January 26, 2011
braid: We just wanted to.

Braid are recording a new album. This is big big news, well worthy of my first ‘reblog’. I’ve no idea if it’ll be any good, but I like the attitude they express in the post below, so here’s hoping. In other Braid news, I finally got a Braid t-shirt the other day. It’s only taken me about 5 years to get round to it.

braidcentral:

We just wanted to do it. Despite that fact that all four of us are pleasantly employed and happy as can be, we just wanted to see what would happen if we got together to write some new songs. Both Todd and Chris are teaching, Damon heads up Warped Tour operations, and I’ve been marketing for…

January 21, 2011
Full-Length Tings Concerning LV, 2562, Untold

So here it is - my first attempt at ‘real-time’ blogging, how far I have come. Sort of sadly, it comes via FACT mag (which, if you have anywhere near as much spare time as I do, you should be reading every day).

Thanks FACT!

In April the world will be treated to the first full length album from trio LV, which is an incredibly exciting prospect. It will feature 38 EP collaborator Josh Idehen, an EP which happened to be covered in my ‘Top EPs Of 2010’. You can read more details about the album via the FACT link above. It’ll be released on Dusk & Blackdown’s Keysound Recordings, as was the aforementioned EP. This has the potential to be one of the best releases this year - and similarly to how the bouncing rhythms of ‘Lost’ and ‘Your Coat’ and the gorgeously dubbed-out ‘Turn Away’ became instant classics, I’m expecting there to be a few tracks that will become all-time favourites on this record.

This news also comes hot on the tail of the announcement that everyone’s top Dutch producer - well, along with Martyn - 2562, aka David Huismans, aka A Made Up Sound, will be releasing his third full-length in April on his very own, recently founded label, rather than Bristol’s Tectonic label on which he released his superb techno-leaning dubstep albums, Aerial and Unbalance.  The album will be entitled Fever.

And of course, in the next few months we’ll also have a record from LV collaborator Untold to get our heads around. These next few months are going to seem like years.

January 15, 2011

Most Anticipated: Vessels - Helioscope

Vessels, certified ‘Best Band In The Country’ and purveyors of some of the finest post-rock you’ll ever hear, are set to release their second album on March 21st through Cuckundoo records. The band’s debut was punctuated with some of the best use of vocals-as-soundscapes I’ve ever come across, and this recent live video shows that they’re still without doubt one of the most exhilarating and inexplicably tight live bands you will ever see. There is no other band that understand dynamics, timing and just simply how instruments work like Vessels do. I cannot heap enough praise on this band. Watch the staggering video of album track ‘The Trap’, live from Abbey Lodge Studios in Leeds, above.

January 14, 2011
A Quick Post About FunkyStepz

I have an odd relationship with UK Funky, and it goes a little something like this - I fucking love it, but it’s such a ridiculously patchy and oft-cheesy genre that I cannot for the life of me be bothered to keep up with it. Every so often a release comes along that I cannot stop listening to - take, for example, the brutish and incessantly dancey Night Skanker EP by Lil Silva, released last year on Night Slugs and heralded as one of my 'Top EPs Of 2010' - and recently, the EP that's filled that gap has been FunkyStepz’s (now that looks clumsy) Sounds Of Malibu EP. FunkyStepz are a collective that have been making headlines recently after they released the superb vocal track ‘For U feat. Lily McKenzie’, and also due to the announcement that their first release of 2011 would be on the now notorious Hyperdub label, which of late has been branching out into the world of house, with releases from the likes of wonderkid Kyle Hall in the past year. Over Christmas FunkyStepz were one of the many producers who, in the words of Wiley, were "giving out zip files like a virus", and you can find said zip file here.

FunkyStepz

'Fuller/Hurricane Riddim' will be released on Hyperdub on February 14th, aka Valentine’s Day. Start Saving Those Pennies Now [nah, definitely not going to catch on].

January 14, 2011
Grime in 2011

The Christmas period is often deemed a ‘dead zone’ for releases, but thanks to the wonders of Web whatever.0, this doesn’t seem to matter at all anymore. Over the past few weeks a fair few people have been dishing out some incredibly welcome freebies, especially in the grime community.

Danjah

First up is Terror Danjah’s Hardrive, a compilation from 2009 which Danjah generously gave out for Christmas. If you’re not familiar with Terror Danjah, he’s one of the pillars of the grime community, who’s been producing for the best part of the decade, and whose output was stepped up a gear over the last few years following the release of his instrumentals collection, Gremlinz, on Planet Mu back in 2009. There is, to be honest, no one who touches Terror Danjah when it comes to grime beats - far from the simplicity of Wiley's Eski Beats, Danjah crafts some of the most jam-packed tracks you're likely to hear, always replete with skewed synth sounds and tough-as-fuck percussion, and not forgetting his infamous gremlin signature that is littered throughout all of his productions. This 2CD compilation features pretty much any MC you'd hope to hear, from Durrty Goodz to Trim, Ghetts to Griminal, Mz Bratt to Riko, Wiley to Badness. Fuck it, even Tinchy Stryder, Tempz and Lethal Bizzle show up. It’s also a showcase for what Danjah refers to as ‘Rhythm and Grime’, which is exemplified fantastically by standout track ‘Today’s The Day’ feat. Lauren Mason and Elrae. Anyway, you can pick it up for free in glorious 320kbps here. Danjah recently released his Joker collab, 'Gully Goon Estate', on his aptly named ‘Hardrive’ label, which is also well worth picking up, even if it has been doing the rounds for the best part of a year now.

Trim

Next up is a new EP from ex-Roll Deep Regular and all-round badman Trim, in the form of his free Bloodline Dubs EP. The three tracks show Trim at his full-throttle best, over some rather more amped-up beats than you’d find on most of his Soul Food mixtapes, calling out Bloodline and Paper Pabs, and Big H gets generally ridiculed throughout. You can find it here.

Merky ACE

Well, it seems I’ve set up this post on false pretenses - this next release isn’t actually free, but for the sum of £2.99 you can own it and I most sincerely suggest you pick it up for the opener alone. Merky ACE’s The Recycle Bin is, unsurprisingly, a selection of offcuts from his upcoming full-length, but the Spooky-produced 'Yo' is a fucking full-on riot, complete with threats of taking man to Cornwall. On the subject of Spooky, and just to make this a little more worth your while, you can pick up both Terror Danjah and his regular collaborator D.O.K's remixes of Spooky's 'Spartan’ here and here respectively. [Props to the inimitable Jimi Balf for the heads up for most of this paragraph - for more info on Grime in 2011 head over to the definitive thread on DiS, where I pilfer most of my info from.]

RoyalT

Royal T is without doubt one of the most exciting producers on the grime scene at the moment, and his 8-bit inspired 1UP Or Shatap EP  is blisteringly good. You can download his remix of Hot Ones by OGz (the crew consisting of P Money, Blacks and Little Dee), which was featured on the DTA mixtape last year, for free from here. I’m clutching at straws now but basically I’m massively excited to see what Royal T comes up with this year - in fact, you can hear his remix of Yasmin’s track On My Own on SoundCloud - and in the words of Elijah from Butterz, it’s the “first commercial grime mix since ermmmm”, which is a genuinely exciting prospect and, as it turns out, a seriously heavy track. And speaking of Royal T and Butterz, you can pick up his Orangeade EP on Butterz now - and you can watch a sampler featuring none other than Hot Ones by OGz right here. Well, that all rounded up nicely didn’t it.

January 14, 2011
Welcoming in 2011 with James Blake

So, 2011 is here and with it there comes a whole new slew of hype and things to be genuinely excited about. I thought I’d post some thoughts over a series of posts about what I’m most looking forward to over the next few months, and some people to keep your eyes and ears peeled for.

Blake

So let’s get this one out the way first and foremost - James Blake releases his debut album on February 7th, and to be honest the majority of people reading this will have already heard it as it leaked a good month ago now. It is quite simply sublime. Blake’s EPs have crafted an interesting curve since he first emerged back in 2009, but the side of him shown on his self-titled record is a side that has been present in YouTube rips since his debut - it introduces a more full-on vocal orientated slant to his organic, twisted style of electronic music, and it’s been well documented that his influences include the likes of Bon Iver, which is especially noticeable on tracks such as ‘Lindesfarne I &II’. However, they’re almost the least interesting tracks on the record - off-kilter opener ‘Unluck’ presents the listener with Blake’s fragile, soulful vocals straight away, which features a skittering, clicking beat under building swathes of distorted synth chords. ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ is perhaps the most fully-formed ‘song’ on the record, a track that again builds throughout, with a beautiful lyrical refrain that loops as the music swirls around it. Elsewhere, two short piano-led tracks in the form of ‘Give Me My Month’ and the heartbreaking ‘Why Don’t You Call Me’ (which wins the title for ‘Most Cleverly Misleading Song Title of 2011’ straight off the bat) show Blake’s talents at their most stripped back. And then there’s the two cuts that are most reminiscent of Blake’s Klavierwerke EP, ‘I Mind’ and ‘To Care (Like You)’, which are at least keeping those who hoped for a more beat-driven record happy for the time being - if like me, however, you came to this album looking for, well, an album, these two tracks slot in nicely and round off what is a beautifully, meticulously crafted debut record from one of the most hyped young artists in the country. And if, like me, you’ve been following Blake since the start, you know that the hype is completely irrelevant when there’s music as good as this to be concentrating on. 

This is without doubt ‘One To Start Saving The Pennies For’ [I’m thinking this could be my elegantly British equivalent of Pitchfork’s ‘BNM’, might not catch on though].

December 23, 2010
TOP 50 TRACKS OF THE YEAR!

Okay, so I’m doing this in a rather slapdash manner because I’d rather not sit and agonise over it, but I think it should be about right. 30 ‘honorable mentions’ followed by 20 ‘top tracks’, in order (if you click on the top 20 you can here them over on YouTube). Enjoi.

Honorable Mentions:

Lone - Once In A While

Ikonika - Psoriasis

Egyptrixx - The Only Way Up

Lil Silva - Perfussion 

Local Natives - Who Knows Who Cares

Rossi B & Luca - E10 Riddim ft. Killa P

Ramadanman - Work Them

Rama

Joy Orbison - BB

Drake - Shut It Down ft. The-Dream

Big Boi - General Patton

Mount Kimbie - Would Know

65daysofstatic - Tiger Girl

Rustie - Beast Nite

MellowHype - Chordaroy ft. Earl Sweatshirt & Wolf Haley

DJ Nate - Footwurk Homicide

Addison Groove - Footcrab

LV ft. Okmalumkoolkat - Boomslang

Hyetal & Shortstuff - Ice Cream

Lorn - Until There Is No End

Mosca - Nike

Mosca

Fantastic Mr Fox - Sketches

Freddie Gibbs - Nation Anthem (Fuck The World)

Four Tet - Plastic People

Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

Pariah - Railroad

Terror Danjah - This Year (Pro Plus) ft. D.O.K., Griminal & Mz Bratt

Scuba - So You Think You’re Special?

Pangaea - Why

Marnie Stern - Transparency Is The New Mystery

Daughters - The First Supper 

Daughters

Top Tracks:

20. Kuedo - Starfox

  • Brilliantly wonky, staggering technicolour synths show how far Jamie Vex’d has come.

19. Hackman - Pistol In Your Pocket

  • Awesome tropical funky tune form one of the most underrated producers in the UK.

18. Jamie Woon - Night Air (incl. Ramadanman/Becoming Real/Deadboy remixes)

  • Jamie Woon finally steps it up a gear, backed by a slew of great remixes. Expect big things from the album next year.

Woon

17. Vessels - Ornafives

  • From their upcoming second album - insanely technical and beautiful post-rock.

16. Wiley - It’s Wiley/From The Drop (Prod. MJ Cole)

  • Two very different tracks tracks (one a jumped up dancehall banger, one a downtempo dubstep anthem), pretty much the same set of lyrics. Wiley’s still a don.

15. Deadboy - If U Want Me

  • R’n’B addict Deadboy turns out an insanely infectious garage tune.

14. Lorn - Glass & Silver

  • Gorgeous string sounds over mechanical beats - what Lorn does best.

13. DVA - Just Vybe ft. Fatima

  • DVA switches up Natty to make an incredible vocal tune.

12. Guido - Cat In The Window

  • The horns at the end kill me every time.

11. Altered Natives - Rass Out

  • Brilliantly simple but effective broken-beat.

10. James Blake - I’ll Stay

  • Blake at his soulful best, from the fantastic CMYK EP.

9. Jam City - Ecstasy Refix

  • Just listen to the original - what the hell is Jam City doing here? Insane.

8. Owen Pallett - The Great Elsewhere

  • This album should’ve been in every end of year list - just wait till the rolling toms come in at the end.

Pallett

7. Das Racist - Rainbow In The Dark

  • Das Racist at their best - serious, yet seriously funny.

6. Hyetal - Phoenix

  • Epic chords and reverb laden 80s drum sounds make for a huge combo.

5. Ramadanman - Glut

  • David Kennedy’s signature skittering drum sounds are met with a fantastic vocal samples - 2010 belongs to Ramdanman.

4. Kanye West - All Of The Lights (ft. pretty much everyone)

  • Rivals Tribe’s ‘Scenario’ for the best posse cut of all time.

3. Girl Unit - Wut

  • Huge. Just huge.

2. Trim - Monkey

  • I have listened to this track a ridiculous amount of times since it surfaced when Trim was calling Wiley out in January, and it epitomises grime at its best, funny, brutal and often nonsensical. 

1. The-Dream - Yamaha

  • The-Dream takes ‘Fast Car’, injects even more Prince, and comes up with a career-defining single. And the best thing about it is, he’ll probably outdo himself in 2011.

The-Dream

And there you have it. Until next year.

December 23, 2010
TOP ALBUMS OF THE YEAR!

So after a few weeks and a lot of words, here’s the important part - the ‘definitive' list. 2010 has been a great year for music, and here's the best full-lengths of the lot. Check back down the blog for words on the majority of them.

Honorable Mentions:

Ikonika

Ikonika - Ikonika

Actress - Splazsh

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

Lone - Emerald Fantasy Tracks

Futures/John Candy - The Holiday/Conversations

Four Tet - There Is Love In You

65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway

Errors - Come Down With Me

Top 15:

Mellowhype

15. MellowHype - BLACKENEDWHITE

14. Altered Natives - Tenement Yard Vol. 1/Serial Vendetta

13. Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern

12. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

11. Scuba - Triangulation

10. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Leftfoot… The Son Of Chico Dusty

9. Sleigh Bells - Treats

8. Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers

7. Owen Pallett - Heartland

6. Das Racist - Sit Down, Man

5. Guido - Anidea 

4. The-Dream - Love King

3. Drake - Thank Me Later

2. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

1. Lorn - Nothing Else

Lorn

December 23, 2010
Album: Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

Look, I don’t care if this album ‘came out in 2009’. It came out at the end of November in 2009, which is too late. In fact, it came out in the US and Canada in February 2010, and I live in Canada now, so there you go.

Locals

This is one of the most accomplished debuts I’ve ever heard. Just listen to the incredibly orchestrated harmonies throughout and you can’t help but be a little stunned. One of its greatest strengths, however, is that it never sounds too polished, too clean, and therefore retains a hell of a lot of fun and youthfulness about it, and does away with any kind of corporate sheen. The percussion throughout it is smartly layered and well thought out - even when it sounds sloppy as hell on ‘Camera Talk’ it still sounds pretty perfect. When all the clattering snares and cymbals arrive in the second half of ‘Who Knows Who Cares’ it sounds so fucking joyous that you can’t help but start beaming. There’s a song based on a conversation about Mondrian over Skype on this album, and yet it comes across as something beautiful, vague and subtle, not some fucking ham-fisted attempt at being referential as it would inevitably end up in the hands of some godawful British band like Los Campesinos! This album has kept me coming back time after time, and I honestly cannot wait to see where the band go from here. I think I’ll end it here because I’ll simply just keep regurgitating superlatives.

Recommended tracks:

Who Knows Who Cares

Airplanes

December 23, 2010
Top EPs of 2010: Part 2

Tangled Hair - First EP

Tangled Hair

I for one was pretty much devastated at the disbandment of Colour, yet another beacon of hope for British guitar music come to an end all too soon. Thankfully, Alan and Trood soldiered on and presented us with this this slightly less manic but brilliant little EP, full of delicate little xylophone melodies and staggering percussion. I’m reliably informed that another one is on the way, so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Tangled Hair - Just Like That

Hackman - More Than Ever EP

Hackman

Leeds-based producer Ben Hackman has been turning out some of the most infectious UK Funky and House tunes in the country over last 18 months, and the More Than Ever EP showcased his skills with warped, warm bass and choppy vocal samples brilliantly. A true connoisseur of tropical, funky beats.

Hackman - Gutterflower

Girl Unit - IRL EP

Girl Unit

Here’s what I said about it back at the time of release for Haus magazine:

Night Slugs get it spot on in what is only their third release. I.R.L. kicks off the EP with thundering timpani hits and shrieking synths that clash over the top of skittering 808 beats, and Shade On follows with ever-ascending synth lines in a gloriously funky tune. Temple Keys is hugely reminiscent of the similarly up and coming Hackman, and the two remixes round off the EP nicely. 

Girl Unit - IRL

LV - 38 EP

LV

2010 has been a great year for LV. Alongside the iconic ‘Boomslang and collabs with the likes of Untold and Quarta 330, the group managed to release a concept EP about the London 38 bus featuring the first recorded vocals of Josh Idehen. ‘Lost’ bounces along beautifully, ‘Your Coat’ adds a serious dose of brutal London-centric humour, and ‘Face Of God’ rounds off the EP in truly haunting style. One of the most original and interesting releases of the year by a long stretch.

LV - Lost/Early Mob/Your Coat

DJ Nate - Hatas Our Motivation EP

DJ NAte

2010 will be remembered for the year that Chicago Juke broke out into the wider world, mainly due to Planet Mu head Mike Paradinas. The first Mu release of the year set the stage perfectly, as the hyperactive 808 beats and chopped up vocals of DJ Nate’s Hatas Our Motivation EP burst onto the scene. The phenomenon would continue to grow with stellar releases from DJ Roc, DJ Rashad and Nate’s full-length Da Trak Genious, but there’s something about ‘Ima Burn Him’ especially which sets this EP just above the rest.

DJ Nate - Hatas Our Motivation


James Blake - CMYK EP

James Blake

I doubt I really need to say much about this one to be honest. My personal favourite out of 3 great EPs released by Blake this year, it’s a testament to why he’s one of the biggest names in the ‘scene’ these days, whatever that even means anymore.

James Blake - I’ll Stay

Space Dimension Controller - Temporary Thrillz EP

SDC

R&S returned triumphantly this year with great releases from James Blake, Untold, Pariah and SDC. Temporary Thrillz is a sleazy journey through the cosmos, and SDC works his magic once again with ridiculous synth riffs and solos that seem to span on forever. There’s a real talent at work here, one that is more and more in demand. Be sure to get hold of this, as well as last year’s The Love Quadrant 12”, for some of the best house music the UK has to offer right now.

SDC - Mercurial Attraction 

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