“… I can’t understand those musicians who make the most beautiful music, but show little care or attention for the visual side. It’s like stuffing a Rembrandt painting inside a £5 plastic frame from IKEA …”
36 – Fade To Grey
The ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series is perhaps the most personal, preferential and esoteric category of the blog. The title is self-explanatory and the concept straightforward. I hand-pick records from my collection – records I am fondly attached with and I wish my name was credited on the sleeve – and present them emphasizing on the background stories, the imagery and the messages the music conveys.
When I started the series, I had in mind a set of restrictions, a self-imposed dogma in order to confine the scope. The blog is mainly d&b-oriented, as is my record collection, so intuitively all previous instalments featured drum & tracks, or to be more precise tracks loosely or directly related to the drum & bass template and aesthetic. The concept has been captured eloquently by Ulrich Schnauss in the opening line of the 10th edition of the series:
‘77’ seems a piece that has a rather elegant flow, something I always appreciated about d&b very much. Although this might not be a d&b release from a ‘genre-stalinist’ perspective, I’d still argue that it at least attempts to relate to that kind of aesthetic…
‘Whatever It Takes’ is a phrase I’ve been saying to myself over the last few years, when I despair with manipulative behaviour, in the face of what seems to be happening in the current climate of media/consumer culture; the lengths that people will go to, the things that they will do to get attention or change people’s opinions. Often people will do whatever it takes to get noticed.
Klute – Whatever It Takes (SUICIDELP20)
I firmly believe that if you want to make a statement in music, you write an album and at the moment those statements are as relevant and interesting as ever. There are still artists that invest time and effort working on well-considered, profound narratives and multi-layered album concepts. Some get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot mid-way and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, unveiling beauty and truth in due course. Despite the convenience and luxury of streaming technology, the beauty of music transcends through time or media formats and listeners that are really into music are still paying attention.
Last year, Klute featured on the blog’s ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series and revealed that his 9th album was already in the making. Fast forward eleven months later and his new LP titled ‘Whatever It Takes’ is finally released tomorrow (October, 25th). A certified album artist with a rare consistency that spans more than two decades, Klute has opted for full-lengths as a platform of artistic expression, although he could get away with releasing a string of singles for pretty much any label he deemed fit. His latest album is a distraction, refuge and personal remedy from the white noise and hysteria of his surroundings and encapsulates the artistic maturity and versatility of an artist that has defied trends, formulas and genre confines. Renowned for his unique talent to instil a multitude of influences in his productions, from his punk/hardcore origins to techno, house and dub, Klute’s broad repertoire abounds with incredibly inspirational music.
“The name Killer Smile just seemed to fit with our vision of the label, a multi-genre label putting out dancefloor tracks built around killer breaks and basslines, as well as more emotive tracks made to put a smile on your face…”
There’s music that captures and echoes a beautiful time and place, staying with you forever. Foul Play have resonated with me from the very first moment and will always reserve a special place in my heart and record collection. On November 2013, I published “Whatever happened to … Foul Play?”, a retrospective account of their history, discography highlights and musical legacy. A later edition of the blog’s “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” series included some edits and finer details. Fast forward to the present, jungle/drum & bass legend and Foul Play founding member John Morrow picks up the narrative where it left off: from the last chapter of Foul Play for Partisan and his cross-genre solo musical explorations as Johnny Halo and Skeleton Army, to the chain of events that rekindled his passion for drum & bass and the launch of his new boutique label Killer Smile (the 4th after Oblivion, Panik and Cellar Door). The sequel I never thought I’d write …
“As musical cultures, I think ambient and drum & bass certainly find parallels in each other – they both loosely connect around personal freedom – be it euphoric or mindful, as genres they are similar in the emotions they elicit …” – Ryan Griffin
In last year’s anniversary feature I had given a hint about expanding the blog’s scope to sporadic non-d&b material, essentially to music I love and enjoy, when I am not listening to drum & bass. The maxim is always the same: “I write about music I like, written by people I like”. My affinity for album covers, liner notes, film scores, ambient and modern electronica has been manifested in previous posts to the point of nausea. What I have not talked about yet though, is that I have often day-dreamt about my own vanity project, or becoming a glorified post-boy as a friend has playfully stated in a past interview here. The mechanics of creating a record label are easier than ever, however I guess that the ship has sailed for now. Counter-intuitively, one of the labels that has inspired me with their passion, meticulousness and visual aesthetics has not been covered on the blog yet and is far from what you have probably guessed. And that brings us to this month’s post. I have the privilege and pleasure to host Ryan Griffin, owner and curator of A Strangely Isolated Place, who shares his insight and narrates the background story of one of the most fascinating labels you are about to stumble upon.
“The words ‘Every second takes an hour’ explained perfectly the strange time-warp-like atmosphere in ‘The Fridge’; it was so easy to lose track of time in there. Then the next line ‘and each one seems the last’ illustrates that feeling of impending doom that I felt at the time …”
Rise Of The Phoenix EP, WYHS040, 1995
I have been contemplating a Bay B Kane blog feature for years. I had even drafted several sketches, but for one reason or another they remained buried in my digital archive. So, in that sense, the 16th edition of the “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” is long overdue. I was recently listening back to Bay B Kane’s ‘Rise Of The Phoenix EP’, when my daughter playfully asked me about the vocal sample. That was the trigger to finally pay my respects to one of the true pioneers, who heralded the transition from hardcore to jungle; a master manipulator of breaks and samples from the most unusual sources (from hip hop and obscure techno to art rock and pop) and whose musical contribution should be sung really louder.
“Love and other tragedies are recurring themes in the series. Whoever thought that d&b is cold, emotionless and monotonous music, clearly haven’t been paying attention…”
I realize that the series read like another generic countdown list, however there are deeper connotations to me. It’s a retrospective musical diary; a timeline that reflects and documents what I’ve been listening to in various periods of my life. Over time, my militant musical views have – thankfully – attenuated and I’ve come to embrace and appreciate a broader musical spectrum. Hence, all the producers who feature on the series are artists that have resonated with me and have steered away from rigid, formulaic corners.
The third part of the mini-series covers the period 2000-09. At the dawn of the new millennium the majors had turned their backs to drum & bass and adopted a more chart-friendly policy. The halcyon days seemed abruptly over, artists turned almost overnight from media darlings to pariahs and the music press headlines proclaimed the death of the genre. But drum & bass was too cool for that. After a short period of introspection and re-invention, d&b returned stronger than ever. A new wave of artists and record labels pushed the musical boundaries beyond genre confines and soon d&b regained its well-deserved place in the electronic music map; from a limited connoisseur circle to a global audience, from sweaty basements and midweek slots to headlining club main stages and festivals.
“The Luke Skywalker of Breakbeat. He is unbelievable, he is so talented. I’ve been watching him grow up in the last two years. I’ve seen him grow from this inquisitive street kid to that age where he’s humorous and simply enjoying life. I do feel like a big brother to him.” – Goldie on J Majik, Platinum Breakz inner sleeve notes, 1996
This week is the blog’s 7th year anniversary. Traditionally, the anniversary features are retrospective accounts. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve taken a nostalgic trip back to 1997; the pinnacle of drum & bass’ golden era and a seminal year for full-length albums and various artists compilations*. Drum & bass had already attracted the media spotlight, which in turn exposed the niche genre from a limited connoisseur circle to a wider audience, providing artists with a vital and creative space for experimentation. However, what started with bona fide artistic intentions came with a price, but this is a story for another day.
As manifested in previous posts, over the years I have developed an affinity for albums. Immersing in the underlying atmosphere, I am intrigued by the influences, the samples, the lyrical motifs, the artwork, the concept, the evident or cryptic messages they convey; everything eventually culminates in a narrative with a purpose and a profound personal touch. I prefer conventional structure: an opening track foreshadowing the main theme, which is divided perhaps into multiple sections with interludes or vignettes and a closing track that concludes the musical journey. Some artists get it right effortlessly, some lose the plot midway and others end up with a collection of selected works. It doesn’t matter anyway; the merit of album writing as an art form is to evoke different emotions and interpretations, gradually unveiling beauty and truth in time.