Mickey Pearce – Don't Ask Don't Get

Over time, people change, it’s a fact. They absorb the world around them, it influences them and they progress as individuals. Some even change their name! In the case of the artist formerly known as shortstuff, he’s moved on with certainty with his new moniker; Mickey Pearce and crowned this shift with a mighty release on Loefah’s Swamp81 vinyl only label.

The new name’s no secret, the man’s been wearing both hats for some time now, and the official shift happened a while back. I’ve been waiting (much like Ed with his SBTRKT show) for a fair while to finally get my hands on what had proved to be a pretty elusive track in the digital world of music that I often trawl, and wanted to wait until I had a copy of Don’t Ask Don’t Get / I Am firmly planted on the platter before I threw my tuppence worth down.

I’ve heard the title track Don’t Ask, Don’t Get snapping along on a few radio shows for the past 3/4 months now and was sold on stories of a late October / early November release. Only in the last week, upon hearing B-side I Am in full for the first time did I twig that the tracks were finally out.

Tribal in its introduction, industrial in its body and with a pulsing wave swell of bass rippling underneath, you catch yourself latching on to subtleties in the production with each new listen of Don’t Ask, Don’t Get. It’s a song of multiple movements, a full days travel packed into one six minute offering.

For a flavour of how this track should be embedded into a mix (which it should), listen back to MP’s mix for Mary Anne Hobbs’ XFM show late last month.

On the back of the limited press vinyl only release (don’t even bother trying to hunt this down digitally online, you’re going to need to smash the piggy bank and walk to the shops to have this one) is another stripped tribal affair. I am opens as more of a dance floor ready beat before dragging you under with its aggressive, again mechanical, almost alien sounding rasps and vocal splashes.

With a release roster that’s included the likes of The Bug, Kryptic Minds, Addison Groove, Skream and Ramadanman, Mickey Pearce’s first outing on Swamp81 is a progression for both the label and artist. Get your copy from Surus.

Worldwide Awards 2012 @ Koko, London

Ever since hearing Hold On by SBTRKT last year, I was determined to see Messrs Sampha and SBTRKT perform live. The self-titled lp released on Young Turks marries garage and broken beat influences to create what Pitchfork strangely term ‘post dub-step’. The album includes huge vocal performances and flows seamlessly from start to finish. Unfortunately, 2011 was a year of fails vis-à-vis catching the live show. Glastonbury: couldn’t reach the tent in time. Brixton: SBTRKT were replaced by Big Pink as support to Friendly Fires. First headline London gig in 2012: sold out.

Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards 2012 presented the perfect opportunity to see them live. Winners of the Worldwide award for best long player with the self-titled debut, SBTRKT’s performance at London’s Koko was just one of many highlights on a memorable night.

Take the Pyramids, whose 1970s ‘jazz cabaret’ was considered too future until they recently reformed. Their set was brought to life by charismatic front man Idris Ackermoor who switched to tap shoes part way through the show and won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hudson Mohawke, Lefto and, fast becoming my favourite Brighton via LA dj, Kutmah, served up juicy disc jockey sets before Michael Kiwanuka enchanted the sell-out crowd with a beautiful vocal performance.

Kiwanuka, the BBC’s pick for Sound of 2012, has been criticised already for lacking originality. My view is that people hanker for wholesome music, particularly when delivered by gifted vocalists. Kiwanuka delivers on both counts, epitomised by Tell me a Tale and Home Again.

The award for best label went to Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ all-star roster which includes the likes of Daedelus, recent joiner Lapalux and Thundercat. The latter was in London to collect the award and play live alongside fellow label mate – and ridiculously gifted pianist – Austin Peralta. This set had everything Fly Lo’s at the Roundhouse didn’t – not least live music. From the lush, California sun-infused Is it Love? to the ethereal For love (I Come Your Friend), the poncho-wearing bassist glided effortlessly through his set. If you missed The Golden Age of Apocalypse last August (or were in two minds like me), give it a go.

Jamie XX followed, playing a bashment retake of Drake’s Take Care. This track started out as Jamie XX’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron‘s I’ll Take Care of You. Heron’s death last year ended a genre-defining career in music; his far-reaching influence was celebrated at the Worldwide awards.

Then the main event: SBTRKT live. The masked duo combined drums, keys, vocals and sequencer to full effect, pounding the heavyweight Koko soundsystem. Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano joined for Wildfire but it was Sampha’s soaring vocal throughout the set that did most for the soul.

And so it was that I heard SBTRKT play Hold On live. What is it the people at Guinness say?

Dub Phizix & Skeptical feat. Strategy – Marka

Like most of us I think, December was a busy busy month. To be fair January hasn’t started any differently. One thing I have had a bit more time to do is catch up on my new music listening.

Lots of Christmas CDs / vinyls / DVDs to catch up on, too many to digest properly. It’s probably not surprising that the track that’s really got me standing to attention is one that I wasn’t expecting to hear. “Have you heard my mate’s new track?” a friend said to me over a post Christmas lunch catch up. We’ve all got mates in bands / making music / writing a book, and a lot of the time an invitation to listen to their offerings can be a bit awkward. “Oh wow, that’s really interesting” is a common response, “I can really see the potential there”. Thankfully, the friend that put me on to this has a good track record for nodding me in the direction of some pretty weighty productions.

The names Dub Phizix, Skeptical and Strategy all have sway in their own right. Dub Phizix and Skeptical known for their productions in the Drum & Bass scene, Strategy for his MCing in Broke ‘n’ £nglish. So on paper, the expectation around a collaboration of the three is pretty big. You won’t be disappointed with “Marka”!

You’re going to need a stereo that can handle some devastatingly low frequencies to take this track on. Those mac speakers just ain’t gonna cut the mustard. The bullet kick and waves of sub bass coupled with Strategy’s rhyme is hypnotic in it’s pulsing feel. Tempo wise it’s half time drum and bass, but the feel is dubstep circa 2004. Think Leofah, Hatcha, Digital Mystics and early Skream. There’s a sparseness that you don’t get in many modern productions. This lack of excess fat allows you to pick out the eerie creaks and chimes that litter this track, dragging you down into its dingy depths.

The fact that the track is offered up alongside a similarly minimal, voodoo Indian, video takes the appeal level up tenfold. I’m reliably informed that it was shot in park and woodland in the “Costa del” Salford. For all I know this could be deepest darkest hell.

Dub Phizix & Skeptical - Marka feat. Strategy

Released on dBridge’s Exit Records, Marka is available from all good music vendors now.

[Also check out Dub Phizix’s remix of Skittles – Dot2Dot here]

Drake – Take Care

Have you had sex four times this week? Do you aspire to spank 50 Gs taking your boys away for the May bank holiday? Me neither. So, as a middle England-er with an interest in accounting, why do I like this record? Perhaps it appeals to the rebelliousness of a Surrey upbringing and the need to express myself by doing things I shouldn’t be doing in my mate’s shed.

Given that the rebelliousness of youth is long past and my mate’s shed now contains a lawn mower, I was confused – as you might be.

And then I figured it out. It’s the same reason I love Kanye West (the lyrical equivalent of that moron who corners you in a bar on a Friday night after work). The beats this guy raps over are so good that you’re missing a soul if you don’t feel them.

Drake - Take Care

The tracks on this record appeal to every part of modern electronica that I love. In short, they’re deep, expressive and truly unique in their use of samples. Let’s take track 4, “Crew Love” as a case in point. The intro is so reminiscent of Burial that I’m minded to grab my shovel but then we get taken to another level with an achingly laid back drum loop – think Dre without having to consume an entire album of it.

Another stand-out is track 8, “We’ll be fine”. The intro is summer garden party pretty – including tea and cakes – and then it drops into a sick bass line that’ll destroy your stereo and make you go straight out and buy that sub you’ve had your eye on so you can do it all over again.

So far we’ve looked at the beats and mocked the lyrics, which isn’t a fair representation of the vocals. Take a look at “Make Me Proud” feat. Nicki Minaj as a case in point. I love the willingness to big up new artists on hip-hop albums. Why don’t indie/rock artists do it more often? This woman spits utterly confusing lyrics but her timing, sound and aggression make me love 50 second of this song so much that I want to loop it over and over.

The same is true of the André 3000 cameo on “The Real Her”. It’s a crying shame that the the most amazing vocal performances come from the special guests, but it shouldn’t stop you enjoying this record.

So what should you do? In short: Buy this album. Treat Drake‘s vocals as a melody. Love the special guests. It deserves a listen. Put it on repeat.

Rustie – Glass Swords

It’s a silly concept really, a sword made out of glass, or maybe I’m missing a trick. A weapon that uses the power of refraction to inflict its damage. Anyway, this discussion is deflecting me (sorry, no more tenuous light based physics jokes) from the purpose of this post. As you may have guessed, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on the debut full length release from one of Glasgow’s golden group of producer/DJs who have been slowly but very confidently infiltrating our ears with their heavily hip-hop influenced, electronic sounds; Rustie.

Rustie

I was moved in a big way earlier this year by the Satin Panthers release from label mate Hudson Mohawke with it’s equal mix of delicateness and dirt. Rustie’s Glass Swords certainly continues in the same vein.

The album doesn’t lead with its strongest tracks, and by doing this you find yourself getting more hyped as you journey through, enticing you to switch the vinyl back to the A-side and ride it out again. The fish hook that reeled me in was the back to back power houses of Ultra Thizz and Death Mountain. The former flips you from frantic fist pumps to a half time shuffle in the blink of a bar, all 808s, power synth stab riffs and mouthed bass. Death Mountain comes in with what sounds like a trance influenced orchestral string section juiced on Four Loko and played in reverse, then breaking down over a light speed tuned drum roll before returning to the almost trademark mouth bass riff complemented with a pan pipe affected high vocal part.

There’s mellow parts too, like the roller dub step shuffle feel of After Light. I say mellow, this song GOES OFF just after the two minute mark. It’s as if a whole Rustie DJ set has been layered into one track; easing you in with a filtered intro, opening you up with a chest shattering bass rhythm, pulling you right back down again before the long (and again trance style) build into the … wait for it … POW huge drop.

The sounds that make up some of the songs I feel could be, dare I say it, annoying, if listened to in isolation. However Rustie’s ability to melt these together into tracks that you can wash the dishes to or run a rave on illustrate the vast appeal that this album has.

Moving towards the back end of the album and All Nite, you can hear the influence of Rustie’s previous collaborations with Bristol’s Joker. I also get the impression that video games like Sonic the Hedgehog might have played some part in shaping Rustie’s musical direction, but that’s just my opinion.

If you fill a stocking with Glass Swords this Christmas, it’s safe to say no daggers will be drawn (I’ve really got to stop with this comedy angle), so why don’t you!

Glass Swords is released by Warp Recordings and is available in all good record stores and online digital outlets.

Virgo Four – Resurrection

Ahead of a recent trip abroad I decided it was time to update my music collection; JLS’ lp is over a week old and Frankie Cocozza won’t be releasing anything until 2012 at the earliest (and I suspect even then it’ll be a dubplate-only release).

With this in mind, I plumped for Rush Hour’s second Virgo Four release in as many years, Resurrection. The CD boasts 15 unreleased Chicago house hits from ’80s tunesters Eric Lewis and Merwyn Sanders. If you get the vinyl, you’re treated to twice as many tracks in a limited edition box set. Bonus.

Whilst some of the beats feel like filler – this was after all a compilation of unreleased material rather than an lp by conception, unlike their fantastic self-titled 1989 album – a handful of the tracks are Chicago gold. Sex, for example, deals with the intricacies of ‘naughty times’ with a base-heavy drum lick that would have made J Dilla proud (RIP). Moskaw’s locomotive-inspired beats and synth baseline feel icy fresh, as if you’re sat atop the Glacier Express in your birthday suit, hurtling through the Swiss Alps with a smile on your face and a chilly willy. The standout track for me, however, has to be it’s a crime. Co-written by Greg Gary (great name), the soul-drenched vocals, thoughtful message and instantly hummable baseline make this track a special find.

Better still is Caribou‘s remix. Caribou’s take on its a crime preserves the best elements; the bouncy bass remains the backbone and the rueful vocal riffs are now ably performed by Daniel Victor Snaith (Mr Caribou himself, previously known as Manitoba). As with many of the tracks on his 2010 lp Swim, this remix passes through a series of phases which grow and grow until the 3m 50s mark when a soaring baseline preludes a monster drop.

With this track on heavy rotation, I decided to check out some of the Caribou back catalogue and I’ve not been underwhelmed. The Milk of Human Kindness has a delicate sound while last year’s ‘Swim’ is made for the dancefloor. Both are exercises in effective songwriting.

Dave – I definitely came late to the Caribou party. The good news is it’s not too late for others to learn from my mistake. The Caribou Vibration Ensemble are playing at Scala in London on 6 December for those lucky enough to have bought tickets in time. If not, check out Nightmare Before Christmas in Minehead between 9-11 December which is co-curated by Caribou. And if you can’t make that, Snaith has put a delightful, download-friendly mix together ahead of the festival here.

Santiago Street Machine – Noisemaker

Manchester alternative electro three piece Santiago Street Machine released their debut single, Noisemaker, today.

Alongside a rampant, thumping, grit fuelled, bassy monster of a track, they’ve linked up with some very talented photographers, videographers and graphic designers to bring a triple threat track, video and artwork.

The single artwork features a photograph by Cambridge based photographer Tom Mayle with graphics from London based designer Ed Chandler. It’s an explosive photo which sets off the explosive sound of the track well.

No single release is complete without a music video, and London based duo James Gough and Steve Roberts (Master Original Dub) have delivered an intriguing watch to accompany the track. The steps needed to make that “noise” with your debut offering can ride on the flip of a coin decision, as the video portrays. Some young acting talent on show too from Alex Payne and Isabella Lueen.

You can pick up the single now on iTunes, Amazon and all the other big download sites. Next live show is at London hot spot Cargo on Saturday 17 December.