Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Intergalactic Bass Transmissions

2 Live Crew - Ghetto Bass

There's a book out there waiting to be written (hopefully by Simon Reynolds), entitled The Evolution of the Bass in Dance Music. I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to know where to begin (or end or what to write in the middle), but my first experience of bass as something that wasn't a four-stringed instrument wielded by Mark King was through the 2 Live Crew back in the mid-Eighties. Before they went all cartoon porno they used to be part of the Miami bass scene releasing records like Ghetto Bass (posted above), which had (for the time) sub-bass that the speakers on my crappy ghettoblaster definitely weren't equipped to deal with.

If I had the time or the inclination I'd trace my bassline journey from here in infinite detail, but instead we'll pick up the trail in 1991 as the rave scene exploded and producers made their basslines more and more ridiculous in order to mess with raver's addled minds. I'm talking about Beltram's Energy Flash, the Hypnotist's Death by Dub (above), Radio Babylon by Meat Beat Manifesto, LFO by LFO, ... I could go on and on and on and on.

Alex Reece - Pulp Fiction

Brief detour down memory lane.... I went to a rave somewhere in Dorset in 1995, and the main action was taking place in a large cattle shed where the DJ was spinning banging techno - normally my bag, but I got a bit bored and wandered off. I stumbled (literally) upon a small shed, which seemed to be crammed full of pretty smiling girls all swaying hypnotically in time to a sparse, minimal track with the sickest, window-rattling bassline I'd ever heard (turned out to be Pulp Fiction by Alex Reece). It got a couple of rewinds and I needed scraping off the ceiling before I went home that night. Couldn't hear properly for a week. And if you're talking about sexy dnb basslines (I was), then I can't not mention PFM's One and Only - but I already waxed on that one at length here. And if you're talking about sick dnb b-lines (we are) try these three belters -

DJ Trace - Mutant Revisited

Bad Company - The Nine.

Ed Rush & Optical - Pacman (Ram Trilogy Remix)

Starkey - Fidelio

But wait! There is a point to this disjointed bass-related musing and here it is - Starkey's got a new album out (Ear Drums and Black Holes, Planet Mu, April 19, 2010) and he's absolutely fckng NAILED it. He calls the music he makes "Street Bass" but "Space Bass" might be more appropriate as he is taking low-end rumblings into another galaxy. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Starkey shares his chosen moniker with "a global supplier of technologically advanced hearing products that assist with hearing loss". Too many nights with your head in the bins listening to this and you'll need them.

Unlike a lot of the dark, minimal dubstep out there, the Philadelphia-based wunderkid is blending his gnarly space bass emissions with gorgeous, warm synths - check Fidelio. It starts off sounding like the incidental music from 2001: A Space Odyssey , before Starkey drops the bass along with a terse, military beat. Then, mid-flow, it breaks off into a melodic interlude that Boards of Canada would be proud of. Elsewhere on Ear Drums... are collaborations with grime artist P-Money and the Texan MC Cerebral Vortex that aren't a million miles away from the prototype booty bass of the 2 Live Crew. And we've come full circle...

Pre-order Ear Drums and Black Holes from Boomkat
Starkey website
Starkey at Planet Mu
Starkey MySpace

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Fakesch's Electronic Swap Shop

Scaffolding - D-Tron (Fakesch Remix)

One of my favourite things in the whole wide world is pint-sized-yet-perfectly-formed itchy lil' acid-electro bangers, so this Michael Fakesch remix of Scaffolding is so far up my street that it's disappeared round the corner. You might remember Fakesch from his tour of duty with the brilliant electronikglitchheadz Funkstörung - they did amazing things to Björk and Wu Tang Clan and were just a nail's width away from being better than Autechre, but sadly divorced in 2006 due to "musical, personal and practical differences".

Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked - Fakesch is still doing ace things to other people's songs (he also did the music for the Aygo by Toyota ads that fans of T4 will be familiar with) but under his own name these days and Exchange, a collection of Fakesch reworkings of tracks by artists including Von Sudenfed, Mr Oizo, Bomb the Bass, Herbert and the Notwist to name but five, is due out on April 5, 2010 on Musik Aus Strom. Most of the remixes have never been released before. As mentioned above, the highlight is Fakesch's remix of Scaffolding's D-Tron, which sounds to these ears like a techno cocktail mixed by Hardfloor, consisting of two parts Mr Oizo's Flat Beat to one part Windowlicker by Aphex Twin, and a swizzlestick made of laser beams. I'd never heard of Scaffolding before, but they're from Denver and do a nice line in minimal techy electronica.

Buy Michael Fakesch from Boomkat
Michael Fakesch website
Michael Fakesch discography
Michael Fakesch MySpace
Buy Narratives by Scaffolding from Plastic Sound Supply
Funkstörung website

Friday, March 05, 2010

They Wanna Be Adored

The Ruling Class - Sleeping Beauty

There is a part of me that will forever be stuck in 1990, stood in the back room of 1 Arbutus Close wigging out to the latest baggy/shoegaze twelve that I'd procured from Big Brian (without whom etc etc). A halcyon era (if viewed through the ol' rose-tinted bifocals) when the only things I really cared about was music, music, music and getting strawberry-eye butted. Oh, and mooning over seemingly unobtainable girls. There was lots of mooning. And a bit of acid. That was then and this is now...

But here come The Ruling Class, sounding more "then" than anything did at the time. The perfect combination of Madchester and shoegaze - Some Friendly-era Charlatans (minus the swirling Hammond), the Roses and just a smidgen of Slowdive's sonic cathedral guitars. They've got the hair (bowl cut, fringe in the eyes) and that sense of wide-eyed, psychedelic wonder that permeated all the best music of that era. Back in 1990 I would have creamed in my pants but the first time I heard Sleeping Beauty I thought it was a low-rent pastiche. A piss-take. You might as well go and watch a Stone Roses tribute band or just buy the albums by the bands The Ruling Class are so obviously in thrall of, I thought. Every bone in my body was telling me it was derivative nonsense but I still couldn't stop playing it. And the more you listen, the more you realise the reverence the band have for the era. They have expertly recreated the sound to such a level where you wonder if (with the right producer and label on board) they could go on to supercede their influences. Or at the very least, make a half-decent album. The Ruling Class, take a bow. If I had a time machine, you'd be my new favourite band.

Buy Sleeping Beauty/Marian Shine 7" on eBay
The Ruling Class website
The Ruling Class at MySpace

Monday, March 01, 2010

Stop, think for a moment ok?

Gang Starr - Manifest

Spare a though for Keithy-E aka the Guru who, as I type these words, is in a coma following a heart attack. There were rumours circulating last night that he had passed away but these have been dismissed by DJ Premier, his former partner in beats'n' rhymes in Gang Starr. Guru would definitely make my Top 10 Hip-Hop MCs of All-Time list - with his laidback flows and lyrical dexterity he's up there with Kool Keith, Rakim, Kool G Rap and KRS-One. My most played cassette of 1989 was a C90 that had De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising on one side, with No More Mr Nice Guy, Gang Starr's awesome debut album, on the other. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery...


From the man himself: "I am doing fine and I am recovering! I'm weak though. I appreciate your well wishes and all the love!"

Buy Full Clip: A Decade of Gang Starr from Amazon
Gang Starr discography
Gang Starr at MySpace