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words by jace.

this is an archive page. click above for the now thing.

vinyl rescue service

» SLEW DEM, TAPE DEM more Grime in action: here's a 15-minute chunk from Jah Mek the World's pirate radio presence, courtesy of the same silverdollarcircle cassette dub mentioned below.  Some nice blends & mistakes alongside a few big tunes (slew dew 16 bar, boogeyman, etc) and Dizzee going off with  fantastic urgency.
    Monied pop is a strange precipice. The underground is large the way cemeteries are large--room enough for everybody.

  four comments |
» GRIME HABITAT

Pirate radio is grime´s natural habitat. Here´s an 8 minute excerpt from a Jah Mek the World session, ripped from a cassette dub courtesy of silverdollarcircle.
   
If this was a landscape then the foreground & background perspectives would be all screwed up: the massive bassline is upfront, MCs underneath to pull you in, then rickety space and spare drumclatter so far back in the mix they sound like beats from behind the neighbor´s wall & next block's drive-by gunspray.  Airwaves always ebbing away, untouchable, & you don´t know what you got til its gone.

  ten comments |
» OUD SOLO The oud. Lovely popular Middle Eastern string instrument.  Here's a track by a living master, Hussein El Masry. Sables Du Desert, the (1981?) vinyl LP I ripped this from appears to be very out-of-print, but El Masry, an Egyptian expat in Montpellier, France, continues to perform & release material on CD.  If you dig this, then I'd recommend investigating any solo work by him. Deep compositions, nimble playing.  He doesn't always sing but when he does, it's golden. His French website hosts pop-up ads.

  one comment |
» THE BIRTH OF TRA: REGGAETON REWIND

Many thanks for/to the great comments here, from Madrid graf IDs to Rafi B dropping science on how rhyming and toasting bring local accent/slang/inflections to the fore while singing tends to flatten. In “Pull Up Our Pants: Reggaeton Breakdown”, Alberto answered Sizzle's question about “tra”'s Spanish meaning: “A few years back, Don Chezina made the phrase popular by making a reggaeton song that only said "Tra" for 3 minutes. I have heard some people say that the original Tra song is a DJ mix of a live performance where Chezina was imitating the sounds of the snare drum... One can imitate the drumroll saying "traaa".
     Just so happens that I've got the original Don Chezina “Tra” song Alberto mentioned. Lots of layers in this unlikely hit: a DJ remix of a live gig recording where Chezina was imitating a snare, bootlegged onto a vinyl EP called Reggaeton Trax vol. I.
   This tune is mad raw to begin with, and the idea that he's riffing on a snare sound makes it even wilder, epic & frantic, more avant-garde. If you thought Lethal B's Forward riddim was too refined, then “Tra Tra Tra” is 4 u.

  one comment |

COMPRESSION ETHICS

Thursday 27 January 2005 at 1:48 pm

Sounds first, words later. Ndanzwa Ngoma Kurira by Zimbabwe's Thomas Mapfumo. From his 1984 Mabasa album. The lyrics and LP artwork are both stunning, add a whole new next-level deepness to this already deep track.   
 


The song title translates to I Hear The Sounds of Drumming.


    I´ve heard the sound of drumming,
    Guys you´ve let me down
    I have heard the sound of drumming
    Guys, I would like to go
    I´ve heard the sounds of drumming
    The girls here are proud
    I´ve heard the sound of drumming
    Guys you´ve killed me
    I´ve heard the sound of drumming.



 A quick lookabout pulled up this relatively recent article on Mapfumo.

BRAND FEVER & BABYLON BOOTSTRAPS

Sunday 23 January 2005 at 07:00 am

This warped iPod sketch (5.5MB quicktime movie) feels entirely like Jam-era Chris Morris (detached voices, skewed video effects, queasy dark comedy, ambient music bed) but was made by these guys.
    Soft-brain humor for a lazy weekend.  AKA everything else i´ve looked at on the internet recently is hugely depressing.

Like-- Chant down Babylon, right?  Nope. In addition to atrocious bungling & greedy bids, my country is actively trampling millenia of history-- the entire scale of violence shifts. Wayne hosts an amazing pic of Neo Babylon strolling Nebuchadnezzar Bablyon. Where is Bob Marley / Indiana Jones / the U.N. when you need him? 

Also: ads hack consciousness. and conscientiousness. & vice versa. Media conflict looks like this.  (2.5MB quicktime movie)

MUGSHOT

Saturday 22 January 2005 at 12:56 pm

Risky Roadz, the most ambitious of the handful of self-produced grime/garage scene DVDs I've seen, is a cluttered, bugged-out forest. You can literally get lost in it, with submenus navigating 3+ hours of handheld digicam footage, a majority of it featuring poor young black guys shouting urban poetry and/or warrior chants into overloaded microphones with or without musical accompaniment. POW! If you call that music.  

 

risky roads, kano, my tv.


Kano shows in a WHITE BATHROBE to drop laid-back (chilled-out, utterly non David Brentian) mic management tips, accapella, then takes a sip from his white coffee mug. You can't see his feet but I bet the brother's rocking terrycloth slippers.

GUNSHOT RIDDIM

Friday 21 January 2005 at 07:19 am While typing a longish piece on the odd intersection btwn M.I.A.´s neatly tailored package and the unruly tangle that is the Risky Roadz DVD, I look up and Simon Silverdollar has posted one of my fav grime riddims, a perfect alien bruiser known as Pulse Eskimo aka the Gunshot Riddim.   (Downloadable as a m4a file, whatever that is..).  A crucial listen, Gunshot humps and clatters with a movement all its own. Simon sez: "despite being built from uniformly ultra-brutalist sounds and textures, it never lapses into the repellent macho rigidity of much extreme electronic music. this is a more organic take on extremism, on a human, even personal, scale. the sound of people losing and terrifying themselves, rather than machines terrorising people." Yup.
  I feel like I´m outsourcing my work, so, biggish post soon, complete w/ a pic of Kano slaying sucker MCs in a bathrobe, coffee mug in hand. I meant to post old (read: pre-Diwali) Lenky riddims, but I can´t remember if they were destroyed in last years car crash or not.

LANDMARK MURK IN THE HISTORY OF LIBERTY

Thursday 20 January 2005 at 05:02 am
      at least we´re not alone.

bbc world service interviewed 22,000 people in 21 countries about international peace & security under the bush admin.

WHO BUYS MUSIC MAGAZINES, STILL?

Wednesday 19 January 2005 at 9:32 pm grime lovers / detractors take note: simon platinum plus on a track-by-track writeup of 2004 postrave british eskimo thug music.
 
 On the delicious epic draw-jopper that is Jammer´s 'Feedback' : "Jammer merks sunn-o and all those people, with a meditation on bass feedback and thrum. sludgy, but in a really pure, almost blissy way, it's right out there with wonder's 'what', and may be even beyond, at that end of the grime spectrum that takes delight in making no sense and confusing everyone. in theory that's great, and in practice it's lots of fun too."  Yes.
      I´ve never heard anything hang in the air & electrify it the way 'Feedback' does; I respect the frequencies too much to cramp them onto an MP3 or I´d rip it. Thrilling inexplicable sound pressured onto vinyl.
   Even (especially?) if you nobody hears these tunes, people should read the writeups & try to make music that sounds the way Simon describes it.  Sad, in a way, but true: printed music magazines are like dinosaurs with arthritis.

5KILLS 2 PAY TH3 B1LLS

Wednesday 19 January 2005 at 2:01 pm

My greatest achievement yesterday was rearranging the preschool letter-magnets on a friend's refrigerator to spell:
FUCK UP GANSTER COPZ FOMENT CLASS WAR

I used all available vowels.

GET OFF THE INTERNET

Saturday 15 January 2005 at 2:45 pm  Here´s the deal: Rothko´s the spot, Chain Agent´s the gang, and whatever Rupture is, he, er, I, don´t get over to the U.S. much. So when I do, it´s time to PARTY
Spread the word, come out, get low, Crunklandia ahoy!

    Crunk Up For Tsunami Relief
     Friday Jan 28th  /  Rothko 116 Suffolk NYC

$6 admission, to be donated to humanitarian relief in SE Asia & Sudan

DJs:
         DJ /Rupture (Barcelona, Soot Records, Tigerbeat6)
         I-Sound (NYC, Full Watts, Transparent Records)
         Shadetek Sound System (NYC, Warp, Sound-Ink, Shockout)
         Mode Raw (NYC, Change Agent)

QUALITY CREEPY + DEAD-ON SMARTS

Friday 14 January 2005 at 08:32 am

In 2004 I got to meet & hang-out with 2 true giants in my audio/cultural landscape: the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane & the American radio artist/wound technician Gregory Whitehead. Who?

UbuWeb just posted an MP3 anthology of 20 years of Whitehead´s radio plays, performances and outcasts, along with a few of his writings. The MP3s range from his early tapes  (where I first heard Ziggurat) to an 11minute excerpt from “The Loneliest Road”, a 2003 radioplay for the BBC with music composed by The Books (as soon as I heard Thought for Food I sent it to Gregory, he loved it, contacted them, and the rest is...)

I've always been impressed with the way Gregory´s stuff circulates—looking for it directly is never the best option because his material moves simultaneously via several seemingly unrelated channels: cassettes traded in the old experimental mailswap circuit, pseudonym 7”s, screamscape studies for local radio & audience telephones, commissions from the BBC, articles here & there, editor behind some definitive books on sound & radio. He sidesteps the usual categories of musician/critic, academic/street, high art/no-fi art, documentarian/confidence man, thanatos/eros, etc. Even at its most theoretical, his writing remains rooted, relevant.

I heard the tapes first. Whitehead's soundwork is viscerally compelling—a lot of it is simply words, gasps, and utterances. Additional sounds set a psychological mood or unnerve. Yet it's playful--overtly funny, flirting with desire. It tells or suggests stories, though the narrative may be linear, cyclical, disarticulate, or straight-up impossible. Quality creepy + dead-on smarts.

              

from Drone Tones and other Radiobodies"

Radio is mostly a set of relationships, an intricate triangulation of listener, “player” and system. It’s also a huge corporate beast, and the awareness that you’re working within a highly capitalized network. Finally, there is the way in which radio is listened to, frequently in an extremely low-fi environment, with people listening on a car radio, or they’re in the kitchen and they’re cooking and they’re listening with only half an ear. To me, radio art comes to grips with all of that, it comes to grips with both the context of production and the context of listening.

UbuWeb is a great resource in and of itself, containing all sorts of audio gems & interviews from the 20th century avant-garde, such as a 1967 Salvador Dalí flexidisc, a 3-hour FMU interview with Henry Flynt, Artaud, Dockstader (“because I´ve had no schooling in traditional music I in a way start back where I suppose hundreds of years thousands where the first guy picked up a rock or something and started to me music is just very simply a matter of tension and release.”), Tzara, many many more.

 & further quotes from Whitehead

(more)

WHEATPASTE BALLOT

Thursday 13 January 2005 at 11:57 am somebody posted this on my building.

 

SIESTA TIME

Wednesday 12 January 2005 at 07:19 am

There's a fun mix of misapplied statistics and dry social observation in today's  NYTimes article on Spanish lifestyle rhythms: big meal of the day at 3pm, dinner around 10pm, etc. (if you don't have a log-on name, use "toneburst" for both user ID & password to read it).   My favorite sentence: "Spaniards work more hours per week than the average European, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but they accomplish less."  Apparently Spanish people sleep less than the average European too.  "The lack of sleep has serious health effects for Spanish society, he said, including a greater incidence of physical and mental illness and higher rates of traffic and workplace accidents."   (Nobody except the dude NYT found truly believes that more sleep would make Spain a less inefficient country.)

    A few months ago the free ´Metro´daily here ran an article about how 3 out of 5 Spaniards nap on the job, interesting how all this data collides. But it´s true: in Madrid we went out to dinner at 1:30 AM once--- because all the other restaurants were full. "Afternoon" stretches until about 8 or 9pm.  Late night tangle with mornings.

     How they cut up time says a lot about a person or society (or musician).  Spanish time is abundant, resinous, hard to get off your fingers and easy to get stuck in. Tour time (a surreal variant of Commuter time) is detached, stuffed & mounted: you watch yourself wait to travel, wait to eat, wait to soundcheck, wait to play, everything changes every day except the rhythm: somebody else's time giftwrapped as your own.

LORIGA, DICK, CHANDLER, CAFFEINE

Sunday 09 January 2005 at 1:56 pm Oh god,” snorted the Madrid bookstore clerk, “...Ray Loriga.” I was in Loriga's hometown, purchasing his novel Tokyo Doesn't Love Us Anymore. And the guy selling it made fun of me for buying it.

I haven't been able to locate a single Spanish person with good things to say about Loriga: he's vapid, he's a pijo, he likes shallow fame, he just writes about rich pijos having sex with each other, he's got a cheesy wrist tattoo and contorts himself adjusting the watch and cigarette to make sure it's visible in his publicity shots, he uses too much mousse which is to say you can't trust a man who spends both time and money to make himself look disheveled. Fair enough. But I wanted to find out for myself.

Justin had compared Tokyo to Philip Dick, which was good enough for me: on the basis of A Scanner Darkly (this is to say, willfully ignoring the fortysomething other novels he cranked out) Dick is one of the most exciting writers I've read in any genre in awhile, period. Hard to describe, but he´s good in a way that few are: the hilarity, the paranoia, the lucidity, the narrative charge & pacing, the souped-up druggy lucidity. The generosity. He believes in people, empathizes with undazzling frayed everyday people.

Why judge a book by its cover when you can judge by the first sentence? (Especially important to not judge Dick's books by their covers, which tend to be embarrassing science fictiony/fantasy if-someone-sees-you-reading this-in-public-they're gonna-think-you're goofy- and/or-a Trekkie- style drawings.) A Scanner Darkly begins: “Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair.” The way the rest of the opening treats poor aphid- and/or drug-afflicted Jerry not with no trace of topdown caricaturization or pathos is a refreshingly gentle, unassuming way for an author to relate to his characters, even burn-outs and potential burn-outs. If you haven't yet, my advice is to read Scanner before the movie debuts & Keanu steamrolls in.
     Aside: It's interesting to read Dick with Chandler in mind, boozy Raymond Chandler for whom the morally ambiguous terrain of LA is littered with abstract clues that eventually lead to a unified truth--a solution; and pill-popping Philip Dick, whose LA is hallucinatory, plural, personal in the way that one´s dreams or nightmares or drug reveries are personal--dissolute.
     alcoholic L.A. vs addict L.A.

(This started as a post about Loriga but now it's about coffee. Namely espresso. Particularly, caffeine. In my bloodstream. I realized that the bpm count of my recorded output was dropping steadily, hence the new year's resolution : drink coffee. Later I'll try to wrest my own attention span back towards the book I just read.)

3 KINGS DAY

Thursday 06 January 2005 at 11:31 am

Today is Día de los Reyes in Spain, aka National Blackface Day, where the Biblical three wise men (Santa surrogates to the secular) leave presents in everybody's shoes, one king being Balthazar the African. Even though plenty of Negroes populate Spain, it's just as common to find a white Spaniard in black greasepaint doing the honors. You'll see dozens of blackfaced Spaniards during this time of year: on TV, in parades, waving at children in malls, grinning over products in syndicated commercials, and so on.
      I know a lot of Africans here who wouldn't mind some extra cash around Christmastime, but I guess getting white guys to charcoal their faces is less hassle.

El roscón de Reyes is the typical holiday dessert—interesting only because in a land of exceptional pastries, it acts just like American fruitcake: leaden, dry, uneaten.

Conguitos, on the other hand, are a popular candy here any time of year. The tasty chocolate-covered peanuts aren't as black as white Balthazars, but they dance compatible shimmys.


DJ RUPTURE'S TOP 5 PROBLEMS WITH TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR LISTS

Saturday 01 January 2005 at 12:06 pm


# 3.   First off: pretty much nobody who bothers to write up a "top X albums of the year" list actually buys albums. Most of them are journalists, which means they receive free copies from publicists hired by the artists/labels to repeatedly bug media workers to generate buzz about said albums.
    A significant chunk of what you've read online or off- is basically rehashed "one-sheet" prose. Publicists send out info sheets along with the album, explaining the music, giving context and suggesting spin angles, hyping the CD using metaphors and comparisons and imagery that inevitably get recycled into reviews and writeups. (Happens so frequently it's funny; writers must absorb one-sheet images subconsciously.) And not just in music, of course--unimaginative journalists crib from publicity sheets all over: film, literature, news. In Washington it turns into lobbyists, and things go really haywire. In every big city you'll find a bookstore specializing in reviewer's copies of books: reviewers get free promo editions, read them, then sell 'em. Lots of CD shops turn the same trade.
    Then there are the DJs like myself, who buy tons of vinyl singles yet only shell out cash for a full album when there's a song on it that we really want to play live.
    Then there are the hardcore music fans with a reasonably well-paying day job, honorable folks who actually purchase CDs by artists they like. These same people probably vote regularly in local and national elections, and if their savings aren't tucked away in some sensible investment portfolio yet, they will be soon. Everybody else downloads everything. The only CDs we buy are blank.


#1 My first problem with top 10 music lists is that applying hierarchies to artistic endeavors is absurd at best. It's like talking about the weather using superlatives ("April 9th was the best sunny day of 2004!").
 I'm not into dudes with big record collections pretending they can build a canon, or even wanting to try. 


#2 My second problem with top 10 lists is that when music is hottest and most interesting it isn't concerned with being "the best". "The best" is always retrospective. Good music is always ahead. If you want taxidermy & placards explaining it all, go to a natural history museum. (A few years back they finally removed the stuffed dead African "Black Man" on display here in Cataluyna Spain).

    More broadly, music moves in currents. For example, grime & dancefloor breakcore were cool this year, but neither genre coughed up any albums that captured the excitement of the scene it stemmed from. Both scenes flourish around singles, mixtapes, parties, radio shows, and stoned producers who rock out with their mini-entourage in the attic or basement of Mum's house, towel jammed under the door so she don't smell the skunk.

    Albums coming from hot scenes tend to arrive long after the heat has moved on. Dizzee's debut CD hit so hard because it was many listeners' first grime immersion. His 2nd album paled in comparison for a lot of reasons--namely substandard beats, but his former companions blazed ahead making crazy brilliant half-music, shooting off whitelabel singles and one-off dubplates, agile and warped and fast, while expensive ads for Rascal's Showtime album lumbered by on the sides of London doubledecker buses.

    This year I heard a lot of hype grime mixtapes (Logan Sama, Lord of the Mic, etc) & pirate broadcasts (Flex, Jah Mek the World, many more), and I saw a lot of amazing breakcore (Snares, Sickboy, Shitmat DJing). But albums that channeled or redirected the wild energy of sketchy FM transmissions or singed bass on overworked soundsystems... Not really.


#5 The whole "album" concept when looked at via the popular narratives of music criticism makes little sense. There's a contrived, quietly racist division between music that is naive native genius aka "street" (i.e. raw, unselfconscious, stylized representations of a lifestyle that happens in a neighborhood where you would either be afraid to rent an apartment or where you want to rent an apartment because it's edgy/has colored people living there) and music that is more brainy, less populist, less real. One of the main ways these straw-men categories are reinforced is by people condemning the latter for mistakes while praising the former for doing the same thing, and vice-versa.

    When Kayne West raps about buying furniture at IKEA it's a big deal, he's breaking rules and upending conventions via behind-the-scenes confessions--look, it's a bear suit!; whereas when Anticon raps about anything at all the same people couldn't care in the least. It's good to keep an eye out for what artists can break the (unspoken?) rules and what artists people don't think any rules apply to. Rules behind the rules is what we're trying to crack here.

    Another example of the attempts to differentiate into existence “street music” & “bedroom music”: both breakcore and grime are weird, oftentimes abrasive peripheral dance musics being made by a handful of in-the-know producers and released through tight DIY distribution networks. But critical consensus is quick to praise grime as raw/street/populist and breakcore as individualist/bedroom even when, in absolute terms, breakcore records are selling better, the genre is more widespread and grassroots and internationally-catchy than grime. (It's like survival of the least fit!) The categorization is goofy but yes, I believe the world's 'street' is vibing more with breakcore right now.

   Hmmm.. I don't remember how all this relates to reason #5... Maybe something about how albums are hastily cast, either/or style, as individual gems of idiosyncratic brilliance or shiny platinum-selling metonyms from a vibrant subaltern culture. ???

#4 My fourth problem with top 10s is my lack of a problem. People ask me to write Top 10 lists, I oblige. Everybody needs filters. Everybody has new stuff to learn from people whose tastes they trust.


#6 Problem number six: why start & stop at music? I want to see anybody's Top 10 Scary Pieces of Legislation Passed in 2004. Or the Top 10 Non-imaginary Threats to Healthy Democracies in 2004. And if people really wanna boast about how cool they are, instead of naming a bunch of musicians and rappers, why not the Top 10 Things I Did to Make A Globally Horrible Year Slightly Less Horrible.

     I, for one, didn't do anything, hence all this talk about music. . .