Thursday, 9 October 2008

Steinski - What Does It All Mean ?


What Does it all Mean?

Illegal Art

Old School hip hop, three stripes, gold chains and big ass ghetto blasters eh?

That’s how it’s been written, and the guns and bling philosophy of modern rap, certainly has its feet carefully planted in reality, as hip hop remains the music of the streets. But the incubation of rapping over a beat came at fascinating time in the late seventies New York, where art was king and the idea of crossover was rampant.

So instead of the closed mentality of ‘keeping it real’ you saw boys from the Bronx rapping over uptown disco music (Rappers Delight) or icy Teutonic electro (Planet Rock). This melting pot of high end nightlife and bloc party grit also saw some unlikely individuals taking a prime role in creating what was to become an all conquering musical monolith.

One of these characters was Chris Stein, a self styled ‘nerdy white advertising geek’, who along with his partner in crime Double Dee (Douglas DiFranco) entered a Tommy Boy records competition to remix ‘Play that Beat Mr D’J by NY rappers Globe and Wiz kid. Instead of adding a new bassline or cutting up the vocal, the pair deconstructed the entire song meticulously splicing together clips of popular hits and sound bytes sourced from popular TV shows and adverts.

In today’s post –modern sampling world, it’s not that revolutionary to stick together your favourite bits of something else to create a new entity. But these were the fledgling days of sampling, and the agility and style with the duo approached the project created the now legendary Lessons One. Of course they won the competition and went on to create Lessons Two and Three, before Steinski chose to go alone, creating denser and more adventurous works as the decade progressed.

Of course the problem with nicking other peoples sounds is that they are unwilling to let you put it out under your own name. So for yours Steinski’s rocking dancefloor masterpieces existed only on white label bootlegs and dusty tapes recorded from the radio.

This release package goes some ways to restoring the legacy of those sessions, a beautifully complied Double CD and accompanying booklet, ‘What does it All Mean’ contains not only the original ‘Lessons’ series, but other seminal works such as the JFK assassination track’ The Motorcade Sped on’. Disk two brings things (almost) up to date with a full length mix recorded for Coldcuts legendary Solid Steel show.

Many works of art are deigned masterpieces, but in the canon of modern music, the tracks contained here certainly out punch their weight in terms of influence. Not merely abstract works of art, Steinski also had his finger on the groove, and its safe to say fathered a musical legacy from Public Enemy, through to DJ Shadow, The Chemical Brothers and most recently 2002’s mash-up craze. Pure gold dancefloor history- ignore at your peril.

Monday, 6 October 2008


Back Off Man Im a Scientist

First World Records

Nor often a record of this nature takes you by surprise. From the (admittedly artful) eastern inspired cover, to the press release bigging up a ‘Sonic visionary,’ sometimes you think you know what to expect. In this case, derivative UK hip hop with a ‘nice’ bunch of guest contributors and the lifespan of a suicidal fruit fly.

The shock of the reality however told a different story. Many producers try to create a fusion sound, seen as somehow more worthy than taking one idea and banging away at it until you get it right, the idea of ‘fusion’ has thrown up some less than tasteful delights such as techno folk, or rap metal.

This taste for mixing it up has seen Kidkanevil is billed as the DJ shadow of Yorkshire. But in reality he’s more than that. Where Shadow beatmines dusty grooves to create never ending authenticity, Kidkanevil does what so many producer strive for- sonically name checking his favourite sounds to create something that creates more than the sum of its parts.

The album kicks off with tasteful but raw, funk-soul anthem ‘Stomp’, featuring the dulcet tones of Justin Perceval, before seamlessly moving to unexpected take on YMO’s B-Boy anthem ‘Computer Games’, as cut up by the original block party DJ’s.

The rest of the album struts along in exemplary style; ‘Yuki's Hometown Hi-fi’ adds a downtown reggae skank to the proceedings; whilst the unlikely appearance of Germany’s number one MC (a highly contested battle!) on ‘Black Bug’ adds the icing to the cake.

Killer here though, is closer ‘Ketto Revisited’, produced in association with Ninja Tunes stalwart Bonobo. Remaining enough integrity and soul within its measured beats and soundscapes to convince, even for a minute, that the world needs another addition to that most unfashionable of genres ‘chill out’

Even if ‘Back Off’ manages to slip under the radar of most of the record buying public, Kidkanevil should be proud. When UK popular music wallows in its own mess, its artists such as this that provide a fleeting snapshot of the reality of 21st century Britain

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Rex the Dog. The Rex the Dog Show

Here we go pop pickers, another 3 Bar Fire review.....

Rex the Dog

Rex the Dog Show

Hundehaus Records

Electro Pop

Pop and rave, are two musical genres that have managed to be stretched so far from their roots by commercialisation that they now stand together as inbred parodies of their former glories. Pop music has moved a million miles from its classical sense of ‘popular’ acquiring a manufactured vacuous tarnish en route, whilst rave remains relevant only to pubescent youth in market towns.

Despite these obvious handicaps, Rex the Dog has managed to create a simmering mix of these maligned genres to create perhaps the best pop rave album of the decade.

Rex the Dog, is rumoured to be an alias for many things, some say an uber cool lowlands techno showman, others claim the dog is actually none other than ‘JX’ of less cool nineties chart bothering ‘Son of a Gun’ fame.

It’s a difficult (and unfashionable) feat in dance music to add fun and emotion to the beat, but thankfully the demise of dull, pitch perfect progressive beat mixing has seen a real return to partying and occasional sightings of the mysterious ‘acid house vibe’; alongside actual smiles on the dancefloor.

The Rex the Dog show takes no prisoners it its unrelenting techno ambitions, this is certainly not cartoon pop showmanship. Instead tracks such as ‘Bubbilicious’ hit exactly the right note as a bumping bass trades blows with a insistent synthetic melody that favours both feet and head. Club banger ‘Circulate’ uses similar tricks to create a genuine groover filled with warmth and passion, fired along by the power of analogue keyboards and clicking percussion.

Its not all banging beats however as the inclusion of a remix of the Knives ‘Heartbeats’ (think Sony Bravia), offers melancholic excursion into techno folk adding more melody for your money to the bouncing beats.

Despite his potentially dubious background Rex the Dog has unleashed a real treat here. Lovers of quirky electronic pop and sweaty basement clubbers alike can unite to fight the acid house wars together for the first time since the halcyon days of the KLF
Rex the Dog Mash Up Goldfrapp

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

X-Press 2 - Raise Your Hands: The Greatest Hits

Another commission for Three Bar Fire

The idea of a real dance music long player, rather than a concept album or an exploration of influences (some tiresome jazz noodling or ethno hip hop for example) has always been a bit of an anomaly. Surely the whole point of a sweaty rave anthem is in its impact on the dance floor, not at home on the family stereo? X-press 2 clearly think its time to unleash the greatest bits of their back catalogue on the world, and it’s the tracks that sound like accidents in music making rather than dance floor ‘bombs’ that really make the grade.

A classic collaboration, once known as a ‘collective’ between longstanding Balearic scenster DJ’s Rock, Diesel and outstanding black music nerd, Ashley Beedle, Xpress 2 first made a splash in the early nineties. Clubland then was in the midst of a post rave adolescence, and the vogue was for tribal New York inspired club tracks such as ‘London Xpress’, ‘Smoke Machine’ and ‘Muzik Xpress’… which are all included here. Much as these particular tunes are competent examples of big room tribal house groovers, they are not great. As Stevie said, “Just because a records got a groove, doesn’t mean it’s in the groove” and the test of time hasn’t treated the thumping beats and derivative drum rolls particularly favourably.

X-press 2 however resurfaced around about the turn of the millennium, and having dropped the badges of house credibility that plagued their earlier efforts (and possibly laid off the accompanying recreational accompaniments), they took a new direction recruiting a selection of guest vocalists and returning to their Balearic roots.It’s these tunes that really make the album, from the David Byrne collaboration ‘Lazy’, (prob the best slackers anthem since Happy Mondays sung about Lazyitis); through to ‘Kill 100’, (featuring Rob Harvey from The Music), a downbeat electronic-Goth monster referencing classic Underworld tech rock stomp.

The highlight of this whole record however is ‘Give It’ a classic atmospheric slow burning piano groove voiced by Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner; a real highlight that points to what could have been with the talent on offer here.‘Raise Your Hands’ is a good album. Though not a great one… and its certainly nowhere near the dance floor legacy it hopes to be. This Greatest Hits collection exists as less than a sum of its parts; ideal if you’re reliving your misspent youth, but otherwise its a disco strut that just falls a bit flat...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Reviewed for 'Notion Magazine' should be out in July/Aug- Fantasic compilation of Barrio salsa, latin, disco and funk.Compliation released on June 30th, well worth searching out.....

Saona (Peterson and Sinbad Remix) Nora Morales

O Elefante (SSH Remix By PhilipCohan (Gotan) and Haaksman) Ray Baretto

I Like It Like That

Fania Remixed

Mr Bongo

If the devil does indeed have all the best records ; it may be fair to say he spent a considerable amount of time hanging about the inner city barrios of New York City in the 60’s and 70’s .
And if Lucifer was getting’ down at this time, chances are it was to the soundtrack of Fania records, the legendary purveyors of the Latin sound that grew up in the steamy backstreets of the big apple.

Salsa and Latin music, like so many great movements before and since evolved as in a cultural and musical melting pot. In this case as immigrant musicians, from Latin America and The Caribbean, arriving in New York mixed their native styles with the nascent funk, rock and roll and soul scenes springing up in Harlem and Greenwich Village.

Fania is the legendary label that grew up from this spectacular street tough party sound and after years of neglect has been bought back to life with this comprehensive collection of original jams and contemporary remixes. Not to be confused with endless comps of chin stroking obscurity, or insipid acid jazz style noodling, this album is the real deal; a double pack of incendiary party starting funkiness with added conga lines.

The first CD takes the cream of Fania’s catalogue and throws it open to an eclectic bunch of remixers and re editors. Lifelong Latin obsessive Louis Vega turns in a sterling reworking of ‘Mi Gente’ by Hector Lavoe, a deep down and dirty bass and brass jam with a sweet as sugar vocal. 4 Hero turn in a gorgeous and unexpectedly down tempo version of I Didn’t Want to Have To Do It by Ralfi Pagan, worth the cover price for this alone, it’s a sublime slow burner maybe their best work since their mid nineties peak. Elsewhere Ashley Beadle does his familiar but exemplary disco house thang on ‘Feel like Making Love’ by Ricardo Marrerro, providing a dubbed out groover for the discerning dance floor.

However good these reworking are however, slip on disc 2 for the originals, and they feel a little unnecessary. What’s to be said about this collection of dirty, sexy party tunes? The original recording, here all remastered especially for this release ooze authenticity and class whilst never dropping the groove. This is genuine good time music, played and sang with more emotion and exuberance than most so of the endless flow of beat music that gets churned out today.

Tracks like ‘Happy Soul with a Hook’ (the title says it all) by Dave Cortez could surely make even the most degenerate and sour faced Coldplay fan get up and shake their arse. Standout highlights include the good time call and response opener ‘I Like it Like That’ by Peter Rodriguez (everyone’s favourite summer time jam they haven’t heard yet); and the thundering percussion driven groove of Tito Puente’s ‘Watru Wasuri’
So if the devil does have the best tunes like these, I’m throwing away my bible and crossing over to the dark side. This is not only a great feel good album to soundtrack your summer, it’s a fantastic insight into a sadly overlooked genre of music boasting highlights as persuasive and addictive as most of the so called classics.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Sound of The Summertime -Herb Alpert Rotation/Rise

The sun is shining in England- it doesnt happen often so lets take this opportunity to get down.

I'm particularly loving the bad wedding dancing at about 4.30 minutes, Ill let them off because of the bongo solo though....

Daedelus - Love To Make Music To

Reviewed this for Three Bar Fire again. Take a look and have a listen, its the business.

Daedelus- Love To Make Music To (Ninja Tune)

Daedelus aka Alfred Darlington has been dropping hip-hop flavoured electronic bombs seemingly from the dawn of time, boasting nine albums and a score of EPs to his name. Released on Ninja Tune, this latest offering is billed as a imaginary story which begins during the 1894 Chicago World’s Fair and concludes a hundred years later.

There’s a danger of classing every Ninja release as significant; more often than not however their intrepid brand of fearless experimentation throws up obscurity rather than a stone cold classic. ‘Love To Make Music To’ (clever eh?) is a real revelation though; a melting pot of soul, funk, break beat , electro and dirty rave music assembled with the skill of any classic hip hop cut ‘n’ paste merchant.

Darlington himself cuts an interesting character too, a mid American versed in the culture of underground hip hop production (who rocks Edwardian garms at every opportunity) who apparently encountered a ‘Road to Damascus’ type conversion to the burgeoning UK breakbeat rave sound of the early nineties, on a family trip to London. It takes a true outsider perspective to create a tribute album of sorts such as this. Unlike someone like Burial whose rave homage is bleak and liquid in keeping with his south London location Daedelus taps into the uplifting, euphoric side of the rave experience managing to keep it upbeat without sauntering into mainstream cheese.

Whilst there are rave elements to these songs, the sampled intro from Lennie De Ice’s proto jungle anthem ‘We Are I.E’, for instance, crops up deep in the mix at one point, proving that this is not a by the book rave pastiche. It’s a potent mix, referencing at times influences as diverse as The Avalanches, early Moving Shadow, the sonic terrorism of the Bomb Squad and the experimental electro found on Warp in the mid nineties.

The album opens on a Balearic summer soaked high point, with the sixties-fuelled ‘Fair Weather Friend’, released as an EP last year, with its driven beat and naive female vocal cutting a definitive opening. From here on in the album flits from the dark brooding techno of ‘Hrs:Mins:Secs’ to the smoother R&B influenced cut of ‘My Beau’ and back again. It’s a strange brew that Daedelus throws up here, and in hindsight its all the better for it, with the only down point being an wilful eclecticism that makes ‘Love To..’ a little too hard to pin down

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


One of the benefits of having kids is the ability to watch fantasticly bonlers programmes like this.

As a tribute to Plex the robot of 'many wonders and magical powers' heres some robot music:

Friday, 16 May 2008

Paradise Garage

I found this on YouTube- short clip of The legendary New York nightspot The Paradise Garage. Larry Levan spinning Eddy Grants 1982 proto house/disco/electro groover Time Warp.

Download it here...

Eddy Grant (Coach House Rhythm Section) Time Warp

...and another Garage floorfiller from 79

Dinosaur (Arthur Russell) Kiss Me Again

And a modern day re-edit to keep you dancin....

Chaz Jankel - Glad To Know You (Todd Terje Edit)

Beardy Brit Hop

I had this in the post this week from, a very fine musical website- go check it out!

Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobilus Pip – Angles

Sunday Best

The crazily titled Dan Le Sac and Scroobilus Pip first popped up on the radar last year with their Radio 1 championed “Thou Shalt Not Kill” a new age indie baiting take on Baz Lurhmans “ Everybody’s free To wear sunscreen”. Chuckled at by the people it aimed to offend, ‘Thou Shalt’ offered us such wisdoms as “Thou shalt not read NME.” And “Thou shalt not stop liking a band just because they’ve become popular”

As novelty singles go, it was slightly more bearable than Road to Amarillo, and the pair were picked up by Rod Da Banks Leftfield Sunday Best label to record an album. On the face of it, this should be a bad idea. A bearded ‘spoken word’ poet and a scruffy home studio beat maker, releasing a long player as a follow up to their version of a moronic novelty single.

Given time to flex their creative muscles and work out some of their angst however this is actually pretty good. Dan le Sac the beatmaker here has carefully assimilated a range of influences from golden age hip hop to ninja-ish scuffed beats via crackly electro. This of course is a well trodden path but Le Sac pulls it off by keeping the groove tight and pairing the drums with melody. As far as the rest goes this is definitely a song driven release, and Pip steps up with aplomb, ditching the catchy soundbites for a genuinely rewarding intelligent dissection of all things philosophical to the delights of old school comic Tommy Cooper.

Whilst others mining this vein have been happy to ‘keep it real’ and in the process produce dull and lifeless plod hop, Angles manages to keep it upbeat with a healthy sprinkling of melody and fun. Stand out track and new Single Look for The Girl, adds a lilting pop hook to the beats and ends up a cracking summertime ditty.

This is surprisingly good stuff that manages to be quintessentially British without crossing the Kate/Lilly Mockney naffness divide. Keeping it real in its truest sense, Le sac and Pip add a surprising shed of integrity to the pop canon, and in the process create something a little more substantial that the current crop of street popsters.

Tobold Hemming

Thursday, 3 April 2008

OK Pop Pickers...

Tunes For Today...

Download them here....

Fleetwood Mac- You Make Lovin Fun (Trailmix remix)
This mix from 2007 first turned up on last yaers Lindstrom Essential Mix. Acres has been written about 'cosmic disco' and its supposed claim to the new balearic crown. Much of it appears to be deritave noodling; however this is a killer adding a unusual mix of funk and electro to a FM radio classic.

Ian Dury - Spasticus Autisticus (Version)
Post punk pub rocker originally penned this ode to disability in 1981 to mark 'The International Year of The Disabled'. Subsequently banned by the BBC for its confrontational stance, this version is taken from Struts Funky Nassus comp and features Sly and Robbie on rhythm.

Paul Simon- Diamonds Dub (Tangoterje Edit)
Re edit of 'Diamonds on The Souls of Their Shoes' from 1986. The original is a brilliant mixture of western and African pop; soundtracking a highly autobigraphical road trip through the American South. This 2007 edit, by another norwegian - DJ Todd Terje twists it into a lovely downtempo dub house shape- without losing the soul of the original.

Section 25 - Looking From A Hilltop

UNKLE/Ian Brown- Reign (Anagram Mix)

Grace Jones - Slave to The Rhythm (Extended Mix)

Blondie Rapture 12" Orriginal Disco Edit

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Who Needs New Music ?

Time to move this up a gear I think.......

Heres some tunes for you...

Electro auters Maps tackle Alison Goldfrapps new 'folk' direction....
Goldfrapp: A&E (Maps remix)

Psychedelic pop of the highest order...
MGMT: Time To Pretend

Anthony Hegarty in disco dub shocker....
Hercules And the Love Affair: Blind

Superior live take...
Hot Chip: Boy from School (US Version)

Oldie but still rocking...
CSS: Lets Make Love And Listen To Death From Above

Sublime New Order styled electro pop...
Presets : Girl and The Sea (Cut Copy Remix)

Pop/dance/techno/fat girl one hit wonder crossover remix...
Gossip: Standing In The Way Of Control (Tigre Mix)

DFA supremo slow burn piano funker...
LCD Soundsystem: All My Friends

Welsh/LA Delorean plugging electro...
Neon Neon: I lust For You

Laid back country balearica...
Lambchop : Up with The People

What are words worth...?
Tom Tom Club: Wordy Rappinghood (12)

Paradise Garage meets Hammersmith...
The Clash: The Magnificent Dance

Pop supergroup hits the floor...
Electronic: Get The Message (DNA Groove Mix)

Original Rockers: Push Push

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Chess Moves- Remixed by Keith Le Blanc

Originaly published in Notion Magazine - March 08


There are plenty of examples of the old adage ‘If it aint broke- don’t fix it’, but maybe none more self evident than the shameless remixing of a labels back catalogue to flog ‘product’.

Enter then, Keith Le Blanc mainstay of thstone cold classic blues of all time.

Why then mix the two? In a never more obvious case of, ‘if it aint broke’ Le Blanc and Chess Records founder Marshall Chess have joined forces to rework the labels impeccable back catalogue.

The artist nurtured under Chess patronage in the 1950’s such as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Memphis Slim; provided the backbone of blues that launched the careers of Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones and in turn provided a catalyst for the sixties and the cultural explosion that followed.

In their original versions, songs such as Howlin’ Wolfs Moanin at Midnight or Little Walters ‘Out Go The lights’ crackle with heartfelt blues and bad ass rhythmic power.

The original Blues were a direct and authentic link to the plight of the African people, so why chose to litter them seemingly randomly with meandering wah-wah guitar and the non legendary sound of studio trickery?

Le Blanc has proved himself as a virtuoso musician with his enviable legacy of work; however he does little here apart from add random doodling and compression effects to render these mythical tracks irrelevant.


FUNKY NASSAU - The Compass Point Story

Published In Notion Magazine- March 08



Of the many musical legacies bestowed upon the world by Chris Blackwell; founder of Island records and commonly known as the man who bought Bob Marley to the world; the opening of a recording studio in the Bahaman hills is one of the lesser known.

Founded in 1977 by Blackwell as a chic retreat amongst the cool Caribbean vibes; Compass point became not only a state of the art recording facility, but also a musical reference point amongst the widening musical influences of post punk pop.

At this time the bass pulse of reggae was emerging as a worldwide phenomenon. Compass, armed with reggae legends Sly & Robbie, engineers Steven Stanley, Alex Sadkin, and the Compass Point All-Stars house band, became a focal point for bands willing to display a little vision in production and embrace the groove.

Issued by rejuvenated Strutt records, renowned for their impeccable attention to detail, Funk Nassau documents the influential period where the pulse of reggae invigorated the popular music of the time, whilst challenging the very nature of what pop should be.

Kicking off with Jamaican born, NY raised Grace Jones’ Jamaican guy, a maelstrom of dark grooves and sparse bass. This signature sound developed with Jones became a house sound that ultimately bought Compass Point to the world’s attention.

NY art rockers Talking Heads had already experimented with what we now know as ‘world music’ but their classic ‘Born Under The Punches’ showcased here, treads a darker more rhythm orientated direction that pointed to the groups fusion future. Whilst TH side project Tom Tom club, included here with the bewitching ‘Genius of Love’, dispensed with rock altogether and incorporated the All Stars into their defining disco smash.

Whilst in the UK we embraced the truth and rights political fervour of Reggae, in the US it was all about the bottom end. One man who particularly felt this rhythm was legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan, one of those responsible for the mutation of disco into what became House.

Levan was principally influenced by the spacey dynamics of dub and the atmosphere created as much by the gaps in the sounds as the beat itself. This post disco sound is represented here by Levan’s own mix of Gwen Guthrie’s Padlock, as well as the thundering bass work out of Set The Tone Dance Sucker, reworked by NY dance floor contemporary Francis K.
It wasn’t all New Yorkers feeling the vibe however as, Ian Dury showed with his superb, and subsequently banned, riff led groover ‘Spasticus Autisticus’.

Add to these gems workouts from more obscure acts such as French DJ Guy Cuevas, Slits-offshoot band Set The Tone and the queen of exploitation disco, Cristina and what you have is a varied but ultimately cohesive document of the time.

This admirable compilation however is not merely a museum piece; what is most striking its relevance to the dominant music that has shaped the last two decades. From the house explosion through to the bass led domination of R&B and the experimental indie sounds of today’s post punk revivalists; these grooves laid down at Compass led the way for much of the sonic ingenuity we hear today. And for that we should salute Mr Blackwell and his Island retreat.