3
Sep 03

LUMIDEE – “Never Leave You (Uh-Oh)”

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LUMIDEE – “Never Leave You (Uh-Oh)”

People’s antipathy towards this track puzzles me, but then again I can’t think of a more divisive R&B track in recent memory. You either “get it” or you don’t. NYLPM contributor Andy K pointed out that this track sounds just like the Young Marble Giants winsome-yet-eerie proto-tweepop. In his epic post-punk overview, Simon Reynolds sez:

And Young Marble Giants’s Stuart Moxham once retaliated to a heckler’s demand to “play rock ‘n’roll” by regurgitating a Berry riff smack dab in the middle of one of YMG’s ultra-quiet tunes, then shouting “Look, anyone can do that. They’re doing it all over town. But we want to do this.”

For “Chuck Berry”, read “Mariah Carey.” And for “riff”, read “run.”

7
Aug 03

V/A – “Straight From The Bedroom E.P.’s #1-3

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V/A – “Straight From The Bedroom E.P.’s #1-3
V/A – Lord of the Decks: The Fellowship of the Mic

Straight From The Bedroom was a 3rd Paty/Kemet sub-label that existed for all of three releases, namely these. They are, as far as I’ve been able to tell, all from around 1992-3, and basically capture the moment where breakbeat hardcore turned into jungle as accurately as anything could or has. What do they sound like? A fucking mess: half-speed reggamatic intros and breakdowns, roots-era sensi vocals fighting for space with shrieking divas and raggamuffin toasters, left-over Italo piano euphoria, creepy-crawly darkcore synth goo, bass bombs, and of course breaks break breeeeaaaakkkkksssszzssssssss. The made-in-two-minutes vibe is complimented (as if the itchy, unfinished sound wasn’t enough) by the fact that all the trax are subtitled “A Bedroom In Hackney”, “A Bedroom In Brockley”, etc.

It’s kind of amazing to me that, with all the sniffing around I’ve done in the last half-dozen years tracking shit like this down, I’d never heard or heard OF these records before last night. The “real” history of jungle – the lineage of Ibiza/3rd Party/Kemet/Production House/White House and related labels – is still largely obscured, since the records are out of print, the labels long since folded, uncleared samples, lack of a market, etc etc. (It’s quite easy for the back catalog of Reinforced or Moving Shadow or even Sub Base to go through rehabilitation when they still have the ability to make their back catalog available, are still churning out reliable variations of the dnb template.) If you ever see these or come across them on a P2P, beg borrow or steal on sight.

The Lord of the Decks… (and if you think the title is classically cheesey, you should see the cover) is a rush-job comp on a possibly non-existent East London label, collecting all of the recent grime garage “hits” and a bunch of freestyles. In ten years (provided these artists don’t prove us all wrong and go as big as Goldie if not as big as Jay-Z) it will be as highly sought after as the equally rush-job comps on labels like Ibiza and 3rd Party. (In the stores one week, gone the next, never to return.) If you live anywhere close to London get to a specialty shop (I don’t care if they make uncomfortable or not) and get this (and if you live in EAST London, you have no excuse…but if you’re smart you probably have a lot of this stuff anyway.)

“We bring you the future…the future…the future…”

9
Jul 03

BUBBA SPARXXX — ‘Deliverance’

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Guilty thought: I’d like this song much more as an instrumental or even as a ‘song’, not a rap. Everything just clicks: the processed guitar strum that’s like Shek’spere with dirt under his nails, the string swells, the doorknocker beat (with a clap at the end for good measure.) And there are these little peals of electric blues running through the background that rise up just as the song is fading out. And echoing pings and twangs that play off the guitar, meant to sound like steel or slide guitar I guess but that sound straight out of a ’95 LTJ Bukem track. And Timbaland delivers what will probably be his only good chorus of the year (and a hilarious performance in the video, miming blues on an acoustic guitar, pulling the most ridiculous faces while doing so.) It’s tempting to say that Bubba will reverse Tim’s downward slide of late. This is his most stuffed track since ‘Cry Me A River’, but in place of that showpiece’s showboating, everything dovetails. Bubba does tend to bring out Tim’s most risk taking side, the cultish flipside perhaps to his use of Aaliyah as a ‘probe’ for his most far out ideas in a chart context. Literally a risk, in that this track hardly sounds like a hip-hop song at all: in fact, I don’t know what it sounds like, coming off somewhere between gospel, funk, shuffle-tech and southern boogie rock slowed down to 16rpm. It’s one of the best singles of the year.

25
Jun 03

RUFFUS – “Eighties Comin’ Back”

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RUFFUS – “Eighties Comin’ Back”
Letter perfect Steely-Dan-in-chart-po(m)p-mode, made all the more outrageously decadent and out of place this year by the indescipherable (English) lyrics which remain opaque even after a dozen listens. Estonia’s 2003 Eurovision entry and it sounds like it: they don’t make ’em like this anymore, because they never really made ’em like this in the first place. And another great single this year that reminds me worryingly of David Gray. (And another from Tom, the year’s most consistent selector.)

18
Jun 03

COLDPLAY – “Clocks”

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COLDPLAY – “Clocks”
Surely the fact that I recommend this despite it sounding like a Jam & Spoon remix of David Gray is enough.

17
Jun 03

DR. RING-DING – “Bombs Over Baghdad”

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DR. RING-DING – “Bombs Over Baghdad”
This starts out in typical dancehall-of-the-apocalypse mode, with the Dr. intoning some of the Ten Commandments, no less (“thou shalt not steal”, “thou shalt not kill”, “thou shalt not take the lords name in vain”, “thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbors”). Nothing particularly new then, until the song kicks in and you realize that he’s, um, talking to the leader of the most powerful nation in the “free” world. Tom (who tipped me off to this one indirectly) noted in his 2002 roundup that – post 9/11 – Jamaica was far enough away from America yet inextricably entwined enough to enjoy our war fervor as a kind of cowboys-and-indians/gangsters-and-cops played out on a global scale. But “Bombs Over Baghdad” : “Masters of War” :: Elephant Man’s “The Bombing” : “War Pigs”.

Plenty men dead when de American come fi make peace
Watch the peacemaker come
Peace an illusion we follow in Middle East
Like father like son

Bombs over Baghdad again dey make peace in dat style

The music is equally overdriven, bass rumbling in the belly of Jonah’s whale and tumbling jungle (but not Jungle) drums. But it could be Abba or Carcass or Puddle of Mudd and the up-middle-finger of the words would still hit like bat-to-sternum:

Me love to watch movies, love watch tv
Flicks from de wild west really fascinate me
So me put on me telly, CNN, NBC
…cowboys and indians me see
On the 20th of March 2003
Americans visit nother country
…Everything must be free
Especially the gas
To fill up them GNC

By the end, he avers “them never plan negotiate with Iraq” before the last verse launches into an almost incomprehensible, spittle-flecked rant, exhausting himself and yourself. “Bombs Over Baghdad” does what all great “political” pop does: it synthesizes all the impotent rage the listener feels about a situation into an anthemic, easily digestible chunk of sloganeering. It just helps that this particular chunk is so fucking right on, delivered with impeccable timing and a killer chorus. And if it doesn’t end up on Hot97 and the next DJ/Rupture mix, I’ll be very disappointed.

16
Jun 03

ORIGIN UNKNOWN feat. MC DYNAMITE – “Hotness”

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The dark horse! In the last two weeks this has rocketed up my personal chart to the point where it’s starting to look like a serious threat to those tracks in the top 10 whose future is uncertain. One-bar loop tech-drum&bass bizness, but redeemed-to-the-utmost by the ultra-ultra catchy MCing & the way Origin Unknown use the bass-farts and synth-blats in an almost upful, happy hardcore kinda way. (Like that Bad Company “Snowcat” track from last year, although not as goofy-gabba as all that.)

Jess’s Preliminary Top 10 for 2003

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Jess’s Preliminary Top 10 for 2003

Half-way done with the year!

(Please note that this list does not reflect the tastes or choices of NYLPM, it’s owner, or subsidiaries.)

10. !!! – “Me & Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard (A True Story)”
Okay, so an awful awful (and outdated!) pun in the title, and the singer sounds like he’s come to “the funk” via Jon Spencer. But if there’s one reason I love this song it’s that it makes the latent Edge influence in the guitar of so many of these DFA-stylee bands so blatant. Seriously, admit it, you love “The Unforgettable Fire”. So, all sheets of celestial grandeur blah blah then, but funkier than U2 could ever manage, with cowbell even.

9. Kardinal Offishall – “Belly Dancer”
Everything in this track sounds overdriven, cheap, and hot. The closing “belly dance/Neptunes/come again!” may be my favorite vocal lick of the year so far.

8. Killer Mike – “A.D.I.D.A.S.”
Down a few spots from its earlier position (the fate of all first quater singles, sadly), but still a lot of fun, despite the fact that the backing (on repeat listen) reveals itself to be conceptually slim enough to slip through a doorjam. All about the details then: Andre going to see the Blue Man Group, the obligatory gratuitous R Kelly slam.

7. Joe Budden – “Pump It Up”
Another slippage! Poor Joe. I wonder if this will remain top 10 by the end of the year. It’s as slight as “A.D.I.D.A.S.” and “Belly Dancer”, but not as charming as the former or as hyper-hyper as the latter.

6. Dizzee Rascal & Wiley – “Fix Up Look Sharp”
Wherein the nu-thing rides “The Big Beat” beat. Seriously, no shit. Here’s where the whole “garage rap as the real/new British hip-hop” schtick finally starts to make sense. Not just that fuck-off, old school beat (not even Kayne or Blaze or the fucking J5 would be so obvious) but the fact that there’s not a lick of dancehall in Dizzee’s delivery: a major break with all UK pirate MCing when you think about it. Not much hip-hop either, for that matter (a little dutty south, p’haps), but like Spizzazzz’s Rob Them Co sez, it makes itself hip-hop through sheer force of will.

5. R Kelly – “Ignition (Remix)”
Here’s what I said on ILM: It’s pretty clear that we’re living in the end times of a crumbling, decadent empire, and I can’t imagine Smokey Robinson peeing on 14 yr old girls anymore than I can imagine him naming himself after a shoe brandname. but, if we ARE living in the end times of a crumbling, decadent empire, we could do a lot worse for a house songwriter – from a sheer technical proficiency standpoint – than R. Kelly.

4. A.R.E. Weapons – “Don’t Be Scared”
Token rock pick, even though it’s pretty much structured like a hip-hop song anyway, down to the rolling beat, Bonecrusher-like gang chorus, and De La positivity message.

3. Beyonce feat. Jay-Z – “Crazy In Love”
!!! would kill to come up with two loops this good, and even if they ever did they’d ruin them by letting the singing muppet do his Scatman John routine overtop. Jay’s verse totally reverses his recent downward slide (especially on the guesting front) while still sounding like he managed to dash it off on the way to the studio cuz, like, he’s gotta be somewhere else, baby. Beyonce finally delivers a fake-funk track worthy of her name, and then proceeds to not render it unfit for human ears with the same menstruating feline yawp she pulled on “Work It Out.”

2. Wayne Wonder – “No Letting Go”
Out of all the diwali tunes floating around at the moment, this is the one I love most. Wotta sap! I think I like it so much because it reminds me of Scritti’s “The Sweetest Girl”, except 20 bpm faster and y’know, with a real Jamaican.

1. Dizzee – “I Luv U (Sharky Remix)”

12
Jun 03

WILEY – “Blizzard”

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Wiley’s productions are simultaneously reaching IDM levels of abstraction while being the most dead simple physical records this side of ‘Grindin’. Nothing really happens in 8-bar productions after they make their opening statements, but at their best the instrumentals are weird enough or physical enough or both to be carried along for their three or four changing-same minutes. ‘Blizzard’ reminds me — amazingly — of Piano Magic’s more abstract vignettes like ‘Music for Annahbird’ reworked for a Greensleeves riddim album. A tea-kettle whistle, ultra-dry bongo rhythm and then BAM: what sounds like car doors slamming in time and that trademark Wiley-bass, a ridiculous, overmodulated waveform that skips up and down octaves and sounds like nothing so much as a cyborg jug band. It’s hilarious and terrible and boring and gripping and the future.

15
May 03

FREEWAY – “What We Do”

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FREEWAY – “What We Do”

Roc-a-fella’s post-ironic smash & grab raids on symphonic soul continue, subverting some musty old relic pinched from Just Blaze’s dad’s basement, one of those off-hand slices of doped ache pressed into gun-point service of a validation of playa 101 (cf. “Ain’t No Love”.) Free continues to strip the Ghostface emo-hop template of the cartoon obscurantism, and Jigga continues his transformation into late-period ODB (“faster than the Red Ghost/chasing ghosts with Pac-Man”…no wonder they signed old Dirt Dog.) Like the way they emphasize the sample, letting that “wrong-ong-ong-ong” loop over and over like they only had the crusty old 10 second timeframe of the SP-1200. (Nothing dusty about the rest of the production tho, all hyper-chattering 80s R&B finesse.) Seriously, 2003 is turning into the year old school hip-hop broke, with the ’87 air raid uplift of Joe Budden’s “Pump It Up”, the Neps doing op-Art of Noise stabs on Roscoe P. Coldchain’s “Delinquent”, the unanswerable question of those horns in the Beyonce single, even Dizzee Rascal rocking “The Big Beat” beat. (“The Big Beat”, for chrissakes! You have two months to turn in your modernist hall pass before Dizz drops the full-on slab of hip-hop I now expect him to.) Still, why can’t I shake the feeling that all this stuff – enjoyable as it is – is one forward, two back?

(The following was written after discussions with ILX’s Bob Zemko among others – Mitch, Ethan P [who tipped me off that it was a Blaze production], God, yr mom – so he’ll GET OFF MY BACK.)