November 18th- Mumdance & Logos- Different Circles

Last year Mumdance delivered one of the best and most exciting mixes of the year when he turned in his contribution to the celebrated FabricLive mix series. As producers Mumdance and Logos sit as pioneers of what they term the Weightless genre. Think part instrumental My Bloody Valentine noise, grime 2.0 beats and old school jungle reference points and you are getting close. Part of their vision is the record label Different Circles. And it is from releases on this label that Mumdance and Logos have compiled this new mix album.

Some of the tracks, which appear here will be familiar to those who listened to last year’s pioneering FabricLive mix, however, there are plenty of new cuts to keep the audience happy. To say the sound of the tracks on the record is like nothing else, even when they have been heard before, is an under exaggeration. This mix sounds otherworldly. At points ethereal but also dark and aggressive much of the sound presented feels like a logical experimental step for the sort of instrumentals Wiley was cooking up around 2003.

Despite its very experimental sound the Weightless genre has caught the imaginations of many grime producers several of whom are represented here including Rabit and Boxed frequenter Sharp Veins. However, many of the tracks are plucked from the back-catalogues of Mumdance and Logos themselves. Though a lack of diversity might exist it isn’t a problem when your productions sound as alien as these.

Different Circles is a short mix which flies by far too quickly and unlike last year’s FabricLive mix there is no exploration of wider genres or of sounds, which may have influenced Mumdance and Logos. However, as everything here sounds so fresh, exciting and experimental the negatives don’t have much of an impact.  Different Circles is a great mix for fans of experimental music, lovers of last year’s FabricLive mix and a great stepping stone for those wishing to explore the Weightless genre.

 

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November 11th 2016- A Tribe Called Quest- We Got It From Here…Thank You

With impeccable timing given certain election results and tinged with sadness this week saw the release of the final album by A Tribe Called Quest. We Got It From Here…Thank You was confirmed for release as the final Tribe Called Quest album after the sad and untimely passing of Phife Dawg. Given the current political climate the tragedy of this loss is even greater, as we need groups like A Tribe Called Quest more now than ever.

On We Got It From Here…Thank You A Tribe Called Quest tackle some of the most difficult and yet tragically ever present subjects of current American and Global socio-political life: gun violence, police brutality, economic disparity, war, migration, the rise of the right wing political elite the list is almost endless. They show no fear in tackling these toughest of subjects with a wise new age sensibility for which they have become famed.

Closing track The Donald takes aim at well…you know who. Other tracks such as We The People reference the current crisis surrounding police brutality and the disproportionate treatment of the USA’s African-American populations.  We the People also takes on the subject of discrimination faced by Mexicans during the recent Trump election triumph. The Tribe often provide a simple answer to many of these issues, we all just need to be closer together on this one Earth, as we are all one and the same. It’s a mantra they have repeated throughout their career, though one which is as far away from being realised today as during the George Bush senior days of the group’s formation.

Whilst this may sound heavy going, the album is full of A Tribe Called Quests’ typical human touch and also a good dose of wit. Humour appears often in the use of samples, such as interludes from Willy Wonka. They may on their last album be tackling dark subject matter but they do this in a way, which only A Tribe Called Quest can.

The album is built around unsurprisingly brilliant golden-age era East Coast beats, which are sample heavy and often reference a period in hip hop’s history now sadly forgot. We Got It From Here…Thank You is also a guest heavy album featuring subtle appearances from Elton John and Jack White. Whilst more prominent appearances are made by Kendrick Lamar (perhaps the long term successor to the group’s crown) and long-time friends and collaborators Talib Kwali and Busta Rhymes. Busta has over the years grown into an almost some time member of A Tribe Called Quest and his appearances here on various tracks feels the most natural and fitting out of all guests.

Everything on We Got It From Here…Thank You is near-on perfect as a hip-hop album goes. The beats are exceptional (though at odds with the current scene), the subject matter poignant and the flow of each member is…well….why even bother you all know there’s few out there who can stand to toe to toe with the Tribe, when it comes to delivery.

Much has been made of both the gap between their last release and this and the fact that there will be no more new material from A Tribe Called Quest. However when it comes to We Got It From Here…Thank You, it is best not to call it a come-back, a send-off or a tribute, this is just A Tribe Called Quest doing what they do best.

4th November- Yussef Kamaal- Black Focus

London’s underground music scene, its pirate radio, small clubs and bars have recently been witness to a bubbling undercurrent of exciting and experimental Jazz. This is driven in part by the duo Yussef Kamaal; who are themselves inspired by Miles Davis, Flying Lotus and his Brainfeeder crew alongside drum and bass, especially the jazzy variety played by the likes of 4Hero and Spring Heel Jack. There’s a vocal sample part way through closing track Joint 17 which sums this musically milieu up perfectly: “You create your own reference point and that’s what Jazz has always been about” and that is exactly what Yussef Kamaal are about here on Black Focus.

Whilst the album does contain a smattering of electronics the largest percentage of what is on offer here is live instrumentation by two exceptionally talented musicians. Part of what makes Black Focus so engaging and exciting is the very fact you are keenly aware that two guys are making this with a reduced level of computer reliance compared to others who make a similar sound. Their ability is outstanding. Nowhere on Black Focus is this clearer than in the album’s drum work, which is both subtle and yet front and centre. To listen to the drum work of Yussef Kamaal is to hear a thing of great beauty.

Black Focus feels and sounds like the product of all of its many influences especially on tracks like Strings of Light. However, when your influences are so diverse and critically acclaimed this is certainly no bad thing. It would be incredibly exciting if this album were to herald more experimental and jazz inflected values returning to UK Drum and Bass instead of the jump-up style, which has dominated for the last decade.

There are parts of Black Focus where the album takes a more chilled dub and jazz vibe, like in the opening to the track Remembrance. Upon hearing this anyone who remembers 90s genre Acid Jazz may be filled with terror. However, these and fears are misplaced as Yussef Kamaal are aware of musicians’ mistakes past and balance the album’s more chilled moments with snapshots of breakbeat drums and technical wizardry.

Black Focus is an experimental album which will appeal to both Jazz and Drum and Bass fans alike. Whilst also being the perfect album to play on a lazy Sunday morning after the Saturday night before. The talent that sits behind it, is a reminder of just how brilliant live instrumentation can be. Let’s hope Yussef Kamaal inspire a few young minds to pick up a drumstick or a trumpet rather than a Mac and a copy of Garageband.