Thursday, 7 April 2016

Posted by Nick Titchener | File under : , , , , , , , ,
Once in a while a tune turns into a classic; even more rarely you know a tune has classic status from the very first play.  This is one of those occasions.

Make no mistake Mr Bird and Greg Blackman – with the aid of two genuine masters of the remix, Tom Moulton and Ashley Beedle – have crafted something very special indeed. “Over Again” is simply beautiful, a gentle masterpiece that oozes soul and Summer; if it was any more honeyed the bees would have claimed it back by now...

The original “Lo-fi Classics” version, previously available on digital from BBE, is genuinely great in itself (and always has been) but the Tom Moulton and Ashley Beedle reworks take it to an even higher level. It’s a matter of personal taste which one works the best for you (I love ‘em both!), but if it’s the Tom Moulton version you’re after, you’d best be quick – it’s vinyl only, and there are only 200 of them out there.

So – terrific song, great production / vocals and top notch reworks from the man who invented the art of the remix, and the man who’s done as much as anyone to redefine it. Sounds like an absolute monster to me.

Buy via Juno

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Posted by Nick Titchener | File under : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
The Colour & Pitch label has been a go-to source for ultra high quality melodic deep house since its inception, but their latest release steps things up a good couple of notches...and then some.

Having slowly developed an excellent relationship with self described “shadowy figure” Q-Burns Abstract Message, following his remix of their first release, the label’s gentle persistence in seeking new music from the Orlando based producer has paid off in fine style with this package of previously unreleased and unavailable re-works from Q-BAM’s elusive back catalogue.

After months of work tracking down artists and rights holders all of these previously hidden gems are now fully cleared, and have been newly remastered for this release – and there’s not a duff note in any of them.
First up is an excellent atmospheric and dubby rework of Church Williams’ “Touch The Sun” – sped up considerably from the original and ditching most of the vocal and piano, what we have here is a naggingly hypnotic piece that is hard to categorise (although it sounds like Summer) but very easy to love.

Track 2 is a deep and delicious rework of The Antirealist’s “Abscence” that is somehow brings elements as disparate as a classic reggae drum hit, Johnny Marr style shimmering guitars, analog synths and steel pan sounds together, binding them with a powerful but lazy bass line to create something that is – in my worthless opinion at least – nothing short of magical. Be careful what you’re smoking when you listen to this – you might not come back.

The wonderfully named Japanese Insanity’s track “The Lobster” is next for the Q-BAM treatment. I have no idea what the original sounded like, but this version is another hypnotic delight. Layers of sound coalesce to create another mini-masterpiece, with an arpeggiated key line providing an unavoidable brain-hook that will either entice you to dance or drive you insane – your call. Dubby explosions and sudden stops add to / release the tension as required. Brilliant.

Robert McCoy’s “Damascus” follows. It’s got a darker, deeper and more intense feel than the tunes that precede it, but with recognisably Q-BAM touches. Perfectly crafted, it sounds like 6am in the dark to me and it’s all the better for it, and the ethereal whispered vocals definitely help edge it towards creep out territory. Which is never a bad thing.

Mathew Scot’s “Trauma” as re-imagined here is a wonderful piece of work. Deep and just the right side of dark, it’s atmospheric, enveloping and twisted just enough to slightly mess with your head – in a nice way of course. A late night / early morning gem that sounds like you’ve known it forever, and one you'll be playing for the foreseeable.

So there you have it – a frankly excellent 5 tracker from an excellent label that is well worth your time and money. Please give both freely.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Posted by Will Sumsuch | File under : , , , , , , , , , ,
Record shop owner, renowned DJ and one half of respected production duo The Amalgamation Of Soundz, Jean-Claude has been a mainstay of London’s music scene for almost 4 decades now. Alongside artists such as Kruder & Dorfmeister and Saint Germain, The Amalgamation of Soundz championed a genre defying, jazz influenced style that became the soundtrack to the late nineties and early naughties for many music lovers. Their 2003 Fabric compilation is a slept-on classic, flying in the face of convention with cinematic elegance and off-kilter weirdness whilst retaining the DNA of the pair’s memorable DJ sets, which included a Glastonbury appearance in 2005. More recently, Jean Claude has been busying himself with new projects of late: namely running his record shop If Music, hosting shows on NTS and Soho Radio and curating a series of compilation albums. The latest of these, A Journey Into Deep Jazz (out now on BBE Music) sees Jean-Claude digging deep into his formidable collection and emerging with a fantastically eclectic haul of rare musical gems. We caught up with the man himself to find out more.

How did you get your start in music? Were you collecting records for a long time before you began DJing? 
Apparently I was obsessed with buying and owning my own music since the age of six (so the story be told by my late mother). I had my first ever DJ-gig at the age of fifteen for the school party.

You clearly have wide-ranging musical tastes. As a DJ, do you pull it all together in a way that makes sense? 
As a DJ I have learnt that unless it is a residency each gig has to be approached as if it’s the first time. If it’s a Fabric on a Saturday night, of course I’m playing Disco, house/Techno and I will throw as many breaks into that mix as I can. If it’s a Plastic Peeps (legendary and sadly missed London venue Plastic People) scenario then I’m going stupidly heavy and playing the most obscure shizzle I can get away with. When it’s a Glastonbury, you hit them with the shit they know and want but, everything with my own way of delivering the party. We all have the same records, it’s just how one plays them. The right notes in the wrong order or maybe the wrong notes in the right order!

You've been a DJ for well over three decades now. Please describe how you've seen the scene change and evolve in London during that time. 
 I have DJd man and boy for nearly forty years and the evolution of the DJ is hand in hand with technology as it constantly evolves. For the past ten years or more it’s been all about turning your back on vinyl and the basics, to let the computers do all the work for u. Not surprising really, with the advancement in technology that has transpired over the last twenty years!

We hear your record shop, If Music, has just moved to new premises… 
We are coming up to our 14th b/day and after a seven year absence we have returned to Soho (our 1st spot was in Green’s Ct. back in Jan. 2003). This time we are on D’Arblay Street, right opposite where Black Market Records used to be (serendipity? For sure).

What's it like running a record shop now compared to back in the 90s? 
Indie record spots like ours still function in the same way they always have: we break acts, we turn on the players from all over the world to the latest heat and the classics they need, we introduce the next generation of new talent to the established underground Dons and Donettes and even to the major labels so, the wheels of the music industry keep on truckin’. Running a small record emporium has always been a ***ed up double-edged sword: on one hand, great to be surrounded by brilliant music all day and have the dream job where no two days are the same but, not likely to make millions from doing it. Saying that, one doesn’t do it for the money, I guess.

Your 'Journey Into Deep Jazz' LP on BBE is a very special compilation. How did you go about selecting (and ordering) the music? 
I chose an X amount of records from my collection. Whatever we were able to license was licensed and hey presto, job done!

What's next for Jean-Claude? 
We have the label tie-in with Ninja Tune, so, we will have an array of artist albums continually released on IF Music, there are a host of different comps I’m putting together for BBE et al. There’s the NTS & Soho Radio shows which are a lot of fun, gigs and a busy shop to run……

Jean Claude's 'Journey Into Deep Jazz' is out now on BBE Records.
Check out the 'If Music' online store here

Friday, 4 March 2016

Posted by Will Sumsuch | File under : , , , , , , ,
It’s always a pleasure to see a favourite underground record label evolve from releasing the odd 12” or EP to becoming a fully-fledged ‘grown up’ imprint releasing artist albums. Sweden’s Local Talk is one such label, gaining an international following for its off-kilter releases from Kyodai, HNNY, Fred Everything and others. I’m glad to say they’ve extended their distinctive music policy to their first few long players too.

‘How I Communicate’ is the second album from Moskow’s Lay-Far, an artist who’s been heavily hyped by those in the know over the last couple of years. For once, the hype is entirely justified. Critics and stores will probably put this record on the same shelf with the likes of Todd Terje, Crazy P and other ‘disco crossover’ acts, but although there are undeniable similarities, I’d argue that this record is subtly and essentially different. Why? Because Lay-Far isn’t pulling any creative punches. While the other two acts mentioned have a tendency toward the saccharine which makes them the dance music equivalent of ‘gateway drugs’, Lay-Far has struck a near-perfect balance between accessibility and authenticity.

From the warm, string-laden musical hug of ‘Like The First Time’ which opens the record, through the jazzy broken-beat / House crossover ‘Slope’ featuring Ashley Beedle, to the low slung deepness of ‘Submerging’, this album really has breadth. Supplying enough melody and variation to (hopefully) please a more mainstream audience, whilst retaining enough repetition and groove to satisfy the heads, Lay-Far’s balanced and elegant offering should serve as a lesson to us all on the difficult craft of album-making.

'How I Communicate' is out now, so go get it.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Posted by Will Sumsuch | File under : , , , , ,
The final installment in prolific Australian producer Inkswel's 'Super Foods' album series, this LP features exclusive remixes of the tracks from the previous two records, as well as exclusive new material. Simple, soulful music over crunchy, chunky beats define Inkswel's sound; a sound which is swiftly earning him fans from across the musical spectrum.

Highlights for us have to be the brilliant Kid Sublime remix of 'Flashing Lights' and the head-nodding 'Applause' which features creative NY hip hoppers Scienz Of Life.

As the label put it: "Sitting somewhere between deep house, boogie, soul and electronica, Superfoods Vol.3 takes the listener on a mouth-watering journey from head-nod to dance-floor and back again, all cooked up expertly by your Chef Du Party, Inkswel."

Super Foods Vol. 3 is out now via iTunes

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Posted by Johnny Jupiter | File under : , , , , , ,
This is one of those albums that, even in these globalized times, could’ve only been made in the UK with its distinctive musical melting-pot.  From the first track, we’re given a taste of Fae’s diverse influences : her own vocals reminiscent of a hundred lovers rock singers from the early ‘80s, but also bringing to mind left-field artists from the ‘90s like Nicolette, while the underlying rhythm also combines  an organic, roots reggae vibe with those dark, stoned trip-hop gestures that were such a feature of the musical landscape of her native London twenty years ago.  Other tracks veer towards hip-hop, and there’s even a little jazz feel on track five, where you can really feel  the interplay between singer and musicians.

If none of that sounds like anything exactly new, then, yes, you’re right –this is perhaps not the most adventurous, forward-thinking album the very eclectic BBE label have put ever out. What it is, is a solid set which they might find it difficult to fit into contemporary music marketing categories, but which will definitely find a home with some of the more open-minded and inquisitive music-lovers out there.

This is definitely an album put together by and for someone who feels she has something to say, both socially and musically. ‘Outropective’ suggests she is looking out at the world rather than inside her own head.  Let’s hope the world is similarly inclined to notice her. Both classically and jazz-trained, according to the press release that came with our copy of this album, there needs to be a place for the Fae Simons of this world in an era when most music is put together through a computer programme.

Outrospective is available now via iTunes

Monday, 30 March 2015

Posted by Nick Titchener | File under : , , , ,
There’s more than an even chance that you’re well aware of Weedyman‘s re-edit work and an even better one that you have a few Paper Recordings releases - but the forthcoming “Kananga’s Revenge” EP (released April 2nd) is the first time they've appeared in public together.  And it’s one hell of a way to start a relationship.

As Weedyman tells it, the impetus behind this release was a desire to create new music by working in a different way;  lead track BMBJ started as an exercise in programming bongos from scratch with a distinctly “played by humans” feel .  What hasn't been fully revealed as yet is how it then grew into the deep, gorgeous and sure to be massive chugging disco/ house monster that it now is. And it’s definitely going to be huge.

Second cut “Ondo Ondo Anda” is a prime piece of compelling, hook filled and hypnotic house with naggingly familiar elements that somehow manages to add layer on layer without ever becoming crowded or losing its melodic feel.  It’s another excellent cut that practically demands to be played out immediately.

Which could also easily be said about both versions of the final tune “Feel It”, which comes in “Original” and “Leon Sweet Double Drop Remix” flavours. Weedyman’s original version marries warm pads and a bubbling bass line with intricate percussion to create a great mid tempo stepper that ramps up a level when the vocal sample hits, followed by a subtle acid burble that gradually comes to dominate as the other elements recede. Leon Sweet’s “Double Drop Remix” (what can he mean?) strips things back a bit, adding guitar chops and a funkier but breezy feel that leads to a more insistent but still gentle acid take over - it’s going to sound equally ace in the sun or towards the end of a long night.

Incidentally,  Weedyman says the initial idea to create all this came to him on a train journey, possibly influenced by “listening to some Underworld and early 90s Dub House disco”...  Given the fantastic result, is anyone else up for chipping in to buy him a season ticket and a shed load of compilations?

Weedyman “Kananga’s Revenge” EP – Paper Recordings is released April 2nd 2015

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Posted by Johnny Jupiter | File under : , , , ,
South African jazz produced a couple genuine world stars in Hugh Masekela and in Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim. There were also some revered exile musicians in the form of the former Blue Notes Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pukwana who moved to London and pioneered their very own brand of fiery free jazz as The Brotherhood of Breath (and in innumerable small groups) from  the ‘60s. Never a Blue Note, and perhaps less inclined to the avant-garde, was drummer Julian Bahula, who carried on playing an authentic township dance-based groove for many years through a succession of bands  Originally a star with the Malombo Jazz Men, that group transformed itself into Jazz Makers which is where this compilation picks up the story.
The Malombo Jazz Makers, which included flautist Philip Cindi invoking the traditional penny whistle sounds of the townships, and guitarist Lucky Ranku, were active in anti-apartheid cultural activity within South Africa and had been particularly aligned with the Black consciousness movement led by Steve Biko. As for  many other creative and dissident South Africans, conditions became intolerable at home, and Bahula moved to London in the early ‘70s where he proceeded to become virtually synonomous with the anti-apartheid movement. His new group, Jabula, were seldom missing from the fundraisers of the day.

Luckily the music took a more melodic turn with Jabula, as two discs of township jazz and its emphasis on swinging rhythm could pall as a ‘listening’ experience. The more fusion-oriented Jabula material breaks up the tempo and mood. That said, it’s hard to find anything to fault here. This is direct, powerful music  and a long overdue retrospective for a player who might’ve had a lucrative career as a session player, but chose to dedicate himself to the greater struggle of liberation.

The album is available now via iTunes or the Strut Store

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Posted by T-Bird | File under : , , , , , ,
It’s really a pity that in the Abrahamic tradition (i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam,) that the snake got a bad reputation.  In the Native American and African tribal legends, the snake was revered for its changing skin, a symbol of rebirth or renewal rather than being the bad guy in the legends of Abraham’s descendants.  Its counterpart in ancient Egypt is Osiris and the Norse had Baldr—both gods who were regularly reborn.  Hip hop music seems to be shedding its skin at the moment, maybe doing a bit of soul-searching.  It started out as a Bronx thing, spread all over NYC, then the East Coast and then all over the USA and Caribbean before leaping across oceans to first infuse and then reproduce itself in the UK, Japan, the European continent and beyond…  It was underground, then crossed over before eating whole, then redefining mainstream music. 

Hip hop music has been pretty busy since the late 70s spreading its message of… 
…Well, that depends on how you were introduced to it.  Initially it was party music, then it got more sophisticated and realized there was more to be talked about—such as social issues.  There was Black Nationalism and the rise of violent gangs on the West Coast. Back in NYC (and the East Coast in general,) Black Nationalism gave way to Afro-Centrism and a particular strain of Islam (“5% Nation,” later known as “Nation of Gods & Earths.”) The 90s brought us jazzy beats & rhymes, paeans to Mary Jane, “Thug Life” and “conscious rap.”  Another equally important, yet understated development was the abstract and sometimes instrumental output of the Solesides (later called Quannum) collective, which included Latyrx (Lateef the Truth Speaker and Asia/Lyrics Born,) Blackalicious (Chief Xcel & Gift of Gab) and, most famously, DJ Shadow.  Although they weren’t major label talents, they were licensed in the UK by a very influential label: Mo’Wax.  DJ Shadow has gone on to be a hiphop legend based on his revered instrumental album, Entroducing, which really works as a long-form piece.  While Blackalicious never reached the stardom of Shadow, they have a lot of artistic capital.  Fortunately for us, they used some of that to back a group from the hip hop non-mecca of Portland, Oregon known as The Lifesavas. 

From this group, comes the MC Vursatyl, whose “Super” sounds a bit like J-Live produced by J-Dilla.  Dion’s vocals play the proper support role, yet stick in your head (isn’t that why it’s called a “hook?”) In place of J-Live’s “Gods & Earths” we get a quick reference to Vursatyl’s Christianity, “…the Messiah was on the cross between two crooks.”  Despite this, braggadocio is still on full “…You’re trying to reach your potential, but I keep raising the bar.” His delivery is confident and his flow dances around the beat, making him a joy to listen to.  He’s had a few years on stage going toe-to-toe with Gift of Gab and it really shows.  Rolling Stone tapped Lifesavas as “a group to watch” a number of years ago and they were onto something.  “Super” should be bumping in everyone’s car, iPod, home or what/wherever they dig on music.  I’m sure there’s more to come and I, for one, can’t wait to see where Vursatyl goes with Hip hop wearing its new skin…

'Super' is out now on iTunes and all major download stores.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Posted by Johnny Jupiter | File under : , , , , , , , , , ,
Spinna was an icon of the indie hip-hop scene who switched rides on an early lap some way round the course of his DJ/production career, and, if he hasn’t yet reached the finishing-line, has accumulated trophies already in the form of some sizeable dance hits. The biggest of those, his mix of Shaun Escoffery’s ‘Days Like These’ is inexplicably not on either of the two lavish double albums (one track per side apart from LP 1, side C, which has two) this comes as, though it IS found on the CD. That early release (and its immediate predecessor, ‘Space Rider’ which was particularly big in New York) immediately put Spinna up there with the big boys in the world of house, and he’s stayed there pretty much ever since. If there’s a better vocal record in the last few years, I’d like to hear it (and please post it to me via this site)!
A high proportion of the material here is also vocal, but there are a couple of deeper, techier instrumental  tracks to spice up the vibes (and one of those, his Acid Power mix of Karizma ‘The power’ seems to be exclusive to the vinyl). Anyone who likes their house music rooted in the black American tradition will find much to enjoy here, but don’t expect four sides of gospel-style wailing. The original material is quite disparate, but there’s a marked tendency for Spinna to work with bands, and tracks that start out more ‘musical’ in the first place. A Spinna sound, grooving and funky, but never ‘hard’,  unites all the material here. A few personal favourites: Louie Vega with Raul Midon ‘A Better Day’, like sounding like a 21st century Jose Feliciano.; Fertile Ground, ‘Live In The Light’ –fierce, spiritual – and Tortured Soul ‘Why’, deep and dark. This is a well-deserved first retrospective for someone that’s helping to keep alive a vital strain of our dance music heritage.

The Sound Beyond Stars is available on vinyl, CD and MP3 directly from BBE
Or via iTunes