My installment in a so-far dauntingly impressive podcast series masterminded by Droid of wearie.com. You can find the feed here: feed://feeds.feedburner.com/blogariddims/. And instructions on how to subscribe here. Or just download it here.
The original plan for this mix was very different. Watching the Israel / Hizballah war this past summer, I started piecing together a Technics/Ableton mix using tracks from Shackleton, Muslimgauze, Mark Stewart and the Maffia, Creation Rebel, and some darkside jungle bits. Well-intentioned as it was, the problem I saw was that it would come off crass and naive: generalised ‘Middle Eastern-sounding’ music on Western pop structures as commentary on a contemporary crisis.
At the same time, I also wanted to do something fun, visceral and energetic. Dubstep was getting me down in the summer because of the halfstep-dirge / bass-survivalism I’ve been on about, and the forum-lynching of Gutta by a couple of career-oriented artists and a few know-nothing neophytes. I loved Nick‘s Blogariddims response – a bumping, back-to-his roots techno/electro/hip hop tear out. It reminded me of Marc’s famous Hardcore Rewind series. Each is a very personal and subjective exercise in mining the intensities of a given musical field, exploring ‘hardcore’ interludes – periods of on-the-spot invention, hybridisation – between named and celebrated musical ‘moments.’ For myself, I wanted to do something that brought back the feeling I had on first hearing fragments from Rinse FM, especially those DJ Slimzee sets where a whole range of styles were temporarily assembled in one late-garage rhythmachine and where tracks really had room to breathe, accompanied, but not overpowered, by MCs (In his RWD Mag interview, Slimzee has actually said that the ascendance of the MC and the denigration of the DJ is partly behind his decision to perform less frequently). The things that struck me most on hearing these sets with fresh ears were the fractured 2step rhythms, the rude 4x4s, the perversity of some of the basslines, and those moments of pure sweetness that he’d drop in from time to time. I’ve tried to collect all of these elements in this mix. The tracks are mostly older, but there are a few recent 4×4 tracks from Dexplicit and Skepta. DJs Narrows and Wire do the dirty basslines. Wookie, Agent X and Blackstar smooth things out. Unlike my previous mixes, this one really foregrounds vocals of various sorts (nod to paul.meme) and I’ve tried to put this concept of feminine pressure to work, building breaks and contrasts into what could otherwise be a macho workout.
The other thing that grabbed me early on was the microphone chatter – not even the rhyming/bars a lot of the time, but all the incidental stuff that mediates the whole ecology of the enterprise. I’m still completely fascinated by pirate radio voices – reading out texts and CONET-like number strings, the one-sided conversations with listeners, fuck ups, jokes, beefs, the DJ/MC interactions, event reports. I’ve built some of this into the mix, layering my vinyl set with a few of my favourite radio performances, whether it’s whole sections of a mix or, more often, just the vocal element. With the Agent X tracks early on, I’ve actually reconstructed part of a guest slot they did in 2002, redoing the mix but building-in the original talkover. Later there’s an extended section from a great Slimzee and B-Live set. (If anyone can tell me the name of the main track between Macabre Unit and Plasticman I’ll be happy to send you a one-off, nicely packaged CD version of this mix).
So this mix is also about picking up and decoding transmissions, then mentally recombining them. It’s a bit of a play on memory and the out-of-scale mental maps that far away followers of localised music scenes (like grime and dubstep) assemble as they attempt to lock on to a distant sound through it’s fragmentary online archives. I dropped out of jungle when a lot of other people did in the late 90s (and even that was a prosthetic relationship for me) and I missed the UK Garage/2step thing altogether until I began picking up on grime. That started with blogs (Simon Reynolds, Silverdollarcirlcle, Heronbone, etc. – I still don’t think many of the London artists realise how important they were): Wot do you call it? Grime, dubstep, forward, 8-bar, sublow, eski, ukg. Nobody really knew yet so I typed all of those things into my Limewire searches and the first bits and pieces I managed to collect over those early months became my imprint of what this music was, is, and could be, whether the files I grabbed were hours-old radio rips or ‘historic’ moments in 2step. That’s why the mix starts out with Mark Ryder (you might remember him as Hackney Hardcore) and MC Vapour. I had a lot of that pair in my early downloads – alongside Pay As You Go, Nasty Crew, Agent X, etc. – and for all I knew at the time, they all coexisted in the same time and space. Which, really, they sort of did, but I think we forget that now that the genres have solidified.
The mix was plotted out on turntables but I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted with my modest mixing skills and basic setup (maybe if I was Plasticman and had three decks). So all of the mixing was done in Ableton Live. Content-wise, one obvious omission is DJ Oddz’ ‘Bump Dis,’ which I love but I’ve never been able to get my hands on (though I’m fielding reasonable quotes if anyone is willing to sell). On the plus side though, I got Roger Hargreaves to do my idents.
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Radio: Mark Ryder and MC Vapour (Source Unknown)
Zoom and DBX ‘Comin Again’ (Planet Phat 2000)
‘If you’re in Austria right now and you can’t pick us clearly, you can get us on the internet…’ ‘Comin Again’ Tim Finney said it better than I could: ‘A bit of a weeper this one, I’m afraid: stealing that sparkly little hook from Adam F’s “Colours”, adding a tearjerker bassline K Warren would be proud of, synth chords from the Artful Dodger’s more ballad-ish tracks and an awesomely springloaded rhythm (with little amen snippets firing off like hidden landmines), it’s at once homely and epic, a great end of the night sojourn into outright sentimentality.’
Roll Deep Crew ‘Bounce’ (Wiley Kat Recordings 2002)
Yes, Bounce! Wiley and Dizzee trading bars. I love it. This will always be my favourite time in grime.
Radio: Agent X (Rinse FM – Feb. 12 2002)
Agent X ‘Killahertz’ (Heatseaker 2002)
Dub Syndicate Productions ‘I Need Your Love’ Agent X Remix (Unit Five Records 2001)
‘Out to the pancake crew’ – Agent X on a Shrove Tuesday. First we’ve got the original lick of ‘Killahertz’ (re-released last year with a heavy Alias rub on the flip), the chunky morphed-organ anthem that ruled 2002. Next is a remix of an RnB-tinged Dub Syndicate (not that Dub Syndicate) vocal. We’re just warming so far.
Corrupted Cru ‘G.A.R.A.G.E.’ (DJ Narrows Remix #2 – 2001)
Bogeyman ‘Smelly’ (Storming Productions 2005)
Bogeyman ‘Smelly’ (DJ Slimzee w/ Godsgift Vocal – Rinsesessions CD 2005)
DJ Wire ‘Firewire’ (white label ~2001)
And here’s the DROp. Originally released on Red Rose Recordings, this is an alternate remix of Corrupted Crew’s 1999 track ‘G.A.R.A.G.E.’ that came out on a white label simply called Booty Dubz 2. This is one of the tunes that actually set off my whole plunge into pre-grime garage. It runs for 8-bars – Dizzee spitting b2b Wiley – on an mp3 simply labelled Slimzee’s dubplate. It’s still one of my favourite pieces of music. The Bogeyman track picks right up where Narrows leaves off. I think this one vexed a few recent dubstep converts. Expecting something along the lines of other Storming releases from people like Mark One, Search & Destroy and Toastboy, they got instead some dirty, old school dark garage from the alter ego of Drum n Bass producer Twisted Individual. I haven’t heard any his DnB material, but the man knows how to assemble absolutely banging garage tracks when he wants to. I’ve spliced the instrumental from the vinyl release together with a vocal version by Godsgift from the Rinse Sessions 6-CD pack. I love Gift’s mic technique and these are easily some of my favourite bars from the past year. Watch the bit when he admonishes his studio audience – “Patient!”
DJ Shorty ‘Listen’ (Road ~2002)
DJ Narrows ‘Saved Soul’ (Resurrection 2001)
DJ Narrows ‘If They Knew Wot I Know’ (Ankh 2004)
Keeping up the intensity, Shorty’s skittering ‘Listen’ rolls out of that messy Wire track (I swear some of these tracks aren’t even mastered). ‘Listen’ was the first release from the Ammunition (Tempa, FWD») label Road. Narrows’ ‘Saved Soul’ is another track that I spent ages searching out after hearing 8 bars of it on ‘Slimzee’s Dubplate.’ It’s his signature style – churning bassline bristling with distortion. ‘If They Knew…’ is a later track and you can hear how he’s refined his sound. This one climbs up your throat and pulls you into the floor. Careful!
Menta ‘Sounds of da Future’ (Sounds of da Future 2002)
Benny Ill & DJ Dinesh ‘New York’ (Vehicle 2003)
I wanted to include Menta’s breathy thumper ‘Havoc’ in this mix and the last one but for some reason, both times, it ended up not making the cut. ‘Sounds of da Future’ was the debut from this pair who go by a surprising number of aliases. One half of Menta is Arthur Smith aka Artwork, aka one half of DnD. The other half is Danny Harrison whose garridge roots stretch back to 1997 through his contributions to 187 Lockdown (of ‘Gunman’ fame). ‘New York’ is another release from the Ammunition empire, from another pair of high profile aliases. Benny, aka High Plains Drifter, is one half of Horsepower Productions an occasional kode9 and Hatcha collaborator, while Dinesh has a series of Vehicle and Tempa releases under his Goldspot moniker. Benny is a South London ex-pat in New York and this track rings with those clamourous whistles that Puerto Rican hip hop had until the early 80s.
DJ Wonder ‘8th Wonder’ (Dump Valve 2003)
Dexplicit ‘Bullacake’ (More2daFloor 2005 / edit)
Skepta ‘Duppy’ vocal (Boy Better Know 2006)
Radio: Roll Deep (Rinse FM – January 2005)
Grime had a rough year in 2006 and I’m not sure if some see ‘Duppy’ as part of the problem (a concession to funky house?). Dunno. It’s pure joy for me though. Watch the Trim bars especially. Before that, Dexplicit does that ‘Legend of Zelda’-esque 4×4 that he’s so good at.
Dexplicit feat. Gemma Fox ‘Might Be’ (More2daFloor 2005)
Irv Gotti feat. Ashanti ‘Down 4 U’ DnD Conemelt Mix (Murder Inc. 2002)
Jammin’ ‘Go DJ’ (Bingo Beats 2001)
Conemelt mix is right. One of the best basslines ever. Dex brings the chipmunks. Zinc does his breaky garage thing.
Liberty X ‘Wanting Me Tonight’ Wookie Dub (V2 Records 2002)
First time around it’s a bit like, hmmmmm. Once you feel the bass you’re like, ‘yeah.’ Tune!
DJ Wire ‘Believe Me’ Beyonce Mix (white label ~2001)
Donae’o ‘My Philosophy (Bounce)’ Fidgets Instrumental (Social Circles 2003)
Donae’o ‘My Philosophy (Bounce)’ Fidgets Vocal (Social Circles 2003 / edit)
DJ Oddz ‘Walk in the Park’ (V2 Grooves 2003)
Wire again, this time a little more contained, with another one of those swallow-you-up basslines and an improbable, heavily chorused Beyonce a cappella over top. It’s a weird track and I love the contrast. In comes the Fidgets instrumental of Donae’o’s ‘Bounce,’ which takes a voice saying ‘bom bom bom’ and turns it into one of the iconic basslines of the era. The next bit was serendipitous. I don’t think Donae’o meant to harmonise almost perfectly (it’s even better because it’s a bit off) with the twee piano intro to DJ Oddz acid garage ‘Walk in the Park,’ but there you go. Now we’re rolling.
Plasticman ‘The Rush’ (A.R.M.Y. 2004 / edit)
Harry Lime ‘Voodoo Magic’ (white label ~2001)
‘And there’s no rest for the wicked’ – Out of that and into Plasticman’s 4×4 ‘The Rush’ which was released on Rossi B abd Luca’s More2daFloor and A.R.M.Y. labels. It supplies the bassline until Harry Lime (aka Osmosis) takes over with this slight revisiting of Hyper on Experience’s ‘Lords of the Null Lines.’ Over the top and pure dirt, this one. It doesn’t carry the same weight as ‘Lords,’ though, which really helped define that period when rave imploded and showed its darkside. Since then, ‘dark’ has become one of many always available, but not always convincing, motifs in UK dance music. Great track, still.
Blackstar ‘African Beats’ (DXP Recordings 2006)
Dexplicit ‘Ringmaster’ (DXP Recordings 2006)
Sirus ‘Grouch’ (Harry Lime 2001)
DJ Charmzy ‘Laugh’ (Black Ops 2005)
More recent bits of grimey 4×4 starting with Blackstar on Dexplicit’s label. This one smooths things out for a minute while carrying over the ‘Null Lines’ ‘hey – hey’ samples from Harry Lime. Dexplicit is one of the most exciting producers around as far as I’m concerned. Not worried about genres, he’s making everything from ‘Pow’ to bassline house with lots of vocals and an energy that few producers are able to match.
Macabre Unit ‘Everyday Life’ (Slimzos 2005)
Radio: Slimzee w/ B Live (Rinse FM June 2004 / DarksideRiddem.com)
Plasticman ‘The Search’ (Terrorhythm 2004)
‘We’re not even really started, we’re just playing’ – One of my favourite pirate sets. This one used to be on on Darkside’s old website.
Plasticman ‘White Gloves’ (Soulja 2003)
The B-side of ‘Pump Up the Jam’ – pure abandon with rave stabs and everything.