Tag Archives: London

Joker’s Rave Roots Are Showing

Joker

For someone with one of the most distinctive sounds in all of club music, and with over a decade of DJ-ing legendary raves, Liam McLean, aka Joker, can seem very unsure of himself. Continue reading

Holy Roar Records Deals In All Manner Of Heavy

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Legend has it that Holy Roar Records was conceived when its founder Alex Fitzpatrick took a revelatory acid trip while listening to Slayer and was confronted by a vision of a lion with the face of Jesus. That is, if by “legend” you mean “Holy Roar’s Wikipedia page” which, like many entries on the world’s foremost collaborative online encyclopedia, contains the occasional inaccuracy.

“A friend of a friend edited the Wikipedia page and I thought it was so hilarious that we’ve left it ever since,” explains Fitzpatrick. “You could say we’re being a bit daft, but it’s fun having those weird little myths. Occasionally, a kid will come up to me at a gig and talk to me about it as if it were the truth. Obviously, the label is actually named after a Torche song, because they’re one of my favorite bands, and I was stuck for a name. We’re a label built on a lot of loud music and I liked the whole idea of building a cult (in the nicest possible way) and the word ‘holy’ feeds into that.”

Launched in 2006, Holy Roar has since been called “the bastion of British hardcore.” While that plaudit does give some indication of the label’s significance and its penchant for heaviness, it’s a misnomer in the sense that Holy Roar doesn’t focus exclusively on U.K. bands—the label has plenty in its catalogue that would slot into other genres from sludge metal to math rock, and even Holy Roar’s most ostensibly “hardcore” bands have strange, idiosyncratic, and often proggy twists to their sound.

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IG Culture’s Selectors Assemble Isn’t a Broken Beat Revival, It’s a Brand New Chapter

Broken Beat

If there’s a single strong thread woven through IG Culture’s enduring and expansive career and life in music so far, it’s a sense of community. From his teenage days in soundsystem crews in the ‘80s, through his affiliations with Dutch collective Kindred Spirits in the early 2000s, to his latest project Selectors Assemble, everything he’s created and contributed to has been based around collaboration.

“The only way to move forward is as a solid crew,” says IG, one of the original pioneers of a sound that would eventually become known as broken beat. “Every successful movement has come off that blueprint. It’s about unity. People don’t talk about unity anymore. It’s all about solo. It’s all about turning up with your USBs. But when you see Selectors Assemble, we roll as a clique. Sometimes I turn up with EVM128 and Phountzi. Sometimes I turn up with Shy One. Maybe they’ll turn up without me. But it’s a clique. It’s the sum of the parts rather than one person getting the shine.”

If all goes to plan, you will be seeing Selectors Assemble a lot in the future. A loose collective of respected London artists, DJs, singers, and musicians—IG, Alex Phountzi, EVM128, Henry Wu, and K15—Selectors Assemble might be IG’s latest crew, and it’s also arguably his most significant. CoOp Presents: Selectors Assemble (to use the project’s full name) is a direct continuation of the most influential collaborative movement IG has ever been involved in: broken beat and the cult London club night that cultured it, CoOp.

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Why London’s Soul In Motion is the Sound of Drum & Bass Past, Present, and Future

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“It’s an experience. You’re there, you’re in the dark, you’re soaking it all up, and you just know that any minute, soon there will be another tune that will make you run to the turntables and go, ‘What the fuck is this!?’” says DJ Bailey. He’s talking over the phone, but you can hear him smiling. “That’s what it’s about. Those moments.”

Snappy summaries of a drum & bass dancefloor idyll don’t come much more succinct. And when they’re coming from someone like London-born Bailey, they don’t come with much more authority, either. Resident at two of drum & bass’ most influential regular events since 1995 (Goldie’s Metalheadz and Fabio’s Swerve), Bailey knows a thing or two about those moments. At cult London drum & bass event Soul In Motion, it’s his role as co-founder to ensure his parties are home to as many of those moments as possible.

Named after a venerated and incredibly forward-thinking DJ Krust record from 1997, Soul In Motion was established by Bailey and Joe Moses (the artist known as Need For Mirrors) three years ago in a basement below a modish central London hotel. Its foundations are drum & bass’ most basic elements: breaking new music, forming a community, no boundaries, no egos.

A fortnightly celebration of selector innovation, it’s a place where some of the genre’s most respected and talented DJs are invited to draw as deeply or eclectically as they wish without fear of losing the crowd. No hype, no hierarchy: the line-up is revealed one DJ at a time in the days leading up to the event, and the order isn’t announced at all. One dark room, the booth directly on the dancefloor; music is the only focus, and everyone who’s applied for free guest list understands this and positively welcomes it.

The space Soul In Motion occupies on the London drum & bass landscape is now unique. But it never used to be. Bailey and Moses’s night pays homage to one of the genre’s oldest traditions. Throughout the late ‘90s to the early/mid 2000s, London’s weekly or fortnightly events were critical scene hubs. Artists and industry workers would congregate off-duty, meet their peers, hear the latest dubplates, share new music, and do many other things that are now largely done digitally.

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Dom & Roland’s Worldwide Search for Rare Dubplates 

Dom & Roland

Dom & Roland. All photos by Chelone Wolf.

Murmur the word ‘dubplate’ to any drum & bass DJ who emerged before the mid 2000s and it’s like a strange hypnosis trick. Their eyes mist over and a knowing wry grin rolls out. Their nose twitches for lacquer vapour trails in the air.

Nothing symbolizes the culture of community and mindset of innovation that drum & bass was founded on than these acetate artifacts. Studio-fresh creations cut strictly for club testing, dubplates were the currency among only the most influential of tastemakers. Sometimes this meant just one or two copies existed.

Dubplates dictated quality control; at around £30 a cut, only the best tracks made it from studio to the cutting lathe. They determined the lifespan of the music; tracks remained on dub until fan-hype was just right to release—if they were released at all. Their limited pressings ensured exclusivity for DJs, especially with ‘specials’ that, in-keeping with classic soundsystem tradition, were created especially for individual artists. The direction of certain sounds within the genre were also influenced by this culture, as competitive artists participated in a race of technology and engineering, attempting to present tracks that were even more dynamic, uncompromising and futuristic than their peers.

Most importantly, though, dubplates created a community. Throughout the ‘90s and into the (fiercely-resisted) digital switch in the mid 2000s, London’s famous Music House cutting house on Holloway Road was abuzz with drum & bass pioneers who didn’t just share DATS but also ideas and thoughts on the music, its direction and strength. Drum & bass pioneers like Dominic Angas, AKA Dom & Roland.

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DVA on Sci-Fi Sounds, Emotional Technology, and Music to Play in the Dark

DVA, photo by Sarah Ginn
DVA [Hi:Emotions]. Photo by Sarah Ginn.

Leon Smart—aka DVA, Scratcha, Scratcha DVA, Soule:Power, and most recently DVA [Hi:Emotions]—isn’t old, but he’s already been around the block and back in London’s underground community. While still in his teens, DVA became a player in the grime scene during its first flush in the early ’00s. He earned the patronage of grime originator Terror Danjah, and the pair created the criminally under-appreciated sub-genre of “R&G,” pairing soulful R&B vocals with grime’s rugged beats. In the late ’00s, his tracks were picked up by DJs like Marcus Nasty and Roska in the “UK funky” scene—a short-lived genre where grime’s attitude and heavy bass met house music’s danceability. It was the de facto sound of Britain’s cities for a couple of summers, and DVA’s unorthodox take on it caught the attention of electronic music heads across the country. His visibility continued to increase with a stint as the rambunctious, often hilarious host of Rinse FM’s Grimey Breakfast Show between 2006 and 2012.

In 2010, he started releasing music on Kode9’s Hyperdub label, and very quickly found a natural place among the label’s family of misfits. 2011’s Pretty Ugly was a bamboozling mish-mash of experimental electronics and R&B slickness, augmented by a huge cast of guest vocalists. He continued to test out different sounds on various EPs for Hyperdub as well as his own sporadic DVA imprint. Some were more successful than others, but all of them demonstrated a questing intelligence. He was vocal on social media—both critiquing and poking fun at the hierarchies, cliques, and racial politics of club music and its media—winning fans in the process, while alienating others in equal measure. When we meet him at the studio of Radar Radio, where he now has a weekly show, he seems way more settled in himself. He’s as animated as ever in conversation, but more focused, and less inclined to be willfully controversial.

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Space Jazz, Electrocution Crackle, and Hints of Italo-Disco on the Latest Club 12″ Releases

A mix of covers of club-oriented 12” vinyl releases on Bandcamp

We seem to be living through one of dance music’s introspective periods. In the absence of any dramatic new genres—the mainstream purgatory of “tropical house” notwithstanding—or stylistic shifts, producers seem to be looking back into club history for inspiration, or tinkering around the edges of current sounds with new techniques and alterations. Don’t get it twisted, though, that doesn’t mean nothing new is happening. The dancefloor has always been a place where the simplest or most familiar elements, with just the slightest tweaks, can be alchemically transformed into something sublime and powerful—and today’s studio heads are just as capable of making gold, or dynamite, as ever. This roundup of club-oriented 12” vinyl releases on Bandcamp goes from high velocity soul-jazz to free-floating grime, from ultra-primitive techno to deluxe dub, but every bit of it is bristling with invention and desire to make bodies move.

Shafiq Husayn, On our Way Home ft. Fatima & Jimetta Rose

Eglo Records is a nexus for all that is spiritual, strange and soulful in London – not to mention a springboard for vital artists like Floating Points and Funkineven. The records of their resident singer Fatima tend towards laid-back cosmic soul, but with the Los Angeles master Shafiq Husayn providing backing, she’s launched into peak time dancefloor madness. Starting with a minute of joyously bohemian space-jazz flotation, the track soon takes off into high-velocity electro/drum’n’bass, but never compromises its soulful songwriting in favor of the groove, nor vice versa. A stone-cold classic.

DJ Bong Gozling, Anarchy in the House of Sagesse

The “outsider house” bracket that has been used for labels like L.I.E.S. or 100% Silk is kind of annoying, because once something is in the hands of a DJ it either works or it doesn’t: there’s no “insider” or “outsider” about it. And Manchester’s Natural Sciences label, for all that it has the trappings of rough and rugged analog sound and out-there trippiness that tend to attract the “outsider” tag, is all about records that work. This EP has lots of gurgling acid and crunching techno-ish drums, but it’s the almost painfully ecstatic chords and twinkles of “Polyglot Socialite” that really make it.

BOREDOM, Geometry

The plundering of the eighties crossover between dance and alternative music has often come up against the law of diminishing returns: like, yes, we know you have an Arthur Russell album, tell us something new. But BOREDOM, a duo recording between Amsterdam and Salford in the UK, take it somewhere altogether more interesting. The reference points are familiar: early Scritti Politti and New Order, a hint of latter day Hot Chip, a bit of Italo-disco and, yes, lots of Arthur Russell. Somehow, though, by dint of robust songwriting skill, and a sense that this is the music they love, not what they’re referencing for cool points, their own identity shines through. There are some crisp and shiny house remixes to boot.

Ansome, Stowaway Remixed

Perc Trax was rolling out the industrial techno long before it was in vogue, and one strongly suspects it’ll be rolling it out a long time after any fair weather fans have wondered off hoping their ears are going to stop ringing soon. This remix EP brings together a great splurge of talent, with the young South Londoner remixed by his friend Ossian, as well as Randomer, label boss Perc, and Birmingham veterans Regis and James Ruskin in their O/V/R guise. O/V/R use clatter and sub-bass, Ossian uses electrocution crackle and snarling acid sounds, Randomer uses claustrophobic compression and laser zaps, and best of all, Perc uses out-and-out distortion on his smashes and clangs: all thoroughly horrible… until you turn them up loud enough. Then, suddenly, the dancefloor logic becomes apparent.

Yaroze Dream Suite, Yaroze Dream Suite EP

The sound pioneered by labels like Local Action and affiliated club night Boxed remains rooted in London’s grime, and on the dancefloor, but seems to expand and expand in all directions – meeting blissful ambient music in one direction, and the gleaming, fiercely intellectual abstractions of acts like Chino Amobi and Arca in another. Here, key figures Mr Mitch and the 1980s Japanese New Age relaxation tape-obsessed Yamaneko come together as Yaroze Dream  Suite to make one of the most beautiful EPs yet. It begins with a minute and a half of reveling in pure tones, and takes in slow-motion beats, Burial-like rainy street scenes, heartbroken chimes and the abstracted R&B of “In the Moonlight” with vocalist Hannah Mack. Now someone needs to make a sci-fi love story anime good enough to deserve this as its soundtrack.

Blackmass Plastics, Under the Radar

Has there ever been a more appropriately named label than Ugly Funk? Coming out of the UK’s free-rave/squat party culture of the nineties, the Ugly Funk collective have championed the rawest, rudest variants of techno, electro, ghetto house and other more uncategorizable forms for many years—but always with a funky swagger to its grooves. Their long time ally Blackmass Plastic delivers in buckets here, with shuffly house, aggro-techno and dystopian electro over eight tracks on two pieces of vinyl. But it’s the downtempo grind and lurch and alarm-signal riff of “Twitch Pitch” that really stands out: ugly indeed, but very, very funky.

Call Super, New Life Tones EP

The closure of the fabric club in London might be a serious existential threat to their Houndstooth label—but in just under four years of life the imprint has amassed a huge and absolutely extraordinary catalog. That list has plenty that’s futurist, but also a lot of acts who rewire the best parts of the nineties: the back-to-basics house of Marquis Hawkes, the rewired hardcore and jungle tropes of Special Request, the meticulous techno of Second Storey. Call Super too, looks back to go forward. In his case, it’s to the floatiest, most head-in-the-clouds moments that took place in rave backrooms or on Ibiza terraces. “Puppet Scene” is an airborne piece of electronica, wooshing and swooshing over glamorous vistas, but “New Life Repercussions” is the real gem here, a gloriously psychedelic bit of space-dub, looking back to the glory days of Future Sound Of London, and forwards to multidimensional futures.

Various Artists, Tiff’s Joints 001

Irish-born Sean Keating, aka DJ Born Cheating, is known for his resolutely globalist sets, leaning heavily towards African and Latin flavors, so it’s no surprise his new label should kick off with two Brazilian tracks. Oribata’s “Batuki” is a hot and humid mid-tempo carnival canter, with a bassline as heavy as Sugarloaf Mountain plus lots of funk synths and suggestive grunts and chants. The remix by DJ Tahira of “Cavalinha Cavalao” by Banda de Pifanos de Caruaru, though, is the one that’s going to get attention. Running at a maniacal tempo, it shows how just drums and flutes alone can be as alien, as crazed and as head-melting as any techno wizardry.

RKSS, Cutoff EP

This is another one which, on casual listen, might be consigned to the “outsider house” bin. But despite the muffled kicks and seemingly lo-fi production, there’s a whole lot more going on than initially meets the ear, as is appropriate for the Alien Jams label. In its short lifespan, Alien Jams has released some records which manage to have a startlingly avant-garde understanding, while keeping both feet on the dancefloor. The young Berlin producer RKSS may have thudding and crunchy patterns making up the frameworks of his tracks, but the synthetic sounds that scuttle and burble across the upper end suggest some of the most highfaluting, mind-opening 20th experiments in electroacoustic sound and musique concrète – not least those of John Cage and David Tudor. Full abstraction in the rave!

Blotter Trax, Blotter Trax 

The TB Arthur project has been shrouded in mystery and foolishness from the start – originally it was claimed that the first releases were lost nineties Chicago records found in Hardwax’s warehouse, with all kinds of mythology being spun around them, and a DAT tape that allegedly emerged later. Thankfully, though, the music is more than able to stand up on its own despite the producer inevitably turning out to be a contemporary Berlin musician. This collaboration with Richie Hawtin collaborator and Berlin royalty Magda is some of the most hallucinogenic acid house to come from TB Arthur yet, shimmering with curtains of reverb, and gurgling with liquified synth sound as the drum machines crunch on. All of the three tracks here are dangerously likely to give you a contact high.

Various Artists, Gazel EP

Paris duo Acid Arab are the most prominent artists pushing Middle Eastern flavored dance music at the moment, but they’re far from the only one. Berlin-dwelling Mehmet Aslan is doing great work on his Fleeting Wax label, using the techniques and vibes of the nu-disco/re-edit culture to hark back to a utopian 1970s when disco still ruled in Egypt, Turkey and beyond. These tracks are hedonistic first and foremost, but in their looped grooves and artistic memories are not just pleasure, not just nostalgia, but heady dreams of cross-cultural understanding that can’t be dismissed as easily as cynics might want.

Georgia, Import Fruit EP

Best known as a programmer and host for the Boiler Room broadcasts, Charles Drakeford has also quietly built up his From The Depths label into a repository for all kinds of shadow-dwelling just-about-dance music, from drunken dub to Gnawa drum machine jams to Polish cassette culture. This six-tracker goes as far away from any kind of regularity of rhythm as anything the label’s put out yet, with panpipe and new age relaxation tape ambience well in evidence, but certainly the disconcerting shamanic hand percussion rhythms and jaws harps of “Longry” and the rippling harp synths and low-end acid bubbling of “Planned Dialogue” could probably cause scenes in the hands of audacious DJs.

Joe Muggs

Swindle’s Biggest Collaboration is with His Audience

Swindle
Swindle.
“When I was young, I wanted to go and tell Herbie Hancock to stop doing the straight jazz, to go back to doing Headhunters type stuff. But I couldn’t, I was just some kid. How was he ever going to hear me? But now you can, the artist can hear the people.” —Cameron Palmer, aka Swindle.

Swindle is a one-man musical powerhouse. The 29 year old south Londoner is as adept cooking up deep rooted global electronic jazz fusion as he is in the worlds of dubstep, grime or the garage and jungle he grew up with – and he’s carved himself out a unique space of self-determination in a competitive world, running his entire operation himself and able to take sudden creative left turns whenever the whim takes him.

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