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.

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