miXXX: Ephemera by brnsctr

Enigmatic beatmaker brnsctr has just dropped a taut, laid-back selection on Mixcloud filled with some absolute gems ranging from Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ to Francoise Hardy to the criminally-overlooked Brazilian Jose Mauro to Nico Jaar’s ‘Colomb’ to a Norman Connors number that went down particularly well with me this morning, and some more. Most definitely worth 30 minutes of your time.

Stream below. Also, hit up his Bandcamp here to get on the excellent 2016 beat-tape ARTLESS (reviewed here) and 2014’s King Brain Mixtape if you haven’t already.
 

Bump This Now: fre$h by Profound

February, as is custom, brings tributes to the late James Yancey b.k.a J Dilla by the hundreds. So, I’m gonna try (hard) to steer clear of likening the new beat tape by Profound to Dilla-anything. Decidedly, it’s sample-driven hip-hop, and yes, it’s boom-bap, but as the title suggests, it somehow all ends up sounding pretty new. The only similarities I see worth pointing out between something like, say, Ruff Draft and fre$h are that they’re contemporaneously forward-thinking yet dependent on a pantheon of great hip-hop from decades-gone-by. Moods loom large over fre$h and are precisely what keeps it interesting to these ears whether listened to inside closed rooms, on airplanes or driving along the highway.

Multiple listens in (thanks to an advance copy), fre$h is clearly the work of an artist with a cogent vision, and in times when a lot of hip-hop treads precariously close to homogeneity whether its beats or bars, a vision and a convincing artistic statement are particularly invigorating. In the race to the top of the game, it’s those who take complete charge of their artistic contributions that will stay ahead. That means everything from how your music is presented to the public for consumption, how you talk about/represent it while handling press, and quite importantly, how you respond to critique. The words you don’t use then become easily as important as the words you do, the same way the sounds you throw in as a producer are just as vital as the spaces you leave in for silence.

Neo-expressionists like David Hockney and Jorg Immendorff weren’t highly-regarded because they were stylistically similar to Philip Guston or even Baselitz, but because they commandeered their own way through the bagarre of the art world to successfully distinguish themselves from their contemporaries and influences. Is it not a feature of all great art to distinguish itself right from the get-go?

There’s a lot of folk out there content with riding popular waves and trends before waiting to get co-opted through Facebook shout-outs from overenthusiastic scene chumps or better yet, the odd gig, but it’s getting much easier nowadays to winnow the wheat from the chaff, especially in the dog-eat-dog world of online music. While I don’t know if Profound, real name Amandeep Singh Multani, has a day job, I do get the feeling if he “makes beats all-day-long” (something a certain Miss Badu said once of J Dilla), and “markets” his vision uncompromisingly, he could come out flu$h.

Call it a stretch if you want, but it’s not hard to imagine Pusha spit a lean sixteen on a brawnier cut of ‘Outro (GTFO)’ or Spitta rhyming through smoke clouds on ‘high like a star’. That’s to say these beats have plenty of bounce and flex, something even the most “out-there” hip-hop productions seems to lack.

Midway through the tape ‘slowdowngf’ doesn’t pussyfoot. She’s a lulu, a beginning-of-summer jam that’s near-impossible to fault, and will likely be the crowning jewel of this release (out today on Mumbai indie label Knowmad Records in case you’re wondering). ‘Ain’t Shy’ and ‘lastofyou’ feel somewhat symbiotic, both with drums that threaten to collapse on themselves amidst spiralling patterns of melody, but it’s intro number ‘walnut crepe’ that drew me in to begin with. Culling a razor-sharp verse from AZ’s ‘New York’ to great effect, I had no choice but to listen on and it’s been quite rewarding.

On the outset, I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of Profound’s Returning Rituals from last year. It seemed to blend into “2016-contemporary-downtempo-beat-music” all too easily (something brnsctr’s ARTLESS skilfully avoided), but there are few healthier signs of artistic merit than growth and evolution, and thankfully on fre$h, they arrive by the boatload.

Listen to/download fre$h by Profound here.

Thank you dublab! Thank you scene!

Doing that two-hour guest spot at dublab in Los Angeles two Mondays ago was one of my favorite experiences of the last few years and I’m honoured to have been part of dublab’s programming. It is and has always been, in my opinion, the gold standard for community, non-profit radio, and its open music policy is the reason I’ve been tuning in for so long. dublab also enjoys cult status all over Los Angeles for their deep, deep involvement within the local music scene and to be associated with them and subsequently invited back is something for me to personally cherish.

From the beginning, I was clear I wanted to showcase a side of Indian electronic music that’s rarely heard outside of India, and sometimes rarely paid attention to even within India. While that meant scouring the Internet for hidden gems, it also meant personally contacting many producers whose work I admired to ask them for unreleased music. I’m thrilled that so many of them were happy to oblige and also trust me implicitly with their material. Furthermore, it made me very happy that people all over enjoyed the mix and turned more people on to it, though I have to say there was very little “mixing” involved, so-to-speak. I also forgot to put Aniruddh Menon’s album-opener on my USB stick so had to download the album onto the dublab computer and have it transferred onto another USB while FILM’s track played out in the background. Rookie mistake, I know. I have to say though, part of the beauty of long-format radio shows is the freedom to sequence tracks as you wish. I wanted badly to play all these tracks out in full so as to not compromise on each individual artistic statement, and so I did.

The end product (I’ve only listened to it once since) is something I am immensely proud of, and I’ve got only the musicians to thank for that. I travel everywhere these days for work and for gigs and see myself getting involved in many local music scenes. And no matter which dingy little techno club I’m perched upon in any  corner of the world, I’m proud to represent what we have here in India.

Here’s the LINK to the show where you can stream the mix and even download if you like. I would personally suggest a download so you can cruise in your car or listen to this while traveling. Also, here’s the track list in-full:

Yidam – ‘2E002′ (Unreleased)
Six Flying Elephants – ‘Slow Silhouettes Against The Sun’ [Bangalore Recording Company]
Disco Puppet – ‘Teenaged (w/ Savyasachi)’ [Consolidate]
_RHL – ‘IWH’ (Unreleased)
Dutty Deedz – ‘Her Seance’
Sandunes – ‘Switching Rails’ [Red Bull 20 Before 17]
Nikhil Bhanu – ‘Dasvidaniya’ (Unreleased)
Jamblu – ‘Hypocrite’
Seasound – ‘Rojat 4’ (Unreleased)
JESSOP&CO. – ‘Act The Object’ [czaszka (rec.)]
Stalvart John – ‘A Dream I Can’t Remember’
Disco Puppet – ‘Untitled’ [Consolidate]
2 – ‘Indian Military Spent 6 Months Investigating ‘Chinese Spy Drones’ Only To Discover They Were In Fact Jupiter and Venus’ (Unreleased)
FILM – ‘Odyssey To Consumption’ (Unreleased)
Hashback Hashish & 5volts – ‘H(CHB11CI11)’
Snad & Fiend – ‘Meltdown (Mood Stabilizer Morning Mix)’ [Gandu Records]
Ravana – ‘Operation Greenhunt (Dub Him A Maoist)’
Aniruddh Menon – Surpanakha [Consolidate]
Riatsu – ‘The Universe Needs To Know’
The Sine Painter – ‘- Pt 1′ (Unreleased)
brnsctr – ‘Export Attempt 2’ (Unreleased)
Sushruta Ghosh – ‘Love Evaporates From Her Eyes Like Tears Drying Up From Her Cheeks’ (Unreleased)
Sushruta Ghosh – ‘Raw Underbelly Of Nowhere’ (Unreleased)
_RHL – ‘Janta Music’ (Unreleased)
Profound – ‘inner – cadillac – er’

At Rave’s End + No Hero Radio #002

I think my real introduction to communal dancing and the rave scene began in the illegal parties on the outskirts of Mumbai and Goa. I’d attended concerts before that, but the testosterone-charged atmosphere of Bombay’s metal and rock concerts did little for me compared to the relative liberation and freedom felt in the midst an outdoor rave with, importantly enough, non-stop music. Time played a huge factor in this. While a concert had this set-in-stone, PG-13 pattern of beginning around dinner time at say 7pm and ending around 10pm, the illegal parties began around midnight and lasted a whole twelve hours sometimes. The parties in Goa even went on for days at a time. I also had to be pretty open about going to a concert i.e. no one really cared, but I almost always had to lie to my folks about going to a rave. In the dumbest way, that probably amplified the thrill. I figure I’d be really into that scene even now but for the bulk of the music being absolute dogshit. While I really enjoyed taking those road-trips to get outdoors and dancing through the night and the morning with my friends, I couldn’t bring myself to ever listen to psychedelic trance music on any normal day ever. But there are people who do, and bless their hearts because they’re the real troopers.

It was only around the year 2004, aged 17-and-a-half, when I moved to London that I discovered what a rave meant in the ol’ English sense. The music was rarely if ever as monotonous as psytrance, and sound-systems seemed to have been tweaked perfectly for every occasion and every kind of music. There was usually a choice of beer to drink (because sometimes you brought your own; Kronenbourg 1664 and Red Stripe for me) and unlike back home, the police, when they did come around to put and end to things, didn’t threaten violence or arrest anybody. They only ever just wanted the noise to stop. The only commonalities I could think of between England and Mumbai were that there were a large number of freaks who assembled in places sometimes far away from home to dance, and that they always knew of the parties from Internet forums or text messages or word-of-mouth.

It was around this time I was introduced to the music of Good Looking Records, R&S, Creative Source, Lucky Spin and Dee Jay Recordings, and then later on Virus Recordings, Skam, Warp, Wax Trax and Rephlex plus the dubby, minimal electronics of Basic Channel. At a lot of these parties I went to, I found myself surrounded by people who couldn’t seem to let go of their fascination with the mid-‘90s sound, all clinging on to the fag-end of the rave era and probably for good reason. A lot, and I mean A LOT of this music has aged very, very well. Take Parallel World’s ’Tear Into It’ for example.

I recall never caring about who was playing the music back then and that, I suppose, was perfectly okay with me, and besides I was mainly into bands and shit. I’d however amassed tens of CDRs of old-school jungle. drum ’n’ bass and techno tracks as hand-me-downs, so in a way, I kinda knew the music and that seemed to matter more. The LTJ Bukem mixes and the Jumpin’ n Pumpin’ compilations left quite the mark I think and I sorely wish I’d still hung on all of them or even know where I’d left them. With no real aspirations in music (I attended culinary school during the week) I was a bit too off my rocker at the parties then to care about following what the DJs were getting up to. All I really wanted was for the party to not stop. And when it did stop, it was back to my flat at Shepherd’s Bush on the night bus or sometimes two trains, a stop at Gregg’s for carbs, cafe au lait from the hole-in-the-wall next door to the post office, and then downtime at home with my Greek roommate who would be drinking these home-brewed magic health potions and listening to the latest in European IDM on my Stanton STR-8. She was amazing in the way that she would always call me in the morning to ask if I wanted the bath running when I got home but absolutely batshit insane in the way that when she left she burned all the insoles of my shoes and tried to end me with my eight-inch Wursthof. I wish her well though.

What my old building Hanover Court looks like today.

Those were, in fact, the most memorable days and nights even though they seem to blend into each other. As I cleaned up my act so-to-speak, I began going to parties closer to home and sort-of expanding my musical tastes. The circle of transitional party friends had been split and everybody had retreated back to Kent or Hertfordshire or Canterbury. Weirdly enough, I was the only city boy among this one particular lot and consequently found myself quite alone. Music that played in the city was mostly shit apart from concerts and what you heard at say Electrowerkz and Fabric or the low-key Spitz near where I worked on Commercial Street. Soon though I found my favorite underground spot – the members-only (five quid), converted underground toilet Ginglik. Ginglik was a local treasure, and a fantastic place to get completely shit-faced and listen to some really really good music that was diametrically opposite to the crap you’d hear outside, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. And they had a variety of shit going on there. Bands some nights, comedy during the week, local neighbourhood meetups, and DJs on the weekends. Jimmy Carr was a fan and legend has it that even the late Robin Williams dropped in one night to do a surprise set. I caught residents Kone-R and Magnetic Man often enough even the less-talked-about LJ Kruzer who had a lot of (justifiable) hype around him back then. To top it off, I could walk home at the end of the night with a convenient stopover for a kebab and even pick up a pint of milk, some blue Powerade and the morning paper from the Sri Lankan grocer downstairs.

Ginglik. Photo via The Centrifuge

A huge turning point for me musically came with the Wheels Instead of Hooves all-nighter in March of 2005. It’s where I got to check out B12 playing live, plus Plaid, Ceephax Acid Crew, Luke Vibert, Rob Hall and the Skam DJs among a whole lot of folks squarely in that Rephlex-Warp-Skam vibe in a fucking blistering party that I couldn’t get out of my mind for weeks. All of a sudden I didn’t care so much about illegal parties outside of London because I was getting more than I could have handled right here in the city. That was in the past, and this here was very much the present and the future. It seemed that the louder and more annoying pop music became on the radio, the heavier and more unrelentingly the underground responded back. London in early ’05 seemed THE place to be, but sadly enough, I left soon after.

From a complete outsider’s perspective, I think it was the implementation of the Drugs Act of 2005 that signaled the final nail in the rave scene’s coffin. And with the recent enlargement of EU, Eastern Europeans were flooding into the city looking for jobs and everybody from the owner of the Lahore kebab shop in Aldgate to the Italian deli owner in Ladbroke Grove thought it fit to complain about “immigrants”. Pretty ironic. For a place that prided itself on its diversity and tolerance towards immigrant populations, even parts of East London (where I worked) were turning sour with angry, racist people finally coming out of their angry, racist closets and bigotry making the news often (well, as often as it could steal some headlines from David Beckham’s romps with the personal assistant). On the music side, most everything great but festivals had moved indoors and the scene was, for better or worse, changing and having to reinvent the way it kept listeners glued. I had also quit Thames Valley University in Ealing by then and joined the Musicians Institute in Acton and knew my time was coming to a close. I had my sights set on America and a new chapter in my life, one that would take me to the Pacific Northwest, home to a few thousand hippies, Kurt Cobain and a lot of artisanal coffee.

The north-west of Olympia, WA was a big change from the city life of London and Bombay.

On a complete side-note, I think, in theory, for any non-mainstream scene to survive against the mammoth of something like, say, Bollywood, it has to find a way to get itself heard and get heard LOUD. It has to be able to offer young kids the space and time completely lose themselves minus the modern-day distractions. If that means hosting illegal all-nighters at undisclosed locations once-or-twice-a-while, that may just be it; let’s just not make it a fucking posh affair restricted to only rich socialites and “influencers”, both groups of which proudly parade around their undeniably shit taste in music. I went to a club night in Nuremberg in September that incentivised leaving your phone in a locker at the front of the club, and with most people having done that, I dare say, it was different, in a good way. I think small ideas like those can actually change things for the club scene. If those who worked in the music industry and claimed a stake in whatever you could call the underground these days could look at music as the base of the pyramid and everything being built on top, I can’t help but think the music would actually get better and more avenues for its expression would eventually open up. Admittedly, that’s impossible with a cash-grab mentality that seems to govern most folks these days but I still believe it pays to be hopeful, especially when things are looking down.

Okay, back the whole point of this. Cleaning up MY closet this morning, I found some CDs from those days in London, most of them in terrible condition so I kind of excavated whatever decent quality tunes I could from them and made a mix of about an hour and a half. In some ways it was an emotional ride just making this mix, and in some ways it was good to kind of get it out of my system. I have little time to listen to old music these days when there’s so fucking much new shit out there. Eventually, I’ll toss these CDRs away because this nostalgic shit is really unbecoming of me (I’ve begun to appreciate the irony brought on through my own contradictions).

For now though, here’s a throwback to some music from the ‘90s. All (I think) heard and danced to in London in ’04 and ’05. Enjoy listening and have a great January. Tracklist below.

Tango & Fallout – Revelation
Shimon & Andy C – Quest
Q-Project & Spinback – Mars
Octave One – Chillin’ Out
Appaloosa & DJ Dream – Night Train
Funky Technicians – Planet Vibe
Grooverider – Sinister (The Influence Mix)
DJ Peshay – Psychosis
LTJ Bukem – Music
The Invisible Man – The Tone Tune
Alliance – Virtual Heaven
CJ Bolland – Aquadrive
3 Phase – Der Klang Der Familie
DJ Crystl – Meditation
The Chameleon – Links

Believe The Hype

In August of the year gone by, I spent an evening at Indie Music, a popular record store in Beijing’s Gulou district talking shop with their one staffer about the many cassette labels in China putting out experimental music. Among them are the famous ones you may have heard of – Sub Jam who are notoriously well known for their avant-gardeism plus their excellent packaging. And SVBKVLT – started by Gareth Williams of the recently-shuttered and immensely iconic underground club The Shelter. Another proponent of the culture is Nasty Wizard Recordings, currently all the hype in Gulou and beyond. Then there’s 87fei87 who do limited cassette runs of their output and sell them at gigs. And of course, the rising hip-hop stardom of Groove Bunny Records who’ve been distributing on tape for a number of years.

From what I could gather, China’s made great use of what’s probably a surplus of TDK D90s and it’s all very very hip (for now). On the other hand, cassettes at a shop like Indie Music usually cost as much or more than their CD counterparts, and CDs are just a shade cheaper than buying vinyl (except for imports; imports are ridiculously priced). But here’s the zinger – vinyl is kinda hard to come by in all of China, at least in the variety and the quantities a collector or a DJ might want.

I sometimes question this fascination around the cassette format. How come it’s so hyped up these days that cassettes have landed up as “ironic” gifts at Urban Outfitters outposts in Munich and beyond?

Your guess is as good as mine but I think part of this has to do with retrofetishizing a lost-to-time format mixed in with the need for many to own music they can see, feel and touch. Personal example – I have a lot of cassettes. Do I prefer to play them over the music on my computer? Fuck no. That said, I’m more enamoured with vinyl and much prefer flipping from side A to B on an LP than hitting eject button on a tape deck and flipping the cassette front to back and rewinding or forwarding to the song I like. Audio cassette is a pain-in-the-ass format that most people in their right mind are glad to be done with forever. On the other hand, I am absolutely, one-hundred-percent ON BOARD what Brian Shimkovitz has been doing with Awesomes Tapes From Africa. Here’s a guy traveling around the continent re-discovering lost tapes and reissuing them to legions of new fans. Sometimes, he’ll strike gold and find a living legend. I find that commendable from a collector’s or a music lover’s point of view because Shimkovitz’s approach really is an ethnomusicologist’s dream. Just listen to and watch the re-emergence of Ata Kak at a festival in fucking Helsinki, and tell me this rendition of ‘Obaa Sima’ doesn’t move you. 

Onto the next most hyped format – you guessed it – wax. Now while the mainstream record industry is quick to celebrate its spikes in vinyl sales in a mostly-digital streaming age, these are but tiny victories for the dying format of vinyl. That’s because a lot of vinyl labels (take Submerge in Detroit for example) who’ve been in business forever or labels that are just about starting up, are being made to wait in line for months because of the record pressing industry’s rush to service the needs of hipsters who would “literally give an arm and a leg” to own the latest Radiohead album on coloured, limited edition vinyl. Hipsters like old shit that’s threatening to go out of fashion, whodathunkit? Did you also know you can buy a freshly-pressed-to-wax 1989 by Taylor Swift out on Universal Music Group for the petty sum of rupees TWO THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED right here in Bombay? And that’s precisely what happens when a format is “hyped” with little knowledge of who it actually serves. In my opinion, the few proponents of vinyl in India have got it ass-backwards. Anyone who really wanted the format to live on would buy and support labels that need that money to stay afloat rather than distribute platinum-selling, Grammy-winning hair metal and faux-country. And rest assured friends, dropping five thousand pounds on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is not going to make Freddie Mercury pop out the speakers to do those tempo changes in the flesh.

Now the fact that many producers are creating music entirely in-the-box and then releasing (among other formats) to vinyl in order to appease a growing market of DJs who’ve chosen to adopt a somewhat herd-like mentality of format-before-music says a lot. Or at least says that in some cases, the source of the music i.e. some of the artists/labels involved could care little about how his/her/their music is eventually played out; it’s a numbers game after all. That said, an LP sale does net them more profit than a digital download, especially when that digital download is being sold through one of the bigger online retailers *cough cough con-artists* like Beatport.

Here’s one to chew on. That the most inventive musicians of our time are patching their music together with solutions like Max/MSP and subsequently releasing in 24bit/96khz WAV for public consumption has to count for something right? Could all of this supposedly futuristic music sound somehow “better” on a 180 gram record running through a Technics 1210 on even the best club system on earth? Like most things to do with how we perceive sound and therefore, music, is completely subjective and therefore, debatable.

But who is to say “hi-resolution” 24bit/96khz music isn’t all hype and clever marketing either? To most ears the differences between 16bit and 24bit WAVs are indecipherable. To the seasoned clubbing crowd whose ears have been fucked four ways till Sunday, this isn’t even worth wasting time thinking about. But take the case of Autechre, who are known to concern themselves with “unusual” or “subsonic” frequencies. 2016’s elseq 1-5 in 24bit (costing $55 no less) is noticeably different from its lesser-resolution versions if you listen in a what could be termed a “deeply involved” manner. Of course for this hi-resolution music listening, you would perhaps need a pair of solid and true-if-not-completely-neutral (read: expensive) monitors, a well-treated room, possibly a D/A converter, maybe even some high-end headphones. Or you’d need to do real justice to the experience by watching them live with their engineer-of-choice manning the booth in a acoustically near-perfect environment, and as is usually custom, in almost total darkness. Can that experience then be recreated at home? To a certain extent, yes, but mostly, no.

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The bum-rush to re-press popular records on vinyl is getting, well, old. I mean, who really NEEDS more Deep Purple and Michael Jackson records on vinyl? The argument that the upcoming Nine Inch Nails vinyl reissues are gonna “sound better” or “truer” or “how it was meant to be heard” compared to their earlier, digital/CD counterparts is mostly a daft one and relies on being being dismissive and perhaps unwilling to understand how recording and mastering (and in many cases, modern-day marketing) works. But even those arguments hold little water and are usually relegated to “hot” threads on Internet forums for self-ordained audiophiles i.e. a cacophony of ego contests between people who make unsubstantiated claims to be studious professionals in the field, as if your ability to listen to music and judge just how good it sounds affords you some kind of special qualification. The casual listener simply doesn’t care, because he or she is listening to the music on computer speakers, Apple EarPods and smartphones for the most part. Though I do have a big bone of contention here. If Trent Reznor really cares about a “careful remastering” in these reissues, why didn’t he give as much of a shit for the last two decades?

On the other end of the spectrum, Floating Points will re-release a long-lost soul cut from Chicago label Stage Productions this year, more than 40 year since its first pressing. Why? Because it might actually be worth something the folks who recorded to begin with – the usual stuff i.e. well-deserved money, reach and recognition. As many are aware, Sam Shepherd is an old-school digger, collector and selector, and he’s where he’s at today because of his ability to find choice records (many of them from the dollar bins) and pull them into context, and therefore, get people interested in the kinds of songs they may have not heard if they hadn’t heard them being played out in a club or on a festival stage during a Floating Points set. That is where, I think, the better DJs come in. Research becomes the foundation, serious nitpicking/record selection comes next, and then playing out music in outstanding context serves to complete that holy trinity. And so, the people dance. 

As a long-time collector of music across formats, I never began buying records with the intention of owning single copies of rare 45s or multiple copies of banging 12″ techno records or with even the slightest intention of playing any record out till it’s deteriorated in quality. My earliest purchases were from the pound-bins at the Notting Hill Music Exchange and dusty-jacketed Cabaret Voltaire, Queen and Rolling Stones LPs donated by kind folks to the local Oxfam. Then came the hand-me-downs and such. I consider myself a hoarder-slash-collector albeit a paranoid one. For instance, I have an Track Records first pressing of Purple Haze on 45 that came my way as a present from my ex girlfriend’s mum around ten years ago, and it’s met the needle on my decks less times than I have fingers on my two hands. I’m not as afraid of wearing an immensely rare record out as I am of forgetting how it sounded when I first heard it play (on my portable deck’s built-in speaker no less). That feeling, or whatever I’m holding on to of it, is priceless.

Today, the way I go about it, at least as a DJ, is simple, nothing special, and quite possibly rather common to many of us. I own a lot of music in 320kbps MP3, an equal amount or so in .WAV and FLAC. I own a separate collection of music on vinyl that I rip to WAV or FLAC when I feel like it. I own cassettes that I don’t give a shit about other than for nostalgic reasons. And the only reason I would go out of my way to buy higher quality music that I couldn’t find on another (read: digital) format is because it would give me the freedom to transcode down, or if I wanted to specifically own physical copies of records that I really, really love, which is, admittedly, an expensive habit. And from all of my terribly expensive habits that have landed me in a fucking soup over the years, collecting records has to be the most worthless to me, and I’m just being honest here. I have immense respect for vinyl DJs, but really only the ones who are invested in a lot more than just owning music on vinyl because it’s trendy. Let’s see. Do you clean your records often? Do you make it a point to find and source music that others might not? Do you make sure your playback equipment (turntable, stylus, mixer, amplifier, speakers/sound system) are of a reasonably good quality and capable of accurately reproducing the sound you want to hear? If listening to or owning music on vinyl is about personal taste, the precursors are absolutely necessary. The physical record itself is but one element of the listening experience. 

DJ-ing, as many are aware, has turned into a a dick-measuring contest on social media. There is little room for surprises anymore and surprising people with dope shit (vinyl or otherwise) is perhaps half the fun of being a DJ. It might be useful to remember that when you step up behind the decks to take a party someplace it’s never been before, you also need to impress and challenge yourself. If you think you’ve got it all in the bag, please humble yourself and start over.

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Not being able to find some music in HQ makes me sad and it makes me even sadder knowing I can’t afford it on wax. There are plenty of classic jungle records that I would love to own that are hard to come by in WAV or FLAC or even good-quality MP3. And while I was lucky to have compilations and CDRs of the good stuff through scouring discount racks of music stores or bargain shopping at the Petticoat Lane market, a large chunk of music from the past that I personally consider superlative is simply out of my reach. Though when I find myself dwelling on that, I feel at least a little stupid. There is much hype to be into, and I don’t mean the word “hype” in the way it’s carelessly thrown around in non sequiturs on your Facebook feed. I’m talking about the legions of producers pushing the limits with nary a nod to what’s adjudged “conventional”. I’m talking about Bandcamp’s futuristic-boom-bap beat-tape mafia, the left-of-IDM kids recording straight from modular to Portastudio, the doom-metal bands in cold basements in Western Washington using just one microphone placed in the centre of the room, but my God you can almost hear the skies tear open as the eardrum-busting dissonance makes your hair stand on end. Hi-res, lo-fi, 16, 24, 48bit, DAT tape, vinyl, digital, all of that shit ceases to matter when the music is just fucking righteous. Come on. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me the dopest times you’ve had listening to music were in your car on a less-than-great stereo, and I’ll believe you. 

I mean the fact that you’re on this blog reading and you even care about what I’m saying right now means that you’ve already bought into the hype. And it really is a good hype so long as you aren’t listening to shit like Diplo.

So I guess what I’m saying, a cathartic exercise nonetheless, is this: Play music. Don’t play yourself. And that it’s perhaps okay to sip on some of that 2017-brand juice ’cause you don’t wanna be stuck in 2028 rambling on like a lunatic about how good you had it “back in the day” which, incidentally, was a pretty silly time to be worrying about musical formats especially considering the whole world was going to shit. 

How to NOT Be a Dick at a Gig in 2017

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Show up early

Insist on paying if you aren’t on the list

Keep your hands to yourself

Shut the fuck up so others can enjoy the music

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Andretti 12/30 and The Year Of Spitta

There’s a new Brian Eno record rather ceremoniously lined up for release tomorrow but fuck all of that and let’s talk about today. Let’s talk about today and 2016, which by any measure, has been The Year Of Spitta.

Curren$y (known to his fans as Spitta) is no normal rapper. There’s no point even drawing comparisons here because unlike 90% of the rap world that’ll put out an album every couple of years and spend most of their time beefing with celebrities or hanging with politicians or doing whatever else that’ll help mainstream sales, Spitta is both proficient and prolific. If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, they leave words like that only for the absolute greats. To me, he’s rap’s Allen Toussaint. Kind of an often-imitated-never-duplicated figure you don’t really hear much about unless you’re really clued into the word on the street; a mythical figure of sorts. But he’s right there, sat in the bar, polished and ready to step up on stage to bring order and balance and a certain level of unmatched professionalism to the whole scene that keeps you going back for more each week, each month, each year. Like the late Allen Toussaint, when his day finally comes to a close, Spitta’s name will ring proud around New Orleans, right from Weezy’s neighborhood in the 17th ward through Canal Street, over the bridge and back again. The second line will be thick with NOLA’s finest and rap’s other greats who no doubt will have basked healthily in Spitta’s glory.

I remember sitting in my friend Ben’s apartment in Olympia, the air thick with sweet, sweet smoke, thinking that 2010 was THE year for Spitta. That year, Pilot Talk and its second instalment Pilot Talk II had arrived within months of each other and you kinda just knew this was something special. It was all tactile, intelligent, evocative rhyming that fucking coursed through your veins as you listened. The Ski Beatz production on both albums was raw but refined, something organically beautiful and I believe quite hard to recreate today. With the big speakers, party supplies and the right company, it almost felt like you were in the studio as some of this was being created – hip-hop made for your moment, capturing your feelings in your surroundings, which back then, I remember quite lucidly, was this sort-of manky old walk-up east of downtown that Ben was sharing with a hippie who happened to be into a lot of the same music. From that life, a life that tended to get rough quite easy, Spitta’s music was a welcome escape. But it was equally, and quite crucially, a reminder that it wasn’t so bad after all. That without somebody having to come out and explicitly make a chorus of it, we were gonna be alright.

I suppose it was also rap music for the weed connoisseur, but saying that is doing it disservice. I haven’t smoked the herb in a long time and all of Spitta’s music is just as effective. In fact his 2016 output has endeared me to his older stuff even more. That said, I’m one of those Spitta fans who drops everything to listen once something’s out, so, admittedly, his music plays right into my worst tenets of addict behaviour. What can I say? This hip-hop shit is hard to quit.

Spitta’s been putting out “audio dope” via mixtapes and albums so often in the last decade, it’s fairly easy to lose count. I know I’ve lost track of a number of his releases over the years. Though in that time, he’s become a go-to for me, just somebody I can rely on when I’m in pretty much any listening mood. And really, what more, as a fan, could I ask of somebody’s music? What more could I ask of hip-hop? 

If you don’t have any idea of what I’m talking about, you can start with the two Pilot Talk records and move on upwards to last year’s Canal Street Confidential. If you want something “fresh-sounding” (don’t worry it’s all fucking fresh), start today with the free mixtapes and move backwards.

Today, and Andretti 12/30 marks Curren$y’s twelveth release of the year and the third in his Andretti series of mixtapes. Yes that’s a dozen releases in one year alone, none of them you could call watered-down. I’ve listened to 12/30. Twice since it dropped around 8 or 9 hours ago. And it’s easily among Spitta’s finest work. To borrow rather shamelessly, Spitta didn’t just pull up, he landed.

Download Andretti 12/30 here. Bump it hard. Remember 2016 as The Year Of Spitta.

Sayonara 2016

ears gauged pupils dilated drinking warm kingfisher sat in the green room when it isn’t even your gig make passes at 16 year old girls cry after a bad review cry ’cause there’s no gigs avoid critique at all costs snapchat videos of people just like you edm stars instagram celebrities purveyors of expensive shite tasting organic food nagchampa conscious living mindful shithead surfer jock chillum smoking mdma in your vodka tonic but only a wee bit still listen to post rock still prostrate yourself to wolf mother excuse me while i throw up rip off shitty bands contribute nothing twitter expert “sapiosexual” close minded science denying myopic career stoner armchair activist militant vegan order people around equate domestic help to second class citizenry share memes talk socialism bernie sanders celebrate modi mourn castro call ali cassius fake smile faker laugh chet faker worshipping uninteresting dweeb chat loudly on dancefloors complain about noise make breakfast listicles ignore reality coordinated marketing campaigns temporary profile pictures share this please like my page help traction bite the hand that feeds quit your job fuck capitalism screw the man move to goa make dreamcatchers wear native feather headdresses pretend it’s ibiza not andheri make no difference to anyone around you ever waste of fucking space breath place time daft incorrigible fatuous c**t.

Yeah. I’m making a lot of new friends in 2017.

Love Fast, Love Free – George Michael (1963-2016)

Fuck you 2016. You just added George Michael to your list of victims and you know what the the worst part is? I get the feeling you aren’t even done yet. C**t. Now for a brief anecdote:

I owe the bulk of my childhood musical education to my cousin Henna and partly to our late uncle, my mum’s brother Laxman. My uncle Laxman owned and ran an electronics warehouse in East London and he made sure that he provided his entire extended family with an endless supply of transistor radios, TDK D90 cassettes, portable cassette players, headphones and rechargeable Uniross batteries. Years later, Uncle Laxman would also give me my first real job in sales, which would then lead to my introduction to turntables through my cousin Puneet who managed the store.

My cousin Henna lived and went to college in Delhi, I think it was the Apeejay College of Design or something like that. Early on, she’d turned this gift of cassettes and music players and batteries from Uncle Laxman into an obsessive need to make mixtapes of pop songs. I don’t know where she got her music from then, and I never asked, but every month or so for years on end, a D90 cassette or two filled with tunes would arrive at our house in Bombay for my mum, brother and I to listen to.

I now remember this wasn’t just a random selection of songs. This was, in fact, my first introduction to the world of music curation. I like to think Henna put a lot of thought into how this music was sequenced over two sides of cassette tape, though I get the feeling these were compilation albums she’d replicated side-for-side. I could be wrong though, and no, I never asked. Her obsession was contagious and would soon turn my brother and I into daily tape-fiends before CDs became a thing and the Now That’s What I Call Music! series of compilations from the UK came around and changed the game for us (more on that later in a retrospective).

Lording over almost all of Henna’s mixtapes back then was the late (as of this morning) George Michael. I think Henna had a huge thing for him, as would I over the years. How could you not though? Smooth-talking, hair-slicked-up, aviators-with-the-gold-rims, “I don’t belong to you and you don’t belong to me”, sex-machine George Michael. After a couple of years of listening and singing along to ‘Freedom ’90’ and ‘Faith’ and ‘Father Figure’ and God, what is with George and all these F-songs, came the year 1996. I count the summer of 1996 as the period I really, really, really got into my own musical skin.

The summer of 1996 represented the biggest dualities in my life as music lover. It brought us the Spice Girls, but also introduced me to Underworld via ‘Born Slippy’. Robbie ‘BabyFacedFuckBoy’ Williams repurposed George’s ‘Freedom 90’ into his needless and anodyne not-to-mention fuck-all cover version ‘Freedom’ and dominated radio play, but it also saw ‘California Love’ move West Coast gangsta-pop outside of the United States. It was the summer of ‘Killing Me Softly’ as well as ‘Return Of The Mack’ by Mark Morrison, a song I remember hearing for the first time sat on the carpet floor of the living room of my aunt’s house in Kent, and also the summer of Children by Robert Miles, which at the time, my brother really, really got into, I still struggle to figure out why. Many will remember it as the summer that Oasis’ truly milked their year before’s hit ‘Wonderwall’ otherwise known as pop music’s version of chlamydia, but it’s easy to forget it was also the summer that Pulp’s Common People made its way to the CD racks at Rhythm House in Bombay. That summer I also got into Everything But The Girl’s ‘Wrong’, the memory of which was recycled in my head as recently as two weeks ago during Call Super’s sunrise set at Magnetic Fields Festival, when he closed with edit of the song. I remember standing and thinking what a fucking wonderful thing music is.

At centre of the summer of 1996, however, was ‘Fastlove’. 10-years-old by then, I deemed myself old enough to understand what it meant. “I won’t bore you with the details baby… baby I ain’t Mr. Right… some bad love, some fast love is all that I’ve got on my mind.” It would be a couple of years before my tastes turned acutely towards rap music, but I’m pretty sure this was THE player’s anthem of 1996. ‘Fastlove’ still came off as a pretty sad song though. If George was really feeling all of that (and it’s absolutely my fault here for reading into his lyrics so much whilst knowing they could just be complete fiction), I don’t think he was feeling all that great about being the player. When he sang “my friends got their ladies, they’re all having babies, but I just wanna have some fun”, I can’t help but think he also wants to get in on a little of that permanent action himself. I mean, unless you’ve chosen to be a deviant of sorts, I doubt you wouldn’t welcome love of that kind into your life. I know I wouldn’t.

In 1996, George was 33, not too much older than I am right now, just a couple of years and a half in fact, and George, I wanna say that I finally get what you mean. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I fucking love the song. ‘Fastlove’ most likely changed a lot of me and for me when I ponder over it now and I still jam to it this day 20 years later, but I think I’ve finally rolled back the years (musically) and started welcoming my ‘Father Figure’ phase. Though not exactly how you meant it. No, George, really, really not how you meant it at all.

Rest In Peace George Michael. A good man. A man of love and emotion and timeless music and quite importantly, a wicked sense of humour. A true man of the people. You will be missed by all.

 

 

An Approach to DJing Seriously

Disclaimer: This is really not the simple approach, but they’re the rules I’ve chosen to abide by. This is in all likelihood the laborious approach but is ultimately, what I would imagine to be the most satisfying, if you really love the art and craft of DJing and making people dance. Much of what I say here can be taken lightly, although nothing I’ve said is at odds with what the all-time DJ greats have said already. I take my cue (no pun intended) from the masters, that’s just how it works. 

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Play what the others won’t and do it in ways they wouldn’t even dream of. 

Ditch the drugs and the afterparties and instead catch up on sleep.

Or… finish playing and go do your homework i.e. what could have been done better, what went wrong.

Explore all kinds of music to add to your repertoire. Because restricting yourself to a genre in 2016 is not just dumb, it’s also pretty shortsighted.

Forego the half-dozen conventional sources to buy music. Everybody does that. Dig deeper. Go weirder. 

Research where music comes from. I’m baffled when people don’t know techno came from three black dudes in Detroit, and that house music first proliferated in the gay clubs of Chicago.

Remember this: Blue-eyed, blonde-haired white boys from Europe did not originate this music. And while some of them appropriated it fantastically (DJ Harvey), some desecrated it completely (too many to name). 

Don’t play for free (unless it’s your best friends wedding). 

Find a residency. Anywhere. Just so you can get time with decks to experiment. 

Read about stuff like the Format Wars / Loudness Wars. That doesn’t mean googling the term and reading the first three sites that show up. Those loosely-worded propaganda pages are paid for to show up in the first few results, generally by somebody who will benefit from “proving” one is better than the other. 

 Remember: The audience doesn’t care about whether you’re playing a file through computer software or a 180-gram polyvinyl chloride record through a pair of Technics 1200s. You serve the audience, and they’re there to dance and/or listen, that’s about it. 

Read books on the art and the craft instead of blindly believing what people say on Facebook. Facebook is 10 percent real talk, 90 percent sales pitches (just like this article you’re reading). 

That said, take marketing seriously. If you choose to whore your art out on Facebook, do it well and do it in style. Make mommy and daddy proud. Using Snapchat to look like a dog or a fucking strawberry is just embarrassing.

Make DJ mixes and upload them to your Mixcloud or Soundcloud. That is your ammunition and moreover, your online legacy (for now).

If you’re wondering how there are DJs out there who don’t have anything online and still get booked week-after-week, that’s either cause they’re really pretty or they’ve got an agency doing their bidding for them or they’ve been doing this long enough to cultivate an actual following. Either way, if they’re still playing the same shit month-after-month, year-upon-year, ignore them and find better, more interesting DJs to look up to (or hate on). 

Avoid using software like Mixed In Key as a crutch or an excuse to not learn how to mix or recognise musical keys by ear. It’s really not as hard as it sounds. Most of these mellifluous, in-key mixes are BORING, but that’s just to my ears. 

Speaking of ears, you’re a DJ. Your ears are likely to encounter long hours of loud music on less-than-great sound systems. Protect them and protect them well.

Know your music inside out. Every phrase, bar, drop and every space in between.  

Be nice to club owners. Not just to get booked to play, but because some of them actually respect you.

Be even nicer to club staff. They don’t enjoy the benefits of your pay grade and usually work five times as hard.

Practice. Every day or every time you get a few hours to yourself. It’s the only way to get better.

Think long-term stability instead of short-term reward i.e. think of your DJ career as a 12-round boxing match instead of a 5-round MMA fight. Be prepared to go the distance. 

Think of your DJ sets the same way. Pacing is essential, so is allowing the music to breathe. 

Quit smoking pot all-day-long for fuck’s sake. Tech-house is shite even when high. Plus you’ll want your brains when you’re 35. 

Be bullish and proud of what you do. Some might call that having an attitude, but it’s also called being confident and having faith in your abilities. 

Dance and enjoy the music. Your energy is contagious and it’s more important than you might think. 

Finally, context is EVERYTHING.