it happens for a reason

staying up late is easy.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

LISTENING SINCE THE PREVIOUS POST:

GALOPPIERENDE ZUVERSICHT- LIVE RECORDING FROM KONTROL, 2004.
WILEY- '2ND PHAZE'
WRETCH 32- 'LEARN FROM MY MIXTAPE'
RENATO RENALDI- 'HOARSE FRENZY'
VILLALOBOS- 'ALCACHOFA'
MAGDA- LIVE RECORDING AT TECHNIQUE
MESSIAEN- 'LOUANGE A L'ETERNITE DE JESUS'
VARIOUS TEKKNIK MIXES
HOME MADE R N B COMPILATIONS
FILASTINE LIVE AT GRAMAPHONE, EAST LONDON
DJ/RUPTURE LIVE AT GRAMAPHONE, EAST LONDON
HEATWAVE DJS LIVE AT GRAMAPHONE, EAST LONDON
TOXIC DANCEHALL DJS LIVE AT GRAMAPHONE, EAST LONDON
V/A- 'SUPERLONGEVITY 4'
KATHRYN WILLIAMS- 'LITTLE BLACK NUMBERS'
GEOFFREY BOYCOTT GOING, "BOWLED, BOWLED, BOWLED"
V/A- 'TECHNO RAVE'
EWAN PEARSON- 'SCI FI HI FI VOL 1'
LUCIANO- 'SCI FI HI FI VOL 2'
SUPERDISCOUNT 2
MICRO-HOUSE FROM A PASSING CAR
DANCEHALL EVERYWHERE OUTSIDE NOW THE SUN IS OUT AND SUMMER IS HERE.
ROLL DEEP 'CREEPER VOL. 2'
CARL CRAIG REMIX OF DELIA AND GAVIN'S 'REVELEE', HEARD IN SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE RECORD SHOP.
V/A- 'MOTOWN CLASSICS'
V/A- 'TROPICALIA'

apologies and a thousand 'sorry's for the lack of recent posts. this slackness has to stop, otherwise this blog will have no point, so from now on i resolve to post here at least every two days. if i happen to fail in this you may freely call me a wasteman without running the risk of me calling out your name and merking you in a clash. that's fair, right?

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anyway, enough of the silliness, let's get down to work. so my girlfriend woke up at dawn yesterday, for no reason, just 'cause, that's when her body wanted her to wake up. this morning I wake up at dawn, for no reason, just 'cause. it's spectacular. 5 in the morning, tucked up in bed as opposed to trudging home from a club, is Very Large. golden light streams through the curtains and it is impossible not to feel a surge of hope.
i go back to sleep.
then wake, at nine, at try to work out what to listen to. i toy with the thought of michael mayer's sleepy heroin-house all time classic 'immer' mix but decide that's more a late night thing- listening to it now would be like getting drunk before noon. decadent but also wrong. i wonder about listening to some silly hiccupy house, may be akufen or dandy jack, and think that that'd be nicely rousing but not quite right.
so i settle on renato renaldi's 'hoarse frenzy' which i got on a recommendation from Selectadisc who called it 'beautiful', and so i bought it because i think i don't own enough beautiful things.
it is beautiful, and it's perfect for this powder blue start to a sunday. it evokes a sense of place and time perhaps more than anything i've ever heard. loosely, it's a avant/alt/weird-folk album, one sprawling piece stretched out over a CD. running throughout are field recordings- birds- sparrows, i'm guessing- tweet and chirp pretty much constantly. floor boards creek with padded footsteps. phones ring. wonderfully, in an act of genius, the record starts with renato tuning his guitar for say about 2 minutes while the birds sing. listening to this record, yr right inl the sunlight, the soft air, the life of the italian town outside the tape deck it was recorded on. sounds echo like they echo on warm summer days. everything sounds gold and pastel. like a sunday, slowly waking.

his vocals are beautiful and alien. they appear only a few times- everything, apart from the birds is a fleeting moment on this record- but when they do you are taken aback each time. i don't know what language he is singing in, or even if he is singing in a language. he sings with a croak, cracking sounds apart and then smudging them together. that's an ugly way of putting it, but i don't know how else to describe the rawness and weirdness of the beauty in his voice.

this is a frustrating record, and that frustration is asborbing, and holds you in to the record. out of drones and hiss and elegant confusion a moment of gorgous, tactile loveliness- or flowery melody or a perfect sound- will flit in, only to disappear in a matter of seconds. so you sit in this old italian house as the day starts, the sparrows cheeping outside in the yard, as all these little bits of busy sound pop in and out, saying hi and saying bye.

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at a friend's house last night i noticed that someone had constructed a poem on the fridge using those word fridge magnets. it was great and it made me laugh. here it is (it's best read imagining that yr seeing it stuck piece by piece on a fridge):

"some evil science has created
a were-whale
it is human by day
but after a time
must live beneath the sea

how sad.


hardly an easy life"


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i saw dj/rupture and filastine live on friday. both great, of course. filastine plays intricate north african (i think) hip hop. dj/rupture is the best dj in the world. whispers on the night were that filastine's album is album-of-the-year material. i've got a copy and so will listen to it tonight and get back to you, eh.
also Very Large on the night were the heatwave DJs who played killer selection of dancehall classics- so classic that even I knew a lot of them and i really know nothing about dancehall. it made me realise that i need to make it Heatwave again really soon.

------------------------------
Wretch 32's 'learn from my mixtape' is symptomatic of three trends in grime at the moment, two good, the other bad. the first good news is that there is now pretty much a true mixtape-culture in grime, and that's sorely needed what with the grime pirates being so depleted. a few years ago a new exciting MC would have to be on radio for months and months before anyone took notice. now they can just put out a mixtape, get it in Uptown and Rhythm Division, and they're the new star. this is what's happened with Wretch 32: he's been on the 'Fuck Radio' series of mp3 sets, but i think very, very people would have taken notice before the release of his mixtape. his crew, Combination Camp are pretty much unknowns. but now, after 'learn from my mixtape' everyone's talking about him. mixtapes are introducing an egalitarian cut-throat competition among MCs- suddenly, anyone can get their music out there without waiting to win over radio bosses. and i guess competition, as we're so often told, raises standards. the time when roll deep could dominate grime because of their position on Rinse has gone, i think.

the bad news is that Wretch 32 isn't an exciting MC. i am confused as to why there's so much hype about him. to talk about his CD is to fall into Mojo or Q-esque reviewspeak: it's 'assured', 'polished', 'rounded', 'solid'. all very nice, but really what is the fucking point. it is boring music. previously, grime has never boring: it might on occasion, or on many occasions, been infuriating, or one-dimensional, or unenjoyable, or callous, or cynical, or even kitsch. but it was never, ever dull. suddenly, that's changed.

wretch 32 isn't the only boring MC, but his success reveals a big shift in grime. right now, some of the biggest new MCs have all the clever wordplay, all the neat metaphors, you could wish for but there's none of the vitality that used to carry grime. a couple of years ago not every big MC was a great MC-some could hardly MC at all- but they were all larger-than-life characters. they were performers above everything else. now, many MCs are very far from being performers, and instead we get this worthy workaday dullness that washes over you.
it used to be that when you played grime to someone who hadn't heard it before, you'd get a shocked reaction- they'd love it, they'd hate it, they'd not understand it, they'd feel uncomfortable with it, they'd find it funny, whatever.
i can't imagine playing wretch 32 to someone would get much reaction at all. and there's the problem. this just is not very exciting.

which is not to say that grime's not exciting. great things are happening all over the place. but now, for the first time, there's corners of grime that are neither particularly good, nor particularly bad, just middle of the road boring- in that respect grime has become like all over genres. and that to me seems like a big change.

but there's a second bit of good news to finish on. the production on 'learn from my mixtape' is stunning. chunky bizzle takes care of much of it and i waxed about him on here just a few days ago so i'll keep it short now. let's just say that the white-hot melodicism and spaciness of the production on this mixtape make me very, very excited about where grime's going. one track in particular- i'm guessing it's by ruff sqwad affiliate Merlin- stands out; a snippet of guitar fuzz, a buzzy tomas andersson-esque electro bassline, and a snow-shower of darkcore synth, built around this bucking, wild-eyed rhythm.
great times ahead, definitely.

2 Comments:

Blogger tom said...

yeah, so i was going to do some big blog reply to this ages ago, but as things go right now i'm so out of touch with grime up here (there's only so much you can gather from mixtapes and rwd when you dont have radio) and so bored of blogging that it's never gonna happen.

i do agree with a lot of what you say about the characters in grime not being there anymore - a lot of the mcs tend to blend into each other, though i suppose that does help to distiguish who's truly good, when a skepta or whoever comes through. i dunno. i'm just not less enamoured with grime right now than i ever have been, and i think half of it is what you're talking about, and half is location - up here we get wicked punk and metal shows, and obviously no grime, and it shows in what i've been listening to. neurosis and an albatross, all day, every day.

4:20 PM  
Blogger tom said...

'i'm just not less enamoured with grime right now than i ever have been' - fuck knows where that 'not' came into things, but it can go.

4:21 PM  

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