Archives for category: music

So, yeah, I’ve been getting back into mixing thanks to stumbling on to a couple of great blogs while looking for some random 90s House tunes.

Methods of Dance and Acid Ted have served me well over the last few days with some great stuff from when I thought I looked the business with a skinhead, leather waistcoat, Destroy trousers and Blundstone boots, doing my dodgiest dancing to the heavy and dark Progressive House tunes du jour.

‘Progressive’ was a term given to a genre of House music that developed over the early to mid 90s. I believe it was first used by Dom Phillips, the then editor of the hugely influential dance music magazine, Mixmag. Labels like Guerilla in the South and Limbo in the North featured music that was deep, dark, dubby and generally light on the vocals. These were tracks that really embraced the technology of the time and used it to create a more complex and driving sound. Leftfield featured large in the development of Progressive House and Neil Barnes’ and Paul Daley’s Punk/Reggae/Dub background had a big influence on it’s sound and feel. DJs like Billy Nasty, Justin Robertson and even fleetingly Andy Weatherall played the tracks that became a soundtrack to my life over two or three years.

Probably the peak of my Progressive House affair was on the dance floor of the Love Ranch, a legendary night run by Sean McLusky (who would go on to open the superclub Club UK in Wandsworth) at Maximus in Leicester Square. The club was seedy, dark and full of ne’er do wells. Right up mine and the girfriends alley. My abiding memory is a hastily painted banner draped across the wall behind a podium which read, simply: THIS IS WHERE IT’S FUCKING AT.

It didn’t take long for the breakdowns in the tunes to become longer, the beats more breaky and the production even glossier. DJs like Sasha and John Digweed took the sound to somewhere more cinematic with their Renaissance and later Northern Exposure mixes and eventually Progressive, in my mind disappeared up it’s own backside; for me, it was over. I believe that House really hit it’s peak in the mid 90s. The clubs had become bigger, the music cheesier, the drugs cheaper and nastier. Maybe I turned into a House snob? Maybe I just got old and jaded. I’d been around for the raves in Hampshire fields in 89; The Second Summer of Love and all that, hearing prototype Drum and Bass at Sterns in 1990, to what I considered ‘real’ House Music played by the legends like DJ Pierre and Todd Terry. Maybe I was spoiled.

Anyway, you’d do far worse than checking out this little mix by me and (also here) if you’re interested in hearing what Progressive House was. The mix was made on Traktor but I’ve tried to keep the FX to a minimum. Otherwise, anything on Guerilla will give an idea of the sound; there’s currently shedloads gone up on Spotify. The tune below is a real highlight from the label and the genre.

Renaissance: The Mix Collection

The Second Summer of Love

Sean Mclusky profile

I bought my first 7 inch vinyl single in HMV, Commercial Road, Portsmouth in 1981.

Ghost Town by The Specials on the legendary 2 Tone label reached the number 1 position in July of that year and was a song that held a mirror to the state of the nation.

The Specials -  Ghost Town

Socially and economically, Thatcher’s Britain was on its way to breakdown. My personal memory of Portsmouth in the early 80s was of closed shops, litter blown streets and an undercurrent of violence. 1981 was a year of mass uneployment, race riots, hunger strikes and strangely, a Royal Wedding. Where I lived the music and the fashion of 2 Tone was enjoyed while the essential multicultural element was ignored. Despite the city being virtually all white, racism existed. The National Front were prominent in this period and I distinctly remember going to a school disco (I was 10) and seeing a line of slightly older kids shouting ‘Sieg Heil” and giving the Nazi salute at the end of the ‘der-de-der’ sax riff of The Piranhas –  Tom Hark. Very odd and considering the cultural references of this song, even odder.  The racial harmony point was certainly missed by the more meat-headed youth of my lovely city, some of whom would go on to enjoy their Saturdays as part of Portsmouth Football Club’s notorious 6.57 crew.

Brixton Riots

Ghost Town is a bizarre number one single in relation to others of the same year (Bucks Fizz! Shaking Stevens!) and goes to show how influential the group and the 2 Tone movement were. Lyrically, it expresses life in a nation blighted by the destruction of industry and mass unemployment and virtually predicted the violence that would break out in England that year. Shaky certainly wouldn’t have covered that sort of content. Musically, the track is inspired. Doom-laden reggae with jazzy keyboards, horns, an unhinged wail of a chorus and ghostly sound effects. Timeless. The B sides, though a little more low-key were nearly as good. Why? is the tale of a racist attack on band member Lynval Golding and Friday Night, Saturday Morning captures the meaninglessness of a night on the tiles and features one of my favourite lyrics from the mealoncholic Terry Hall: ‘Wish that I had lipstick on my shirt, Instead of piss stains on my shoes’. Nice.

Here’s the single version of Ghost Town.

And here’s the extended 12 inch version, with the awesome Rico Rodriguez adding woozy trombone to the mix.

The Specials

There’s a brilliant feature on how the track was produced here at the 2 Tone website: John Collins – A Producers Story

And a great article on being attached to Portsmouth Football Club: Up Pompey

Brilliant video, odd singer, retro synths

iamamiwhoami – ; john

 

Brilliant video, badly dressed singer, retro synths.

Architecture in Helsinki – Escapee

 

And just amazing. Amon Tobin is touring his album ISAM with a sick stage show put together by these talented people: Via Motus, V Squared Labs, Leviathan and Blasthaus

He’ll be in London on June 25th and I’m pretty sure I’ll be missing out on the audiovisual sensory overload. Damn.

 

Can’t get enough of this. Sickest vid I’ve seen for a while. Minimal darkness.

Obsessed with it lyrically (though they’re in entirely different ball parks) like I was with this:

And kind of obsessing over this too.

No apologies. True Hip Hop and innovative pop never dies.

Back to A Clockwork Orange then. Having watched the movie an unhealthy number of times, read the book and spent too long on Rob Ager’s site the theme I have gravitated towards is Kubrick’s use of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Ludwig Van Beethoven

In the novel, Anthony Burgess gives Alex a love of classical music in general, suggesting that culture does not necessarily belong to the wise and good. However, Kubrick, whilst using famous classical music throughout the movie, chooses to focus on Beethoven, particularly his Ninth Symphony and it is used in pivotal moments of the movie.

Death by stereo

The symphony is loaded with historical and cultural importance in Western (and more recently, Eastern) history. Beethoven was one of the few musicians deemed acceptable by the Nazi regime and Hitler believed that he and Beethoven shared the same heroic German spirit. The symphony was even played at his birthday party. Hitler’s birthday party; imagine that. What do you get a man who wants everything?

A Clockwork Orange often features Nazi symbology (and of course Beethoven himself) and my theory is that Kubrick knew precisely why he was using Beethoven’s Ninth – it could be said that the movie is even built around the structure of the Ninth. Not my idea, this is discussed in revelatory detail here: Beethoven’s Ninth: ‘An Ode To Choice’ As Presented in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange by Galia Hanoch-Roe. Beethoven’s intention was to create a piece of music that celebrated his liberal views – in a time when this was extremely dangerous – and this also chimes with the idea of state control that runs through A Clockwork Orange.

The soundtrack to the movie featured original representations of classical music as well as ‘re-imagined’ electronic versions by Walter (soon to be Wendy) Carlos. Carlos is a legend in electronic music, being one of the first to utilise the monolithic Moog modular synths to their full, mind blowing potential. To me, the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack with it’s mix of timeless classical music and groundbreaking electronic pieces still sounds like the future.

Moog modular

So, my Flash web site will be a nod, or perhaps a bow to the Ninth Symphony and it’s place in history. Visually, I’m thinking of mixing the aesthetic of vintage synths and sheet music.

More on this later…

Before I finish, my research was seriously helped by http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/ which features The Kubrick Site. With it’s wealth of articles, interviews on anything and everything Kubrick, the site has been real horrorshow.

Out of the Blue

Shusei Nagaoka is a Japanese illustrator best known for his sci-fi album cover artwork for people like Giorgio Moroder and The Electric Light Orchestra as well as lesser known acts like the Skyliners. Out of the Blue by ELO (above) was an album I stared at (and listened to, I admit it) a lot as a kid. I wanted to get in that spaceship! His slightly confusing and mildly amusing (I hope he doesn’t mind me saying) website is here.

Wilko Johnson

Watched Julien Temples’ brilliant Oil City Confidential on BBC4 the other day. It’s a beautifully filmed documentary on the story of 70s British R & B band, Dr. Feelgood. British R & B does nothing for me but the star of the show is Wilko Johnson, one of the bands original members. He eloquently and hilariously recounts his memories of his time in the band and his life on Canvey Island, Essex. Highly recommended for any music fan whether you like the band or not.