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Picks – May 5th, 2013

May 5, 2013 Leave a comment

Bleh, another week. I have stacks and stacks of records I want to write about. I wonder how many I’ll actually get through. Next week we have TIME2MOVE at the Que Sera in Long Beach. Special guests FRANKI CHAN (iheartcomix) and the NATIVES (live). It’s my mans Valdez bday. Big up my bruh.

– Plucked from the nooks and crannies of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Resident Advisor.

Kenny Dope Unreleased Project – Pushin Dope (TNT, 1994)

The label reads: “Respect to A Tribe Called Quest and Wutang Clan.” Instantly I knew I had to buy this. Kenny Dope is well known for his role in Masters at Work and Nuyorican Soul, and he’s also had plenty of time of rack up his own solo credentials. Through some of his responses on the MAW RBMA interview I attributed the dancehall/hip hop influence of the MAW productions to him. Masters at Work are typically buy-on-sight records, so seeing Kenny shout out Wutang filled me with uneasy excitement all the way home.

As the needle drops, the record opens up with “That Gangsta Shit,” a dark, slamming hip hop track perfectly suited for the Wu. Centered around a Cypress Hill sample, and what I assume to be one of the earliest Mulatu samples on record, the track has a hook that is both aggressive and hypnotic. I really love the Mulatu lift, but the second half of the track seems to meander a bit, with that vocal sample incessantly repeating.

Dialing back the testosterone, “Get on Down” (above) is the prize of the bunch. Rather simple, it’s carried by a vocal refrain over lilting piano chords and an airy break, but the warmth of analog gear and a gentle swing yield a beautiful groove. It’s one of those tracks where everything has just lined up perfectly to create an ideal aesthetic and sound. “Inside” shares a similar aesthetic, but picks up the pace which gives the track a wonderfully druggy take on a skate jam. A track that I wish would last minutes longer.

At its best, the depth of human emotion drawn through dusty samples in combination with Kenny Dope’s excellent sense of groove bring to mind the work of DJ Premier or Andres. At its worst, these are good golden era hip hop beats. Big win.

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Urban Tribe – The Collapse of Modern Culture (Mo Wax, 1998)

Detroit’s Sherard Ingram has been making music for a long time, first receiving acclaim in the 90s as Urban Tribe, and nowadays as DJ Stingray. DJ Stingray records are usually too in-your-face for my taste, but I have a big soft spot for Urban Tribe. Although the brainchild and vision of Ingram, Urban Tribe was known as a collaborative effort that included Kenny Dixon Jr, Carl Craig and Shake Shakir. Looking at the record in the store, it was actually KDJ that caught my attention before anything, as my copy has a very faded almost illegible cover, and when I flipped it over to the back the word “moodymann” struck me in the face. Quickly realizing this was the first Urban Tribe LP I pulled out the vinyl to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Kinda dirty, but it’d have to do. Not everyday you come across a record this deep.

Although coming from some of the most important names of second wave Detroit Techno, this record is a sublime example of Mo Wax’s blend of experimental hip hop. That influence really comes into play sonically, as the “futuristic” sound palette of techno is the mainstay here, with blocky synths and pixelated drum breaks making up the overarching characteristic of the music. The drum sounds are most intriguing, as airy 909 kicks tend to center things, but the snares and hi-hats are all crunchy metallic objects, brittle yet funky. Album standout “Peacemakers,” (above) is an excellent example of this style, blending lush electronics, a funky electro keyboard motif and a sweet soulful vocal sample that gives the track a really calming, yet vibrant quality to it. By Speaking in the language of techno, taking a lower tempo and working with a hip-hop rhythmic structure, Ingram foreshadows the work of beat scene cats like Daedalus, Flying Lotus, or even someone like Dabrye. Such premonitions are also seen in a track like “Sophistry” with its heavy swagger and filtered atmospherics, still sounding fresh 15 years later.

The influence of dub/dancehall is heavily present as well, as deep subfrequencies form the base of almost every track. Basslines come through and wind, groove, and heave with a slow funk. On a track like “Low Berth,” a crackling halftime break anchors the groove, while a fat writhing bass line is taken right out of the Robbie Shakespeare playbook. Spacey electronics helmed by both Carl Craig and Ingram move through the track, effectively completing the futuristic dub vision of Scientist.  It’s a wonderful sounding record, a bit heady, but I think it’ll see a lot of play on those lazy summer afternoons.

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Dense & Pika – Resident Advisor Podcast: RA353 (Resident Advisor, 2013)

I’m not particularly a fan of techno, although I do dig on the Detroit stuff and other things here and there, but it’s not really on my radar. This mix is billed as a “warehouse techno mix” and although it’s not something I would have checked out on description alone, I wanted to look into it because I always dig the Dense & Pika tracks that end up on other DJs mixes. To preface, this mix has been out for exactly two months now and the only reason I’m writing about it is because I have listened to it almost every day of those two months.

On two turntables, a 909 and Ableton for samples, the duo craft a mix that evenly spreads out its loves and influences, mixing Detroit techno with ghetto house, jungle with techno, acid with electro. Running through about 60 tracks in just as much time, they keep the groove focused, but constantly moving and growing. Snippets of a phantom vocal will pop in for just a few seconds before its gone, percussion will dip in and out, songs come and go, but the rhythm stays steady and new exciting elements are always coming forward. An early banger is one of their own productions, the stomping “Move Your Body Back” and it hits really hard, but also helps set the dark, spacey tone for the whole project. My favorite part of the mix is about halfway through when they mix out of James Ruskin’s “Indirect World” and into Drexciya’s “Birth of New Life.” With Ruskin, they had taken a break from chugging drum machines and began to explore atmosphere, with Drexciya’s otherworldly melodies eventually flowering and coming to the forefront.

What I view to be the real success is ultimately the human quality to both the mixing and track selection. There are a lot of vocals to provide a human element, but more importantly, there are a load of tracks that are purely visceral, conjuring up the words slinky and sensual. Particularly excellent is this “Sweat on the Walls – Clone” thing into DJ Deeon’s “Fuck for Free,” as the energy moves from fairly sadistic into goofy and playful. The inclusion of Special Request’s Lana Del Rey remix is a great thing because I really love that track. This mix pushed me to go out and pick up the 12″. I love this mix; I dance to it, it gets me through long days at work, I’m listening to it right now at 10am smoking weed. Big ups.

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Wiley – Wot Do U Call It? (XL, 2004)

This is frankly one of the most important records to come out of the grime scene; a hugely influential beat by the master Wiley. Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the vocal version, but the instrumental is really incredible. That string sample, the bass rubs, the wacked out woodblock, the overall energy of the track. Pure bliss. Eski-beat has been making somewhat of a return during this grime resurgence, as heard on the recent all Wiley mix by Royal-T. The sound really is incredible, and so unique. Too bad a lot of the early Wiley 12″s are fairly expensive.

Categories: 2004, 2013, detroit, hip hop, LDN, mix, NY Tags: , ,