February 18th-Aphex Twin Peel Sessions 1992 and Live at Sheffield Hallam 1993

The Internet can for music fans be a bit like a Kinder Egg full of little surprises and rather delicious. This week’s review comes from a surprise Aphex Twin release on Paul Woolford’s, aka Special Request, SoundCloud.

The upload, which Woodford added on April 21st and may only survive for a short period of time, is a rare and beautiful thing. Kicking off with a handful of tracks from a Peel Session Aphex Twin did in 1992 the majestic brilliance of Richard D James is apparent immediately. With Peel himself sounding over-whelmed and blown apart by what he is hearing.

Part of the brilliance of Aphex Twin has always been the fine balance between beauty and aggression that essence that he is treading on a narrow line between innocence and something much darker. It is a sound and a trick, which those inspired by James often attempt to imitate and nearly always fall short of. This essential part of Aphex Twin’s brilliance is on show in the Peel sessions, which combine synth-y other worldliness with aggressive breaks and dark vocal samples.

The stand out track on show in the Peel Sessions is Blue Calx, which first appeared on Selected Ambient Works Vol 2 and has gone on to become a firm favourite with fans of James. It is performed staggeringly well during the Peel sessions and highlights the sensational beauty which can be found when Aphex Twin plays to the simplest components of electronic music.

The second half of Woolford’s upload comes from a live recording of Aphex Twin at Sheffield Hallam University, which was made for a Pete Tong Essential Selection in 1993. This later part really sees James turn up the aggression.  Things start off slowly before the bass and breaks are cranked up to a euphoric and complex level that one can only imagine drove everyone in attendance wild.

Despite the fact that this recording was made live in 1993 nothing about it feels dated. So often with recordings from the early UK rave scene the sound and elements feel sadly dated but with James’ impressive live performance this is not a problem. The sound remains fresh, the breaks still feel futuristic and the bass remains heavy yet exploratory. Perhaps this is one of the greatest compliments which can be paid to the work of Aphex Twin, it continues to feel timeless, there is little that has been produced quite like it and that continues to be the case.

These live recordings are nothing short of brilliant and exciting and well worth checking out if only to hear one of the greatest producers in the infancy of his career. Thank you Internet. Thank you Paul Woolford.

 

11th march- FabricLive 86- My Neu Leng

 

Not officially released till March 18th however I have been fortunate through a Fabric membership to get my mucky paws on this release a week early. The Fabric series has been through some slow times at the start of this year with a mundane mix from Jesse Rose released as part of the Fabriclive series. That said with brillaint mixes by Mumdance, Dub Phizix and Joris Voorn 2015 was always going to be a hard year to follow. However things start to hot up a bit with this addition to the series by My Neu Leng.

My Neu Leng specialise in what could loosely and awfully be termed bass music. That is they take a wide selection of hard hitting bass bangers and turn them into something that could set any roof on fire. Fabriclive 86 sees them cover many basses (pun intended) including bassline, grime, house, jungle, drum and bass and UK Garage.

The duo adopt a rapid fire style to their mixing perhaps influenced by the DJs they would have grown up with such as DJ EZ and DJ Q and cover some 30 tracks in 80mins. And each track is a bass based beauty.

The mix is most thrilling when the tunes hark back to bassline house, a UK genre which excited and thrilled but was all too short lived especially in the South of the country. These tracks serve as a reminder of the potential and excitement of the genre and what could have been if it had not been marred by violence, police raids and drug problems.

Elsewhere My Neu Leng slot in icy synth led grime and several tracks which hark back to early jungle and UK Garage . There is enough of an influence from the early nineties UK rave scene to say that many of those who were there first time around would take some enjoyment from this set.

With a mix of this standard My Neu Leng’s growing stock will only rise faster and as for  Fabric it’s good to have the mix series back on form.  Listen below for a preview of the Fabric mix.

 

Purchases can be made here:

http://www.fabriclondon.com/store/catalog/product/view/id/1009/s/fabriclive-86/category/8/

 

February 4th- Kendrick Lamar-

 

You’re all prepared to recommend Lapsley’s new release for your blog then the night before release day one of, if not the, most important artist in the world at the moment drops a surprise release and your recommendation changes overnight. This highlights the importance of Kendrick Lamar in the current cultural and political climate. Last year’s album To Pimp A Butterfly is likely to be regarded by future generations and critics as highly as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On and based on the quality on this follow up such praise is fully deserved.

The title of Kendrick’s new release implies offcuts from last year’s album and that is what we get. However, offcuts from Kendrick Lamar are about 100 times better than most artists’ albums proper. The quality on show here is stunning.

Beats wise the vibe remains very similar to last year’s album with the off-kilter jazz beats inspired by the Brainfeeder crew littering the album. They are stunning and refreshing in the face of the often mundane trap heavy current US Hip Hop scene. And it is encouraging to see Kendrick sticking to a vibe which made To Pimp A Butterfly stand out from releases by his peers.

As a lyricist Untitled Unmastered serves to further highlight just how far Kendrick Lamar has grown and continues to develop there are focuses on Eastern Philosophy, meditations on hopelessness and political insight, it’s a long way from the subject matter of Instagram, dick pics and bling that many lesser rappers focus on at the moment.

Unititled Unmastered also sees Kendrick working with a strong ensemble cast of musicians including Thundercat, from the previously mentioned Brainfeeder crew, who features on almost every track, Adrain Younge who continues to go from strength to strength and DJ Khalil, all three make vital and exciting contributions to the album. However, there is one downside in that Kendrick choose to work with unrepentant pervert and offender Cee-Lo Green, however, such is the strength of the body of work this can be overlooked.

The two strongest tracks on show here untitled 05 and untitled 08 they are both staggering and worthy of Kendrick Lamar picking up further Grammy awards next year. The later track carries with it a similar vibe to King Kunta which is certainly no bad thing. The fact the track is 8 minutes long only adds to the build-up, joy and excitement and even at that length it seems too short.

And here in is the only disappointment Untitled Unmastered is such a joy and such a great body of work that, it is a shame that it is only just over 30 minutes and 8 tracks long. That said if all Kendrick’s releases are this strong it is a disappointment we can all cope with.

 

 

Tunes of the Month- February 2016

Another month has been and gone and here’s some tunes I have been listening to:

 

  1. Diiv- Under the Sun

 

 

Catchy rock track from Diiv’s Is The Is Are album and proof that contray to claims otherwise good rock music is still being made.

2. Skepta ft D Double E and A$AP Nast- Ladies Hit Squad

 

Latest single from Skeppy, more chilled than other recent efforts but still as electric and also further proof of the ever growing relationship between Boy Better Know and ASAP Mob.

 

3. Riton- Rinse & Repeat

 

This has been doing the rounds in the clubs for awhile now but finally getting a release, strong house track from the often Ed Banger associated producer.

4.  Massive Attack- Ritual Spirit EP

The return of Massive Attack and a return to form well worth the wait. Take it There featuring Tricky and Dead Editors featuring Roots Manuva are the strongest tracks but a great EP all round.

5. Zhu- In The Morning

 

Beautifully arranged house track from the secretive producer behind Grammy nominated track Faded. Championed regularly by Pete Tong on his Radio 1 show.

February 26th- Benga Future Funk

Mental illness may be one of the last great taboos in the health sector. This sense is further amplified in the music industry with sufferers of mental illness such as Adam Ant previously being treated to ridicule and mocking.

Last year one musician featured in many publications attempting to put a halt to this stigma, that man was dubstep pioneer Benga.

At the height of his career, with chart success, prime time Radio 1 shows and festival slots Benga shocked many in the industry by announcing his retirement. What many didn’t know at the time but now do is that the producer was suffering with mental health difficulties.

Returning last year to the public eye to speak about his problems was incredibly brave and now this year sees a return to music with this release Future Funk.

The name of the EP is something of a giveaway the sound here is of a man still entrenched in UK bass culture but one who is looking at the future rather than harking back to past successes. Attempting to do this may be cathartic for Benga and it is certainly admirable considering everything else his has had to battle with.

Future Funk sounds refreshed, it is bass music reloaded and well worth a listen. If there is any justice the opening track of this album will be lighting up clubs across the country.

Huge plaudits to Benga for the struggle he has overcome and for making a future thinking and forward looking EP well worth picking up a copy just to support the man.

 

February 19th- DJ Kicks Moodymann

 

The DJ Kicks series has been described as the Rolls Royce of mix series, this might be something of an exaggeration as such a claim over-looks the Fabric mix series, the Late Night Tale series and many others. However, to say it has produced some exceptional mixes would not be an exaggeration and to say two of last year’s DJ Kicks mixes by Actress and DJ Koze were understanding is nothing short of preaching the truth.

With such high praise Moodymann has a lot to do to make his a classic and to some extent he comes close.

Moodymann is an eclectic bugger his DJ sets take in disco, funk, hip hop, house, techno and everything in between and his acclaimed albums equally see him bounce between a multitude of styles. That approach style hopping is ever present hear. Moodymann takes in hip hop, soul, funk, house and even some folk. Everything is expertly mixed and so jarring is avoided. However that does mean things feel seamless to the listener often ones ears feel as if there is too much going on, too much being included and ideas are being flitted between.

There are some distinctly beautiful moments on this DJ Kicks mix and listening is an enjoyable experience.

However, if it was Moodymann’s desire to join the heights of great mixes in the series through his eclecticism, mixes such as DJ Koze, Actress, John Talabot and Kruder & Dorfmiester then he has slightly fallen short. That said it is still a very strong and well mixed effort, which is a joy to listen too.