Have you seen all the fucking lights? When did December become an excuse for massive energy consumption? They're everywhere, lit up like a neon birthday cake, draining the power grid, owners grinning proudly in the local newspaper. I don't remember this happening on such a wide scale in the past but times they are changing it seems and I suppose polar bears are just going to have to deal with it. Apologies if this all sounds somewhat cantankerous, but its difficult to maintain a sense of what's right when you're wilting in 35 degrees, 100 percent humidity and fluorescent Santa keeps waving at you from the neighbour's roof. Anyway, in a bid to avoid being sucked into the crass consumer circus that's marauding around outside my door I've battened down the hatches and fired up the headphones for a spot of music appreciation.
As a belligerent fan of drum and bass it's been a real pleasure to hear the material that the likes of D Bridge, Instramental and Bop have been contributing to the scene lately, for a while it seemed like there was no hope for the heavyweight champion of underground genres but a stripped down, atmospheric approach and plenty of dystopian soundscaping seems to have done the trick. All in good time too it seems, with D Bridge's impeccable latest offering The Gemini Principle still sending an icy shockwave around the globe, newcomer Consequence drops a more than suitable successor, Live For Never on the Exit Label. It soon becomes clear why D Bridge was so keen to release this debut LP from a relatively unknown artist, the similarities are instantly recognisable, but whilst they share a penchant for intelligent drum edits and otherworldly synths, it's clear that Consequence has drawn his influences from many and varied purveyors of dark and ambient music. In contrast yet in compliment to beats worthy of Photek, Instramental or Bukem are flourishes of Burialesque sampling and distortion at play amongst melodies and atmosphericss that could have been plucked from the mind of Vangelis or Eno. The whole album has the feel of the soundtrack to a movie set in a centuries distant, space borne adaptation of Tokyo, floating like a metal hive over the shattered remnants of a ruined Earth. Forgive me for being melodramatic but this really has to be heard to be fully appreciated, I haven't been this surprised by Drum and Bass since I first listened to Current Value, and in this case the shock and awe are inspired by truly affecting music rather than all out ear bashing.
I've also been somewhat caught unawares by Bass Clef's latest album, May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way, which takes the staccato 2-step of The Zamayatin Tapes and grafts it onto some crazy Soca drums and whistles before assaulting your ears like a mescaline powered favella soundsystem made entirely out of pieces of the M25. If you could imagine such a thing. To be entirely honest the enthusiasm and vigour of it all became a bit too much around halfway through the album but on the last couple of tracks this demented whirlwind of noise fades into utter serenity. Broken Love sounds like it came from another world entirely, softly building nostalgic strings over breathy, mechanical percussion before unleashing offbeat jazz drums, gently moaning voices on the wind and a melting brass band, then all of a sudden the midpoint of the track sees all this disappear into one of the loveliest tunes I've heard in some time, complete with subtly glitched drum edits and a damn fine horn section. Finally another unexpected gem, Halliwick, rounds off proceedings with marching beats accompanied by lush strings, rolling pulsating bass another fine Brass chorus. All of which sort of begs the question, why on earth haven't we heard more of this side of Bass Clef in the past and will we get more in future? Here's to hoping so, after the initial onslaught of tracks 1-7 it's just about the only thing keeping me from climbing the house next door with a bottle of Cachaca and a golf club.
But fear not, festive rage can also be averted in any of the following ways:
Getting hold of Tapes' E.P, Hissing Theatricals, which fires bursts of 8 bit sunshine up your face in the manner of a dub loving Atari in the throes of a fatal power surge.
Seeking out Loops Haunt's head mangling Electronic Explorations mix, an experience so unsettling that it will leave you sobbing with confusion as you struggle to rearrange your thoughts.
Or listening to Aardvarck's new Bloom 4 E.P. Possibly the most interesting approach to music at 140 bpm I've heard all year.
Enjoy yourselves over this most festive of seasons, I'm off for some more Cheesecake and G&T's on the Verandah, it certainly beats glaring at the miserable weather and drinking until I'm numb enough to venture outside. Happy Christmas!
Sometimes Christmas gets in the way of lots of things, such as having spare money, free time, decent television etc. Unfortunately there also seems to be a whole heap of awesome music dropping all around the place so I've decided to treat myself (and you) to a whole heap of goodness, despite the detrimental effect on buying presents for my friends and family. Don't ever say that I don't do anything for you.
After Ambivalence Avenue turned out to be one of my favourite surprises of the year I snapped up Bibio's latest release The Apple and the Tooth as soon as it was available. The first four tunes are a slight departure from Ambivalence Avenue, his sound seems to becoming more layered and crowded but richer for it, however the true selling point of the record is the all-star remix line-up that follows. Gems amongst these are the Eskmo remix of Dwcan, which incorporates the San Fransiscan's swinging, atmospheric flex into the original's dark and creeping textures to great effect; an incredible Gentlemen Losers' remix of Haikuesque, taking on a beautiful, melancholy edge, before a haunting organ comes in to raise all the hairs on the back of your neck; and Bibio's own remix of "the palm of your wave", which winds gypsy-folk fairground strains sinuously around the original vocal like a hypnotic fortune teller pickpocketing your ears. It may not be a full album release but it's certainly worth that money you were saving for a fibre optic Christmas tree.
Back in London the Grievous Angel Redux of Margins Music has dropped on Keysound and it's fucking awesome. It's comforting to see that rather than adopting the tried and tested methods of mashing together two tunes into one catchy monstrosity, Grievous Angel has deftly interwoven his source material into an entirely new piece of music which is worthy of it's predecessor's name and reputation. In the same regard he avoided the easy option of simply rearranging the original tracks into one continuous mix and instead produced a living, breathing hybrid monster. It's almost as though London ate Margins Music and let it digest for a while before exhaling the whole mixture in one hour long episode of sublime flatulence. Snatches of vocal bubble up through the blended textures, the drums chatter amongst themselves and whole neighbourhoods breeze by in an instant leaving only a lingering suggestion of their existence. If anything this Redux surpasses the original in it's attempt to capture the sound and essence of the fringes of the London scene, although I will concede that I may be getting slightly carried away here.
Something I've been after for a while now is The invisible Lodger, a collab between the outstanding Various Production and morose Scottish poet Gerry Mitchell. I'm not going to lie, parts of this album could drive a fragile mind into a helpless spiral of depression and self harm, but for those of a sunnier disposition this is a masterful combination of stark, brooding electronics and subtly affecting spoken word. Mitchell's delivery swings from eye gouging misery to a playful almost singsong delivery, belieing the morbid undercurrent of the subject matter. Accordingly the production echoes the tone of each poem, at times overwhelming the grumbling, shambolic verse with blurred synths and undulating static, at others beautifully complimenting the lilting Scottish cadences with typical VP pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately there never seems to be the right time to listen to it, I tried to pop it on in the car with the missus the other day but she was having none of it, probably best left to headphones on an evening train ride through a bleak industrial cityscape
Right, there's more but frankly fuck this, I'm off to a secret bush rave. No time for grendelcaking, I'll post again when I'm not climbing trees and singing like a squirell.