Count To Ten: Drum & Bass Illustrations and Record Sleeves

“… drawing a fine line between the sublime and the ordinary, the initial presentation criteria have been the aesthetic quality of the imagery, the nature of its production, the relationship to the music on the record and obviously my personal attachment …”

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Drum & Bass Record Sleeves

Something completely different for the last post of 2016; instead of the music per se, the next installment of the blog’s ‘Count To Ten’ series is dedicated to artwork design, an essential aspect of the physical product. The size and tactile experience of the record sleeve is one of the reasons why vinyl records remain the most enjoyable way to listen to music. The recent vinyl resurgence has rekindled the art of the record layout. Whether it’s hand-made or mass-produced, meticulously arranged or spontaneously created, the cover artwork adds a literal dimension to the music that a digital thumbnail simply cannot replicate.

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A Thousand Beautiful Things: Inside the Blu Mar Ten albums

“Musically it’s the same button we’ve been pressing since day one, trying to find that particular and delicate place between sadness and hope. We rarely find it, exactly, but we come close sometimes. It’s like what they say about jazz players, always trying to find the ‘lost chord’ …” Interview for UKF, November 2016.

Mosaic

Blu Mar Ten Album Covers

A common trait among music fans is their ability to recollect little details regarding their musical icons. A series of coincidences and seemingly unrelated events acquire a whole different gravity in hindsight. Although I firmly believe in the maxim “Don’t meet your heroes”, happily enough, meeting Blu Mar Ten has been a distinct exception to the rule and I feel quite honoured to have known them in person and consider them friends.

I accidentally discovered Blu Mar Ten in 1996 and I have closely followed their musical career path ever since. Their sophisticated approach, art and literature connotations, eclectic taste and cinematic aesthetics have never ceased to amaze me. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of their discography debut, Blu Mar Ten recently released their 7th studio album entitled ‘Empire State’. What follows is a retrospective, but not exhaustive account of their career from my biased perspective, emphasizing on releases, which I have associated with fond memories and have had a profound impact on me; an array of reminiscences printed on vinyl grooves. Browsing through my record collection, I also present my personal highlights from each LP, instead of a track-by-track review, trying also to deduce and identify their creative influences. This is essentially my own perception and an attempt to capture the essence of the album narratives, which is completely arbitrary and probably nowhere near Blu Mar Ten’s actual vision and purpose. Nonetheless, I believe that the value of an artistic product is to create different emotions, thoughts and interpretations.

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Short Trips (down memory lane)

“Modern, cinematic takes on ambient electronica and vintage aesthetics, sprinkled with bitter-sweet nostalgia”

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Short Trips logo

In the dawn of the 90s emerged a new musical hybrid, fusing various elements and structural forms of electronic music, relying upon composition, experimentation and innovation rather than adhering to formulaic standards associated with specific genres and styles. Free from dance-floor reactions and limitations, championed by electronic music luminaries, the new style was regarded just as suitable for dancing as for home listening. A plethora of generic, as well as imaginative terms were conceived to outline the genre. Continue reading

Tracks I Wish I’d Written (issue #7): UB40 – Until My Dying Day (Icons remix)

Until My Dying Day was a tune UB40 had written, which was touted to be the theme for the latest Bond film at the time (GoldenEye) …”

UB40 - Until My Dying Day (Icons remix)

Until My Dying Day (Icons remix)

By the first half of the 90s, UB40’s constant touring had taken its toll and the band was ready for a well-earned rest. During their sabbatical, several of the band’s members worked on their own musical projects. Earl Falconer, the group’s bassist, would follow his passion outside UB40, engaging into jungle/drum and bass production and promotion activities with remarkable success.

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Tracks I Wish I’d Written (issue #6): Voyager – Hypersleep

I work for the company. But don’t let that fool you; I’m really an okay guy.”

“A track that has stood the test of time and will still be a classic even if you wake up after a 57-years hypersleep”

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‘Hypersleep’ record label

Celebrating the 20th anniversary since the seminal ‘Hypersleep’ first saw the light of day, a track written and produced by Voyager (the primary recording alias of Pete Parsons), the sixth installment of the blog’s “Tracks I Wish I’d Written” series is about the background story behind ‘Hypersleep’. Eloquently narrated in-depth by Parsons himself, an iconic figure of the drum and bass scene and one of the most respected and recognized producers and sound engineers, the story is a nostalgic and colourful account of the series of events that inspired and motivated him to write a timeless classic; a trip down memory lane capturing vividly the atmosphere of the mid-90s drum & bass scene.

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Ancestral Voices – Night Of Visions: Inside the album

.. the name (Ancestral Voices) comes from the idea that knowledge and wisdom are passed down aurally, sonically, and experientially into our time for us to learn the laws of Nature …” – excerpt from an Ancestral Voices interview for XLR8R

Ancestral Voices

Ancestral Voices

Ancestral Voices is the side-project of British producer Liam Blackburn. Widely known in the electronic music circles for his solo outputs under his primary recording alias Indigo, as well as his collaborative work with Synkro for the acclaimed hybrid electronic outfit Akkord, Blackburn created Ancestral Voices to be a musical platform exempt from genre restrictions, formulaic constraints, expectations and musical agendas.

With prior releases on prestigious labels like Exit, Auxiliary, Apollo, Samurai Red Seal and Samurai Horo among others, as well as being affiliated with producers and label owners, who share the same musical ethos and vision, Ancestral Voices didn’t have to look elsewhere for a creative home. In fact, his long-term relationship with Geoff Wright (DJ Presha), the label owner of Samurai Music, who used to be Blackburn’s agent and later his mentor, provided him with the artistic freedom to re-invent his sound; hence Ancestral Voices found his natural habitat on Wright’s pristine experimental label Samurai Horo.

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Beastie Respond – Back To The Future

“ … a contemporary take on  80’s aesthetics, analogue synthesizers, flamboyancy and neon lights; a diverse canvas of nostalgia, audacity, luminescence, aspects and aspirations …”

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Back To The Future poster

Beastie Respond is the recording alias of Danish producer Tobias Pedersen. He made his discography debut in 2011 for the bass music label Teal Recordings. After two singles on Teal, he released his sophomore personal album entitled “Fictitious Nostalgia” in 2013. Effortlessly oscillating between genres and styles, from electro and techno to experimental 85/170 electronica and drum and bass, drawing from a wide palette of musical influences (from the cinematic likes of Brian Eno and John Carpenter to the dark melancholy of The Cure to the minimalism and genre-defiance of the Autonomic movement), his talents were readily picked up by forward-thinking labels like Exit, CX Digital and Demand for a string of fine guest appearances; the highlight being the track “One More Second”, which was selected for the second volume of the critically acclaimed “Mosaic” series, released by dBridge’s Exit Records.

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