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 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.
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!