Fuck Art Let's Dance! And Vice Versa! M-Brad and J-Mug Say Tara To 08
, December 22nd, 2008 09:27
For a couple of reasons (Melissa's musings on gender and dub deserved breathing space and we forgot about the Mugwump's) we've got two final jewel encrusted end of year lists. The best and the (Interzone) beast as it were . . .
Melissa Bradshaw's Top Ten Music Things
9. Raving to Theo Parrish with the sun coming up at Sonar
5. Solange Knowles/Erykah Badu
4. Generation Bass on MaryAnne Hobbs' Radio 1 Show
3. Grace Jones
2. Mavado/Lil Wayne
1. Crazy Cousinz ft. Kyla 'Do You Mind'
In 2008 the earnest and sarcastic alike tried out various ways of phrasing the trouble with dubstep. So while some pointed the finger at imitation and lack of imagination for the preponderance of boring wobbling bass riffage, others made jokes about white guys patting each other on the back while their dreadlocks fell out. For me the problem was best defined when during a very long interview Dusk (of Dusk & Blackdown fame) bewailed "that ‘We Will Rock You’ beat with what sounds like a distorted guitar which you don’t wanna hear anymore - it’s not a stadium rock night!"
Dusk’s hilarious observations lead my thinking down a new path. Dubstep had become obsessed with it’s own phallus! What linked unimaginative imitation with gestures of solidarity was masculine identification. It was all about who had the biggest ‘bass wobble’ (substitute ‘penis’). Tonally, the music took on an ejaculatory tone. And in the rave all these guys were going mental for each repetitious thrust in succession and adoring the person putting it forth because of the way he stood erect before them like a priapic symbol. (The smoking ban didn’t help me escape this type of thinking, because of the smell of unwashed boys).
Everything that has been most pleasurable about 2008 has contravened masculine music. A couple of years ago hearing tracks like ‘Neverland’ and ‘Mood Dub’ felt like being in a womb, enveloped in spacious rumbling. Or cocooned in some futuristic spaceship with the Rasta guys out of ‘Neuromancer’. Over the year dubstep by the likes of Geiom, TRG, 2562 and Martyn operated on a different kind of femininity, all curved out syncopations and seductive female vocals. Funky house, the genre of the year, was similarly slinky and oriented around a seemingly never ending line-up of star performances by female vocalists - Calista, Sophia, Ny, Katy B, and Clea Soul stand-up - who sang about heartbreak, comfort, escaping it all via the house-rave and shagging all night. Some very specifically female forms of sexual depression also emerged.
Everyone who cares is still arguing somewhere along a spectrum that begins with ‘UK funky house is/should be part of world house’s timeless unity, and has nothing to do with ‘urban’ music at all’, and ends at ‘Marcus Nasty is the most exciting DJ in the world and the stuff that sounds like the bastard child of some soca-grime rubdown is where it’s at’. Kode 9 recently played a set at FWD that threatened to fuck up the magnets on all the compasses, and lose us in strange new territories where slink meets terse, carnivalesque synths (see his recent 12" with LD, ‘Bad’, for the kind of thing). Geeneus’ current Volumes: One, the first proper funky LP, demonstrates the kind of ambiguity Freud would have attributed to women, in their difficulty negotiating the phallic organisation of sexuality; punchy but smooth, soothing and kinetic, brand new and retro. I have a particular fetish for the way he tweaks snares. Geeneus gets my number 7 because a large part of this funky thing has happened because he wanted it to. He nabbed everyone from the Circle crew (timeless house end of the spectrum) to Marcus Nasty for Rinse FM’s new 4/4 look.
Crazy Cousinz are my number one because of their unique combination of the balmy, epic, and come-on. Nothing all year has been so massive and silly all at once (except maybe Wiley, and 'The Rolex Sweep'). ‘Bongo Jam’ could have easily been the track but I told myself I had to choose one, and Kyla is my new icon. (Female identification is a good antidote to cock-rock). I also played their cardiac-muscle-rending remix of Jazmine Sullivan’s ‘Need You’ obsessively on loop for at least a week.
If you haven’t got it I’ve separated ‘masculine’ from ‘male’ and ‘feminine’ from ‘female’, the former in each case indicating gender as the cultural manifestation of something to do with sex. But it’s not a case of men making masculine music and women making feminine music. Nor do powerful male artists only excite men. You only had to see the number of girls screaming at Lil Wayne all year to know that. Mavado likes to sing about squeezing breasts like gun triggers, which amounts to likening a distinctly female organ to masculine accessories to power, in a simultaneously totally heterosexual and slightly bent way. These are not the only reasons they are my joint number 2; they just made some of the biggest most exciting music all year. They should both do a track with Grace Jones. It would be the horniest thing ever. Hovering still over the Atlantic for a moment, Solange and Erykah are the epitome of talented, intelligent, beautiful, and show that true independence doesn’t need to boast about it. Coinciding with Obamarama as their albums did, they captured the reawakening of Soul in America.
The distinction between sex and gender collapses flaccidly in the face of the blunt fact of the ratio of boys with poor self-care to hot girls at dubstep and funky raves. In both scenes however it’s still mainly men pushing the buttons. When I was lost in the cerebral quagmire of sex versus gender and got in a muddle in my brain about whether it was still politically necessary to write features about women in music, a (significantly?) gay male friend looked at me like I was dumb and said ‘if it’s not an issue, why are there so few women producers!?’ Which settled it.
So what’s the solution? Doesn’t feminine music, by the strength of opposition, just stiffen it’s phallic counterpart? Strangely enough another answer appeared as the multiple progeny of dubstep. Less strangely the midwife was a woman. Mary Anne Hobbs' special show this summer, Generation Bass, got together the producers she had first featured on her seminal 2006 show Dubstep Warz and asked them to select an upcoming DJ or producer to represent "where bass music can go next". Oneman - my DJ of the year, for his one-man-garage revival (he had all the Shoreditch twats digging out their old Sia 12"s), and jaw-dropping mixes - put sleek in bass; I can’t stop thinking of Quest and Silkie as like Sade for dubstep; and Joker’s manic synth swerves and Starkey’s glimmering hooks also both defied musical gender, as well as genre. Both kind of tape up 140 bpm grime/dubstep tropes and make an electric light show out of them. Starkey’s LP Ephemeral Exhibits is a must have, as moody as it is bright.
Darkstar is included under my Generation Bass entry, because that was where I first heard ‘Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer’, which still makes my ears tingle and my heart soar - yes, really, like flowers on a summer breeze - like new every time I hear it. They were already in the runnings for tune-of-the-year with ‘Need You’. Both tracks had to do with cyborg sex. (Or maybe that should be love.) They are on Hyperdub. Hyperdub’s output this year has been astonishing. Listening to their BBC1 showcase (L.V., Ikonika, Darkstar, Zomby, Quarta 330, and Samiyam) I also realised that you could not possibly call this music either masculine or feminine - or even androgynous! - but it was still the sexiest music in the world. Now what the fuck do you call that?
Things I didn’t mention: Bullion, Dusk and Blackdown’s album, Kuduru, T2/everything bassline, Chipmunk, Double S, The Rolex Sweep, the ongoing sagas of Wiley, the continued domination of Benga and Coki’s ‘Night’.
Stuff I most hated this year: Kate Nash, Adele, Duffy. Amy Winehouse’s husband. Russell Brand. A lot of old memories. Robert Mugabe.
Most disturbing stuff this year: The press not leaving Amy Winehouse alone. Amy Winehouse possibly courting press attention? Kanye’s Mum. ‘Paper Planes’ (also gets ‘track I most hate to love’). George Bush. That Lynx advert with the eyes.
Read more from Melissa Bradshaw in her blog here.
JONNY MUGWUMP'S END OF YEAR ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Best thing of the year: Hyperdub
A label, a genre and a philosophy helmed by the best DJ in the world right now. Every slab of 12” that came from Kode9’s HQ has been a genre-bending transmission from future dancefloors and headphones. Blurring dubstep, chip, wonky, digi-roots and dub and whatever the fuck Rustie is (I’m still pushing for aquacrunk). In the last month alone we’ve had killers from Ikonika, LD vs. Kode9 himself and the new double-pack from Zomby. As Kode9 begins to explore funky and spread the virus in yet another fresh direction, one can only dream about what might come next. Oh, and a final mention for one of the singles of the year by King Midas Sound - a new sonic universe of gorgeous, poignant dancehall-mutated song. Next year’s long player by this collaboration between The Bug and Roger Robinson is going to rip heads off.
Starkey Ephemeral Exhibits
Orbitalesque melodies married to the finest grime and dubstep beats and bass with a host of warped vocal smatterings coalesce into the year’s best album. Starkey’s location in Philadelphia might be the reason why the best sonic aspects of those genres can be reimagined into the freshest sounds of the year. As staggering as it is surprising.
Mordant Music Travelogues
Not an album as such but a series of ongoing releases that are as sonically staggering as they are bewildering. Taking in everywhere from Kent to Bali to unprepared pianos, these are edgy abstract concrete drifts and represent MM at their most far-out. That masterful ability to create the finest of textures and constant narrative transformation reinforces the fact that MM are one of our finest artists as well as running the most bizarrely diverse label of recent years.
Moon Wiring Club Shoes Off and Chairs Away
Ancient genius. Spectral transmissions from the fog-hidden village of Clinkskell. Instrumental radiophonic hip hop reimagined by William Blake haunting the Hammer House of Horror. Voices appear in the fog resurrected from lost TV transmissions and forgotten England.Their second masterpiece in as many years is a playful and eerie fireside transmission from a strange midwinter.
Advisory Circle Other Channels
Debut album release for Jon Brook’s wonderful Ghost Box recruits. An obsession with public service announcements, a gorgeous grasp of electronic melody and one of the label’s finest portals into a post-war parallel Britain.
Zomby Where Were You in 92?
Despite it’s godawful Justin Lee Collinsesque title, this apparent homage to rave and hardcore ends up being a triumphant exploration of all the textures, the sounds and the vibes of the era but somehow subtly distorted into something new, like a time machine gone wrong. Zomby pulls off a hauntological temporal warp but keeps the vibe up. Genuinely… odd.
Trim Soul Food Volume 3/ Dusk & Blackdown Margins Music
I’ve bunched these two together on account of a ludicrously brilliant and surprise Dusk, Blackdown and Trim session on Rinse last month but really the three suit each other perfectly in many ways. Timothy Trimble is an east-end Dali both lyrically and in delivery. Sliding all over the place with his own unique sense of rhythm SF Vol 3 has been the highlight of this series so far. Dusk & Blackdown also surrealise the street in an attempting to bring back the roots of dubstep. This year's Margins Music feels like an exotic fantasy and is an astounding debut album.
Neil Landstrumm Lord for £39
Despite being not quite as magnificent as last years Restaurant of Assassins, Landstrumm is still up there at the top at the end of 2008. More dubstep/grime driven, slightly harder textures and slightly less underwater sounding, Lord for £39 still beguiles and twists new forms out of new shapes. A hymn to the power of frugality pushes at the edges of dancefloor production cementing our man’s reputation as a true innovator.
Caretaker Persistent Phrases of Repetition
With each release, our time-travelling melancholic gains greater depth and poignancy. Repetition is his best album and pushes things further- seamlessly infinite loops exploring a meditation on amnesia and the inability to make new memories. Music from another time and place - as unearthly as it is haunting.
Black to Comm Fractal Hair Geometry
Black to Comm are the H P Lovecraft of drone. Utilising all manner of instruments and sound generators, they carve strange new hyperactive repetitious shapes and oblique angles.
COMPILATIONS AND REISSUES
Bernard Parmegiani L’oevre Musicale en 12 CD
His complete works, exquisitely packaged and available at a ludricrously reasonable price. 12 CDs are all portals to unknown universes of electronic sound - one hugely fantastic and untouchable trip.
Skull Disco Soundboy’s Grave gets Desecrated by Vandals
Ending the year with a compilation of their final run of singles we bid a fond farewell to that most exotic and dark partnerships. Appleblim has launched new label Applepipps which released the best single of the year and the best Dubstep Allstars mix for a long time. Shackleton has relocated to Berlin and continues to mine a vein of deeply dark and exploratory evocative rhythmic voodoo as to now be entirely uncategorisable. A final shout out has to be made for Zeke’s artwork- an idiosyncratic lunatic psychedelia that defined the label as much as the music itself.
John Baker The Baker Tapes Volumes 1& 2
Alongside Mute’s wonderful Radiophonic reissues, Trunk deal these two magical killer blows - melodic complexity and childhood naivety composed in the most complicated and time-laborious manner imaginable. Literally the subversive soundtrack to a generation.
Robert Wyatt Reissues
I’m not even going to attempt to come up with a sentence to explain away 3 decades of genius by one of our greatest talents but suffice it to say that his is one artistic candle that shows no sign of diminishing.
Unparalleled voyages into dub crackle and silence - chasms of space that immeasurably influenced so much music from the last decade and a half, these are Stefan Betke’s finest moments. The sound of music vanishing.
Various Artists Dubstep Allstars Volume 6 (mixed by Appleblim)
Appleblim’s superb mix clarifies and defines a hopeful and more expansive (semi) new direction for the genre formerly known as dubstep, a warmer Berlin-techno-influenced set that keeps the space but brings a chrome sheen and melody back to the forefront.
Various Artists Dreams Come True - Classic First Wave Electro 1982-87 (compiled by Jon Savage)
Temporal confusion abounds as divine slices of obscure 80s UK electro challenge the hierarchies and history of dance music and demands that Vince Clark requires a career reappraisal.
Warner Jepson Totentanz & Other Electronic Works 1958-1973 "With the tape recorder, musicians could revel in unknown worlds of sound." Believe you me, he is not kidding. Jepson moves from crystal shards to analogue warmth over 2 CDs of ear-baffling sonics.
Creel Pone Allegedly an Icelandic reissue label, this mysterious label seems to be made up of a number of anonymous fanatics all over the globe. Creel Pone recovers utterly obscure and rare releases of electronic, concrete and tape music and deliciously reprints all original artwork at a non-profit price. Of this years releases Douglas Leedy’s Entropical Paradise and Michael Sahl’s Tropes on the Salve Region were mind-blowing stuff but really you can dive in anywhere and discover something never less than fascinating and more than often astounding.
Gas Nah Und Fern I know its already in the main Quietus list but that makes no odds. If you only buy one piece of music this year etc etc. Gorgeous, gaseous, genius.
For more Mugwump jizm up in every verse check Jonny Mugwump's blog here.