Saturday, 26 February 2011

Recommended music: 'Volume 1' by Star Slinger

Star Slinger, or Nottinghamshire-born Darren Williams as he's more commonly known, describes his music as 'instrumental hip-hop'. It allows him to indulge his love of old records and give him the opportunity to spend hours scouring record shops in search of lost gems. The tracks are built up from tiny snippets of songs and then lovingly crafted. And they're not the usual batch of samples either - Volume 1 contains bits of songs by Prefab Sprout (on Extra Time), Big Country (on the amusingly-titled Bumpkin) and even Musical Youth (possibly a sample too far). Think DJ Shadow crossed with The Avalanches and you'll have an idea of what you can expect to hear.

Volume 2 is due to follow soon, and Star Slinger is also building up a reputation as the 'go to' guy for indie remixes, having done work for Small Black, Broken Social Scene and The Go! Team. His mix of Gold Panda's 'Marriage' is out in a week or so.

You can listen to the album, and follow the link to buy it, below.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Recommended music: 'Psychical' and 'To Feel The Night As It Really Is' by Ensemble Economique

Released towards the end of last year on Not Not Fun records, 'Psychical' is the second album by Ensemble Economique, the solo project from Brian Pyle (Starving Weirdos). The album cover gives a slight hint to the music - it's definitely cinematic in scope. Opener 'Hail' could be the soundtrack to a lost John Carpenter film for example.

There's something undeniably ritualistic about the music, that makes you think of Wicker Man and some of those great Hammer films of the early 70's. It's haunting stuff, often built around tribalistic drum patterns, with snatches of sampled vocals (some taken from Jamaican tour guide videos) over atmospheric instrumentation. Psychedelic guitars swirl in and out of the mix, while synths build up the air of menace. The overall feeling is one of being sucked into the music, dragged under, hypnotised by the beats, seduced by the promise of something new, exotic and potentially dangerous, like trying a new drug for the first time.

1. Hail
2. Red For The Sun
3. Forever Eyes - free download here
4. Monsoon Clouds
5. Shacks Built From Plyboard
6. Psychical
7. Real Things - free download here
8. Bonfires

The new digital single 'To Feel The Night As It Really Is' is a gentler and more accessible listen but still stemming from the same sources. It's available to download from iTunes now.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Recommended music: 'We're New Here' by Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx

Take one elder statesman of music, who practically invented rap, and who has battled more demons, often unsuccessfully, than you or I would care to contemplate. Add one super-hot musician & remixer, fresh from Mercury prize success, young enough to be the vocalist's grandson (or probably great-grandson). Mix well and what do you get? A brilliant re-working of Gil's 2010 album 'I'm New Here' which sounds even better than the original. Full credit to Richard Russell for making both the original album and this remix set happen.

Scott-Heron apparently had a lot of input into this album, communicating regularly with Jamie & meeting him a few times. I think it's as a result of this that the album is so successful - the styles are more varied than you might be expecting, and the snatches of words and longer pieces of vocal sit really well with the music and beats. There are snippets of older Scott-Heron tracks dropped in, and Jamie mixes newly-written music with sampled sounds to create something that sounds both cutting-edge, and an organic development from the original work.

Choosing one person to remix the album is probably one of the keys to success here - some remix sets end up sounding disjointed and all over the place, whereas this has an overall sense of completeness - the tracks feel right together and it feels like a collaborative effort rather than something put together in isolation.

If you have some extra cash to spare you should invest in the boxset (available here ) which has the remix album, plus an extra disc of instrumentals, on both cd and pink and green heavyweight vinyl - see pic below.
Highly recommended.

Friday, 18 February 2011

In pictures: Ringo Deathstarr live at The Lexington, London 17/2/11

Elliott & Daniel kick the show off

Ringo Deathstarr

Alex becomes the 'Tambourine Girl'

Elliott (before the bleeding head and beer throwing!)

For more pictures see the photo stream on the right.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

10 more acts to see at SXSW

Thanks for the great response to my blog about the 10 UK acts to see at SXSW. I realise it was a bit parochial of me to just pick acts from the UK, and there are obviously loads of acts from other parts of the world that are just as good, so here's the 10 non-UK acts that I'll definitely be checking out.

Gayngs - creators of another of my favourite albums of 2010, the magnificent 'Relayted' (review here A concept album based on main man Ryan Olson's love of 10cc's 'I'm Not In Love', with all the tracks at 69BPM, and a fantastic cover of Godley & Creme's 'Cry' thrown in for good measure - how could you not love this?

Shit Horse -  with their debut EP, the brilliantly titled 'They Shit Horses, Don't They?' (review here selling out of it's first run of cassettes, this is a not to be missed moment. Their live shows are apparently full of chaos and brilliance in equal measure.

Buck 65 - Canadian hip-hopper Buck 65 has been making quality music for 20-odd years, and has just released a new album which is full his trademark rhymes. Can't work out where he got the album title from though - it's called '20 Odd Years'...

John Grant with Midlake - Grant released one of the albums of 2010, recorded with Midlake's encouragement, at their studio, with them as his backing band. This is a rare chance to see them play the album together in the beautiful surroundings of the Central Presbyterian Church.

Twin Shadow - Twin Shadow's debut album 'Forget' manages to combine the best of the 80s sound with the best of today's lo-fi aesthetics and produce something that works equally well in the dark alone or in a crowded room. You can download a free track here

The Antlers - their album 'Hospice' was for personal reasons a difficult listen for me when it was released. Time moves on and I've grown to appreciate the quality of the songs and I'm looking forward to seeing them played live. You can download a free EP by The Antlers here

The Megaphonic Thrift - Hailing from Bergen, Norway, this raucous 4-piece match frazzled guitars and experimental sounds with more melodic moments to create a juggernaut of music. With their debut album out on February 21st this is definitely a band to watch.

FM Belfast - Not, as you might expect, from Belfast, this Icelandic act steer clear of the Sigur Ros / Olafur Arnalds sound for something more electronic and experimental. Apparently live they can vary from 3 to 8 people on stage, depending who can make it!

Har Mar Superstar - everyone knows that Har Mar knows how to throw a party, so you shouldn't miss this chance to see him strip down to his underwear and show us how it's done.

Cold War Kids - I've liked these since their first album but never had the chance to see them live. Will be great to see if they can put some of the rough edges back onto the songs from their over-produced current album (review here

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Recommended music: 'oOoOO EP' by oOoOO

This EP was released in October last year on Tri Angle Records, although I've only just discovered it through it being on the same label as Balam Acab (the subject of one of my previous blogs). Another act to be tagged with the 'witch house' label, Christopher Dexter Greenspan manages to defy any genre limitations with this EP. There are the usual crunching drums and dark synths, and there is a spooky, melancholic and stoned feel to the tracks. But more than that, there are clear hooks and melodies buried under the vocal snatches and analogue samples. 'Hearts' is probably the most commercial track, and is a rhythmn that you could imagine Kanye West appropriating and sticking a decent rap over. You can listen to the title track here:

oOoOO - mumbai by oOoOO

1. Mumbai
2. Burnout Eyess
3. Sedsumting
4. Hearts
5. Plains Is Hot
6. Burnout Eyess (Visions of Trees Remix)

Thursday, 10 February 2011

DJ Cull presents Atmos//Atoms vol. 1

So here it is, the first mixtape published through my blog - 15 slices of prime electronica. Give it a listen and then let me know what you think (but be gentle with me...)

DJ Cull presents Atmos//Atoms Vol. 1 by DJCull


1. These New Puritans - Hologram (Pianos)
2. James Murphy - Thumbs
3. Pantha du Prince - The Splendour
4. Joe Goddard - Apple Bobbing (Four Tet Remix)
5. Mount Kimbie - Carbonated
6. Caribou - Leave House (Motor City Drum Ensemble Remix)
7. Magnetic Man - Flying Into Tokyo
8. Everything Everything - Tin (The Manhole)
9. John Hughes - Bird of Ill Omen
10. Three Trapped Tigers - 9
11. Balam Acab - See Birds (Moon)
12. Max Cooper - Enveloped
13. Darkstar - Two Chords
14. Gold Panda - Rush Job
15. UNKLE - Natural Selection (Team Ghost Remix)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Recommended music: 'James Blake' by James Blake

OK, so I probably won't be the only person to recommend James Blake's album to you this week. But sometimes there's a reason why everyone says that something's good, and that's because it is.

Lead single 'Limit To Your Love' is all over the radio so you'll no doubt have heard it. A cover of a Feist track, it's an unusual choice but it does give a good entrance point into his world of piano and vocals meets glitchy electronics and breakbeats. 'Give Me My Month' in contrast is pure piano & vocals but is still not the simplest track here - that honour is given to 'Lindisfarne 1' which is purely just layers of vocals - with no accompaniment, the gaps between lines gradually make you more and more uncomfortable. The relief when 'Lindisfarne 2''s backing track kicks in is almost palpable.

As well as vocal loops and effects, used to particularly good effect in 'To Care (Like You)' and 'I Mind' there are also lyrical loops - at nearly 5 minutes long 'I Never Learnt To Share' only contains 14 different words (My brother & my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them) sung over and over again, initially just as a sole vocal, which is then added to with harmonies, beats and keyboards, building up to a crescendo before dropping away.

The use of the vocoder on some of the tracks is bewitching, all the more so because underneath it there is a genuinely brilliant voice. Musically, as well as the dubstep influences there are soul and jazz vibes, and at times the general sparseness and gaps in the music remind me of late period Talk Talk.

There is a fear that this might become this year's 'dinner party' dubstep album, in much the same way that The xx was last year - Blake himself has said that their success will make it easier for his album to be understood. But you would really be doing this an album a disservice if you relegated it to the status of background music - it deserves to be paid attention to. Listen to it on your own with a decent pair of headphones on, or on a late night drive with the volume cranked up, and you'll really learn to appreciate the artistry at work here. Although some of the songs are sparser than others, every single sound and note here serves a purpose, and has been layered up to provide a haunting experience. In particular Blake's dubstep DJ past can be seen in the crispness of the beats and the deepness of the sub-bass.

Some listeners have been disappointed that Blake appears to have strayed from his dubstep roots, but they are missing out on what he has achieved here, which is to create a proper 21st century soul record, one that redefines the genre in a fascinating and revolutionary way. If Marvin Gaye was a young man today this is the kind of music that he would, or should, be making.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Recommended Music: 'See Birds' by Balam Acab

Finally released on cd this week, this EP originally came out via download in August last year. 19 year old Alec Koone from Pennsylvania is the man/boy behind this release on the Tri Angle label, who have also released tracks by oOoOO and are often referred to as purveyors of 'Drag' or 'Witch House', nonsense labels for an uncategorizable scene.

Full of hypnotic beats and dark bass lines, there are also weird, organic samples (like Gold Panda) and ethereal vocals that seem to have been variously slowed down, speeded up and generally fucked about with. Everything hangs together with an innate sense of melody and each track ends too soon, leaving you wanting more - I guarantee you'll press play again the moment it finishes.

1. See Birds (Moon)
2. Regret Making Mistakes
3. Big Boy
4. Dream Out
5. See Birds (Sun)

Friday, 4 February 2011

Recommended Music: 'Blue Songs' by Hercules & Love Affair

The second album from Andy Butler and his tribe brings a level of sophistication and class that is, sadly, rarely found in dance music today. More mature than their debut, Blue Songs evolves into an exploration of the history of house music - witness 'My House', with its classic deep house bass line that will take you back to the mid-80s with ease. It's less in your face NY disco, although opener 'Painted Eyes' evokes the spirit of Sylvester, and more classic house sound of Chicago.

With no Antony Hegarty on board this time, vocals are shared between Kim Ann Foxman, Shaun Wright, Aerea Negrot and guest Kele Okereke (on 'Step Up'). There's room for more than just straight to the floor dance here though - 'Boy Blue' features acoustic guitars and trumpets over a gently throbbing bass backing, while 'Blue Songs', sung by Butler himself', is a gently melodic song with a deep bass line and what may well be a clarinet.

After those 2 tracks the album picks up the pace again. 'Falling' reminds me of Byron Stingly, and 'Step Up' is probably everything Okereke wanted his solo album to be but wasn't.

The album ends with its most surprising moment - a fragile and beautiful version of Sterling Void's classic 'It's Alright' (you might remember the Pet Shop Boys cover if you don't know the original). As the album closer, it's a perfect, gentle comedown after the night at the club that's preceeded it.

The album is out now on Moshi Moshi Records. If you want to hear some of Andy Butler's influences, he's done a great mix for Fact Magazine that you can listen to below.

FACT mix 218 - Hercules & Love Affair (Jan '11) by factmag

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Recommended Music: The Black Monk EP by John Hughes

John Hughes is a recording artist, producer and remixer from Chicago. He founded the Hefty Records label in 1996 and built HFT studios, in his hometown, where this EP was recorded.

Over 5 tracks this EP mixes gentle sounds and effects, such as on opener 'She Was As High As My Eyes', with darker electronica as on the title track. Overall the EP is quite cinematic and haunting, and its combination of real instruments, like the vibraphone & glockenspiel played ny long term collaborator Rick Embach, and electronic rhythmns and bass works really well.

Track listing:
  1. She Was As High As My Eyes
  2. The Black Monk
  3. Filcut
  4. Confluence
  5. Bird of Ill Omen

You can listen to the title track from the EP on John's myspace page here: . The EP is released on 1320 Records & is available to download from Amazon, iTunes etc.