Tuesday, 1 September 2009

wonkyandglitchy (or, Let's Not Get Ravey)

Just earlier today I booked myself a ticket for the juicy-looking Thrasher night at the Warehouse Project in October. Now, due I think to having lived a year in Sheffield, I've become somewhat immunized to the attraction of dubstep; so, following an instant widening at the sight of Modeselektor live topping the bill, my eyes slumped back in to a lazy and rather indifferent shape when the likes of Skream, Benga, Caspa and Rusko appeared on the list. I'd guesstimate that each of those DJs has appeared at least 3 times each in the space of the last 9 months or so in the Steely City, thus rendering them a bit boring and stale in my eyes. Even the presence of the likes of Joker and Mary Anne Hobbs wouldn't be enough to make me scuttle over to Manc with a £17.50 + booking fees-shaped hole in my pocket, although it would undoubtedly be a fine night nonetheless. The names that really caught my eye (just realised that's already the third use of 'my eye' there, sorry) on the line-up were the non-English contingent, largely in the second room:

Daedelus - The Gaslamp Killer - Rustie - Dam Funk - Nosaj Thing

Unfortunately, this is where this blog posts starts to wobble and stumble somewhat, as if it had just downed two bottles of Lambrini and was now beginning to make it's way down a Middlesborough high street on a Friday night. The issue here is that while I feel fairly safe in labelling the produce of messrs Skream, Benga and Caspa etc as 'dubstep', I don't really know what genre of music the DJs above would fall in to. Fortunately for me, I've checked, and no-one else seems to know either. Depending on where you look, you'll find their musical efforts labelled 'glitch-hop', 'lazer bass', 'wonky', 'instrumental hip-hop', or 'aquacrunk' if you're Rustie (and which is my personal favourite). A mighty good introduction to the world of glitchylazercrunkstep is through Alexander Nut's Rinse 08 CD, which mixes off-beat hip-hop, off-beat dubstep, and off-beat policemen together to ear-pleasing effect.

I'm finding it hard to think of things to say about the American producers without falling in to the trap of speaking like Tim Westwood - phrases such as "the West Coast is where it's at", "there are some dope beats coming outta Cali right now", and "LA is totally killing it, yo" all temptingly spring to mind, but alas haven't been acceptable for use by a white middle-class English boy since, well, Westwood was a kid. A number of the big-hitters in the West Coast scene are represented in the Thrasher line-up, offering up relatively rare UK performances from Daedelus, Nosaj Thing, The Gaslamp Killer and Dam Funk (or Dâm-Funk, as several Last.fm users will earnestly insist). GLK, who holds a residency at glitch-hop mecca Low End Theory club in LA, takes influences from hip-hop and jazz, adds some bass and off-beat beats here and there, then squeezes the resulting concoction through a psychedelic sieve before capping the whole thing off with a wild and rather grand beard. Dam Funk's music has obvious roots in hip-hop, and Dam can this guy Funk. His tunes are filled with irresistible bass lines and drum kicks, often accompanied by funk-packed synths floating along on top, which make head-bopping and foot-tapping almost reflex actions when listening. His could well make for the most fun set at Thrasher!

The Gaslamp Killer - Turk Mex
Dam Funk - Hood Pass Intact

From previous experience, the main challenger for the accolade of most enjoyable set will be Daedelus. Having completely lost all recollection of his set at Sheffield's Tuesday Club earlier this year due to having drunk my way through two bottles of white wine that had been taped to my hands earlier in the evening, I was distraught to hear that the Californian - with his trademark lamp-chop sideburns and ye olde garb, looking for all the world like he should be presiding over a Victorian court-room - presided over one of the best sets to have graced Tuesday Club in all it's many years. Fortunately for Muggins McPhee, aka Me, fate was to deliver Alfred Darlington, aka Daedelus, in to my grasps (pretty literally) within a matter of days, as a group of Sheffield's finest took our shape-pulling over to a night in Manchester, where he happened to be playing again. Having spotted, and duly accosted, him in the venue prior to his set, I released the chap from the clutches of my loving embrace and earnest jibberish for him to deliver a truly mega performance. Here I must point out that Daedelus is probably one of the most aptly named DJs there is - a bit of wikipedia research reveals that, in Greek mythology, Daedalus means "cunning worker", who was a "craftsman so skilful that he was said to have invented images that seemed to move about". He was also "the creator of a wide dancing-ground", something his similarly spelt modern namesake definitely manufactured in Manchester. Using a big white box (sorry if that's too technical, it's name is a Monome) instead of traditional turntables, he conjured up a storming set, and was successfully beckoned back to the stage by the howls of the crowd for an encore. Definitely worth trying to catch him live, he should tear up the Warehouse Project and is also returning to Tuesday Club on October 27th.

AIN'T NOSAJ THING AS HALFWAY CROOKS.... is a dodgy, tenuous, and ultimately pointless way of introducing this next fella. The tunes of Nosaj Thing would, probably, be the most likely out of the four Yanks featured here to be mixed in to a dubstep mix, given his fairly minimal style, throbbing basslines and dubsteppy drum patterns on a number of tunes. Nosaj Thing, however, is not dubstep. What he does is takes hip-hop beats, strips them down, adds some glitches and perhaps some extra drum kicks before applying a coating of ambience, resulting in music that can be enjoyed both in the comfort of your armchair, as well as in a club environment. Listening to superb recently released debut album Drift is a highly satisfying experience and leaves me with a sense of enormous well-being, as Phil Daniels doth say in 'Parklife'. I'm imagining his live set to be quite an uplifting and euphoric affair, which is obviously setting myself up massive disappointment but I have faith that Nosaj won't let me down.

Now on to a bitta British. Rustie hails from Glasgow and, unlike his name, is anything but an iron oxide corrosion formed on iron and its alloys (we'll pause for a second to let all you chemists out there catch your breath and sew your split sides back up). As could be expected from a resident of the United Kingdom, many of his productions are more obviously dubstep-based, but with a very generous amount of glitch sprinkled on top. Often sounding more like he's playing on a Snes rather than any kind of musical instrument, his tunes are filled with beeps, lazers and squelchs laid on top of rasping and irregular bass.

While we're back in Blighty, here's a few other producers who I'm mighty sweet on at the moment. Zomby is an intriguing character - having released an album harking back to the days of early '90s rave, he has since tended to pursue his usual line of slightly eery 8-bit dubstep, which will often have your head nodding at a more rapid rate than many other dubstep records. From my investigations over the past months you stand a better chance of catching him at a club if you happen to dwell in some corner of the world other than England - he was even originally on the bill for a Wax:On event in Leeds I was attending earlier this year, but mysteriously vanished off the line-up a couple of weeks before it took place. Still, he continues to make some damn fine tracks. And lo and behold, here's one such track:

Now to two very exciting up-and-coming London producers: Floating Points and Mount Kimbie. Although not many of his tracks are around right now, Floating Points is fast becoming my favourite producer at the moment. He creates well-layered tunes that flit between ambient chilled-out melodies and body-moving beats. Like an English Nosaj Thing, his music can be enjoyed at home or at a club in equal measures. Well worth watching out for me thinks. Mount Kimbie are also purveyors of ambient/up-tempo sounds, and may well draw comparisons to Burial due to an emotional presence in their tracks. In terms of beats and tempo they're more similar to the likes of Martyn or Starkey, and if a combination of Martyn and Burial is ever considered a bad thing then you know the world will have gone truly bonkers. They've released two excellent EPs so far, Maybes and most recently Sketch on Glass, and look to have a promising future. Don't be surprised if their debut album follows in Burial's footsteps and bags a cheeky Mercury Prize nomination itself, whenever it may be released.

Floating Points - J&W Beat
Mount Kimbie - 50 Mile View

And thus concludes this post on the glitch and the wonk that's rearing it's head at the moment in the world of musique electronique. However, not to forget one of the greatest influences in this Brave New Genre, to round off here's a couple of tracks by the master of the art, Flying Lotus:

FLYamSAM (Flying Lotus & SamiYam) - The Offbeat
Flying Lotus - Promiscuous (Remix of Nelly Furtado)

BONUS TRACK: Free The Robots - The Bearded Lady Theme (HIGHLY enjoyable)

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