Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Which manor?

The Manor, originally shot inna citizen journalism stylee on his phone, edited and uploaded by Blackdown.

I was out of London over the weekend. I love this intense, pressured, multicultural city but sometimes escaping is good for the soul; for mine at least.

Driving through twisty rural lanes, the hedgerows bursting with prima vera, I was struck how odd the usually familiar recording of Roll Deep on Rinse felt. With JME hosting and Maximum dropping choice vocal cuts to begin with, even familiar bars jarred.

Now I know I’ve banged on about the link between environment and music, surrounding and sound, a lot – keysounds and all that – but internally I keep coming back to it since its proven such a profound revelation to me.

Its baffling how the same recording of JME and friends can sound sick in the car to FWD>>, cruising down dark, damp east London side streets, yet jar like an uppercut to the jawside while out in the sticks?

To add to the experience jungle/d&b made more sense again. On the same CD as the Rinse recording is a copy of Bailey’s recent ‘All Photek’ mix. I’ve never really recovered from Photek, if truth be told, even in the light of r&b and grime’s subsequent elegant rhythmic consolidations. More is more when it comes to Photek’s beats, unlike for me Squarepusher/Boxcutter/Amon Tobin/breakcore/all infinite Amen edits crew et al.

As well as Photek’s early jungle, Calibre’s recent d&b album finally made more sense cruising through fields at sunset than it had done in London. One of the key sonic signatures that differentiates d&b from much of grime or dubstep, is that spacious ‘e’ vibe. Synthetic synth pad washes that soar through your brain like the rushes of MDMA. Inherited from hardcore and acid house, d&b has yet to lose this vibe, whereas dubstep and grime reflect more fully the grounded ‘control culture,’ where raving is about being seen to be in-control, not lost, out of it, a trait that’s reinforced by the lack e sonic signatures in urban sounds like r’n’b, dancehall and desi and the culture of the rewind: if the track’s so unbearably good it might, just might make you lose control, well “quick rudeboy you mus lick dat back.”

To me it was this ‘space’ in the Calibre album that made some more sense surrounded by fields, not closed in by decaying buildings. The Calibre album is also pretty clean (caused perhaps from his upgrade from a shitty hardware sampler to Logic), so maybe that makes more sense when your lungs are full of fresh clean air, not pollution and tube dust.

Perhaps it’s a leap, but maybe this is why d&b has travelled, whereas in relative terms grime hasn’t? Of course I’m not comparing like with like: the music industry is massively different from the mid-90s to mid-00s (no way would producers – not artists – like Photek, Alex Reece and Goldie get signed to majors in this day and age) but perhaps one element of the reason could be that e-fuelled inclusive ‘unity’ at the centre of acid house has mass appeal, regardless of people’s urban, suburban or rural backgrounds. Conversely it’s harder to ‘get’ grime’s inner city anger unless you’ve walked through it a few times. (To qualify this, I’m not saying isolated rural yet determined headz can’t ‘get’ grime, I’m merely talking about scale: why aren’t legions of fans demanding to see grime MCs at Homelands (a dance festival held in a green rural bowl) or putting on their shows in medium sized count(r)y towns? For a full State of Grime nation debate go read the Dissensus thread…)

Later last weekend I found myself in a tiny rural village. One road in, one road out. Gorgeous wooded valley, no mobile reception. One stone church, two babbling brooks, one stately home (no, not that manor), few deer: the lot. Bar a few satellite dishes, I doubt the general appearance of the village had changed in decades, perhaps even centuries.

It would have been hard to find a more picture postcard vision of classical ‘Englishness.’ It’s the kind of lifestyle right wing newspapers expend a huge amount of energy defending. It’s the kind of setting left wing newspapers spend a huge amount of time eulogising in twaddly novels or indulgent arty ‘think pieces.’ And standing there it’s hard not to appreciate the lush beauty of it. Those kinds of places are the very definition of England as a ‘green and pleasant land.’

The problem for me isn’t with the place itself, it is with the place in contrast to others.

Take the concept of ‘Englishness.’ Yes these villages are in many ways the definition of ‘Englishness,’ but perhaps it’s an Englishness as it was. Personally I’m more interested in a more modern, multicultural vision of UK identity. A racially integrated, equal opportunity society – rural, suburban and urban.

It makes total sense that people who immigrate to the UK, and those who are born to parents who’ve immigrated, live in cities. At least communities can form, clustered around the few who share a common background with you. The problem is that perhaps this means the cities become increasingly more concentrated with people from multiracial backgrounds, and the countryside gets less so. The gap widens, the differences grow, the intolerance and misunderstandings increase and where does that leave the future of multiracial UK?

As any good scientist will tell you, you can’t make a trend out of a single data point… but here goes.

So I walk into the pub in this quintessential ‘old English’ village. It’s made of stone, the doors are about 5’ high, it sells funny named ales and they’ve got a beer festival on during England’s world cup games with amusingly named local bands. It’s old mans pub-tastic.

Where’s the old git chewing straw then? Oooh arrr.

Two details however, suggest a little bit of hope for a multicultural, modern Britain. One is that there’s a black family having a pint in the beer garden. At this point I’d suggest a gag in a yokel accent about ‘yer not from round ‘ere are you,’ but I sincerely hope they were. Two: guess what are the old gits at the bar talking about? Dodgy home brew? Fishing? How things aren’t what they used to be, oh no, that’s for sure?

Nope. They’re talking about the dangers of flipping eBay addiction, that’s what.

After four days surrounded by greenery so damn green it looked like it was on steroids, or some kind of mutant crack/compost, I returned to London. As the first familiar houses rose up around the car and the sense of ‘space’ contracted, I’m not quite sure, but I swear I felt that pressure return. Home sweet home, as Kano would say.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Flickr desi dive and beyond...

desi wedding Originally uploaded by ryanoceros.

Flickr: it's a such beautiful thing.

When the blogs and forums ain't doing it for me, I Fickr-dive; just add a tag like 'desi', 'Iraq' or 'hackney' into the search box on the homepage and just fall deep into into new worlds and people's lives. I find places I will probably never visit and see people I will probably never meet, yet experience them both in such vivid technicolour and in such a rich way - unlike the experiences of say reading a thousand empty one-line responses on forums or scanning the fractured image shards displayed search engine results.

The image above has no real connection to this post, beyond the fact that I instantly felt strongly about it while searching for the tag 'desi.' Coming home on the tube last night the carriage went overground just as I clicked on a 1Xtra radio rip of Bikram Singh ft Gunjan "Kawan (Jay Dhabi Reggaeton Remix)". Her vocals exploded into my ears as the sun poured over greater London and I felt a rush, that buzz I hadn't felt in a long time - perhaps since Mala's FWD>> set. Its felt like recently I've spent a long time listening to empty angry grime, second rate token cod-reggae dubstep and soulless dark, halfstep wannabe-Youngsta material - and it's not moving me.

On the point of digidub it's perhaps interesting to revisit Jamie Vex'd prophetic comments last year at grimemusic.com.

"...with dubstep, if it isnt halfstep, isnt minimal, and doesnt have blatant dub referenes, then some say its not true dubstep. How restrictive is that? Real dub is very organic, digital sequencers aren't. It takes alot of understanding and studio technique to go down the dub route. Without that knowledge, you can end up making Digidub. Im not in that."

Jamie OTM. It's not like I don't like real Jamaican dub, but as he says unless you understand how its done right it sounds cheesy. Drum & bass last year was full of hundreds of tracks that threw reggae samples over any beat and they sounded so token. And even if you were to get the sound right, how can cloning something made 30 years ago be better or more original than the original itself? Sure it gets a response on the dancefloor but mostly it's a creative cul-de-sac, unless you can add a fresh, original twist in the way the Mystikz can. To me applying the sonic ideas of 1970s dub to a 2006 dubstep context is a far more promising direction than sampling Lee Perry's back cat.

And as for dark empty halfstep, I guess I feel impulsively right now that I want more vocals in my life - I'm planning a new Keysound Radio: vocals edition. Part of me fears the dubstep pendulum has swung too far towards dark halfstep and is in danger of homogenising the scene. Dubstep does not equal bad clones of Loefah or copies of Youngsta's selection - don't get it twisted. Loe seriously knows what he's doing when it comes to minimalism; his clones don't. And furthermore what's the point of cloning anyway? Do you think Loe built 'Horror Show' by copying other producers? Find your own way.

But returning to desi, or more specifically desiton - the mutation of UK Asian desi with Latin American reggaeton - I posted a link on Dissensus about the Punjabi Hit Squad's pioneering of this sound. Since then I recorded the two stand out tunes last week. They are:

Bikram Singh ft Gunjan "Kawan (Jay Dhabi Reggaeton Remix)"

Alyssia ft Dee (PHS) "Pyar Hogiya (Desiton Remix)"

You can download them both on the same MP3 from those links, just as long as someone out there can tell me where the hell I can buy them from now AsianSounds.com has gone down.

FLICKR-DIVE UPDATE: Seems like the Flickr-dive effect isn't acutally limited to Flickr shots. Check this blog for jaw-drop shots of god knows where, well beyond my world. Afganistan?

You can't chat to Infinite...

Nature, Nuture Originally uploaded by georgina c.
A new set of sick photos by Drumz, all seemingly shot at Keysound O'Clock: neither day nor night ... dark nor light ... just out there stuggling, lost somewhere in the city. Find your own way gyal.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Garage story

[a history of writing]
Originally uploaded by windscreen fly.

This a revival story, true garage story,
This is my story, real garage story.

I remember those days when TPL was my home,
When me and Dusk went to Velvet Rooms alone,
An El-B should have had his own throne,
When Hatcha sets made grown men groan.

I remember when Dizzee made beats in Bermondsy,
An the Boy in Da Corner went and won the Mercury,
I remember meeting Wiley in 2002 star,
An Wonder changed my life with a Eskimo Devil mix from the boot of his car.

I remember when me and Chan spread the grime word,
Deuce magazine shouted, but nobody heard,
Kode 9 dropped “Subkon” and nobody cared,
Skream basses warped into places nobody dared.

I remember getting the tube to DMZee,
When Al-Qaeda had just bombed carriages not far from me,
And Mala dropped Anti War long before it was on TP,
And all you could feel was positivity.

I remember Dubstep Warz changing the rules,
The Burial album came armed with big tools,
Loefah’s mixdowns left blood dripping in pools,
An all the garage haterz looked like fools.

We run the roads now,
Dem outta luck now,
We make our sound and the majors dem play catchup now,
We have whole heap a extra box a dubs cause we nuh bruk now,
Rah... rah... rah ... rah.