Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Random album review #5

The Japanese Popstars - We Just Are

I'll level with you - We Just Are is a great album, but I'm boring myself trying to write about it. For an electro house long player, it's good - REALLY good. All the songs are nothing less than banging, and it's full of thumping bass, euphoric build ups and slamming drops. But still it bores me a bit. I think the problem is that it's very four-on-the-floor head nodding music, which when listened to in a bedroom environment has a fairly short shelf life in just one listening session. I'm sure that if I was listening to it via one of The Japanese Popstars' live shows (which are highly rated and widely acclaimed - they're touring at the moment so I hope to catch them soon) then I would be doing nothing but gushing praise for We Just Are, but as it is (I'm currently sitting in my room hunched over my computer, it's a fairly grey day outside) the euphoric build ups are soaring by rather under-appreciated. All of the tunes on the album are obviously designed to have you reaching for the lasers rather than for a cup of tea, and while I can easily appreciate that each of the tracks are finely crafted pieces of dance music they just don't fully inspire when simply listened to on the CD, and really need to be experienced in a club environment. So my recommendation would be: aim to see The Japanese Popstars live, then the album will probably take on a whole new feel afterwards. A similar thing happened to me with Digitalism a few years ago; tracks like Pogo and Jupiter Room had intoxicated my brain with German electro goodness, but I'd been fairly cool on the rest of their album Idealism until I saw them live at Reading 07, a highly spiritual experience that made me enjoy the record a lot more from then on as listening to each track evoked the buzz of the live performance. That's how I see We Just Are: bit boring in mp3 form, probably very WOW live. Check out their tour dates, if they're playing near you then I'd definitely recommend trying to catch them live: http://www.myspace.com/thejapanesepopstars

Seeing as I've dealt with We Just Are fairly quickly, I'll tag on a proposal of what you should be pumping out your stereo's speakers instead. Bassline has for a long time been an object of scorn in my eyes, for two key reasons: 1) I don't carry a flick-knife, and 2) I don't own a modified Citroen Saxo. If you catch my drift. Despite spending a considerable amount of time in the bassline capital of the world, Sheffield, I've never felt the urge to attend any Niche nights, generally because my finest stab-proof vest coincidentally always seems to be in the wash when they're on. Shame. Instead I've tended to plump for the watered-down version of bassline, wonky fidget house, as pioneered by the likes of Jack Beats, Martelo, and various other inhabitants of Hervé's Cheap Thrills imprint and beyond. They make music that's acceptable for the middle-class young adults of Great Britain to bounce around the room like chimps to, safe in the knowledge that they can flail along to the wobbling basslines as much as they like without fearing to meet the eye of anyone else in the room.

I still wouldn't be first in line at a bassline or speed garage night, but my opinion of the music itself has rocketed in the space of the past day. This is because for once, I actually listened to some bassline. Proper bassline, courtesy of Rinse 05, mixed by Paleface. All of the Rinse series is great, and as this particular mix was actually released in the middle of 2008 I probably shudda trusted the Rinsers and acquired this record sooner, but it was just that tag stopping me: bassline. I already had Ministry of Sound's The Sound of Bassline compilation, but had never been fully captivated by some of the rather cheesy pop stuff on there (it's got the likes of What's It Gonna Be and Heartbroken on it). I was drawn to the Rinse 05 mix, however, because I'd been noticing Paleface cropping up quite a bit in association with the "UK Funky" scene (he's one of the cousinz in Crazy Cousinz - see Songs I'm Currently Loving), and felt a bit of bassline might shake me from my We Just Are-induced stupor (that's a wee bit mean, it really is a good album). Upon listening to the Rinse mix, I noticed something:


Paleface rinses (ahem) no less than 40 tracks in the space of just under 80 minutes, showcasing some wonderful skittering beats and bouncing bass, as well as elements of grime and R&B (the suitably underground-sounding stuff, no Heartbroken here), which leave you wanting to do nothing more than dance around wearing a monkey suit on a trampoline for 72 hours straight, fuelled by gallons of Red Bull (that's the strongest stimulate they do at bassline nights, right?). Paleface's mix also incorporates much of the tribal afrobeat reminiscent of UK Funky that had lured me in in the first place, and with each track tending to get no more than a minute and a half blast before the next tune begins it's wobbling bass onslaught, this mix really keeps you bopping your head, shoulders, knees and toes. I've reached the conclusion that bassline is probably the most fun music genre out there - although I don't think I'll be rushing down to Sheffield's (newly reopened) Niche club to share my findings with the other clientele any time soon.

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Having given We Just Are fairly short shrift and established that bassline is the greatest thing in the world, all that's left to do now is sit back and let the otherworldly powers of the iTunes shuffle function select the next random album to be reviewed. Fingers crossed, eh?


Oh Christ on a bike. I've listened to this album pretty much not at all, this is gonna be tough.


We're talking ambient IDM electroscapes here people, a bit Boards of Canada/Boxcutter-esque. I think. Like I said, I haven't really listened to it, so I'm basing these descriptions on the brief snippets of the tracks that I'm scrabbling through now. I'm not really sure why I have this album to be honest, I've really not paid it much attention at all, ever. Oh well, I'm sure it's good. It sounds like it could be good.

Here's a sampler:

Jega - Soulflute

(It took ages on this shitty internet connection to upload the 'songs I'm currently loving' to mediafire and I can't be arsed to now upload the actual soulflute mp3, and you're just gonna have to learn to live with that)

Songs I'm Currently Loving:
  • Les Gillettes - Pompeii - Erol-approved slice of infectious electro house, sure to be heard on many a dancefloor in the coming months
  • Paleface & Kyla - Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix) - I'm rather reluctant to use the term 'UK Funky' for this upcoming musical style as it's biologically impossible for a white person to use the word 'funky' in any situation and emerge with any shred of coolness, but this is a tuuuuune *makes 'T' sign with hands*
  • Army of the Pharaohs - Dump The Clip - Old-Skool East Coast hip-hop gem
  • Fuckpony - Orgasm On The Dancefloor Saturday - I find it beyond comprehension that anyone could look at the combination of words in this artist/track's name and not think "YES. THIS IS WHAT I NEED".
  • Bibio - Sugarette (Wax Stag Remix) - The Hardcore and The Gentle favourite Bibio released a follow up to the excellent Ambivalence Avenue the other week, including a few new songs and remixes of tracks from AA. Guess what? Yeh, that's right. This track's one of 'em.
  • Pom Pom - Untitled 06 - It seems to be the case in the electronic music world these days that the zanier the name, the more brilliant it is. All of the tracks on Pom Pom's album are untitled, and they're all wicked.
  • Jogger - Nephicide - Jogger's debut album This Great Pressure was released last week, and as Alan Hansen might say, it's pretty tasty. This track is completely bonkers, and sounds like what I'd imagine Deftones, Squarepusher and Fionn Regan having an orgy would sound like, with Daedelus videotaping. Which of course is a good thing. And I checked - 'nephicide' doesn't mean murdering your nephew. You know you were thinking it too.
Now it's time to hand out The Hardcore and The Gentle's 'Props of the Week' awards, with props this time going to Monsieur Jack Opus for the heads up on Sbtrkt, and Turnado for the low-down on Chainsaw Calligraphy during Gaslamp Killer's set at Thrasher the other weekend.
  • TJR - Just Gets Better (Sbtrkt Remix)
  • 16Bit - Chainsaw Calligraphy - This song throws you over it's knee and proceeds to spank the living daylights out of you, ignoring your squeals and squirming and telling you to "take it like a bitch". Or, at least, that's how it seems to me. And I bloody love it.

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