Joe – R.E.J Bit

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By my count, Joe has released a total of eleven tracks since 2009, two of these remixes. Unassuming stuff for any producer, particularly one who’s had releases on Hessle AudioHemlock and SSSSS.

But as anyone will tell you, quality tends to win out over quantity and this is certainly the case for Joe. His sound definitely has a signature: built on basslines that would make even a Funktion-One soundsystem creak, melodies are few and far between and playful hooks are King. Everything is stripped back to only that which is required. Drums are tight and polished, sounds are layered but never to bulging point and production values are treated with the necessary seriousness. Take Joe’s track R.E.J. Bit, forthcoming on Hemlock Recordings Chapter One, a mixtape from Hemlock owner Untold to mark the label’s twentieth release. This one has been making my head nod for the past month, all because of a jaunty riff that carries the track from its tentative intro right through to the stomping bass a minute in and then as far as the outro where Joe’s clean, snare-laden drums peter out to a lone tambourine. In its simplicity, this is everything that’s right about bass music.

If you’re not a Joe aficionado, have a slurp on the recently released MB / Studio Power On (Hemlock), MB a meandering Brazil-infused roller and Studio Power On a jolting, smashing workout of bass and drum. Then there’s Twice, released on Hessle Audio compilation 116 & Rising last year. This one builds and builds with a clamour until we hear a conversation you might hold with your local hi-fidelity sound reproduction equipment purveyor:

Shop assistant: “So basically, you’re getting twice the bass with the TK421 which we’ve, er, got available in this system right here”.
Customer: “I don’t know…I don’t know if I really need all that bass”.
Shop assistant: “Oh I think you need all that bass. [Laughing] If you want a system that can handle what you want…”

Boom. Bass and piano kick-in to create an almost tribal cacophony. By contrast, Claptrap is hostile from the start, grunting, wheezing and clapping its way along in a carnival hussle.

This is not the music to accompany an oozing chocolate dessert in an M&S ad. Indeed, I doubt Joe’s sound will grace anything other than a dark, sweaty club in the wee small hours of the night. Everything in its right place and all that.

Hemlock Recordings Chapter One is released on 12 November.

inc. – The Place

I’ve returned to the music of my youth, sounds awfully pretentious doesn’t it, but it’s true, I have. I remember getting my first cassette Walkman, about 20 years back, and listening to a tape which was half Michael Jackson half Prince, Beat It and Thieves In The Temple blowing my mind in equal proportions. Prince in particular though has been lighting up the screen on my portable music source on the bus of late.

My route back to Prince, however, has been a less direct one than you might think, and the path that took me there has introduced me to two artists (one old, one new) that share direct and indirect links with the Purple one. Don’t you just love those musical mystery tours of discovery!?

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A somewhat random Wednesday night decision to watch Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back introduced me to a singer and his band that in all honesty I really should have known about already. I enjoyed the film, it was light hearted, effortless and a fun throwback to those teen movies that lit up the early 2000s for me. Things got even juicier in the final scene though, Jay introducing (and I share his sentiment) “…the greatest band in the world! Morris Day and the Time!” The stage show and sound that was to follow have been repeated relentlessly through YouTube scouting since. All there is to say is that “Jungle Love” is the bomb. Now, time for a brief history lesson…

Morris Day and the Time’s Jungle Love has appeared, performed live on stage, in another film before. Any guesses? Yes, they doing their thing in Prince’s 1984 film debut; Purple Rain.

The lesson doesn’t stop there though kids, oh no. Do a little digging (or ask a musically informed relative) and you’ll discover that Prince and Morris Day used to play in a band together at school. Following on from a bit of solo success, Prince set himself up a little side project more focussed on edgier, funky sounds. After a bit of jiggery pokery with the line up (apparently Alexander O’Neal was in the running for the front man job at one point), Morris Day and the Time was born.

On to the next. It was whilst rooting around for a bit of background on Mr Day and his musical friend that I happened across Paul Lester’s June 2011 New Band of the day – No 1,042. In it he asks the question “Who’s the best ever Prince?” Not as in who would win in a partying with the ladies competition out of Prince Harry and Prince Albert II, no no no. What PL was getting at was, who does the “Prince Sound” the best? Notable mentions are offered to Beck, Jamie Lidell and Pharrell, all good shouts I would say. But it was the newest name and the subject of the article that started to excite me. Formerly Teen Inc. (and sounding more like Stevie Wonder than Prince), a rebrand dropped the Teen and brought us inc.

Brothers Andrew and Daniel have been working the circuit, learning their trade and mastering it. The “3” EP features a funk shuffle trio of hot pop hits, my pick being the church-soul-organ infused ‘Swear’. The lyrics don’t overburden the music, but carry you along softly for the ride. It’s new single ‘The Place’ that is whipping me into a frenzy right now though. I think I’d heard this a few times before, maybe on the radio, maybe in a forward thinking cafe/bar, who knows. But as soon as I got my hands on the name of the track and made the connection to inc. I was on board. More lush vocals, liberal use of 808s, a pitter patter of soft synth play and some baby making bass. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Better still, the track’s yours for free if you sign up to the their mailing list – here.

So here I am, two new acts in the repertoire both with a common theme. Confirmation for me that Prince really did leave a strong mark on me as a youth and still does today.

AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love

There’s been a raft of tracks in recent years where an already cracking instrumental has been taken on by some fledgling artist to create a more commercially palatable “vocal edit”. One that sticks out for me is Katy B – Katy On A Mission. Having spent a large part of my latter days in the capital listening back to Rinse FM shows and recordings of their acts’ live shows around the country, I had heard both the beat (Benga – Man On A Mission) and the vocal that later became famous on the Katy B track over a different song entirely (Katy B at Bloc festival 2010). I have to confess, I have a soft spot for the Katy On A Mission, it certainly didn’t ruin the original Benga tune for me, however the same cannot be said for all such “remixes”.

I am a massive fan of Glasgow producer de jour Rustie’s debut full length offering; Glass Swords. In particular the track After Light which I flagged up in a previous post (Glass Swords). I’ve got to say I was a bit of grumpy teenager crossed with a miserable old git (I’m half way between now so it was inevitable really) when I first heard the AlunaGeorge vocal edit. It added nothing for me, the vocal almost apologetic in it’s “soft” layering over the dance swell of the beat underneath.

First impressions count for a hell of a lot, so needless to say my expectation level was not at its highest when I was alerted to a new track by AlunaGeorge doing the rounds and being hyped to the hilt. What have I learnt from this? Don’t let those shoddy first impressions cloud your judgement.

Again, the first listen didn’t set me alight, but the more I hear from sweetly spoken Aluna (Francis) and George (Reid)’s glitchy yet engaging production, the more those first impressions fade into the distance, are forgotten and in fact, proven to be very wrong. Your Drums, Your Love (formerly Treading Water) pulls influence from things you know (there’s James Blake-ness in there that’s for sure) and others you don’t (some lovely clavichord style twiddles and subtle chug-rock guitar runs that I just can’t pinpoint), which when combined make for a very strong assault on the aural sense.

The time and effort that has gone into the presentational package which accompanies the song deserves as much attention as the track itself. The music video sees Aluna thinking out loud through song as she tours a gallery populated by a collection of diverse pieces from illustrator and sculptor Arran Gregory and an assortment of body popping punters. The glass Wolf is a particular favourite, alongside the bear.

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The moral of the story kids, cliche’s have their place and you should never judge a leopard by it’s stripes…or something like that.

Jessie Ware – Running

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Can you ask the same question about a remix? Simply put, no! Without an original track, what would there be to remix. That doesn’t mean to say that in order to discover a remix you need to know the original. Certainly that was the case with my first encounter (so I thought) with South London’s Jessie Ware.

Driving can be a great time to listen to music for the first time. If something doesn’t grab me on the radio within the first 15-30 seconds, the dial’s getting switched pronto. So it’s probably a good thing that the first time I clocked the Disclosure remix of Jessie Ware’s new release Running it was post drop (circa 1:17). As a rule, I don’t fall deep for 90s influenced, disco beat house tracks. This one however shot straight from the hip and planted itself firmly in my mind from the first listen. I waited anxiously to hear the track again and was rewarded two hours later when I arrived at my final destination, only to sit in the van, eyes closed, soaking up the full glory of what I have absolutely no doubt will become a terrace / dance floor / roller disco filler this summer.

The intro is sparse, like you’re late on in a dream and being woken gradually by a soft voice before being kick jolted out of your slumber. That initial post sleep haze is still in place before the first deep intake of breath, signaled here by the upward sweep into rapid vocals and expanding synth lines. All of this ushers you along before dropping you into an infectious 125 disco shuffle, all soft claps with equally soft vocals. There’s definite power behind the voice, it’s just not forced. The bass is deep and stutters subtly at times. All in all, you’re going to struggle not to be hooked in by this one.

So what of the original? I’ll be honest, I’ve been left feeling short changed before when hunting out an original after being introduced to a track through a super strength remix. Thankfully, this couldn’t have been further from the case with Running.

Having absolutely no knowledge or preconception of what this track may be like, I was in a good frame of mind when I got round to my first listen. At first you think you’ve been sucked into a sci-fi special, that is before the organic kick (complete with a slight rim shudder) beats its way into the track. The next thing to hit you is the soft parp of a horn (sampled, synthesised, I’m not sure, I don’t care, I do love it). The song keeps giving, next up is the beautifully layered vocal, with an even more seductive tone to it at the more relaxed tempo of the original. This continues throughout the track with the addition of simple yet devastatingly hooky guitars, 60s soul style backing vocals and a jumble of natural and artificial percussion.

Listen on the best pair of headphones you can get your mits on because the production values on this track are top, TOP drawer! The way sounds appear in exactly the right place at a level that complements all around it, whilst still holding their own at the same time. Jessie has Radio 1 new boy Julio Bashmore and The Invisible front man Dave Okumu to heartily thank for this. Nice job boys.

Ms Ware’s name is one I knew I’d heard before, but it was only after some iTunes searching that I fully appreciated her presence in the UK scene over the past year or two. She’s previously teamed up with SBTRKT on a few tracks from his (D&V rated) self titled debut. She’s also featured on tracks with fellow SBTRKT contributor Sampha and Bristol heavyweight Joker.

Whilst all being solid offerings, I think JW’s found her home with the sound of Running. And by all accounts that the direction we can expect from her debut album which is expected later this year. I know where I’ll be running to for that one!

P.S. Much love for the video. Watch…

Mikhael Paskalev – I Spy

I don’t want to say much about this video, and so, I’m not going to, it really does speak for itself.

What do I know of Mikhael Paskalev, not a lot other than he’s from Norway, studied at LIPA, has gigged alongside the likes of Jonas Alaska, sports a rather fine moustache and has something of a Joaquin Phoenix look about him.

Directed by Andre Chocron, the combination of stylish lighting, beautifully executed effects, Mikhael’s curiously hypnotic pelvic thrusting and semi-attire, the video for “I Spy” is a testament to how a very good song can be elevated in the mind to a great moment that you want to revisit over and over again.

Sadly, I Spy is only available on Norwegian iTunes at the moment, so for now, just enjoy the video. DnV out!