Friday, 27 January 2012

My Tracks of the year 2011 (part 4)

Welcome to part 4 where in the best traditions of story telling I've saved the best material for last.

Flourescent Grey – Chicken Hypnotism

This is a track from my album of the year.
The whole album was put together from old pieces of electronic music from the history of electronica, every sample is taken from something between the years 1955-1984. It’s all put together into techno. Its great stuff, I like it because I find you can dance to it or have it on as some classy sounding background music or its quite rewarding if you sit and listen to it. Because it uses all old samples it has a kind of oldish sound but it sounds quite fresh in the way it’s put together, actually timeless. It’s my default thing to put on if i just want something nice to listen to and its one that I like introducing other people to. I remember the night of the election this year, me and our candidates’ brother went out partying to celebrate and we ended up back in the kitchen in our house listening to this just the two of us. Good times.

The other really nice thing about it is that it’s available for free. I heard about it because it’s from an online label called Acroplane run by a friend of mine, local electronic music legend Paul Moore (who also DJs under that name). The label he runs has a really interesting selection of stuff through many different electronic genres; Breakcore, Hip Hop, IDM, through to this sort of thing which you could kind of class as techno and beyond into stuff that defies traditional categorisation.

To me this is emblematic of the full potential of the internet being realised, a lot of time and dedication has built a respected platform for artists who the major labels wouldn’t look at and all of it available either for free or at least for a reasonable price. It’s stuff like this that is slowly breaking down the hold of the big multinationals on music. You ever wonder why nearly all the music in the charts has been shit for about the last decade? It’s because thanks to file sharing the profitability of mainstream chart music has been decreasing so they’ve been pulling out all the stops to make their money back. It’s the same process that has been going on in the film industry. Small labels like Acroplane that are realistic about the current state of our entertainment industry are also part of that process and point towards the possibilities of how things could be.

Loops haunt – Joplin

One of the nice things about being into a particular music scene is the people that you meet. Having a shared passion can be a great bridge to connecting with other people. When you have an appreciation for a genre just seeing someone’s iTunes selection can tell you a lot about them. When me and my sister were over in Manchester one of the girls we were staying with let me use her laptop. While on it I couldn’t help but have a wee nosey at her music collection. The first thing i noticed was that it was all in good order and properly labelled, full albums and EPs., no wee individual rouge tracks janking the place up. What also struck me though was the quality of the music, it was all either proper classics, like Billie Holiday, good hip hop, or quality IDM, Boards of Canada, Boxcutter etc. I was impressed, this was clearly the music collection of someone who really knew their stuff so when I came across a small selection of tracks by an artist I hadn’t heard of I knew it was going to be good so I had a listen and it was absolutely mind blowing. And that is the story of how I discovered Loops Haunt.

This is some fairly experimental stuff from the outer fringes of what I would like and consider listenable, but for all that it is absolutely genius stuff and completely worth checking out. Each track is completely unique, a wee journey in its own right. The production is really sharp and all the different sounds have their own complete texture. The tunes are so precise and seemingly effortless in the way it all comes together that you can only imagine the hours days and weeks of fine tuning that it must have actually taken to put it all together. This is real sonic artistry and I feel privileged to have heard it. The rave at The Warehouse Project proved to be somewhat disappointing but the crack and the company of the people we met over there more than made up for it.

Adi Sharma – Shifting Patterns

I had the pleasure of meeting Adi at a friend’s house after a rave that never happened that they were supposed to be playing at hit the wall and they ended up just bringing the equipment back to hers and setting up for a wee private one there with the promoter and some of their mates. I found Adi to be quiet, personable and like anyone with any real talent, quite disingenuous about it, but obviously quite smart. He lives down in Dublin where he’s studying music and in between studying, DJing Psy and D&B and constructing this sort of thing which apparently is a physical representation of how music works) makes this stuff. This is some very deep interestingly dark down tempo dub that brings in aspects of Adis’ Indian heritage and some really nicely produced breaks and other sounds. This is quality stuff and really deserves to get a hearing, so I’m glad to see that he’s been getting some airplay on Bobby Frictions on BBC radio’s Asian network, which hopefully means that he’ll get picked up by some label and will be getting his stuff out there to a wider audience.

Kiani – Hippocampus
Hippocampus by Kiani
This is some more of me plugging music by people I know (which was always a bit of a tradition on my old mix CDs for the Warseer Mixtape projects of old so it’s nice that i can continue to keep it up now). Katrina is a one of the most interesting people in Belfast at the minute. Over the time I’ve known her, about a year and a half now I think, she’s been making a few waves locally, notably playing a brilliant set at the New Years Eve gig in Mynt last year and winning the Lap Off at the menagerie last summer. This track is an example of the sort of well put together techno that has a really rich sound. It’s very chilled and like the Loops Haunt tracks it takes you on a wee journey. Another thing I like about it is the nice subtle use of the Nina Simone sample. It’s just sophisticated elegant music for people who are capable of appreciating it and I hope that at some point in the future it will get the sort of exposure and audience it deserves.

Orphx - Your Blood my Blood

I’ve said earlier among these blog entries that i’d kind of gone off industrial. This was sort of true, listening to other better made dance music had sort of convinced me that a lot of the stuff that i had previously enjoyed, with the flush of newness off it, just wasn’t that great. Some people do refer to a lot of the stuff that gets played in the sort of industrial nights I would go to disparagingly as cheesey Hard-Style, in other words slightly inferior dance music for a different social scene. Personally I would say that there is an element of truth to that but that’s scenes for you.

That said, the core notion at the heart of industrial, making music from the sounds of heavy industry and, these days, the static and computer sounds of the information age, is still something that appeals to me. Actually, finding a really obscure piece of Yugoslav Futurist industrial from the 1980s called Nehaj by a collective called SAT Stoicizimo renewed my faith in the genre early last year just as it was flagging. But, then I had new worlds to explore and finding the good industrial could wait until later.

Later came in the autumn. I was stuck in bed sick for a couple of weeks with only my laptop and web connection for company, but generally speaking that’s all I need so it was sweet. For some odd reason despite having a banging head ache all I wanted to listen to was really heavy abrasive music. So, taking a band called Heimostat Yipotash I had heard at infest doing some really interesting experimental stuff (with a lot of bass in it) as a starting point I took a wander through the industrial and dark electronic i could find and came up with a whole raft of music that was extremely good that I had never heard before.

Orphx were a group that I came across relatively early in that little phase of exploration. It was exactly what i was looking for, dark, atmospheric, complex, sophisticated and fucking harsh when it got going. I was in love, I downloaded what I could find for free, loved every single track, then felt a little guilty for doing so (which isn’t like me) so I found their website and bought some of their merch and I intend to just buy any new releases they come out with.

I remember playing this for a few mates and their German friend chimed in that “it has the sounds that make me want to kill myself”, to which I replied, “too right it does, that’s what I like about it”. I’m not actually sure what parts of the music he was referring to, maybe the distorted voices that sound like they might be coming from some sort of tannoy, the siren like oscillations or the harsh white noise-y stuff, or indeed all of it, but I appreciate the sentiment and I know what he means. One thing he couldn’t have been talking about was the Bass, if you blast this track somewhere with a good sound system, bass amplifier and /or sub woofer it brings out all that richly textured stuff going on in the lows (something you get a lot of with Orphx ). This is music that is composed from the sonic elements of late capitalist civilisation, as authentic an expression of our modernity in art as you’re going to find, as real and true to our experience of day to day life as folk music was to pre-industrial generations, or as tribal music is to people living out in the jungles. It doesn’t seek to mystify or provide escapism or hark back to a different place or time, it just reflects. That’s why I love it.

Iszoloscope – In the Other Mind of Us

This, if i was making music myself this is what I would be making. Out of all the groups I came across on my little journey of re-discovery Iszoloscope was the group that I could most identify with in terms of my own musical tastes as they have developed thus far. It should be obvious from the above how much I like industrial, if you’ve been paying attention so far you’ll have picked up that I do have a wee thing for Breakcore and Iszoloscope are an extremely happy marriage of the two.

This track has all the elements that I like about Iszoloscopes’ music. They do also do some stuff that is just straight-ahead 4/4 time banging Powernoise, the sort of thing that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside some Asche or Converter, which all sounds absolutely class, but it’s this breaky stuff that I like because to my mind there needs to be someone doing this. From the atmospheric build up over the Terrance McKenna-esque sample at the start into the distortion and percussion it all sits together really well. This is obviously clever, deep music that does some very interesting things in terms of building a soundscape and you can rave to it. Immense.

Noisia - Could This Be

This is my track of the year. It was one of those ones that crept up on me until it became an obsession and I just had to keep rinsing it out repeatedly and it currently stands as the most played track in my iTunes. I think now that in hindsight I understand why.

2011 was a strange year for me, in some ways it was the best year on my life and yet it saw some of the hardest times that I’ve had over the last couple of years. It was intensely up or down with very little in between and one shift up or down didn’t wait on the other. The most extreme example of this was over the summer when one of our friends died under extremely tragic circumstances, then not two days after the funeral got news that my mate who had been in jail as a political prisoner for two and a half years (including a lengthy spell in solitary confinement) in Iran had been randomly released from custody. As i say that was the most extreme example but that was the pattern pretty much all year, in my working life, social life, personal relationships and things in general.

I think that is the reason why when I heard this tune for the first time near the end of the year (which I think was when Kris Kodine dropped it in his set at the DSNT Belfast Electronic Festival in November) that something in it spoke to me. At the start of the track when the tune seems to be training forwards, almost like its being restrained, then it gets up a bit and sort of comes together but not quite, then the beats come in and it gets going, then the drop comes and its all flowing and pumping along nicely, then it slows down again an limps home kind of awkwardly. I don’t know if it’s just me but there’s a strange sense of loss and sadness at the end as it fades out, yet its quite a beautiful song, well as beautiful as drum and bass gets.

Even aside from my personal affinity with this song there is a lot to like about it. Just on a technical and aesthetic level, I’ve worked this song into Drum and Bass sets when I’ve been practicing and it is interesting what it does to the flow and pace of a set without breaking tempo too much. The production on it is really good, the drop in particular I’ve heard described by Kris as “just so commercial D&B, but it works”. The tensions and dissonance that make the song what it is themselves contrast with the clean clear sound of it, quite unlike the murky darkness of the D&B I usually like.

In short, it’s an interesting wee tune that for various reasons will probably be the song that I remember when I look back on this period of my life.

Well that concludes our musical jaunt through my 2011. I’m not sure where I’m going next with this blog now but I have a few things in mind to do and there’s so much going on politically that the next thing I write for it I’ll probably be going all Lenin’s Tomb on you, which will hopefully be very soon.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

My Tracks of the year 2011 (part 3)

Welcome to part three, wherein i take a tour through some of the electronic music that has defined my 2011. This is an exciting time for electronic music and I’ve been lucky enough to have been around people who make the local electronic music scene. When you’re lucky enough count promoters and producers among your friends it gives you a good insight into the genre and this list reflects taste of the people i’ve been knocking about with as much as my own.

Noisia - Machine gun (16 Bit remix)
This in one I always like to stick on at parties, particularly when theres a good bass amp or sub woofer on the houses sound system. This is just all about that drop. The song is called Machine Gun and this out of all the various remixes of the track this one lives up the name the most. When I hear it i have visions of the Terminator films. The start is a dark menacing build, a circling Hunter-Killer against a black red sky looking for its target, stalking it down, growing in intensity up to the drop. The drop is amazing, hard as fuck and heavier than metal. If you want to know what the term “Drop” means in the context of electronic music this song should tell you exactly what it is. To me is sounds like a whip made of shards of broken metal being cracked over and over, or a metal terminator skeleton unleashing a clip from a ridiculously elaborate sci-fi machine gun. Then after the brutal assault of the first drop it fades out back to the stalking brooding feel of the into, circles one and goes back in for the kill again.

Huoratron - $$ Troopers

2011 marked a bit of a break for me in a lot of ways. One of the things was a move away from some of the electronic music I’d been listening to for the last couple of years. The sort of industrial, EBM and aggrotech that I had been into has become to seem a bit crap to me, like I’ve outgrown a lot of it. That said I still like the notion of the industrial sound, i.e. compiling music out of harsh metallic sounds, the sort of thing that runs counter to melody and smoothness. That’s one of the things i like about Machine Gun and it’s a sound I like to hear in the sort of dubstep, D&B and Hardcore stuff I listen to. This track is another that I think sounds very “Industrial” and wouldn’t sound out of place in a set with a lot of noise (in fact it was my intention to play this in my training set for my friend Tracey’s Goth club night Cornucopia). I like the use of the harsh distortion, white noise and grinding bass and the way they contrast with the chip music-y stuff going on in the highs and its got a good wee beat to it. Oh and the video is excellent too.

Dirtyloud (feat. Sirreal) – Needle

I came across the above track when i was looking at who was playing the Bangface Weekender music festival that I went to last year. Unfortunately as much as I loved that track I missed Houratrons set as he was on at the same time as Otto Von Shirac. One set I did see that I wasn’t expecting much from but ended up really liking was Jackal and Hyde. They did well coming straight on after Kanji Kinetic and keeping the general energy level up. They kicked off with this track and as soon as the vocal came in (particularly the “lickin’ the floor / kick in the door” rhyme) I was loving it.

This hard electro stuff is sometimes hated because people that don’t know what they’re talking about call this dubstep just because it has a drop, I think it sounds more like bassline (which we’ll get into in a minute) but however you define it, it’s fun party music with a bit of a bang to it. I remember dancing to it in a fairly excited way and actually going straight over on my arse. Good times.

Kanji Kinetic + Submerse – NERV

Bassline has featured a lot in my musical intake over the last year. Belfast was fairly quick to get onboard the whole bassline thing with Kris Kodine booking Squire of Gothos for Bad Taste about two years ago and Kanji kinetic playing Pressure at about the same time. The whole bassline / Mutant Bass seems to be taking off now the way Dubstep did about 5 years ago. What it is essentially, is a distillation of all the fun party music of the last twenty odd years into a bouncy distorted whole. It is unpretentious fun music to rave to. I like this song (which is available to download for free from the record label’s own website with many other EPs full of good stuff) because it shows one extreme of the music with its soaring strings and general epic feel before it sinks into something more ravey with bass and chip music elements coming in, then integrating the two aspects of the music.

Tempa T - Next Hype (2 Bit Thugs re-rub)

From the loftyness of the last track this bassline track takes us down into the very grime of the streets with some actual grime. This is a remix of the Tempa T track is unusual in that for once the hyperactive wobbly bassline has to compete with something that’s at least as interesting going on right on top of it for your attention, a sick nasty bit of Grime spitting about being a hood and running around robbing people. Actually you could equally say that this is a solid dirty bit of road rap that for once has to compete with the sick, wobbly bassline and breaks that are at least as interesting as Tempa T’s abrasive flow. As much as they compete the two things just go together so well. I heard this for the first time at the Belfast Electronic Festival in January last year, and I remember loving it then and loving it again when the boys from Pressure played it in the dance music tent at the Jigs and Rigs festival on Rathlin. Then I was really happy when they posted a recording of that set to their mixcloud complete with the tracklist so i could get the name of the song and the specific remix (t here are quite a few but this one is definitely the best). I’m not the only one out of my crowd that remembers this, when I had the name of the song I found it online and posted it to my mate Chris’s facebook, his exact words I think were, “that track saved my life on Rathlin”. I don’t know exactly what he meant by that but its an absolute banger and i could well believe it.

Techdiff – Eat Drink Fuck

In 2011 there were a few things that were a part of my life that I decided to put behind me. Some i just put behind me one day without thinking about it and didn’t realise I had until later, some I struggled to get shot of and some I thrust away with ease and great relief. One thing, possibly the first thing, was my account on the web forum This was a site I was on for about 5 years, has a paid subscription for because i wanted to support it, made numerous friends on and was a valued member of that community. My account was suspended due to some overzealous banning by a site moderator called t-tauri. I was given warnings and points on my account for really silly minor infractions by that same moderator. I suspected there was some sort of agenda there, that he had something personal against me, but I never got to the bottom of it. The thing he finally got me on was posting a link to this track that contravened the forum rules because it had the word fuck in the title, even though I had the word fuck partially obscured in the title of the link on the web forum and the word fuck doesn’t appear in the song. I challenged him to explain himself but he never did.
Anyway this is a cracking tune and I stand by it. It’s one of the first pieces of breakcore I came across when I started getting interested in it, It kicks off with an anti capitalist sample (well something to do with corporations anyway) and goes into some breaky ragga-core and keeps hitting hard. I liked it as soon as I heard it and it cemented my interest in the whole sub-genre.

Aaron spectre – You Don’t Know

Breakcore, the sound that brings joy to my heart. If you listen to this and the last track you can hear the essential elements that make Breakcore what it is. All that hyperactive percussion going on in and around the basic beats, that’s breakcore. All those drum loops and cracks and beats around a central rhythm or some sort of more traditional tune structure. Although this genre started off as a progression from Jungle and most of the tracks were based around old tunes with a Jamaican sound to them you can do this with just about any form of music by putting beats in the space between the notes. Venetain Snares does it with Classical music and old Jazz, Igorrr does it with Baroque chamber music, the Teknoist does it just around aggressive bass and Aaron Spectre does it around Heavy Metal on his side project ‘Drumcorp’ and here around an (absolutely banging) old Punk track. There are many more examples of what you can do, stuff like Otto Von Shirach that transcends any previous notions of what music is supposed to be.

It is this music along with Hardcore, dubstep and bassline that are the living practice of post modernism in music. This is the destruction and recreation of the elements of music, detachment from notions of rhythm, consistency and tune. This is something that has been going on in electronic music since the Black Ark studios on Jamaica created dub and all through the history of hip hop, rave and all forms of electronica. It’s the perfect expression in musical form of the post modern condition and the fractured nature of our lives, labour and consciousness under the conditions of late capitalism. Maybe it’s because of my own revolutionary politics but I genuinely feel that this is revolutionary music, if not the actual music of revolution. Its taking the things from popular culture and showing how false they are by recreating them harder and spikier. If its not the actual process of liberation itself then it is at least the necessary destruction that must occur before the process of rebuilding can begin.

Well, that was part 3. The fourth and final part will see some of the hard experimental down tempo stuff I have come to like, me plugging some of my mates stuff, the sort of music i would be making if I knew the first thing about how to produce and the track which to me sums up my year.

Friday, 13 January 2012

My Tracks of the year 2011 (part 2)

This is Part 2 where i look at some of the folky and rocky stuff i've been listening to over the last year, for part one and a general explanation of what this is about see:

Alison Kraus and Union Station - Dust Bowl Children

This is some proper ye-ha music. Bluegrass and the sort of pan European folk tradition that this music harks back to is the original dance music. Back in the day before raves they had barn dances, ceilis or whatever it was called in the native language and they got fucked on homemade drink and raved to the fastest danciest shit they could beat out on their acoustic instruments. I actually think that this track and the one following has more in common with the stuff in the next two parts than anything in the first two. I like this track particularly because it has a bit of soul to it and the vocals from Dan “I actually sang all that stuff in O Brother Whereart Thou” Tyminski give it a real bit of depth. I also find it interesting that in the midst of a global economic crisis we’re getting a revival in the musical aesthetic of the great Depression years, something that is explicitly referenced in the lyrics of the verse from the original version of this song that wasn’t used in this one.

Cave Singers – Dancing on Our Graves

A nice stompy marching beat around which everything else builds, then drops and builds again then the lows drop out and come back in etc. You see, this shit was the techno of its day. Hmm, maybe this year i’ll teach myself how to use Ableton just so I can make a whole album of electronic remixes of this stuff just to prove the point. Anyway, I don’t know much about the band, just found this on a random spotify adventure (which is what i call it when i surf through spotify using the related artists tabs in the right hand corner) loved it and a few of their other tracks and its stuck since.

Lightning Dust – Listened On

Ah, what can I say about this lovely smooth bit of psychedelic rock. It’s just so chilled and easy, makes me wish I could still get stoned so I could just spark up, bang this on in a loop and mellow out. It’s so sweet and warm it just takes you away. I love the vocals too, they have a kind of strength to them and carry a lot of emotion very easily. It’s so hazy and evocative I feel like i’m living someone else’s life for a few minutes when I’m listening to it, a strange nostalgia for things that never happened.

Keli Ali – The Savages

Apparently this girl is at the forefront of a gothic neo-folk revival. I should hope so, this is absolutely amazing. Reminds me of pre-modern folk music, but also a little bit of Forever Autumn from The War of the Worlds (which I love btw. I used to rinse it out after I stopped toking and dedicate it to the hashish I could no longer smoke). I know that this is girly as hell but its all so lyrical and dark, there’s a real intelligence in the lyrics and that wee girl has some pipes on her to carry so much in the precise and controlled way she sings. I just like the dissonance between how old it sounds and how modern its sensibilities are. It has the chilled out-edness of the trip hop that Keli Ali comes from (she used to be in Sneaker Pimps) and that dark gothic sound. Nice.

Sebadoh – On Fire (acoustic)
Ah the wonders of the internet, you can catch up with half remembered obscure shit you heard about when you were a kid but never had the connections or the money to pursue back before you had access to literally everything. I vaguely recall reading about Sebadoh in a magazine that my cousin Roisin left in our house when she was a student and I was a mere first or second year at Lagan which was a student’s special and was sort of my awakening to the adult world. More on that issue of DV8 another time maybe, but I recall reading about this band and thinking they sounded class way back in the early 90s when they were going. Something put this into my head recently and I started looking for them online. I found a lot of their stuff and it seems like my nascent musical instincts were right, they were actually quite good, sort of came up through the same rock scene as REM and Dinosaur Jr. but were not quite as big, and definitely didn’t make much of an impact on this side of the Atlantic. I don’t listen to a lot of indie anymore, actually finding these guys and listening to Pulp doing the festivals again this year and still sounding awesome made me wonder if i wasn’t missing out so I went on a trawl through the 90s indie scene on Spotify and I concluded that with the exception of Mercury Rev and a few individual tracks here and there, I was quite right to dismiss the whole thing as shit and that actually Oasis were damn lucky to do as well as they did.

All the rest of it notwithstanding, these guys were genuinely special and this track in particular is fucking cool. They could go from really nice stuff like this to harsh experimental tracks like monochrome set at their most artsy and obtuse. Great stuff but i don’t know why they were never bigger over here but there you go.

RSAG – Stick To Your line
1-02 Stick To Your Line by Rarely Seen Above Ground
I did make it to a few good festivals this year but i didn’t go to any of the big ones. I generally don’t go to any of those ones, I’m way to much of a closet hipster for that shit and it’s expensive as fuck. I probably ought to have gone to Electric Picnic though, from what I saw of this years it looked class, not even for the headliners but for all the other stuff and the small up-coming acts playing you could have had a blast without even seeing any of the big names. I was torturing myself by looking at the line up for this years when it was just about to happen and when i had no hope of getting a ticket when I saw these guys, a new band from down south that happen to sound like Joy Division, Pere Ubu and all that other post-punk new wave-y shit that I like. I actually think I did a double take when I heard this track, it just sounds so much like something from that era. It sounds fresh too, like as I’ve said a few times I don’t listen to a lot of indie but this sounds different to anything else at the minute, as much as it’s a little derivative of some earlier stuff, its all good stuff that he’s riffing off and nobody else right now seems to be tapping that particular seem.

Ice Age – Collapse

I heard about these guys in an article from the magazine of the rouge IS section over in the states. Basically the jist was that all the stuff coming up and being bigged up by Pitchfork was politically suspect and wouldn’t it be nicer if the new music that was emerging during the crisis had a more overtly lefty political content. Personally as a member of the Irish SWP i found the whole thing cringe inducing. You can’t just damn music based on its perceived political content, i hate people on the left getting on like that about music, the first thing I did when i read the article was listen to the two acts they were criticising on Spotify. And as it turns out they were actually quite wrong about Iceage. I can see why they were worried about the band possibly having some far right affiliation, but there is nothing in the actual music or the lyrics of the songs that actually supports such the idea. The worst you could say is that they’re a-political. The lyrics have no real reason to them, they’re just evocative words that frame and support the music with no meaning of their own. The music itself is really good though, it’s all done in a raspy raucous style, kind of libertines rough with harsher stuff coming in and most of the songs come in at under two and a half minutes, as it should be. It has a real energy to it too. No filler, not even on individual tracks, how often can you say that? Really good accomplished stuff considering how young these lads are. As for their political affiliation, one ill advised Death In June tattoo notwithstanding (though i find all that 3rd position queerism stuff too idiosyncratic to be taken seriously), they have toured with some quite serious antifa affiliated punk bands who wouldn’t have them anywhere near them if they truly believed they were crypto-fascists. It’s that sort of detail you want to actually look at when you’re talking about a musical acts politics rather than sifting through their actually meaningless lyrics looking for clues.

Foetus – Time Marches On

Apparently Foetus are supposed to be an industrial band. I dunno, they neither look nor sound that industrial-y to me (depending on how you define what industrial is, which is probably a topic for a different blog) I mean this has pianos, swooping orchestral violins and shit in it. And yet, they get remixed by Ambassador 21 (this actual track come to think of it) and I’ve heard Matt ‘Caustic’ Fanale refer to them as an industrial band and he should know since he’s been near single handedly redefining what industrial is for the last couple of years. It’s really idiosyncratic industrial at least.

Whatever it is this is the very definition of pumpin’. It has so much life and fun in it and it bangs like a shithouse door in a hurricane. You can dance your wee dick off to it. I have done, frequently. Class tune.

Anyway, on that note I’m going to leave it. join me next time when I look at some of the electronic I was listening to this year, seven absolute bangers from a couple of different styles of electronica.

My Tracks of the year 2011 (part 1)

Once upon a time I was an enthusiastic and prolific poster on a web forum called Warseer (more on this later.) On that forum we used to have a tradition of once a year composing mix tapes of whatever music we were into at that time and then getting paired up with someone else and swapping mix tapes, then reviewing the results for the edification of the other gaming nerds. This was probably my favourite thing that i’d ever done on that forum. I organised it a couple of times and on the tracklists from the 5 different years I’ve done it I can clearly chart my progressing musical tastes (and I still think that the second year, the one I did just after I moved back here from Britain, was the best in some ways, definitely the most eclectic, it had an 18th century Irish ballad with a cracking Uilleann Pipe solo next to an Olodum and jimmy cliff cover of Bob Marleys No Woman No Cry, Immortal Technique, ADF and The Fall among others).

The last time I did it I posted the song list, links to the songs (which I had temporarily up loaded to Soundcloud) and the short paragraph about why i picked each song so i could share the track list with anyone who had internet access and wanted to listen, and I cross posted this into my Facebook as a Note. This proved reasonably popular among some of my friends, a few people didn’t even listen to any of the music but did like reading the post.

This is going to be quite long so I'm breaking it down into 4 parts, each consisting of 7 tracks. The latter 2 parts are the sort of thing I like to listen to when I'm out or would like to spin myself if I got the chance, so they'll be all banging electronica across the various genres I like. The first two parts are basically everything else, this first part being the stuff I enjoy for its lyrical and poetic qualities.

Akala – Where I’m From

One of the events that the last year will always be remembered for will be the riots that started in central London and spread through the rest of the inner cities this summer. It was a tense time and tempers were fraught, I got deefed by an ex-housemate after an argument about the riots. I fully went to war on facebook as it was kicking off. Mostly I railed against the hypocrisy of people, many of whom should have known better, who were quick to judge the rioting as mindless violence and thuggery, as if the people involved weren’t people but some animal sub-species. That was why I was so glad that in the middle of the rioting channel 4, in a stroke of pure IRL dramatic irony, showed a documentary about the people and the culture of those very inner cities that were exploding in rage. This documentary was The Life of Rhyme (, its subject was the UKs indigenous rap culture and it was presented by Akala. This set me off on a whole tip of listening to this stuff for those weeks over this summer and was one of the things that just got me back into hip hop in general. Out of the stuff that i came across from the UK scene I was really impressed with Akala who, as well as being a thoughtful and articulate spokesperson for the scene in that documentary, actually has some serious skills on him himself. I liked this track in particular because it uses the sample from my favourite Siouxie and the Banshees song (actually he’s good at picking out good samples to rap over, see for example Shakespeare) and his flow is exquisite, shifting naturally from spitting to just speaking.

POS - De La Souls

The other thing that got me back into listening to hip-hop was POS. I’d been trying to get a set playing something at one of the fundraisers for Gerry Carrols election campaigns, and gave a general shout out on my facebook for tips on conscious / political hip hop, which I was intending to play since its the sort of thing that I reckoned would go down well with a bunch of lefties. It ended up not happening but in the midst of it a friend of mine sent me a link to some P.O.S and i was impressed enough with that one track that I got two of the albums, which i completely loved and ended up rinsing out on my I-Pod. If you could wear out mp3s by repeatedly playing them, that shit would have happened. I picked this track for my selection of the tracks of the year not because it’s his best (its up there) but because it displays what P.O.S does very well, which is an articulate poetic flow, conscious of the music’s roots in black culture (its so-called because its based on an old De La Soul track) and uses elements from P.O.S’s other musical love, Punk. It makes for a good mix and is indicative of the brilliance of the rest of his work, and it is catchy as hell, I can never resist joining him on that “cause I’m always on the run run run” bit.

B Dolan – Joan of Arcadia

The best live gig I saw all year was a show in Dublin that I went to with Mischa, the friend that put me onto P.O.S. B. Dolan does cracking hip hop but is from a performance poetry background and it’s this that comes across in this particular track. This is a slam poem with beats. The poem itself is a deep sweeping meditation on rapture, sexual and religious. It sweeps in and shows Dolans warmth and humour (both of which come across even better when you see it live).

Baba Brinkman – Gilgamesh

Continuing the theme of hip hop as a story telling medium, one of the real finds i had this year was this nerd-core I picked up on the /mu/ section of 4chan. They post “Share threads” which are a series of links to places where music, whole albums and EPs, are archived online. This is off one by Baba Brinkman, a professor of poetry who moonlights as a rapper. It’s off an album of hip hop adaptations of ancient literature which as well as this re-telling of The Epic of Gilgamesh includes Beowulf and one of the Canterbury tales. The whole thing is class but i like this one in particular because it tells you a lot about the original text, is a great feat of rapping and rhyming in its own right and does actually capture the epic themes of the original story. I know that liking this makes me a complete nerd but I could give less of a fuck, a ten and a half minute track that makes you not just understand, but feel the very first story ever recorded in all of human civilisation? How can you not like that?

Gil Scott Heron – I’m New here

One of the sadder deaths of the last year was that of Gil Scott Heron who left us just when he seemed to be crawling out of the pit of obscurity that he’d been consigned to by the unforgiving media, his own negative tendencies and the persecution of the state. I like this track because it’s so simple and so beautiful, it just captures him, (or rather my idea of him). It’s broken, rough, ironic, soulful, funny and sweet. He was on such good form and it’s such a hopeful positive song in spite of everything he’d been through that it’s a shame that I’m New Here (of which this is the title track) and the remix album are his swan song rather than the beginning of a new chapter in his career. Still, if you could choose a note to go out on you’d be hard pressed to do better than this.

RIP you absolute legend.

Mountain Goats – No Children

This is a strange wee track that I came across messing around on Spotify. I had actually heard this one before years ago when it was used on an episode of the brilliant adult swim cartoon Moral Orel but I only got to know what it actually was when I came across it again this year and its stuck with me since for a lot of reasons. It’s a very precise, well-structured, elegant bit of lyrical story telling that manages to paint a whole picture of an unpleasant doomed marriage in a few sparse pieces of imagery and factual detail, a good example of how a good story teller does so by showing rather than telling that speaks to me as a writer as something to aspire to. Another wee technical thing I like about it is it’s use of the second person and how much you can convey just by doing that. But the thing I really like is that it’s all done to an up-beat sea-shanty riff that belies the darkness of the story that’s being told. This dissonance creates a real tension in the track that makes it extremely memorable, that and the catchiness of the tune itself. Love it.

Thats part one. Join me next time when I go through what I would loosely describe as the guitar -y stuff that I still like.