strong Island’ by J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E (AJ Rok, B-Luv and Curt Cazal) is rarer than Dodo doo-doo – the cheapest you are likely to pick one up one of these bad boys for nowadays is around $600. The mix was released specifically for the UK market in 1988, as the rapper AJ Rok explains –

“The UK was giving us mad love. So we did something just for the UK. It ended up going other places, but it was just for the UK.”

I find it hard to fathom why it is so sought after – though the original is definitely one of the finest hip-hop tracks of all time, the ‘Blue Mix’ doesn’t bring that much extra to the party. In places it feels more like a stripped-down dub – the vocals are often left accapella and the main guitar lick comes and goes. You can hear the awesome break nice and cleanly, and get a feeling for how the song was constructed – it's a bit like opening up the bonnet of a car and having a look at the engine. There are a few extra samples lobbed in here and there, in an effort to capitalise on the success of Coldcut’s remix of Eric B and Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full’, but it isn’t anywhere near as commercial as that. It’s raw and heavy. Dope, but not super dope.

And no, I don't own it. The re-released CD version of the Force's debut album 'Doin' Damage' featured the 'Blue Mix' as a bonus track, though that doesn't seem to have devalued the price of the original vinyl.

If you're feeling flush, here's an original pressing on eBay
J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E. discography
J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E. MySpace

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kowalski Worship

Casino Versus Japan - Via Hotknives

I love it when music and a moment come together perfectly. I was walking home from work the other day through a proper London pea-souper – almost completely surrounded by fog as I marched over Tower Bridge in eerie darkness – and this fantastic song by Casino Versus Japan came on my iPod. The swirling haunted fairground synths and warm melodies enveloped me like an opiate cuddle as the static fizz and thud of the beats dictated my walking rhythm. ‘Via Hotknives’ is taken from a 10” released back in 2001 on the fabulously-monikered Wobblyhead.

Like many, I have been eagerly awaiting the Milwaukee-based producer Erik Kowalski’s fourth studio album. He hasn’t released an LP since ‘Whole Numbers Play the Basics’, which came out on Carpark Records in 2002 (the 2004 retrospective 'Hitori + Kaiso: 1998 – 2001' (Attack Nine) doesn't count as a new album, though it is utterly essential listening). I suppose the upside of this seven-year wait is that I am constantly revisiting his back catalogue, and falling deeper and deeper in love with Kowalski’s incredible output. His consistency levels are unparalleled and his sound is truly unique - every single song he has composed is a melancholic delight. As Boomkat once proclaimed - "you wonder how this quiet little guy from Milwaukee isn't king of the world". 2009 is slated as the year Kowalski re-enters the fray - I'm crossing everything I can that this is the case.

On a final note – massive apologies to my throat and lungs. Hot knives – what the hell was I thinking…

Nearly all Casino Versus Japan releases are out of print, but you can search eBay
Casino Verus Japan discography
Casino Versus Japan MySpace

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Listen Yourself Warm...

Mandy Smith - Mandy’s Theme (I Just Can’t Wait) (Cool and Breezy Jazz Version)

Brrrr... I’m sure, like me, if you live in the UK you’re bored stupid of people banging on about how cold it is. But it really is cold and it made going back to work on Monday after a couple of weeks off even worse than usual. So, as always, I turned to music to put a smile back on my face and transport me away from the Arctic capital and towards memories of summer holidays and being warm...

1998, the Greek island of Naxos, a nameless beach bar, a battered old backgammon board, endless pints of Amstel and chain smoking Lucky Strikes... The guy who ran the bar only had one tape - well, one tape that he actually played, he might have had a mighty collection of C90s for all I knew. Side A was some Richard Clayderman comp - I’ll spare you that now, but 'Ballade Pour Adeline' will always have a special place in my heart. Ahem. Anyway, over on the flip was an awesome collection of Balearic grooves, which I have since deduced must have been 'Balearic Beats Vol.1', as it’s the only compilation I can find which has Nitzer Ebb and Mandy Smith on it. The owner of the bar was definitely a huge fan of Bill Wyman’s child bride, as the ‘Cool and Breezy Jazz Version’ of ‘Mandy’s Theme (I Just Can’t Wait)’ often got a rewind. I’m a bit of a fan too - it’s a classic Stock, Aitken and Waterman production, and luckily there’s not too much of Miss Smith’s vocal (which is drowned in reverb so she sounds generic - it could any one of Banarama singing). But I love the cheesy Euro guitars and evocative chord sequences in a totally non-ironic way. It’s just a corking track, and one that is guaranteed to add a bit of sunshine and warmth to your life. Listen yourself warm...

Search eBay for 'Balearic Beats Vol. 1'
A Smash Hits interview with Mandy Smith
Stock, Aitken and Waterman website