New mix: Maps

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Click here to download from Mediafire

The Polaris-ization of my listening time has almost come to a close, which means hopefully more posts on this here blog. So many great records to gab about this year – Pixelord, Kamasi Washington, Earl Sweatshirt among them. In the meantime, you have this mix, which will sound nice – okay, vaguely threatening, but still fun – coming out of your subwoofer. Enjoy.

Mixed May 15, 2015 in Toronto for a-void.ca by Dave Morris a.k.a. Deemo

Deemo – Maps by Deemo on Mixcloud

1. Dubspeeka & Visionz – Floorshow – Floorshow (Dext)
2. Salva – Move Dat Doh – $$$ SECRET STASH $$$ (unreleased)
3. Wen – Backdraft – Finesse (Tectonic)
4. Peverelist & Hodge – What Your Heart Knows – 21 Versions / What Your Heart Knows (Livity Sound)
5. Kelela – Keep It Cool (prod. Jam City) – 14 Tracks: Compute: Soul (Beatport)
6. Peverelist – Roll with the Punches – Roll with the Punches / Die Brücke (Punch Drunk)
7. Arovane – Il_Eth – Aarlenpeers EP (Touchin Bass)
8. Model 500 – Electric Night – Digital Solutions (Metroplex)
9. Cristian Vogel – Spectral Jack Climes – Werkschau03 (Shitkatapult)
10. Shackleton – Cast The Die – Deliverance Series No. 2 (Woe To The Septic Heart)
11. S-Type – Fire (feat. Yung Gud) – SV8 (LuckyMe)
12. Future – Coupe – Adult Swim Singles Program 2014 (Adult Swim)
13. Freddie Gibbs – White Range – Pronto – EP (ESGN)
14. Lee Bannon – The Muse – Cope (Chillectro)
15. Mike Gao – Thirst (feat. Mr. Carmack) – Migamo (Alpha Pup)
16. Aby Ngana Diop – Michael Ozone’s Liital Rhythm – Aby Ngana Diop Remixes (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
17. Ras G & The Koreatown Oddity – 5 Chuckles – 5 Chuckles (Leaving Records)
18. DJ Clent – Let’s Get High – Last Bus to Lake Park (Duck N Cover)
19. Zed Bias – Chokehold – Couch Life (81)
20. Jamie xx – Gosh – In Colour (Preview White Label)
21. Bok Bok & Sweyn Jupiter – Papaya Lipgloss (Club Mix) – Papaya Lipgloss (Night Slugs)

Albums: Lee Bannon remembers when drum ‘n’ bass was good

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Lee Bannon
Alternate/Endings
(Ninja Tune)
Jan 13, 2014

Bumbaclot! I just felt like typing that after listening to Lee Bannon’s Ninja Tune debut, mostly because all the skittering breaks and moody samples make me think of ragga jungle. Really Alternate/Endings is more like A Guy Called Gerald’s Juicebox singles in their Gothic atmosphere and convoluted but not comically overblown breakbeat science. Harder than latter-day Amen-tweakers like LTJ Bukem, more serious than cut-ups like Squarepusher — but still not so dour that he would resist the urge to call a track “Phoebe Cates,” Bannon is a throwback in the best way.

 

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Ras G
Raw Fruit Vol. 2
(Leaving)
Jan 13, 2014

You don’t need me to remind you how much I love Ras G, and Raw Fruit Vol. 2 is such a breath of fresh, er, herb that I don’t even mind that it was released on cassette. Because, you know, formats that needed to come back. Who the fuck was sitting around reminiscing about having to rewind things? Anyways, RF2 features lots of heavy smokers-delight breaks and movie samples (Denis Leary in Judgment Night is a major highlight — You’re in MY world now, Emilio Estevez!) along with some dynamite jazzy bits. My favourite aspect remains how samples from other songs he’s released show up again here, part of Ras’ personal cosmology of sampledelia that conjures up feelings of continuity, or at least, the sense that he may be too blunted on a regular basis to remember which samples he’s already used. It makes me smile either way. Don’t sleep.

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Warpaint
Warpaint
(Rough Trade)
Jan 18, 2014

It’s sad when a group succumbs to an obvious and entirely preventable illness, like heroin addiction, ska-punk or the affliction I’ve dubbed “We don’t need your fascist 4/4 time.” Warpaint’s self-titled album has a handful of songs that are as strong as the bulk of their debut, and it’s no coincidence that they’re the ones that are tightly focused (the unspeakably hypnotic “Biggy,” the PiL-meets-ESG throb of “Disco Very”) as opposed to the ones where melodies spill lazily over barlines (“Keep It Healthy”) and shifts into weird, unrelated keys come out of nowhere (“Love Is To Die”). It seems to be the byproduct of listening to too much weedy British folk music, or more likely, Amnesiac-era Radiohead. But where they can get away with bizarro time signatures and high drama, Warpaint’s songs mostly don’t have the extremely compelling melodic/lyrical guts of a “Paranoid Android” or a “Pyramid Song”, so their wanky arrangements and tortured crooning come off as, well, just that. I certainly wouldn’t write off a group with an instant-classic dirge like “Go In” in them, but I hope they can shake whatever bug afflicts a few too many of this album’s tracks. Always practice safe influence-intercourse, kids.

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Actress
Ghettoville
(Werkdiscs/Ninja Tune)
Jan 27, 2014

The trends in urban music production over the last year summed up in one phrase: ‘Anita Baker Screwed & Chopped’. Everything sounds like it’s a tenth generation dub of a tape that had been retrieved from inside a club urinal. As a listening experience, Actress’ follow-up to R.I.P., and last under the name, is about as washed-out and grey as the album cover, but consuming Ghettoville in chunks makes it a lot more digestible. I don’t know why anyone would dirty up a track like “Rims” when the source material isn’t that sonically engaging in the first place – a bright lead voice ramps up and down in pitch with industrial-grade soul-crushing repetition while a cymbal clangs incessantly in the background.

I thought the dreary one-two punch of “Rims” and “Contagious” might drive me off in search of a civil defense bunker to hide in. But “Gaze” has a bit more texture and colour, with a wispy synth smeared across the track and a Chicago house-style beat that summons the atmosphere of a warehouse party where the speakers are half blown but everyone’s too out of their gourd to notice. “Skyline” and “Frontline” are similarly driving, and even the pummeling hi-hats of “Birdcage” are offset by some chilly electro synth vibes that balance things out nicely. Recommended for when you’re stuck somewhere with a boom box whose speakers will not reproduce treble frequencies of any kind. Could potentially sound great on a supermarket PA. Anyone want to test that theory?

Macklemore and the ‘Oh, I didn’t see you there’ defence

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I have been, and still am sometimes, a wedding DJ, which is how I found out about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop.” It was an instant crowd-mover among the predominantly white and Asian audiences attending the weddings I’m hired for, and at first I was a bit baffled as to why. Granted, it has ‘crossover hit’ written all over it. The intro features a cute kid’s voice and an 80s-style swinging drum machine beat that a lot of people probably associate with Will Smith’s early hits (eg. the Fresh Prince theme and large chunks of He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper). There’s a fun wheezing horn sample for a melody and a memorable hook. But I found it odd that, in a pop marketplace where someone like Robin Thicke can have a hard time getting people to warm to the feel-good retro vibes of his non-“Blurred Lines” singles, “Thrift Shop” blew the fuck up right off the bat.

Once I paid closer attention to the lyrics I chuckled, because I get it. I am also a white person who enjoys thrift shopping, and has never to my knowledge spent $50 for a t-shirt. (Out of curiosity, I wonder how much Macklemore & Ryan Lewis tour t-shirts cost. $50 would be high but hardly unheard of by merch booth standards.) From a strictly economic point of view, the only way luxury goods that aren’t obviously of superior quality or durability to less expensive ones is if the buyer values the status it may confer, and since I don’t particularly value the status that comes with looking like I spent a lot of money on my outfit, it simply doesn’t appeal to me. I suspect that my audiences come from similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, hence the instant appreciation of the song’s message.

If we were all free to make these choices, unencumbered by background and culture, then there would be nothing wrong or disturbing about this. Of course we’re not, as Reason’s Thaddeus Russell patiently reminds us, introducing us to the theory of conspicuous consumption and reminding us that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ song is part of a long tradition of the rich knocking the poor for making bad lifestyle choices. My instant reaction was, are we sure “Thrift Shop” is making fun of poor people for lusting after the flyest gear? There’s precious little commentary about expensive clothes in the song, and other than the dismissive tone in his voice about the $50 t-shirt, Macklemore doesn’t appear to be taking shots at other people. Initially, I figured critics who heard that in the song were hearing what they want to hear. But the more I thought about it and talked it over with people, the more I realized that the context doesn’t exactly jive with what I’ll call the “Oh, I didn’t see you there” defence.

We’ve all heard edgy artists respond to angry parents that it’s the parents’ fault they allowed their children access to material that, if they were doing their job properly, they would have known was offensive. It’s pretty convincing, in that the desire to keep kids away from arguably harmful material shouldn’t infringe on anyone’s freedom of speech. This is the textbook application of the ‘Oh, I didn’t see you there’ defence, in that the artist argues that they aren’t responsible for how, or by whom, their art is consumed. I was trying to use a version of the ‘Oh, I didn’t see you there’ defence for Macklemore, pointing out that people who read a critique of others’ materialism into “Thrift Shop” are bringing it to the work, it’s largely absent from the song.

But if Macklemore didn’t intend for people to read his love of thrift shopping as a critique of hip-hop materialism, why did he make a hip-hop song about it? The context takes the credibility out of the denial. It’s a bit like a comedian making a joke about a guy murdering his ex-wife when OJ Simpson is in the audience – the comic can say “oh, that was in my routine before this show” but the decision to say it when you know OJ is present makes it hard to deny the evident intention. The same logic applies to “Same Love,” even if it’s a more socially accepted message – Macklemore could argue it’s not intended to critique hip-hop homophobia (which is arguably driven by similar social conditions as hip-hop materialism), it’s just his opinion. I doubt anyone would find that particularly convincing, because again, why choose a hip-hop song as a vehicle for this message? Why not post a letter in support of gay marriage on your website instead? (Or just make out with a dude on camera? I’m sure WorldStar would be more than happy to host the video.)

I don’t think Macklemore or his defenders can credibly argue that the “Thrift Shop” reaction I see on dance floors among middle class white people — for whom criticizing less wealthy people for not being sufficiently thrifty is a bit like a bank CEO criticizing the poor for their lacklustre investing knowledge — is an accident. And if he was really upset at the way the song was being received as a paternalistic rebuke to other rappers and their fans, he could stop performing it, or stop accepting Grammys for it. But he hasn’t done any of those things, and that makes his apology text message to Kendrick Lamar seem even less sincere. “I robbed you,” he wrote, and then posted it on Instagram. It was a gesture that he apparently wanted everyone to see. We don’t know exactly why, but we can guess.

Mix: We Goin’ There

we-goin-there

I was going to drop this yesterday, but the internet didn’t seem to have room for anything unrelated to crack. (Admittedly Kendrick Lamar does shout “I don’t smoke crack, motherfucker I sell it” in a funny voice, but we really ought not to encourage him to do more funny voices. Just rap, man, you’re pretty good at it.) Anyways this one took a smidge of editing to be presentable to the public but I’m quite happy with the results, so enjoy.

Continue reading “Mix: We Goin’ There”

Rappity raps roundup: Pusha T, Danny Brown, Samiyam

Welcome to album roundup week here at a-void, where I trawl through the bins of recent weeks and pull out stuff worth checking. Coming later this week: leftfield dance and also more conventional stuff.

Continue reading “Rappity raps roundup: Pusha T, Danny Brown, Samiyam”

The weird, wonderful world of Danny Brown

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Nothing has tested my love of rap like the XXL Freshman Issue cover. Every year it’s the same parade of branding-obsessed douchebags trying to get some press for their permanently-pushed-back debut that’s going to get dropped like a lump of coal sometime in the end of December, a.k.a. record label tax loss season. Detroit MC Danny Brown put out XXX as a free download in 2011 via Fools Gold. He appeared on the XXL cover in 2012 alongside a bunch of worthless sacks of shit, and if it wasn’t for cuts like Scrap Metal, I would never have found my favourite new-ish rapper.

It takes a bad motherfucker to be funny about something as grim as stripping scrap metal out of a foreclosed-on house, but Danny Brown wrings a few wry laughs out of the darkest of material without undercutting the pathos: “you might be laughing because you know that shit is true / rusty flatbed truck the colour of doo doo,” he drawls like he’s talking about a custom low-rider.

By the time A$AP Rocky’s record dropped this past January, the Danny Brown press offensive was in full swing, but even the blog hype cycle hadn’t taken the novelty out of hearing him tear up a posse cut with Biggie-like perversion, only weirder. His verse starts around 3:18:. “Michael Jackson penny loafers / moonwalkin on the sun / barefoot with shades on,” and then, in case you thought he was going all PM Dawn on you, “bitch pussy smell like a penguin.” I mean, what more needs to be said? Makes Kendrick Lamar look like a drama-class try-hard.

After XXX we mostly had to whet our appetites for his next disc, Old, with guest verses, but they rarely disappointed. Listen how he turns out SKYWLKR’s flip of Britney Spears’ Toxic on Childish Gambino’s Royalty mixtape: “Got em drip drip drippin like that lemon and Coronas / Bank roll thick like the neck on Sabonis” – seriously, no disrespect, but how many of Childish Gambino’s fifteen year old teenybopper fans remember Portland Trailblazers passing machine Arvydas Sabonis? I sort of follow the NBA and I sure as hell had to look the shit up. Then Mr. Brown goes ahead and plays off near-rhymes for another three or four words like the english language is there for him to bend to his will?

So Old is due September 30, the iTunes pre-order and album trailer are here, and if you have any doubt in your mind about whether you need it in your life, start with Side A (Old) which is just downright punishing: “wearing jackets in the house, it’s a Michigan winter / boiling water on the stove, ramen noodles for dinner.” Then proceed to Kush Coma, do not stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, because if you slow down, this is going to beat your head up like a crash test dummy. This kush coma isn’t a mellow high; dead that Bob Marley shit right quick, because Danny Brown is not playing. Did I mention that ODB is also intensely mind-melting? Stop me before I line up outside the record store a week early.

Why Ras G is the hottest in the game

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Make no mistake, there are a lot of red hot producers out there right now in the LA beat scene, or whatever you call it. The Shigeto album is killing. Teems, Dimlite, Om Unit, the list goes on – all over the world there are cats making subwoofer-melting boom bap-derived ear candy. But in terms of mystique, of prolific genius, of straight-up neck-snapping goodness, nobody holds a candle to Ras G. The eccentric beatmaker likes to lace his raw jawns with bone-dry snares and vocal samples scored from reggae classics and science fiction movie oddities. There are clickity-clack percussion loops, roughly assembled collages a la Madlib and wobbly basslines that’d loosen the bowels of even the hardiest dubstep aficionado. The spirituality of his work is what makes me come back to it over and over, though. A devotee of Sun Ra, the man from Saturn exerts a huge influence over Ras G (or “Cool Raaaaaass” as his ever-present signature sample drop would have it) from dialogue samples to album art. And as blasphemous as it might be to jazz heads, nobody else is carrying Le Sony Ra’s torch the way this beat brigadier is on his new album for Brainfeeder, Back On The Planet.

Lesser ears might be put off by Back On The Planet’s title track, a loose assemblage of noises and free jazz freakouts. But the beat is never far away. Heads may start with “OMMMM…,” which makes a melody out of white noise like it was the most natural instrument in the world. There’s a vaguely Dilla-like sense of time in his tunes, but there’s none of the late Detroit don’s R&B slickness in the beats, which often sound like they were unearthed from under a pile of dust taller than Dikembe Mutombo. “CosMic Kisses” is light on the low end, hanging close to a barrage of handclaps that are funky enough to be a song in themselves. But be careful with your subwoofer settings by the time you get to “Culture Riddim,” lest you knock the crockery off the wall; from “Been Cosmic” to “Injera Lentils and Kale” and the afrocentric-tao-of-Sun Ra-sampling “Natural Melanin Being”, there’s enough bass business to put a new face hole up in your cheek.

“G Spot Connection” is a particular highlight. The otherworldly chipmunked vocal samples and reggae drops bash up against hand percussion in a gloriously molasses-like slog, making it among the sludgiest tracks Cool Raaasss has ever dropped – and given his prolific nature, that’s saying something. Personally I’m holding out for a Jeremiah Jae/Ras G collab album — come on FlyLo, make it happen –, but Back On The Planet is to that dream as Bitches Brew is to the rumoured Miles/Jimi Hendrix collab: even if the latter never comes into being, the former has still ruptured the space-time continuum and let a whole new kind of ramshackle funkiness come tumbling out.

Peep an interview Frank Mag did with the man himself.