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Thursday, June 30, 2005


But first we’re not talking about music, we’re going to talk about other things instead. But we’ll get to the music eventually, slowly, tortuously. Come, waste time with me…

My friend Louie, who is one of the best people in the world, if you don’t know her yr missing out big time, says she reads this for the non-music stuff not the music stuff, so here you go Louie…

London is overrun with police today. They are everywhere. I get off the tube at Euston and there’s about a dozen policemen stood at the exit. I guess the tube must be crawling, swarming, with criminals. I didn’t notice, such is the ingenuity of the modern criminal mind when it comes to disguises. A woman with strangely grey eyes (as in, they were all grey, ‘whites’ and all), sat right next to me on the tube, as far as possible from the black woman to my left. Some people have problems.
Then I go to the ‘institute of autonomy’, a squat on gower street, to get some food. A police van is parked outside, looking scared, useless and stupid as only police vans can. A harassed looking man opens the door and tells us that the police have been staking out the place for 2 days now. Something to do with the G8 protests, may be. He informs us we’ll now be on police records, on film. This makes me happy for some reason. May be I should feel a small wave of anger against the big brother state and all that, but I just love it, to feel like an outlaw when all I want is a cheap risotto ...

I don’t know, I’m speculating here, but I think that there must be, or it is at least highly probable that there is, a mental disorder in which the sufferers fall in love incessantly, perhaps constantly.

In a similar vein, or perhaps a deeply dissimilar one, if you can think of an activity, no matter how perverted or even fundamentally non-sexual, someone, somewhere, will have a sexual fetish relating to it, and there will likely be a couple of web pages devoted to said fetish. Such is our world.


To go back to cheap food in the Bloomsbury area. I would recommend:
-diwana, on drummond street, behind euston station. An indian restaurant with an all-you-can-eat for £6 lunch menu. This is the real deal. And it’s all vegetarian.

- rive guache, on warren street. A french run café specialising in ridiculously generous and ornate sandwiches for not much money at all

- The Place, on Duke’s street, just south of euston. This is a dance school and theatre as well as a café, so you get to watch graceful people wearing leg warmers flit in and out while you eat. It’s really cheap and the portugese-style custard cakes are lovely.

- Quaker meeting house café, on Euston road. Today I had a goat’s cheese, spinach and asparagus sandwich here for £1.50! altho the place did make me feel like I was back at school, somehow.


Often in London, people ask me directions. Lots of people get lost in london. I’m often out and about, without that typically busy-londoner-face, so perhaps I’m a little more inviting than many as a prospective guide through the city. However, when I give directions to these lost and worried people, perhaps repeating them a few times with minor stylistic changes in order to ensure that they remember them, whenever I look behind me to check on their progress, they are invariably going in a totally different direction to the one I proposed, or asking another person for directions. Their looks when I give them directions say a lot: a slight but definite undercurrent of disbelief on their open faces, like they’re only listening to these directions to humour me. Why is this? At first, I thought it might be because I don’t appear certain and sure enough when giving directions, but this can’t be it. I only give directions if I’m absolutely certain that they will be correct, and this must come across somehow, you’d hope. Rather, I think their disbelief comes from the fact that my directions don’t accord very well, if at all, with their impression of what their route should be, given their map reading. However, they’re only asking me for directions because their ability to read a map has proven to be inadequate, so the whole thing seems very perverse. What should I do, collude in their false beliefs and impressions, just to win their confidence? Perhaps make little amendments to what they think their route should be, so that they are at least not quite so lost? But then, how to find out what they think their route should be?
An alternative, of course, is to approach them after I see them walking off in a different direction than the one I instructed them to take, and ask them what the fuck they are doing.

Although perhaps without the ‘fuck’. I’ll play that one by ear.


Micheal mayer and ada at fabric this Saturday.


Why does everyone on trains seem to read the Daily Mail?

We were at glastonbury. I’m not going to do a review, I can’t be bothered. I’ll just say that I love glastonbury, and the reason I love it is probably the opposite of why most people say they love glastonbury. I love glastonbury because it’s not really counter-cultural at all, with the exception of the Green Fields. It’s a pop and populist event, that allows me to feel truly part of the mainstream of my generation, doing the same things, seeing the same bands, laughing at the same absurd rains. Glastonbury IS the establishment now, and that’s what so great about it- it supplies that rush of excitement that no longer feeling isolated from your peers and contemporaries gives you. Everyone is lovely to each other at glastonbury, and people smile and chat together, but really, there’s no special ‘glastonbury experience’, nor a unique ‘glastonbury spirit’. It’s just like going out on a Friday night in any city, but accepting and being accepted by everyone you come across. Glastonbury makes everyone feel like you imagine the most popular kid in school must have felt. There’s nothing new there, just an egalitarian extension of access to the old, established ways of doing things. But that can be a very important, and perhaps beautiful, thing.

On Sunday we saw rufus wainwright perform ‘hallelujah’ and he stopped singing half way through because he said it was too beautiful. With the sunset- what is more every-day lovely than a sunset? - and the crowd, it was quite overwhelming.


I’m in an odd mood today.

The next time someone does some ‘performance art’ next to me, I vow to get involved and really test them. These bastards thrive off the scared and silent backing-away of their victims. Now I want to see them work for their living. Like, we went to this thing called ‘tropicana’ a few months ago- lots of people dancing round you in the dark of a disused tube station. Quite creepy. If I go to something like that again I’m going to wrestle one of the dancers to the floor and then claim that I’ve been touched up. Or there was this bit in ‘tropicana’ where you went in to what looked like a tube driver’s tea room and were ushered out by someone who was clearly a RADA trained actor pretending to be a driver on his break. I should have INSISTED that I stay for a cup of tea, then really out stay my welcome, and make him finally break down and make him admit that, yes, the ‘tea room’ idea was a bit of pretence that's gone horribly wrong. If audiences truly got involved with art that claims to be about ‘dissolving the barrier between performer and spectator’, 90% of it would finish over night. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Who knows, let’s try it and see. I want a proper performance, give me a performance...

what's the word, a yiddish one i think, that means 'standing on the stairs, leaving the party, and just realizing the devastating reposte you should have made to some jibe at the party'?


Well, I guess I should talk about ROLL DEEP- IN AT THE DEEP END, then.

Is it grime, is it something else? Well, I find that whole line of thought slightly repellent, as for as long as I’ve been listening to this music called grime, there’s been no definitive grime sound at all- the borders have been wide open. I hope that always continues. But if you want to get picky, you could say that the fractured female vocal samples and R n B beats made boomier have been a mainstay of the grime canon from the very start. Take roll deep’s ‘you were always’, for example. So, yes, this album is melodic and it is pop, but grime was always like that, or corners of it were.

But In At The Deep End isn’t just a grime album, even if it is a grime album: rather, it’s more than that, it’s a london pirate radio album. Partly, this comes from how it sounds- the heavy, wide-eyed bass-lines cut through with glistening R n B melodicism is just like listening to Rinse FM with Kiss FM bleeding in. But it also comes from how it feels, though- the hazy closeness of the sound, the love and the camaraderie between the MCs, the playfulness of it all. The dicking around, putting on obscure 80s hits just for a laugh, remind me of hot evenings listening to Delight FM. Pirate radio always sounds best in summer, a soundtrack to barbeques and drinks in public parks and commons, with MC’s holed up in impossibly hot, tiny studios, voices soaked with the lazy joy of a hot day in the city, broadcasting through the smog. And roll deep have created an album which sounds exactly like summer. We listened to it on the coach to glastonbury, as west london gradually melted into fields, and it was perfect.

The first time I heard this album, it just breezed through me, delightful but weightless. Yr just transfixed by the gloss. But more and more listens in, and things start to tug and pull at yr soul. Things start to stick. Like the first track, ‘flying away’ sounds just a little awkward and strained. But then the final vocal refrain comes in and things fall into place; ‘I’ve been working so hard, I’ve been working so hard’. The restless knottiness of the grimette tunes, ‘show you’, and ‘be careful’, full of dizzying interjections by splinters of female vocals, is utterly hardcore but so light and quick that shimmers of prettiness are kicked up from the thorns. And the lyrics! ‘Remember the day’ gently sculpts a lump in a throat, as wiley builds and builds to the line, ‘I just want to live where no one will find me’. Breeze has got pains in his left tit, he’s on heart ache avenue, should have left it. Wiley informs a policeman on a stop and search that he uses the baseball bat in his car to play baseball...or rounders. Sad but funny, roll deep come across like the greatest friends together, and some of the greatest friends you could ever have.

It’s the confidence that permeates all the seconds of this record that pulls me in the most, though. This is roll deep’s victory record, a celebration of being top boys in the game. But it’s not an arrogant record. Rather, their confidence comes across in sheeny-shiny twists and turns of the productions, fuelled by and trusting in raw intuition, throwing away all the rules, even the ones about never sampling Buddha Lounge CDs (as the almighty ‘shake a leg’ does). And of course the confidence comes through from the MCs, from their relaxed and open-hearted delight. It’s the little things- the way at the start of ‘people don’t know’, someone absent-mindedly sings the melody, ‘oh-uh-uh-oh’, and wiley jumps in to clarify: ‘eski-boy, confident with the flow’. The way Scratchy steals a little bit of Flow-dan’s flow in ‘when I’m ere’, doing that whisper/gasp-effect that the Big Mic Man does: ‘keep on guard when I’m ere’. The way they refer to themselves and each other by their first names, rather than aliases. The in jokes and made-up words. This is a party at the end of a long journey to the top, and the start of a whole new one.

But mainly it’s the sheer urgency of the MCs which enthrals. Everyone sounds unbeatable, like they NEED this. Everyone’s a hero on this record, but breeze, brazen and jet le in particular light things up to day-glo whenever they’re on the mic, attacking their lines with this crisp finesse and delicacy, never phased by either the occasional self-consciously MOR stylings beneath them, nor the wild twirls of gutter accordian that frequently break through. Jet le’s the patient tutor, bearing his soul in infinite articulate ways. Brazen is the voice of sad and vengeful minds, screaming into his pillow, but sounding so hopeful and vital with it. And there’s a case for Breeze being the greatest of all grime MCs, bar the incomparable Riko. I find myself almost having to catch my breath sometimes, he sounds so captivating, so deadly and focussed, like he’s going at twice the speed of all the other MCs, even though he’s actually at their tempo: it just feels like a torrent.

It’s not perfect, this album. The skit is as bad as skits always are, and ‘good girl’ is too heavy on the kanye-isms, but the peaks are as giddily high as anything out there- shake a leg, when I’m ere, let it out, remember the days, and the final gang-call of the poltergeist relay. And what I love about this album is that, in the context of all this breezy pop, the heavier ‘grime’ tunes start to sound like pop songs too: when I’m ere sounds like a future No. 1 hit when heard in its place amongst the other tracks, with its catchiness and conciseness suddenly foregrounded. So, that should give us hope, I guess.

For all that this record has been dismissed, or even praised, as a harmless, light-weight, bit of summer fun, I think there’s much more to it that that. It’s a record by some of the few musical geniuses we have in pop working either at, or very near, the top of what they are capable of. It’s a gorgeous kaleidoscope of a record, which breaks your heart and then suggests that we put on our classics and have a little dance. It’s a wonderful record to live with.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

ok, off to glastonbury tomorrow, so no time for posts. lots when i get back, though. dying to write about the roll deep lp...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

some words on superpitcher: Today.

i decided to do a kind of review, just for fun.

it's been difficult to write this, cuz i love superpitcher's music so much that i struggle to put it into words. that said, Superpitcher's music is good in a way which means that it teeters on the edge of being not very good at all. it's a risky game to play, but when it all goes right, he's sublime. Irre, Mushroom, Fieber and Heroin, as well as his remixes of MFA and Dntel, are some of the greatest dance tracks i've ever heard- fragile and huge at the same time. 'Epic and intimate', as Gabba Pod once described him: macro-soul from micro-house. Then there's the mythology that surrounds him: the sharp-dressed, impossibly romantic, sensitive soul, searching for his missing half, crafting Smiths-ian techno as love letters. how can you not have a little bit of a crush on him? 'sad boys for life' is the motto, kind of. now, you could be harsh here and lament the fact that we've come from UR's 'revolution for change' to celebrations of melancholy that stray worryingly close to the bedsit, in just over a decade. But really, that'd be unfair. When they're at their best- and superpitcher is frequently their best- Kompakt are doing something so wonderful, so necessary, and so obvious it's a wonder that it all seems so revolutionary: making super-personal, open-hearted techno, aching and glowing with emotion: often love. and a lot of longing too.

But there's a problem with superpitcher's dreamy shoe/star-gazing music in that sometimes dreamy misty-cism is all he gives. amniotic washes and fogs of sound float about, beats click away, lonely and warm, and it's very pretty but very empty, and very unsatisfying. it's like going straight to the post-coital cigarette, skipping the sex: there's a nothingness at the centre of it, and so the whole experience dissolves, loses meaning. His album, and big tracks like 'happiness' suffered from this, which may be- sadly- the cost of making techno as delicate and intimate as he does.

'Today' is already a legendary superpitcher release, slotting into the mythology nicely, even though this mix cd only contains one of his tracks ('Happiness', remixed by current techno top-boy Lawrence). But the feel of this record is so close to Superpticher's own productions, the tracks presented in accord with his instantly recognisable and personal vision, that it's not merely a collection of tracks either: this is superpitcher's mix. Alernating between opiate haze, and shuddery, pleasingly ruff around the edges, techno, the mix is rarely pretty, or at least, not in an obvious, regular way. Rather, it's a smoky, darkly-glam, slow red-wine seduction of a record: techno being sexy, but in a very old Europe way- noir, faded elegance, femme fatales. And so on. It's often deliciously acidic and nasty (as on the remix on micheal mayer's 'lovefood', remixed by closer musik's Matias Aguayo: 'give me love, so i can kill', the lady hisses, sounding both forlorn and deadly) . Some of the best moments, though, are where it kicks in to expansive, dancefloor techno (as on the oliver hacke, dj koze and wignomy brothers tracks), perhaps too physical and steely to be microhouse, but cut through with a tense, crystalline beauty.

i've been listening to quite a bit of early (88-89) house recently, and throughout 'Today' there's a similar feel, with synth lines loping out and then spooling away further into the background, always retaining a shimmery, gentle distance. This early house sound is surprisingly close to the minimal Kompakt aesthetic: 4/4 feminised and cut down to human scale, but still a wide-screen sound, a mirror-ball casting out long arcs of melody as it spins. But despite the delicate glimmers and glitters of 'Today', for the most part it's a hard record to love: it's a little too restrained, too introspective, too sadly lovesick to love. but that all changes in the final two tracks (Max Mohr's gleeful, cliche-embracing 'old song', and sebastian tellier's 'la ritournelle'), where Superpitcher lets go of the tension he's spent an hour building, and ends the mix in a flourish of loose joy that sounds gorgeous and baroque, given all that gone before it. With the sebastian tellier track in particular, i never want the elaborate dew of strings and piano to end: the sun's finally come up, there's the feeling that superpitcher's found what he's been looking for, and you have to, and it's all been worth it.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Davina is a true professional - talentless, charmless and can barely even read the fucking autocue.

-Little Dog's Day journeys in to the heart of darkness.


somedisco loves both The Leopard AND Darkness At Noon. two of my all time favourites as well.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

it's hilarious, and scary, just how easily and nonchalently Prancehall (formerly MPC) can churn out piss-takes of hyper-theorised grime discourse:

"Ahh yes, the ritual slewing of the 'wasteman'. Perhaps the most vivid imagery portrayed in the video. It does indeed (symbolically) prefigure the "abandonment of Genius Kru's matey garage heritage" as you so rightly state. The offering, by the 'wasteman', of the Newkie Brown is a heterodoxical way of justifying the need to slew the waste man, maybe?

But is this slewing justified?

As Nietzsche said: "punishment hardens and renders people more insensible; it concentrates; it increases the feeling of estrangement; it strengthens the power of resistance. "

Could the slewing of the waste man indeed be as destructive as the reverse? Will the 'wastemen' eventually rise to conquer the "darker iconicity of aggieness, nash-banging and steel pipes." Are we to see a cyclical alternation of opposites, an attunement at variance with itself, an eternal recurrence of ascent and descent? Hold tight shizzle."
Before i get started properly, i should say that Rinse is the only pirate station you need now. It's like Deja used to be, now that jammer, mac 10, d double, ruff sqwad, dj mackie, and essentials are on there. i still miss Deja tho, if only for the way MCs would bark out the station's frequency: 'NINE! TWO! T'REE, GO!'


ok, so grime is an MCs game and all that, with djs often being reduced to the role of putting the needle back on the vinyl after MCs have wheeled back their own tune, but a good DJ is an essential, and underrated, part of any great crew. and essential and underated = nice thing to write about. also, with me coming to grime from more a dance background than a hiphop one, i've always tended to focus on DJs and instrumental mixes to quite a large extent, hearing some of these mixes as street versions of wonky techno perhaps (sidenote: i LOVE the term 'wonky techno'. it was invented by jerome hill, who used to work at Access All Areas, the record shop and one-stop rave shop in Camden. even now, there's a whole record bin devoted to Wonky techno, with descriptions like 'Pure Wonk!' scrawled on to the record labels. But i digress).
so, without further ado, here are my heroes of the 1s and 2s:

Dj Mac 10.
Back when Nasty were still a going concern, as opposed to their current disarray after the exodus of kano, demon and ghetto, they had perhaps the most distinctive style of any crew when it came to their pirate shows. it was heads-down, non-stop, switching and shifting restless intensity. and a large part of this style, this sound, was Mac 10's djing. he hardly ever did rewinds, and he never stopped tracks so that MCs could give out phone numbers or read text messages from listeners. Nasty weren't about that: they were about a constant hailstorm of noise, with MCs passing the mic quickly, but not as quickly as Mac 10 was introducing new records to the mix. On a few sets i've heard from him, he rarely plays any record for more than 15 seconds, constructing a kalaidoscopic hour-long kind of grime megamix that plays on grime's innate and internal fractures and unpredictability. He's now solo on Rinse FM, but without MCs, he seems to have settled into a more relaxed style. Hopefully, MCs will begin to trickle into his show, and he'll start to pile it on once again.

Dj Bossman
Bossman is Essential's DJ, with a similar style to Mac 10's, although unlike Mac 10 he's most interesting and exciting when he's solo, rather than in a crew situation. He tends to take up at least 45 minutes of each of his shows on Rinse FM (wednesday nights, i think) with an instrumental mix. Like Mac 10, Bossman favours the wild, thin, mercury-sound, of grime records interlocking and dropping away incredibly quickly. However, whereas Mac 10 always seemed to favour a wall of noise as the context and guiding principle for his mixes, Bossman likes to introduce more peaks and troughs into his sets, which, when he's at his best, are the most dizzying and breathless on the radio. he also gets bonus points for coming across as such a lovely person on his Rinse sets. and for regularly playing his increasingly insane remixes of davinche's 'eyes on you' (try to hear the one where everything's reversed, so that it's all turned to glistening sound-gloop that ties knots in itself and pushes a grin onto your face).

DJ Slimzee

A man so hardcore when it comes to pirate radio, it's now illegal for him to be above the fourth floor of any building in Bow, Slimzee is also probably the most technically skilled of all grime DJs. indeed, his recent dissatisfaction with grime seems to be the lack of room it can leave for a DJ's creativity and talent. Whereas Mac 10 and Bossman are masters are the fast cut and chop, Slimzee prefers the long, patient mix, eeking out the similarities and complementary aspects of couples of tracks. More so than any other grime DJ, slimzee turns his raw materials into something else entirely, building them up into his own unique creations (slmizee's mixes are also unique in another way: he only plays one-off dubs that have been made especially for him). you can tell that slimzee used to be a drum n bass and jungle DJ: his sets always roll, driving forward into the middle distance of slimzee's imagination, sound-waves rising, crashing, retreating, rising...
Slimzee's still on Rinse, sundays 3-5 pm on a semi-regular basis (where Riko is a frequent choice of host), but the best place to hear him is probably the CD he put out on Ministry of Sound a few years with God's Gift: it's called 'street beats' and it's baffingly underrated.

New Brand Flex.

New Brand Flex were (are?) always an oddity in the grime scene: a collective of DJs and remixers with some links to More fire and east connection, but largely standing on their own as the only grime crew without MC members. New Brand Flex's Deja shows were the most consistently entertaining 2 hours every week. They specialised in gleefully out of control gabba-garage, heavy on the boing-boing, filled with messy smears and snatches of records considered and then pulled out of the mix. There was a wide-eyed, ravey intensity about new brand flex mixes: here, perhaps more than anywhere else in grime, you could see the hardcore continuum in effect, as they often sounded like a futuristic ardkore set, fuelled by nasty, speedy, pills and amyl nitrate. their remixes have to be heard to be believed: fuck knows what the original tracks were, but the cartoon, mangled arcade-gabba that emerges is the punkest, snottiest, grime out there. And i'll always love them for spending about 10 minutes of one set explaining to their listeners why Tim Westwood was a dick, and then running a phone poll to see if we agreed with them (we did, overwhelmingly...). If anyone knows where i can hear new brand flex nowadays, please e-mail me.

Dj Scholar
Scholar isn't particularly interesting as a DJ per se, but as a selector, he's a top boy. Ok, so, as Ruff Sqwad's DJ, he does have a pretty peerless selection to choose from, but he's also a master at fixing a certain atmosphere in his mixes, so that you hear familiar tracks in a whole different way. i remember once he slotted Alias's dark-techno 'gladiator' between the dreamy swirls of ruff sqwad productions, and suddenly it sounded gorgeous, light... even, sexy. And that's his genius: to make every track sound like a ruff sqwad track, to make you hear melancholy and romance where before you might have only heard concrete-block brutalism, or skeletal clapping and boinging. so i guess it's no surprise that he's one of my favourites, as that's kind of what silverdollarcircle tries to do as well.

Special mentions go to:

-DJ logan sama, for the best record box ever.
-DJ plasticman, for doing the darker than dark take on grime better than anyone.
-DJ Mackie, the stalwart of great instrumental grime mixes.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

before the deluge...

there'll be lots and lots of new stuff on here in the next few days, but i thought before all that comes, i'll tie up some loose ends and resolve some controversy/conflict. so yes, silverdollarcircle has been atypically negative as of late (particularly towards the music press and the bands they hype), and some people have thought that i should have said what should be done, instead of simply stating what should not be done. Part of me wants to answer this in the same way that Bernard Williams answered R M Hare, when Hare said to him, 'You argue against all these theories, but what do you propose we put in their place?' To which Williams' reply was: 'In their place, nothing!'

But another part of me isn't satisfied with that. So i guess i want to appeal to how much writing and music there is of an incredibly high standard out there, and just focus on this. Of course, not everyone can be as good as ruff sqwad or Ada, or blissblog, or beyond the implode, but i think everyone should at least try. And i'm not sure that bands like the Killers or the Bravery are trying (and the NME certainly aren't trying). Also, when people do fail to reach the peaks of their fellow writers or musicians, i think we should note and point out that they've failed in this way (which doesn't mean a totally negative judgment of course: there can be a lot of good in music and writing that isn't the best out there). But i think it'd be a good thing if critical standards were re-set, and raised.

One way to do that is to impose a zero-tolerance critical stance on the mediocre, which i was tempted to do a while back. now, i'm not so sure. i stand by the claim that the killers and razorlight make the worst music in the world, but that's not because they are mediocre per se, but also because of all the baggage that comes with them: that they are presented as being hugely exciting, instead of mediocre; that they openly take their cues from non-mediocre bands; that there seems to be no impetus from them to strive for better; that they threaten to perpetuate this mid-70s musical atmosphere that seems to have existed since my mid-teens (i.e some people doing amazing stuff, but the mainstream being so lacking in ideas, or even good tunes, that it's scarcely believable).

So, in summmary: things are bad, but silverdollarcircle will henceforth only be about the things that are good, because there's still enough of those.


p.s. Roll Deep are playing glastonbury!!!

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