Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Heavy Linkage

Im drowning in web audio at the moment... tons of great mixes and LPs to be had online right now. First up, Irish producer Decal has a download only LP up on his site - 8 tracks of 320kbps electro goodness free of charge! Second is this collection of vintage UK TV themes courtesy of Doppelganger - theres a few WAV's in there for the sample hunters! Third is this stupid amount of D+B, breaks and Dubstep/Grime mp3s. I even see a link to a video of an Aphex Twin gig in Dublin 2001 that myself and Slug played at - but what you should be really after is the fine selection of Grime mixtapes and live sets on there... Demon, D Double, Pay as you Go, Tinie Tempa, Mr Wong, Ruff Squad, Roll Deep, Fire Camp, Jammer, Aftershock - the new Wiley LP is even up there... cant say I approve of such blatant link harvesting, but still, If you get a guilty conscience, you can always go the legit route with the excellent Barefiles...

A proper site this time, the excellent blog Permanent condition, which I admit sucked me in becuase of its great selection of African Music Mp3s, but the writing is top notch as well, also on the African theme we have Matsuli Music - not so heavy on the audio, but plenty of knowledge, and The Hiplife complex, which focuses on continuing musical developments in Ghana with some choice Mp3s...

I think I have some mixes in the bag here as well... ah yes - Eden and Meme's Fast Chat mix is now available for download, and in case you didnt know, its an essential selection of this obscure strain of UK dancehall - you just
dont find these kinda tunes online, so make sure to drop Paul an email and get a copy. This lad, had an excellent digital dancehall mix up last week, but his site is suspended at the moment - be worth checking in the future or dropping him a line - top quality Firehouse Revolution sounds, and last but not least, a bit more Old Skool mixage, this time from upcoming producer, Aerial Cru's Rickyforce of 'Beat Suite' fame. Find it at the revamped Irish Drum and Bass.

Im sure theres more, but that lot should keep you busy till next time!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Studio B Memories - Droid+Slug @ Studio B 040604

Well - I'd like to say that Ive been beavering away, spewing out mixes, artwork and tunes by the dozen, but TBH, Ive been excessively de-motivated of late, to the point where Im wondering if my inbuilt obsolescence is kicking in. Most of the grand projects are stalled at the planning and selecting stages at the mo... but luckily we still have a few things in reserve, including this little gem of a mix - its been kicking around for a while, but as its one of our most requested mixes I figured it was worthy of the full weareie treatment...

Continuing on the old skool theme of Naphtas mix, this one is another live recording, this time of a set myself and Slug did a couple of years back at Dublins now defunct 'Studio B'. Hosted in a bar opposite the Four Courts, Studio B was one in a long line of small local nights that have sustained Dublins D+B scene for so long, and apart from injecting some badly needed fresh blood and enthusiasm into the scene here, it also had a fairly open minded attitude to different styles of jungle, and made up for in vibes (and good monitors!!!!) what it lacked venue-wise (though I never had to play on the skipping decks upstairs!).

This set was the culmination of a bit of a resurgence in interest in old skool jungle and hardcore stretching back to the bitter disillusionment with the contemporary scene that set in around '98, and helped along by a bit of disposable income and crate digging. Cynics might say (and Ive had similar heretical thoughts myself), that the obsession with old skool is pure nostalgias, and an inherently reactive activity opposed to dance musics fundamental 'forward ever/backward never' ethos. Thing is, over the last 7 years or so of hunting down tunes and arranging sets, its never felt that way - instead we've been excited (to near hysteria at times) by the discovery of a seemingly endless stream of incredible records that we'd either only heard other DJs play, or never even knew existed in the first place, many of which sound like they could've been made yesterday (witness the dubstep/bleep+bass connection). 93 is the golden year for us, still hardcore, but with the ragga influence mixing with the emerging stream of junglism, and the first 80 minutes or so of this set was a 92-94 mash up - but what we have here is the second half - a set that seemed to almost sequence itself - mostly 95 rollers (or Naphta territory as we like to call it!) with nary a bloodclaat or a helium vocal in earshot, but plenty of ferocious breaks, epic basslines and inspiring melodies.... almost enough raw tuneage to make an old raver hang up his whistle and start chatting about 'Intelligence'...

I should probably say a few words about the mix itself, the main thread of which was selected in the best way possible - well in advance of the gig. Its actually fairly easy to sequence a set as long as you know your first tune (Goldies 'Fury' - picked because its intro would be almost impossible to get fit into a mix later), and your 'peak' tune (in this case 'The Dark Crystl'), and the limitations set by these 2 simple decisions go a long way to solving most of the problems you face when constructing a set. Myself and Slug have been playing back to back for years, traditionally 3 tunes each, which, when youre improvising your sets, is a great way to create 'chains' of mixes that still leave you enough flexibility to go where the crowd wants you to go. That works fine for post 95 jungle as well, but our (often mocked) approach to hardcore and early jungle is just to follow our instincts, plan the mix in advance down to the last bar, and just play the tunes we think will work (or that we want to hear). This much more rigid system is our attempt to combine our obsessive need for perfection with the demands of mixing tunes that simply dont follow 'the rules'. I have to big up B and the crew once again, not just for the chance to play out, but for providing a focus for our jaunts into early jungle, as I firmly believe that the last few years of mixing this kind of music has seriously honed our skills on the decks, and has given us a lot more insight into the art of mixing in general... one question though - does the learning curve ever flatten out? or does it just keep getting steeper?

Usual business with the MP3, 192 kbps, all nicely tagged. Tracklisting is in the 'lyrics' tab of the ID3 tag (Ive dispensed with the ZIP/txt tracklisting let me know if thats NOT cool with anyone). No hotlinking direct to the file please! - But feel free to link to this page if the mood takes you. Time markings are (as always) from the start of each mix btw.

Studio B Memories - Droid + Slug@Studio B 04/06/04: 41Mins Approx (57.4mb.mp3)

1. (00.00) Rufige Kru - Fury - Moving Shadow
2. (04.48) BLIM - Headspace - Emotif
3. (10.11) DJ Tamsin & The Monk - Better Place (Bay B Kane remix) - Whitehouse
4. (14.10) Hyper-on-E - Ouija Awakening - Moving Shadow
5. (17.52) DJ SS - United (Grooverider rmx) - Formation
6. (23.22) Photek - Complex - Photek
7. (28.10) DJ SS - Black - Formation
8. (31.35) DJ Crystl - The Dark Crystl - Force Ten
9. (37.00) Johnny Jungle - Johnny - (Origin Unknown remix) - Subbase

1. (00.00) Rufige Kru - Fury - Moving Shadow

We open with a lost classic from 94'. Goldies first (I assume) collaborative effort with Moving Shadow don Rob Playford, on the 1st of his labels legendary 2 in 1 series. 'Fury' is a bit of a strange tune, caught between jungle and hardcore, it retains some of the manic qualities of the early Rufige Kru releases on Reinforced, whilst also hinting at the widescreen vision of 'Timeless'. The dense accelerating drumwork and mentasmish bassline is offset by the emo strings and atmospherics, but somehow pulled together to form a cohesive whole by Playford's engineering genius. Future echoes of Goldies last half decent tune: 'Beachdrifter' here as well...

2. (04.48) Blim - Headspace - Emotif

Slipping and sliding into a 95 offering from S.O.U.R. spin off label Emotif. One of Naphta's ghoulish acquaintances played this to me back in 96' with the recommendation that "this is the music they listen to in heaven", and whilst I'm not sure if I'd go that far, it has to be said that this is a sublime slice of rollidge. Tons of detail in the breaks, some great samples (including one of the best uses of Bladerunner dialogue ever!), and even a few skanks thrown in for good measure. No U-Turns' Nico was at the helm for this one as well as the other 10 or so essential early Emotif releases, and this is typical of the quality the label was putting out before his less than amicable split with S.O.U.R. - total head music but with undeniable dancefloor pedigree... tunes you can get lost in...

3. (10.11) DJ Tamsin & The Monk - Better Place ( Bay B Kane remix) - White house

Naphta featured the flipside of this record - the better known Crstyl remix on Sovereign Rhythms Vol 1., but Bay B Kane's alternate version escapes from the shadow of it's MTV friendly big brother by taking a different approach - sacrificing the lush pads and minimal drums for a tight layered amen and melody driven arrangement. Listening again, Im struck by the energy in this tune, the bass is heavy and rolling, the amen sounds coerced rather than tortured, and like a lot of Bay B Kane's stuff, the artful yet simple use of disparate samples (is that a Spanish guitar?) propels the tune along without once sounding cheap or unnecessary - but then again, this is the man who sampled a big chunk of 'Walking on the Moon' and got away with it!

4. (14.10) Hyper-on-E - Ouija Awakening - Moving Shadow

Hyper-on's last good tune - but what a tune! So good that its almost painful to listen to this whilst contemplating their later work as the 'EZ Rollers'. This is from another of Shadows 2 in 1's - the 4th this time, and whilst there is a bit of weird production going on, as well as a few strangely placed breakdowns (hence the somewhat overly punctuated mix), this tune has a lot going for it: evil fairground melodies, tons of swishes and dubbed out rave stabs, and most importantly - the breaks.. just listen to those breaks! Shredded to bits ala 'Lord of the Null Lines' or 'Monarch of the Glen', but seriously rolling (yes I know Ive already used that word about 50 times). If that wasnt enough for you, the entire mood of the tune shifts from menace to poignancy to pure optimism over the course of 3 breakdowns... and those mood swings are something a lot of these tunes have in common - they dont just find a groove and play it out for 8 minutes, theres a genuine attempt to encompass more than one emotion within the track ('Inner City Life' probably being the most overwrought example from this period), and I think thats one of the reasons why these records have such lasting appeal.

5. (17.52) DJ SS - United (Grooverider rmx) - Formation

Whew! A Grooverider special this one. I wouldnt normally rant on about one of my mixes (yeah right), but Im quite proud of this one. The 'Yeah's' and vocals in this tune merge nicely with the 'Oh Yeah's' in the Hyper-On, and then theres one of those rare (and difficult) moments of almost perfect integration you pray for as a DJ, when the breakdowns sync up perfectly.. in this case, the backward vocals of this tune come right in over the melodic bassline in the last tune - and more importantly, the amen drops in when they end... Big up The Slug for some tight mixing under pressure here!

Grooveriders a bit of a strange fish production-wise. Though he tended to do more remixes than anything else in the early to mid nineties, you could pretty much always pick out his sound - the rigid drum pattern and quirky structure of this tune being a prime example. Most of his records are absolute nightmares to mix though - so much so that there was a rumour round these ends that he used to make 2 different versions of all of his tunes - one 'normal' version for himself to play out, and one 'official' version for the rest of us poor saps...

6. (23.22) Photek - Complex - Photek

Listening to this mix recently, I had a rare moment of nostalgia destroying objectivity when this tune came in. Now obviously I dont have a heart, but if I did, I reckon it would tell me that this track is undoubtedly an uplifting and ferocious breakbeat masterpiece - unfortunately my head has come to a different conclusion of late. Dont get me wrong - I cant but not love this tune, it combines the structural maturity of jungle with the rougher edges of mutated hardcore - but what about its linearity? Its 'flatness'? those JD-800 preset melody sounds? that lazy Amen? Though I've loved this record for years, I'm still not sure if it represents a step forward or back for jungle, and though Photek continued to put out good tunes for years after this, I cant help but think that his emphasis on production values was just another slippery slope down the road of musical consolidation. That said, this is probably one of the few records that could still make me drag my rusting carcass out onto the dancefloor... pity no-one ever plays it out except us! It is a bit of a fucker in the mix I suppose (like most early Photek tunes).

7. (28.10) DJ SS - Black - Formation

SS is one of the unsung heroes of jungle and hardcore, and this is possibly his finest post-rave moment. The Whitney Houston sampling anthem 'Black' is another of those paradoxically simplistic yet brilliant tunes that defies rational analysis. Formation was never a label that pursued the 'intelligent' path of jungle trod by its more sophisticated peers, and Black is a perfect example of the raw jump up style pioneered by SS with tunes such as 'Lighter' and 'Rollidge' before the descent into mediocrity from late 96 on... The production here is fairly dirty, but unlike the remix (of which Ive never heard a good pressing) it just about all holds together on the right side of distortion, and that bassline is possibly the most striking jungle bassline ever... all in all this is a perfect 'funeral tune', tearjerkingly poignant (to my ears) melody and bass, church bell intro, the 'I will always love you' sample (when did Jungle stop sampling pop music btw?), and last but not least the 'I know youre gonna dig this' vocal sample...

Slug sez: I have always wondered about this 'I will always love you' sample - is it SS's salute to the AMEN? the dirty bass line? or is this just a love song from a producer to the genre that is "jungle / drum n bass"!!!! Or, is it the final farewell (the 'funeral tune' you mention) is this SS's subconscious way of saying good bye to jungle? His realization that the scene was dying!

8. (31.35) DJ Crstyl - The Dark Crystl - Force Ten

Im not sure I should even be writing about this tune, its so good - in Naphtas words (and Im sure he'll deny it now) it's "the best Jungle record ever", and TBH, my usual brand of tawdry hyperbole could never really do it justice. If Crystl was once the king of the jungle, then this is the work that youre supposed to look upon and despair. I think I've done it justice in the mix here (and we nearly didnt play it at all, its so sacrosanct) - its a tiny bit wobbly, but I hope the conjoined breakdowns and melody/bass synthesis make up for it - as it certainly does for me. When the bass from Black drops back in after the 'prepare yourself' breakdown, I get a bit weepy, and when the drums in the Crystl really kick in over the bouncing rollout of the SS its not uncommon for me to leap to attention and salute, tears streaming down my metal face...

As you can imagine I get a few weird looks on the bus into work.

9. (37.00) Johnny Jungle - Johnny - (Origin Unknown remix) - Subbase

Ok - so how do you find a mix out of the best jungle tune ever made? The only thing we could think of was to try and shift the mood and focus but somehow keep the momentum going, and create a kind of 'plateau' effect - hence the vocal samples, bubbly sub-bass and cut up drums of 'Johnny' swimming up through some sly eqs of Crstyls last 64 bars of madness. A nicely placed breakdown, and eureka! Sighs of relief all round... This one's a prime slice of darkside taken from one of the Subbase's remix 10"s. The Dillinja mix is much more highly sought after, but I prefer this 10", as both sides are stunning in their own way (plus it didnt cost 80!). I know - another amen (a break we try to use selectively), but for me its the other layered drums, the horror film samples and dark synths... and especially the rudeboy sub-bass which defines the groove in this tune. All in all, its another killer remix by the Ram supremos - who were on fire in 95. That vocal 'bad boy' sample that drops in at the end is from 'In effect' on Slammin' vinyl - but thats a road we'll go down another day.

Ok. I hope those of you have heard the mix before can extract something of value from the above - and those of you that havent - what are you waiting for? You need to hear these tunes! Get downloading!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Naphta @ The Beat Suite 030306

Video clip - Naphta and MC Wuzza at The Beat Suite. Bit dark and grimey - but thats how we like it! MP3 is tagged and bagged for DL below. - Droid

Hi and welcome to another old skool Jungle mix from me :) this time from a recent old skool night featuring myself, Droid, Golden Maverick and MC Wuzza: Aerial crus Beat Suite night in Dublin I wanted to keep this one on a 94 tip, selecting some of my favourites from the more ruff and ready Junglistic style at the time from Hype, L Double and Dillinja three of my favourite producers back then - to Reinforceds rude-but-flavoursome Jungle styles (interspersed with one or two more ambient cuts from the Deejay / Lucky Spin school)...

As was my way back then, the only real limitation that I imposed on myself here was to avoid taking the standard path of caning endless Amens I mean, nobody can argue with that break and its enduring appeal, but there was so much more quality out there that was as much Jungle - if not even more so - than the many standard Amen button-pushers that filled up the fringes of the scene back then and which many people today seem to consider the sum total of the 'Jungle' sound.

Needless to say, I dont. For me, Jungle was as much about the darkly sweet vibes created by mixing raw breaks with heavy sub-bass, and by pushing samples to the forefront instead of synthesis, than about using this break over that...

By explicity drawing from hiphop, reggae/ragga, soul, funk etc. and by cutting from one reference point to another rather than seeking to smoothly conceal its different sources of inspiration (which musical drum n bass later sought to do), Jungle, as a style, still sounds fresh to me indeed, a lot fresher than much 'drum n bass', with its self-conscious seriousness, and with its now-redundant sci-fi / futuristic associations.

Of course, not everyone will agree with me and with my definitions of terms like Jungle and drum n bass for sure there was great music made that straddled both styles superbly (Dillinjas Still Waters on Hardleaders being one good example it feels simultaneously cold and yet also Jungle to me)

However, when the change came, it seemed to come swiftly. I remember it seeming to occur somewhere around mid 95, about the time, if memory serves me correctly, that the early No-U-Turn techstep blueprint was allying with the emergent Metalheadz heavy Blue Note sound to reclaim and re-energise the UK breakbeat scene. The way I read it then, the scene had run away from the Ragga interlopers with their boastful, competitiveness and their ambivalence/admiration for violence, and sought temporary safety in the arms of musical respectability in the coffee-table lounge styles of Bukem, Justice, Peshay etc. a style which of course had also been lauded in the wider music media as indicative of the UK Breakbeats emergence from its adolescence to a new stage of musical maturity.

But in doing so, the scene had drained itself of the necessary hardcore energy that the Ragga influence had provided for the music. Techstep thus re-energized the floors for a while, and brilliantly so, but its fine-honed formulism could only mean one thing that if in the long term, the whole scene adopted this styles limited rhythmic palette and production-values first aesthetic, then the music overall would suffer - would lose its rawness, would lose its DIY accessibility, would lose much of its ability to surprise. In my opinion this is exactly what happened, so ultimately, the same mutant appeal that for me linked Hardcore and Jungle would later be lost to drum n bass.

So, by 96, reggae/ragga samples and references had all but disappeared (to be replaced by the US hiphop influence, which itself virtually disappeared over the course of the following year). Polyrhythms were out, sub-bass was out, samples used as samples were out, humour was out, the cut-up aesthetic was out, the stop-start fragmentation of the track structure was out. Over the following years, all of these features and characteristics of Jungle have been touched upon again and indeed occasionally revived by drum n bass producers, but usually in isolation from one another, or simply as cheap easy-reference tools.

As to the racial mix that Jungle reflected and that later drum n bass seemed to filter out again Ive found many in the UK seemingly unwilling to acknowledge the fact that the departure of much of Jungles black audience back to UK Garage obviously had an effect on the sound of UK breakbeat thereafter it seemed obvious to me that when the raw material and influences from black music forms of the past were no longer there to draw upon as readily, the result would be that later drum n bass would sound whiter, more linear, more like techno as I knew it or indeed like Stadium Rock these days Then again, as someone who didnt live in a multiracial environment at the time, it is of course easier for me to observe or comment upon such things I dont (or rather didnt) have to consider their implications to the same extent.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but silently fume from time to time when I hear some plastic, soul-less, hyper-speed over-compressed shit cheaply and crassly claiming a Jungle sound or allegiance these days. I just tend to think: do your fucking homework, and find out what Jungle was REALLY capable of both as a genuinely multicultural and living/working urban realisation of much of what Rave sought to achieve - something that rejoiced in its roots as much as its future - and also as a style and sound that offered its adherents something that no other UK-born dance music has achieved to anything like the same extent in my opinion, an explosive mash-up of influences to create a form that rejoiced in both its intellect AND its instinct... in mixing the raw with the smooth, the hi-brow with the lo-brow, in challenging its audience while also giving them what they wanted - in seducing them rather than seeking to crush them.

Maybe the segregation of styles in the UK was always more strict than I ever knew. Thus, maybe my version of 'Jungle' is only an idealised one... But if so, it's not a bad place to start from in checking this music again, in delving deep, and in considering what its implications are for where we stand today. Personally, I think that there's a lot to be learned from Jungle, as a sound, and as a ruff set of guiding principles to live by (particularly at a time when we feel the absence of much else). But maybe that's just me.....

Anyway, enjoy the mix. The mixing's not too bad, and quite nice indeed at one or two points.. I couldn't hear shit when the MC got going unfortunately (the venue is pretty small and confined) but overall, I think it stands up OK; if nothing else, the selection might present one or two surprises to fresh ears. As ever, big up Droid for putting this up, and to the Beat Suite lads for pushing all things Junglistic!


Naphta@thebeatsuite030306 (128mb.zip)

1. DJ Gunshot Soundboy (No U-Turn)

2. Code Blue Angels In Dub [DJ Crystl Rmx] (Deejay)
3. Orca Liar (Lucky Spin)
4. Dj Hype Tiger Style (Ganja)
5. Tek 9 Pushing Back Rmx (Reinforced)
6. Dillinja Perfect Match (Deadly Vinyl)
7. DJ Hype Dreams (Suburban Base)
8. Underground Software Find Yourself Another [Big] (Reinforced)
9. Mad Dog Easy (Underdog)
10. Andy C Roll On (Ram)
11. Cold Mission For Da Ladies (Reinforced)
12. Shimon Predator [L Double Rmx] (Ram)
13. Dopestyle You Must Think First! (Ganja)
14. Chris Energy Zalongo (Reinforced)
15. Sub Sequence State Of Mind (Tooz Up)
16. Asylum Steppin Hard (Metalheadz)
17. Skool Of Hard Knocks Autorinse (Grand Larceny)
18. Da Intalex What You Gonna Do (Flex)
19. Dillinja Brutal Bass (Metalheadz)
20. L Double Rock Dat Shit [Big Baggy Shorts Mix] (Flex)
21. Code 071 A London Something [Tek 9 Rmx] (Reinforced)
22. Danny Breaks Step Off [Splash Rmx] (Droppin Science)
23. Tom & Jerry Dancer (Tom & Jerry)
24. Atlas Drifting Thru The Galaxy (Deejay)
25. Badman The Rising (IQ)
26. Missing Known Around Da Hood (Tearin Vinyl)
27. L Double Nah Ease Up (Flex)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ram Dancehall

Its been nearly exactly 10 years since I first saw them live... so you can bet that this is where Ill be found this Saturday night. Its virtually sold out, so if you aint got a ticket, you'd better start looking. Selectah and City Records have a few left. I was considering trying to do an interview or something with the lads, but Ive come to the same conclusion as my cohort DC did when he was supposed to interview them when they came over in '98...

What the hell would you ask them?