Monday, 15 November 2010

Ninja Tune XX: XLR8R Podcasts from Coldcut, DJ Food, DK and Toddla T

For one reason or another I've missed most of the Ninja Tune XX anniversary celebrations this autumn / weekend, but for those of us that did these two XLR8R podcasts are a pretty good way to celebrate.

The first, mixed and compiled by label founder Coldcut and stalwarts DJ Food and MK, is an epic combo of original Ninja classics from Scruff, Food, Hextatic, Amon Tobin, Kid Koala and more recent highpoints from Diplo, Shuttle, Andreya Triana, Daedalus, Toddla T. With plenty of sick remixes from both fresh UK newbloods - Warrior One, Benga, Rustie - and US future hoppers - Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus - it shows just how much the label has influenced and kept up with the progress of beats over the decade since their last milestone.

XLR8R Podcast 170: DJ Food & DK vs. Coldcut (click through for DL and tracklist)

The second is one of the best mixtapes I've downloaded this year from 2010 Ninja Tune signing Toddla T, who landed a massive three album deal with them earlier this year. The mix is so varied you never have time to pin it down - full of dancehall fire, but packed with both evocative old rave skool samples and future beats. Reminiscent of NY label Nightshifters (AC Slater, Hostage, Proper Villans) at their best, with flavours of Diplo, Zinc's Crack House, Buraka and Zomby, it's right on the money and shows how Ninja Tune remain so even after 20 years. I can see myself buying a lot of these tunes...

XLR8R Podcast 168: Toddla T (click through for DL and tracklist)

If you like what you hear Ninja Tune have got two double compilations out to celebrate their anniversary, which include many of the cuts from that first mixtape. Going by the Zen Cuts X CDs which still sound as fresh 10 years on, they're going to be well worth the effort. I've certainly got 'em both on my Xmas list.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Bass in your face London! Bassnectar review and remaining UK tour dates

Friday lunchtime I saw the Fabric line up for the Scratch Perverts Beatdown on Friday night. One name stood out above all others... BASSNECTAR! What the fuck was he doing in London? Why did no-one tell me? Why did I not tell me? I can't remember the last time he was here, I just know that I have a 2006 promo my housemate gave me from a Freq Nasty night she can't remember if he played at. And that's been it for years...

  DJ Vadim - Maximum ft La Methode (Bassnectar & ill.Gates Remix) by Bassnectar  

After getting the news I went straight to Lorin's tour blog to find out:
"Hello Bass Heads!

"I remember years ago, the thought of playing a show in Europe felt like a Pilgrimage. When my agent started sending me to places like Arkansas on a Teusday and Tennessee on a Wednesday, I threw a fit. In my mind electronic music belonged in international meccas of prestige like London, Paris, Tokyo, New York. Not random spots in middle America where nobody even listens to electronic music.

"But after a lot of international touring in 2002 and 2003 I had lost interest in an unlimited scope of travel, and I wanted to focus on building a deeper, more fanatic network locally. I began gravitating towards the idea of bringing the music to places where it did not exist previously, and kind of forging a path for bass music here in the states.

"This was after the rave scene of the 1990′s had dissolved (or been extinguished) and I never expected to find such open arms scattered in essentially every American town I visited. So now after over 10 years of hardcore touring stateside, the number of bass heads is larger and more intense than I ever would have imagined. The shows are beyond a ‘rave’ and something more like an experience, and I am utterly stunned and grateful to continue taking this space ship deeper and deeper into the unkown.
"But we figured, why not go back to Europe… I haven’t played in London since a night with Freq Nasty back in 2004 (or 2003?) since the schedule over here got so jam-packed.

"This is exciting for several reasons; in part because it is a chance to explore fresh ears, and to delve much deeper into both the CLASSICs in my record box, and the baaaaangers that i have been rinsing over here. But also some of the shows over there are a whole different ball game… tiny-ass little rooms like I used to play regularly on stateside tours years and years ago.

"While I do not mind the huge venues and huge stages over here, I do miss the impeccable freakishness of a low ceiling and a room, a bat-shit crazy crowd bouncing off the walls, and the feeling of borderline panic as the room appears to burst at the seams."

He certainly got what he wanted at Fabric. By the time I managed to get in Bassnectar's set had just started and Room 1 was packed to the max and bouncing to the ceiling. As we fought to the bar the tunes were on the lighter side of things, switching between glitch-hop and mid tempo breaks or d'n'b and a wicked reggae vocal tune I didn't recognise. As the set developed, so did the bottom end, and by the time we'd squeezed our way into the centre of the room he was dropping dubstep-eque bass slabs from Wildstyle, Cozza Frenzy and Timecode.

  Bassnectar - Bass Head by Bassnectar

The crowd, the majority of whom like me had never seen (or in a lot of cases heard) this before, were mad for it. To see Lorin on the decks is an experience in itself. He's an animal, bouncing around with his straight long hair hanging down over his face and the occasional shouts on the mic of 'London lemme see you go wild!". Technically he really uses the tempo controls to full effect, with beats of different styles mashing into each other seamlessly and getting through tunes at a pretty epic pace - his own brand of omni-tempo maximalism in full effect!

It was when Lorin dropped the remix of Metallica's Seek and Destroy that the place really went nuts though. The dancefloor exploded into a full on mosh pit frenzy with the raw testosterone force of the metal / dubstep combo awakening some kinda primal urge in the club's under 25 male population. Personally I've never much enjoyed moshing in clubs, I used to go to metal and punk gigs for that, but the craziness kicking off was testament to the energy in the room. I didn't even mind the split lip.


The mosh-bass frenzy continued for another 20 odd minutes before spitting us back out into the realms of more danceable downtempo broken beats and bubbling squelchy bass from Cozza Frenzy and Underground Communication. With no Andy C in sight Lorin got to drop one more old classic before shaking as many hands as possible and disappearing to leave many wondering exactly what just happened.

  Bassnectar - Magical World feat. Nelly Furtado (FREE DOWNLOAD) by Bassnectar

The tour played Birmingham last night, but if you're lucky enough to live anywhere near Sheffield, Manchester, Cardiff or Dublin there's still time to catch him in the UK.


Alongside Sub Focus!
I play @ 12:00

Lorin - if you read this, please come back again soon and bring more stateside bassheads!

The Pixies - Where is my Mind (Bassnectar Remix) (Click through for DL)Bassnectar - Boombox (Bassnectar & ill.gates remix) (Right click save as for DL)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Devils Music: Nicolas Collins, Keith Rowe and Tetsuo Kogawa at Cut & Splice

One of my professional clients whose area of influence crosses over into my extra-curricular, music addicted existence is a brilliant organisation called Sound and Music. They were formed around 2 years ago from a group of other organisations that included the Sonic Arts Network and the Contemporary Music Network to promote, support and spread the love for sound art and experimental new music in the UK.

Through working with them over the last year, I've had a whole new worlds of aural exploration opened up to me by sonic legends such as Bill Fontana, Chris Watson, Nicholas Collins and Keith Rowe, all of whom I've had the privilege to meet in person. Thurdsay night it was Nic Collins and Keith Rowe at BBC Radio 3's annual Cut & Splice festival, which this year takes the poignant theme of transmission - the use of analogue radio in avant-garde performance.

The setting for Cut & Splice is Wilton's Music Hall near Tower Hill - the oldest surviving building of it's kind in the world. If you've not been there before it's worth it just for a trip to the bar (built around 1725), so that you can see the original wooden trims, peeling paint and crumbling masonry. It really is like stepping back in time. With the distorted, warped sounds of crackling radio signals pervading the air for Cut & Splice it takes on a truly magical feel.

First up was hand built electronic instrument pioneer Nic Collins, whose 1985 performance work Devil's Music used a intricate web of analogue pedals and effects to capture and loop live radio signals, effectively allowing Nic to DJ between radio broadcasts, with FX provided by looped static and white noise.

Due to his location and the time specific nature of broadcast radio, each performance is entirely unique and reflective of the time and culture it is performed in (a common feature of many of the works in the festival). You can get hold of vinyl reprint of recordings Nic made in 1987, including a piece performed in New York sampling dance and hip-hop stations that is credited as prefiguring glitch hop by about 15 years!

Since I missed his workshops earlier in the week, I managed to collar Nic for a quick chat after his performance at Wilton's. He told me that he now uses a MacBook to run a programme that performs the same function as his original setup, which he has available for a free download from his website! I'm looking forward to testing it out. I'm also very intrigued by Nic's book on how to make your own handmade electronic instruments.

Another act that highlighted very similar themes to Nic's was a group conducted by Keith Rowe, of pioneering 60s experimental group AMM, performing a version of 4 Systems by open form, NY composer Earle Brown . The score, made up of a four series of black lines, looks like it way originally written for keyboard and "may be played in any sequence, either side up, at any tempo."

Keith Rowe's group had adapted this to involve four people tuning in and out of static and broadcasts. I presume that they took the 'width of the keyboard' indicated by each set of long parallel lines to be the width of their tuner bands (I should really have asked Keith about this, but instead ended up talking about beer when I met him). The effect of doing this in East London was a beautiful amount of urban beats and bashment pirate station type adverts creeping into the mix, giving it a great uptempo feel most of the way through.

If you're still wondering who Keith is by the way, in the 1960s he was credited by Syd Barret as being an influence on his guitar playing. Unlike poor Syd though, who lost the plot quite early on, Keith went on to do far more radical things with his guitar.

The final act of the night was Tetsuo Kogawa, a cultural activist who helped lead a movement for free radio (rather than the one state controlled channel in each city) in Japan in the 1980s. Using small, handmade transistor units this helped feed an explosion of alternative youth culture in the country. 

Tetsuo's radio art takes on a shamanistic performance aspect, as he builds transistors in from of you using electromagnets and the proceeds to conjure beautiful noises from them through the use of his hands, a pippet of water and further magnets. It's truly mesmerising.

I'm heading back to Wilton's tonight for the last day of the festival, where we'll see classic works written for radio's as instruments by John Cage (of recent 4'33" notoriety) and Karlheinz Stockhausen performed by Apartment House, as well as live performance by Ma Le Pert (Tony Condrad). All weekend there's also an installation by John Wynne (of Saatchi exhibition fame) and a beautiful film by Esther Johnson about Gerry Wells, curator of the British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum.

Of course this is all very poignantly timed with the impending digital switch-over in the UK and it's only £12 on the door.

(Yes I am getting paid by them, but not to write this!)