This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at Sonicrampage.org.
Newham Generals - The Anthem - I'm posting three tracks from the awe-inspiring, drool-inducing Lord of the Decks 3 dvd/cd extravaganza. Footsie is, as usual, just sort of ok, D Double sounds like he's trying to swallow his own throat (as always), there's a girl singing 'Newham Generaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal" in a true rave diva style (which is always a nice touch), a tastefully choppy beat, and an eerie, unsettling vibe. Quality.
Ruff Sqwad - Freestyle - Ridiculous beat on this one. Everyone ends their line with "an' ting" which gets a bit annoying, but the main thing on this tune is the absolutely stupidly awe-inspiring beat. Listening to this tune on headphones it sounds like the bass is strafing your ear drums, like the ghost of King Tubby has been reanimated and he has accessed top secret government sonic weapons. Or something. I can't even imagine hearing this on a big system. It would probably cave my chest in. Just awesome. Nice synth horns as well.
Skepta - Single - Skepta does some sex lyrics over the top of Wiley's 'Ice Cream Man' riddim. Skepta has come out of nowhere (as an mc, at least) in the last six months and managed to hurtle to the top rank of mc's in London, following his brother JME. Simon Silverdollar isn't convinced, but I think he's really good. Big bars and all that. Lots of charisma on the radio, and he completely wrecks this tune.
But where did grime come from? Well, it came from UK garage, jungle (which itself came from early 90's breakbeat rave), Jamaican dancehall, and American rap. Since I'm feeling generous, I'm going to hook you lovely people up with two tracks from each of these genres.
Bounty Killer - Warlord - Bounty over the Warlord Riddim. Lots of odd little sound effects are chucked into the mix, while the dude does his gravel-throated thing over the top. Half the time I have no clue what the hell he's saying, but it's always a compelling confusion.
General Degree & Lady Saw - Who Badda - Propulsive stuff from General Degree (no idea who he is) and the first lady of dancehall, Lady Saw, off the Ragga Ragga Ragga 9 compilation, which I think I picked up in 97 or 98, or something like that.
DJ Zinc - Super Sharp Shooter - Unstoppable jungle classic. I'm assuming that most of you will have heard this at some point, but here it is anyways. Slow start "the s, the u, the p the e the r", slow break with squealing p-funk keyboard line over and throbbing bass underneath, then the drop comes in......phew. Ferocious tear-out Amen drums and wobbling bass, and the whole thing keeps changing up, cycling through different drum cycles, from rolling to tearing, and the bass chops and changes, one moment wobbling and twisting (like a plate of jelly being carried down a mountain), the next subbier and throbbier (is that a word? you know what I mean!). One of the greatest jungle tracks of all time.
DMS & The Boneman X - Sweet Vibrations - Classic '94 business. This is the one with the ragga sample saying "push up ya lighter in the air". There are so many things right with this tune. A simple rolling break that is still complex enough to hold your interest. A slow, rumbling dub bassline that sets off the breaks perfectly; if you want to, you can dance like a nut to the drums, or you can bob and sway to the bassline. Nice strings, too (I'm a sucker for that classic mid-90's synth string sound).
Old Skool Hardcore:
DJ Hype - Shot in the Dark (Gunshot Mix) - The legendary DJ Hype with a murky dark side classic. A weird multi-layered beat, echoing and choppy. This is definitely from the period when the drugs were just not fun any more. Odd breakdown, with a disembodied ragga voice singing over...I'm not sure. It sounds like a robot breaking down. Strange. Nice descending bass in the second breakdown too, to accompany the dying fax machine. I was too young for this stuff in the clubs, but I can't imagine how weird it must have sounded after all the goofy cheer that had earlier characterized rave music. There's a great scratched up riff that comes in at about the 3-minute mark.
Phuture Assassins - Roots n' Future (Altern8 Dark Future Remix) - In which the classic reggae/hardcore crossover track gets a re-rub from Altern8. Less dark than the other one. An odd mix of reggae elements and pop-puppilled rave madness, but still lots of fun.
Gza - Swordsman - Classic tune off of Liquid Swords, which is probably my favorite rap album ever. From when the Wu were still trying. Awe-inspiring. The Wu-Tang Clan are almost certainly the most famous cultural phenomena to ever come out of Staten Island, and it's quite funny how they are often the only thing that people know about New York's forgotten borough. When I was coming back from a visit to London last July I got picked out of the check-in line to get my bags searched, and the guy who was doing the search, upon finding out I was from New York, was eager to know if Staten Island "is really like the Wu says". He was pretty surprised when I told him that it's mostly middle-class and white, except for a couple of neighborhoods on the northern part of the island.
The Beatnuts - Reign of the Tec - This is off their 1993 album Intoxicated Demons, and it's straight-up New York gangsta rap. I don't have much else to say about this tune, besides the fact that it's good. I think the whole Dipset thing is kind of cool, but New York's rap scene is producing way less good stuff today than a decade ago.
Maxwell D - Bun Dem - I wasn't really into UKG that much, but some of it was pretty decent. This is one of those tunes. Maxwell D doing his ragga chat over a bass-heavy 2-step beat. Nice and nasty, much better than sugary-sweet horseshit like that godawful 'Sweet Like Chocolate' tune, which always made me want to kill myself.
Sticky feat. Miss Dynamite - Booo! - Most of you should know this tune. Classic Sticky beat with Miss Dynamite alternately singing and doing the bad gal ragga thing over a small lake's worth of bass. Miss Dynamite was another victim of the UK urban music industry's tendency to take anyone with talent and make them do really boring rnb/hip-hop hybrids. I mean, listen to this, and then think back to that godawful 'it takes more' tune...what the hell happened there?
Armand van Helden - Alienz - Ridiculously cheesy, yet great fun wobbly bass house. Stoooopid vocal sample? Check. Junglistic bassline? Check. Total, utter lack of subtlety? Check. More fun than a month's worth of fuckin micro-house? Yes, yes, and thrice yes.
The House Crew - We Are Hardcore - Total and utter classic old skool ardkore. Pianos, chipmunk vocal sample, simple break, primitive stabby noises - it's all here, and it's all beautiful.
DJ Misjah & DJ Tim - Access - Untouchable acid techno-trance classic. There is nothing to beat the sheer joy of several screaming 303 lines all converging in a state of sheer ecstatic madness.
Choci - Death to Ambient - Stomping acid trance. Ridiculously fast, ridiculously awesome. Fun fact: Choci was once jailed for football-related violence.
It's actually really good isn't it? Better than the Mike Jones, anyways.
Slim Thug ft. Pusha T - Click-Clack - Gangsta stuff, but nice crispy beat with weird anorexic siren sound, gun clicks, crispy percussion, and thumping bass. Niceness.
I'm going to try and update this blog more regularly, as I've fallen off a bit since I got the taste back for hammering out the material on Pearsall's Books. I guess I'll just up a few tunes or maybe a set every day. Sound good?
Here's some old jungle bizness:
DJ Crystl - The Dark Crystal - Darkside epic from 1994. Compared to the space age production clarity of the Slim Thug tune, this sounds positively medieval in comparison. Ah, the speed at which music technology advances. Brooding, melancholy strings (think of the ice cave on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back) over curly Amen breaks and deep sea sub bass and classic 'tempo has reached critical level' robo-chick vocal sample. A simple formula that has been used so many thousands of times, but so fantastic. From the period before junglists completely abandoned e, has that queasy "end of the dream" feel to it. What happened to DJ Crystl anyways? He made some of the all-time greatest 'artcore' tunes, and then he seemed to vanish. It'd be great to see a junglist 'where are they now' article written up by someone.
New Blood - Worries in the Dance - Inescapably classic '94 ragga jungle anthem. I can't even begin to fathom how many times I've heard this tune over the years. On London pirate radio in 1994 when I started to really listen to jungle, this tune was inescapable. Rolling breaks and a collage of ragga-centric samples. Music best heard with your head drilled into a bass cone, but still good through headphones in a Queens living room on a Saturday evening.
Skyscraper - The Difference - This is off a '96 compilation that SOUR put out called 'Nu Skool Flava', which was reasonably cool. I'm pretty sure this tune was by DJ Trace, it certainly sounds like a vintage '96 No U-Turn studios production. Concussive two-step break that switches up ever four bars, a rap sample that sounds like KRS-One saying "I'm the difference between indo and oregano", mid-range digital thrash metal bassline, an entire galaxy of echo, with the odd snatch of strings or strange mechanical sound thrown in to keep it simmering. Simon Reynolds blames this sort of stuff for ruining jungle, and yeah he's right, but God damn was it good while it lasted.
Since I've been so busy at the main blog, I've shamefully neglected hooking you people up.
Since I moved back to New York City, my thoughts on reggaetong have proceeded along the following path:
- "What is this shit?"
- "I guess it's kind of ok."
- "I actually kind of like it."
- "Jesus, why am I now listening to this stuff as much as I am?"
- "I guess I do actually like it."
It's not like hugely life-changing, it's certainly way less inventive than grime, but at least it's better than baile funk. I obviously don't have any idea as to what they are saying, almost ever, but booty is, I'm guessing, the main topic of conversation.
Nashaly y Voltio - Desespero
Wisin y Yandel - Rakata
Zion y Lennox - Me Arrepiento