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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

doing a bit of googling i was truly delighted to find this piece of writing pasted below. it's written by Nick, who is one of the coolest people in the world. it was originally posted on the youthclubtapeclub records message board in late 2002 i think, but i found this extract of it on ILM. it's a pity it's not the whole thing, cuz the best bit has actually been cut off: the bit where Nick talks about how much he loves garage pirate radio because it's what the DIY/grrl/slampt scene always should have been. anyway, this piece of writing is what got me into grime, so this blog has a pretty enormous debt to it. with this piece of writing, and the accompanying follow ups to the thread of the message board, Nick turned my musical interests round almost completely in the space of a few days. if nick did a blog it'd be the best ever.
here we go:

"But you really need to watch out for the 2 crews that have formed from the now-defuncy Pay As You Go Cartel, especially ROLL DEEP. They've turned garage (and, as far as I'm concerned, ALL music) completely on it head with a style which doesn't really sound like anything, or anyone else. Their producer, and 'leader', Wiley makes produces these records which my friend described as sounding like 'boxing matches in space'. They have NO beats at all, no '2-step' -- just these crazy distorted-to-the-max basslines and weird super-cheap sounding computer game-style noises, which sound almost like they come from the Legend of Zelda or Super Mario. I guess in its 'beatlessness', it is somewhat akin to with ragga, but it doesn't sound like any ragga I've ever heard. I guess some of the Neptunes productions are an influence too (some of the crazier ones like 'Grindin'), but again that doesn't get over the weirdness of it. It really does sound fresh. And then they have these incredible MC's over-the-top, who are so so so raw lyric and voice-wise, the best of which is this guy Dizzee Rascal, who just turned 17 6 weeks ago (they actually have another MC, 'Titchy Strider', who is 12). Dizzee has just put out his first single, 'I Love You', and it is easily my favourite single of the year. It's vaguely like 'Don't Mug Yourself' by The Streets but a million million time crazier, a million times rawer, and a million times better. "
i heard that dizzee rascal recently did a set at New College's white tie summer ball in Oxford. [white tie is even posher than black tie]


the two career strategies of wiley and dizzee since getting signed have been interestingly different: dizzee has preferred to cut many of his ties with the grime scene, rarely playing at raves or going on the pirates, and cutting back on the release of white label 12"s. wiley, on the other hand, has continued to work hard on the underground, releasing loads of white labels and promising more to come, and kept on appearing at raves and clashing people on the radio [although he's suggested the pirate shows may thin out a bit in future]. it comes down to this i think: dizzee knows that he's charismatic and talented enough to get big on his own- he doesn't need old allies to back him up.

However, with wiley it's much more likely, because of his less distinctive and immediately exciting style, that he'll only get truly big if the grime scene as a whole gets massive and then he can position himself at its head, by virtue of his status as one of the true originators and godfathers of the scene, as one of the original and best. So wiley depends on people like nasty and east co and roll deep getting big much more than dizzee.
for similar reasons, i expect kano to cut his ties with the grime scene once he starts making waves overground [which has started- there's been features on him in Touch, Jockey Slut, and Dazed and Confused.]

so you get this slightly perverse result where the hopes of the scene might actually rest on those who are less talented than the absolute best.

anythingcanhappen.blogspot.com has got a great piece that counters my recent pessimism about grime. i haven't heard all the tracks he mentions but i agree that the ones i have heard are amazing. so was i wrong to be pessimistic? well, i certainly overstated the case against grime a bit:- i have quite an intense relationship with this music, so like with all such relationships, the line between love and hate is thin and blurred. but i think it's true to say that the really good new grime tracks, with the exception of recent releases by aftershock, are not the MAINSTAYS of grime pirate shows and that's the real problem- i only hear the tracks that Anything Can Happen mentions very rarely. they aren't anthems in the way I luv U or Boys Love Girls or Bounce or Gash or Take Em Out were anthems. that's the sad thing. but it might, as simon reynolds says, just be a periodic lull. things might pick up.

but there's also a feeling that things might be ripe and right for a change: i mean, I luv U was put out TWO YEARS AGO! there's been no major stylistic shift since. each london pirate sound seems to have only around two years to live- that seems to have been the pattern with hardcore, jungle, drum n bass, ukg. of course, the shifts might occur less radically and quickly now than in the early nineties, as the quickfire honeymoon-then-burnout influence of drugs on the pirate scene has lessened. [although the rapid rise and fall of ukg perhaps counts against this thesis]

but i still think a change is going to come. people are going to start singing and dancing again. it would be incredible if they didn't. and, because of this, i think Aftershock are the first wave of the new sound.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

sorry for the silence- i was 'avin it at glastonbury. some people don't like glastonbury. like k punk and 86400 seconds. they think it's lame. and you know it is kind of lame, but it's wicked as well. there's really two glastonburys you see, that's what doesn't get reported. all the journalists and tv crews go and just flock around the pyramid stage and wonder if prince is going to turn up this year [it's NOT going to happen guys- let it go!], and see paul mccartney out of duty not love, and say things like, 'Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have just blown the roof off the Other stage' when EVERYONE, deep down, knows that bands like that are shit, and then take some hash truffles so they can write about that in the Observer and show how counter culture they are.

But there's another side to all this, that isn't really spoken of. glastonbury is probably the only place where, in one day, you can listen to the Channel One soundsystem for 5 hours, then go ballroom dancing, then flick through some anarcho literature at the AK press stall, then see aphex twin, then dance to dancehall and bhangra for 4 hours, watch a truck drive by with a metal mammoth skull on the front playing mentalist speedcore with people waving pirate flags on the back, then drink tea while listening to bulgarian folk music in a tiny tent at 4 in the morning, then go to an old army tent flooded with strobes and lazers inside, playing crazy psy trance at 6 in the morning and overhear someone say, 'ok, do you reckon we start the gabber in a bit?'.

and everyone is lovely. truly lovely.

in the smaller tents and soundsystems there's still hope for the future, an urge to find new ways of doing good and having fun. that's so important. so forget about the mainstream side of glastonbury- that's just there to pay the bills. the heart of it is in the avalon, green and lost vagueness fields.

Monday, June 21, 2004

WOEBOT is gone.

obviously sad about that + thanks to matt for being so great for so long.


you know what the best thing in the world is at the moment? watching ronaldo play for portugal. again, i know nothing about football, but he's totally mesmerising...

i've been thinking about this post for a while, but kept holding back. but now we're half way through the year so it feels like the right time to ask the question which has been nagging me: where are this year's big garage/grime tracks? as in, TUNES rather than different lyrics over an old beat? last year there were so many great new tracks coming out it was difficult to keep up: wiley's igloo, ice rink, morgue, ground zero, terror danjah's creep crawler, jellybeans, cock back, frontline, jammer's destruction + all the other stuff he put out, all sticky's stuff, jon e cash's classic tracks, j sweet's gutter, target's poltergeist, runway and poppadums, wonder's 'what', macabre unit's stuff, the mr fidget/donae'o stuff, ruff sqwad's misty cold and pied piper, skepta's d.t.i, 8 bar and serious thugs.

But half way through 2004, and hardly any big new grime tracks have been put out. ok, there's ruff sqwad's recent mindblowing tunes, but they're not really played very often on the pirates. the othe day i heard a DJ say, 'it's summer now: ANTHEM TIME!'. which is a great thought, but it just doesn't seem to be happening. i'm not sure if this is because good new tracks aren't being put out, or if DJs just aren't picking them up. i suspect it's a bit of both [where has jammer gone, for example?].

with grime being so MC-focussed, there seems to be a lack of momentum pushing the musical, production side into new areas. With all the attention on the MC, there's little incentive for DJs to pick up the latest tune, little reward in being a DJ who stands out from the crowd. better to stick to well known tunes that the MCs are comfortable with. And because of this, grime seems to be stagnating- a pirate show from this year is practically indistinguishable, musically, from one from this time last year.

I think this could ultimately be grime's downfall- things have just swung too far towards the MC, and it's unsustainable. grime productions seem to have lost their forward momentum. from being the most unpredicatble, alien sound around, grime crews seem to have settled into a musical formula, based around the big tracks of last year, or remixes of them. So, yeah, grime's 'ZFI' seems to be the lack of attention and enthusiasm for the tracks- with most MCs, it's like they're not even listening to the music, they'll do the same lyrics in exactly the same way whatever the track underneath is. of course, there are exceptions- god's gift, lethal b, ghetto and stormin' all change their flows to match the music tightly, but that's very, very rare.

grime's creative whirl feels like it's slowing up, winding down, running out of ideas, or just not picking up on good ideas that are out there. yes, the MCs are getting better and better, but that isn't enough to get back to the vital scene that existed about a year ago, when there were so many new tracks, so many adventures. but when thing's swing towards the dancefloor and the ladies a little more, when tracks are once again seen as more than a beat for the MC to keep time to, then the lessons learnt from grime's rhythmic invention and experiments with cheap, sythentic detritus- playstation sounds, glitches, fuzz and noise- could make things REALLY interesting.
but for now, a lot of the fun and excitement seem to be gone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

the most bizarre thing i saw today was when looked out of the window at work and saw a man go galloping down the road on a white horse, holding a st georges flag, waving and tumbling behind him.

the most emotive thing i saw today was at leicester square tube station; i was going down the escalators and next to me a tiny red butterfly was trying to fly up the escalator passage, struggling against the wind that funnels down. so strange to see something beautiful and natural down there.

butterfly: such an odd word. quite lovely, but break it down, butter-fly, and it's horrible: brings to mind a fly made of butter, or a fly that lives on butter. both grotesque thoughts.

misheard lyrics:
britney on 'toxic';
"with your poisoned carrot pie, i'm addicted to you, don't you know that you're toxic?"
well, i hope i misheard that, cuz otherwise she's got serious problems.

i know nothing about football but i love all international/ semi international sporting events to a degree that has almost been my downfall in the past.
you know that spanish player, torres? he should be taken out and shot for that haircut.

Monday, June 14, 2004

ian at 86400 seconds thinks he's a 'what i had for my breakfast' blog, but he isn't. he's way too good for that.
so that post wasn't meant as a diss at him at all:
everyone i link to is essential reading for me...

you know when something's on the tip of yr tongue/ just out of reach of explicit thought but you know that, whatever it is, it's just about exactly right. well, i had that feeling thinking about what recent ruff sqwad productions were like. i knew they were very, very similar in feeling and sound to something else, but i just couldn't quite grasp it. anyway, it's finally come:
you know the end bit of 'there is a light that never goes out' by the smiths? the bit with the woozy keyboard vamp + little bits of strings [heart] breaking through? all echoey and lush. THAT's what ruff sqwad's recent dubs sound like.


the best lyric ever is from talking heads of course and it goes:
"was a lot of fun
could have been a lot better"

that's what life is, for the most part, i think.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

london was burning up today; hottest day of the year so far. i was working in an air conditioned shop for most of it, so i didn't really feel it. except when we had a power cut. anyway, when i got back this afternoon i sat in my room listening to a pirate station play happy jungle, full of lolloping reggae samples. i like to sit up here, at the top of this not very high building, and look over london. i can see over to battersea, which isn't that far but still it was perfect to look across the city, with smog hanging down low, sparrows chirruping lazily, air so still, all under the blazing sun, with the pirate station on. you can imagine that the pirate station is all over london, as far as you can see, just like the smog and the sun. and as the whole city burns and aches the pirate is keeping everything from boiling over, nursing the wounds. all over the city, people are tuning in to that pirate station, and broadcasting it that little bit further through out london, through open windows of houses and cars, through stereos set up parks to soundtrack barbecues and kick abouts. and you can see the whole city as one party, locked in to the same groove, hiding from and basking in the same heat. that's what i like to think. i hope that's what pirate DJs think as they broadcast from towerblocks and look over london. it'd be hard not to, i think.
gonna try to make this blog a bit less wordy. far too many words per post recently, which isn't what i set out to do at all, and this blog shouldn't be no long ting [sorry i couldn't resist].

so sweet and short and hopefully mroe fun for y'all from now on.

some tips:

ruff sqwad: easily the best grime crew around at the moment. mainly it's the production--- rapid and dirty danger's blissed out film epic dramas, with melodies light as clouds. their new tracks break right out of the 8 bar format, and are beautiful, constantly changing meditations round a central melodic theme. sometimes it makes me think of bamboo swaying in the breeze. [oriental influences are big in grime of course: wiley and dizzee especially like them].
ruff sqwad aren't massive yet, and that's prob because they haven't got a really well respected MC except tinchy stryder, although both rapid and dirty danger are excellent MCs. and also ruff swad don't seem to give their dubs out to anyone else, so you have to tune into their show to hear them. hence, their best tracks are still a little bit secret and haven't acheived scene wide dominance yet.

also: aftershock recordings: they're like what Social Circles used to be. terra danjah on production, bruza MCs for them, Sadie Ama is resident vocalist, they are D double's de facto crew. committed to bringing females to garage, both as artists and audience. when they are at their best, which is most of the time, they're unstoppable. their records must be the most played on pirate radio at the moment, and terra danjah is now at the level that jammer was about a year ago. probably surpassed that actually. they are THE grime outfit at the moment.

i reckon j2k will be the next grime MC to get signed and big after kano. [j2k= grime's kanye west- funny, very intelligent and very confident]

then bruza i think [bruza= grime's ludacris; a growling, barking party MC]

i'm doing loads of these comparisons between grime MCs and celebrities at the moment aren't i? here's another one: flow-dan= grime's DMX- same penchant for dropping his voice right down low, to a soft, rumbling 'listen very carefully' drawl, to make absolutely clear that what he's saying is of the highest importance.


Sunday, June 06, 2004

here's a good new[ish] track: 'one wish' by aftershock recordings. terra janjah on production, shystie and kano on vocals. it's like a dream team innit. [did you see that thing about an england football dream team last night? every single player, the talking head 'pundits' were like, 'without doubt, the greatest player ever to play for england. no one comes close.' it was stupid, but i like stuff like that. i like that kind of inconsistency cuz it's often a sign of passion.]anyway, this is a BIG track. it's odd: the one wish they want to come true is both for God to end it all and artistic and commercial success. like dizzee ' do it', it's a wish for escape, in any form. shystie is on full-on attack mode, literally spitting out lyrics like, 'you don't know me, don't know where i'm from, how can you judge me?'. she's proper angry, not putting it on, like, say, lady fury sometimes does. kano's in an atypically conscious and humble mood, hoping that all will come good but noting that the odds are stacked against him and he might not make it. kano's every where now, you hear him so often on the radio and he's putting out track after track with impeccable taste in producers and other MCs. he's like grime's sean paul: the good looking one who wants to speak to the ladies more than the gangstas, and who, behind his relaxed and unhurried flow, has a razor sharp, 'don't fuck with me' edge. he could, he should, be massive.

but it's the production which makes the track. by far the best terra danjah tune in ages. it's got his trademark crunchy and metallic beats, with this gorgeous, early aphex-esque high end synth shimmy that sounds likes shooting stars, and a slow-diving bass swoop getting you to glide along. this is a whole new thing: bliss-out grime, bloody valentine grime, with softcore rave squiggles and plinks and almost-nothing whispers and echoes. very rarely, perhaps too rarely, grime gets to this place, where it actually floats free on the gutter level griminess and goes into the clouds, all hazy with beautiful, expressivistic blurs of sound. [other examples are target's 'chosen one', and recent ruff sqwad productions]. may be it's the heavy skunk use a lot of grime artists engage in: the simultaneous [mind] expansive wonder and weightlessness, and the introversion, the closed, sometimes unsettling retreat into the self. i don't know. but this is truly mesmerising music. there's a tension between the hard, tight clatter of the beats, and the ethereal, white-light melodies: it's on a knife edge the whole way through, but terra janjah rides it out, never dipping too far in either direction, and i love it. morning after rave lullabies always hit me so soft and deep.

lot's of blogs are really quiet at the moment. i hope this thing doesn't die away. it's so easy for that to happen sometimes.
"twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift"- bob dylan

"She has no idea what she's doin in college, that major she major in don't make no money, but she can't drop out, her parents a-look at her funny"- kanye west.

thing about kanye west is, i often can't really listen to him. he's just too much, too good. it's overwhelming. it's got everything: ardcore sped up vocal samples, those loose beats that are like invitations, the genious melodies, and kanye super-confident MCing. it's a life changing record: one listen and you know that it's going to stay with you for the rest of your life: you'll be listening to kanye west in 30 years time. he's like a bob dylan for this generation: someone whose music so many are living with, surrounding themselves with, and someone who is speaking directly to us, setting the cultural agenda just as much as he's reflecting it. ok, may be he's not at the dylan-esque stage of permeation into people's hearts and minds yet, but things are happening so fast.

i find the album really moving and i'm not sure why. it doesn't focus on the areas which usually make me fall for records in a big way: love, loss and confessions of insecurity. even when kanye talks about struggling to get signed, there's no real interest in telling us if/how he was frightened that all wouldn't be alright in the end. he just gets on, keeps on trying. even on 'through the wire' there's only a brief allusion to fragility ['in the same hospital where biggie smalls died']: mainly it's about picking yrself up after the set back- 'i turned tragedy to truimph'. it's more a political, rather than personal, record, the focus being on racism and education, but [i guess like dylan again], the personal bleeds into the politics, so it becomes the story of one man's struggle, the failings of the system reflected through one man's life.

anyway, what i meant to say was despite the fact that the album isn't really about things that usually touch me most powerfully emotionally, this album does. i think it's his honesty. those bits about going to ikea, and having a meal round a relatives house, and about how self-consious he is, are so moving just because he's being so straight up and honest about his life. that's so rare that it almost shocks you when you hear something like this.

but also what i love about kanye west is how slyly humourous he can be. like that lyric, 'i can't even pronounce nothing, i'm like 'pass that ver-say-see'' made me laugh out loud, and how often does that happen in music? also, he's so confident that you fall in love with him straight away: like those bits on 'get em high' where each line is out of sync with each bar, and kanye drags out the last word each time, drawling it into the next bar: he knows that he's so good he doesn't have to worry about doing things 'properly' anymore.

i'd love to be kanye west: i think most people would. that's the thing isn't it: the more kanye shows you how similar to you and everyone else he is, the more you want to be like him, cuz everyone wants that kind of understanding about what's going on right now. the more he talks about things which don't seem important, like putting together an ikea bed, like getting yr mum to help you moving house, the more you see how important they are.

Friday, June 04, 2004

did anyone notice the mistake in the previous post? it's now been edited out, and i hope no one noticed it as it made me look mental and delusional.


i'm so upset. i was going to this 'love music hate racism' gig this sunday. the line up included: d double, more fire, roll deep, venom cru, durrty doogz, nasty crew.

it truly would have been the best day of the year i reckon, but now i learn that it's cancelled cuz the headliners, the libertines, can't play. firstly, that's a pathetic reason to cancel a gig, and secondly, i now hate the libertines with a great deal more passion and conviction that previously.
it's one year since i started silverdollarcircle. actually it's a bit over one year but i've been out of town for the past few days so i didn't get the chance to do this post on silverdollar's actual birthday.
anyway, it's been lots of fun. i feel like i'm contributing to something worthwhile, so i'd like to big up the rest of the 'blogging community' for creating something that i'm proud to be a part of [or at least, thanks to that part of the blogging world who don't use their blogs just to list what they had for breakfast and what the weather's like, and what their boss just said to them, and oh god i really fancy this girl and she said this to me yesterday and etc etc]. so thanks to everyone doing good stuff, yr heroes.

and special thanks to chris at the virtual stoa for being the first blog i ever read and being both unfailingly excellent [sorry, splendid] and supportive.
also thanks to scott somedisco for being the nicest person out there in this computer world and letting me know what's good to read every day
also special thanks to simon reynolds and luka heronbone for getting me in to music i love. i don't think i'd do this if it wasn't for them.
and shouts to the frodsham blogging posse for being lovely people and writers who often make me laugh out loud.

so that's it. sorry if it comes across as a bit self indulgent [why do lists of thanks always seem that way?], but you all deserve lots of thanks, and i'm often slack in telling people how good i think they are.


check out paul's comments on art degree shows and what's wrong with [most] art students today [he was an art student so he knows what he's talking about, unlike me]. joe [of little dog's day] once said to me that Van Gogh probably wouldn't have got a good degree at art school, as many art courses today insist on a high level of explicit justificatory thought behind pieces, which has nothing to do with being a good artist [or, at least, is not a necessary condition of being a good artist]. We discussed how this feature of art degree courses generates a tendency among young artists to favour more 'conceptual' projects, for which a great deal can be written by the artist on what the piece 'means', what it's about, the [often] seemingly inevitable questions raised about the nature and definition of art and its relation to the audience, the market, pop culture and the wider world, and the piece's references and symbolism. Our suspicion was that 'conceptual' art was easier to write the kind of blurbs and essays on that art school tutors now demand from students to justify and explain their work.
may be there's something in that. i think that there might be.

anyway i'm going to an art degree show this evening and i'm looking forward to it greatly.

wednesday and thursday i was in oxford. what did i do?
on the coach there i could see in to a truck driver's cab and noticed that he had framed photos of his wife and two children sitting on his dashboard and i found that quite moving.

i heard a girl sing 'heaven in a place on earth' and i got quite emotional, but in a good way.

i shouted 'tuuuuune!' at DJs playing 1950s rock n roll and 1960s soul whenever they played anything i recognised

i danced in a room full of fake fucks.

i danced with some lovely people.

i did one of my favourite things in the world: afternoon drinking. the whole day ahead of you and yr gonna do it drunk. yeah yeah.

i listened to early 80's hip hop and read a nice hip hop fanzine called 'dutty girl'. great name.

and then i went home.

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