July 26, 2012

Feature: Flying Lotus, ‘1983’ and the Brainfeeder Jerk

Posted in Features tagged , , at 12:36 pm by essentiallyeclectic

You know how it goes. It’s 2008, or 2010 or whatever, and you’ve been dragged along to watch some producer do a “live set” at a nearby club, having been told he does “that twisted, instrumental hip-hop like FlyLo”. The description alone has set alarm bells ringing, and by the time you get to the place and see some skinny guy nodding away behind a laptop with some headphones on, playing some distinctly average, off-kilter beats while occasionally attacking a sampler in a manner he hopes looks “possessed”, you start looking nervously to the exit and wondering how much of your entrance fee you could haggle back if you left now. “It wasn’t always like this”, you sigh to yourself as your mind drifts into the not-too-distant past, and wavy lines appear down the screen to indicate a flashback…

When Steven Ellison released his debut LP back in 2006, the producer who called himself Flying Lotus (now often abbreviated to FlyLo because syllables are difficult in the 21st century) quickly became the poster boy for an expanding instrumental hip-hop sub-genre known variously as Wonky, Street Bass, Aquacrunk, Purple, Broken Hip-Hop, Jerk, Post-FlyLo (confusingly), and any number of other misleading misnomers. Invariably, these descriptors referred to anything with a viciously swung drum pattern, a combination of either dusty keys samples or overdriven bass and synth lines, and disorientating, experimental arrangements.

The album in question, 1983, documented the style so accurately that its legacy has possibly been blown out of proportion to the quality of the music it contained. Sure, it’s a great listen. The opening title track pairs opulently warm synths with that tell-tale jerk in the beat, while ‘Unexpected Delight’ closes it off with a near-lullaby voiced by singer Laura Darlington. In-between these bookends are no end of skipping drums, frantic basslines and manipulated jazz samples all twisted into attractive instrumentals. Yet, there’s nothing so musically special in there to justify its landmark status; that comes from the proceeding fallout.

At its best, early inversions of the sound were thrilling. Some of 1983’s more attractive offspring – albums like Onandon and Lemurian by British producer Lukid and Lone respectively – briefly justified its omnipresence by giving glimpses into how the style could be developed and taken forward. At its worst, it was regurgitated ad nauseum amongst producers with a similar prolificacy to the influx of wobbly basslines and half-time beat drops that were thrown over every track in the wake of dubstep’s mainstream explosion.

It was also quickly acknowledged that the sound was by no means original. Another of its monikers shamelessly refers to the style as post-Dilla, and just one glance at the late James D Yancey’s back catalogue would confirm this: from classics like Welcome 2 Detroit, to collaborative efforts as part of production teams that reach back far into the ‘90s (The Ummah with A Tribe Called Quest, Soulquarians alongside the influential behind-the-beat or in-the-pocket grooves of Questlove). Strains of Champion Sound, Dilla’s collaboration with Californian producer Madlib as Jaylib, can be detected in tracks like ‘Sao Paolo’ from 1983, while Q-Tip’s post-Tribe solo offerings or RJD2’s classic Deadringer surely touched tracks like ‘Shifty’ and ‘Bad Actors’. Nevertheless, FlyLo solidified a hip-hop sub sect that until that time had no nucleus; firstly musically with 1983, and then physically with the introduction of his Brainfeeder imprint.

Brainfeeder became the home of a number of underground LA musicians who combined jazz, soul, and bass under that all-important beat shuffle, eventually expanding to take on new signings from across the globe (recent inductees like Lapalux bely Flying Lotus influences as faces in a new emerging generation). The name ‘Brainfeeder’ itself has become another shorthand term for the style its artists create, and like all sub genres (however small), the Brainfeeder sound owes a large debt to a particular club; in this case The Airliner in Lincoln Heights, and its ‘Low End Theory’ club night. The likes of Daedelus and Nosaj Thing can doff their collective cap to the night as a stakeholder in their success, and splinter sects of the night have popped up everywhere from nearby San Francisco to New York and Japan.

Like it or hate it, the Brainfeeder sound is now part of the instrumental hip-hop fabric, its influences stretching across multiple genres globally. While its spaced-out jazz and twisted beats have elevated the label’s status, some of its artists have expressed dissatisfaction with the pigeon-holing they’ve received, not least the boss himself. After the release of 1983, Flying Lotus spent the next few years desperately trying to detach himself to any genre, let alone Wonky et al, which thankfully resulted in both the progressive Los Angeles and the terrifyingly imperious, if stylistically schizophrenic, Cosmogramma. But his legacy still remains that ubiquitous jerk; that twitching shuffle; that twisted, off-centre groove; 1983.

Read this feature in context over at HYPONIK

June 19, 2012

Feature: 5 Reasons Why… Neil Young is Better Than Your Band

Posted in Features tagged at 12:16 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Ok, so we’re aware that he has just released an album of rambling cover songs that includes a version of ‘God Save the Queen’, but this list isn’t a case for the man’s contemporary relevance, more for his unsurpassable legacy. Musicians take note – this is why Neil Young is better than you:

1. He Doesn’t Whine (apart from literally, sometimes).

It may be a little rich to claim that the Kermit-voiced Canadian doesn’t have a slightly nasal whinge to his vocal tone, but here we mean lyrically. Young has survived childhood polio, epilepsy, a brain aneurysm, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and slicing the end of his finger off while making a ham sandwich, but does he moan about it? Not once. Take note, woe-is-me songsters: nobody wants to hear it.

2. He Genuinely Doesn’t Care What You Think (it ain’t an act).

In 1973, following the heroin-related deaths of both guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Neil gathered his remaining troops and decamped to Santa Monica. In a fog of tequila and spiralling depression, they recorded Tonight’s the Night, an album as ragged as Young’s unkempt hair; as dark as his then permanent sunglasses: 12 tracks of haggard pain delivered in a cracked and exhausted voice. Working on automatic, Young then took the album on tour – him and his band continuing the same self-abuse that had fuelled the recording – taking to stage alongside various cheap and tacky props from California second- hand stores.

Less than a year after his biggest commercial success to date – the pastoral, radio-friendly Harvest and its number one single ‘Heart of Gold’ – the tour was supposed to cement Young’s arrival as a superstar. What expectant crowds received however, was Tonight’s the Night, every night, in full, some renditions of the title track well over 20-minutes long and performed twice: new, unfamiliar, scrappy, and not Harvest. One date towards the end of the tour, after another shaky run-through of the album, the crowd finally turned. One audience member let out a bitter but pleading cry of “play something we know.” Young turned to his band, turned back to the audience, and played Tonight’s the Night again. In full.

3. On The Beach

The sound of ragged, stoned paranoia that was 1974’s On The Beach album contains – on its second side – some of the rawest emotion ever committed to wax.

4. Constant Reinvention.

Despite forever being considered in the collective mind as a heritage folk-rocker, Neil has turned his hand to all sorts of styles over the years in an effort to not stagnate, or just out of pure curiosity. From punk, to rockabilly, to synth-pop, to country & western, to experimental drone, to rambling rock operas about environmentalism; Neil has never been one for standing still. So much so, in fact, that one such left turn in 1983 caused then label Geffen to sue Young for $3.3 million in a claim that he had offered them an album that was “musically uncharacteristic of Neil Young”.” Haters gonna hate.

5. His Middle Name.

Percival.

 

Read this feature in context over at THE 405

May 7, 2012

Obituary: Remembering Adam Yauch [1964 – 2012]

Posted in Features tagged , , at 2:54 pm by essentiallyeclectic

“If you knock me, you’ll get mocked / I’ll stir fry you in my wok / Your knees will start shaking and your fingers pop / Like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock” goes one of the more memorable couplets on the Beastie Boys’ 1997 hit ‘Intergalactic’. It may not be one of Adam Yauch’s best (and it certainly isn’t one of his worst), but it’s a classic example of the playful braggadocio he – under his MCA moniker – and the group excelled in from their formative years in the early ’80s through to Yauch’s untimely passing, on Friday, at the age of 47.

As a founder member of the Beastie Boys – originally a punk rock rabble that would be streamlined into a rap trio – Yauch channelled his idolatry of hardcore acts like Black Flag into the band, taking on bass and vocal duties. Undergoing various early lineup changes, the group finally settled into the trio of Yauch, school friend Michael ‘Mike D’ Diamond, and Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horowitz. A throwaway ‘rap’ single, 1983’s ‘Cooky Puss’, which mainly consisted of various prank calls made by the group to a nearby Carvel Ice Cream franchise set to lively funk samples, was the Beastie Boys’ first tentative hint at what they would become. Surprisingly, the track became an underground hit around the New York clubs, and led to the gradual incorporation of more and more rap styling into the group’s live sets.  Local NYU student Rick Rubin was in attendance at an early show, and spotted potential in the trio, poaching them for his recently formed Def Jam label. The group’s 1986 Def Jam debut, the incomparable Licensed to Ill, distilled their hard rock and rap approaches into an MTV-friendly set, complete with calling card singles like ‘No Sleep till Brooklyn’ and the frat-house anthem ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’.

Both critical acclaim and outraged controversy followed the group throughout the remainder of the ’80s and into the ’90s, with the creative highs of the crate-digging classic Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head‘s b-boy aesthetics in contrast to the group’s provocative live shows. Caged female dancers and an infamous giant, inflatable penis caused outpourings of indignation at whichever town the Beastie Boys circus pulled up in, and accusations of chauvinistic childishness eclipsed the developing maturity of their recorded output. It’s an issue that obviously affected the group, with Yauch using a verse on ‘Sure Shot’ from 1994’s Ill Communication to proclaim “I want to say a little something that’s long overdue / The disrespect to women has got to be through / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and the friends / I wanna offer my love and respect to the end.”

 

That same album was home to one of the Beastie Boys’ finest moment on wax: the explosive ‘Sabotage’, whose ’70s cop show-inspired video, directed by Spike Jonze, was beaten to the top prize in the Best Direction category at the 1994 MTV Music Video Awards by REM. Yauch, who had recently moved into the world of video directing himself, took to the stage in protest, dressed as his Swiss filmmaker alter-ego Nathanial Hörnblowér in full lederhosen, beard and feathered hat getup. It was a typically humorous stunt, one that not only won ‘Sabotage’ the newly created Best Video (That Should Have Won a Moonman) award at the 2009 ceremony, but began the long and worthy tradition of stage invasions at industry award shows in the following years.

 

Continuing his foray into directing, Yauch took control of many of the group’s videos, including the infamous boiler-suited clip for ‘Intergalactic’ from 1998’s Hello, Nasty album – a release with a mix of ferocious aural assault and subtle, jazz-inflected head-nodders, due in part to the virtuosic turntabalism of new addition DJ Mix Master Mike. The construction of Oscilloscope Laboratories, a film production company and recording studio in New York, gave Yauch a base for his creative explorations from where he embarked on a number of projects, both film and music-based (fittingly, the studio’s first task was to produce the comeback album from hardcore punk group Bad Brains – heroes of Yauch’s formative years).

But it is for his lyrical skills that Yauch will mostly be remembered; his voice an important component of the Beastie’s sound, its slightly gruffer tones working as a counterpoint to the Brooklyn screech of Diamond and Horowitz. As Sasha Frere-Jones describes in his touching memorial in the New Yorker, “Yauch’s is one of the voices that can signify hip-hop within three syllables – rough, low and strained.”

The fact that Yauch was battling cancer, stemming from a tumour in his parotid gland, had been well known since 2009, yet it failed to derail his work as musician and video producer, as well as his active support of Buddhist Tibet – something Yauch had been involved with since converting to Buddhism in the early ’90s. Most recent Beastie’s album, last year’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, is a strong set of progressive hip-hop made remarkable by the fact that it came from a group with over 20 years in the game, while Oscilloscope Laboratories continued to back successful independent releases such as Banksy documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop and the recent adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel We Need to Talk About Kevin.

 

Despite the plaudits (Licensed to Ill recently topped 9 million copies sold, and this year the group were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame), Yauch’s legacy will be multi-faceted, as musician, director and humanitarian; one third of a group that indefinitely altered a whole genre, addressing its culture from a number of different angles, and doing it all with a mix of bravado, a lack of pretence and willingness to self-mock for the cause of a great couplet: “I’ve got more rhymes than I’ve got grey hairs / And that’s a lot because I’ve got my share” (‘Sure Shot’, 1994).

Adam Nathaniel Yauch died from complications with cancer of the parotid gland, at the age of 47. He is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch.

Read this obituary in context over at THE 405

December 20, 2011

Feature: The State of Bass, 2011

Posted in Features tagged , , , , , , , at 3:19 pm by essentiallyeclectic

As a year that saw the 10th anniversary of the crucial FWD>> club night – one of the genre’s original breeding grounds – 2011 seems as better time as any to take stock of dubstep’s growth and progress by evaluating its current state, and looking to where it might go from here. In the last ten years, the genre has made stars of some of its earlier innovators; seen its influence spread globally; won both critical and commercial acclaim; and made bass addicts of countless fans who continue to show reverence to its culture and history as it matures. Just to note: it could be reductive to use the term dubstep when describing its present state due to the way the genre has split and diffracted, and the catchall term “bass music” is perhaps more useful as a reference; allowing deeper analysis of the various alternative styles on which to draw that producers have available to them.

Under this umbrella description are a growing number of artists that use dubstep as one of the many compositional tools at their disposal, and 2011 has seen a further continuation of bass music’s fascinating creative possibilities. Having permeated the charts in a commercial and garishly polished package (as so much underground music eventually does), dubstep’s pioneers were left free to experiment, evolve, and continue to perpetuate forward motion, and some of the year’s best releases serve as audio brochures for quite how much the music has developed and where it could go from here.

As a primary example, we have the stunning self-titled debut from Bristol-raised, Berlin-based singer/producer Emika. Cramming everything from dark, brooding synth-pop, to hard and metallic grime tones, to deep and shuddering dubstep productions into 12 consistent and challenging tracks, the Native Instruments sound designer even touches on her classical piano training for the romantic miniature of closer ‘Credit Theme’. The result is breath taking, and exposes every facet of Emika’s Bristol background (the tail-end of trip-hop was obviously a big influence, as was time spent with Peverelist and the rest of the Punch Drunk stable) as much as the current osmosis of minimal Berlin techno she now enjoys. If Emika’s literal and stylistic voice represents dubstep’s future, it’s in good hands.

Some of those that have been immersed in bass music’s deeper reaches for some time now also returned in 2011 for another rewrite of the rules. Pinch & Shackleton, two of sub-bass led musics most respected practitioners, joined forces to produce a spectacular inversion of Shackleton’s Skull Disco sound with another of this year’s self-titled albums. ‘Pinch & Shackleton’ is terrifying in both mood and intricacy; its spook conjured from cavernous reverbs, quivering bass and carefully manipulated tones and samples. Loops take a back seat, as the pair layer mutating percussive ideas and eastern instruments into somehow dense-yet-infinitely-spacious constructs of sound, even at one point setting a preaching vocal sample into phase with itself to demented effect. The release acts as one of the clearest demonstrations yet as to how vast bass music’s possibilities are, and, along with Zomby (who’s ‘Dedication’ album from this year shares Pinch & Shackleton’s ghostly undertones), the pair guide the way for those producers looking to branch out from the more garish, club-orientated end of the bass music spectrum.

Vocalised ‘pop-step’ took on a new level of sophistication this year too, represented in different ways by SBTRKT’s self-titled ‘SBTRKT’ and Katy B’s ‘On a Mission’. Both these releases (as with the Emika album mentioned above) showed that the classic verse-chorus structure could be utilised within the genre: proof that a good hook works just as well over the pulsating bass of the former’s Little Dragon-featuring ‘Wildfire’ as it does for ABBA’s entire back catalogue. ‘On A Mission’ places Katy B into a long-exercised tradition; heading from the underground to the clubs in a way not too dissimilar to how sometime collaborator Ms Dynamite did with garage before her, while SBTRKT augmented his highly considered productions with vocals, touring the tracks with Sampha in an impressive live show.

The exact genre of James Blake’s debut full-length is a point of contentious debate – especially in its differences to the brilliantly twisted instrumentals of his earlier EPs – but only the true purists would deny that the rumbling sub-frequencies and imposingly slow tempos owe some debt to dubstep’s imperious wobble (I personally hear an innovative yet entirely un-dubstep variation on the singer-songwriter tradition), hopefully seeing a quick disappearance of the cringe worthy ‘blub-step’ tag.

There was even room this year for an EP from the genre’s most esoteric member, Burial, who’s style is so distinctive that it sits in its own little corner, quietly peddling its yearning muffle in a way that consistently takes the breath away. Burial has long recognised dubstep’s endless potential for conjuring moods, and ‘Street Halo’ proved that his unique sound is still without equal.

So dubstep, and bass music in general is in prime health, safe in its position as a forerunner of musical innovation. It may have become unrecognisable from its dub/2-step crossover beginnings, its borders stretched and constantly tested (the 8-bit beeps of Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’ and Kode9 & Spaceape’s smoked out monster ‘Black Sun’ would seem far removed from the genre to dubstep’s earlier creators), leaving nothing but anticipation for the fruits of its next ten years.

Read this review in context over at HYPONIK

November 21, 2011

Feature: Visual Nature – Balam Acab

Posted in Features tagged , at 6:00 pm by essentiallyeclectic

“My music is made in the complete opposite way that chance composers made music. It’s all very calculated” explained Alec Koone in an interview with Pop Gun recently. Koone may not be a name familiar to those not acquainted with the spectral tones emanating from Brooklyn’s TriAngle Records stable. Even his stage name Balam Acab might only ring very faint bells in the dustier corners of the mind. Yet the Pennsylvania-born producer has been quietly creating some of the year’s greatest music direct from across the pond.

Despite not being old enough to legally drink in his homeland (the kid was born in the ‘90s!), Koone’s productions have a woozy feel, one that’s simultaneously warming and icy to the touch. The images conjured by the title of his stunning album debut, ‘Wander/Wonder’, are apt at a very literal level. Burial’s self-styled ‘night bus’ music is given an American tilt by the Pennsylvania native, with visions of wandering around the state’s wide open spaces, wondering at its contents.

If you’re yet to hear Balam Acab, let me try and explain what to expect (hopefully without prejudicing opinion too much). First of all, the name itself Koone took from a Mayan demagogue who was said to have used his powers to end a drought. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that Koone’s sonic imagery is one of ice and water. It’s had reductive descriptors such as ‘witch house’ and ‘drag’ thrown at it, but these don’t help. Beats undulate like waves rocking an unconscious figure afloat on a vast sea (this is not just linguistic hyperbole, listen to ‘Apart’ from ‘Wander/Wonder’ and try to say otherwise), compiled from crisp, dry drum hits that usually come to rest in the lower echelons of the BPM scale. Great washes of synth and other discernable drones sit above these, with extended, warm bass notes smoothing the mix. And on top of it all are those aching vocal samples. Vocals are key to Koone’s work, while at the same time being obscured and unintelligible. This is no new production technique: countless artists use vocals as layers, building dense timbres without spotlighting their communicative meaning (it would be impossible not to refer back to Burial again at this point). Uniquely however, Koone’s angelic vocal samples are almost exclusively time-stretched and pitched way up the frequency range, coating his icy beats in a thin and unspoiled layer of snow: not Kanye West’s chipmunk soul, or the washed out echoes of Holy Other, but ethereal: spectral calls from distant voices, more yearning than eerie.

Balam Acab - 'Wander/Wonder'

Last year’s ‘See Birds’ EP was the first release for both him and for Tri Angle Records – a tailor-made home for Balam Acab’s music, one full of like-minded contemporaries who share a creative approach: How to Dress Well, oOoOO and Clams Casino among them.

Koone comes from a generation that sees little division between influences, where ethics and compositional methods are inconsequential when sifting through the ether and pulling inspiration from Madlib’s hypnotic beats here, or Grouper’s ghostly vocal weaving there. Prioritising ambience over song structure or any form of narrative, these atmospherics are the raw foundation on which Balam Acab’s music is based. In an interview with Altered Zones earlier this year, Koone cites hip-hop and R&B as obvious starting points, but also the influence of drone music and folk on his work – these last two fully evident throughout ‘Wander/Wonder’.

There is also an unquestionable UK influence. As well as the obvious Burial comparisons previously made, and the production crossovers with label mate How To Dress Well, some elements of earlier Four Tet – not least the metronomic beauty of ‘My Angle Rocks Back And Forth’ from the ‘Rounds’ album – are clearly audible in the majesty of Koone’s music. Ninja Tunes associates Super Numeri’s had a love of all things ‘found sound’ and were keen users of the watery tones that permeate ‘Wander/Wonder’, and the supremely crafted ambient works of ISAN share much of its mood and gentle sway. Whether the inspiration is conscious or not, the otherworldly tone drifting through Lukid’s ‘Forma’ album has a direct lineage through ‘See Birds’ and beyond, and, although not strictly a UK influence, the bubbling geysers and crunching snow of Bjork’s ‘Vespertine’ find a new home in Koone’s soundscapes.

His remix choices are also impeccable. Lana Del Rey’s siren song ‘Videogames’ got an almost childlike reworking a couple of months ago, complete with breathy vocal lines and twinkling harps, while Twin Sister’s ‘Kimmi in a Rice Field’ dismantles the ‘80s synths of the original and reconstructs it with sweeping strings and tuned woodblocks, showing that the young producer is not afraid to expand his sound and build on his compositional skills.

Despite the visual nature of his music, Koone is reluctant to go down the arty video route for any of his tracks, and while photos of him are drastically blurred, you get the impression it’s through a genuine desire to stay anonymous and disconnected rather than the trappings of hipster cool. Unofficial, fan-made videos set to his music exist (the clip for ‘Oh Why’ perhaps the best of these), as well as the bizarre juxtaposition of ‘See Birds’ on an advert for L’Oreal starring Beyoncé.

It will be fascinating to see how Koone manages to convey the isolation and space in his work when he takes Balam Acab on the road this winter, beginning in the suitably snowy American northeast. Perhaps the addition of the female singer Koone promises for his live set will add a little human emotion to tracks from ‘Wander/Wonder’ and ‘See Birds’, whether that’s seen as a good or bad thing. However live audiences receive him, Balam Acab has, in ‘Wander/Wonder’, a contender for 2011 album of the year safely under his belt.

Read this feature in context over at HYPONIK

November 9, 2011

Feature: From Bedroom to Stage: Taking Beats Live

Posted in Features tagged , , , , , , , at 4:49 pm by essentiallyeclectic

From Bedroom to Stage: Taking Beats Live…

 

            It’s a conundrum that’s faced producers since the dawning of the dance age. Scientists have poured over the problem (possibly), governments have invested billions into researching a solution (probably), but no conclusive agreement has been reached. So just how do those that make music hidden away in bedroom studios, twiddling knobs and coaxing beats out of fried laptop processors, bring their toiled-over productions into the arena of live performance???

            Fear not, Jus Like Music has the answer. Well, a few suggestions at least…

  1. The “Bended Back Laptop Bash”.

Perhaps the simplest method – and the easiest when it comes to transportation – is to simply bring your studio to the stage with you, standing bent-double over a laptop while desperately trying to look like you’re doing something. To be fair, most proponents of this technique are usually up to all sorts of complex stuff: from rehashing song arrangements on the fly with Ableton Live, to producing intricate mixes on Traktor or similar.

Nevertheless, the temptation to hit play on iTunes and load up your push for the League 1 playoffs with Notts County on Football Manager will always be there, as well as the doubt in the minds of more sceptical audience members.

Some manage to counteract this cynicism by leaving audiences in no doubt as to their activities. For example, wonky beat-merchant Flying Lotus has a strong claim to the title of ‘most interesting rocker of a laptop’, and supplements the back-of-monitor look with a few bits and pieces of additional gear – from vintage synths to MIDI controllers on which to wrench faders and hammer buttons whilst hopping around madly to the sound of his unique brand of hyper-compressed astro-funk.

Zaubernuss’ minimal techno head Morris Cowan is a former member of the Ableton Live mix school, a method he has recently grown tired of.

“[The live set] is off the road at the moment, I’m giving it quite the overhaul!” he explained recently. “I was essentially mixing track to track in Ableton, with a multitude of live FX, which I didn’t feel was really live enough. So I’m chopping everything up in to stems to build back up on the fly: much more versatile, but also a lot more demanding!”

You still following…?

In short, the BBLB is the easiest technique, and the one most true to the original material. But unless you’ve got the moves like FlyLo, or pair your screen-staring with some appropriate projected visuals for the more ‘expanded’ minds in the audience to gaze at, you’ve got to be sure that the crowd isn’t expecting a show, or attentions may wander…

Flying Lotus demonstrating the Bended Back Laptop Bash

 2. The Full Band Blow Out.

On the other end of the scale to the BBLB, the full band approach is one fraught with risks and possible pitfalls, but when done well can be the making of a producer’s career.

Typically, those beat makers whose music strays into the occasionally pretence-filled world of ‘acid jazz’ have coveted this method. Brighton producer Bonobo has successfully toured his brand of heavily sample-based material for years with various incarnations of a live band featuring guest vocalists alongside a more archetypal backline of drums, bass, keys and guitar. Andrew Turner’s AiM has done similar, with his live band eventually infiltrating into his studio work after initially starting life as a vehicle for fleshing out instrumental hip-hop productions on the stage.

Some pre-existing bands that may be based around the work of a single producer/composer – with a combination of live instrumentation and samples in the studio – are obviously in an advantageous position when it comes to live performance. Groups like Cinematic Orchestra, Submotion Orchestra, and Alternative Dubstep Orchestra (spotting a pattern here?) all play the kind of music typically associated with a one-man studio production team, providing not only a live visual aesthetic, but providing opportunity for the improvisational element of live performance.

The band Introducing, a conceptual project set up exclusively to cover in its entirety DJ Shadow’s pioneering debut Endtroducing with a full live band, prove that painful replication of sample-based music can lead to some success, and, although as an exercise in nostalgia the band put on a great show, the ‘art project’ flavour to the whole thing does feel a little novelty.

The Full Band Blow Out has obvious advantages when putting on a show, but the risks are many and high, not to mention having to split payment more ways…

The Cinematic Orchestra with the Full Band Blow Out

 3. The Somewhere In-between

And finally, there’s the Somewhere In-between, perhaps the most creative and appropriate format possible. This allows the producer to preserve their original sound and style while augmenting it with a bit of live instrumentation to keep audiences interested: the scope is wide and varied.

The be-masked SBTRKT has mastered the Somewhere In-between, fleshing out his live show into a duo with regular collaborator Sampha, the pair backing the circle of guest vocalists on drums and keyboards/vocals respectively, with a healthy dose of sampler bashing in between.

During his unique live sets, Bass Clef takes time out from twisting up beats and sine waves behind a bank of equipment to step out front and display his trombone skills over the top.

Kevin Martin’s old school dub approach in King Midas Sound live sets – backing vocalist Roger Robinson on a straight out mixing board, cutting tracks and bringing in washes of delay and reverb – pays tribute to the forefathers of the group’s sound, while Squarepusher’s demented bass noodling over twisted and frantic drum and bass has been engrossing crowds since the late ‘90s.

Aphex Twin pure mastery of his equipment allows him to fully ‘perform’, with all elements of spontaneity and interaction that comes with that, but creativity as advanced as Richard D James is rare.

SBTRKT and Sampha showing the Somewhere In-Between

So hopefully that has given you some ideas about how to take those loops and successfully work a crowd. And if all else fails, you can always just put ‘DJ set’ after your name on the flyer…

Read this feature in context over at JUS LIKE MUSIC

October 11, 2011

Feature: Uk Hip-Hop: Into the 2010s and Beyond…

Posted in Features tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:53 pm by essentiallyeclectic

UK hip-hop: Into the 2010s and Beyond…

Some have argued that UK hip-hop is in a strong position right now. Tinie Tempah’s ‘Disc-Overy’ has gone platinum, the likes of N Dubz and Chipmonk have scored number 1s, and the door still appears to be open to the underground for those willing to crossover. But really, this is pop music. A fair amount of digging still needs to be done for those looking for a bit of substance to their UK rap, and it doesn’t look like the arrival of recent albums from Jehst or Roots Manuva is going to change that. So what’s the future for those of the ‘lost generation’ of UK hip-hop that appeared so promisingly at the turn of the century?

Jehst

From its arrival on these shores in the mid ‘80s until the latter part of the ‘90s, hip-hop was still very much an American’s game. Acts like Rodney P and his cohorts in London Posse chose to rhyme in the non-rhotic tones of the capital, but on the whole the genre was concerned with aping those across the water. A sprinkling into the mix of the reggae flavours that had been prevalent in British music since the ‘60s brought a fresher, more unique hip-hop sound to these shores, but the accents and content still remained stateside.

It wasn’t until the mid ‘90s, in what could be considered as the dawning of the second age of UK hip-hop, that the real originality began to emerge. Will Ashton’s Big Dada imprint was the source of much of this activity, and the likes of Roots Manuva, Luke Vibert, and Juice Aleem all passing through its doors in the following years. From the turn of the millennium and into the 2000s, underground British hip-hop hit its stride. Jehst had the beats and the intelligent wordplay, Klashnekoff had the bangers and the swagger, Skinnyman was the veteran schooling all with an array of tight flows (and one solitary album masterpiece), and Roots Manuva had all of the above and a little bit of something different besides.

Klashnekoff

An established British flavour – largely drawing on the mid ’90s production style of New York counterparts DJ Premier, Pete Rock, RZA and the like – was in place, just in time to see a diffraction of the underground into the next phase of UK hip-hop. Much of this was centred on what became known as ‘grime’, a ferocious and hard-hitting style that evolved from a heady mix of British underground styles – jungle, drum & bass, garage and hip-hop among them. Its leaders – most notably the indomitable producer, emcee and all round godfather Wiley – created a uniquely British sound, largely unaffected by American styles at the time (the twin dynasties of Timberland and The Neptunes were busy transforming hip-hop in the states), and one that appeared at the time to be destined to remain underground. The release of Dizzee Rascal’s debut ‘Boy in da Corner’ changed that as it scooped the Mercury Music Prize in 2003. The floodgates opened, and many artists that had cut their teeth on the unforgiving grime circuit went pop and hit the charts; Roll Deep, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, and most recently Tinchy Stryder among them.

So what’s the future for UK hip-hop? Recently we’ve seen a diffraction of the old guard: Foreign Beggers collaborations in the charts, Roots Manuva losing his edge down a dark alley of half-baked dancehall rap etc. The new generation that broke through piggybacking on the brief wave of grime crossover success, atheistically mimicked their American counterparts while simultaneously being repackaged as a fresh British invasion (no amount of references to Scunthorpe in a tune will save you from the inevitable 2nd album R&B/pop crossover collaboration with Ke$ha). Mirroring their stateside companions in style and production, the likes of Tinie Tempah, Strider, and post ‘Boy in da Corner’ Dizzee Rascall also show a similar lack of interest in the genre’s underground heartland.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this is not a disgruntled moan about “the state of hip-hop today”, or some kind of lament for a nostalgic “golden era”, as hip-hop needs to evolve and mutate as much as any other musical style in order to avoid stagnation and repetition (plus ‘Pass Out’ is a certified banger). This is more a nod of appreciation in the direction of those on the UK underground still ploughing on with what they do best, neither swayed by a desire to crossover nor to dip their toe into the murky waters of other related genres.

The most recent example of this came in the form of the latest release from Jehst: one of UK hip-hop’s most consistent and tireless performers. ‘The Dragon of an Ordinary Family’ appeared on his own YNR imprint this June, and is 16 tracks of classic William Shields. Crisp, golden-era beats, Jehst’s scathing observations of society and sharp wordplay – it didn’t work commercially before, and it won’t in the future, but that’s not the point. Tracks like ‘England’ and ‘Starting Over’ provide a solid link to when UK hip-hop had taken just the right amount of American textures and had turned it into something new, and that’s what Jehst is about. So whether the next wave of UK hip-hop is dominated by a shined up version of vocal dubstep that’s unrecognisable from its genre roots, or something wholly different and fleeting in longevity, it’s comforting to know that artists like Jehst will still be flying the flag for those that crave the boom-bap.

Read this feature in context over at HYPONIK

August 20, 2011

‘Untrue’ – Burial’s Disconnected Voices

Posted in Burial, Features tagged , , , at 9:45 pm by essentiallyeclectic

In 2005, a film called ‘White Noise’ was released starring Michael Keaton as an architect who finds a way of communicating with his deceased wife through the static of a TV set. For much of the film Keaton is desperately trying to capture and remove the static from his wife’s words – making clear what was muddied and indistinct. It was a pretty terrible film and far from Keaton’s finest hour. However, it conveniently serves as a hypothetical antithesis for the sounds heard on an album released less than a year later: the self-titled debut from a shadowy and mysterious London producer by the name of Burial that lingered confidently on the fringes of dubstep, garage and ambient music.

The voices heard on ‘Burial’ and its more refined successor ‘Untrue’ (released a year later in 2007) are distant and haunting: cutup R&B samples arriving into the mix through layers of filters and reverb, their pitch shifted and their words often unintelligible. Whereas in ‘White Noise’ Keaton sought clarity in the voice he was hearing, here that was of no importance. It’s a production style pioneered and mastered by Burial – real name William Bevan – one that shows a deep understanding of bass music’s consistent use of the human voice as a texture, often disembodied from its performer and with its usual top-billing in the mix removed.

‘Etched Headplate’ from ‘Untrue’

Rumbling underneath the anonymous voices on ‘Untrue’ are those characteristically Hyperdub drums – the shuffled 2-step patterns that are at once insistent and as disconnected as the vocals, fighting their way through the muffling cotton wool of low-pass filters and reverb. Occasionally they rise through the fog to dominate in short bursts, as on ‘Archangel’ or ‘Ghost Hardware’, but perhaps aid the album’s ambience most when not featuring at all. One such instance of this, the achingly gorgeous ‘Endorphin’, is to me the apex of ‘Untrue’s’ audio philosophy. The arrangement is fluid and unhurried, built around a wordless and floating vocal sample and expertly layered synths – further ambient crackles and clicks adding to a perfect instance of top quality craftsmanship. A rare audible spoken word clip making reference to “all these flashing blue lights” speaks of the euphoria of being in a club in a chemically-altered state – something alluded to in the track’s title also – is suitably juxtaposed over one of the album’s most serene and withdrawn moments, fully underlining Bevan’s position on the fringes of the various musical styles on which his music touches.

Endorphin’ from ‘Untrue’.

Whether intentionally or not, it could be argued that the Burial cannon owes a debt to Brian Eno’s early ‘80s work, most notably the space and feel of 1983’s ‘Apollo Atmospheres and Soundtracks’ – the former Roxy Music man exploring much of the same sonic territory as Bevan during this period. The comparison is reductive however, as Eno’s ambience was mathematical; calculated wallpaper to decorate images of NASA’s latest exploits into the dark void, whereas both ‘Burial’ and ‘Untrue’ take the ambience on which they’re constructed as just one element of an innovating fusion. [The fact that Bevan claims to produce his music solely on the linear Sound Forge programme is serendipitous to say the least.]

Yet in the world of vocal-as-texture production, Bevan certainly has predecessors. DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’, an astounding 15 years-old this November, slips wordless voices into atmospheric tracks such as ‘Building Steam from a Grain of Sand’ and ‘Midnight in a Perfect World’ as if they were extra piano samples or guitar lines, and always to evocative and mysterious effect. At the turn of the millennium, Radiohead enraged and awed fans in equal measure with the release of ‘Kid A’: a stunning collection that flirted with the remote end of the human voice texture on tracks such as ‘Everything in its Right Place’ and ‘Kid A’, and even displayed prototype Burial synth ideas such as the minimal ‘Treefingers’. Fellow Hyperdub producer Zomby’s self-proclaimed tribute to Bevan’s work, ‘Natalia’s Song’ from his recent ‘Dedication’ album, pays its respects first-and-foremost with a chopped and distant vocal – a sample from a Russian X-Factor winner no less – one that drifts faceless across the song from a faraway and distant land. In this respect, Zomby shows a clear understanding and appreciation of Bevan’s work without stepping on its toes.

Radiohead’s ‘Everything in its Right Place’ from ‘Kid A’.

The Burial sonic manifesto is built on this concept, but runs with it much further than his forebears and contemporaries. In a (rare) interview with Wire around the release of ‘Untrue’, Bevan cited as an inspiration the idea of hearing voices seeping through walls or up staircases, and still sensing the tone and mood within them despite their distant proximity. The muffled vocals of R&B and 2-step Sirens that saturate ‘Untrue’ are the embodiment (or disembodiment) of this concept, taking a whole new form as they are filtered through the walls of clubs and into surrounding corridors or the streets at night.

Scores of producers – from post-dubsteppers such as Mount Kimbie to blog-hyped hipsters like Keep Shelly In Athens – use these disconnected voices in their work, often focusing on them as a central theme (see Chicago native How To Dress Well). But it’s Burial, and particularly ‘Untrue’, that serves as the true benchmark of the style.

July 20, 2011

‘Lucky Shiner’ – About a Modern Day Classic…

Posted in Features tagged , at 6:56 pm by essentiallyeclectic

In the small hours of the morning, sometime during the early weeks of last year, an online trawl for new music led to the discovery of a track reminiscent of Holonic-era DJ Krush, or Pete Rock at his most instrumentally languid, or maybe it was Bonobo’s ‘Animal Magic’ album? Either way, its distant, rolling piano loop, punctuating guitar notes and driving breakbeat also contained a freshness and level of intrigue that meant an immediate sourcing of its creator’s back catalogue had to be undertaken. The track was ‘Lonely Owl’, and, as it turned out, came from the singular EP release (entitled ‘Before’) a few months earlier from a producer called Gold Panda (real name Derwin Panda).

As introductions to new artists go, this one was an intense love-at-first-sight affair, and ‘Before’ remained on repeat for the next couple of months until the inevitable end of the honeymoon period. As tracks such as ‘Heaps’ and ‘Triangle Cloud’ fell from the playlist, replaced by a fresh batch of chillwave electronica over the summer, the affair was over. However, as September rolled around, a hotly tipped and justifiably hyped album of organic-sounding, melodic electronica honed into view like an old flame that still burned, starting the love affair all over again.

‘Lucky Shiner’, Gold Panda’s devastatingly accomplished full length debut, is a tour de force of modern bass music, as measured in its approach to composition and arrangement as in its desire to move your feet (or at least, your head). The fact that its creator was responsible for a slew of progressively impressive EPs and remix/production credits in the run up to its release, ‘Before’ EP among them, helps explain the self-assured nature of the resulting long-player.

Intimate found sounds and field recordings sit happily alongside the digitally manipulated rhythms – an incorporated use of musique concrete favoured by those directly within Gold Panda’s ancestral and contemporary pool (the likes of Amon Tobin and early Bibio spring to mind). And it’s with these elemental sounds that the producer communicates ‘Lucky Shiner’s relationship with its influences; namely friends, family, place and experience, as opposed to any specific section of his record collection (the album title itself is taken from the name of Panda’s grandmother).

The twin tracks of ‘Before We Talked’ and ‘After We Talked’ were both forged from an old, unwanted Yamaha organ (including a characteristically creative use of the machines crackle-filled sonic qualities as improvised percussion sounds), and are thematically concerned with a recently passed away friend, while the acoustic guitar interlude of ‘Parents’ features the spoken tones of Lucky Shiner herself, as her and the prodigal grandson potter around the garden. The track listing is bookended by two cuts christened with the same single-word personal pronoun name (‘You’ and, err, ‘You’), and even Daisy, the dog Panda was charged with looking after during the making of the album at his aunt’s house in rural Essex, gets in on the action with bonus track ‘Casio Daisy’.

With recent powerhouse releases from moody dubstep titans SBTRKT, Zomby, and Mount Kimbie, now appears to be the perfect time to revisit Lucky Shiner armed with contemporary comparisons to help contextualise its place within the modern electronica pantheon. The most recent of these, Zomby’s ‘Dedication’, is a toned-down and introspective version of the secretive producer’s usual electro-assault on the senses. Its pensive and often melancholic qualities could be down to it being a tribute to his recently-passed father, an area of inspiration also explored on Lucky Shiner. Although ‘Dedication’ explores its themes through bit-crunched synths and cold electro beats as opposed to Lucky Shiner’s deployment of samples and organic instrumentation, its emotional connection to Gold Panda’s debut connects it to this ever-emerging group of releases fusing human sentiment with 1s and 0s production.

Schooled in the ways of the crate-digging hip-hop producers of yesteryear, Gold Panda can be considered among a small and under-celebrated group of producers that are not only aware of the creative possibilities available within a four-to-the-floor beat structure, but are able to utilise it to produce challenging and emotionally-driven music without ever alienating the form, effortlessly and enviably. Even the most club-orientated moments on ‘Lucky Shiner’ display personality and feeling, and in much the same way that Four Tet drew on his residency at London’s Plastic People to infuse his provocative brand of folktronica with more rigid dance music, tracks such as lead single ‘Snow & Taxis’ and the opulent ‘India Lately’ cram far more melodic and harmonic ideas into their pounding bars than 99.9% of “conventionally” written songs.

But perhaps what’s most enduringly impressive about Lucky Shiner is the chameleonic nature of its production. At times Brainfeeder jerk beats (‘You’), at others a bleak, rippling mood reminiscent of the Matmos production work on Bjork’s Vespertine (‘Peaky Caps’). There are strong elements of ISAN’s brand of bubbling downtempo ambience (‘Casio Daisy’, ‘I’m With You But I’m Lonely’), and even euphoric minimal house like a modern day version of The Orb (‘Marriage’). Nicolas Jaar’s experimental ‘Space is Only Noise’, the ambient techno of John Roberts’ outstanding ‘Glass Eights’ and Mount Kimbie’s full length masterpiece ‘Crooks and Lovers’ are all natural cousins, overlapping sonically and sharing creative similarities, but Lucky Shiner stands alone as a yardstick for all of its contemporaries to aim for; a modern day electronica classic.

See this post in context over at HYPONIK

June 17, 2011

Is Geography History?

Posted in Features tagged , , , , , , at 5:28 pm by essentiallyeclectic

Local music scenes have been crucial in the formation and development of new and original genres throughout pop music’s history, but has the influence of a strong geographical identity become irrelevant?

New York's CBGB, a home to punk and new wave

For decades, musical styles and genres have appeared from the furthest reaches of the globe and into the public consciousness. However, these forms and scenes have often been allowed years of development and fine-tuning before breaking through, mostly shaped by the culture that’s specific to the people of these places. With the advent of the internet and its fellow new media, has this crucial developmental period been removed in favour of rapid cross-pollination of styles from one end of the planet to the other? And has the web centralised the formation of new and fresh musical ideas, removing the reliance on physical location as inspirational source?

In the past, small groups of bands with no other means of communication besides the face to face were able to contain a shared sound within a small geographical area. Take the “Madchester” bands of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. It’s hard to imagine the lairy swagger of Shaun Ryder or Ian Brown’s heavily accented Mancunian slur translating easily to guitar bands of the Home Counties, following the inevitable internet hype machine that would quickly spread the sound away from its north-western roots. Without sufficient time to mature and develop its ideals, would the DC hardcore scene of the early ‘80s remained relevant long enough for its bands to spawn the “Straight Edge” movement and its DIY work ethic?

That’s not to say that the collaborative capabilities of genres formed and nurtured in the virtual world aren’t exciting and fascinating in their potential combinations – consider the recent live performance from the heavily geographically dispersed Twitter Band, or the constantly evolving world of electronic music thanks to accessible software and online sound archives. The accessibility of pre-existing genres to areas of the world that had not previously encountered them has thrown up some incredible interpretations also. But does all this mean the end for the once fundamental local scene?

The Hacienda in Manchester

Think of the world’s most famous musical cities: Nashville, the home of country & western, Berlin’s ever-evolving techno scene, the Merseybeat of Liverpool, east coast New York with its hipsters (nee folkies), west coast California and the birth and death of the hippie dream, the tangos of Buenos Aires and the clubbing paradise of Ibiza. Even the lesser known hotspots: the bustling capitals of West Africa with their respective musical traditions, 19th century waltzing Vienna, the chanters and chanteuses of Paris, and that’s not even considering the eastern end of the world.

All of these places had something about them, whether the cultural makeup of their native and immigrant peoples, socio/political climate, meteorological conditions, or just something in the water, that was meant they were able to conceive and nurture a musical style unique to that location. Without tracing the roots of meta-genres back to the beginning, it’s fairly simple to point out one or two recurring factors in the creation of a music scene.

Primarily – after establishing a general ethos (political stance, existing cultural backlash etc), consciously or otherwise – it appears that there must be hospitable venues for a scene to germinate within. Madchester had the Haçienda, punk and new wave had CBGB (ironically itself an abbreviation of country, blue grass and blues), reggae squeezed the formation of an entire genre into Studio 1, etc.

Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at the controls of Studio 1

Hip-hop has arguably one of the most easily traceable genetic lines (or at least the one traced most often), with specific dates and locations of key developmental stages within the New York borough of the Bronx available for examination. Its manifestation from the parental genres of soul, funk, and electro is clear and evidential, and, although its associated art forms sprang from – and helped to dictate – the culture of African-Americans far beyond the reaches of the Big Apple, its birthplace is indisputable.

Some scene-spawning locations may not be restricted to single venues. Fela Kuti’s Nigeria of the 1970s was a complex maze of political corruption and abuse of civil liberties; perfect for shaping his unique and oft-imitated brand of Afrobeat, whereas similar troubles in the Jamaica of the late ‘60s boosted a renewed sense of pride in heritage in groups of reggae performers (Bob Marley & The Wailers among them), leading to the “roots” strand of the genre.

However, these days scenes need not rely on location or shared political ideals. “Chillwave”, the recent internet-nurtured, reverb-laden genre du jour is, in its very nature, an LA sound: sun-bleached, airy, and awash with surf. Yet a large number of its main protagonists manage to channel this sonic aesthetic while residing far away from the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica. This is a great example of genre transcending geographical location – chillwave as a form being one of the clearest instances of an internet blog-fuelled scene, with early forages into the production style from artists such as Animal Collective’s Panda Bear championed by tastemakers like Pitchfork and Hipster Runoff (widely believed to have coined the term “chillwave”) rather than spawning any sort of local, physical “scene”. It could now be considered a global form, with artists as wide-reaching as Barcelona’s El Guincho to Oxford’s Chad Valley embracing the genre’s manifesto, and this can only be down to its existence as an internet-based form through the promotion of blogs and forums.

Barcelona's El Guincho

Conversely, there is a modern genre that seems to have bucked the trend. Although receiving much love and attention from the virtual world, for many years the core of the dubstep scene has remained fairly insular in its south London bubble. One explanation for this could be that it was picked up by pirate radio and clubs long before the internet got a hold, and the underground London scene that was still in the throes of UK garage and grime was much more receptive to the half-time, scattergun beats and throbbing bass lines. It rapidly became a badge of geographical identity, one that the rest of the world didn’t pick up on until inevitable commercialisation much further down the line. Pitchfork launched its monthly Grime/Dubstep column in 2005, long after the heavyweight likes of Skream, Benga and Digital Mystikz had become local legends, and the slew of dubstep forums that eventually sprang up only began to snowball in number around this time. Even now the scene is heavily UK-based, radiating from Croydon to the clubs of Brighton, Nottingham and Manchester, while Bristol – not content with its own achievements in the creation of trip-hop 20 years ago – now has a claim for dubstep’s second city. This is very much an outdated template in the spreading of a scene: a localisation of a specific musical style that has remained contained within its place of birth for enough time to distinguish its sound, before being picked up on by the wider population.

David Simon and Eric Overmyer’s fantastic TV series Treme also touches on these themes by examining attempts by New Orleans inhabitants to revive the spirits of a city devastated by natural disaster through its long and prestigious musical heritage. In the wake of hurricane Katrina, with large sections of the city still sore in the structure of its buildings and the psyches of its people, tourists from around the world poured into the city, having only recently learned of the rich musical past that its natives have nurtured for decades. The New Orleans jazz and blues styles that permeate the show are prime examples of decades of scene-building, something that would have very quickly taken on a life of its own had early Professor Longhair albums leaked onto the internet before their release date. In a humorous twist of fate, one of the city’s most successful contemporary artists, the rapper Lil Wayne, owes his career outside New Orlean’s borders to the internet-generated hype surrounding his music.

Even pre-internet, not all scenes relied on physical location to grow and expand. The Britpop of the ‘90s was less a collective group of musical ideals, more a loose, media-generated term that brought together a scattered selection of bands to fight America’s musical dominance of the decade to date. Britpop had factions in both the north and south of Britain, each with its own take on the concept.

 

Cover of an NME Britpop edition

The centralisation of music’s geography online is not a wholly negative thing. Collaborations between artists can now be instantaneous; influences and inspiration potentially boundless, not limited to what LPs can be found in the local record shop (in themselves rapidly becoming obsolete). Bands can now exist in the musical consciousness from areas not previously associated with a strong musical tradition, giving way to weird interpretations of past genres resulting from the large panoramic view of bygone eras the internet offers.

However, there are the inevitable downsides. Local competition in smaller areas often bred better music as artists were forced to push themselves in the face challengers. Where once artists took pride in the areas that raised them – US hip-hop’s east coast/west coast divisions, Springsteen’s blue collar America, the determinedly proud French chanson of Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour et al –references to these places are now more concerned with paying dues rather than recognising the effect they had on their sound.

But this is current the state of play, and music, as with every art form, has found ways to adapt and progress in an age less reliant on physical space. The internet serves as an all-encompassing meeting point of musical minds, as well as a bizarre and often confusing time capsule of what has come before. When these two factors collide, it has the potential to create some fascinating interpretations of what music is in the 21st century.

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