Station To Station 001 – 29/04/2014
I was planning to roll out on this, the grand opening of my column, all guns blazing: witty quips, interesting facts and mountains of amazing culture to share with you the reader… Unfortunately it’s all got a bit “first date” syndrome and seeing as it’s no longer considered cricket to get you battered on Cherry B’s then trot you down to the beach for an inappropriately chafing introduction I suppose I’d best dispense with the pleasantries. Firstly I’m Bayfield: Recently signed off the dole, recently hired by GetDarker, recently relocated to Dalston from Great Yarmouth. I am now paying a mortgage sized rent on a room so small it makes Anne Frank look like a 1940’s property magnate and travelled with so few belongings I make the Donner Party look like P Diddy and his entourage at a BadBoy company barbeque. Aside from bitching about London property prices (I have a horrible feeling that’s going to be a common theme) this column is my fortnightly(ish) guide to underground music in no particular order and of no particular genre, loosely tied under a titular banner of tenuous London travel punning and a classic David Bowie record.
Opening proceedings this week is Kidkanevils’ brand new LP My Little Ghost released via Berlin’s Project Mooncircle. Picking up where his collaborative album Kidsuke with Daisuke Tanabe left off, and following a six month stay in Tokyo, the record further explores Kidkanevil’s obvious love of Japan and its culture. If you aren’t familiar with KidKanevil’s production they are frequently extremely dense affairs, packed through with vocal snips, bleeps chimes and bells. Tracks like Earth To G San takes these tightly packed arrays of beats and bleeps and airlocks them creating a wonderfully gentle strain of vac-packed hip-hop, whilst moments like the endlessly climbing synths of Dimensionbomb creates a fizzing soundscape of a grandiose feel in a tight two minutes. Each composition is almost like the theme to its own tiny world. Regardless of this dense construction however not one part of the album feels in any way cluttered or hard edged; everything is gently smoothed to a soft perfection. Butterfly / Satellite, a collaboration with label mate Submerse and vocalist Cuushe, might be finest decanting of this style. In essence the tune might be considered trap: it sits atop giant, rounded subs kicks with those familiar fills of machine gun hi-hats and snare rushes, but through the delicate keys, samples of what I can only assume are Japanese children and a feather light vocal refrain the track is both one of the lightest and fully formed pieces on the album.
There is an overriding sense of warmth and intimacy throughout and a great deal of it also carries a truly childlike sense of fun and discovery but a truly standout moment for me comes in the form of Shunkanido, a wistful and cinematically piece that fuses fizzing electrical pulses to a stark slightly downbeat piano piece. It could almost work as an alternative soundtrack to composer Joe Hishaishi’s theatrical work (particularly parts of Takeshi Kitano’s Sonatine) and really does help to give the album some deeper textures and space to breath. My Little Ghost will probably be one of the warmest, colourful and frankly lovely albums you’ll hear this year. I think this is essentially the sort of music pandas make love to. The record feels wonderfully organic and most definitely crafted by a living thing, irrespective of the fact it’s main components are electronic bleeps, squeals and fizzing effects. It is also highly commendable in that Kidkanevil has made a record that feels authentic in its Japanese styling but without ever crossing into a feel of pastiche or stereotype. If you would like to sample some tasteless pastiche please see Aneka’s 1981 club banger Japanese Boy, which I’m not even sure it’s politically correct to admit liking (I do). Essentially KidKanevil’s My Little Ghost is a record for pandas to make love to.
Next up this week is the eagerly awaited return of DjRum on his usual home of 2nd Drop Records. His new release The Miracle sees the producer taking his cinematic tendencies a step further after his beautiful debut album Seven Lies, the title track being a fifteen minute piece split into to two suites (the track is also split over two sides on the vinyl release too). The first movement is a pensive, restless piece which takes waves of instrumentation, a myriad of vocal whispers, sighs and half heard choral chants set against dense pockets of rolling percussion. This then opens out into a small interlude of swirling vocal chops and spoken word before lurching off into another rhythmic suite of a more hip-hop flavour. DjRum has always had a very unique skill in his ability to densely layer a piece with endless fiddly details yet still have it come off sounding both atmospheric and uncluttered and this particular track might be one of his best arrangements yet. I’m tipping the second track of the EP (or the first track of the second vinyl if you are keeping things physical) as the standout though: Ode rolls on a hurried kick and clap complimented by dense drum rolls, juxtaposed against a beautifully light vocal harmony and plucked harp strings. It’s an ethereal piece that sounds like it could have been made about a hundred years ago and entirely the better for it. Rounding up the EP comes Trailing, a much punchier track that rumbles along on a sort of hybrid jungle/techno backbone. In lesser hands it could sit a little ill at ease with the previous two tracks but instead works as a great reminder of just how versatile DjRum’s unique aesthetic is, particularly when compared to the myriad of producers currently turning their hand to both jungle and techno and coming up with nothing more than stale, greyscale tunes. Absolutely essential work from DjRum as usual.
Right it’s only week one of Station To Station and I’d really hate for you to think all I do is sit about stroking my beard to densely percussive, organic sounding electronic music. Luckily Brighton’s brightest label Donky Pitch is on hand with Yahoo Or The Highway; the debut release from Aberdeen beatsmith and Tuff Wax label owner Lockah. Hailing from Aberdeen, a place that many call “The Granite City” and others “a bleak offshore industry shithole twinned with Great Yarmouth” you would be excused if you had assumed this album would be a crushing slab of monotonous techno or a nightmarish audio companion to staring out on a barren stretch of the North Sea whilst choking down a dram of turps. Thank god it is not.
Yahoo Or The Highway is a glorious splash of neon hues, rattling drum machines and polyester clad rhythms perfect for the psychedelic b-boy you never knew you had locked inside. The record shows a grand scope of styles from early highlight Some Velvet Evening, which patiently builds a laidback anthem from waves of beautifully lush synth textures and twinkling keys, to the frantic drum machine workout of If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Want To Be Wrong, which sounds like Miami Bass wrung through a Technicolor Balamory filter. Lockah is an artist that clearly has a deft understanding of a multitude of genres, as nothing on this record can be neatly pigeon holed; one moment you’re on a synth heavy soundtrack styled jam (see Every Song Was About U) the next you find yourself in the midst of a track like Summer Jorts (Some Of Us Still Do) which seems to have discovered the impossibly niche genre of 80’s Fitness Video Pacifist Jungle Jams (I think genre purists spell JamZ with a capital Z but I wasn’t there when the scene sprung up.) Lockah’s secret weapon throughout all of this is his keen ability to blend; all of these seemingly in-congruent musical elements arrive with edges softened and slowly integrated, there’s no sudden drops or grandstanding showmanship. As a result it gives the record twice the long term impact and sounds off Lockah’s unique voice twice as loud throughout.
That brings us to the end of our first haphazard journey into underground music and I’m sure in this world of click-bait and thirty second viral Youtube videos someone, somewhere is shitting themselves that I just wrote nearly fifteen hundred words and audaciously expected you to sit still for more than twelve of them so in answer to that tosser: here is a video I found whilst Googling (yeah I got all the computer skills too) the track titles from Kidkanevil’s new album… I have no idea if this “Kuroro” is a popular children’s television show or a military conscription video but after repeat viewings I will gladly fight for Japan if it ever kicks off. Enjoy!