Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Focus on SE4

Guardian Weekend Magazine’s Let’s Move To section has bigged up the Brockley and Honor Oak Park area, also including Nunhead to the north-west and Ladywell to the east in a general South-East London primer for young professionals (aka yuppies). Earlier migrants now contemplate the bittersweet thrill of recognition with the prospect of younger versions of themselves coming in to continue the area’s East Dulwichification.

The pull of the area for breeders is that it has always been a suburb – the bigger houses in the upper reaches of Brockley were for the exploiters running factories in Deptford and New Cross, Sevenoaks Road in Crofton Park supposedly for Fleet Street printers when the Blackfriars train came through to the area named after the station. It is not a post-industrial area forced to adapt. Indeed, Brockley and co were in Kent until border changes in 1889 and for many a metropolitan type this merely confirms that we’re in the relative sticks, a hellishly long 10 minutes from London Bridge. But that means a wealth of green space, at weekends we take our pick from Ladywell Fields, Blythe Hill, Hilly Fields and Honor Oak Park (and of course the Horniman museum kindergarten), and there’s Peckham Rye, Telegraph Hill and Nunhead cemetery nearby. The open spaces win out every time as there is not much to recommend in the built environment, especially the drab main commercial strips from Brockley Rise to Brockley Cross.

Cutbacks being what they are at GMG, the dozy gits forgot to mention the area’s biggest draw ‘going forward’ – the opening of the East London overground extension (New Cross in April, Brockley and H Oak in May), putting the area 20 mins or so from the Makkah and Madinah of Shoreditch and Dalston and the like. To confirm endal prejudices many a southeasterner will be grateful for this broadening of our horizons.

Suitability for families doesn’t sit well with happening areas and the place can be a bit dull for those who haven’t quite reached the exit gates of Hedonia. Of the nicer bars, Jam Circus meticulously avoids club-type nights. But New Cross and Deptford have a wide range of gigs and club nights, seasonal events such as Brockley Max do a good job of filling in the gaps and Nunhead has an array of pubs if you insist on a crawl. East Dulwichfication is an actually existing threat though, if small French baguettes for £2 at the chic gaffs opened up around Brockley station are a guide. Like many other districts it’s not all soft focus paradise; cycling home last week I had to turn round at the cemetery as the road had been shut off after a stabbing, while the Chelsea and Millwall hoolies in my local (known as ‘the gay pub’ for its lack of female patrons) refuse to be gastro’ed.

It may sound glib to say as it would have probably happened anywhere as we became parents, and I won’t be hosting any summer fairs just yet, but after years of willing exclusion I have discovered in SE4 a little bit more of what community means and should be about.

(spraying leaves in Honor Oak Park, above, and the Ballroom at night, below)
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

How I came by the beat, part 37

My search for that tune I was banging out on the M1 and banging on about here did not yield instant gratification. It started on Nihal's page - he said Nucleya's Beat One but YouTube merely had what must be the original, so i then started going through tunes either side - one tune by Nuphlo suggested he might have remixed this. So a search on that finally got me there, Nihal having recently uploaded it on Soundcloud, with the knowledge that Nuphlo is a Birmingham-Leeds dubsteppa who's been knocking them out for a while as well as a NZ-based 'pump manufacturer of stainless steel pumps and sanitary pumps' (love the convergence of street id and civil engineering).

Beat 1 Nuphlo Remix by Nucleya by DJ Nihal

Rough midweights, flashing 8-bits, sick drops, little steppa beat riding the undertow, Indian siren vox disembodied beyond autotune. It is pretty heavy alright. But does it sound as good now as when it was banged out on the M1. Possibly not, but maybe that's the point!

He's playing at Whitechapel Art Gallery tomorrow night, a good opportunity to hear more if i can get out of work on time.

While we're at it let's embed the other tune to make a big impression on the drive - Darkstar's Need You, which Thom Yorke played before exclaiming 'All power to Hyperdub' or something similar (it's on the five-year comp). The brittle bass is the driver here, with atmospheric medievals putting it firmly in a 'gothage' genre of its own.
Darkstar ::: Need You by dissonanze
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On the road for the Citizens

Rearranged semi-final derby day, City’s home leg. With no Euston trains from Manchester after 8 and a need to get back to London that night, I had no option but to shit on my carbon footprint by driving solo there and back. Having done the usual by pissing around at home, stocking up on CDs and reading the City blogs with their mixture of bearish fear and bullish confidence until at 2:15pm it became imperative I go, I took a lucky omen in a banal R1 A-Z football club quiz. They got to M and the caller said City, not United.

The drive up waged the usual attrition against the soul, despite musical accompaniment including French new wave comp So Young and So Cold, R&S classics, late 90s Ideal techno (some of which hadn’t aged too well, Chris Nazuka and Isolee excepted): An hour and a half to get to the M1 from south-east London in the early afternoon, the realisation that the fifty-year-old motorway is now too small to take the weight of traffic even at that time (big up the travelling salesmen!), M6 roadworks most of the way from Stafford, congestion on the M56. The M6 toll, aka the Midland Expressway, is the only place you can make up time, and I did have time to snap this toiletry pledge in Norton Canes services:

With the sign adjacent to some heavy plastic compound, I believe their commitment amounted to piping birdsong into the loo. Quite simply, pathetic. It is my real job to publish in clear and simple English so let me also say that 'building' is always better than 'constructing'. By the time I parked up at Oxford Road for a quick Abduls with Bruce, I reckon I’d exceeded several ‘average speed checks’, had a few near misses and gone through the odd red or two. Indeed, I parked up having turned right at the Firkin not realising it’s no entry that way any more. Class. Now I know why the constant ‘keep-on-the-ball’ passenger heckling of my partner can be necessary.

Parking again nearer Ancoats Street (little swedge of a car’s wiper on his front light), I got to the game dead on time as they delayed the kick-off 15 minutes. City started too deep, were too respectful and conceded through Ryan Frigs. United fans took their customary piss for the best part of the first half. Amazing how many songs they have with us as the subject, with just a few about themselves (half-arsed creation in comfort). The patronising obsession of the superiority complex. Mancini then changed it round to 4-5-1 and we won a penalty which Tevez smashed home. Carlito got a second in the second half to stick it to their fans, ‘siraleggs’, Neville, Rooney and co. The atmosphere changed completely, City fans urging their team (Blue Moon, Come on City and We’re Not Really Here, only the lame irony of Fergie Sign Him Up and Carlos Tevez is a Blue projecting the passion onto the other team) to keep on going. We held on as United couldn’t make their possession pay. Job is only half-done but it’s just great to shut them up. Now we need another 90 minutes of catennacio to keep them shut. I got away early with the predictable sound of police sirens and City song.

Only when on the M56 did I celebrate with a sonic surge of Energy Flash, Outlander's Vamp and Didgeridoo, the car rattling all the way to the M6 and provoking memories of packed cars driving into London for the rave. I then stopped off in Burton to get some filming equipment back to McClintock director Craig, now doing well in software development. Green tea and whatever there and then testing driving round the rural and suburban roads of the A511 into Leicestershire ahead of the M1. But it’s driving in the early hours that motorways are made for. Music on full blast. Just me and the freight haulers. The trick is to lock into the neon passage of the halogen lights, to be entranced by it without trancing out. Again, this was made easier by yet more nocturnal roadworks slowing us down on occasion.

I could put the CDs on hold as Nihal then Gilles Peterson, who was going back to back to with Thom Yorke, put on a brilliant few hours of shiny One FM music. Belying his populist daytime show (though he’s no Scott Mills thankfully), Nihal had a brilliant selection of not-just-Asian street beats, the pick of them being the purple rhythm explosion of Nucleya's Beat One. Will find out more on this. Then Gilles and Thom come on with Squarepusher-esque beats, a few Floating Points (those slow woozy offbeat grooves are so deep house, not that I’m complaining), Madvilliany, Sun-Ra, Darkstar and the like. The Radiohead goes on about his experience of the Copenhagen climate wash-out, and where he gets some of his music from – Boomkat. By that stage it’s getting a bit circular with some of my own buying habits, but it’s great to affirm after all the decadal stuff that music is in fine shape. I switch to Get Lost, a Lazarus-Styles minimal and oddities comp from a years back, and finally get into London. At Blackfriars Bridge, I miss a sign for my lane but duck back in on time. The guy behind me who did the same must have been black or Asian because he got stopped. Finally back in the house at 3:45am. wired, happy and expectant for the return leg.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Art for music

In a fairly clinical rebuttal to the charge that digital music is just all flat files and no aesthetics, mega aggregator the Hype Machine's project to twin the 50 most blogged about artists last year with 50 artists has produced some great artwork for the bands, transcendent of bland brand logos or each single or album release. Pick your favourites here. If it is just about the music, here are their top albums and tracks, and also browse the never-ending list of mp3 bloggers so you can stay hyper modish.

Yeasayer artwork by Stephanie Davidson
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

This is England (ha ha)

snow: it's a logistical nightmare:

that's a BT mechanic trying to get his van going in the middle of the road.

the view to ladywell station from ladywell fields.
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Decadal 10 (jeez): the also-rockers

Of course I didn’t choose the 10 in splendid isolation, there were always several candidates for each place. So to truly sign off the overview (please) it’s only fair to mention the contenders.

Miss E’s Get Ur Freak On I thought always stood out in an r&b genre whose innovation had been overstated. My other main generic candidate, Mary J Blige’s Family Affair, was a much more conventional Dre-produced come-togetha-’pon-da-floor number, while Outkast’s Hey Ya was in the mix but ultimately deemed too popist to be truly reflective. Hip-hop-wise, I was a honorary backpacker by being one of the few to like Cappo’s ATCQ-sampling and string-heavy Learn to Be Strong, representing Nottingham at a time when MC Pitman was sending up the East Mids accent, and Jaydee’s remix of the Ummah’s Put It Down, on the AKA J Yancey comp that appeared before he passed away, is a work of woozy genius with currency now to the new school of LA producers.

Rivalling Hiem and Isolee was a slew of sophist house, most of it with roots in the German metropolis and the Kompakt label, among them Superpitcher’s Happiness (Michael Mayer’s rmx, oh those sweeping chords), Justus Kohncke’s After 909 (nice moment when someone shazamed that while I was playing one of our Extropias) and The Field’s romantically circular Love vs Distance, a close relative of On My Own by Ulrich Schnauss on City Centre Offices. Saw him on a daytime Bestival stage and he really disappointed but that tune with its mix of new wave bassline and sonic cathedral, was his moment. Maurice Fulton as Syclop’s Where’s Jason K on DFA was another biggie.

Vitalic I put in a specific digi-clash category with others that really grind their arpeggios in the pursuit of leaving an impression: Fischerspooner’s Emerge, Anthony Rother’s Back Home, like Happiness unearthed via Damian Lazarus’s Rebel Futurism 2 comp, and David Carretta’s Vicious Game, which I always thought was an anomaly in the emergent ‘clash field as it appeared on another Lazarus comp, Futurism, as well as a Miss Kittin Mixmag giveaway uncredited. Was Caretta the joker in the pack – not sure, but I always want to get in the car and bomb it round La Peripherique, dans le nuit, when I hear this. Bigger and brasher in this territory are Spektrum’s Kinda New (the Tiefschwarz rmx, and what a great gig that was back then) and, yeah why not, Bodyrox’s terribly commercial Yeah Yeah, as the masses began to get electro house. While French, but not really a relative of Justice, was Joakim’s Lonely Hearts, on a Music Week French Talent freebie (surprisingly never did make good on the aim to get the Joakim album).

DJ Zinc’s 138 Trek repped my hanging-in-there with jungle at the turn of the century, and just about the only other candidate was the one people never mention from V’s Brazil ep, XRS Land’s Secrets of the Floating Land, surging tropicalia drum and bass. Soon it was time to go down a beat or two and dubstep had made a big impression by mid-decade, scene-stealers like Skream’s Lightning (stop-start amens, squidgy fx, nightrider-esque synth line – lovely!) and the cold wobble of Deep Concentration, Digital Mystikz’s rattly Haunted, Loefah’s percussive paranoia in Twisup VIP (Youngsta & Task rmx – another DMZ). As it then stepped back up Cooly G’s Love Dub and a slew of Untold productions, Just for You, I Can’t Stop This Feeling, Sweat and take your pick from his Gonna Work Out Fine ep, were also all vying with Appleblim.

A close relative of Kode9’s Sine for dark narrative and mood was The Bug’s Night Steppa ft Roger Robinson, and leaving even more post-rave traces was Burial’s Forgive. Was Wiley’s Eskimo from the 00s? It’s hard to be sure, but it reverberated for the whole decade (my grime smash otherwise would be Durrty Goodz’s claustrophobic skank Boi Dem, or Dizzee’s clattering I Luv U). Quick mention also for M.I.A’s Paper Planes, probably not my favourite Arulpragasam but the whole family like it (and indeed my wife got her fellow PGCErs to cover it at Goldsmiths). Another uncategorisable (on my terms anyway) would be Rascal’s Bonkers – it’s all about the Van Helden riff for when you want to feel 25 again and the concept of going to a club doesn’t fill you with dread.

Supporting the theory that gems were apparent among the mass of landfill indie, many indie-rockers vied for Bloc Party and CYHSY’s mentions in the 10. Corky and Marc have already accounted for Strokes’ Reptilia and Rapture’s Jealous Lovers, and to those I add Gossip’s Standing on the Edge of Control, Vampire Weekend’s A-Punk, Foals’ Cassius, Arctic Monkeys' Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Finally, The Big Pink’s first declaration brought beautiful scuzz back with Too Young to Love. All in all a killer set, I reckon.
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Monday, January 04, 2010

Decade Top 10 business - one more contribution

My mate Fish heads the United Hampshire movement (ie, he follows the Shots and the Saints) and is frequently at gigs or in record shops. Here's his decadal ten - all links are to YouTube clips.

[Top 10 here, Foreword and Further Reading here. Notes here]

* Freelance Hellraiser - a Stroke of Genius - back when mash-ups and tight jeans were actually cool, the strokes meet aguilera, seemless bootleg.

* Bruce Springsteen - My City of Ruins / Pearl Jam - Worldwide Suicide - Mr Blue Collar hero lifts a post 9/11 middle America and his apprentice Vedder rants

* Sebastian Tellier - La Ritournelle -string based epic from eurovision entrant, later made the loreal adverts too, and so youtube tells me, Ugly Betty.

* Midlake - Roscoe - the best bits of 70s MOR repackaged for the 00s. Much better than the fleet foxes.

* Johnny Cash - Hurt - all the gubbins from the critics, it's all true (and the epitath-esque video too).

* The Raconteurs featuring Adele - Many Shades of Black - Mr 00 Jack White & Brendan Benson get something decent from the from the decade-dominant Radio 2, fresh from the street/fresh from the school of music, girl set.

* Nas - Hip-hop is Dead - aaaight.

* Doves - The Cedar Room - furry hooded-coat manc genius.

* Lambchop - Up with People - 'Americana' at its finest - with added horns too.

* Super Furry Animals - Rings Around the World / Neon Neon - I Told Her on Alderaan - a decade from nu-psychedelia to 80's throwback pop pastiche summed up sweetly by Gryff Rhys.
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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Options for the Male Middle Class Shirker

"I came out here to this shed because i wanted to do something extraordinary ... also i would have avoided helping out around the house ... getting a bit worried that this adventure wont make sense without more beer ... (blub) .... I don't want to descale a washing machine"

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