Monday, 28 December 2009

Our House pt. 1

This will be the first part of a monthly series where I bang on about house records that I've heard clips of on YouTube and stuff. Wicked.

The first record I want to talk about is Leron Carson's Red Lightbulb Theory '87-'88. Carson recorded these experimental ('experimental' in the sense of someone with no prior experience messing around with hardware, not the chin-stroking Wire magazaine way. NB: Father Christmas got me a subscription to that magazine and I love it. Just to clarify) house tracks when he was fifteen. When I was fifteen I was spending all my time masturbating, listening to Safety Scissors or perving on girls on MySpace. This guy was crafting some of the most simplistically brutal jams I've heard in years. All the tracks on the EP, re-issued on Theo Parrish's Sound Signature label, are percussion heavy extended work outs. The drum machines and bassline generators feel almost primitive in their simplicity but it is this simplicity that makes the record so good: sometimes you just want heads-down-no-nonsense thumping house with kickdrums so hard they sound like they'll break yr speakers and molasses thick jackin' basslines all over the shop.

You can download the EP here: Red Lightbulb Theory

Interestingly, Detroit's current grandmaster, Omar-S, was involved in the re-issuing of the Carson material and remastered it. Omar's released so much good stuff this year and his Fabric mix was possibly the finest in the series since Ewan Pearson's. He took a leaf out of Ricardo Villalobos' book and filled the mix with his own productions. And then claimed to have never heard of the Chilean DJ/Producer ("who the fuck is Ricardo Willalobos" etc). Omar's sound is firmly rooted in that wonderful retro-futurist vibe that Detroit techno's thrived on since the early days. He also knows how to use a filtered vocal better than anyone apart from Daft Punk:

Luckily for us, his Just Ask The Lonely album was reissued this year and is worth checking out if you're even remotely interested in house and techno. The Still Serious Nic EP that came out towards the end of 2009 is a complete classic as well. Genuinely one of the most exciting talents on the planet right now.

Ahhhh, Kompakt. The Cologne based label introduced me to techno a few years back and I've been in love with them since. The yearly Total compilations are essential for those of us who can't afford to buy 12" after 12" and act as snapshots of the last few months. The tenth in the series (anyone wanting to buy/just download one of them should go for the third one) features everyone you'd expect: DJ Koze, Superpitcher, Burger & Voigt, The Field, Michael Mayer etc. This is a different breed of house to that purveyed by the boys in Detroit though: to use an awful analogy, if the Leron Carson album is an unlubricated fist-fuck in a night club, Total 10 is taking you out to a nice resturaunt, treating you well and then gently slipping it in at the end of the night. Sure, the relentless thump-thump-thump is there. But it's softened slightly.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


Obviously Spotify playlists don't count as actual mixes, but what the hell, listen to this anyway. Anyone who knows me knows that I've been trying to make people listen to minimal techno for years with little success. But come on, give it a go:


1. Floating Points - Love Me Like This (Nonsense Dub)
2. Jamie Lloyd - What We Have (Is A Zwicker Remix...)
3. Rework - Love Love Yeah Yeah (Chloe mix)
4. Kiki - Good Voodoo (Visionquest Remix)
5. Losoul - You Know (SuperMayer mix)
6. Pet Shop Boys - Love Etc (Gui Boratto mix)
7. Carsetn Jost - Juliette (Lawrence Remix)
8. Theo Parrish - Falling Up (Carl Craig Remix)
9. The MFA - The Difference It Makes
10. Ellen Allien and Apparat - Way Out

I've written a piece for a magazine about my love of minimal which i'll post up on here when it gets published. Anyway, lemme know what you think of the playlist


Thursday, 17 December 2009

The best christmas songs ever

Christmas is rad, everyone knows that. Most christmas songs are rubbish though. These are the gooduns:

1. Low - Just Like Christmas

2. Sally Shapiro - Anorak Christmas

3. Bing Crosby - White Christmas

4. The Pet Shop Boys - It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas

5. Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)


P.S. If you don't get a biy weepy at 'White Christmas' you don't have a heart.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


1. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (2001, Modular)

2. Jens Lekman - When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog (Srvice, 2004)

3. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? (Polyvinyl, 2007)

4. Michael Mayer - Immer (Kompakt, 2002)

5. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks, 2007)

6. Erlend Oye - DJ Kicks (!K7, 2004)

7. Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow (Load, 2003)

8. The Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas (Emperor Jones, 2001)

9. Ada - Blondie (Areal, 2005)

10. Jay-Z - The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella, 2001)

R. Kelly - Relief

Yes, this is another post about R. Kelly. Sorry, i just find him inherently fascinating. I first heard 'Relief' at the start of the year and instantly fell for it. Not having a copy of it on mp3 meant that after a while I forgot to put it on via Youtube. This week though, whilst sat in a seminar on The Wind in the Willows, it came back to me. Or at least snatches of it did. I couldn't remember the title and thus resorted to trawling through sites that featured lyrics to all his songs and I even posted about it on the frankly terrifying I Love Music messageboard. Then it came to me. Relief! It was called Relief!

'Relief' is one of the several R.Kelly songs that see going out dancing not only as a form of relief from the drudgery of the working week but as a form of redemption and salvation. The chorus is Kelly at his best:

What a relief to know that we are one
What a relief that the war is over
What a relief to know that there's an angel in the sky
What a relief to know that love is still alive

It's difficult to listen to his material of this nature without thinking that there must be a link between the songs and his tortured personal, but now public, life. Kelly is someone who comes across in his songs as having a slight messianic complex: he talks of offering us relief as if only he was able to do so. Of course, as with all his slow jams, the power and importance of love is prevalent; his need to feel loved is, at times, creepy, but here he manages to just sound honest about it. The love he seeks is God's, he wants to be absolved for all his sins.

Saturday, 5 December 2009


Well, this is going to be awesome:


Expect to hear a dark mix of Disco, Post-Punk and Old school Hip-Hop. Think 1980s NYC with a few surprises courtesy of:

John & on (always fridays)
Marcus Harris (white heat/bite)
The Fresh Princes (snap crackle and pop)
Neil Lion (death trip)
Young Athletes League (surfing/swimming)

Drinks are going to be cheap as well. Basically, if you live in South East London you've got no real excuse to miss it. What could be better than dancing to Contort Yourself by James Chance and the Contortions, then getting something from Southern Fried Chicken and then stumbling into bed without having to bother with the night bus?

See you all there.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

See the Broken Glass: Synthpop 1978-1983

The mysterious Gavin Wright has sent this in for us. Listen to the playlist and take in his wonderful track by track commentary.


BBC4’s (fairly) recent Synth Britannia documentary re-ignited my interest in synthpop music, so I’ve put together a playlist. Bearing in mind that there are already hundreds of compilations out there with ‘Tainted Love’ and ‘Don’t You Want Me’ and ‘Cars’ (great records all) on them, I’ve picked songs that are slightly leftfield; songs that didn’t make the charts. Enjoy!

1. Ultravox – Dislocation (1978)

With the release of Systems of Romance, Ultravox moved away from their spiky glam beginnings towards something more obviously indebted to the German komische bands of the early-to-mid ‘70s. In doing so they mapped out the direction that much of synthpop would subsequently take – Neu!’s gleaming, modernist trance-rock and Kraftwerk’s playfully utopian hymns to technology re-imagined as ominous, funereal anthems of alienation and future shock.

‘Dislocation’ is where it all first gelled perfectly and while it took a few years and a change of singer before Ultravox would reap the commercial benefits of their advances, this track remains their finest moment.

2. The Normal – Warm Leatherette (1978)

Two songs inspired by J.G. Ballard stories; that’s the sole 7” recorded by bedroom genius Daniel Miller under the guise of The Normal.

This single is noteworthy not only as the first release on Miller’s Mute record label (and as such a key record in the story of British independent music) but also for the genius simplicity of the music itself. A scouring one-note synth riff, a metronomic drum pattern, some bizarre whirring noises and Miller’s deadpan vocals, that’s all there is to it; it trumps even David Essex’s dubbed-out ‘Rock On’ in the 1970s minimalist pop stakes.

3. Donna Summer – Can’t Get to Sleep at Night (1979)

Talking in Synth Britannia, The Human League’s Phil Oakey stressed the huge influence Summer’s work with Giorgio Moroder had on him and his bandmates and certainly there’s a marked similarity between the electro strut of the verses here and those on ‘Don’t You Want Me’. Going further, though, the Moroder/Summer pairing acts as one of the links between Eurocentric synthpop – with its conscious eschewing of rock’s blues roots – and disco’s expansions on soul and funk; that is, something that hints at the later developments of hip-hop, italo disco, r’n’b, house, techno and beyond. See Kevin Wilson’s post on ‘80s electro soul for this story in more detail.

4. Throbbing Gristle – Hot on the Heels of Love (1979)

Throbbing Gristle are the one act on this playlist most far removed from pop – their confrontational, art-school, anti-musician approach saw them arrive at a sound roughly in line with the more avant-garde end of post-punk (Cabaret Voltaire, This Heat). ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’, though, is catchy as anything, bubbling along in an almost quaint fashion. However the breathy vocals – which would sound totally innocuous had any other group recorded this song – lead you to imagine something dreadful behind it all. “I’m hot… on the heels… of love…” Christ, run away!

5. Gary Numan – Films (1979)

With two number one hits in 1979, Gary Numan became synthpop’s first household name – a role he fully embraced, smart dress sense, ambitious stage shows and all.

The Pleasure Principle (the second of his two albums of that year) saw him drop both the Tubeway Army band name and, crucially, the electric guitars. The result was a sound that was both more streamlined and more powerful than before – the combination of menacing synth lines and live rhythm section packs a rock punch, most obviously on ‘Cars’ and this track. Numan’s lasting influence on (and own excursions into) industrial rock should really have come as no surprise.

6. Marianne Faithfull – Broken English (1979)

Probably Marianne Faithfull’s most famous album, Broken English apparently surprised listeners with a stark new-wave feel in vivid contrast to the folksy pop sound of the singer’s previous material. Much of it still sounds incredibly modern.

The title track, a lament on European terrorism, is a thing of glacial, motionless beauty – a steady drum machine pulse, a circular bassline, icy shards of guitar and Faithfull’s fractured voice.

I’ve often heard synthpop sceptics criticise the genre for lacking emotional depth or what could perhaps be described as soulfulness; then I listen to something like this and wonder, well, what more do you want?

7. John Foxx – 20th Century (1980)

In a move parallel with Numan’s solo venture, Ultravox vocalist John Foxx left his band behind and his debut album, Metamatic, is a similarly stark affair to The Pleasure Principle. Yet whereas Numan’s synthesisers sound dark and brooding, the ones Foxx employs here are often harsh and trebly, full of queasy glissando and distortion – it’s the sonic equivalent of that big block of electric white light out to on the album’s cover.

‘20th Century’ was a B-side of the same era and is positively nightmarish, ‘Warm Leatherette’ to the power of ten.

8. Paul McCartney – Darkroom (1980)

I’ve no idea what music Paul McCartney was listening to in summer 1979, whether any of the people here had even entered his sphere of consciousness. What is known is that he went into his home studio in between Wings tours to play around with some new equipment and ended up with a double-album’s worth of sparse, electronica-tinged pop, roughly half of which was released as McCartney II ten months later.

The record is not without filler but a large portion of it stands up remarkably well, including ‘Darkroom’, which was supposedly written on the spot. It’s perhaps a testament to McCartney’s studio nous and experimental bent that it works at all; in a way it’s a huge shame he didn’t follow this path further.

9. The Human League – The Black Hit of Space (1980)

The League’s smash hit third album Dare! is quite rightly regarded as a high watermark of early-‘80s pop but the two albums recorded by the band’s original line-up are almost as good, albeit very different in tone. My favourite track from the pre-fame era is ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ – the lyrics tell a Twilight Zone-style story of a record turning into a black hole and swallowing earth narrated; the backing track sounds like a series of bombs going off in slow-motion.

There’s a lot of deadpan humour in these early League tracks. as well as a pop impulse barely concealed behind the surface austerity – indeed the group were apparently frustrated by their lack of chart success and this fuelled the tensions that would ultimately split them up in October 1980. The hits, of course, came for both factions before long.

10. Japan – My New Career (1980)

Japan seemed doomed by a number of factors to be New Pop’s terminal outsiders – unpromising origins as a sort of funky New York Dolls, having their thunder effectively stolen by Duran Duran, attempts at career progression undermined by their old record label reissuing early singles seemingly at random – yet their later records contain some of the most adventurous and rewarding music of the decade.

In contrast to the stripped-down, almost punkish approach of most of the other acts here, Japan’s songs featured lush and atmospheric production, ambitious arrangements and musicianship verging on virtuosity – plus of course David Sylvian’s distinctly musical croon. ‘My New Career’ comes from their penultimate studio album Gentlemen Take Polaroids – both that and 1981’s Tin Drum are up there with the finest music of the decade.

11. Kraftwerk – Computer Love (1981)

Kraftwerk really belong at the beginning of this story with ‘Trans-Europe Express’ but for me, 1981’s Computer World is their finest album – it’s the sound of the band taking note of where others had taken their innovations, nodding approvingly and then effortlessly going one better.

‘Computer Love’ is one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard – there’s real poignancy in the pared-down lyrics and the music’s gentle electric glow. It also – sort of, in a way – made the top of the charts, as the original A-side of ‘The Model’ before everyone caught on to the latter track and the single got flipped over; it’s ironic – and a testament to the quirkiness of the UK singles chart – that one of pop’s most avowedly forward-looking bands scored their biggest hit with a three-year-old song.

12. ABBA – The Visitors (1981)

ABBA were always a fairly synth-friendly band – Moogs and Mellotrons had appeared on their songs almost right from the beginning – but the instruments were utilised most effectively on the band’s final album, the harrowing break-up record The Visitors. Benny and Björn constructed a set of ominous minor-key soundscapes to match the record’s lyrical themes of regret, paranoia and isolation, the highlight being the slow-burning title track.

The 1982 single ‘The Day Before You Came’ was bleaker still – a fantastically modern record but not a hit (in fact none of ABBA’s releases that year made the UK top 20). By this point personal and working relationships had all but broken down completely and the group were on the verge of splitting – yet this later material remains as powerful and satisfying as anything they recorded.

13. Visage – Frequency 7 [Dance Mix] (1981)

Visage are perhaps the only band here who could be described as belonging to a readily identifiable scene – specifically the ridiculously elitist subculture centered around Covent Garden’s Blitz Club which came to be known as the New Romantics. Whereas Culture Club and Spandau Ballet – the other two big-name bands to spring from the Blitz – leant towards blue-eyed soul, Visage were a sort of synth supergroup, featuring moonlighting members of Ultravox and Magazine, as well as the club’s DJ (Rusty Egan) and doorman (Steve Strange).

Their big hit, ‘Fade To Grey’ is one of the definitive singles of the genre but there are other gems in their catalogue too. ‘Frequency 7’ is one of them, a zippy instrumental which hints at a future beyond synthpop – not for Visage themselves but for a handful of individuals living thousands and thousands of miles away from the Blitz Club who’d been listening closely... I’ll get back to that with #20…

14. Simple Minds – Seeing Out The Angel (1981)

Following three commercially unsuccessful and increasingly experimental albums, Simple Minds’ career arrived a turning point with the release of Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call. Their first album for Virgin records and with Canterbury prog guitar god Steve Hillage replacing regular producer John Leckie, it saw the band finally make headway into the mainstream.

The best songs paired the Moroder-esque propulsion of 1980’s Empires And Dance with glistening, reverb-drenched synth patterns – the effect was both immediate and atmospheric.

The band followed Sons… with New Gold Dream, an even more immaculate album in a similar vein with the songwriting more finely-honed. Sadly, the mid-‘80s saw them pursue hugeness for its own sake at the expense of all subtlety or imagination. By the end of the decade, the heart of their music was lost completely beneath the hollow bombast.

15. Associates – White Car In Germany (1981)

As with Japan and Simple Minds, the music of the Associates is not what you might think of as synthpop in that it is far from being stripped down, simplistic or stark – yet the world of possibilities laid open by the same emerging technology undoubtedly played a vital part in their giddily adventurous approach to making music.

I imagine many instrumentalists would struggle with a vocal talent as mercurial as Billy MacKenzie’s but on those early ‘80s records Alan Rankine matched the singer again and again with some of the most strange and beautiful music in pop. ‘White Car In Germany’ is just one example – a slow march with MacKenzie’s glorious vocals gradually becoming enveloped by a mesh of otherworldly sounds. Listening to it is like watching exotic plantlife come alive after a freak winter freeze. If there’s anyone reading who still has reservations about the worth of the music I’m writing about, start here.

16. Depeche Mode – Get The Balance Right! (1983)

Listening to Depeche Mode’s chronologically-ordered Singles ‘81-’85 compilation, you get the impression that the band stumbled following the departure of main songwriter Vince Clarke – ‘See You’ and ‘The Meaning of Love’ come across as slight and clunky compared to the likes of the peppy ‘New Life’ (in fact listening in 2009 they strongly resemble the output of the useless LaRoux).

Yet Martin Gore (aided by new band member Alan Wilder) had clearly found his feet by the time of stopgap single ‘Get The Balance Right!’ – the song hits hard with juddering robotic bass, muscular beats and panicky, urgent synths. Admittedly the lyrics are pretty embarrassing (“You think you’ve got a hold on it all/you haven’t got a hold at all/When you reach the top, get ready to drop”) but let’s be honest, that’s a general problem Depeche Mode never seem to have managed to address.

In this tough, moody piece of music you can glimpse a vision of the band’s future as stadium goth heroes – that they are one of the few bands here who even had a future says a lot about the general direction taken by pop in the mid-1980s.

17. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Telegraph (1983)

Like The Human League, OMD had an undeniable knack for catchy pop – even Dazzle Ships, their famously experimental (and excellent) 1983 album, featured accessible, uptempo songs like ‘Telegraph’ and ‘Radio Waves’.

I really think that the point where the avant-garde and the populist meet is often the most interesting place in music and a lot of synthpop backs this up. I mean there’s no real reason why pop songs shouldn’t be about telephone boxes or power stations or Joan of Arc – I like that bands like OMD just wrote about the things they found interesting and trusted the record-buying public enough to go along with it. Sadly, after Dazzle Ships the group took a far less interesting path, courting success in the US along the way… There’s a pattern emerging here isn’t there?

18. Scott Walker – Track Three (1983)

The music of Scott Walker was a huge influence on several of the acts already mentioned – particularly the four tracks he contributed to The Walker Brothers’ 1978 Nite Flights album, which utilised synthesizers to startling effect.

Climate of Hunter, his sole release of the ‘80s, picked up from where those songs left off but it also points towards his future work; strip away the (very 1983) rhythm section and ‘Track Three’ could almost fit onto Tilt with its eerie, droning intro, hair-raising minor chords and fascinatingly oblique lyrics. Climate may be a transitional record but as part of the history of one of pop’s most compelling figures, it deserves not to be overlooked.

19. New Order – Your Silent Face (1983)

New Order’s earliest records very much took up where Joy Division left off but a 1981 trip to New York and a sampling of the city’s club culture soon led the band in another direction. Drum machine-driven disco rhythms found their way into their music, and by the time of 1983’s Power, Corruption and Lies, the signature New Order sound had been forged, with danceable tracks like ‘586’ (pretty much a dry run for ‘Blue Monday’) and ‘Age of Consent’.

However, the album’s highlight was a track that bridged old and new: the serene, magisterial ‘Your Silent Face’. The song is something of a companion piece to ‘Atmosphere’, similar both musically and thematically (“No hearing or breathing/No movement, no colours/Just silence”) and I’d say it’s even more powerful – there’s such life-affirming beauty in the way those glorious string sounds sweep across the gentle bounce of the rhythm section. Plus, of course, there’s that double-take prompting final line.

20. Cybotron – Clear (1983)

The future (sort of)! While the futurist impulses of synthpop in the UK mainstream were largely overtaken or assimilated by other styles as the 1980s went on, the music’s role in the development of Detroit techno proved to be another, more satisfying development in this story.

The tracks Juan Atkins, Jon-5 and 3070 recorded as Cybotron still very much resemble much of the music here albeit even bolder, even more streamlined – in a way their album, Enter, is the spiritual heir to Computer World. The sound within this music is the sound of people excited by the possibilities of music and technology and other people; it’s also the sound of totally flawless pop.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

I Bring the Funk Electric: How 80's R'n'B and Electro-soul shaped the sounds of today

Kevin Wilson wrote this for us. He writes about films at Thirtysecondsaframe and music here

The golden age of soul music is rightfully considered to be the classic Motown/Atlantic/Stax period from the early-mid ‘60s to the mid ‘70s. Characterised by crack songwriting teams and tight-ass musicianship, these labels reeled off hit after hit and made legends of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder et al. By the mid ‘70s though, when the social, political and musical landscapes were changing, the classic sound was starting to sound stale and oversaturated, as any man and his dog was invoking the essence of soul to ever decreasing results.

So what gave soul music the kick up the arse it sorely needed? Much as rock critics would like to have you think that ‘Anarchy In The UK’ was the record of 1977 that changed music forever, it was a record out of Munich with a sassy American vocalist that changed everything – after Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer released the seminal and sexy ‘I Feel Love’, they invented pop music’s future. Simultaneously in Dusseldorf, Kraftwerk were honing their modern electronic sound. And soul music took the Moroder/Kraftwerk template and ran with it.

Kraftwerk are arguably the biggest influence on early hip-hop/electro – just listen to ‘It’s More Fun To Compute’ from Kraftwerk’s 1981 album ‘Computer World’ and ‘Cosmic Cars’ from Cybotron’s 1983 album ‘Clear’ and the similarities are striking. It’s a dystopian, Ballardian, proto-techno record (unsurprisingly given that Juan Atkins became one of the originators of Detroit techno in the mid ‘80s). Afrika Bambaataa’s 1982 track ‘Planet Rock’ was not only the first hip-hop track to take advantage of this modern technology, utilising drum machines, but it sampled two Kraftwerk tracks (‘Trans Europe Express’ provides the melody, whilst ‘Numbers’ provides the drum pattern) and was the first notable production by Arthur Baker.

Bands who’d previously worked in different genres were jumping on board. The Gap Band, known for ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ this side of the pond, the staple of any terrible disco, were a funk outfit who’d revitalised themselves with some shit-hot R&B singles; ‘Burn Rubber On Me’ but also ‘You Dropped A Bomb On Me’, which used some seriously heavy synths – even to this day, Charlie Wilson is treated like royalty by hip-hop’s A-list, guest starring on several Snoop Dogg records. London’s ‘Freeez’, a jazz-funk band whose 1981 hit ‘Summer Freeez’ is a pleasant but inconsequential piece of fluff that probably made Robert Elms cream himself the first time he heard it, hooked up with Baker and produced ‘I.O.U’ in 1983, a classic of the early electro-breakbeat scene. Baker went onto work with Hall and Oates on their ‘Big Bam Boom’ album in 1984 and New Order on ‘Confusion’ and ‘Thieves Like Us’ in 1983/1984 – this is one of those records that the band would’ve known him for. New York’s Mantronix fused hip-hop and electro and contributed to the rise of house music later in the decade. A New Order biography revealed that 1985’s ‘Bassline’ was one of the most played tracks at the Hacienda nightclub (still yet to reach the legendary status it holds now).

But not all soul music of the ‘80s was about breaking new boundaries. Sure, producers were using synthesisers and drum machines in the wake of discovering how cheap and accessible they were, but the motivation was to produce hit records, just as it always had been. The real big players in mid-80s soul music were the songwriting and producing team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. First known for their work on the SOS Band’s classic 1983 single ‘Just Be Good To Me’, notable for its use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine – you know, the 808 that was used by Kanyé West on his most recent album, from which he took the album’s name.

Their subsequent work with Cherrelle (‘I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On’, yes, the Robert Palmer version was a cover!), The Human League (‘Human’) and Alexander O’Neal (‘Criticize’) all followed their smooth, clinical dance-pop formula and brought them to the attention of Janet Jackson, for whom they produced the massively successful 1986 ‘Control’ album. Although it should be noted that it was perhaps a white Welsh Marxist who partially gave Jam and Lewis their sound. Scritti Politti’s 1985 album ‘Cupid and Psyche ‘85’ was almost a prototype of the Jam and Lewis formula; a real state of the art electro record – expensively produced using session musicians at the top of their game, but the crucial ingredient was Green Gartside himself with his helium-processed vocals and Derrida and Lacan inspired lyrics.

Many genres have a natural lifespan and by the late-80s, it’s evident that this form of electro-soul was on its last legs and was starting to mutate into different directions. The rise of hip-hop and house music as serious forces contributed to its decline, as it took aspects of electro-soul but absorbed them into their own more progressive ideas. Joe Smooth’s 1988 ‘Promised Land’ was the moment the Jam and Lewis template went ‘deep house’ and if you want a serious laugh, check out the cover by The Style Council on Youtube, as if you could ever think Paul Weller’s a bigger twat than he already is. Keith Sweat, a proto-R Kelly if you like, all sensual moaning and pleading, was perhaps its final exponent on tracks such as 1987’s ‘How Deep Is Your Love?’, with its vocodered backing vocals and syncopated percussion.

Nowadays, you’ll hear much of this in awful retro-nightclubs in Basildon or some similar provincial town. As soon as the DJ spins ‘Solid’ by Ashford and Simpson, dozens of middle-aged women will suddenly take it as their cue to behave in a quasi-embarrassing fashion unbefitting their mature years. Much of this music will have been derided during its time, but two decades of hindsight is a glorious thing. Much of the music of today; hip-hop, dance, R&B, pop – it wouldn’t be the same without this second golden age of soul music.


There's a Spotify playlist to go along with this that is going to soundtrack every pre-drinking session for me in the next few months.
80s R&B/Electro-soul

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Two Mixes

Two sides, 45 minutes each. Not mixed. Enjoy.

Day mix:
1. Arthur Russell - That's Us/Wild Combination
2. The Tough Alliance - Silly Crimes
3. The Mountain Goats - Going to Georgia
4. Smokey Robinson - Being with You
5. Noel - The Night They Invented Love (Josh Baines' Slow-Mo edit)
6. Instant Funk - I Got My Mind Made Up
7. Odyssey - Going Back To My Roots
8. Erlend Oye - A Sudden Rush
9. Washed Out - Feel It All Around


Night mix:
1. The Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You (Decca)
2. Pariah - Orpheus (R&S)
3. Moodymann - Freeki MF (KDJ)
4. Wiley - Shanghai
5. Golden Boy and Miss Kittin - Rippin Kittin (Landomat 2000)
6. Brant & Mr Roper - Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (Ada Remix) (Scheinselbständig)
7. Omar-S - Strider's World (FHXE Records)
8. DJ Gazzeto - Gazzeto Eskhaleni Zone 1 (Edit)
9. Joe Meek and the Blue Men - I Hear A New World (RPM Records)


Thursday, 19 November 2009

Grime Playlist


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

10 Pop Punk Songs That (probably won't) Change Your Life

This is a piece written by Jess Spires. You can read her blog here

Before I start this, I want to make something clear. I made this list
because I actually love this genre of music. Not in an ironic, 'omg pop
punk is so cool now that vice put on a pop punk night' way, in a genuine,
unashamed never stop talking about it or listening to it and it makes
everyone sick way. Don't get me wrong I have a pretty varied taste, but
this is my big weakness. I love pop punk.

You probably don't agree with a lot of these choices, but here are my
personal top 10 songs. Some really obvious, some not. If you don't like
pop punk, these are the kinda songs i'm hoping you could listen to and
think 'yeah okay, this is rad'. Just a warning, this list is going to be
full of yucky nostalgia and me being all 'man i remember this..'

1) Jimmy Eat World - Lucky Denver Mint

Okay, they're not strictly 'pop punk' but whatever, i included this first
because Jimmy Eat World are probably my favourite band, like ever. I don't
know how they do it, but JEW just bring out amazing record after amazing
record. They're probably the only band I couldn't even choose a favourite
record because they're all just so damn good (Okay, apart from static
prevails, yeah that was kind of balls). When 'Chase this light' came out
in 2007 I was all 'Man, can JEW still pull it out the bag after 13
years?!', yeah, they can. Oh did i mention that this song is fucking sick?

2) Set Your Goals - Flight of the Navigator

Oh man, don't even get me started on set your goals. I'm probably the
biggest fan girl ever. I have a t-shirt and shit. If you don't like set
your goals, listen to 1.27 of this song and imagine being at their show
sweating more than you ever have in your life and rocking the fuck out.

3) New Found Glory - Understatement

NFG are a shoe in but seriously, this song does not get the appreciation
it deserves. 'Sticks and Stones' was the first NFG record I ever owned,
and I remember putting it on 7 years ago as a 13 year old, hearing this
first track and just being like 'FUCK YEAAAAAH'. Also I thought I could do
a mad impression of Jordan Pundik (Yeah I just wrote punkdik) back in the

4) blink-182 - Going Away to College

So, blink-182 are probably the best band ever, right? Who doesn't like
blink-182? Who didn't feel that their earth had been literally torn apart
by their break up? Blink were the first pop punk band I ever listened to,
I heard 'all the small things' on some advert and I was sold. Plus, this
song is deep. Who didn't have 'this world's an ugly place but you're so
beautiful to me' as their MSN name at one point?

5) The Movielife - This Time Next Year

The Movielife are fucking sick. There is no debate. I saw Vinnie playing
movielife songs with SYG as the backing band a while ago and it was
probably the best show of my life.

6) Motion City Sountrack - LGFUAD

Justin Pierre is probably one of the best lyricists I know. Seriously,
listen to the lyrics of this song, actually awesome. I didn't like Motion
City that much until the 'Commit this to Memory' record came out in 2005
and my boyfriend at the time put it on a mix cd. I can still remember
pretty much every track on that CD because I listened to it every fucking
day, and this was one of them.

7) The Starting Line - This Ride

I started to realise a while ago that TSL aren't actually that good, my 13
year old self probably overrated them a bit, and they're definitely shit
now. But, that being said, they deserve a mention for this song alone.

8) Taking Back Sunday - Timberwolves at New Jersey

Taking Back Sunday are another one of those shoe in bands that everyone
loves. I mean, how exciting was all that shit back in the day with John
Nolan from TBS and Jesse Lacey from Brand New, when Nolan shagged Lacey's
girlfriend and THEN THEY WROTE SONGS ABOUT IT. Man, it was like a pop punk

9) Forever The Sickest Kids - She's A Lady

I included Forever the Sickest Kids because although they look like
absolute bellends, they are probably one of the best 'new' pop punk bands
i've heard in a while.

10) Fenix TX - Threesome

Fenix TX only had one good song, but man was it good.

So there's my round up. Oh by the way, Weezer aren't in this because I don't like them.
don't like them. Deal with it.


Jess has very kindly produced a playlist to accompany this piece. Here it is: YR NOT BIGGER THAN THIS

On...The NME

A confession: I don’t think I’ve read an issue of the NME for about two years now. However, between the ages of twelve and sixteen I got the local newsagent to deliver me a copy. It was, shamefully, a sort of Bible for me. I’d take the majority of their word as gospel, buy the albums they fawned over and, to extend the slightly tortuous biblical metaphor, placed a great deal of faith in their writers. You have to remember that this was before broadband became the norm; I wasn’t able to check eighty-seven blogs a day for Hudson Mohawke remixes or whatever. Despite not having read a physical copy of the magazine for a while I still look at the (spectacularly badly designed) website from time to time and await their end of year lists with a modicum of excitement because, basically, I’m a sucker for a list.

But this one, their Top 50 Albums of the Decade is about as exciting as the Uncut list (which you can read here).

1. The Strokes – Is This It
2. The Libertines – Up The Bracket
3. Primal Scream – xtrmntr
4. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
6. PJ Harvey – Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
7. Arcade Fire – Funeral
8. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
9. The Streets – Original Pirate Material
10. Radiohead – In Rainbows
11. At The Drive In – Relationship Of Command
12. LCD Soundsystem – The Sound Of Silver
13. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
14. Radiohead – Kid A
15. Queens Of The Stone Age – Songs For The Deaf
16. The Streets – A Grand Don't Come For Free
17. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
18. The White Stripes – Elephant
19. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
20. Blur – Think Tank
21. The Coral – The Coral
22. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
23. Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future
24. The Libertines – The Libertines
25. Rapture – Echoes
26. Dizzee Rascal – Boy in Da Corner
27. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
28. Johnny Cash – Man Comes Around
29. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around The World
30. Elbow – Asleep In The Back
31. Bright Eyes – I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
32. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
33. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
34. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
35. Babyshambles – Down In Albion
36. Spirtualized – Let it Come Down
37. The Knife – Silent Shout
38. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
39. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
40. Ryan Adams – Gold
41. Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
42. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
43. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
44. Outkast – Loveboxxx/The Love Below
45. Avalanches – Since I Left You
46. Delgados – The Great Eastern
47. Brendan Benson – Lapalco
48. Walkmen – Bows and Arrows
49. Muse – Absolution
50. MIA – Arular.

Now, I'm not going to argue with the number one choice, it's nearly my favourite of the decade and the best thing in the top 10 by some distance. The rest of that 10 though, Christ. I sort of want to praise the NME for sticking to their guns and not filling it entirely with 'token' choices (the first of which comes in at number 22, with The Blueprint which seems to be every indie publications fave hip-hop album of the 00s) but at the same time their stance infuriates me; yes, I can understand the 'cultural relevance' of the first Arctic Monkeys album, with the whole 'MYSPACE MADE THIS BAND' angle that is genuinely, whether rightly or wrongly, important to the decade as a whole, but come on, it's not a great record by any stretch of the imagination. The Libertines were huge in NME land and probably sold them a lot of papers, but a few tracks aside they were largely sounded like second rate pub rockers who'd once read an Oscar Wilde book and thought it lent them a 'poetic' air. It didn't. And that whole military jacket look was dire. Funeral and Original Pirate Material (and two albums by The Streets in the list is somewhat excessive) have about four good songs each, Primal Scream are an irrelevant joke, PJ Harvey could be seen as the token woman and the Interpol album is actually kinda great. I don't even have a pithy one line opinion about Radiohead.

The rest of the list throws the odd, but not in a good way, curveball: The Coral at number 21? I'll repeat that: The Coral at number 21. Let's think about that for a second; dreadful, Beefheart aping Scouse TWATS, The Coral have apparently released the twenty-first best album of the last ten years. Sorry but the band themselves don't believe that. Throwing the, pretty good but not spectacular, Wild Beasts album from this year into the mix feels odd. I'm not saying that no record that recent deserves a slot on the list (there have been a few releases this year that I love as much as anything else from the decade) but placing it above Since I Left You, for example, is madness. Muse seem to have become one of the biggest bands in the world, along with Kings of Leon, recently and are regularly touted as a fantastic live band, and teenage girls love 'em, their brand of Queen-inspired fret wankery actually offends me. Babyshambles managed to be worse than The Libertines, somehow. Crystal Castles might have put out nice t-shirts but their musical worth is nil.

My biggest concern with the list is what it leaves out. The NME is a magazine aimed, predominately, at a youngish audience 'getting into' indie music so obviously I'm not expecting them to cram their list with Merzbow or Black Devil Disco Club stuff, but to not include anything (apart from LCD Soundsystem's record) from the 'dance' sphere, i.e. house/techno/disco/garage etc, is criminal. I distinctly remember wanting to buy International Deejay Gigolo compilations, Miss Kittin albums and David Caretta singles because the NME were all over electroclash for a while. They're probably all over Dubstep now I guess ("OMG HAVE YOU HEARD NIGHT BY BENGA? IT SOUNDS LIKE PIGEONS...ON DRUGS!"). And Dizzee apart, who's inclusion in the list is probably due to him being the first legitimate black British superstar more than anything else, and Jay-Z, they've chosen to ignore 'urban' music. No room for 'Supreme Clientele' but they can fit in a Brendon Benson album? Errrrr, what?

In summary, the list probably does reflect the stuff the average NME reader likes. But it's nowhere near being a decent overview of the decade as a whole



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