Monday, February 18, 2008

Mixtape, son.

The first mixtape of '08 for you here; a cracking selection of tunes with the common thread through most of the tracks being that they cruelly missed out on my year-end lists due to my feather-headed-ness. Enjoy!


  1. Benga & Coki - Night (Now, I don't listen to the radio, so I had no idea until recently that this insidious little bubbler had somehow crossed over into daytime play. Great tune, almost too great to be played on Jo Whiley amongst all the usual drivel from Scouting For Girls, One Night Only and the like.)
  2. Durrty Goodz - Keep Up (The opening track from DG's Axiom EP from last year, it perfectly showcases both his tongue-twisting flow and his very British sense of humour. Think Roots Manuva meets Dizzee and you're halfway there.)
  3. Lupe Fiasco - Gold Watch (Lupe's sophomore album, The Cool, went a long way to lending weight to the idea that I should have waited before compiling my lists as it would have easily made the cut. Then again, if I had waited, I'd probably still be doing them now.)
  4. Ghostface Killah - Yolanda's House (feat. Raekwon & Method Man) (A textbook example of what Ghost is great at - spinning a yarn with plenty of grim wit. Meth steals the show though, in my opinion, even if it is a little too much info when he tells us "My dick keep slippin' out my boxer drawers". Put it away, fella!)
  5. CunninLynguists - Wonderful (feat. Devin The Dude) (CunninLynguists are shaping up to be one of the most under-repped groups in hip-hop. Perhaps it's their horrible name that stops them being a marquee act because it sure isn't their talent. Their latest full-length, Dirty Acres recalls OutKast circa ATLiens before they got all outlandish but the boys put their own stamp on things.)
  6. The Lone Ranger - Johnny Make You Bad So (I've been listening to quite a bit of reggae lately and The Lone Ranger's album Hi-Yo Silver Away has been on heavy rotation. It's all about Sly & Robbie's rhythm section rather than The Lone Ranger himself; echoey drums kick while the sinewy bass moves your hips. Nice.)
  7. Sizzla - Really And Truly (There are fewer more enigmatic singers than Sizzla in the reaggae genre and, it has to be said, in music full stop and this cut from last year's The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems compilation is testament to this power. You'll join the cult of Sizzla about thirty seconds in, you can be sure of it.)
  8. Horace Andy - Skylarking (One of my all-time favourites, this one, rounding off a Jamaican run of three. As good as Sizzla is, he has nothing on Horace Andy, who surely has one of the most bewitching vocal styles of all time. If all you know of him is his work with Massive Attack, then shame on you.)
  9. Bonar Bradberry - Beat The Bed (Superb slo-mo soulful disco vibrations that came out on Red Music towards the end of '07. Bradberry is definitely one to keep an eye on in the future if he keeps pumping out tunes as devilishly addictive as this.)
  10. Imagination - Music And Lights (Dub) (I've recently been introduced to Imagination's overlooked classic collection of dubs, Night Dubbing. Naff title aside, it's a superb set of downtempo club versions of their all-conquering '80s soul numbers. Here's a little taster but you should really do yourself a favour and seek the album out.)
  11. Kenneth Bager - Fragment Two "The First Picture" (feat. Julee Cruise) (The Music For Dreams mainman's album, Fragments From A Space Cadet was one of '07's more neglected records (not least by me), as it's a lush collection of classy chillout numbers. Recommended if you like Royksopp's first album and just good music in general.)
  12. Smith & Mudd - The Start (Smith & Mudd's collaborative long-player, Blue River was another that was a victim of a late release date when it came to compiling my 2007 best ofs. Definitely would have made the grade had it came out earlier, as it, and this track especially, sums up everything that's great about the burgeoning cosmic disco scene. Lovely stuff.)
  13. Cage & Aviary - Television Train (The Dissident label came out of nowhere (well, London, to be precise) last year with their limited runs and extortionate price tags, but sniffy exclusivity aside, they've put out some seriously good stuff, with this being about the best. Look out for Cage & Aviary, along with Ali Renault and Binary Chaffinch making the step up to the majors at some point in 2008.)
  14. Professor Genius - Pegaso (Silver & Kane's Roma Mix) (Italians Do It Better's secret weapon, Professor Genius gets taken on a trip back in time by Silver & Kane here, recalling the era when synthesizers were the sound of the future. Very retro and very forward-thinking at the same time.)
  15. Hercules & Love Affair - Iris (H&LA's debut album is an instant classic and this is its loveliest moment. A superb comedown track for the early hours and a great note on which to end this mixtape.)
There Will Be Tunes Volume One - Ripped, zipped and megauploaded

Update: Secondary link for the Megaupload-phobic (Sendspace)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

D-I-S-C-Oh lordy, has it really been that long?!

That's right, I'm back, after a well-deserved (I think) breather, with some recommendations for your ears. Looks like I'm well into my disco at the moment, like...

Masterminded by Scottish disco, erm, mastermind, Al Kent, The Million Dollar Orchestra are a reaction to the current trends towards re-editing, sampling and all things recycled. Kent recruited some seriously talented musicians (remember them) and got them to play some furious old school funky disco jams like their lives depended on it. The resulting album, Better Days is a heady, nostalgic dip into pure disco, except that it's only the spirit that's been revived as all the sounds you're hearing are brand new.

Better Days is all about the horny horns, fleet-footed percussion and, above all else, sweaty hedonistic good times associated with '70s disco. It eschews conventional song structure in favour of creating dancefloor groovers, with hooks to spare. There's no verse-chorus-verse here, it's all very much in the vein of original '70s heads like LTD or Positive Force, with tons of four-to-the-floor beats, chicken scratch guitar and lascivious synths that bring to mind the likes of Class Action's classic 'Weekend' or early-80s boogie peddlers like D-Train, Patrice Rushen or Brenda Taylor and the functional, matter-of-fact style track titles like, 'Feel The Music', 'Dontcha Wanna Get Down' and 'Get It Boy' further enhance the fact that this is music for dancing, pure and simple.

Which doesn't mean that it doesn't lend itself equally well to headphones as there's an effervescence about Better Days that makes it great walking music. Just don't complain to Mr. Kent if you get stopped for strutting with intent to get down.

The Million Dollar Orchestra - Feel The Music (mp3)

For comparison's sake...

Class Action - Weekend (mp3)

Using the medium of disco to different ends than The Million Dollar Orchestra is arty ponce, Kelley Polar. Well, I say "arty ponce", but what I really mean is "refined electronic music genius", as his second album, I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling makes good on the promise of chamber-disco debut, Love Songs Of The Hanging Gardens (likes his ostentatious titles, this fella), which was pretty great itself. I Need You To Hold On... is a fuller, more confident, richer record, if a little less focused.

Whereas its predecessor stuck closely to a kind of patented orchestral disco-pop, the follow-up takes in some proggier elements (the multi-textured synth symphony of 'A Dream In Three Parts (On Themes By Enesco)' and the Mercury Rev-esque 'Zeno Of Elea' spring to mind), whilst also finding room for some sharp, immediate pop moments, like the he said/she said duet of 'Entropy Reigns (In The Celestial City)' (fondness for parentheses too) and, best of all, the shimmering 'Sea Of Sine Waves'. It's way too early to say shit like what I'm about to - doubly so given the task I'm still suffering from lethargy because of - but if this isn't there or thereabouts in my year-end lists come December then it'll have to be one hell of a year. Not perfection, although it seems we are to expect that from Polar one day, but it's damn close.

Kelley Polar - Sea Of Sine Waves (mp3)

No post on disco music would be complete without a look into its past. It's timely then that Strut records gets back off the ground with another in its series of digs into the weirder end of the disco spectrum. Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro And Leftfield Disco Classics 1974-1986 is, torturous title aside, quite a fun listen. It seems that compiler Bill Brewster has hedged his bets a little with that broad title as some of these tracks wouldn't know disco if it bit them on the balls (quite what Vivien Goldman's 'Launderette' is doing on here is anyone's guess, great song as it is), but then again, I guess that's what the Not infers.

Some of the tracks here suffer from over-familiarity (do we really need to hear 'Mind Your Own Business' and 'Contort Yourself' again?), but things get more interesting when the compilation heads down the esoteric early electronica route, with tracks like Yellow Magic Orchestra's effervescent 'Seoul Music' or the bionic throb of 'Los Ninos Del Parque' by Liaisons Dangereuses and bonus points added for throwing in the instrumental of 'Sharevari'. Granted, the vocal version might be better, but surely everyone has that by now, right? Either way, it's nice to have a label like Strut back. Look out for the forthcoming Compass Point chronicle, Funky Nassau, too.

Vivien Goldman - Launderette (mp3)

Yellow Magic Orchestra - Seoul Music (mp3)

I'm adoring this thing too at the moment but I'm reviewing it for someone else, so I'll save my words for now. In the meantime, nick a treat before EMI tell me to take it down...

Hercules And Love Affair - This Is My Love (mp3)

In case you think I've been doing sod-all during my break, think again, then go and download the two recent Blog Fresh Radio shows I've contributed to. One where I'm talking about Cadence Weapon and another where I'm yammering about your man, Kelley Polar. Also, keep an eye out for some mixtapes coming soon. No word of a lie, it's gonna be boss!

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