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.”
This month in Subdetritus we hold a lantern up to one of the most promising young labels to spew forth from the heady bass brew slowly bubbling away in Brisbane – Ender Records. Founded by John English (aka Herts), the label has become home to a grip of young underground beat makers from Queensland and beyond. “I have been trying to get a label going for about 2 years now,” English explains. “With two failed ventures behind me, I decided to just do it on my own. It seems to be working well so far! I just want the world to hear the amazing music that is coming out of our region, and also further cement Australia as a serious global contender in the beat scene.”
So far the label has released the incredible Laser Storm EP by Brisbane-based Elroy 4.0, a free Christmas compilation last December that featured fifteen beats from the entire Ender family and an impressive 3-track release from Total Stranger called Burning Sockets – all of which are available from the Ender Bandcamp site. For English, its not just about getting this music released but to give the acts on Ender everything they need to move to the next level. “The end goal would be to have successful releases that lead to global tours for all our artists, and encompassing management, distribution and publishing,” he says. “Another goal is to expand the label to represent not only musicians but all media artists, releasing video and other new media content.”
Ender Records is sitting on some pretty exciting future releases. Keep a weathered eye on the horizon for new bits from New Zealand-based producers Epoch and Lefty. Also in the pipeline are releases from Australian producers Pedestrian and the follow-up from Total Stranger that has been described by English as “kind of like taking ketamine at a school disco.” A video for the new Total Stranger tune ‘State Of Mind’ is up now on the Ender website (see above). The big one that many people in the local scene are waiting for is the debut album from Puzahki – Flex Capacitor. No less than eight free mix tapes from this prolific beat maker will precede the official album release that has been almost four years in the making. Stay tuned to the Ender website or Facebook group for more info on these releases and further information about this new guard of bass alchemists.
Do you ever stop to think about how global and permeating the electronic bass music scene has become? Here’s a thought: the club nights, the DJs, the producers, the MCs, the labels, the remixes, the army of fans, the culture, the jargon, the equipment and the infrastructure of dance culture from London to Detroit all would not exist as we know it today had it not been for one tiny island – Jamaica.
This may seem as obvious as the nose on your face, but there’s a truth to it that most dance music fans don’t even realize or think about. Well over fifty years ago set to a complicated political backdrop, the music lovers of Jamaica mixed the early r’n’b and blues they heard being broadcast on Florida radio stations with their own music and ideologies. This melting pot gave birth to a distinctly unique musical language known as reggae. Before long there was a thriving scene of bands on the island that facilitated the opening of recording studios, particularly in Kingston, to capture this musical phenomenon. One of the most famous was Studio One founded by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd whose very first recording session took place in 1957.
Within ten years producers at these studios had started to experiment with the recordings of these bands, taking out the vocals and emphasizing the drum and bass tracks or the ‘riddim’. Known as dubs, these ground-breaking productions were pioneered by the likes of King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry and often involved extensive reverb, echo and delay effects as well as cut up vocal or instrumental samples from the original versions. These were among the first people to look at the recording studio as instrument in its own right and paved the way for the modern concepts of an electronic producer and the remix.
These instrumental dubs with their heavy drums and bass were pressed to vinyl (dubplates) and were played by DJs (selectors) on big sound systems set up in the street. These earliest incarnations of club nights didn’t have Facebook to promote their nights but instead relied on word of mouth – who had the biggest sound system and the best dubs? The notion of an MC also came out of all this with people on microphones “toasting” and hyping the crowd over the largely instrumental tunes. Here we are fifty years later witnessing the exact same thing at summer festivals and nightclubs. Respect!
*** On a related note, if you are interested in checking out some quality roots reggae and dub – make sure you get down to JUMBO MUMBO. Run by Erther and Ben Osbourne, Jumbo Mumbo is a new monthly reggae event taking place at the Rumpus Room in the West End. From all accounts the first one was awesome. Hit the image below for info on upcoming events…
Welcome to a whole new year of detritus! I wanted to set this off with a look at a relatively new bass-related genre that got a lot of attention in 2010 and is being rocked more and more on my speakers – witch house. What is it, where did it come from and how did it get its dubious moniker?
Denver-based producer Pictureplane whose album Dark Rift was an underground hit back in 2009 unintentionally coined the genre name witch house while describing the spooky, slowed-down house music he was making. The term spread like wild fire over the Internet and is now commonly used to describe a unique brand of dark electronic music. The sound of witch house borrows not only from house but more from industrial, drone, shoegaze, juke, soundtracks, trance, melancholy pop and 80′s goth in a distinctly hip-hop/r’n’b framework. Slow tempos, skipping or “screwed” drum machine beats and dark, moody atmospherics are all hallmarks.
Witch house is also referred to as drag or screwgaze. Brooklyn duo Creep even went as far as to dub it rape gaze. Oh, pigeonholes and sub-subgenres can be fun! Probably unbeknown to Pictureplane at the time, there is a house in the town of Salem in Massachusetts that was owned by Judge Jonathan Corwin who was directly involved in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. The house is one of the oldest in the state and is known as the ‘Witch House’. Judge Corwin served in the court that ultimately was responsible for the hanging of nineteen innocent women accused of witchcraft.
Whether by happy accident or clever design, one of the the genre’s biggest acts is called Salem. This three-piece released one of last year’s most unexpectedly brilliant and refreshing albums King Night back in September. Among a raft of other talent associated with witch house is Cologne-based record label Tri Angle. The label is home to the aforementioned Creep as well as Balam Acab and oOoOO who both released incredible debut EPs last year. Balam Acab’s almost lo-fi See Birds EP will immediately appeal to fans of wonky beats while the enigmatically-named oOoOO’s self-titled EP is a much more pop-influenced affair but whose opening track ‘Mumbai’ is a perfect example of what has drawn me to this sound.
Even if Flying Lotus hadn’t put out a single tune this year, his contribution to the musical landscape in 2010 via his label Brainfeeder would have been enough to cement his reputation as the figure-head of an entire musical movement. Having already released the amazing Lorn album earlier this year and EPs from Daedelus and The Gaslamp Killer, Brainfeeder returns with an album two years in the making – Ardour, by visual artist and beatsmith Mtendere Mandowa (better known as Teebs).
Mandowa created his own gorgeous artwork for this record and at one stage shared an apartment block in Los Angeles with Flying Lotus and Samiyam. All the Brainfeeder elements are there – psychedelica, experimentation and eclecticism wrapped in a head-bobbing hip hop framework. But there is something about this album that’s all of its own. Ardour is defined as “great intensity and warmth” which goes someway in describing the beauty of this album. From the opening track ‘You’ve Changed’ there is a depth and lushness to the atmospheres on Ardour that are perhaps more subtle yet just as intense as some of its label-mates. Repeated listening reveals how much is truly going on these tracks.
The almost ambient vibe of ‘Burner’ contains layers of what sounds like bells and hammers being dragged on concrete. Even a seemingly straightforward beat like ‘Why Like This?’ contains intricate synth washes and samples of loose change. ‘Long Distance’ features bird-like sounds and a sticky beat built around the genuinely affecting vocals of Gaby Hernandez. One of the real highlights on the album is the simply titled ‘Moments’. The track oozes with textures falling almost like rain over a side-chained r’n’b beat that turns on a simple drum fill. Mandowa’s greatest trick is making such lush and beautiful music so intense and challenging by mean of traditional sampling and chopping. A truly unique album.
Before the dust has even settled on the crater that Cosmogramma left on the musical landscape, Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) keeps the pressure on with a thrilling new EP on Warp. Far from an aftershock or out-takes from his LP, Pattern + Grid World sounds like an artist at the absolute top of his game. Having firmly established his own kaleidoscopic vision of what music should sound like in 2010, Ellison lets go of the reins a little and has an absolute blast across these seven tracks.
Opener ‘Clay’ serves up his signature woozy textures that flow underneath a complex rhythm while synths joyously explode around it. ‘Time Vampires’ is absolutely gorgeous with its melodies sounding like a happy, childish accident with an unrelenting, neck-snapping beat. The tune is perhaps his most direct nod in a minute to fallen hero J Dilla. The real mind-bender here is ‘Camera Day’ that on the surface sounds like Lotus’ most accessible tune in recent times but on repeated listens reveals a wizardry of the synth that is simply unparalleled right now.
It has been a while since I posted up a Subdetritus (my monthly bass column in 3D World) on the Morass site and for that I apologize. I thought I’d remedy the situation by posting this month’s column which is my little tribute to Mary Anne Hobbs after her recent decision to leave her position as host of the BBC Radio One Experimental show.
From here on in I will be posting them each month as they are published in 3D World (hopefully). Hope you enjoy!
In news that saddened many bass music fans – last month Mary Anne Hobbs hung up her headphones with the broadcast of her last ever show on the UK’s BBC Radio One. Hobbs had been with the radio station for almost fourteen years hosting her weekly two-hour Experimental show (formerly known as the Breezeblock). Over the course of that time, her ear and penchant for hyperbole helped break countless electronic music artists, and indeed entire genres. It’s hard to imagine another figure that single-handedly did as much to break the dubstep and wonky movements (and all their mutant strains) to a global audience. This month in Subdetritus, we pay tribute to the breathy-voiced queen of bass and beats.
Mary Anne Hobbs was not always on the cutting edge of electronic music. Her first passions were metal and motorbikes, so at the age of eighteen having ran away to London she ended up living in a bus with the band Heretic. She helped out as a mechanic and designed sets and cover art for the band. A year later, Hobbs landed a gig writing for Sounds Magazine in the UK and not long after found her way on to the pages of the revered (and loathed) British music press NME. When James Brown, former deputy editor of NME decided to leave and co-found Loaded Magazine, Hobbs went with him before falling into radio work on XFM. It was there that she got noticed by the powers that be at the BBC.
Being a massive fan of the late John Peel and his tireless work breaking new artists on the BBC airwaves, Hobbs jumped at the chance and has enjoyed a long relationship with them ever since. Over the history of her Experimental show, its hard to think of a forward-thinking electronic artist, label or subgenre that she hasn’t explored. Once claiming that she listens to about ten hours of new music a day, Hobbs’ quest to present the finest two hours of sounds on the planet each week was relentless and inspiring. Her ‘Dubstep Warz’ special back in 2006 was a watershed moment for the genre presenting mixes from the leading producers of the time and her final show featured an exclusive mix from Kode9 and Burial which was simply stunning.
Far from retiring, Hobbs will continue to DJ globally as well as taking an internship at Sheffield University, curating stages for Sonar and Bloc festivals and is currently helping Darren Aranovsky with the soundtrack to his new film Black Swan. We wish her all the best!
The UK-based production duo of Dominic Maker and Kai Campos (better known as Mount Kimbie) first started making waves in the bass scene almost two years ago. In particular, the Maybes and Sketch On Glass EPs both released on Scuba’s Hotflush imprint last year turned a lot of heads with their unique aesthetic. Compounding their reputation for amazing production has been a string of remixes for the likes of Big Pink, The xx, Foals and Ninja Tune’s woman-of-the-moment Andreya Triana.
Their long awaited debut album Crooks & Lovers finally dropped a couple of months back and its impact is still being felt. Coming in at under forty minutes, Mount Kimbie waste no time distilling their textured sounds over eleven largely instrumental cuts. For those unfamiliar with the pair’s sound, its all about the texture and ambience. Far from the cold, precise and clinical high-impact assault of dubstep, the tracks across this album have much more in common with Boards of Canada, Fennesz, Four Tet or Burial.
One of the real highlights here is ‘Would Know’ which glides under layers of reverb and muffled vocals with thoughtfully placed percussion and subtle interruptions. Elsewhere on the album, ‘Mayor’ provides a playful, steppy outing with arppegiated synths giving way to a very purple-sounding lead. Garnering unlikely but welcome rotation on Triple J, ‘Before I Move Off’ is centred on a warm guitar figure, with strings, vocal snippets and echoes anchoring the organic feel among squelchy bleeps. The record is rounded out with ‘Between Time’ – a beautiful down tempo guitar piece driven along by a single snare hit.
Fans of this record will be stoked that Australia will finally get to see Mount Kimbie live early next year.