“There is a thread that runs through all this music that ties it together. Listening to ambient came much later, but again you hear similarities. I mean, in the early days you could just remove the beats and call it ambient! No beat? Ambient!”
The first blog post of 2020 is the third part of an impromptu mini-series exploring the subtle links between ambient and drum & bass cultures, before returning to more familiar d&b territory. Apparently there are more common threads, ramifications and intersecting trajectories in our musical micro-universe than I had initially imagined and it’s been really fascinating to find out that the curators of the brilliant labels presented in the series (Ryan from A Strangely Isolated Place, Dennis from 3Six and Huw from Serein) share a similar musical background. Their labels’ output – beatless in most cases – might sound worlds apart, however I’d still argue that there are reflections of drum & bass somewhere hidden or implied in their influences; eventually all music is connected.
“… 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.
What the sleeve notes never tell you
It’s been 16 months since the original post , which was meant to be a one-off feature; however I always felt that it’s been somehow incomplete. The constructive feedback I received, occasionally bordering on debate over a matter de facto subjective, convinced me to revisit the topic; paraphrasing Nick Hornby “a sneer at the bad choices, an understated but supportive raise of the eyebrow for the good ones”. So, instead of updating the list, I decided to compile a new one containing record artwork I had intentionally omitted for a variety of reasons, as well as couple of recent entries.
“… it would be true to say the labels would not be where they are without Scott’s invaluable vision, design and input” – Tony ‘Justice’ Bowes
Despite having a soft spot for bespoke artwork design and illustration, it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to adopt a decent site icon and logo for the blog and my social media accounts. After almost six years of blogging and some hopeless scribbling on photo editors, I eventually decided to add a touch of art and aesthetics; a logo that would reflect the blog’s vision and output. For that purpose, the graphic studio Metro Design has delivered brilliant brand-new icons and logo. A complete retouche of the site though is a project for another day. The rather incomprehensible head title is the result of a stream of consciousness, paraphrasing a song written by Tricky (original title ‘Brand New You’re Retro’, featuring on his ‘Pumpkin’ EP, released on Island Records’ offshoot 4th & Broadway, 1995), which in all honesty caught my attention due to Alex Reece’s remix.
Metro Design is the new venture of Scott London, the electronic music producer known as Metro. Continue reading
“… 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 …”
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.
Tuesday morning, October 1993
He is staring anxiously at the classroom clock counting the nanoseconds. It’s almost 10 and in about an hour or so the boxes with the new releases at the record store downtown are bound to open. There is no way he can make it before 2, unless he skips the last hour at school. He already knows that’s exactly what he is going to do.
The guy behind the counter had promised him that the tunes he was searching for the last weeks would be included in those boxes. It was not the first time the guy made such a promise just to get rid of him, but it didn’t worth the risk. He had to be there in person; phone-calls were never effective. Everybody, who has been at a record store more than twice, can tell a story about a record in a shelf already reserved for a radio producer, a dj or a mate of the store owner.
His impatience was intensified by the fact that every Tuesday morning all the big dogs of the scene would be there. He was a bit intimidated by them and the fact that they always had priority over him to listen to the tunes in the private booth was a bit frustrating. He could not spend as much as they did, as his only resource was his weekly allowance, so their priority status, however irritating it was, actually made sense.
He enters the record store which is already packed and many familiar faces are already searching the shelves and discussing with the guys behind the counter. There is a queue on the decks where one can hear a preview of a record before he can buy it. He heads directly to the jungle/breakbeat section. He knows that the possibility to find on the shelves the records he was looking for is much greater than to find them behind the counter. He’s right! Two records of the list are already there along with a couple of promos he should definitely check out. He picks them all up and visits the other sections waiting for a slot in the private booth. Continue reading