As a music journalist, it's my job to see through the hype, PR bullshit, be objective and not get caught up in hyperbole. So I do not say this lightly, when a few weeks back, I struggled out on a Sunday evening to the South Bank Centre and the Human Beatbox Convention, where beatboxer or vocal percussionist Shlomo (Foreign Beggars) had curated an afternoon and evening of beatbox performances, talks and so on.
The closing performance, and I feel guilty concentrating on this as the majority of four/five (Beardyman, Roxor Loops) performances were very good, was one of the BEST GIGS I HAVE EVER SEEN.
Picture four beatboxers and an eight strong, VOCAL classical/jazz/pop band, Swingle Singers. Shlomo conducted and the audience was privvy to around 40minutes of instrumental music (no singing or rapping), created solely by the mouth.
Initially the Swingle's barbershop style harmonizing were mixed up with beatboxers' scratches, drums, and beats, demonstrating a kind of crude crossover between the two disparate worlds.
Before long the 12 people on stage were each contributing a sound - a scratch, kick drum, bassline, cymbal, hi hat, trumpet, batacuda percussion, flameco singing, harmonies and melodies, which were built, layered and weaved in such a way to create a wall or collage of human sound. And to round it off was an unrehearsed jam with Shlo orchestrating and asking each to contribute a sound according to a certain rhythm. Shlo was as excited as a kid in a Toys R Us, re-iterating that this was, 'All from the mouth', at any opportunity.
Apparently this set up will be touring the festival circuit this summer. Make sure you catch them coz I can guarantee you will be blown away. I've not done the performance any justice here, and although there is footage on Youtube, it doesn't get across the power and force of this ingenius collaboration.
Just as there's an element of feeling the force of a band playing live, to hear detailed, engaging new music by the human mouth was a chill down your spine moment.The crossover between the hip hop world and the classical, pop, swing world left fans of each in mutual respect of the other.
Thanks to the Swingle Singers for sorting out the ticket and Sabine @ South Bank Centre for the pic
Dub. It's a sound we're all familiar with. But it's impossible to measure its impact on contemporary music. British dance music culture developed around its (and reggae's) sound system culture. Jungle, drum & bass, and dubstep owe it an obvious debt of gratitude. It's also interesting how the UK became the epicentre for dub in the early 1980s when its homeland of Jamaicaa was turned onto the new school digital sounds of dancehall. More on that later.
Mad Professor, the man behind Ariwa studios, has been touring the UK. His last date is in Edinburgh tomorrow at Cabaret Voltaire. Otherwise it's June before he's back in the UK with a Jazz Cafe date. Apparently his studio is down the road from sunny Brixton in a terraced house in South Norwood. Which interestingly is not far from where DMZ crew of Mala, Loefah and Coki are from. Is it a conincidenc that old school dub and new school, 21st century electronic dub have major roots in suburban(ish) south London.
Here's a preview piece that should have run in Scotland Metro on Friday
Dub pioneer Mad Professor (50-something Neil Fraser), arrives in Scotland as part of a 60-date tour that began last December and takes in Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, America and India. Its scale is an indication of the global affection for dub, some 20 years after British dub’s late 1970/early 1980s heyday, when artists such as Mad Professor, Manessah and Jah Shaka continued the Jamaican sound’s traditions.
Initially an engineer for amps and mixing desks, Fraser began to play around with the circuitry of this studio equipment, creating his own dub sound, earning Fraser the ‘Mad Professor’ moniker from his school friends.
Little did they know that Fraser’s dub experiments were integral to dance music’s genesis in Britain: its raves were built around soundsystem culture, and the music itself drew heavily on dub’s emphasis on bass and drum, or ‘repetitive beats’.
Dub’s influence is palpable in jungle/drum’n’bass, though it’s perhaps current buzz sound dubstep, that’s maintaining its core tradition of feeling – not just hearing - the music and its vibrations shaking your core.
Mad Professor’s Ariwa label and studio (hand built Fraser), is world-renowned and over the years he’s worked with greats such as Horace Andy and the master, Lee Scratch Perry, as well as Massive Attack and The Orb.
Mad Professor’s shows champion positive conscious sounds, mainly dub but also lover’s rock and reggae, bringing people together under the banner of music, and enveloping you in a warm comforting blanket of bass and good vibrations. So it seems Mad Proffesor’s friends were half right: Fraser’s far from mad but is a visionary academic of music in the purest possible sense.
No posts for over two weeks, then two in a day. Can you tell it's Friday?
Ok London Elektricity have been the only drum & bass band worth talking about in recent years. Tony Colman is an eccentric genius that somehow managed to pull together, esteemed jazz singer - winner of BBC Jazz Awards no less - Lianne Carroll, with human drum machine, the Jungle Drummer who is capable of reaching 160 bpm (that makes him sound like a car), as well as MC Wrec and keyboardist Landslide, and silken voiced house hero Robert Owens. This band tore up festivals, clubs and beyond for over three years, and took d&b to parts it doesn't reach. namely more mainstream, band focused audiences. Unfortunately the band is no more. But the Tony's brand of euphoric, fast soul music is still around. Nevertheless their home, the label, Hospital Records is arguably the prime example of how to run a small independent record label in 2007. Their catalogue's available on iTunes and as you will find out they won an award for Best Podcast last year. They're not complaining about falling record sales and the Internet piracy destroying their revenue, Hospital is embracing the futre and is miles ahead of the pack as a result. Maximum respect to label co founder and label manager Chris Goss, who runs a very tight ship.
It's fitting that Tony's photo is of him in Japan as this interview, which appeared in Newcastle Metro on Thursday March 8th, was conducted while he was on tour in Japan. Tony is the guy in the camo jacket (ho ho ho).
Since its inception in 2003, drum’n’bass band London Elektricity has been a breath of fresh air: its brand of ‘fast soul music’ - or breakneck breakbeat oozing musicality and feeling – garnered fans beyond d’n’b and their breathtaking live shows at festivals including Glastonbury and the Big Chill meant London Elektricity soon became dance music cult must sees.
However when London Elektricity arrives in Newcastle tonight, it will be Tony Colman, the brains and producer behind the band, DJing… London Elektricity the band, is in fact, no more.
‘With London Elek live we were living on borrowed time - each musician in the band put their solo careers on hold to do it, and we toured for over two,’ explains Colman. ‘It was an amazing period and we decided to stop while we were at our peak.’
Colman, co-founder of Hospital Records, is busy enough with DJ dates, thinking about a new album, and recording free podcasts, that in much the same way as London Elektricity, live have become a cult phenomenon, beating off Radio 1, Zane Lowe, Kerrang and The Zutons, to scoop a Digital Music Award for best podcast last year.
‘That was really funny - I started podcasting last May and it's never been that serious - just me droning on about my week and playing left field musical drum’n’bass,’ recalls Colman. ‘It was weird to get an award for what is really just a pirate radio show that you can download. Mind you we get around 100,000 downloads a month now so I'm reaching a lot of people who live in unheard of parts of the world.’
In many ways Hospital Records has led the way in embracing new technology and were the only drum’n’bass, and one of very few dance music labels available on iTunes, three years ago. And the label’s not resting on its laurels either, and has begun recording videocasts to download also.
Colman and Hospital would undoubtedly be classified as early adopters of new technology. Nevertheless, Colman is firmly old school and militant when it comes to embracing new technology in the DJ booth.
‘I love vinyl pure and simple: it's more fun to play and it sounds much better, so it's more enjoyable for the crowd,’ says Colman. ‘I took a survey recently of d’n’b fans online, asking them if they had the choice, would they prefer their favorite Djs to play A) vinyl B) cd C) laptop and it was about 98% in favor of vinyl.
‘Some DJs are moving away from vinyl because it's too heavy to carry and more expensive (like that's a problem for A list DJs,’ continues Colman. ‘But they just make the rest of us look better: I think the paying club audience deserves the best so I play 100% vinyl and dubplates.’
photo credit: Peter Melus
First up apologies for my slackness on the blogging front. This blogging business is hard. You get into the mindset of wanting to post meaningful, considered thoughts, which obviously takes time. So when you're going through one of those periods with work, when every second of every waking hour is accounted for, the blog suffers. So that's my excuse, lame as it is.
Anyway, meet DMZ. For me the most exciting, friendly and musically forward thinking clubnight I've been to since Metalheadz at Bluenote - and the birth of jungle/d&b - over a decade ago. DMZ is the spiritual home of dubstep. But what is dubstep? Everyone seems to have heard of it. Last night a house DJ with a residency at Turnmills told me it was slowed down drum&bass. Really? Dubstep is many, many things, and its genesis is particularly interesting, but I haven't got time to get into it here. So I would describe it as 21st century electronic dub, that draws on techno, d&b and UK garage. It's hard bassline music, that is also emotional, stirring and dancefloor. If you like dub, grime, d&b, UK garage or techno, you will get it, no questions asked. And if you're looking for somewhere to start, I would recommend Skream's fearsome Skream LP which is at one end of the spectrum, at the other end is Burial's Burial LP or Kode9 & Spaceape's LP Memories Of The Future, which you would be unlikely to hear played out in a club as they're more contemplative, esoteric examples of dubstep.
DMZ - the club night - is best summed up by their motto 'come meditate to bass weight'. Their soundsystem makes Dilinja's Valve Soundsystem sound like a home stereo in comparison. Ok I'm exaggerating, lots, but you get my drift.
Here's an interview with the DMZ boys, that appeared in London Metro yesterday. apologies for the lateness in posting this.
DMZ is our sound, we started the record label and the night basically for the same reasons: to promote what we are dealing with through sound,’ explains Mala co-promoter, with school friends Loefah and Coki, of cult club night DMZ.
The night, regarded as the spiritual home of dubstep, has become hugely popular (infamously moving to a larger space in the same building, mid proceedings) and marks its second birthday on Saturday. Meanwhile over the same period dubstep - the bass-heavy sound that draws on UK garage, techno, jungle, drum’n’bass and dub - has been in virtually every newspaper, style and music magazine in the country.
It might be possible to attribute DMZ’s popularity to column inches but that would be doing Mala, Loefah and Coki a massive disservice. DMZ’s success is down to a trio who are serious and focused about their music, and equally, how it should be heard and experienced.
‘Someone once wrote 'the sound we make demands to be heard on a proper sound system’,’ explains Mala. ‘We deal with extreme levels of low end and sub bass, so putting us in a room without a proper system doesn’t make sense.
‘Most people always talk about the bass but it’s important that a sound system can deal with all frequencies because every sound in a track relates to each other,’ continues Mala. ‘We always preferred going to venues - whether that be a warehouse, a hall, a run down building - that has a big rig at one end: we never cared about fancy lighting and visuals. A dark room and a big rig is all we need.’
And essentially that’s what DMZ is, but despite Mala’s protestations, the first thing you notice is the chest-rattling bass, shaking your core. Bricks and mortar, fixtures and fittings aren’t safe either: toilet cubicles, windows and the toilet attendant’s array of aftershaves wince and judder to each blast of low end bass.
The towering sound system, dark room and deliberate lack of lighting and décor adds to the sense that at DMZ the music comes first. So much so that although the music DMZ champions is hard and intense, it's also the least pretentious and friendliest club in London. There’s a sense of togetherness, awe and excitement in experiencing original, groundbreaking music evolve before your ears - something that perhaps happens once in a decade.
There’s also a hint of irony in DMZ carving a popular, successful night by going back to basics and employing the no frills principles of dub dances or early drum’n’bass nights such as Metalheadz at Bluenote (both of which Mala cites as inspirations).
‘Maybe it is going back to the future but we are dealing with progression,’ says Mala. ‘DMZ is nice and decent people from all different walks of life coming together for one thing. Coming to DMZ is like being invited into our home.’
Sat, DMZ, Mass, St Matthews Church, Brixton Hill SW2, 8pm to 6am, £10, £8 members. Tel: 020 7738 7875. Tube: Brixton