Monthly Archives: September 2009


More mash-up mayhem from the master of mixer. I know he made them on his laptop but that would have spoilt my run of ‘m’s wouldn’t it? Plus I’ve no doubt that Plymouth’s 14th best DJ could recreate these as blends on the wheels of steel one-handed whilst doing the Times crossword with the other and tossing pancakes with his feet. Tonight’s the one – chilled mid-tempo soulful breaks and (I never thought I’d say ever say this), a nice bit of Randy Crawford.
(PRESS RELEASE) The new installment of the Bastard Jazz off-the-record 12″ series, BSTRD Boots, is out now. This one comes from Plymouth’s 14th best DJ – the one Mr. Aldo Vanucci, who himself has remixed and produced for labels such as Catskills, Sunday Best, Rebtuz, Av8, Funk Weapons and more over the last few years. On BSTRD Boots #9, Aldo delivers four diverse beauties that are sure to make this 12″ a mainstay in the bag. Things kick off with “Es Simplemente El Robo” – an uptempo breakbeat heavy re-working of Roborto Roenea’s killer post-boogaloo Latin cut “Que Se Sepa” – watch out for the Latin disco morphology halfway through! Next up is “Tonight” – hip-hop breaks for days with a seriously sticky sourcing of Randy Crawford. On the B-side; Aldo mines mid 90s house cut “Head On” by Ultra Boogie, flipping it into absolutely MASSIVE disco boogie territory. Things finish off on an idyllic note with a pleasantly chopped and skewed Starlight Vocal Band sample and dusty breaks that make up “Aldo’s Delight”… delightful indeed.
Out now on Bastard Jazz

Listen to Aldo Vanucci – BSTRD Boots 9

Aldo Vanucci – Myspace

EYEDEA & ABILITIES: By The Throat – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

It says here that these two are, ‘a duo thoroughly steeped in hip-hop accolades’ – which is ironic really because they sound like a duo thoroughly steeped in shit American rock. It turns out it’s been five years since Eyedea & Abilities last troubled people’s ears – personally, I could have handled a full decade. Ironically (again) a full ten years would almost bring us to the inevitable nu-metal revival which should be due somewhere around 2017. Not that that would have made any difference. I’d still have given this both barrels. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have anything against rock, American or otherwise. If it’s good. But when is ‘Nu’-metal good? And this owes nothing if not a massive debt to nu-metal. Honestly – of all the conceptual creditors you could have. And let’s face it – the place where rock-rap crosses over is full of ugly train-wrecks – Fred Durst trying to rap, Korn (in general) and Linkin Park. Then, if you’re travelling from the other direction there’s Mos Def’s Black Jack Johnson project and now By The Throat. Ok, this might not be quite as heavy as your average nu-metal LP but the guitars on Junk or Factory would certainly give lightweights like Incubus a run for their money. Then again, place this next to your average hip-hop LP and you’ll have trouble finding any common ground. Time Flies When You Have A Gun is the closest thing to hip-hop on here and it’s kind of like Aesop Rock after a pint of Red Bull – heavy, fuzzy, staccato beats and one eye on the rock audience. Alright, Abilities has been more inventive with the beats – and it’s true that the aforementioned Junk employs a drum n bass rhythm – but then I seem to remember Slipknot doing that some time ago.

If you’ve heard previous LPs you’ll know that Eyedea’s rapping is both unusual and that he has a phenomenal turn of speed when he wants. But why bother with what you’re good at when you can deliver the whiny vocals of some third rate copy of a Linkin Park covers band? And did I mention the lyrics. Almost as if trying to pre-empt critical response to By The Throat Eyedea presciently opens Hayfever with the words “I’m not shit,” a statement which, as a defence, has all the effectiveness of wiping your arse with a rizla. And (much as you wish he wouldn’t) he continues, “ I’m champagne, let’s all go home kill ourselves and our radios.” I’ve got an issue with the first part of that. Upon hearing it on this first track I felt sure this was some kind of post-modern ironic joke and we’d be back to hip-hop directly – albeit quirky Eyedea & Abilities style hip-hop. How wrong I was. They were still banging on in this vein some thirty minutes later in the final title track – fuzzy beats, fuzzy-feedback-fuelled guitars and dogged belief that sixth-form lyrics are the best way forward, “No anchor to the past. Cut the blood supply and hope the heart beats itself to death.” Indeed. On the plus side, the album is only half an hour long, though be prepared for it to seem much, much longer.
I will put in a good word for Spin Cycle because it’s the LP’s one saving grace with a strong melody and I would have liked it when I was fifteen. Coincidentally it is to fifteen year olds that I suspect this will largely appeal.
Five years is a long fucking time. On the evidence of this Eyedea and Abilities spent the time listening trying to make themselves sound like a cross between Incubus and Limp Bizkit with a dash of early Def Jux. Some might argue they could have occupied their time more wisely.
(Out on Rhymesayers, 12 October)

Eyedea & Abilities – Myspace

EYEDEA & ABILITIES: By The Throat LP Update + ‘Junk’

Eyedea & Abilities – back once again like the renegade masters. Or something. Video for LP track Junk below:
(PRESS RELEASE) Eyedea & Abilities release their first album in five years on 12 October via Rhymesayers. A duo thoroughly steeped in hip-hop accolades, the Minnesota-based duo Eyedea and Abilities have returned with their brand new album “By The Throat”, out on Rhymesayers Entertainment (home to Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S et al).
Their first album since the breakout 2004 release “E&A”, “By The Throat”’s songs range from intensely personal topics to the more esoteric (quantum mechanics). The end result is leaps and bounds beyond what MC Eyedea is perhaps best known for, his prowess as a battle rapper (winner of HBO’s Blaze Battle, Scribble Jam and several others).
DJ Abilities, also a well-known battle vet and contributor to El-P’s now-classic “Fantastic Damage”, adds heavily to the sonic soundscape of this album, which advances beyond boom-bap hip-hop into rock-fueled guitar riffs, gritty production and melodic songwriting.
Eyedea and Abilities were instrumental in the wave of independent hip-hop that includes Atmosphere, El-P, Aesop Rock, Living Legends and several other seminal acts and “By The Throat” is their most progressive and refined effort to date.

Eyedea & Abilities – Myspace

J STAR: Regulate Rock/ S.O.L.D.I.E.R. – 2009 – 7” review

Rating: ★★★★★

Has everyone who’s made anything good this year just saved it up to be released in September? I know the summer’s festival season isn’t the best time to put out your wares and in any case – anyone who might be releasing something is usually off their tits in a field somewhere, but this September has been mental. By the way, anyone who thinks the monkey’s been over-generous with the old five stars can rest assured there’s a stinker or two coming up in a short minute. But before that – back to this, which illustrates perfectly that ‘grand-daddy of the reggae remixers’, J Star, is not one to fiddle while Rome burns and let upstarts like Wicked Devil and Sandy Balls (no, really) steal his bass thunder. Thus Regulate Rock splices the reggae edit of Marlena Shaw’s Woman of The Ghetto with an old Warren G & Nate Dogg vocal creating a dutty skankin monster that insists you bump n grind, then, over on the flip, he’s got French MC Raggasonic to spit righteous fire over a Junior Byles riddim. More classy rockers innit!
Out 24 September. Ish

Listen to J-Star – Regulate Rock/ S.O.L.D.I.E.R.

J-Star – Myspace

WICKED DEVIL/ SANDY BALLS: Boom!/ Superman – 2009 – 7” review

Rating: ★★★★★

Here’s a cheeky pair of reggae-inflected remix/ mash-up thingies from Wicked Devil and Sandy Balls (insert gag here) that come highly recommended by mash-up king J-Star and remixer The Magic Fly. Interestingly, The Magic Fly and Wicked Devil are one and the same so he’s basically endorsing himself. Now that is cheeky. And, while I’m as sceptical of self-praise as the next man, I’ve actually heard the track in question – basically a genius dub-reggae reworking of the pop-shit that was The Black-Eyed Peas’ recent single, Boom, Boom, Pow. The man has not so much polished a turd as burnished one so brightly it can now be seen from Mars. So he must be feeling pretty good, the smug bastard. Then there’s Sandy Balls who drops a breakbeat-reggae banger with female vocals that’ll have them skankin in the aisles. Here’s to WD40 records. Squirt some of that inside your ears.
Out 17 September on WD40 Records

Listen to Wicked Devil – Boom/ Sandy Balls – Superman

Wicked Devil – Myspace

SMOOVE & TURRELL: Beggarman – 2009 – Single review

Rating: ★★★★★

One of the stand-outs from the Antique Soul LP, this soaring, yet somewhat melancholy, nu-soul anthem finds Turrell pondering the current economic recession through the medium of his warmly rasping soul vocal. In this he is ably assisted by partner in crime and beatmaster-general Smoove. Between the two of them they conclude that far from all that bollocks about ‘quantitative easing’ what you really need is to get your ass to the, “beggarman’s disco,” in order that the, “bad times don’t get you down.” Well, I’m always up for a boogie. As long as it’s not house music.
Out 21 September 16 November on Jalapeno

Listen to Smoove & Turrell – Beggarman

Smoove & Turrell – Myspace

BROTHER ALI: Us – 2009 – Album review

Rating: ★★★★★

With the follow up to 2007’s Undisputed Truth, Ali is back delivering Rhymesayers’ most convincing drop in ages and, it has to be said, one of hip-hop’s. Jay Z recently pointed out that hip-hop is going through a period like rock went through in the mid-eighties when the hair ‘metal’ bands ran wild and real rock was flatlining, the implication being that a breath of fresh air is due. Then there’s Ali himself who, a while back, pointed out that there’s currently little originality in music and everyone is desperate for something different and good. Similar arguments then, a key difference being that Jay Z’s just released the hip-hop equivalent of a Whitesnake album while in the same analogy Ali might be seen as having more of a Pixies type role.
Featuring slightly fewer guest appearances than Jay-Z’s saggy offering, this LP nevertheless opens with one – none other than Chuck D, preaching about the state of the nation over a gospel chant and setting the general tone – characterising Ali as nothing less than a, “soldier in the war for love,..[who]…carries with him a message of hope and peace.” You’ve got to love a bit of dramatic licence, especially when the fiery soul horns of The Preacher and the beat kick in hard, with Ali claiming he’s, “…all off the chart.” But you know what? He ain’t lying. He spends large swathes of this album wading fearlessly through the moral slurry of American society, verbally sifting his unpleasant findings in that distinctive voice with the slightly manic waver.
You got issues? They’re probably dealt with on here, whether it be drug-dealing (House Keys), a pull-no-punches examination of slavery (The Travellers), child abuse (Babygirl), single-parent families (Bad MuFucker Pt II) or anything else he might have have missed out on Tight Rope. Then again you might find him indulging in some (not undeserved) hip-hop self-aggrandisement (The Preacher, Fresh Air, ‘Round Here, Best @it). Indeed, on ‘Round Here he appears to be indulging in some self-aggrandisement about how humble he is – “Fact about it, I’m a force of nature/ Leader of men, boss of my organisation/ I ain’t into being ostentatious”. No mean feat, I think you’ll agree. Oh yeah – and there’s a hip-hop love song – You Say (Puppy Love). Which is actually good.

Of course, while this might be travelling under Ali’s name, you can’t not recognise the massive contribution of beatmaker Ant. I don’t generally find myself in whole-hearted agreement with press release exaggeration but, on the one for Us, Ali and Ant were described as, “staying true to their soul and blues influence,” and the music as having a, “lush and dense sonic quality,” a description with which, on this rare occasion, it’s hard to disagree. The horns of Preacher already got a mention, Fresh Air adds some squelchy funk, and Breakin Dawn’s got that whole chain-gang breakin rocks at the roadside going on and Round Here’s fuzzed up bounce is as relevant as anything from the mainstream hip-hop camp – just classier. Then there’s the sad xylophones of The Travellers or the fifties Hollywood orchestral strings on You Say Puppy Love. Plus the beats are all diamond cutters.
In a nutshell, it’s musically the don, lyrically a blue-collar bomb, and arguably number one as far as hip-hop LPs go this year. So far anyway…hey – how’s that? A whole review and I didn’t even mention that Ali was albino or Muslim…
(Out 21 September on Rhymesayers)

Brother Ali – Myspace

LOWKEY & FAITH SFX: Alphabet Assassin Video

Lowkey and Faith SFX hook up for one of those runs through the alphabet that rappers like to knock out every now and then. Lowkey’s on verbals and Faith SFX beatboxes throughout which I guess is this one’s USP. It’s alright – my favourite’s ‘D’ but truth be told I’m more impressed with Faith SFX and anyway, it’s hard to get too excited as Blackalicious gave this type of thing a proper rinsing with Alphabet Aerobics back when they were good.
(Out 26 October on iTunes)
Lowkey – Myspace
Faith SFX – Myspace

THE KELLY BROTHERS: That’s How I Know My Baby Loves Me (b/w Not Enough Action) – 2009 – 7” review

Rating: ★★★★★

The second classic 7” release of last week – (the first being the Jewel Bass repress) is this 1970 single from The Kelly Brothers. ‘A’ side That’s How I Know My Baby Loves Me is classic Northern Soul fare while the superior uptempo funky-soul bomb Not Enough Action steams in at just over two minutes but languishes on the flip. Actually it’s not that much of a trial. You can turn these things over. My one’s got greasy pawprints on it and a sleeve that is worn and yellowed with age that someone’s either worked very hard at making look old – or it ain’t a repress. High-octane stuff that you’d trade your own grandmother for if it wasn’t going so cheap.
(Out now on Excello US)

Listen to The Kelly Brothers – That’s How I Know My baby Loves Me b/w Not Enough Action

JEWEL BASS/ RICHARD STOUTE: I Tried It & I Liked It/ What Bag I’m In – 2009 – 7” review

Rating: ★★★★★

The Sticky label do it again with a double slice of re-release action but (and no disrespect to ‘Caribbean Soul King’ Richard Stoute’s classic northern soul gem) it’s all about the repress of the ultra-rare Jewel Bass track. Yet another long-lost Mississippi soul sister cut, this works along the same lines as it’s musical cousin – Jean Knight’s Mr Big Stuff. Dominated by vox from Ms Bass and – er – the bass, it’s the kind of downtempo funky bump that is impossible not to hear without having a shimmy. Less a funk track than aural serotonin really.
(Out now on Sticky)

Listen to Jewel Bass – I Tried It & I Liked It/ Richard Stoute – What Bag I’m In