C I R C U L A T I O N volume 2 / issue 1 / free
Bombay Bicycle Club.
also â€” DELS + The Antlers
Contributors /Contents T H E
C I R C U L A T I O N
T E A M
1 |A U T U M N
M I X T A P E
E D C J M J F A R J C H L B O L W N T S M A M J W J R C R S J C G
D I T O R A V I D W A R D
2 | C O L U M N S
O - E D I T O R + G I G S O S E C A R B A J O
— PUNK GARAGE METAL
A N A G I N G D I R E C T O R A C K L U C K E T T E A T U R E S E D I T O R D A M B Y C H A W S K I E V I E W S E D I T O R A K E F A R R E L L O M M E N T E D I T O R A N A T E R A I E - W O O D
3 | I N T E R V I E W S — BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB 5 — THE ANTLERS 7 — DELS
I V E E D I T O R E N E D I C K G I B S O N
N L I N E E D I T O R E V H A R R I S
10 | L I V E
R I T I A M O M I A N A R I L E X A T T O N I I L L O E L A C H
E R S H C O N N O L L Y D U T H I E G A R D E N E R K R I S T I N M A R T I N S E N O S B O R N E H E W P O R T E R R O O M E V I G N O L E S B R O O K S E L P R O N G E R
O O I E
M N I S T S R T J O H N S O N N O ’ B R I E N I C A R O B E R T S
L B M S
U E O S
A R T O O N I S T U S B E A M I S H - C O O K -
E D I T O R ’ S
N O T E
Welcome to the second year of Circulation. While it always seems contrived to say it, this really is our finest issue yet. There are three interviews with excellent artists; the ever-wonderful Antlers, new darling of the UK Hip-hop scene DELS, plus the ever-improving and evolving Bombay Bicycle Club. Of course going into a new year we felt we had to freshen things up so the magazine has been beautifully redesigned courtesy of Bhav Mistry (bhavmistry.net) - complete with an exclusive font. We have also finally sharpened up our online presence. We now have a fully fledged website at circulation-mag.com where you can find all the content from this issue, plus regularly updated comment, reviews and interviews. Finally, to celebrate this release, we are putting on a gig at Stereo on Gillygate on the 23rd October. We present hotly-tipped band Theme Park supported by the excellent Childhood and The Sundowners, as well as York’s own Handbook. With entrance at £4 for members and £5 for everyone else, this is the best value gig you will find in York. Thanks for reading.
R E V I E W S
— SUMMER FESTIVAL ROUND-UP 11 | A L B U M
R E V I E W S
— APPARAT BEIRUT BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB 12 — DJ SHADOW FOUR TET GIRLS M83 LAURA MARLING 13 — NOEL GALLACHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS SULLY TINAWIREN WAVVES 14 | S P I N - O F F — R&B AND INFLUENCE: THE PRODUCER AS EPHEBE. 15 — FORMAT MATTERS CARTOON -
David Ward. Editor. C O N T E N T S
C O N T R I B U T O R S
P U N K
G A R A G E
M E T A L
villeUSA,isoneofthebiggesteventsinthepunkcalendar, uniÞedsoundandwithouttherudenessofpirate-driven townandtakeoveralmostallofthemusicvenues.Thisis thetenthyearofTheFestandwithheadlinersincluding
A R R A K I S R O L Y P O R T E R
B E R L I N M A T T H E W H E R B E R T ¥RolyPorter,onehalfofdubstepactVexÕd,hasjustreleased ¥OnOctober10thHerbertwillreleasetheÞnalchapterinhis anewalbum,ÔAftertime.ÕAstepawayfromhispreviousÞerce ÔOneÕtrilogy,ÔOnePig.ÕThiswillbetheresultofattemptingto dubstepsounds,thistrackisdark,spaceyandperfectfor recordthelifeofapig,eventuallyusingpartsofthepigitself theautumnnights. asinstruments.Forthemoment,heardthisbeautifultrack fromÔOneOne.Õ U F O E S G V A C U U M B O O G I E ¥AutumnisthetimeofHalloween.Putthisonforsome F L O A T I N G P O I N T S terrifyingfunkgrooves.Completewithghostlyhowls. ¥Firstreleasedin2009,thisintensetuneisenjoyinga resurgenceinclubs.FourTetandRamadanmanhaveboth - beenheardplayingthisoverthepastfewweeks-perhaps duetoitshugelyfunkyhousegroove.Thealbumissurelyon G O O D M A N itsway. R A P H A E L S A A D I Q ¥InthisissueÕsspin-offsectionwehaveapieceonR&B, producersandinßuence.RaphaelSaadiqisoneofour favouritesofthoseproducersforhisworkwithTony!Toni! 2 H E A R T S Ton!andDÕAngelo.HereturnedthisyearwithÔStoneRollinÕ,Õ S U L L Y thisisthesingle,apieceofvintagesoul.Watchthevideoas ¥EngrossinglywarmfuturegaragetrackfromtheÞnest well,featuringDennisWisefromTheWire. dubstepdebutofrecentmonths.Thealbum,ÔCarrier,Õis reviewedinthisissue. - S H U F F L E B O M B A Y B I C Y C L E C L U B B I B I N A M P U ¥Therehasalwaysbeensomethingslightlywistfulabout M I M S U L E I M A N BombayBicycleClub,nevermoresothanonacousticalbum ¥Sittingbythecampuslakeinbrightsunshineand ÔFlaws,ÕbutstillpresentonÔADifferentKindofFix.ÕPerfect 26¡Cmakescompilinganautumnmixtapequiteatestof then,forwhensummerslipsawayintoautumn.Weinterview imagination.HereImustadmitdefeat,thisbasslineisthe themonpage3. perfectsummergroove.
B L U E V E L V E T C H I L D H O O D ¥Dreamyandyearning-catchthebandplayingthisatour launchgigatStereoonthe23rdofOctober. - S O S A I D K A Y F I E L D M I C E ¥AwonderfultrackforthecoldmistymorningsofNovember. Oneoftheverybestopeninglinesinindiehistoryaswell.
wherebandsofallsizesandsuccessratesdescendonthe bordergenreshaveenoughÔoomphÕtorevivegarageasthe ÒproggyÓandnowÒjazzyÓ70Õsrockfeel,alsoseessinger
I M A B E N D R O T R I C H A R D S T R A U S S K E T T E R I N G ¥ÔImAbendrotÕtranslatesasÔIntheGloamingÕ,gloaming T H E A N T L E R S meaningtwilight,ordusk.FromStraussÕsFourLastSongs, ¥WeinterviewTheAntlersinthisissueaboutnewalbum meditationsondeathandtransition,thepieceofferspoised ÔBurstApart.ÕThiscausedarevisittopreviouseffortÔHospice,Õ reßectionand,ultimately,acceptance.Thereisnomore astandoutindiealbumevenintheyearofVeckatimestand suitableautumnallisteningthanthis. MerriweatherPostPavillion. -
A U T U M N
M I X T A P E
bestofUKfunky,house,grime,juke,house,jungleand electro.Futuregaragehasmanagedtomanifesttheswag andinßuenceofatruedeÞnedbass-genrewhilespear-
anditstenvenuesallowformanysmallbandstogetsignif- andKorelesssearchingforonekeyelementthatlinksthem onoccasionfeltlikeanawkwardmeltingpotofantithetical
W A X ( H A L L S R E M I X ) T H E M E P A R K ¥Sittingbythecampuslakeinbrightsunshineand 26¡Cmakescompilinganautumnmixtapequiteatestof imagination.HereImustadmitdefeat-thisbasslineisthe perfectsummergroove.ThemeParkareheadliningour launchshowonthe23rdOctoberatStereo.Waxisoneof theirstandouttracks,socheckoutHallsrework,cloakingit inwarmpads.
C O L U M N S
Bombay Bicycle Club. Bandsmakingtheirwaythroughthemireofthemodern musicindustrycanoftenÞndthemselvesfacingthe unenviableprospectofabrief,butbeautiful,mayßy existenceoracareerofslowlydiminishingreturns.There arenÕtmanybandswhocaneschewthesedominant traditionsandonlyaselectfewmanagetohaul themselvessteadilyonwardsandupwards,contentinthe knowledgethatwhatÕsinfrontofthemismoreexciting thanwhatÕsbehind.BombayBicycleClubareonesuch band. Formedin2006inNorthLondonandgivenahelping handbytheRoadtoVcompetitionofthesameyear, BBChavelithelyadaptedtothechallengesofremaining interestingandimportantwithaplombeversincethen. Thereleaseoftheirthirdalbum,ADifferentKindofFix, comesoffthebackofaboldleftturn,intheshapeof theirsophomoreacousticofferingFlaws,andneatly roundsoffthetriothatstartedwiththeirendearing debutIhadtheBluesbutIshookthemLoose.Their extensiveoutputbeliestheircollectiveyouthbutisan accuratereßectionoftheirstartlingmaturityÐperhaps anoverlookedqualityoftheband.
H C T R
A H H E
S B E I N A N G E D A T T H E C E I V E D
G S O Y O U N G T H E W A Y Y ’ V E B E E N ?
“When we started out people gave us a bit of leeway because we were young and you accept that there’s room to grow.” says lead guitarist Jamie MaCcoll “In a positive sense I think being young and having some songs about being young has always attracted younger and particularly adolescent fans. Hopefully young people find it easier to relate to us than to posturing rock bands.” If part of the attraction of BBC ever was the intrigue of seeing particularly young people performing brilliantly in a job usually reserved for people of more advanced years then their third album will put an end to that. It’s a cohesive well-executed record with an assured, polished sensibility. There was no real manifesto behind the album, but we were definitely all more involved and confident with how we wanted it to sound.” says MaCcoll “With the first record we were fairly intimidated by the studio equipment, we had no idea how anything worked.” TheymaybemoreproÞcientinthestudio,andADifferent KindofFixsoundsacutelyassuredandpolished,but livetheyarestillasvisceralasever,afactsharply demonstratedbytheirperformanceatthisyearÕsReading andLeedsfestival.ForMacCollitrepresentedthebest partsofbeinginBombayBicycleClub. “Every time we play Reading and Leeds we say it’s been one of our favourite gigs. I think Reading and Leeds falls in quite a special place in the year; it’s the end of the summer and often the culmination of a lot of things. This year the album was just about to come out and it felt like quite a big turning point. It was also one of the few big gigs where the crowd sang back every word. We all left with very big smiles on our faces.” Andwhynot?Tocontinuetoclimbsuchasteep upwardtrajectorymustbecreativelydaunting,but whatbetterchallengetohave?
Where next for Bombay Bicycle Club? “We don’t really sit down and set out goals, it all comes quite naturally.” MacColl continues “People are surprised that we’ve produced so many albums, but I think it’s just a product of being young and restless. If we’d been at university we would have been figuring out what we want to do afterwards so I see this as a similar thing – for the last 3 years we’ve been wrestling with our identity and trying to decide what kind of music we want to make” ImportantlyBBCare,intheirownwords,makingthemusic thattheywanttomake,afactthatcanoftenescape bandscrushedunderlabelpressureandtheweightof theirownhype.Theirsincerityandintegrityisessential totheirappealandatatimewhensomeoftheir contemporarieshavefallenbythewaysidesuchqualities areneededmorethanever,asMacCollelaborates:ÒWhen weleftschoolindiemusicwascertainlyonthestartofa decline.Thatperiodaround2005whenindiemusichad becomepartofthemainstreamseemstohaveended. Withtheoddexception,thedaysofmajorlabelsthrowing halfamillionpoundsatabandwith4songsona MySpacearedeÞnitelyover.
Hopefullyifwestartedoutnowthingswouldhaveturned outthesame.IdonÕtthinkweÕveeverbeenabandwith amassivehypearoundus;wedidnÕtevengetarecord dealuntilafterweÕdmadeourÞrstalbum.Ithinktheway weÕvegoneaboutthingshasbeenverynatural.Ó JF. 3 / 4
I N T E R V I E W S
TheAntlersarenotwhatIexpected.Thesearethe Brooklynbasedartrockerswhosedebutconceptalbum Hospicewasbasedaroundanabusiverelationship betweenanurseandaterminalcancerpatient.Iam anticipatingnavelgazing,glumfacesandtortured artistshtick.InsteadIÞndmyselfinashabbytourbus somewhereinaWelshÞeld,crammedaroundaminute Formicatablewiththreechatty,cheerfulmusicianswho aremoreinterestedinravingabouttheirMattBerninger fandom,thandroningontediouslyabouttheÔcreative processÕ.
ButwhenweÕdgetbackfromtouritwouldbelikeÔholy shitIÕmreallyexhausted!ÕReallyburntout.ButIthink thatwouldhappenevenifyouhadakindofupbeat happykindofshow,afterawhileÉjustthatpersistenceÉÓ
Thebandaregratefulforthepositivereactionto Hospice,buttheyarealsokeentoavoidcomplacency. ÒThereweredeÞnitelyalotrumblingsinitially,positive things,thenafewmorelargerpublicationslikeNPRwas verybigforusintheStates,ÓsaysdrummerMichael Lerner,Òbutateverylevelwesortofexperiencedgrowing painsalittlebit,itreallywasnÕtovernight.Iguessit Theseinitialassumptionswereofcoursewildlyunfair. helpedusjustgetbetterasaunit,asaband.ÓThe Hospicewasanundergroundhitbackin2009and bondingexperienceseemstohavepaidoff.Whilstthe nowthebandaretouringabrighter,poppierfollow-up bandwasoriginallyestablishedbySilbermanlargelyas BurstApart.ThenewalbumstilldisplaysTheAntlersÕ asupportactforsolomaterial,BurstApartseemsto penchantforheartwrenchingtheatrics(aswitnessed havebeenamorecollaborativeproject,generatedfrom onepiccloserÒPuttingtheDogtoSleepÓ)butitis allnightimprovisationalsessionsatthebandÕsstudioin noticeablylighterintone.Floppyhairedkeyboardist Brooklyn.Didthiscloseworkingenvironmentleadtoany DarbyCicciconÞrmsthischangeoftone:Òitfeelslike tension?ÒIÕmsorryIgotmyDarbytattoonow,Icantell averydramaticallydifferentthinginlotsofways,Óhe youÓdeadpansLerner,andtheeaseoftheensuingjokes says,ÒitÕsmuchlighter,itÕsalittlemoreexperimental,it betweenthemusiciansseemstosuggestthatitcanÕt feelsmorelikecatchypopattimesÓ.Indeed,trackssuch havebeentoopainfulacommitment. asÒNoWidowsÓandÒEveryNightMyTeethAreFalling OutÓseemtodemonstrateanewfoundurgetowritemore InfactTheAntlersseemtobeneÞtfromselfimposed immediatelyaccessiblesingles,completewithbeguiling isolation.AlthoughHospiceandBurstApartare electro-popriffsandhookychoruses. verydifferentalbums,bothdemonstrateapeculiarly distinctivebrandofelectronicindie,immersive,half Thismovetowardslightermaterialseemstohavebeen hushedanddrenchedinalternatatingstreamsof anaturalreactiontoHospice,anundergroundsuccess darknessandlight.AlthoughSilbermanacknowledges thatbroughtcriticalacclaimandadedicatedfanbase, theinßuenceofCocteauTwinsandPortishead,the butalsoleftthebandatriskofbeingpigeonholedas soundTheAntlersÕcreateisoftendeÞnitivelytheir artymiserabilists.SoftlyspokenfrontmanPeterSilberman own.WhenIaskifthereisanyonetheywouldconsider conÞrmsadesireforchangeafterextensivetouring. collaboratingwiththerearehesitantmentionsofCaribou ÒWegottiredoftheblackcloudhanging.Thefactthatit andFourTet,butitisclearthatthebandreallyenvisage wassuchaseriousthingmeantpeopleconnectedwith themselvescontinuingaloneforthenextfewyears, it,whichisgreat,becausealotofpeoplereallystrongly touring,experimentingandjustseeinghowthingsturn connectedwithitÉButitcangettoyouafterawhile, out.Thisisanunmistakablytightunit,andfornowthere itÕsjustkindofexhausting.ÓIwonderifitwasdifÞcult seemstobenoneedforoutsideintervention. performingsuchemotionallydrainingmaterialwith commitmenteverynight?ÒItdoesnÕtfeeldifÞcultwhilst Toanoutsider,Brooklynappearstohavebeensomething youÕredoingit,ÓinsistsSilberman,ÒatleastwithmeI ofacreativehuboverthepastfewyears,generating wasnÕtgettingsadeverynight.Itfeltlikeaperformance... earlybreakoutbandslikeGrizzlyBear,Yeasayerand
MGMT,aswellasmorerecentonestowatchsuchas SheKeepsBees,HereWeGoMagicandShadwbx.The AntlershavebeenÞrmlybasedthereforthepastfew years,buttheydismisstheideaofadistinctiveBrooklyn scene.ÒThereÕsbeenmillionsofNewYorkbandsand scenesforalongtime,ÓsaysCicci,ÒImeannoweveryone justlivesinBrooklyncauseeveryonehasbeenedged outofManhattan.SothereÕsamillionbandshappening there,alotofgoodones,butnotreallyascenethat kindofuniÞesallthesebands,morebitsandpiecesÓ. ÒMaybeafewyearsagoitfeltÉitseemedlikethatwas kindofathing,ÓaddsSilbermanhesitantly,Òbutalotof thosebandshavesortofgraduallymadeittothebig time.Ifeellikescenes,circlesandcollectiveshavekind ofhappenedonasmallerlevel.ItjustbethatweÕreon tourallthetimeweÕrejustnottheretoseeit.ÓWhenI bringupTheNational,anotherBrooklynbasedbandwho TheAntlerssupportedontour2010,theresponseisfar moreenthusiastic.ÒTheyÕregreatcareer/liferolemodels,Ó enthusesCicci,Òtheyallworktogethersowellandthe wholecrewarejustreallyniceandprofessional.Hopefully onedaythatÕswhatweÕllbecome.ÓLerneragreesthat
theywereinspiredbyTheNationalÕsfamouslypowerful liveperformances:ÒtheyÕrejustafuckingforceonstage! Igotgoosebumpsattimes,itwaslikeÒHolyshit!IÕm actuallythatexcitedaboutthisband!ÓIÕmseeingthem everynightbutstill...IÕmseeingthemeverynightbut stillÉwhenMatt[Berninger,thefrontman]runsintothe crowdÉÓ Theinterviewwindsdownasthebandcollapsesinto sighsofadmiration,butlaterthatafternoonImanageto catchtheirsetinacrowded,dimly-litfestivaltent.There arenoBerninger-styleßourishes,nostageinvasionsor stagedives,butitisanintense,mesmericexperience nonetheless.Asaudiencemembersleavereeling, murmuringecstaticpraisewithwide-eyedenthusiasm, itÕseasytoseewhysuchabuzzsurroundsTheAntlers. Withthisimpressiveapresencesoearlyonintheir career,itwouldbenosurpriseifTheAntlerÕsturnedout tobethenextbigBrooklynsuccessstory.Berningerand co.shouldwatchtheirbacks. RP.
5 / 6
I N T E R V I E W S
Whateveranyoneelsesays,thereisadistinctivetrend inthemusicworldbetweenlivinginasmallsuburban townandproducingmeaningfulsongs.Acaseinpoint isUKrapperKierenDickins,betterknownasDELS,who hailsfromIpswich,Suffolk.Tiedwithaself-confessed feelingofisolationandalienationoneventuallymoving totheBigSmoke,DELSwrotewhatturnedouttobea beguilinglyintrospectiveandcompellingdebutalbum intheshapeofGOB.ReleasedbyBigDadaearlierthis year,itiseerilyreminiscentofacertainDizzeeRascalÕs critically/acclaimeddebutalbumÐBoyindaCorner.Witha helpinghandfromUKmusicgodsRootsManuvaandJoe Goddard,itissafetosaythatDELSisingoodcompany, andwithaclutchofimpressivevideostoaccompanyhis songs,itlooksasthoughhehasalltheboxestickedto standthetestoftime. OnlisteningtoGOB,whatismoststrikingarethe unconventional,sinisterbeatsthatborderonatonality. Whatwereyourthoughtsbehindthis? In regard to the production and the album, I had a vision where I’d use producers who aren’t known predominantly for making a hip-hop record. Something I loved about the golden age of hip-hop in the ‘90s was how individual it was and how everyone was so conscious of not ripping each other off. That was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t want it to sound American at all. So choosing Micachu, Kwes and Joe Goddard created a fresh angle and it pushed me conceptually as well just because Micachu and Kwes’ beats are so awkward and Joe Goddard is a king when it comes to making a pop record which gave me another dimension on the album sonically.
Would you ever consider taking the Chipmunk/ Dizzee Rascal route and saturating your sound to cater for mainstream audiences? It’s something I’ve been thinking about but I don’t want to compromise my vision and I don’t want to compromise what I stand for, but ultimately everyone wants their music to be really popular. But it doesn’t mean I’d necessarily want to saturate it or emulate anyone’s recent chart success because there’s no longevity in that; I want to have a career out of it. I want to be remembered as someone who really cared about the art form, because I don’t want to disrespect the art form, I’m in love with the art form and I want to stand up for it so I guess for my next record which I want to start working on next year, I will be conscious that I didn’t put many hooks in the first album and a lot of bits were disjointed and out of place. Youtouchedonalbumnumbertwo,haveyourecorded anynewmaterial?Whathaveyoubeendoingsincethe albumrelease? I’ve been playing festivals all summer, getting ready for my first headline UK tour. I’ve also been working on a new mixtape that Kwes and Micachu have been doing together called Kwesachu Vol. 2 which comes out at the end of the year, I recorded a song for that last week and will be doing another in the next few weeks. I’ve also been asked to be on a mixtape that Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio is putting together. I’m also working on a new EP that will come out next year.
7 / 8
I N T E R V I E W S
How are you feeling about supporting DOOM on his upcoming tour?
C I R C U L A T I O N
I think it did, just because in my friendship groups I was always known as the boy from Suffolk, always an outsider. I didn’t feel like I fitted in London, I still don’t now. But when I go back to Ipswich, I feel like It’s an incredible experience, you get to see how he that’s my home. There’s all that talk of alienation and interacts with his own particular fanbase and people loneliness on my album, I still feel alone at home. All have been waiting a long time to see him perform, he’s my friends have gone down a certain road and I went got a big cult following. He’s always done what he down a different road. I’ve always had my own ideas wanted to do, that’s what I emulate, you know? It’s very of what I want to do, I’ve never really followed anyone inspirational. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this else. I guess that’s kind of represented in a sense on big tour with Hudson Mohawke and Jamie XX and people my album. I’m not talking about inner city life; I’m talking who I really respect. about other experiences. It’ll be interesting to see how I write my second record, after spending so much more HowrewardingwasitmakingtheÒShapeshiftÓvideoon time in the city and going all over the world. moneyyouraisedyourself? TheconceptbehindTrumpalumpÐwhetherwedreamin Yeah it was very rewarding, just because it felt like I colourorblackandwhiteÐhowdidthisideacometo was in control of everything, I didn’t have any label you? telling me how to do it. It felt like a uni project, it was me and my mates coming together and literally just I dream some fucked up things a lot. A way of having fun with it really. It turned out better than we documenting these dreams is waking up in the morning anticipated really, because it was made on such a and scribbling in my notepad things that I’ve seen or shoestring budget but it goes to show that if you get things that stand out and I’m remembering things later people together with the right skills then you can do on in the day, working out that nothing really makes literally anything. I don’t really like being in front of sense. One day I was just sitting there, thinking about the camera though, it’s quite daunting, and everyone dreams, and thinking do we actually dream in colour? is looking at you the whole day. I don’t really like being I love that perpetual loop, you don’t ever know in what bossed about too much. Not to sound like I have an colour you dream. The fact that if we colourise our ego but with people saying ‘look that way, look this way’, dreams when we remember them is such a nuts idea. I it’s hard. Maybe on my next album I might approach expanded on that idea in the video. When we making it it differently; maybe I won’t be in my videos at all, we felt like we were doing something fresh. switching it up with animation or something. Alotofhip-hopalbumsareweigheddownbyfeaturing Doesyourworkasagraphicdesignerinformyour artistsÐisthissomethingyouactivelymovedawayfrom videos?Howmuchcreativecontroldoyouhave?Doyou forthealbum? comeupwiththeideasandconcepts? Yeah definitely, just because I felt like on the first album One of the reasons why I signed to Big Dada was you need to stamp your own voice. I wanted to prove because they allowed me complete creative control. With to myself and others that I could do it on my own. But all of their visual output it’s all been finalised by myself, when Roots Manuva came along I couldn’t turn down then sent it to the label to see what they think. They’ve that opportunity. always trusted me with my ideas and had faith in what I wanted to produce. Because I’ve always worked really closely with friends it’s been really easy. I’m definitely interested in directing videos for other bands or for myself by my third album because I’m only making three albums. Whyonlythreealbums?Andwhyretirebytheageof30? Just because I don’t want to be an old rapper, really. There’s so many other things I want to do. I want to be a lecturer, I want to go to Royal College of Art and do a masters, but being a rapper wouldn’t allow me to do that. ButifbyalbumthreeyouÕreatthetopofyourgame commerciallyandcriticallywouldyoumaybereconsider? Maybe, maybe think again. My initial plan is to do three albums, and move onto something else. I don’t want to fall out of love with music, I might be a producer or something. I want to make sure that I’ not saying the same thing over and over again. You get a lot of artist who churn out the same shit over and over again. I really really don’t want to go down that road. I want to be a bit more consistent and my music to be more considered and thoughtful, I don’t want it to get to repetitive and boring.
How did you manage to get in contact with Joe Goddard and Roots Manuva?
He used to do this night at Queen of Hoxton last summer called Dub College. I played that and he loved the set. I remember during soundcheck he told me he really liked “Shapeshift” and asked if we could do something together with a Hot Chip beat. I told Joe and he was over the moon because he’s a massive Roots Manuva fan, so he made a beat and sent it to me the next day. I wasn’t too sure of the beat at first but Joe was like ‘trust me this is going to be a banger’ then I wrote the verse and then Roots Manuva went and wrote his verse and Joe added a hook. In the studio we added the brass and it went on from there. That was the first time I worked in a proper studio as opposed to a bedroom, I was like ‘Wow I’m living the dream’. It all came to me in that moment and I felt really proud of how far I’d come. LH.
I N T E R V I E W S
Theme Park / Childhood /The Sundowners /Handbook— rd Sunday 23 October @ Stereo, York — £5
Festival Round up The UK festival season allows Brits and their friends from around the world to enjoy several days’ music for about the price of three Rihanna tickets. But in an age where increasingly more festival-goers are looking overseas for their hedonistic delights, is the quality of music at our weekenders good enough to provide value for money? Attendees of boutique festivals Secret Garden Party and Bestival were treated to a reggae history lesson, courtesy of David Rodigan. Rather than merely pump out reggae classics, Rodigan put into context every song he played – from Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’ heralding the birth of ska, to Toots and the Maytals’ ‘Do the Reggay’ demonstrating the first use of the term in song. Rodigan also provided evidence of his esteemed reputation in reggae circles with exclusive dubplates of standards such as Tenor Saw’s ‘Ring the
Alarm (Rodigan Dub)’ Submotion Orchestra managed these festivals plus Glastonbury, Greenman, Shambala and Limetree, amongst others, on their path to festival domination. Last seen in York’s YUSU bar in June, the group’s live dubstep, replete with haunting vocals, set heads nodding across the country. Theirs is the kind of act one can be content to stand still and be encapsulated with – not the case with guitarist duo Rodrigo and Gabriela, who brought their Latin-inspired acoustic shredding to Womad and The Big Chill and wowed audiences with commendable technical skill on both lead and rhythm guitar. To the surprise of many, they produced a rich and powerful sound from their two humble-looking instruments. Kanye West proved a less popular headliner at The Big Chill, with many subsequently expressing disappointment at his lavish stage
show in which, surrounded by dancers and a backdrop of Greco-Roman statues, he spoke of being treated ‘like Hitler’ in an unsuccessful bid to win the crowd after his songs – which he began from the sound tower - left most unimpressed. West should perhaps have let his songs do the talking. His impressive entourage was eclipsed by that of Janelle Monae, whose twenty musicians and dancers enabled her to make an entrance as subtle as West’s was grand; sharply suited, she revealed herself as one of three caped cavorters. The set echoed the one we saw at Bestival 2010, with the addition of inspired takes on Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’ and Nat King Cole’s ‘Smile’ – a request easily managed by the sunworshipping afternoon crowds. But what about those who sought their festival fix abroad? York students were to be found at Outlook in Croatia, where Rodigan and Submotion were joined by other bassline luminaries. Outlook, like many far-flung festivals, is far from foreign; organised from the UK, acts are largely there in association with their UK record labels – Maffi, Black Box, Deep Medi etc. There is a strong argument, no doubt, that watching your favourite DJ from atop a boat, or whilst wallowing in the shallows of a beach on the kind of scorching day that comes as a rare surprise in Britain, is preferable to investing in the British national culture. But how many UK festivals will be able to afford to become such UK summer institutions as Glastonbury or Womad? Will this responsibility be left to Outlook and its peers? Only time will tell. BG + JB. 1 0
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A P PA R AT The Devil’s Walk Apparat a.k.a Sascha Ring, practitioner of Berlin techno since the early noughties, has grown up. On 2007’s Walls, he honed a niche for lush, atmospheric electronic shoegaze that
The Rip Tide
The Rip Tide, the latest instalment from New Mexico band Beirut will by no means shock the listener. For returning fans, the foremost characteristics of lead singer Zach Condon’s
B O M B AY BICYCLE CLUB A Different Kind of Fix For many bands the clamour surrounding the release of a new record can turn into their own death knell, the high water mark before an inexorable decline. This is not the case for
DJ SHADOW The Less You Know The Better
After expanding the hip-hop genre with elegant sample-based instrumentals on 1996’s Endtroducing, DJ Shadow successfully applied a similar formula on 2002 follow-up The Private
took its cue from the dream pop of Slowdive and expansiveness of M83. Since then, Ring has spent most of his time working with Modeselektor as Moderat, putting out an acclaimed LP in 2009 and touring the world with a visually-enhanced live show. The conception of The Devil’s Walk began during a lengthy trip last year to Mexico, before becoming realized later in European recording studios. The cross-continental journey and combination of cultures helped to define a blend of cold electronics with warm strings and keys; and drifting vocals that recall late, quiet nights in a simple tropical atmosphere. It entices you in rather than grabs you by the throat with the measured, crystalline amble of tracks like ‘Candil de la Calle’ and ‘A Bang in the Void’. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘Black Water’ feels a little
mechanically manufactured for epic status and the vocals on ‘Escape’ sound awkward next to the delicately melancholic baroque-pop string arrangements. Despite this, Ring clearly has an ear for graceful vocal melodies that have been sown together with great care, perhaps an indication of the commercial direction in which he wishes to head. Broadly speaking, The Devil’s Walk is swathed with left-field textures not dissimilar to Sigur Rós in their heyday, but pales in comparison as a slightly inferior replicant of their abilities, and is perhaps guilty of substituting maturity for soft introspection intended for the mind rather than the body. So not a step up from Walls as such, more a step-over to a more accessible field, albeit with mixed results. LH.
sonorous vocals and frolics into European instrumentals are ever present and abundant within the album. Yet this third complete studio album suggests a development of maturity and conscientiousness in their song-writing, separating the group from the naivety of sporadic and wistful tunes in the 2006 Gulag Orkestar. Condon’s distinct reflective tone remains present. The last offering, the collaborative March of the Zapotec & Realpeople Holland EP, explored the richness of a slower and more ominous tone. Here, the heaviness of a Mexican marching band has been replaced by a far brighter, and overall, cleaner sound that openly provides a ‘poppier’ element to the modest record. Disparate to the unambiguous melodies of previous tracks such as ‘Sunday Smile’ and ‘Postcards From Italy,’ the album is much more
contemplative and relishes in the loneliness of Condon’s vocals. “I may drift a while”, from ‘A Port of Call,’ suggests a melancholy and sense that, even still, this singer/songwriter/instrumentalist has not settled into a comfortable musical setting. Whilst we get a glimpse of electro-pop in the homeward Santa Fe, the satisfaction of Beirut’s music is found within its morose song subject interjected by a youthful sanguinity. This romantic and optimistic sound, now a trademark of the band, is found within the likes of ‘East Harlem’ and ‘A Candles Fire.’ This is Beirut’s most intimate and introspective album to date. While it may not be as instantly and obviously enjoyable as their previous works, the gentle majesty of the music allows a private, albeit slight, perspective into Condon’s conservative ideals that are wholly his own. MP.
Bombay Bicycle Club, now three albums deep at an impressively young age, each new offering only brings the happy expectation of greater things. A Different Kind of Fix follows the acoustic Flaws but the sincerity and sharpness of the song-writing is still palpable despite the increased production. Lead single ‘Shuffle’, for instance, is an infectious, beautiful song centred around a piano loop and augmented by lead singer Jack Steadman’s affecting delivery. ‘Beggars’ errs on the side of Flaws folk sensibility without sounding tired, whilst ‘Leave It’ soars in a manner uncharacteristic of the group but befitting of an album of this scope. Much of the new material has been receiving a rapturous reception from festival crowds throughout the summer especially the hazy groove of ‘Lights Out Words Gone’ which emits
relaxing vibes. However, the pedestrian tempo of final track ‘Still’ is a somewhat abrupt end to an album that moves along so cohesively. This is the album that will solidify BBC’s reputation as one of the most endearing bands working in Britain today. They are a band who are beloved by the mainstream but don’t cater to it as they continue to write essential, exciting, evolving music with integrity and ease. JF.
Press. Then came The Outsider, an atrocious mess of hyphy and moody Radiohead imitations that resulted in much of his audience tuning out. The Less You Know, The Better is, at least, an improvement. It begins with the statement ‘I’m back. I forgot my drums’, and shows Davis has not lost his impeccable ability to sample beats, creating impact and atmosphere. But this is not enough to give the album consistency; within the first six tracks one can hear hip-hop, metal, introspective soulful folk, piano-led jazz crooning and indie stomp, before the album becomes less interesting, epitomised by tracks entitled ‘Tedium’ and ‘Going Nowhere’. Put simply, Shadow seems to have run out of ideas for songs fairly quickly, including instead linear instrumentals that form an eclectic collection, one lacking in both ambition and rationale.
Despite this, ‘…The Better’ has enough sublime moments to make it a worthwhile listen. Endtroducing throwback ‘Enemy Lines’ has wah guitar and 80s keyboard string stabs over a crisp yet mellow groove. Ironically, the finest sampling comes on a track without any drums: the plaintive ballad ‘Sad and Lonely’. The Deluxe Edition also contains ‘Def Surrounds Us’, which surpasses all else on the album. A grimy dubstep groove mutates into an industrial, pounding drum ‘n’ bass voyage to Hell and back. Here Shadow for once seems confident in his approach to new genre territory. ‘The Less You Know, The Better’ is worth a listen and, if you’re willing to put up with Davis’s constant attempts to make the next song sound nothing like the last, may become quite enjoyable. But there’s no way you’ll like every track. BG.
on all that.” The mix opens with a recording from Fabric itself. Hebden’s set is scattered with these audio samples, replicating the experience of moving from one room to another. These moments worked nicely to tie the mix together yet have me searching for the skip button when relistening to the record. Fabriclive59 manages to encompass a variety of music styles yet remains cohesive. Four Tet never set out for this to be a big club mix – so the tracks can sometimes become stale and dull. He treated this as a project in which to discover old classics and search out lost gems – “The music is important, but the experience of finding so many forgotten records and producers became an intrinsic part of the story” – as a producer this may be a relevant task, but the results are less impressive from a listener’s perspective. At times
the mix loses its way, after the impressive original track ‘Pyramid’ we fall into ‘How I Program’ by Red Rack ‘Em, frequent moments like this detract from a solid set of songs. Treating the mix as a study of Four Tet, we can see his own musical elements in the music he selects, full of skittering high hats and subterranean bass lines, with authentically created vinyl crackle. The Four Tet originals ‘Pyramid’ and ‘Locked’ are the undisputed highlights of the mix. Both showcase Hebden’s skill with combining live sounding instruments with computer generated beats. Yet it is disappointing that few other moments hit these heights. JR.
Mac as his. You listen to their second album and hear something of each. He talks of his ‘baby’ like Tom Petty and adds in lazy drum fills like Dylan did on ‘Joey’. As Owens explains, the idea behind Father, Son, Holy Ghost is ‘the presentation of something’s origin, something’s identity, and something’s spiritual quality’. This album taps into the trinity incredibly well. The lyrics are so candidly sentimental that they turn listening into an act of emotional surrender. Something of Owens’ origin is given much airing; his famous Children of God upbringing and difficult relationship with his mother are covered in songs ‘My Ma’ and ‘Forgiveness’. Girls have a habit of going through people’s Girls croon over love, women and life as if records to expose the bands they once religiously sentiments were the only topic of worth, but these followed. Frontman Christopher Owens lists The growing pains are softly uttered rather than Everly Brothers, Randy Newman and Fleetwood blurted out like they were on the debut, Album.
The blaring guitars on ‘Die’, redolent for Owens of Fleetwood’s ‘Oh Well’ and Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for me, shout the anger to spare the vocals from doing so, which remain cool as they do throughout Father. Compared to their debut, the production is better, the composition of the songs is more intricate and although the lyrics remain as guileless narratives about love, thoughts have moved on from breakups to makeups. The opener, ‘Honey Bunny’ sees Owens return the affection of the Mother ‘who loved me’ with the repeated refrain, ‘you’ll be the girl that I love’. Owens takes opiates to focus on his song writing. The blinkers that he puts on are useful to Girls; it helps create music so forthright that it resembles artists and memories that make us look back. HT-W.
impressive, which is why their sixth studio album is met with enormous expectations. This is also due, in part, to it being over three years since their last album: Saturdays=Youth. Anthony Gonzalez, the man behind M83, describes the new album as ‘darker and very, very, very epic’, which hints as to where he has taken it. The album features some extraordinary songs, yet no song falls underneath a certain level. ‘Intro,’ featuring Zola Jesus, whets your appetite for what will be thrown at you the next song. ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ is a warm, upbeat song revolving around a child telling a story about a frog. One track that stands out is ‘My Tears Are Becoming a Sea’. This is a widescreen Sigur Rós-esque song, with a full orchestra and longing lyrics. While making such a lengthy album is not an easy task, because the songs can easily become monotone,
yet Gonzalez proves that this is no issue. The album stands out for its craft. One can clearly hear that no sound or beat has been left to chance. Each track performs a different function and the music has neatly been constructed around that exact purpose. It is quite surprising that all the songs are so different, and that they don’t blur into one another. Overall it is a darker album in some ways, but missing are the sore, emotional songs, like ‘Graveyard Girl’ and ‘Too Late’, that made Saturday=Youth special. You can still hear the hurt in songs like ‘Splendor’, but it’s not as brutal as in the last album. MKM.
FOUR TET Fabriclive 59 In the official press release for Fabriclive59, Keiran Hebden, a.k.a. Four Tet, is quoted as saying “This mix is not about my Djing. It’s about London and Fabric and nights out and my take
GIRLS Father, Son, Holy Ghost
M83 Hurry up, We’re Dreaming M83’s new album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is much anticipated. Their climb from just remixing songs by big bands like Bloc Party and Placebo to releasing their own records has been
Sons has led to recognition as a talented singer/ songwriter with a loyal fan base. A Creature I Don’t Know is Marling’s third album, and she has firmly imprinted her own stamp on this record. Compared to her previous efforts, A Creature I Don’t Know was shaped and written before “anyone else gets their grubby mitts on it”. This attitude is evident as the album seizes a new direction, perhaps not as catchy as her debut 2008 “Alas I Cannot Swim”, yet darker and more enthralling than her 2010 release “I Speak Because I Can”. The album reveals a grittier Marling. The substance of her song writing is uncompromised as she deals with issues of love and loneliness, Laura Marling has been a notable name on the heaven and hell. The album not only satisfies London folk scene since her 2007 release My old fans, keeping to the same writing style, but Manic and I. Her involvement with bands such as its versatility attracts new listeners. Marling’s Noah and the Whale, Mystery Jets, and Mumford & profound intensity is translated through songs
LAURA MARLING A Creature I Don’t Know
such as “The Beast” which is fuelled by heavy rifts and a deeper vocal sound. However, this is contrasted by more gentle, melodious tracks such as, “Rest in the Bed” where her soprano range shines, as Marling fluctuates between vocal extremes. “Don’t Ask Me Why” is personal and speaks directly to the listener; the lyric “those of us who are lost and lonely, I know how you feel I know it’s not right but it’s real”, conveys an air of vulnerability within the album. There is an overriding poignancy to “A Creature I Don’t Know” as it encapsulates Marling’s immense progression, as well as justifying her status as a 2011 Brit Award winner. NC.
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NOEL GALLAGHER’S H I G H F LY I N G B I R D S Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Coming from a band hailed by the NME as having produced songs “woven into the tapestry of British culture,” both Gallagher brothers have faced a considerable challenge in making their
S U L LY Carrier This long anticipated first LP from the elusive Sully reveals a lo-fi body of work capable of breaking out the UK underground onto more commercial dancefloors. This dark album is
TINAWIREN Tassili In Britain’s musical landscape, there are many bands who claim to have come from a difficult background. For laddish Brit-rockers, musicians can only be genuine if they have put hours in
WAV V E S Life Sux Wavves’ new EP, the cheerfully titled Life Sux, is impressive in its ability to remain versatile in a surf-ish sub genre that can so easily get repetitive. Frontman Nathan Williams’ honest and
own marks outside of Oasis. Whilst Liam barely left time for the dust to settle before embarking on Beady Eye, Noel has taken a step back from the brothers’ well documented fallout to produce his own solo offering. Noel has described the idea of taking on the role of frontman as a ‘major pain in the bollocks’, Whilst comparisons with his brother’s band will inevitably be drawn, it appears Gallagher Sr has successfully drawn a line under the Oasis rift with the release of his debut solo album. Accompanied by the likes of the former Zutons bassist Russell Pritchard and The Sand Band’s David McDonnell, Noel is in good company, proved by The Kinks inspired melody of first single ‘The Death of You and Me’. Although the typically Gallagher nonsensical rhyming couplets and the steady guitar strum are eerily reminiscent of ‘The Importance of Being Idle’, the presence of
a string and brass section gives an added twist to Noel’s dated Britpop sound. There are further obvious differences between the new album and his previous work; there are only two guitar solos across the whole album. Other catchy offerings include former B Side ‘The Good Rebel’ and ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ – the latter possessing a soaring chorus familiar with the Noel of old which dates back to Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul sessions. Whilst his debut offering may not contain too many surprises, Noel is nevertheless in fine form, delivering a series of tracks which make up a quality solo contribution even if it fails to fully recapture the magic he delivered in the early 90s. SG.
a cross-genre feast, adding to the basic foundations of grime and dubstep with touches of house and UK funky. ‘Pattern’ twitches from 2step breaks to synth flourishes, whilst ‘Let You’ expertly mixes sassy vocals with driving industrial rhythms. The influence of jungle first appears on ‘Encona’, and subtly prevails throughout the rest of the album. Although these numbers are amongst the most experimental on the album, they lack the emotion of the rest of the LP, proving that sometimes brilliant production techniques aren’t enough. Sully makes this right with standout track ‘2 Hearts’ - the Norwich based producer smoothly blending all the aspects of the Hyperdub scene together into a 2step anthem with the feel of a garage classic. Other special moments crop up in ‘Bonafide’ where the piano hook expertly
encapsulates the sadness of the LP in just a couple of bars. Despite these moments of brilliance Sully prefers to hug conformity for the rest of the album, sticking to what he knows instead of probing his artistic limits. Tracks such as ‘Exit’ are indicative of this approach, it’s tragic lo-fi soundscape very much akin to Burial’s ‘Homeless’. The same goes for ‘Bonafide’, ‘Trust’ and ‘It’s Your Love’ which are enjoyable yet generic. On the whole, Carrier is a successful debut from a still relatively unknown artist who promises surpass his dubstep peers. His production abilities are on par with those at the top of their game and in time he could develop into a highly successful artist. Look out for this respected debutante in the coming year. TD.
a terrible job, preferably in some blighted part of Britain’s post-industrial urban sprawl. Despite the undoubted drudgery of living and working in deprived towns, their experiences pale in comparison with that of Mali’s Tinariwen. Unlike that country’s other musical exports Amadou & Mariam, Tinariwen are drawn from Mali’s oppressed Tuareg nomads, and their music has long been in part an expression of anger at the injustice faced by their people. Over their career, this has been a blending of western guitars with the loping rhythms and keening vocals of the Sahara, a tried and tested formula that remains intact over the course of Tassili. The opener, “Imidiwan Ma Tennam”, is classic Tinariwen – a groove of syncopated percussion and acoustic stabs coupled with intricate lead guitar and keening vocals. Although this blueprint remains , Tinariwen have made attempts to introduce more
disparate influences into their music, recruiting TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adepimbe for a handful of tracks. These are not entirely successful. Much of what appeals about a Tinariwen album is the almost otherworldly quality of the music; the combination of extraordinary back-story, unconventional song structures and an unfamiliar language creates a tremendous atmosphere, and Adepimbe’s soul croon and English lyrics damage this immersion. As a result, the album lacks some of the intensity of their previous records, but enough of what has made Tinariwen so popular remains. The skeletal “Tameyawt”is particularly moving and transports the listener to a Tuareg camp in the desert. Those expecting great variety or a leap forward from previous effort, Imidiwan, will be disappointed, but fans of Tinariwen’s desert blues will be more than satisfied. WV.
echoing American vocals are supported by rich and developmental riffs that are markedly more prominent than on previous albums, making this six-track offering a blessing to fans as well as anyone looking for some classic surf-rock to sway around wildly to. The opening track, ‘Bug’, builds up to a great instrumental stretch and sets the tone for this catchy record. While ‘Poor Lenore’ slows things down a bit by offering a slightly mellow (but welcome) chill-out track, the upbeat pace and angry indie boy feel is cemented by ‘I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl’ (which features some nice vocal harmonies as well as another classic instrumental outro) and the clever ‘In The Sand’. Another tone-changer for the EP is the two collaborative tracks, ‘Nodding Off’ (feat. Best Coast) and ‘Destroy’ (feat. Fucked Up). While ‘Nodding Off’ has electronic vibes, it maintains
the surf-rock chords and jamming that along with distinct, cooperative vocals, characterises Wavves. ‘Destroy’, on the other hand, gives the EP its powerful, thrash track. Damian Abraham’s loud, shouty contribution almost overdoes the song, but also gives it a different personality to the other tracks that contributes to the versatility of Life Sux. All in all, Wavves’ new work is much of the same, but you can’t deny that they’ve got a winning formula, and that their guitar playing has become more intricate. Life Sux is a ‘stuck in your head on replay’ job, which succeeds in making you swish your hair whether you particularly like the songs or not, but either way, it’s a great set of music for secretly swishing your hair to, or to enjoy more seriously as a genuinely pleasant slice of surf-guitar indulgence. AO.
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Spin— Off R&B and Influence: The Producer as Ephebe. There has been plenty of coverage in the press in recent months about the history of hip-hop and R&B. Channel 4 and The Guardian have commemorated 35 years of hip-hop as Def Jam release their chronicle ‘Def Jam Recordings: The First 25 Years of the Last Great Record Label’. This marks a resurgence of the influence of an R&B sound within contemporary alternative music. Acts from James Blake and Brenmar to Nguzunguzu and Frank Ocean are marked by a reconstitution of R&B tropes. By looping a vocal over house synths or draping a track in a codeine haze, for example, these acts are using this influence in a way that few have done before. But what is the effect of this? Does this recycling of a previous movement lead to a creative dead-end, or is the conflation of R&B with bass music, dance and indie creating something entirely new? It is helpful to first look at the history of R&B to understand what this new wave of artists is doing. While the culture of R&B is littered with narratives; the development of vocal performance, its role in the civil rights struggle, the commercial aspect, it is the history of production which suits the purposes here. R&B contains a string of incredible producers handing on influences over time. The roots of R&B lie in the late ‘40s marketing of blues records by record company RCA Victor, and developed to cover most black music - particularly the electric blues and soul records of Otis Redding, Little Richard and Bo Diddley. Moving into the ‘60s, the term encompassed Motown artists such as Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and The Supremes. Producers such as Norman Whitfield took the soul vocals and simple hooks of earlier records and added strong back beats, orchestras and vocal harmonies to thicken the sound. Later Marvin Gaye moved on the sound with his self-produced ‘What’s Going On?’, with jazz influences contributing to a looser feel. Following the disco era, Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones added more electronic elements to create a smoother dancefloorfriendly sound. That was the precursor to the modern R&B sound. This was created when Teddy Riley began adding hip-hop beats underneath a more typical soul sound and gospel harmonies. A track he produced for Johnny Kemp, ‘Just Got Paid,’ developed this. Following on, Riley formed the group Guy with a sound that
fused previous R&B elements with hip-hop and gospel vocals. The opening track ‘Groove Me’, of their eponymous debut album showcases the new style, now known as new jack swing. The track features a well-used sample from The Mohawks ‘The Champ’, a song that also contains samples from The Temptations and Otis Redding. It was new jack swing that eventually mutated into contemporary R&B. By the 1990s groups such as Jodeci, Blackstreet and Tony! Toni! Toné! had gradually incorporated the developments of Dr Dre’s G-Funk as well as the Notorious B.I.G.’s cinematic sound. Sean Combs then fused these elements together to form tracks with artists such as TLC - songs that are the blueprint for the classic late ‘90s sound. This was a direction followed by Rodney Jenkins, a. k. a. Darkchild, with his smooth productions with Destiny’s Child. In different tangents, Tony! Toni! Toné!’s Raphael Saadiq created dryer, clipped music, particularly with D’Angelo. It was this that became known as neo-soul, illustrated by Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. At the other end of the scale, Timbaland (pictured) was making jittery beats, while emptying out tracks with a more electronic feel and obscure samples. His work with Ginuwine, Missy Elliot and Aaliyah is particularly strong. The Neptunes, masterminded by Pharrell Williams, continued his work, creating extremely minimal grooves. It is this late ‘90s sound that has been particularly mined by today’s artists. Burial, James Blake and Mount Kimbie have been busy chopping apart and reforming vocals, while wonky artists such as Hudson Mohawke and Débruit are indebted to the offkilter feel of Timbaland. With so many influences being drawn in by today’s producers, it is worth considering how influence actually works. Harold Bloom wrote on this subject in his book ‘The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry’. This is problematic though. Bloom was writing about poetry, in particular the distinction between mediocre and ‘true’ poets. However, his conclusions are not without relevance in other arts, and so the principle still holds. A larger concern is his ignorance of any other element having an impact on an artist. Bloom focuses only on the poet’s relation to previous poets, he does not mention any biographical or historical aspects in the creation of art. Nevertheless, as long as caution is observed, his theories are of use. Bloom highlights the importance of the interaction with the canon of literature for any poet. He traces a lineage of influence from Keats to Tennyson, Arnold, Hopkins and Rossetti and on to Ezra Pound. Bloom declares that an ephebe, or adolescent poet, must clear imaginative space in the canon of prior poets. This means he must interact with what has come before by misreading and mutating previous poets. Through this misreading, the strong poet forces his predecessor to be read through the filter of the new poet. The interaction between poets is explained with his six ratios of misprision, or misunderstanding. Only two of these need outlining. First is ‘clinamen’. This is a swerve away from the previous poet, a misreading by the ephebe that sees the original poetry as only partially correct. Generally ‘this appears as a corrective movement in [the ephebe’s] own poem, which implies that the precursor poem went accurately up to a certain point, but then should have swerved in precisely the direction that the new poem moves.’
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Next is ‘tessera’, a completion and antithesis, taking a segment of the previous poet’s work and creating something new out of it. The new poem should ‘complete’ the previous ‘by so reading the parent-poem as to retain its terms but to mean them in another sense, as though the precursor had failed to go far enough.’ We can see how this works contemporaneously in James Blake’s ‘CMYK.’ The overarching influence in this track is Timbaland. He takes the jittery nature of Timbaland’s production, as well as the textured percussion, but he ‘misreads’ this for his own ends by taking the bpm up to 140. This is clinamen, a swerve away from what Timbaland was doing. Then, Blake takes a tiny snippet of an Aaliyah vocal, from the Timbaland produced ‘R U That Somebody?’ and works his track around it - tessera. He has ‘completed’ Timbaland, taking the frame of an Aaliyah vocal whilst using it to his own ends. Bloom has something to add to help understand why current producers are working with R&B influences. He states that we all emerge into a cultural environment that is pre-created. The canon of art that has come before is entrenched and thus we are only able to create art in relation to what has been before. We are forced to re-work it otherwise stasis occurs. The current wave of producers began listening to music around the late ‘90s when classic R&B was at its peak. Those who heard it are bound to be influenced and to respond to what was heard at such a young age. This is one of the reasons why R&B is undergoing its renaissance of sorts. There is a problem with this. Given the saturation of music available to be accessed now, and the excellence of samplers such as Akai’s MPC, sampling has become extremely easy (this is one of the reasons why samples have become shorter. Rather than a bar, a sample is now typically half a second or less). When tracks are too reliant on an unknown sample plucked from the ether it becomes too simple to be successful and to overshadow the original track. In the hands of an unsubtle producer such a use of samples descends into cliché and is antithetical to creativity. This is clear in the number of dreadful tracks around at the moment in which an R&B vocal is cut-up and thrown over the top of a mediocre dubstep beat. The answer to this problem lies in a move away from sampling toward an original vocal. By doing this they are less indebted to their precursors and are able to mutate R&B influences in more ways than just a change of context. Listen to Creep’s track with Nina Sky, ‘You.’ By conspiring with Nina Sky, who had a hit in 2004 with ‘Move Ya Body,’ Creep have changed the direction of Nina Sky’s career. Rather than summery, dancehall inflected tracks, ‘You’ is dark, woozy trip-hop. This is becoming a recognisable trend of underground dance producers collaborating with singers. Blake has come from behind the producer’s desk to unveil his own voice, and is now working with Bon Iver. Burial is teaming up with Thom Yorke; even Ne-Yo is collaborating with jj. As this generation of producers matures, R&B continues to be a magnet and malleable template for new influences. DW.
Format Matters Discussion pieces on the different formats from which music fans must choose almost always come to the same conclusion: if it ain’t on vinyl, it ain’t worth listening to. There has been a slew of writing in recent years on the subject, all usually inspired by the writer baulking at a new technological advance in music reproduction. The tone of these pieces is a familiar one - things were much better back in the good old days. Vinyl, with all its imperfections, (arguably the cause of the proliferation of other formats) is held up as the ideal way to listen to music while all others are lambasted as falling short of this perfection. The success and popularity of a new format is thought of as a prime example of mass delusion or a lack of a ‘true love’ of music. Some go even further, linking new listening habits to wider changes in the make-up and nature of society, heavily hinting to a truly spurious argument that listening to music on vinyl promotes family values, personal discipline, hard work or whatever else the writer believes has disappeared. For me, this is all totally missing the point. Vinyl is the best way to listen to music. That is not the part that I disagree with. Indeed, it is well-known that vinyl records reproduce a wider frequency range than other formats, albeit with the positioning of these additional frequencies outside of audible human hearing range. This higher reproduction range is the regular reason given for the ‘warmth’ that is attributed to music on vinyl, a suspiciously wooly quality. I’m not denying this attribution either but I would put it down to something other than inaudible sound. Indeed, I think the reason is before your eyes, not your ears. Listening to music on vinyl is a much more visually satisfying experience than any other kind of reproduction. Before the invention of the phonograph in the late 19th century, the hearing of music was also almost always a visual experience - you would have to be with the musicians to hear the sound, implying that they could be seen. Music divorced from its visual accompaniment is in some sense like hearing a scream in the night - the fact that you do not know where it is coming from is more unsettling than the sound itself. A vinyl record, spinning while playing, the needle in the record’s groove, gives the listener much, much more to look at than the locked-room mysteries that are tape and CD players, not to mention the iPod. It is sight, not sound, that matters when it comes to formats. JL.
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