The Femme Fatale mix by Swob, makes up the next volume of Dexian Racking‘s fiction series inspired by music of a variety of concepts that are sinister in nature. Following the first installment themed “The Swamp“, the second is from, in Brad Swobs words…
“A bit of superfluous background: I have over the last year or so enjoyed a lot of Humphrey Bogart films, jazz and L.A. Noire on Xbox! At any rate, please find below a link to the mix for Volume 2: The Femme Fatale. “
Download and listen below. Submit your text interpretations of these bitter sweet sounds by midnight Friday 20th January 2012.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org and Brad will hook you up with the details.
No one could have guessed in 1985 when Radiohead formed that they would find themselves at the vanguard of cutting-edge, bass-heavy electronic music. They enjoyed moderate success off the back of their first single ‘Creep’ from their 1993 debut album Pablo Honey. Two years later they released The Bends but it wasn’t until 1997 when the band released OK Computer that Radiohead became a household name around the globe. The record’s sweeping, cinematic vibe and lyrical musings on modern alienation were enriched by their first subtle flirtations with electronic music. The album – now often considered among the best of the decade – topped charts globally and spawned a massive two-year tour.
Upon their return home the band quarrelled over where to take their music next. DJ Shadow’s debut album Endtroducing….. had been in high rotation during the OK Computer recording sessions and Thom Yorke jumped at the chance to write and record a song with him that ended up on the 1998 album Psyence Fiction by UNKLE. Yorke had been a DJ and even dabbled in techno production when he was at university and at this point was almost exclusively listening to electronic music. When Radiohead re-assembled in early 1999 to record a new album, Yorke pushed for a more rhythmic, electronic sound with treated vocals, synths and drum machines. Their next two albums Kid A and Amnesiacwere comprised of tracks from these sessions and the radical change in sonic direction caught many off-guard. For every critic and fan that hailed the new material as genius, there were many others left cold by the lack of guitars and traditional rock elements.
In 2006, Thom Yorke unveiled his solo album The Eraser – a pure electronica album. The uniquely raw and layered textures of the record were well received, nominated for both a Grammy and the Mercury Prize. The Eraser was released in the middle of a groundswell in the UK underground scene. The first wave of dubstep and bass music had blown up and none of this was lost on the Radiohead vocalist. An early champion of ethereal and elusive producer Burial, Yorke decided to commission a remix project for the tracks from his solo album. Across three 12s, bass producers such as The Bug, Various Production, Surgeon, Modeselektor, Four Tet and Burial put their spin on Yorke’s tracks.
Thus began Thom Yorke’s tight relationship with the bass music scene. Among much collaboration, he leant vocals to the 2007 track ‘The White Flash’ by Modeselektor, sang on ‘…And The World Laughs With You’ from Flying Lotus’ 2010 LP Cosmogramma, and earlier this year released a 12 inch record with Four Tet and Burial. Yorke has often confessed his love in interviews of the Los Angeles-centred beat scene – home to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder collective and beat night Low End Theory, where Yorke has played a couple of surprise DJ sets.
The influence of all this can be felt somewhat in Radiohead’s latest album The King Of Limbs – an experiment in aesthetics and rhythm. Like The Eraser, Thom Yorke commissioned remixes of the new Radiohead album – the fruits of which will be released next month on TKOL RMX 1234567. Mark Pritchard (aka Harmonic 313), Illum Sphere, Jamie XX, SBTRKT and Caribou have turned in remixes alongside Yorke favourites Modeselektor and Four Tet. Many of these have been aired on Mary Anne Hobbs’ radio show on XFM. Hobbs has long been a fan of Radiohead and Thom Yorke – even more so when his path and that of the bass music underground started going the same way. Last week she featured a brand new DJ mix from Yorke on her show. The mix featured some of the TKOL remixes as well as new bits from Yorke himself and can be streamed on Mixcloud.
This month in Subdetritus we look at the physical and psychological effect of music on people, specifically with regards to our good old friend – bass. Since the earliest day of sound system culture in Jamaica, there has existed a competitive strive towards having the biggest rig able to push out the maximum amount of bass. Sound systems are still judged on their ability to not only clearly represent all the frequencies of music to the ear, but also their ability for the music to be felt. To this end, quality sound systems are designed to emit frequencies well outside the range of frequencies that humans can hear. Above that range is known as ultrasound, and below the range is infrasound.
I distinctly remember my first visit to Fabric nightclub in London and that physical pressure in my chest and head from the bass during a Roni Size set in Room 2. While these kinds of systems are heaven to bass music lovers, the risk of permanent ear damage is very real and should be avoided with quality earplugs. Other symptoms of prolonged exposure to high volumes of low frequencies and infrasound can include disorientation, shortness of breath, anxiety and nausea.
Unsurprisingly, the physical and psychological effects of certain music and frequencies have been used by governments, military and police as sonic weapons. The use of sound to strike fear into enemies or prey has always occurred in nature by animals, and has long held a place in human conflict in the form of drums, trumpets, war cries and other taunts. During the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, coalition forces reportedly blasted heavy metal from speakers mounted to vehicles in the battlefield and inmates at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay were allegedly exposed to extended, loud bouts of music from bands such as Metallica as a form of torture. Similar tactics were used by the US military against General Noriega in Panama and the Branch Davidians in Waco, and are also used to disperse crowds and deter teenagers from hanging around shopping malls afterhours. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease react negatively to wrong notes played in a familiar melody highlighting the effects of music deep in the subconscious.
Much research has been poured into sonic weaponry that goes a little deeper than the above examples. A great chunk of the research into the effects on the human body from infrasound was conducted by NASA in the early 1960s to discover what affect the low frequencies created by rockets would have on astronauts during launches. The most infamous effect on humans comes from the so-called ‘brown note’. The brown note is a theoretical infrasonic frequency between 5 to 9 Hz that would cause a person to lose control of their bowels and soil themselves. While the idea is frankly tremendous, little to no scientific evidence actually exists to support the theory, though many have tried – including popular TV show Mythbusters but alas to no avail. Other weaponry applications include sonic booms or ‘sound bombs’, focused beams of high intensity ultrasound that can cause lung and intestinal damage in mice, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) used to send instructions, warnings and deterrents to enemies over long distances.
If this field is of interest to you, I cannot recommend highly enough the book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear by Steve Goodman – better known to bass music fans as Kode9. Goodman’s book not only explores the application of sound and frequency in a military sense, but more broadly how acoustic forces affect populations in a political and social context by creating a “bad vibe”. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with his label Hyperdub will attest to his fascination with interplaying rhythmic patterns and disorientating discordant harmony. The result is music that instils a pervading sense of dread or unease, but unfortunately won’t make you shit your pants.
a website housing sinister short stories, art and music in thematically linked volumes
All submissions of short stories and artwork for the first volume need to be in by midnight on SUNDAY 4th SEPTEMBER.
If you’re interested in contributing to the website contact Swob (email@example.com) for the brief (includes the mix of music for download and the object) or by signing up to the DR Contributors list at – http://eepurl.com/flvSE
Dexian Racking is a website that will regularly publish mixes of music, short stories, digital art and photography in thematically linked volumes. Submissions are open to anyone and everyone. Potential contributors for each new volume are encouraged to request via email the brief for each new volume (includes a mix of music and an object selected by Swob) that are to be used as a starting point.
Writers are encouraged to submit short/micro stories (600 word limit) loosely inspired by the mix of music and the selected object.
Graphic designers, illustrators, photographers and video artists are encouraged to submit work based on the same.
All submissions are required by a deadline and the entire volume of work will go live on the Dexian Racking website shortly thereafter. A new brief, mix and object for the next volume will be made available to contributors and the process repeats.
Jah willing, Dexian Racking will be an online hub for original writing, music and art in the stylistic tradition of, say, The X-Files. I only half kid! Other influences on the tones and tales of the Dexian Racking project could include horror films, pulp fiction, murder mysteries, ghost stories, science fiction, film noir, Edgar Allan Poe, gonzo and other, Lynch-esque moody weirdness – with varying degrees of blood and silliness. I’m reluctant to say much more. Keep it dank and go crazy.
The website will launch in September 2011 with the complete first volume of Dexian Racking revealing the object, the mix and the selected submissions of short stories and visual art to the online public.
This month in Subdetritus we take a snapshot of where things are at in the world of bass music right now. While we are all huddling around heaters, it’s the height of the northern hemisphere’s summer and much of the scene’s big hitters are out on the road peddling their sounds at festivals and clubs the world over.
James Blake took on the Park Stage at Glastonbury last month to rave reviews fuelling anticipation of his imminent Australian tour. The electronic music Mecca that is Sonar Festival descended on Barcelona the week before Glastonbury with a bass line-up only dreams are made of. From many friends of mine who were there, it seemed there was almost too much good music to absorb. While the more pop-leaning bass acts like dubstep supergroup Magnetic Man, Katy B and Zinc reportedly sounded pretty dull and uninspired, there were astounding sets turned in by the likes of Aphex Twin, Downliners Sekt, Raime, Teebs, oOoOO, Buraka Som Sistema, Shackleton and Illum Sphere.
Radio queen and bass champion Mary Anne Hobbs played a 2:30am set to an estimated crowd of 15,000 people at Sonar and backed it up by a sunrise set to 20,000 at Benicassim Festival last weekend. Hobbs has a lot to be happy about at the moment with her much lauded return to radio two weeks ago on Xfm. While her BBC Radio 1 Experimental show (a favourite of this column for years) was in a mid-week timeslot in the wee hours of the morning, her new show on Xfm is a primetime 7-10pm slot on Saturdays. “This is such a victory,” Hobbs said in a press release. “Not just for me, but for all the artists I believe in and all the live listeners who care so deeply. My aim… to create some truly mind-blowing, redefining radio on Xfm.” Her first show featured guest mixes from Deep Medi Musik’s Silkie and LuckyMe’s Machinedrum, while last week featured mixes from Ninja Tune’s Daedelus and Planet Mu’s Falty DL. Highly recommended if you’re hungry for fresh underground bass music.
Speaking of which there have been plenty of new releases to heat up those speakers this winter. Zomby has just dropped his second album Dedication for indie label 4AD which builds on the woozy, synth-heavy Nintendo-step of his highly regarded early releases for labels like Hyperdub, Ramp and Werk. Zomby is an artist who has always operated outside of the status quo and while this album is relatively short, it contains so many great moments and ideas. The latest transmission from Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder collective is the proper debut album from Samiyam. While the LA-centric “wonky” hip hop sound is starting to sound tired in the hands of many, Sam Baker’s Album possesses a funk and fidgetiness that sounds more exciting than most of the woozy, bass-heavy Dilla knock-offs making the rounds. Following two self-released CDRs, recent visitor Pursuit Grooves has also released her debut album Frantically Hopeful. Interestingly released on the Bristol-based label Tectonic run by Pinch, the record is an eclectic listen still firmly rooted in future soul with a definite Dam-Funk vibe that flirts a little with pop music in a good way. Other hotly anticipated bass music releases on the horizon include the new full-length from Ras G on Ramp and the new EP from Scotland’s Hudson Mohawke on Warp Records.
On the Brisbane tip, it would be remiss of me not to mention local duo Science Project who seem unstoppable at the moment with upcoming shows in Melbourne and a support slot for Los Angeles-based Nosaj Thing this week. Their deep love of dub and reggae has been the focus of a couple of beat tapes that are available on their Bandcamp page – one a tribute to Bob Marley and the other to Osbourne Ruddock (a.k.a. King Tubby). The beat tapes feature versions by the boys themselves and locals such as Erther, Syntax, Walrii and Puzahki.
Electronic music purveyors have long recognised that watching someone on a dark stage twiddling knobs or mixing records isn’t the most thrilling concert-going experience visually. Over the years electronic acts have deployed light shows, lasers and projected visuals to accompany and compliment the music in a live setting. This month in Subdetritus we look at bass music’s dichotomous relationship with live visual stimulus and it’s relationship with multimedia art at large.
From the earliest days of rave culture back in the late-eighties, parties were something of a visual spectacle – ravers dressed in fluorescent colours, warehouse spaces decked-out in UV décor, strobes, lasers and all manner of mind-altering lighting displays. This wasn’t necessarily the blueprint that all electronic music parties followed in subsequent years, particularly bass and sound system culture. Many drum’n’bass and dubstep parties were, and continue to be, very conscious of a certain “hoods up, heads down” mentality towards the music and how it should be enjoyed in a live setting. One of the most famous of the original dubstep parties – Mala, Loefah and Coki’s mighty DMZ night in Brixton – would pride itself on being no more than a dark room with one sparse blue light and the mother of all sound systems. No flashy visuals or strobe lights, just: “Come meditate on bass weight”.
This has been a staple of many bass gigs around the globe: spare no expense on the sound system and the rest should be simple and raw. It’s a cry back to original Jamaican sound systems and a statement that the music itself should be the primary focus. It was an ethos that one-time smoked-out jazzy junglist turned innovative sound artist Amon Tobin employed on his 2007 tour of Europe supporting his album The Foley Room. “Fuck visuals,” he was famously quoted as saying. “We’re sinking every last penny into the sound system!” And from all accounts he wasn’t fronting – the music was loud, bass-heavy, crystal clear, in your face and inescapable. Fast forward to the last few weeks, and Amon Tobin has just kicked off his latest tour in support of brand new album Isam. The album itself has received mixed reviews as Tobin continues to push his challenging sound manipulations into new and less familiar territory, but in an interesting flip, the live show he has assembled for this record could go down in history as one of the most unique multimedia performances of our time.
The first show of the tour was in Montreal on June 1st and is currently being staged in select cities across Europe. Videos have since been uploaded to www.amontobin.com of the performance and its design, and scores more have surfaced from fans on YouTube. Described in a press release as featuring a “stunning 25′ x 14′ x 8′ multi-dimensional/ shape shifting 3-D art installation surrounding Tobin and enveloping him and the audience in a beyond 3-D experience”, the footage has to be seen to be believed. The marriage of his dense electronic compositions with such a jaw-dropping visual accompaniment is light years ahead of its time and makes his contemporaries who seek to offset the visual boredom of DJ sets by wearing giant mouse heads look frankly ridiculous. On top of all of this, Tobin teamed up with respected artist Tessa Farmer whose unique visual style based on reconstructions of organic material has been the centerpiece of an art installation that has been on display in galleries in London and Paris to coincide with the launch of the album.
Flying Lotus is another that has been pushing the visual element harder than most in terms of cover art, live performances, interactive web applications and film clips. There are plenty of others in bass music who are embracing other media in an attempt to compliment and enhance the sensory experience of their music, including crews here in Brisbane. The future looks bright and flashy in the murky world of bass.
This month in Subdetritus we take a look at an influx of amazing, long-awaited releases from the world of bass music that are hitting record stores and headphones at the moment. I can’t remember a time in recent years where there has been this much good music stirred into the cosmic soup all at once. Pens and wallets at the ready…
The big one that has just been unleashed is the brand new full-length album from the head of Hyperdub himself – Kode9 & The Spaceape’s Black Sun. A lot has changed in bass music since their first collaborative album dropped back in 2006, but Kode9 is still hailed as a visionary leader of the movement. The album holds all the ominous might and menace you’d expect from this pair but the beats are teased out in slightly different directions. The collaboration with Flying Lotus is as killer as it should be.
Another Hyperdub legend recently gave a rare treat – new music from the elusive and iconic Burial. The three-track EP Street Halo holds its own after an agonizing four year wait for fans on any new solo material from his hallowed studio. It comes straight off the back of his stunning collaboration with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Four Tet. Speaking of Radiohead, there are very serious rumours of a remix project of tracks from their incredible The King of Limbs album. Thom Yorke has made no secret of his love affair with the new vanguard of bass producers having previously collaborated with Flying Lotus and recently spinning a surprise DJ set at Gaslamp Killer’s night Low End Theory. Names being mentioned as possible remixers for Radiohead include bass wizards Mark Pritchard and Illum Sphere. Watch this space for more news on this exciting project.
Other amazing albums with a drum’n’bass slant that are shaking up the detritus right now include the eagerly anticipated Instra:mental album Resolution 653 on Nonplus and d’n’b-heads-turned-steppers Kryptic Minds with their third album Can’t Sleep. Dutch producer 2562 has also lifted the lid on his third full-length Fever which heads in a decidedly more housey direction.
The king of them all right now for this bass head though has to be the brand new album from Mr. Amon Tobin. Entitled Isam, this record builds on the dense compositions, moody sound design and disorientating rhythms of 2007’s Foley Room with a more urgent and harsh electronic edge to it. Head to his website here for a free download from this amazing record and details of an incredible art installation to celebrate it’s launch. Also, be sure to check a full track-by-track commentary of the album by the man himself on his Soundcloud. It’s a good time to be alive!
It’s been four long years since the ever-elusive Burial has released any solo material so the announcement of this new EP merely weeks before its release rightfully caused pandemonium over the Internet. Straight off the heels of his collaborative effort with Thom Yorke and Four Tet, these three tracks show Burial still immersed in all the haunting atmosphere and broken yearning of his signature aesthetic while subtly taking it into new directions.
Opening track ‘Street Halo’ is case in point – faint shards of vocals and woodblock percussion filtered through crackle, rain and mournful chords instantly signal you are in the company of Burial, but it all unfolds over what is ostensibly a straight house beat. ‘NYC’ embraces a lurching UK garage setting similar to his older material but the emotional pull of this track easily makes it the standout on this release. The final track ‘Stolen Dog’ is the most chilled of the three with very sparse percussion rolling underneath blasts of ghostly vocals that seem to escape from a simple but evocative synth melody. Yes, Burial still has it – in spades.
In a career spanning across four decades, Jamaican icon Horace Andy and his unique voice have carved out a distinguished place in reggae history. Born in Kingston in 1951, Andy released a string of classic albums in the seventies and eighties and was affiliated with heavyweight labels Trojan and Studio One. After re-locating to the UK he hooked up with trip-hop originators Massive Attack that re-ignited his career in the eyes of a whole new generation. I caught up with Andy over the phone from “warm, hot Jamaica” ahead of his next solo tour of Australia.
Horace Andy was last on these shores almost a year ago with Massive Attack on their hugely successful Heligoland tour that took in six dates right around the country. While he clearly loves performing with those guys, he’s clearly most in his element doing his own shows. “When I’m with Massive Attack its for Massive Attack. When I’m on my own that’s for Horace Andy,” he says in his thick Jamaican accent with the sound of children playing in the background. “I’m doing my own thing. I’m taking care of my own career.”
Being a part of projects like Massive Attack and the Easy Star All-Stars (whose Radiohead tribute Radiodread featured Andy) have exposed his talents and soulful voice to a whole new generation of fans. He is obviously delighted by being able to cross generations and still remain relevant. “Yeah definitely,” he says. “I’ve seen them in the crowd, you know. It’s really good to know that I’m teaching a nineteen-year-old and that they’re listening to me whether it’s on my own or with Massive Attack. Massive got me to that kind of crowd, as well as the Internet.”
While a great deal of fans will always identify him with Massive Attack, the Horace Andy story runs much deeper than that. Andy’s very first recording took place in 1967 when he was just sixteen. A few years later he decided to audition at one of Jamaica’s most famous recording studios and label – the institution that is Studio One. Already home to the Skatalites, Toots & the Maytals, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and a young Bob Marley, Andy was surprisingly unsuccessful on his first audition as a duo with Frank Melody. “When I first went to Studio One I couldn’t sing,” he explains. “I could sing, yes, but I couldn’t sing. I had to start all over again.” A few days later he auditioned again (this time on his own) and label head Clement “Coxsone” Dodd gave him a recording deal but insisted he change his surname from Hinds to Andy to avoid confusion with his cousin who had a similar singing style. The first single Andy cut at Studio One was “Got To Be Sure” and after a string of singles he finally got to release is debut album Skylarking in 1972. He has gone on to release well in excess of thirty albums including last year’s Serious Times but he is clear about which of his records is his favourite. “Skylarking is the one,” he says. “It’s the one I listen to most. That’s the LP.”
Having been in the game for so long and having already cemented his claim to genuine legendary status in the reggae world, there is no sign that Horace Andy is slowing down anytime soon. Still touring the world and releasing music to adoring fans, one wonders what is the power or allure of reggae music that has captivated him for so long. His answer his simple: “It’s the message. Its message music – strictly consciousness – and that’s what its all about. Rastafari. True roots music.”