Fuck, sorry it's been a while.
The last fortnight or so has been hectic, for all kinds of good and bad reasons, and it's difficult to know where to begin....But let’s try and start from the beginning. Last week, or rather, two weeks ago, I spent a few days working at FACT magazine, that gem of a free, vinyl-fixated periodical you’ve probably seen brightening up many a record store or schmendy urban rags boutique in your area…It was all good fun, and my thanks again to the FACT boys for having me– Sean, Antony and Rob – if you happen to be reading this. You can visit their site if you have the slightest interest in my interview with Mock (of Mock & Toof fame) and related tales of pink wafers, amphetamine abuse and the DFA. On that note, thank Christ that 'Relevee' finally arrived on the spot last week, sounding even better (if curiously naked) without Tim Sweeney’s blathering atop it. I mean, OK, this isn’t news to anyone at all (weren't xxjfg bigging it up in, like, 1998?) – but what a track. It’s got a good six months of mind blowing left in it, for sure…But more on that later.
FACT's office can be found in a sweet-as location in Soho, deep in the cavernous backside of London's pre-eminent techno tailors Phonica. Both FACT and Phonica are owned by The Vinyl Factory, a company who made a total mint by buying EMI’s vinyl pressing plant off them in the 1990s, when it looked liked wax was going to be consigned to the historical dustbin before the decade was out…Of course, vinyl didn't die, and now all us fools spend £7.99 a pop on imported nonsense from around the world, and - you guessed it - The Vinyl Factory does a rather sterling trade. So everyone’s happy, more or less. But yeah, let's get this out of the way - number one on my not-too-glittering list of achievements while in London was the overcoming of my long-standing, ultra-irrational fear of Heidi (pictured above, with Weatherall), the lovely personage who runs Phonica with Simon, Hector et al. A fear born of my early sojourns to Phonica, I guess three years ago, when I didn’t know my arse from my italo and tried to compensate with brash over-confidence in the face of incredulous staff, chief among the incredules (I’ve made up that word, but it works – you know, like infidel and nodule and incredible at the same time) being Heidi. Anyways, I had no choice but to confront the poor woman after I had this conversation with Simon (pictured deck-happy below):
Soft: Alright mate, how’s it going? Are you well?
Simon: Yeah mate, not too bad. You?
Kiran: Yeah, really good, thanks…
Simon: Someone, er, found your little blog the other day…
Soft: Oh yeah? Did you have a look?
Simon: Yeah, I did…
Soft: Yeah – and?
Simon: So did Heidi.
To cut a medium-length story short, Heidi – this blog loves you, and that errant comments section which you had the misfortune of beholding was (for our part at least) innocent in its nerdish debate. God, how mortifying. Anyway…We’ll pick up that thread later….
Listening to 'Relevee' right now, probably the 432nd time this week, and I have to say - I prefer it with Sweeney's choice verbal annotations. Maybe DFA can release a special mp3 version with the Sween's comments lovingly restored (the 'When It Kicks It's So Good Re-Edit' perhaps?). There's little point in me posting the tune, it's been around, and DFA's people seem to be launching a thorough but understandable sting operation on all blogs who post their mp3s, so no, not much point. But here's another Craig classic - the tremendous re-edit of Loleatta Holloway's 'Hit & Run' that he did for the Moxie series a couple of years back. Craig's interventions are fantastically subtle, just accentuating the right instrumental elements at the right times, and stretching the breaks out to reach Lofty nirvana; it's all about the last three minutes, when he cuts the drums loose and really stabs with dem horn. A warning, though: don't listen to this on your ipod or whatever when your walking, 'cos you will start unconsciously affecting the John-Travolta-in-Saturday-Night-Fever strut and, if you're anything like me, probably look like a right ol' twat for it.
Moxie - Specimen 004 (Carl Craig) // Moxie
A couple of Wednesdays ago I crash-landed in Neighbourhood, a half-cocked club in Ladbroke Grove, to take my fill of what had promised to be a tantalizing bill: those mighty Teutonic sub-botherers Rhythm & Sound, backed up by dubstep uberkind Skream. And, save for a unbelievably dour, soporific support set from someone who made me feel too sleepy to even find out his name (seriously, dude's tunes were so cavernous and slow that you could go and take a piss between each note of any given bassline), the music was ship-shape throughout. Only problem was, there was absolutely NOBODY there. OK, there were like, fifty people, but excusing ten drug dealers/alcoholics/unidentifiable angry black men, the remaining forty consisted of white-boy stoners and, er, one girl. That is, one very odd girl dancing at triple speed and flailing her formidable dreads like Predator at a roller disco. It was grim, and frankly a shame given the reverence and crowd that R&S you'd think could comfortably expect. [Note: I make no claim to being a long-term R&S head, but as my techno/electro tastes have moved into slower, dubbier territories, I’ve rediscovered the Basic Channel sound and, for sure, I like a lot. Ricardo’s recent mix on Burial was a big help with that.] Anyway, after my buddy Arun (who I’d cruelly, and needlessly, summoned from right the other side of London to keep me company) bailed out, I stayed the course with Antony FACT, whose enthusiastic dubstep tutorials and electro gossip were enough to keep my heart from slowing to one, eternal stop (that's death I'm talking about kids, death). When Skream took to the decks towards 1am, though, the change of gear was immediately, colossally felt. Playing manfully (which seems like the wrong word considering he looked so impossibly young) to the handful of people left in the place, whose dancing by this point resembled a family of baboons trying to swim through peanut butter, the Croydon killer took his set down roads angular, stinky and, of course, quite ludicrously bassy. I guess he was playing a lot of his own productions, with 'Lightning Bolt' a gut-loosening highlight. Oddly enough, 'Midnight Request Line', despite eliciting a cheer of recognition, sounded a bit flat - I guess he just sequenced it badly amid the fiercer tracks in his repertoire. Still, the kid's a shit-hot producer, that much we all know, and it was a treat to hear so many examples of his exacting, instantly recognizable production style booming through a club darkly. Next time I catch him I'll be sure to head East where a larger, more appreciative crowd is bound to greet him. I mean, you can't put a discerning bill like that one on a Wednesday in west London and charge a tenner AND expect people to turn up. Whoever was promoting the event, I salute your taste and your ambition, but pelple like R&S and Skream deserve at least something approaching an audience.
Anyway, the distinguished mantle of main event of the week fell to the When Phonica Met Bugged Out! party at The Key, but it turned out that the apex of that day's enjoyment actually came earlier that evening...Me and Carnage had a few drinks on Old Street before heading to the T-Bar, where the Fabric afterparty was trudging along in earnest...The thing is, I love the T-Bar so much - the lay-out, the size, the intimacy, and the diaspora of people at different stages of mammoth weekend benders, from the be-shaded Italians foaming at the mouth to myself and Carnage, who were enjoying a few early evening beers and joints. We arrived to the sounds of Matthew Styles, surely the most inconsistent DJ I've ever seen - he was in decent enough form though, and perhaps justifiably shaky after what was no doubt a big few days for him. It was a little bit fast and housey for my increasingly digressive, cosmische tastes, but he finished up with Villalobos's classic 'What You Say is More Than I Can Say', immediately drawing people to what had up till then been a rather empty floor...Later that evening, as I was taking leave of some piss (or rather, allowing some piss to take leave of me) in the Gents, I heard this (to me) memorable exchange:
Styles: How's it going, mate?
Styles' Mate (visibly, volubly wired out of his skull): Yeah mate, not too bad. I think I should go home, I've been out too long, I'm fucked...
Styles (with delicate irony): Relax man...read a book or something.
The set which followed really did make me wish I was a reading a book or something - it came courtesy of Jamie Jones, whose 'Amazon' on Freak-N-Chic I was raving about a few months ago. To be honest, that mightily respectable track has plummeted down my list of listening priorities as the year's grown hit adolescence - perhaps lacking the depth and sophistication that rewards a right royal repeated listen. I don't think he's actually followed it up yet, but I've noticed he's been rolling with the Rebels a lot recently, so maybe he'll be producing for them soon - he'll have to raise his game a little if he wants to hold his own on a Crosstown side, for sure. Anyway, all this is irrelevant, because his short set was one of the least dynamic, most instantly forgettable sessions I've ever heard, doing little to warm the crowd for the chief attraction - drum roll please - Mr Lucien Nicolet, aka Luci-motherfuckin'-ano. He absolutely SPANKED it, creating dense, intricate, perfectly modulated phrases out of nuttin' but two turntables and a mixer - within five minutes, he had restored phenomenal disorder to the dancefloor. Seriously, he was sooooo sick. And to be witnessing it in such a small club was almost a delight too far - I don't think I've danced so intently (and, it follows, so foolishly) without being off-my-face for, well, ever. It made me wish I'd ventured to Fabric the night before, 'cos it was majestic, rude, incomparable - motherfucker was drowning us in thick clouds of ambient, twitching electronics, and every time you thought to yourself 'Gee, this is amazing but I could really do with a killer shift right about now' he'd hit you with a perfectly weighted riff, spindly break or ruffneck bassline - seriously, he was God-like; it's a while since a DJ has made techno, and my own reception of it, sound completely new again. Rich took a few pictures on his phone, so maybe he'll get them up here in due course...One track which the lil' Chilean divinity played was Loco Dice's 'Seeing Through Shadows', a tune which I'd dismissed as mere minimal-schminimal until that night - seriously, that dude can make a decent tune sound like the missing piece in the puzzle of God's original masterplan. If you get a chance to see him behind a pair'o'platters any time soon, fucking do it.
Loco Dice - Seeing Through Shadows // Minus
Anyway, me and boy Carnage could have stayed there longer but we were already late for Lazerboy's birthday party, happening upstairs at a pub (The Griffin) a few stitches down the road. It was a lovely affair - caught up with some old faces, accidentally/deliberately ignored a few, and got a chance to spin a few tunes (disco disco disco). By this point I was steaming pissed, a fact compounded by a ridiculously naive and fumbled exchange with a 'dealer', who sold me a half-gram of Persil for a sum too princely for me to painlessly recall. Me and Carnage pursued him for a while, but when he picked up a glass bottle from a nearby dumpster and turned on us, we thought it might be wise to accept defeat and, like The Rakes, retreat retreat retreat. Our evening didn't really recover from that layered insult - we have a very simplistic sense of middle-class morality, and it's never nice to be fucked over by what you stupidly think sometimes to be your fellow man - it all reminded me that I'm losing my sharpness and youth at the tender age of 22.
After a few tunes from Ricky and Lazers himself (I seem to remember Hell's tummy tuck on 'Deer in the Headlights' going down a treat), we taxied it to The Key, where we walked in on agreeable scenes and sounds of Ewan Pearson (pictured above) administering electro-pop-afro-techno-acid to a noisy, wide-eyed crowd...It's funny, I always think that I love The Key, that I love the place, but I've now realized that I only think so because I go there frequently. Basically, it's one of those places that's nigh-on-impossible to enjoy without pharmaceutical counsel - a fact I unsmilingly recognized as the evening wore (and yeah, that's the right word) inexorably on...But there were plenty of good things going on - Pearson's set was probably the best thing I heard all night - diverse, colorful, elegant and gritty; I didn't recognize the majority of what he played, save for 'Silent Shout' and the all-conquering Craigism of 'Relevee' - the first time I've heard the latter out, and wow, that alone would've made the whole trip worthwhile. Gabriel Ananda took over the reins at this point, commanding a laptop and a mixing desk the size of an aircraft carrier for a live set which sounded a bit narrow-minded after the intergalactic hocus pocus of Ewan's selection, but which frothed up to a coruscating conclusion with a live, extended edit of his devastating Karmarouge electro-house 'Ihre Personliche Gluckmelodie' - every peak and drop teased out to breaking point, he ripped the crowd to shreds with that'n, basically.
Gabriel Ananda - Ihre Personliche Glucksmelodie
We popped upstairs for Simon Rigg's (pictured above, with Marc Ashken & Antony FACT) set, a feelgood melange of tough house and vocal jackers, marred only by a faulty deck which made every transition a white-knuckle ride in the negative sense. Still, the good vibes won out and the Rigg created an atmosphere of wigged-out electro wedding disco before closing with Skream's 'Midnight Request Line' - the second time I heard that track out in one week, and the second time it failed to push the right buttons for me...Marc Ashken took over, charting a course through boompty minimal waters which wasn't quite what I was looking for at that point (to be grimly honest, all I was looking for was a successful score on the narc front...). Enlivened by the amusing revelation that the drunken floozy Lazerboy had been chatting with for ages was none other than JoJo DeFreq, I headed downstairs to see what Andrew Weatherall (pictured below) could do for me.
Note to self: no one makes you regret not being off-your-tits like Weatherall. He actually ran over my foot with his record trolley half-an-hour previously, as he walked through the crowd to take his perch in the booth, arriving to a hero's welcome spearheaded by a heroically drunk Heidi. Immaculately turned out (he wears an excellent trouser..) as always, Weatherall, whose name I've noticed is always preceded in conversation/journalism by the almost resignatory epithet 'ever-reliable', was indeed ever-reliable, if two hours of relentlessly hard, brazen electro-house with occasional (and unpalatable) big beat inflections is what you've come to rely on. Still, my mood was pathetically hankered by my rapidly diminishing fuckedness and everyone esle was going apeshit for it, so you should take my criticism with a pinch of salt. But still, I've seen the man play enough to know when he's good and when he's just dirty, and I dare say last week's performance leaned toward the latter - and in that sense, I guess he judged the crowd's desires perfectly. That's the thing with The Key - you get a very English, almost aggressive crowd turning out for their events, a pitiable lack of gleeful, bonkers-on-drugs girls from the prettiest parts of the world chatting, smiling and making room for you to dance (as seems to have been the custom of the more enjoyable nights out in the capital I've had). Instead, at The Key, you get thirtysomething British women elbowing you in the chest as they try and make space to throw down moves for their self-financed, home-made movie called "I'm a sexy dancer". Yuk. You're going straight-to-video, my dears, straight-to-video...Anyway, Weatherall did drop Padded Cell's 'Signal Failure' at peaktime, exemplifying what a heavy, versatile production it is - Carnage was not alone that night in thinking it was just another fine, full-pelt acid house jam. A spectral presence throughout was the sour (I don't mean that as an insult) face of Cio D'Or - I don't know if/when she actually played, but she seemed to be hanging around the booths on both floors rather listlessly - I was looking forward to hear her play, but I dare say she did the clean-up session far into the AM, by which time I was long gone. The basic problem with the music that night, then, was its unilateral dedication to grinding electronic sounds - If Pearson had played Weatherall's slot I guarantee I would have left in a state of rapture rather than rumination, but I think the lack of difference between the musical policies of both rooms also contributed to my angst...Basically, I just wanted to hear Luciano again. Rumour had it that either the L-Man or Ricky 'Lobos would be doing a guest slot at the Phonica hoedown, but it hadn't happened by 6am and my legs were by that point feeling way too gelatinous to cling to anything so foundationless as hope. After taking a taxi to completely the wrong part of London, the TAPE boys eventually fumbled there way back to Lazerboy's abode, weak of limb and grey of face. It was a wicked night at large, but it was all to do with Lazer's birthday and Luciano, and probably not a great deal to do with the eight or so hours we spent at The Key. That said, I could tell from a position of non-participation, as it were, that the Phonica/Bugged Out! mingling was, on its own terms, a raging success - I saw a lot of smiles, a lot of happiness and a lot of good DJs. Well done, and thank you, to Simon and all the crew for pulling it off - I'll be there for the next one, and I'll be sure to bring along my long-lost friend Massive Bag of Drugs for the ride. Wooh.
Last week, of course, saw the sudden arrival and prompt departure of Summer. After two days of unspeakably glorious weather, my part of the angry isle seems to have reverted, with frightening totality, to rain, chill winds and general unpleasantness. Still, plenty of people here are acting as if the sun has remained - if there's one I hate about hot weather it's the way it seems to legitimize, in the minds of the many, unspeakable acts of sartorial terrorism. And footwear, my god. A fervent protestor against male sandal-wearing at the best of times, I've been forced into militarism by the onslaught of pale, male paddles accoutred in all manner of flip flop and, sweet Jesus, sports sandal. I must say I took a true fascist's delight in watching the hardy toe-flashers trudge glumly through a three inch-ground frost of sewage, leaves, rainwater and chocolate wrappers as the weather took a turn for the worse yesterday. Why does male foot exposure piss me off so much? I don't think homoerotic self-hatred is to blame (this time...), it's just...Men showing off their grisly little peds in anything but desert conditions seems to me a gross slight on all that civilization has set out to achieve. So I don't want to offend you dear readers, but if I see any of you in an elaborately strapped sports sandal anywhere other than a beach-town in high summer, I will just go ahead and kill you. I will take off your fucking sports sandal and beat you across the face with it. By important contrast, the hot weather does encourage all manner of systematic female garment shedding, a topic which I could dwell on salaciously for pages, but will refrain from doing so 'cos I would like keep TAPE a forum for perversions of the socio-musical variety alone. But, fuck, some of those outfits...parts of bodies that people would blush to expose in wintertime are suddenly on glowing (or, as is more often the case in the UK, pallid) display. It's not just disgusting male and revealing female attire that gives summer its essential character; it's the change in mood and manner. I think England, where even the most meagre snatch of sunlight is enough to have people donning shorts n shades, this change is startlingly obvious...People seem so much less harried, they move slower, they stop to chat, they smile and point and look up at the sky rather than looking like their hurrying to the darkest ghetto of a totalitarian state to buy contraband medicine for a sick relative. It's beautiful. And even though the sun is in remission now, that palpable change in behaviour has happily remained. One for the summer, dedicated to Best Foot Forward - hope your party goes/went well.
Cosmo Vitelli - Delayer (Quiet Village Remix) // Unknown
My dissertation is due in less than two weeks which, given my lack of prepration so far, equates to two weeks of hell for yours Softly. Missives may be few and far between, depending on the amount of time I have to write/listen to tunes, but I'll be sure to avoid the wholesale disappearance that I perpetrated recently. In fact, I've got so many tantalising morsels to share with you from the likes of Rekid, Burial and Boxcutter, that I best hurry back...
Note: I was showing my sister this humble blog a couple of weeks ago, and the first thing she asked is why it's called 'All Sexist Ape'. Somehow, it had never occurred to me that the web address might read that unfortunate way. That's what we in the business call a Joycean slip...