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Picks 1/27/13

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Very interesting week for Cornejo here. I saw Jessie Ware at Amoeba on Tuesday, and I was absolutely astounded by how talented and beautiful she is. And as digger’s luck would have it, at the end of the performance they gave away three gift certificates to the store and guess who got one… Yeeep, $25 in credit to your man’s holy land. I didn’t shop for long, just picked up a few things I had been eyeballing, but asking me to spend free money in there is a dream come true. We’re less than two weeks now from the first RITUAL party, and our special guest Low Limit will be live on the Boiler Room this Tuesday! 2013 is shaping up quite nicely…

Pulled from the hallowed stacks of Amoeba and Bagatelle.

Lee Gamble – Dutch Tvashar Plumes (Pan, 2012)

This record came as a surprise to me when it popped out at the end of 2012. I guess it caught most everybody off-guard when the German experimental label PAN dropped two full lengths from the previously low profile Gamble. Despite the hype of having shown up on pretty much every blog’s best of list, this is really incredible music. I’ve never been one for a lot of experimental/noise/ambient music, as I really tend to require a rhythmic anchor, but Gamble explores unique tones and timbres with a sense of propulsion and movement that is incredibly unique. The music is accessible, engaging and fulfilling.

It’s not all synth washes and harsh bleeps, in fact there is very little of that at all. Tracks that begin hazy and lazy grow legs, jacking like pistons, ecstatic with momentum. “Nowhen Hooks” is a ray of sunlight, a house banger that clears waves of synths and retreats just as quickly with the same waves massaging the adrenaline rush of the dance. As the track ends, “Tvash Kwawar” builds up from the same source of matter and slowly grows into a delicate techno thumper. More techno in idea than sound, the track throbs with life for a moment before it dissolves. “Plos 97s” (above) more explicitly explores techno, but adheres to so little of the “rules” of the genre while maintaining a minimalistic approach to arrangement and construction. With Gamble, suggestive rhythms and the sonic template of a track is much more important than the groove or functionality of the work. The tracks that could possibly be seen as dance tracks are too short, too weird, but undoubtedly I would love to hear them on a loud soundsystem.

The more meditative, serene tracks are just as engaging; often never losing a sense of movement, despite how irregular or vague the rhythm. A track like “Black Snow” ruffles, is muted, and moves, hardly breathing for less than two minutes as samples slip in and growth seems inevitable, until it all stops. Immediately following the tease of snow, “Coma Skank (Binocconverge mix)” saunters in, still carrying a heavy sense of cinematic dread, but with move with a sense of aimlessness and confusion. A thick layer of tape dust covers the rhythmic elements, and the eerie clops and bleeps set up a very particular state of mind for the listener. Opening up the flip side, “Overund” sounds like a morose gamelan ceremony with beautiful wavering bell tones ringing in unlimited darkness.  “Kuang Shaped Prowla” is a fitting close to the album as it seems to bob gently, warmth emanating from the subtle movement of the track. It disappears quietly, sneaking out like a lover leaving in the gray stillness of morning, not daring to look back.

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Bigga Haitian – Haiti A Weh Mi From b/w The Good, Bad, and Ugly (Flames, 1989)

As a digger, it’s always nice to get home and look up something that you just bought and not be able to find a whole lot of information on the record. There’s no discogs listing for this, no tracks up on Youtube, no blog posts, just a quick mention on Wikipedia. The lack of accessible information is partially what makes collecting dancehall records so interesting, as the music seems to eerily stand alone from any particular cultural context. In reality, the scene has healthily existed in pockets from Kingston, to New York City to London, and today is still strong. However, the truly underground stuff like this has failed to have a resurgence of online interest unlike a lot of other music from this time period.

Haiti A Weh Mi From” was supposedly a huge hit for Bigga, so I was surprised not to find much about it online. This is the debut release from the deejay and his flow is full of swagger and rapid fire chatting flourished with a few vocal tricks here and there. The track is predominately a coming out party for Bigga as he chats for nearly five minutes straight over a super lightweight riddim. Bigga’s voicing shows a lot of skill and does well to carry the momentum of the track, but it’s not particularly a superb track.

On the flip, “The Good Bad & Ugly” (above) starts things off with a false start and an instant rewind. This track is everything the A-side isn’t; it’s loud, brash, dirty and full of dread – the ideal club track. It opens with some dubbed out piano stabs and 808 hats, then a cheeky nod at the Morricone theme creeps in but is immediately offset by deep waves of bass. Bigga absolutely demolishes on this track as well, he rides the groove confidently and balances the weight and propulsion of the riddim quite well. Can’t wait to play this one out.

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Nite Jewel – Good Evening (Gloriette, Secretly Canadian 2008/2012)

Finally the incredible Nite Jewel debut gets a repress! On most days I would say this is one of my favorite LA releases of the 21st century, as the record’s mixture of dust covered funk and late night pop have really made an impression on me. I first heard the record at the tail end of 2009, just after it had received a lot of hype and a subtle repress of two tracks on a single by Stones Throw. Specifically, I heard it while vagabonding around San Francisco for a week and a half, stuck in a place between moving across the country with no plan whatsoever, or having to cross burned bridges back to the life I was trying to leave. I was in love at the time like you couldn’t believe, and of course being a Cancer, this was eventually the tipping point towards my return home. I have a specific memory of sitting at the train station in Oxnard, totally fucking cold, alone and waiting for this train for hours, with all my possessions in the world (except the 1200s and two crates of records I had left behind) crammed into a traveler’s backpack. This record was on repeat on my ipod, Ramona Gonzalez’s small voice sounding more and more like the voice of a Siren dragging me back home. Aside from all the heavy emotional associations I have with this record, I can step back and say that this is still a really fresh and incredible release.

Take the fat bassline and sharp claps of “What Did He Say,” a record that has been a staple in my sets for years now. Or listen to how Gonzalez’ quiet pop grows heavy with melancholy and frustration on “Weak for Me,” and just as her voice grows larger and more forceful (but still unintelligible) the track begins to fall apart right before you.On the flip, “Artificial Intelligence” moves forward with some basic drum programming, but its the emphatic vocals and hazy synths that steal the show. But really, the track that gets me each and every time, the true bomb on here is “Let’s Go (The Two of Us Together)” (above) as it starts straight out the gate at a boogie gallop. The shakers, the synth tones, the vocal delivery – it’s all there.

The record is influenced by a vague sense of 80’s quiet storm, boogie funk, R&B and balearic pop with a punk attitude to it all – very DIY and low-fi. It came at an important time in music and it’s sad that she didn’t rise as quickly as some of her peers. I’ve recommended this album to a lot of people over the years and I think that’s one of the biggest signs of a truly good record. Pick it up, you’ll like it.

Categories: 2012, boogie, dancehall, diva, LA

Picks 1/14/2013

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Saw Moodymann the other night for the LIFT 3rd Anniversary and I’ve gotta say it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. An immaculately tuned soundsystem in a small dark room thick with weed smoke and incense, and then my man KDJ drops a few Dilla tracks at about 2:30am. As he would say, “It’s like y’all in my living room right now.”

Gig Friday was poppin’. Geeman’s “Bang’t” sounded incredible in the room, and a huge sing-along to D’Angelo topped it off. Big ups to all my boys, whether on the mic or droppin beats.

Got a gig this Thursday @ MOLAA w/ Clorofila. Pretty stoked, I played with them last year but had to cut out early. This time I’ll be on the floor gettin freaky.

Pulled from the crates, bins and stacks of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Zia.

Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1975)

By now, my deep undying love for all things Donald Byrd should be apparent. Whether it’s his work as a sideman for Hank Mobley or Coltrane in the late ’50s, his work as a leader on Blue Note in the ’60s and ’70s or his almost smooth jazz/R&B in the ’80s, the man has had one of the more worthwhile careers a digger could ever hope to come across. His sound changed with the times, but the music is consistently soulful, melodic, and subtly joyful. Poring over his catalog is like charting the evolution of popular black music in the 20th century, moving from jazz to funk, to disco, to quiet storm and eventually hip hop, as experienced on Guru’s Jazzmatazz series.

This record has been on my wantlist for years, and although I see it occasionally, it always gets passed up because it tends to come with a steep price tag. My brother and I have a ritual where whenever I visit my folks in Phoenix we’ll go out and hit a record store or two. Usually I wont pick up anything because I hate to carry shit on a plane, but this time at Zia was very different. I found this record almost instantly upon walking into the store, and when I saw it priced at $6 for a VG+ copy I almost leaped. I picked it up, found a few other scores and gladly carried them all onto the plane.

The record kicks off with “Change” and it’s an immediate change from Byrd’s prior electric work, which tended to be dark, and even the Mizell produced masterpiece Stepping Into Tomorrow had a nocturnal mood to it. Places and Spaces is very much a summer record, as the Mizell’s love for samba and Caribbean music shines and adds a very sunny and exotic quality to the album. “Change” kicks off with a sense of Carnival-esque excitement, then drops into a wonderfully funky Chuck Rainey bassline with Byrd soaring over the top. The strings are perfectly arranged, elegant but not over the top. This is a real peak time bomb, love it.

Taking the mood down a bit is “Wind Parade” (above) which is a soulful, languid track, perfect for lounging on the weekend or late night on the dancefloor. The track is pleasant and warm, and is a real pleasure to listen to. Opening up the flip, “Places and Spaces” is similar, but a bit on the sweet side. This is pre-quiet storm soul, and is basically some of the best stuff from that genre. Byrd hardly makes an appearance, but I’ve grown to trust the Mizells as much asthe man with the horn.

Ultimately though, this record can be summed up with “You and Music,” a masterful soul track that balances cheesiness with an abundance of human spirit and subtle funk. Kay Haith’s sweet vocals really carry the vibe, and help balance out Byrd’s remarkably unremarkable vocal talents. Not necessarily the greatest Byrd/Mizell jam, but certainly a damn good one. So glad to be able to put this on my shelf and in my crates.

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Yellowman – Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (Greensleeves, 1983)

PA! PA! PA! I flipped when I saw this real clean copy of this classic Dancehall bomb at Zia for the mad low price of $8. Goldenage Greensleeves dancehall records often fetch a pretty price, that is if the records ever turn up in LA at all. This was the diamond in the rough of the whole reggae/world/latin section in the store, but the score was very worth it.

Yellowman was one of the baddest of his day, revolutionizing the genre by making it raunchier, and branding a now familiar thuggish flair. His flow is fast and confident, with the ability to not only ride a groove, but to carry it.  His life has been riddled with strife, but it’s a beautiful thing to hear this man do what he does best.

Zungguzu” is one of the more famous dancehall songs, and it’s been sampled/voiced by everyone from 2Pac, Toyan, Beenieman, Blackstar, Junior MAFIA and quite a few more. The track is massive, especially as the Roots Radics band is incredibly groovy, keeping the riddims simple, but full of dynamic elements. And now is as a good as time as any to mention that the record sounds unbelievable, the mix is clear and the low end is pure subbass heaven. Yellowman is a straight up G, listening to his flow it’s easy to see not only the crossover and popularity of dancehall in NY hip hop of the late 80s, but the enduring influence of his vocal intonations and flow.

Tracks range from the more rocksteady sing-song vibe of “Good, Bad and the Ugly” to the harder, forward-looking dancehall style of “Friday Night Jamboree” (above), but overall the record is cohesive and full of bombs. Everytime I listen to the record I have a new favorite song, but as of this exact second it would be “Dem Sight the Boss,” which features a great contribution from Fathead whose lazy drawl and whine is a wonderful counterpoint to Yellowman’s flow. This is a great example of a slow song that has the ability to absolutely destroy a club – the bass looming and sweeping, ghostly organ and an easy chant to follow along to. Straight up G.

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Kassav’ – Love and Ka Dance (FM/Celluloid, 1979/1980s)

This is one of the better blind (deaf?) buys I’ve had in quite some time; I’d seen it a few times in the Caribbean section at Amoeba, but the laundry list of musicians kept me at a distance as I just assumed this was some typical imperialist culture vulture crap. But no, these guys (at least on this record) are the real deal. Parisian studio musicians applying elements of disco to more traditional music of the French Antilles. I fell in love with the music of Haiti a few years ago and have since amassed a sizable collection of francophone Caribbean music.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been inundated with records for the last month or so, and even though I’ve had this one since before Christmas, I only just put it on for the first time last week. The record struck me right away, the opener “Kassav'” (above) is a no-holds barred, no frills, disco stomper. The track features all the necessary qualities of my favorite Caribbean music: hypnotic rhythms, group vocals, fat basslines, funky horns and a deep sense of trance-like euphoria. At 10+ minutes the track is a rager and fortunately for us DJs, there is a nice little instrumental break in their, which flows into some absolutely mad percussion runs that beg to be played out.

Over on the flip, the rather pop-oriented “Nouvel” does well with salsa-indebted horns and P-funk leaning synth work, but the track is just a little too tame for my taste. The title track, “Love and Ka Dance” returns to disco and is really a huge treat. The track bumps along at midtempo, but the energy is carried with an Afrobeat influence in the horn lines and in the vocals. Lovely purchase.

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Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (TDE/Aftermath, 2012)

I don’t have to say shit about this record, you’ve heard it, you’ve read about it, danced to it, smoked to it, partied to it, listened to your non-rap friends talk about how amazing it is, and maybe even got naked to it. Yeah, it is the most cohesive, self-conscious, intelligent album-length narrative released in mainstream hip hop in quite some time. Yeah, it is the best hip hop record released in a while. But to me it’s a lot more than that.

The Chronic 2001 was the first CD I bought with lunch money I had saved (and for a fat middle schooler you know that’s a huge feat); I bought it the week it came out and I hid it from my strict parents. I snuck listens while my parents were at work or asleep. Only ever being to enjoy the record at full volume while on my headphones. 2001 was the first record I loved, the first record where I pored over liner notes, knew every word, knew the damn thing in and out. And for the few short years I had a car, the CD was more often than not testing the boundaries of the Camry’s bass range. So like most people with my affliction, I’ve been waiting for the fabled Detox for years (almost 14 to be exact) and with every delay, every setback, every new rumor about the album (“Shit, dog he’s working with the LA Phil!” or “Bishop Lamont gonna be his new Eminem!”) I held out hope, fueled by the rumors and blind desire.

Understandably, Dre has a big challenge to face up to, he’s been the backbone for the careers of NWA, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, the Game, 50 Cent and more, two milestone albums under his own name, as well as lending his production and/or voice to some of the most recognizable rap songs ever. It feels like there’s been a recent swell of artists coming out in defense of the often-marginalized rap producer – spreading a modern message of “give the drummer some.” And to be frank, even if it’s a track by Mike Will Made It or Just Blaze (guys who use tags), the producers behind some of rap/R&B’s biggest hits go under-appreciated by most listeners. Dr Dre is afforded a double edged sword of fame and name recognition that few other producers have ever had the pleasure of holding. I mean, what other producer could headline Coachella?

At this point in his career, why should he release an album under his own name when he’s still got a great ear for talent? If Detox were ever to come out, regardless of it’s objective quality, all scrutiny and criticism will have been magnified by years of waiting. It’s just smarter for Dre to executive produce, crafting masterpieces for other rappers. And get it straight, Good Kid is a masterpiece. Listening to this album, it’s miles away from Lamar’s Section 80; where 80 was juvenile and pretty unlistenable all the way through, Good Kid has that intangible quality of a classic to it. It sounds good, it feels good, it’s heavy with spirit and talent – but most importantly, Dre touched it. Unlike his Black Hippie cohorts whose debut full lengths have been good, but fairly unremarkable, this album is incredibly focused and primed for maximum accessibility.  Dre may not have made every beat (or even most), but you can sure as hell bet he cleaned up a lot of the Pro-Tools sessions, making sure each kick was hard and each string sample clean, making sure Kendrick’s flow sounded exactly how it needed to be. The diligence of Dre in the studio is widely documented, often taking the role of drill Sergeant, commanding all day voicing sessions. With a weaker man at the helm, nobody would be talking about how they’re sick of hearing Kendrick in the club, radio, your friend’s car or on Pitchfork. At the end of the day, Detox may never come out, but thankfully Good Kid did.

Picks 11/11/12

November 11, 2012 Leave a comment

I like to think about the geographical coverage that music has, about the routes it takes – how it seems to drop off influence like straying musicians on a long tour. This weeks picks cover a kind-of relationship between NY and the Caribbean, in that all the records were based out of NYC, but two of them bear cultural significance to the Caribbean, but wouldn’t  be the same without their NY musical counterparts.

Pulled from a trip to Bagatelle.

Chic –Chic (Atlantic, 1977)

I’ve gotta get something off my chest real quick: Disco was my first true love; I have incredibly fond memories of being a young kid and dancing in my room to Ray Rhodes DJing on Disco Saturday Night – bumping the boombox, just bugging out to all the funky grooves. Even when I discovered punk, and consequently became consumed in that world, I was still drawn to four-on-the-floor and fat basslines wherever I could find it. Consequently, my re-immersion in disco has been very nostalgic and extremely fulfilling. Looking back to the Disco Saturday Night show on KBIG, I realize that Chic, played a big part my favorite songs of that time, tracks that still hold up today. Listen to “Dance Dance Dance” (above), “He’s the Greatest Dancer” or “Le Freak” and feel how suggestive the 4/4 percussion and slinky bass grooves are, especially when paired with simple refrains and subtly uplifting arrangements that aim straight for the boogie-oriented parts of your body.

Chic was the group’s first album, and the beginning of a great run for Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. The group fused the groovy, urban funk and soul of NYC with the focused kick of European disco ala Cerrone; a match that resulted in a number of hits for both the band and the numerous A-listers they worked with (Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Debbie Harry). The band was flexible, funky, soulful, and with a sense of fun that quickly became the soundtrack to not just Studio 54, but dark clubs and aromatic backyard parties everywhere. This is clearly not disco by numbers, however, and the group uses innovative arrangements and unique instrumentation to accent their elegant vibe. The keyboard solo in “Dance Dance Dance” is a particular highlight for me, and must be included when played out.

For every ferocious floor-filler cut on the album, there lies a more gentle, jazzy, quiet storm tune with soft vocals, a warm subdued atmosphere and lots of velvety space. “Sao Paolo” has a strong bossa nova nod to it, and it allows space for the group to show off their chops while still keeping the mood up. The Luther Vandross featuring “You Can Get By,” is another highlight, which outside of the cheesy verses, predominately focuses on a groovy shuffle while the strings struggle to match the velvety voice of Vandross.

But ultimately, the reason why Nile Rodgers’ revival of Chic is not only still relevant, but powerful, is that this music has real timeless groove to it, their funk is earthy and human. The words are simple, they’re easy to sing along to, the bouncy rhythm is genre/culture-crossing – Chic’s brand of fun is universal. As they end the album with the late-night cut “Strike Up the Band“, the track’s refrain lets loose the secret to the band, “Strike up the band / Making music is our plan / Got to feel the rhythm if you can.”

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Scorpio – Scorpio (Geronimo, 1987)

I’ve been playing a lot of Hatian kompas in my sets recently, and it seems to be going over very well. It’s a style related to merengue, but the truly good stuff has some of the best aspects of psych-funk, afro-beat and disco. The acidic guitars and bleeding synths spin in hypnotic loops, the percussion charges forward in never-ending groove, call and response vocals propel the feet forward, and the bouncing rhythm commands you to float.

As with most island music, the albums are predominately calypso/soca-minded and thus often fall in the pitifully cheesy spectrum of the music world. In the case of this album, side A is an exceedingly jolly affair with lots of bright images of umbrellas in glasses and palm fronds.

Thankfully from the first moment of side B the listener is lured into the dance with a rumbling groove and haunting rhythm melody. “Min Yayade La DR” (above) is really strong, an incredibly adaptable dance track that has enough low end to be snuck into anywhere from an Afro-minded set to disco or house. Aside from a faulty synth solo, the eight minutes are pure sweaty pleasure. “Noel” is a bizarre Christmas track is pretty funky, nowhere near as strong as “Min Yayade,” but there are some really memorable horn lines, some tough vocals and an overall vibrant groove. Not a track I can see myself playing out too often, but hey, Christmas is coming up.

Frankly, this is one of the more exciting finds I’ve yet to pick up at Bagatelle. It’s not easy to find Hatian records out on the west coast, as much of the music landed and stayed in either New York, Miami or France. It’s on trips like this one that I feel vindicated in my habit.

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Admiral Tibet/Coco Tea – Reality Time/Lonesome Side (1987)

This was a really great find, two strong Jammy/Steely & Cleavie riddims voiced by two great vocalists. Steve picked up a big dancehall buy last year, but new stuff keeps getting put out in pieces and this is one of the new things that totally blew me away. When I first put it on, it was the Coco Tea side that made me bring it home, but once t hit my system at home, I was able to fully experience the heaviness of the “Reality Time” riddim.

As I often stress on this blog, there are records which need to be heard with the proper instruments; a quality soundsystem or good headphones are the only way to truly experience the range in tones made available by some music. That being said, listen to the “Reality Time (Version)” and turn up the bass, the way it kicks in the left channel is absolutely killer. It has depth and roll to it that dubstep producers today wish they could replicate. But this is old school, 1987, made in Jammy’s studio in New York with both dancehalls and whips in Flatbush and Kingston predominately on his mind. I can’t express to you how much I love this riddim, I would have to geek out about the chronology of musical advancement, of genre movements – as to how this video game-esque riddim, weighed by fat synthbass and three-note casio melody would influence the IDM/Warp movement. Truly fat riddim, I love the vibes on this. Pure meditation.

Coco Tea’s track, “Lonesome Side” is great too, and works in a different setting. It’s a shuffling lover’s track; sweeping low end gives the track an infectious swing to it and Tea’s voicing is really catchy and fun. This will be a great backyard party track once the weather warms up again. Big ups to the NY-Kingston-Long Beach connection.

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Donald Byrd – Love Byrd (Elektra, 1981)

Donald Byrd’s A New Perspective was the record that made me fall in love with jazz, and it still firmly stands as one of my favorite albums today. Like many jazz heads, I loved to hear Byrd working in his soulful post-bop mode, or doing his funky thing with the Mizzell Brothers and Blackbyrds. Thus his, (as well as most jazz players’) 80’s records went overlooked and flipped past an have become dollar bin staples. I demoted the time period to quiet storm waste, elevator muzak, or sad bebop revivals.

While playing a Mizzell-Byrd track a few months ago I had someone come up to me and talk to me about a Byrd-Isaac Hayes collaboration, a record that eluded the cheesiness of 80s jazz. It was this 1981 record, with the boring cover, that hid the unassuming funk of two legends of black American music.

Looking at reviews for this album across the internet is pretty funny, they are filled with negative declamations that Byrd is selling out, that this music is not jazz, etc – but they’re missing the point entirely. This album is a production of Isaac Hayes, it’s heavily reflective of his vision and he employs Donald Byrd’s voice into the mix in a way that accents Hayes’ soulful-funk. I had a discussion the other night while seeing some friends DJ, about that particular brand of music that is the essential Sunday morning housecleaning soundtrack, those records that are airy, vaguely romantic, yet upbeat and memorable. This record falls squarely on that mark. The soft groove of a track like “Feel Like Loving You Today,” is melodic and uplifting, the vocals vague, yet romantic. Throughout the album the group is a strong representation of the work Isaac Hayes is known for, even highlighting the use of his Hot Buttered Soul Unlimited quartet, so there are plenty of moments of saccharine cheesiness that ultimately keeps Hayes from being a more revered member of my record collection. Yet, being 1981, there is plenty of bounce and quiet storm shuffle, carried out in a way that does sometimes straddle the line of tastefulness, but ultimately results in funky feel-good music that feels similar to the work of Stevie Wonder.

What separates Donald Byrd from other jazz-turned-r&b artists in the early 80s, is that he keeps the late night vibe that has made him a favorite since day one. The melodies tend to remain subtle and the focus prevails on soulful vocal intonations or a funky instrumental, as seen on “Love Has Come Around.” This album may not be without its outdated flaws, but in moments like the heart-on-the-sleeve singing in “I Love You Love” (above) we realize that we’re not listening to a jazz album – this is a soul album; and if there’s one thing that Donald Byrd has, it’s plenty of soul.

Categories: 2012, dancehall, disco, fusion, Haiti

Picks 10/29/12

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Day late this week. You know I’m a diehard vinyl guy, but I do buy mp3s sometimes. Sorry if I disappoint. Also, my Amoeba pull was excellent, so I’m breaking it up – half now, half later.

– Pulled from a trip to Amoeba and an order from Boomkat.

Main Attrakionz – 808s and Dark Grapes II (Type, 2012)

A vital hip hop resurgence is currently in full effect, even to the degree of blogger minds declaring a second coming of the golden age. Main Attrakionz are highly representative of this “post-internet” hip hop movement that organically utilizes social media, drawing influences from every corner of the infinite span of fiber optic cable. The Oakland duo (wattup to the bay!) have emerged as one of the figureheads of the contemporary left-field low-fi hip hop movement and 808s is their brilliant calling card. To say that the release of this mixtape at the end of summer last year was well timed would be an understatement; the critical hype behind Clams Casino was frothing, A$AP Rocky’s first music videos had just dropped and Main Attrakionz tapped both artists for the standout track “Take 1.” But it wasn’t just that they tapped two hyped talents, it was that their own sound was comparable with the blunted headiness of Clams’ work, and their youngster street raps played the west coast parallel to A$AP’s Harlem tales.  Main Attrakionz were able to ride both waves to land at a place where a year later 808‘s is a more enduring work than either Instrumentals or LiveLoveA$AP.

It really took me a while to warm up to Main Attrakionz; the mixtape sounded too foreign from the hip hop I was used to. Squadda B’s voice and style are so different, I imagined the beats too subtle and I (naively) couldn’t locate any real bombs on here. But as every digger knows – there are records that you find, and then there are records that find you. I’ve learned to love the pulsing 808 hits, Squadda’s strained flow, and the thick smokey instrumentals. Tracks vary from mellow heady tracks like “Diamond of God” to real street bangers like “Nothin Gonna Change.” MondreMAN and Squadda aren’t the most impressive rappers in a Busta/Freddie Gibbs way, but they are dexterous in the way they ride the beat, melting words together or apart, lacing them with emotion and letting them linger for effect.

What I really dig most about this record is how fucking honest these lyrics are, there’s little posturing here, few gangster fantasies, no Scarface worship, and few uses of the word “bitch” or its synonyms. These two aren’t pretentious conscious rappers, but in their own way Squadda B and Mondre keep it real, keep it meek and are transparent in their love for the music. Maybe its because this is a street mixtape, maybe its because they were 19 when it was recorded, or maybe its because they’re a product of a generation that is trying to rise above the bullshit that has been mainstream rap for the last 15 years. Whatever it is, this is going to go down as one of the most important rap records released in this generation. Download it for free over at MISHKA – go ahead, they want you to. (And yes, they dropped a new record this week – it’s dope go buy it)

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Mahmoud Ahmed  – Alemye (Amha/Mississippi/Change, 1974/2012)

I first heard Mahmoud Ahmed on the 2008 Believer music issue CD and his track was an easy standout amongst the vibrant tracklist. There was something about the soulful delivery and the hauntingly penetrating music that really took hold of me. That compilation CD, but really that song in particular played a very important role in my life that summer. Among other things, it piqued my interest in African music, and thanks to an industrious roommate of mine, I pretty soon had a majority of the Ethiopiques compilation series. There is really nothing quite like the sound of “ethio-jazz,” a descriptor that can describe anything from northern soul, soulful ballads, funk bombs or dense groovy instrumental explorations. The only characteristic one can draw upon is that the music is dark, haunting, and unbelievably entrancing.

This is the third Mahmoud Ahmed vinyl reissue to come out in recent years and may be the best repress yet. Recorded in 1974, this album is buoyed by the unbelievable musicianship of the funky Ibex Band. The group is tight, and the members are highly capable of demonstrating their individual talents in nuggets of sound that are as rewarding as the star vocalist himself. On the wonderful rendition of the Ethiopian standard, “Tezeta,” the band stretches out  into a deep funk groove that burns slowly, moving forward in perpetual motion, drawing the listener into a hypnotic state. The recording has a very raw, low-fi feel to it, but if anything, the atmosphere and ambiance are further increased – giving these songs a further spiritual impact. Across the album Mahmoud Ahmed channels incantations and sermons, casting forth tales unknown by words, but understood by tone. Take a listen to the conviction in his voice on “Wogenie,” as he is accompanied by simmering organ, muted horn stabs, faint wah guitar, and thick throbs of bass.

The music moves in unison, engaging in unspoken dialog with Ahmed, a communion which makes the entire album feel like a deeply religious experience. It is that undeniable spirituality that draws me to the sound of Ethiopian music, and Mahmoud Ahmed is often the conduit. This classic sound has been enjoying quite a surge in popularity in recent years, having been sampled and reconstructed by artists from Gaslamp Killer to Nas to Ducktails. Thanks once again to Mississippi for the excellent reissue.

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Dre Skull – Loudspeaker Riddim (Mixpak, 2012)

To be perfectly honest, I basically bought this for the unbelievable Popcaan voicing above. The video has been on constant repeat since it came out, and it especially enjoys plays when I am drunk, attempting to youtube DJ at a friend’s house. I love the vibrant colors, the energy and posturing of the youths, while the tour of the streets of Jamaica is a wonderful match for Popcaan’s strong and focused social narrative.

The lyrics are representative of the classic reggae ghetto blues, opening with “Sad to say/White people ah bawl/Indian people ah bawl/Black people ah bawl” in order to right away reach out to the universal struggle that faces those who find themselves both poor and young in a world that is governed by those who are old and wealthy. It is a song of desperation, “Wey di system do fi ghetto yute? Nutten./Every day anodda madda bawl” but the singer also offers warm advice, “Suh ghetto yute don’t mek nuh silly plans/Believe in yourself be ah man.” The voicing is filled with emotion, and it is astoundingly evident that these are not just lyrics, but a real glimpse of Popcaan’s worldview.

It also helps that Dre Skull’s riddim is really great. The bass is warm, the snares sound bright and the synths reach upwards, giving the track a larger than life quality to it. As evidenced by Beenie Man’s “Hot Like Fire” voicing, it lends itself both to a focused narrative as well as being a fucking banger. Dre Skull is on the cusp of stadium sized top-40 hits as he masterfully crafts tracks that are energetic and modern, yet are not dumbed down, populist beat-by-numbers dance tracks. He’s already worked with some of the biggest names in dancehall (Sizzla, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel), and recently worked on Snoop Lion’s album, and I don’t expect him to back down anytime soon.

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Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973)

I first bought a copy of this album when I was 18 or 19 and not really familiar with jazz at all. I probably listened to it a few times, grooved to “Chameleon” and then relegated it to some dark corner of my collection. I eventually sold it in a big purge and for years now I’ve been meaning to pick up another copy.

Listening to “Chameleon” now, I’m completely blown away by how advanced this track is. That bass is so thick and funky, Harvey Mason’s drumming is supertight and the recording is so clear and vibrant. It’s really amazing to me that a track this deep was recorded in 1973 as it is a huge precursor to jazz-funk, boogie, and deep house. Hancock is absolutely prime on this track as he switches between clavinet, rhodes and a then brand new Arp Odyssey; and playing them each in a way that truly fits the sound of the instrument. A truly massive track that still works in almost any context today. iI it doesn’t make your head bob, your feet tap or your hips grind, then you obviously are not listening to the song.

The rest of the album pares down the boogie and is more straight-forward jazz based. Paul Jackson is funky as hell and Harvey Mason seals in the pocket. All of the songs have a deep groove and an explicit sense of adventure and cosmic exploration. The beer bottle whistle on “Watermelon Man” is just as iconic as the album cover, and this type of sound exploration is truly one of the elements that separates Herbie Hancock from his peers. He reaches for tones, arrangements, instruments, and moods not yet conjured by other jazz players. This record is one of the most pivotal in all jazz and is a clear highlight in the often-brilliant catalog of Herbie Hancock. I believe there is a repress out now, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to track down a copy of this classic.
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Disco – D – Dance Tracs (Alleviated, 1986/2012)

I’m a big Larry Heard fan, and as far as the Chicago scene is concerned, I don’t think there are any other producers in 80s that could match Heard’s soulful machine funk. His tracks always had a very warm human quality to them, and little of his catalog can be deemed as tired or cheesy, unlike a lot of his Chi-city peers. His synth tones are warm, thick and spacey, with neat rolling melodies that are too subtle to be hummable, but are masterful in keeping a solid groove.

Dance Tracs is Larry Heard’s second release and is one his most rare, so it is nice to see it get a reissue. Listening to it now, over 25 years since its release, I can’t help but think about how the dancers connected to this music when they were getting buck in the club/warehouse/community center. I can imagine DJs starting a night off with some Prince, George Clinton, Kraftwerk, Egyptian Lover, but what did the crowd think when they heard the repetitive melody and sharp claps of Larry Heard’s quite unQuincylike “Beat It“? This is music with subtle overtones, tracks that are long and repetitive, rhythmic and trance-inducing – aka exactly what I want to be dancing to when I need to escape the pressures of the outside world.

The B-side (the A on the original issue) is three tight and funky rhythm tracks. No keys, all drum machine. In Larry Heard’s RBMA lecture he talks about his history as a drummer but also his extensive practice creating patterns on drum machines. This talent really shines on these tracks. Any of them would still work today, as the kick is hard, the hi-hats crisp, yet splashy and the claps primed for climax. Overall, this is an essential piece of Chicago House history by the one of the masters of the genre. Dance.

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DJ Spinn – What You Need (Lit City Trax, 2012)

In my experience, footwork tends to be a very divisive genre. The music is hyper, noisy, and as in your face as possible. Like most everyone else, I was obsessed with footwork battle videos before I got really into the music. The move was gradual, but I clearly remember the revelatory turning point when I caught another DJ at a party dropping a really great footwork set. And really, the music is not for everyone – it is very seriously intended for dancers and most tracks are made solely to throw down at battles,  never to be released.

That being said, the footwork scene has come into its own since Planet Mu issued the first Bangs and Works compilation two years ago. A few of the compilation’s standouts, DJ Rashad, DJ Spinn, and Traxman have pooled together to start the Teklife collective and Lit City label with the purpose of educating those outside of Chicago about how the South Side gets down. Spinn’s What You Need is the label’s second release and demonstrates the elder’s take on the style. Spinn shows that footwork is a way of life, not a rigid set of musical rules, and really draws widee influences from trap, baltimore house, 70’s soul, and of course, classic juke/ghetto. Where Rashad is really an innovative producer who is taking rhythm and tonal explorations to an almost academic level, Spinn acts as his foil, and often offers more straight forward and focused on tracks that are fun, functional and relatively “normal” sounding.

The record opens up with “She Turnt Up” (above) and Spinn lays his cards out with that unstoppable hip hop banger voiced by the teknitian himself.  It bounces at midtempo with hazy synths adding a thick atmosphere as the subs rumble and skip, while trap snares crack, allowing the smooth vocals to ride the groove into its catchy hook. To date I don’t see any footwork track having as much crossover potential as this party anthem. That vibe stays strong on the album, as Spinn gives a nod to classic ghetto house in his liberal use of sampling party kings like E-40, 2 Chainz, and 2 Live Crew. Sometimes his use of other artists is less a sample and really more of a remix, such as the stunning “Mercy” (the original will never sound the same again), or the subheavy refix of the Weeknd’s “What You Need.” The peculiarity of footwork – and particularly Spinn’s vision of it – is especially present on that track, as it has a smokey lightness weighed down by massive “rubbing”  subbass (listen to it on good headphones and you’ll see what I mean),  and skittering hi-hats with vocal samples that stutter and skip to the brink of annoyance, but then release into either a massive bomb or s laidback groove. And that’s the deal with Spinn’s record – as heard on “Do My Dance” – even when he drops a club banger, lean-back twerk track, the synth tones are almost too high pitched, the snares splinter a little too harshly, yet the groove remains undoubtedly alluring, and no doubt in a way that puts the dancer’s feet first.

Picks 10/21/12

October 21, 2012 Leave a comment

It had been a quiet week, but just as I was about go out and play a party a bunch of records fell in my lap. Digger’s luck.

– Pulled from a trip to Bagatelle (yo Steve!) and an order from Chemical Records.

James Mason – I Want Your Love (Rush Hour, 1984/2012) – Pick!

To any self respecting beat-head/record-nerd/true-dj/jazz-nut, the name James Mason will prick up ears and get digging fingers twitching. Mason’s jazz-funk (if you can even call it that) masterpiece Rhythm of Life is one of those records that when you find it, you will carry it to your grave. His amalgam of street funk, functional disco, and deep r&b with the sophistication and chops of a veteran jazzman is really unparalleled. Roy Ayers, Lonnie Liston Smith, Stevie Wonder, and Herbie Hancock are comparisons that you can reference, but they do little to reveal the singular vision of Mason’s work.

With that intro out of the way, it pains me to acknowledge the fact that I’ve put off buying this record for about 9 months now. Rush Hour did the universe a great service to reissue Mason’s other (lesser known) classic, I Want Your Love. Recorded as a label demo in 1984, the tracks collected dust until being reissued in ’96 and again in 2000 (both fetch quite a bit online nowadays). Here they are reissued along with an extended cut of “Nightgruv,” which offers an extra two minutes of hypnotic deep funk. The track is VERY Chicago sounding, and whether it was an influence upon the work of Virgo or Larry Heard is unknown but it could easily be mistaken for either of those godfathers of Chicago house. My pick is the title track, and at almost 10 minutes it moves slowly, gracefully, and ever so soulfully. The vocal is really wonderful, but DJs everywhere will love the instrumental section just past it where the guitar picking sparkles, the synths drip like molasses, and the congas dance as the vocals eventually creep back into the speakers with unbelievable anticipation and intensity. Fucking brilliant. Buy the vinyl immediately.

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Sade – Promise (CBS, 1985)
If you’ve spent any time with me recently you’ll know I’m obsessed with Sade right now. Like, wish I was 25 in ’85 so I can line up outside waiting for the latest record or concert ticket, but creepier yet, wait her to pop out of the studio so I can ask her to marry me. Mad obsessed. This is Sade’s second album, and is very much in the vein of Diamond Life. The tracks are post-Quiet Storm slow groovers with ample funky bass lines, organic percussion, elegantly restrained vocals, and an opaque bedroom sensibility. Tracks like “Never as Good as the First Time” or the track above would easily work for a lot of DJs and dancers, whereas songs like “Tar Baby” and “Mr. Wrong” are appropriately sensual and soulful, while remaining unique and fresh. For years I ignored the siren song of Sade, cluelessly satisfied with lumping the group into the smooth jazz category, but when you stop judging and start listening – this is when you start living.
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UBQ Project ft Kathy Summers – Volume II (House-N-Effect, 1991)
I walked into Bagatelle yesterday looking to quickly pick up a few gay-friendly cuts for a party and Steve pointed me to a fresh box of house 12s. A couple of weeks ago I logged about 20 hours within the span of a week going through a buy Steve had just put out, so I was really surprised when he said he something new. Most of the stuff I had, or didn’t care about but this is one of the few things I pulled for closer inspection. “When I Fell in Love” blew me away immediately. This is a deep deep DEEP jackin house track with a great subtle vocal. I really love the atmosphere, the synth tones, the vocals, the drum sounds… I really love this track. This style is being aped hard right now by a lot of modern house producers, and it actually reminds me a lot of Maya Jane Coles’ vocal work. The other pick on here is “Feel My Soul (Soulful Mix)” which has a wonderful rolling bass line, soulful ivories and a sweet smokey haze over everything. I also really love the execution of the percussion on this track; the claps hit hard, the hi hat drives me nuts, and the congas are played by a real live human. This is real house music y’all, no Haddaway bullshit here.
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N (Noir) – Lucy in the Sky With Pearls/VoxDub (Exploited/Black Jukebox, 2012)
Bigbigbig! I’m really happy I came across this tune, at first I was all about the vocal, but once I got the actual record I realized it is ALL about the dub. This is the kind of track that will start a party anywhere, anytime. It’s a really fun jackin R&B infused, Lucy Pearl sampling, throwback track with a bright tone, toe-tap percussion and plenty of sing-along hooks. “I wanna dance tonight/I wanna toast tonight/I’ll spend my money tonight/I wanna get freaky tonight.” Enough said.
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Gerry Read – All By Myself/What A Mess (4th Wave, 2011)
Gerry Read is a young cat from England making really thick, gritty, soulful house music in the style of Theo Parrish. In fact, I’m sure Read has a picture of the Three Chairs above his bed. Regardless, for fans of analog house bathed in reverb and filtered to a crunch will love all of Gerry Read’s output for the 4th Wave record label. He has this unquantifiable characteristic to his music that is supremely organic and human; it is flawed and it is messy, but is soulful and perhaps spiritual. “All By Myself” is the jam for me on here, it is dark and moody with a really great vocal, but properly functional despite all the grit to it. Please note that Read records live, punching in drum patterns, piano lines, vocals – he makes mistakes and keeps them in. This record is one of those things that I know is not for everybody (and in fact, probably not for many), but it hits just right and has really made an impression on me.
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Sade – Paradise (CBS, 1988)
Deep rumbling bass, funky bongos, thick atmosphere and Sade’s incredible voice. Extended 12″ mix for the win. Oh and how adorable does she look on the cover?
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Beenie Man – Turn Around/Version (Fat Eyes, 1995)
**PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN TO ON YOUR LAPTOP. GET HEADPHONES/SPEAKERS** I am very new to digital dancehall. I literally picked up my first 45 this year. I was always turned off by the cheap/cheesy sounds and seriously, “Sleng Teng” is really hard to wrap your head around the first time you hear it. With the help of Vybz Kartel/Dre Skull and the amazing David Rodigan RBMA Lecture, I finally began to understand the vibes. I searched around online for a long time trying to find the dub of this sub-par Beenie Man voicing, because really for me this 45 is ALL about the riddim. The riddim is quirky, with kinda 70s horror movie cheesy sounds, but carried by this madd sense of dread all over it. The subs really rumble here in that rolling ragga sort of way. I ripped the audio from my copy and uploaded it to my soundcloud for y’all. Who knows how long it’ll stay up, but download it and enjoy. And again, please don’t listen to this on your laptop, it really wont make any sense at all to you.

Picks 10/14/2012

October 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Spent most of my time dancing this weekend, I only have a few picks for y’all this time around.

Pulled from a trip to Fingerprints.

Earth Roots and Water – Innocent Youths (LITA/Summer, 2008/1977) – Pick of the Week!

I had no idea what I was getting into with this one, but I am so glad I took the chance. Heavy dub roots vibes out of Toronto on this excellent reissue from Light in the Attic. Typical of LITA reissues, the liner notes are thorough and give some great background information about the Toronto reggae scene in the mid 70s. But really, the record could be a white label in a plain sleeve and this would still be one of my favorite recent grabs. I really have to drive home that this record is all heavy vibes, with a dark and funky focus that reminds me of some of the records Augustus Pablo was recording at King Tubby’s or maybe some of Keith Hudson’s work. Listen to the eerie synth and mourning melodica on “Tribulations” or the scorching guitar and demonic mixing on the track above and its easy to see that this music did not come out of the same scene as on the island. This is a really strong low fi burner, the bass is deep and the drummer is on point with pretty much every track perfect for hanging out on a porch or for a dance out in the yard.

Don Cherry – Where is Brooklyn? (Blue Note, 1967)

I don’t listen to much free/avant garde jazz (although I do buy a lot of it…) but Don Cherry is just one of those guys who has a really great vibe, He rarely gets into ear-drill territory, keeping his work and groups into a very soulful form of expression. I picked this up for two reason; 1) This record features Pharoah Sanders in a piano-less quartet after the style of Ornette Coleman and 2) This is a first pressing in great condition, and it’s always nice to know I paid a lot less than its going rate. It deserves a mention that aside from the excellent work from Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders, Henry Grimes on bass is wonderful to listen to. A very solid record, the group has a good energy and as you can hear in standout “Unite,” they reach into far out space but they manage to keep the music very interesting and engaging. Ornette Coleman’s write up on the back cover is pretty amazing too: “… if you question the meaning and placement of this music in your life living, then you have been baptized, if the music doesn’t cause you to question its meaning, and placement in your life don’t blame Cherry, Blackwell, Pharoah, and Henry.”

The Mighty Diamonds – The Roots is There (Shanachie, 1982)

Chune! Off the bat, let’s talk about Sly and Robbie. The most famous rhythm section in reggae (maybe all music?) are absolutely on point here. Recorded at Channel One and mixed at Tuff Gong, the sound quality is really strong here, with the bass sounding deep and syrupy while Sly sounds crisp and funky. Any record (of their 200,000 recordings) by this duo always demands a listen. This album is a mix of kinda cheesy roots tracks and a few deep tracks like the jam above or “The Roots is There.” The Mighty Diamonds are one of the first reggae acts that I fell in love with and subsequently ignited my interest in the music and culture. It’s easy to see the attraction of the group as Tabby Shaw really has a beautiful voice and the boys bring soulful Philly inspired harmonies tune after tune. As far as the canon is concerned, this record is not essential, but it is a really solid release. The production is fat and clean and the deep cuts on here have a lot of kick to them. Can’t wait to play this out on Thursday @ Molaa for the return of En La Noche!

Woody Shaw – The Moontrane (Muse, 1975)

Woody Shaw is one of the players whose 1970s, fairly straightforward hard bop I tend to pick up without discretion. The man is an incredible trumpet player who maintains a consistent element of soul in his playing. When I checked out the players + date on the back cover I was immediately beaming. Azar Lawrence (whose wonderful Bridge into the New Age I wrote about a couple of years ago) and Cecil McBee feature alongside a bigger group with two percussion players. As heard in the incredible “Sanyas” above, the group has beautiful energy – always together, and always propelling the groove forward. It’s worth to mention that this record precedes Shaw and Lawrence’s appearance on Harry Whitaker’s masterpiece, Black Renaissance. Although The Moontrane doesn’t quite get as spiritually funky as Whitaker, the playing is really strong and is a worthwhile engaging listen. Let’s see if I can squeeze “Sanyas” into a future set.

Categories: 2012, dancehall, jazz, reggae

Picks of the week 10/7/12

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been needing to get back into writing and I feel a little guilty about my record habit these days. so I figured I’d offer some words. Every week I’ll pull records that really did it for me, the records that really make me happy that I’m a digger. Old and new, from jazz to cumbia to house to genres too new for names – here’s to new beginnings.

Pulled from a trip to Amoeba and an order from Chemical Records.

Nas – Life is Good (Def Jam, 2012.)Yo! Pick of the Week!

If at any given time you ask me what my favorite album of all time is, without hesitation the answer will be either A Love Supreme or Illmatic. And that’s really the deal with Nas; although wayward since the mid 90s, he has that intangible ability to transcend the medium and connect on a spiritual level. The man has conviction in his voice, and whether he is offering a tmi confessional on a track like “Daughters” or talking tough hood tales on “No Introduction,” Nas sounds relevant and hungry, just like he did back in the day. Aside from the reinvigorated Nas, the production on this record also embodies the updated take on gritty NY tracks of the golden age. Defiantly not settling into trap tropes, drug hymns, or cloud aesthetics, Salaam Remi and No ID assert their vision of classic NY hip hop instrumentals with mafioso strings, dusty drums, and forlorn soul samples. Almost every track features live instrumentation, from clarinet to drums to a full orchestra section, creating an earthy vibe that parallel’s the humanity in Nas’ voice.

KW Griff – Bring in the Katz (ft. Pork Chop) b/w L-Vis 1990 Dub (Night Slugs, 2012)

This track is absolutely huge. A pretty minimal track with huge subs and swagger that do little to betray the streets of Baltimore. Although almost 15 years old, this record is just as heavy today with its few elements creating an incredible swell of tension. It’s literally sub, clap, monotone synth tone, a dusty break and… well, fucking Pork Chop. Chop is unbelievable, this guy absolutely dominates, taking center stage and acting as a ring leader for Griff’s booty bass party. Yo, and do I have to mention his shoutout to Big L? I’ve been salivating over this track ever since it showed up in a few mixes over the summer and I’m happy to finally have it. Close runner up to pick of the week.

Vybz Kartel – Kingston Story: Deluxe Edition (Mixpak/Vice, 2012)

To start, this has been my hype music as I get ready to go out for the past few months. Rude, raunchy, seeped in autotune and loaded with trunk rattle, this is still totally different from what we’re used to hearing on American Radio. At first listen I didn’t get it, the vocals were autotuned deep into the red and the beats were stadium ready – not my typical fare. But the riddims called to me, Dre Skull hits hard and swings low. This is dancehall for 2012, simple and effective, subheavy low end and instrumentation to compliment the vocalist. But for being simple, Dre Skull really has a talent for production, whether its crafting P.Diddy action movie club tracks (“Go Go Wine“), g-funked Stepper’s tracks (“Money“) or sneaking a little extra hype to a Vybz-minded Lover’s track (“Half on a Baby“). Like all Dancehall before it, the music is all about the swagger of the riddims, the voicings come second and it’s up to the vocalist to propel the hype – to take the party and the dancers further. It’s not possible to go through more than a couple of tracks of this album without some freak dancing going on, trust.

Joe – MB b/w Studio Power On (Hemlock, 2012)

This funky little track starts off a lot like a 70s European jazzfunk groove – simple electric keyboard groove, funky guitar picking, and out of the way and in the pocket drumming. And then the bass line comes in. This is a fat, full, throbbing bassline from the oh so present. You really need to hear this on vinyl and nice speakers to get the full experience. “MB” could’ve been made by any of the great jazz influenced Detroit guys (Theo, Andres, KDJ) making dance tracks today, but it was made by some weirdo out of the UK. Seriously, THAT BASS. Also, check out Joe’s unbelievable remix of Scuba’s “So You Think You’re Special” from a while back.

L-Vis 1990 – Forever You (ft. Shadz) b/w Reprise (Night Slugs, 2010)

I heard this track on a mix a while back and I finally got around to picking it up. I’m not really big into vocal tracks, but Shadz has a really wonderful voice and excellent delivery. L-Vis 1990’s production is a perfect match to the soulful vocals, balancing the beautiful divide between melancholy and jubilant. This track is simply fresh and fun. It’s a really versatile mid-tempo funky house groove, expect to hear me play it out quite often.

Trackman Lafonte & Bonquiqui – Pacific House (L.I.E.S., 2012)

Simply wonderful analog house and techno. “Pacific House” is the huge jam on here, it perfectly embodies the tongue-in-cheek “surfer house” genre with its warm summery synth lines and playful vocal samples. This is real deal, Cali vibes boombox dance music. Perfect for a backyard party, skate park sesh or spliff on the porch – this 12″ is a big win. Don’t get it twisted, the silly monikers only add to the goofy vibes that producers Legowelt and Xosar are dealing in. Both producers craft marvelous retro-leaning/forward-facing analog house and techno like only few effectively do. Apparently this project was born out of the challenge to create music with third-rate Casio keyboards, I say give me more.

Categories: 2012, dancehall, hip hop, House