January 22nd-Rabit + Dedekind Cut-r&d

Call it what you want; grime 2.0, weightless or just plain old grime last year was a crowning moment for the producers behind grime music. Instrumentals became almost more vital than the MCs spitting on them. Mumdance produced a staggering fabric mix and albums by Visionist, Mumdance and Logos, Arca and Oneohtrixpointnever appeared in countless best of the year lists. Two producers who have also found themselves tied to this rise are Rabit and Lee Bannon (under the name Dedekind Cut for this release). Rabit released the brilliant Communion last year whilst Lee Bannon produced Pattern of Excel and in 2014 the old school jungle referencing, and well worth listening to, Alternate/Endings.

On R&D these influences and the two producers combine incredibly, with the end product being one of the most exciting releases since Burial’s Rival Dealer. The comparison is apt, for much like that release Rabit and Lee Bannon have avoided traitional song structure in favour of producing something beautiful out of ugly, contrasting and aggressive fragments. Sure the reference points of jungle, grime and weightless hang all over these short few tracks, but what is interesting and exciting to see is the way in which the producers have broken apart their influences and then stuck them back together again almost violently with (one might assume) some cheap pritt stick (which they were later caught sniffing in the back of the studio).

Each listen reveals something new: a voice in the background, noise mutating into music, street level aggression, ghostly breathy bass, all are subtly hidden and woven amongst the layers of this album. Mary Anne Hobbs on previewing the release was so blown away she played the whole thing in one unedited cut, that unedited cut is included on the release and well worth listening to as a seperate track to the four parts which comprises the full release.

There always exists, when throwing away formal song structure, the danger that the end product is unlistenable. Far from falling into this trap Lee Bannon and Rabit have created  something, which becomes more listenable and rewarding everytime you press play on your IPod.

R+D, which is only avaliable via Bandcamp,  is certainly aggressive, definitely loud and incredibly challenging but the rewards which can be had from listening to it are vast. Rabit and Lee Bannon have truly excelled in producing what will be one of the most experimental yet exciting releases of this year and is highly recommended for all fans of grime and jungle.

https://leebannon.bandcamp.com/album/r-d

 

January 15th 2016- Rubble Kings (original music inspired by the documentary)

Normally, upon seeing the “words music inspired by…” you would be correct in setting down your Ipod and deactivating your Spotify. And hell I wouldn’t blame you, those few words are normally the pre-cursor to all kinds of awfulness. Film soundtracks are often mind blowing, music inspired by films are very often terrible, as goes Lester Bang’s first law of motion picture soundtracks (or so it should). However, Rubble Kings is the exception to the rule.

Rubble Kings the album is inspired by the documentary of the same name, which traces gang culture and its influence upon the roots of hip hop in 1970s New York and is in itself a worthwhile watch.  Thanks to an exceptional cast: Little Shalimar, Bun B, Killer Mike, Run the Jewels and Tunde Adebimpe (of TV on the Radio fame) Rubble Kings does what a good music inspired by album should, it both compliments the film and stands as a great listen by itself.

Shalimar’s mostly instrumental tracks are the hidden gems of the album, sounding like a clash between music from an old 70s cop show and a James Brown backing band. There is a real sense of funk and even, whisper it, psychedelia running through them. They are both unexpected and a joy to induge in.

Elesewhere on the album Run the Jewels bring their usual witty machine gun fire flows which go further towards highlighting that they are the most vital hip hop group in the world at this moment, perhaps of any group since Public Enemy. Killer Mike provides a stand out turn alongside Bun B, a pairing which really should have any hip hop head excited. It should also come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his recent albums that Ghostface Killah’s verse on the track Same Damn Thing sounds typically thrilling and dangerous and supports the argument that his flow is truly up there with the best of all time.

As the album closes the focus shifts towards the gentrification of the Bronx and the changing nature of New York in the 1980s and 1990s with perhaps two of the funkiest tracks on the whole damn album in Shalimar’s The Piano District and Adebimpe’s closing track Phoenix. Both are again great listens that contain a maligned sense of beauty for the New York of the 1970s and for what grew out of the Rubble.

Rubble Kings is an intelligent hip hop album which is further added to by doses of Shalimar’s instrumental funk. Proving that even when an album is inspired by it can still sound inspirational.

 

Album of the Week January 8th 2016

Hinds- Leave Me Alone

The hype machine has been workong overtime with Hinds for awhile now, world tours, Glastonbury and sold out dates in London have all preceeded this release. The British music press and live audiences have fallen hard for the girls from Madrid but the question remains is the album up to much?

In a week where David Bowie released his latest effort Blackstar seeing him described as rebirthed and as unpredictable as ever. It’s Hinds who sound more alive, perhaps with the naivety of youth but certainly with the excitement of being in a band. And it’s this, a girl gang mentality which so refreshingly shines through on Leave Me Alone. Hinds are a band in it together and when they open their debut album with a track as strong as Garden you can’t help but want to be in “it” with them too.

The refernce points are thrilling; 60s girl pop of the Shangri LAs variety, coupled with California Surf Pop and indie rock circa 2001. It’s a mix which works well with tracks flying past at bottle-rocket pace, yet remaining catchy enough to worm their way into your brain and nestle there for the rest of the day. The best example of such a track is the brilliant Bamboo, a track which Hinds themselves have been rightfully boastful of  and despite the tags of rock and roll past clinging to Leave Me Alone, there is also something fresh about Hinds music much of which,  one suspects, comes from their pure energy and excitement.

One criticism that has been unfairly levelled at Hinds is that their vocals are not particularly strong or well recorded. But this critique misses the point. The ramshackle nature of the vocals on Leave Me Alone add to the sugar-rush thrill of the album, nowhere is this more audible than on the track San Diego.

Hinds have admited to struggling and being fed up with being asked what’s it like to be a rock and roll girl band. It certainly  will be a shame if the music press and public continue to focus on this subject. Because in doing so what will be overlooked is a joyous debut album, which deserves to be taken on its own merit.