Savage Times: Inside Modern Urban Jazz

“… when I refer to the music now as d&b, I never really considered it much then. I know that may sound strange, but I think we always operated as outsiders; I personally always felt on the outside looking in, which is why our Glider-State track was called so…”

“… I hadn’t done anything on Modern Urban Jazz since the ‘Emotions With Intellect’ LP, so to keep the ethos going, we decided that this would be an ideal collaboration by using the Modern Urban Jazz tag on the Creative Wax label. I don’t think either of our labels had been ones to follow trends and certainly at the time we were ripe for a more experimental sound…” 

Modern Urban Jazz

Modern Urban Jazz front cover (CWLP001, 1997)

Modern Urban Jazz 01 is a seminal compilation album, curated by Tony Justice Bowes and published by Creative Wax. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the official release, this is a retrospective account of the series of events that culminated in the realization of a brilliant project, which transcends genres and time. Titled after Justice’s eponymous record label, the compilation shares similar aesthetics and musical direction. An amalgamation of sounds with allusions to musique concrete; jazz noir, hip hop, funk, techno and electro instilled into drum & bass, with all contributing artists showcasing their musical backgrounds and creative influences, free of formulas, dancefloor reaction and genre constraints. Walking down a long, nostalgic and captivating trip down memory lane, this is a colourful and emotionally charged narrative, through the protagonists’ looking glass, filled with fond and distant memories that capture vividly the atmosphere of the mid-90s drum & bass scene.

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Tracks I Wish I’d Written (issue #10): Ulrich Schnauss & ASC – 77

from Kiel and Berlin to London and San Diego, cool has been re-imagined

“… ‘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 …” – Ulrich Schnauss

ASC & Ulrich Studio Pic

James Clements and Ulrich Schnauss in their studios

Leaping in time from the nostalgically distant 1994 and Foul Play to 2012 for the 10th installment of the ‘Tracks I Wish I’d Written’ series. It’s been a rare occasion that two of my all-time favourite electronic music artists have combined their studio wizardry for an exquisite collaboration, which succinctly encapsulates their cinematic aesthetics. Having a visionary and eclectic scope, sophisticated production and composition qualities, as well as enviable back catalogues transcending genres and styles, James Clements and Ulrich Schnauss are purveyors of fine electronic music.

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Wandering around invisible cities

GodIsNoLongeraDj cameo appearance for Vykhod Sily Podcast

VS Podcast poster

Podcast Poster

Vykhod Sily (loosely translated into ‘The way the force is coming through’) is a podcast series launched and curated by DJ Rustee (from the Special Request Crew, based in Yekaterinburg, Russia) in 2013. Profoundly influenced by the Autonomic movement and modern electronica, the musical canvas covers a wide range of the d&b spectrum; from minimal half-tempo and all things 170BPM to 90’s influenced jungle.

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Postcards from the Fjords – Nord Label

“Electronic music is art, not just entertainment” – Simon Viehoff, Nord Label founder

Nord Label is a small independent electronic music record label, based in Berlin, Germany. The brainchild of Simon Viehoff (aka Lebowski), resident dj and co-founder of the Impulse bass culture project, Nord has been established as a genre-defiant creative platform to cater for experimental music across the spectrum; from ambient electronica and drone to techno and drum & bass, oscillating effortlessly between the abstract and the complex. The idea had been conceived and scrutinized for a couple of years before it eventually materialized in 2014, when Simon was presented with two tracks by old friend and Berlin-based producer Ill_K.

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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 …”

Mosaic 2

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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“What came first, the music or the obsession?” – Part 2

“We’re suddenly in a period when it’s de rigueur to buy records” – Alan Scholefield, Honest Jon’s Records, London

… but those clerks are still there, still sneering at your bad choices, offering you an understated but supportive raise of the eyebrow for your good ones.” – Nick Hornby, writer

“There was always interesting music playing, but I was too timid to actually buy a record, you know, in case I bought the wrong record” – Damon Albarn, musician, singer-songwriter

Chapter 2: Record Stores

At different times in my life, I have daydreamt about owning a record store. These days however, running one seems like a first class ticket to financial disaster. Apart from the obvious incentives, including satisfaction of my vanity and intimidation of unsuspected customers (Jack Black’s portrayal of an erratic assistant in “High Fidelity” has brilliantly set the bar too high), I have very fond childhood memories from my casual visits with my dad to the local record stores in the late 80s. I still remember a particular owner slipping mix-tapes in the bag for my school parties (an early form of piracy I guess, but this is for another chapter). I was exposed at a very young age to various musical genres, which I regrettably snubbed or simply ignored, due to immaturity and stubbornness. Very late at the party, but after a long time I gradually started to appreciate and embrace various genres and styles.

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