Sunday, November 27, 2011

La Ruta Natural

A few finds from a recent trip to La Ruta Natural record store:

Newworldaquarium – Liberty Hot (Rush Hour)

One track that got away from the last post that features orgasmic samples is Newworldaquarium’s contribution to Rush Hour's "Amsterdam Allstars" compilation “Liberty Hot”. Hazy and disorientating as all good Jochem Peteri tracks are, and with an erotic twist. One of the additional rewards from listening to this is making the realisation of how much Newworldaquarium really predicted the new weird house/bass forms that have dominated the second half of the year. Up there with Actress and Kassem Mosse, and some of the highlights amongst the 50 Weapons and Hot Flush labels, this stuff is still the future and one of the few tracks on the compilation to openly capture the more naked side [sic] of Amsterdam.

Brian Kage – Bear Trax Vol 2 (Beretta Red)

Newworldaquarium is most noted for 2007’s “The Dead Bears” released on his own label. An ep from earlier this year featuring live bears or at least nature sounds from where live bears live was Brian Kage’s “Bear Trax Vol 2” ep on his own Beretta Red imprint from Detroit. But rather than a handful of techno bangers, the three pieces on the ep are all suave deep house tracks, with just a touch of techno production to give them a little more force. That said, on some levels the production here is almost too taut, too perfect and too clean, even for deep house, but the distraction of this unblemished sound is easily counterbalanced by the effectiveness of the music. The highlight is the sidelong “Migration Pattern” which also showcases a strength in arrangement with a patiently built and rippling melody line that resembles a deep house take on Mike Ink’s seminal remix of his own Love Inc track “R.E.S.P.E.C.T”.

Laak – The Fourth Space (Austere Recordings)

Very little is known about this US based producer, now on his third ep on his own Austere label. Here Laak serves up a generous four tracks all of which vary significantly, changing texture like skin, shifting pace or adding and subtracting vocal samples. The mood is decidedly jazzy and late night across all four tracks. My favourite is the last one “Hurt me so” which mixes melancholia with elegance.

B2 Hurt Me So (Austere 003 Clip) by LAAK

Also recommended is Laak’s recent podcast for the Northern Purpose  deep house blog.

Northern Purpose Podcast 13 - LAAK by LAAK

Handahófi Tíðni – Warm Ice (Handahófi Tíðni Musik)

A beautiful all round package this one from Iceland: unusual mustard coloured vinyl that captures perfectly the colour of melted snow and warm ice mingled with earth. The music also lives up to appearances, with two exceptional side-long tracks of forceful and yet richly ambient dub techno. The musical surprise here is the deviation from stereotype: on one level everything seems so obvious, sounding like dub techno with the hazy pads and riddling echoes, but there is also a heavier, slow burning Berghain aesthetic to the underbelly that wakes each track from slumber. Couple that to some sublime production that weaves and floats the mix in and out of focus and you have a genuine classic.

Handahofi Tioni - Musik 001 by Handahófi Tíðni - Musik

Sbtrkt / Objekt – Sbjekt#01 (Young Turks)

This one is actually two quite samey remixes of SBTRKT’s single “Wildfire” from his recent eponymous album. Here it is worth flagging up the original as well which features the gushing vocals of Yukimi from the wonderful Little Dragon.

The single is great, but it also highlights what many considered to be the albums weakness, which is its over dose of pop philosophy, a world away from SBTRKT’s experimental and more rougher sounding urban origins. Berlin based dubstep producer OBJKT restores some of the balance and then some. The two takes here are harsh and angular, stranding the remixes deep in IDM territory without leaving any trace of Yukimi’s lithe vocals. The release is also housed in simple packaging with the intentionally confusing mess of names, a little reminiscent of OBJKT’s own near-anonymous releases.

Photek – Closer (Tectonic)

Rupert Parkes has come into a lot of flak from some quarters this year for some reason. A lot of it has been based around the fact that he somehow doesn’t sound like Photek anymore, which is of course garbage. “Solaris” didn’t sound like “Modus Operandi” either. To be fair, the “Aviator” ep was a little flimsy, but “Avalanche” had some strong tracks on it. Maybe the criticism is really that he isn’t as ground breaking as he used to be, but one cannot deny a quality of production that separates good from great, even on lesser tracks. Regardless, his latest for Tectonic is certainly far from average. Its velvety and brooding production is like watching the city lights at dawn rush past through a taxi window. Pinch’s remix is more traditional and percussive, thinning out the midrange to let the drums wrestle control.

On a slight tangent, was curious to read a line about Photek in an old interview with David Bowie from the NME in February 1997 recently. The comment relate to a question about Bowie jumping on the jungle band wagon.
DB: “It’s difficult. I mean, Photek, I wonder how that kiddie got into it. Maybe he was a black kid born in the Caribbean…”
NME: Erm, isn’t he a white fella from West London?
DB: ”Yeah, but you know what I mean. He’s from Ipswich actually. But I’m not sure what my ‘beat’ is – if jungle is not my beat then what is? I don’t think you can be that territorial over a beat. In five years, six years it’ll be forgotten exactly what or who the roots of jungle were.”

A couple of things here, one is the slightly (or not) sarcastic attitude of the NME which became endemic in music press somewhere in the early 90s. It was as if the only way to entertain through media was to ridicule and turn everything into a self-deprecating joke. The other side is how much Bowie really was on the bandwagon or not. It is nearly impossible to imagine him in a club like Metalheads where the music really lived, but name dropping the likes of Photek suggests he might have been at least half-informed as to what was happening even if he didn’t sound like Photek. “Earthling” featured well-known collaborations with Trent Reznor, but there was also some more “legitimate” drum n bass remixes of the “Telling lies” single by A Guy Called Gerald and Adam F.

 “Earthling” is hardly a Bowie classic, but as with all the later Bowie albums, there is a certain jump of faith that is need to kick start the listening experience and reveal the rewards that many by then were not inclined to do. Sadly, he didn’t really continue working with “his” beat, suggesting a bandwagon-esque attitude, but you cannot fault him for listening to the right stuff and giving it a good try. By contrast, yesterday I had to listen to a best of compilation from Michael Jackson while watching a football match and you do not get anywhere near the risk taking or experimentation in his canon, despite being apparently as eccentric or more so.

But Bowie would not have been the first rock musician to toy with drum n bass. My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields was apparently hypnotized by the possibilities of jungle after making “Loveless”, but never quite made the cross over. Bark Psychosis’s Graham Sutton is another profile figure who did go further, making the still respected “Boymerang” album in 1997, the same year as “Earthling”. Perhaps it was the certain muscularity of jungle that seduced rock stars more than techno for example, but it is a big unanswered question of the 90s as to who, why how and where was the jungle crossover most active and where its legacy has lived longest. One wonders if and when drum n bass might make a return? Resident Advisor has been quietly sneaking in a few more reviews of DnB releases of late and one can imagine bass music’s hypermutation diffusing it too far and leaving a vacuum for exploitation or if not reversing it back to junglist roots. Several dubstep producers have even snuck the odd junglist track on their recent albums, such as Skream most notably. Indeed, DnBs often gruff sound might dovetail well with the resurgence of industrial techno and it’s more curious and nascent offspring found on the likes of labels like Blackest Ever Black and even Triangle et al. Stranger things have happened.

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