reviews january 2003

The Unoriginal Mike D, The Movement (Demo) 12

Back, way back, when he was called Curtis Bay, The Unoriginal Mike D made a coupla entirely original albums that fused and fuzzed hip hop, go-go and live sax. We liked them a lot. Then we didn’t hear anything for a long time. Then this pitched up. And we like this a lot. Split between collaborations with two rappers, Azeem and Esau, Mike’s ditched the usual breaks in favour of speed and the tracks rattle like a milk float with no brakes racing down a steep cobbled street towing a trailer full of ball bearings. Azeem’s The Movement rides a punchy, staccato bass while several drummers get wicked simultaneously. Better is Esau’s Me and My Baby which adds jazz swing to the formula. PO Box 29845, Oakland CA 94604 USA

DJ Downfall, The Curse (WIAIWYA) CD

Back, way back, when he was called John Dweeb, DJ Downfall took part in my most unsuccessful interview ever. The other bloke out of Dweeb couldn’t have cared less about talking to me and made no effort to hide the fact, but Downfall was polite and not full of bullshit. I liked him. Then Dweeb disappeared and Downfall resurfaced in various post-Heavenly projects and on a smattering of his own singles. Then this pitched up. And we like it a lot. And we like it because it throws electro, disco and funk into a pot and then smokes it. 39 Raymill Rd, West Maidenhead, SL6 8SF

the Iditarod and Sharron Kraus, Yuletide (Elsie and Jack) CD

You those times when you put a record on and close your eyes, and then open them again and you can’t tell whether you’ve listened to the record or not? I’m having them more often recently. Partly it’s because the day job is getting too intense and I can barely do anything except slump in my chair when I get in. But mostly it’s because I’m listening to the Iditarod a lot. Imagine that a band snuck into Heaven and clipped a few blades of grass, took a glassful of water from a river and a handful of earth from a shady corner of God’s garden. Once they’d floated back down to earth, they strung their instruments with the grass, passed the water around and took a few sips each and scattered the earth on the floor of the rehearsal room. And then they started to play music, music from the past, music from stone cottages, from fishing villages, from field workers, from the working folk. Folk music. And the music was good. Exceptionally good. It somehow fused the devotion of the true believer with the authenticity of a scholar and the sound of an accordian slowly exhaling. You can’t imagine that? No problem, it’s out on Elsie and Jack shortly.

Ted Minsky, Madame le Ted (Angelika Koehlermann)/ Margoo, The Lone Solo (Wot4) both CD

Madame le Ted: In which Ted lives out all the mysterious and kranky electro fantasies she’s ever had, partly in English, partly in Spanish and partly in German. So I’m working out what it is. It’s a tune thumped out on a battery-powered disco machine about the size of her tits. It’s a lament played on a wind-up clavichord. It’s a celebration of being able to do what you want over big chords and a throbbing beatbox. It’s.. hell, I don’t know what it is. But I know that Madame le Ted knows. And she’s not telling.

The Lone Solo: In which Margoo allows you to live out all the mysterious and kranky electro fantasies you’ve ever had. Unlike Ted, Mr Margoo doesn’t seem to impose anything of himself on you, instead he provides superficially easy-on-the-ear burble streams to lull you in. And when he’s got you, the tunes (and there are lots of tunes) reveal their dark underbelly and your fantasies turn nasty and then it’s like listening to a hall of mirrors – all surprising and bendy and disturbing, but familiar. I like it.

We Start Fires, How To Be A Lady (Head Girl) CDS

You know how sometimes you hear something and you think you’ve heard it before and that’s bad? And how sometimes you hear something and you think you’ve heard it before and that’s great? Well We Start Fires are the time when it’s great. How To Be A Lady is chock full of songs that could be The Hearthrobs, or The Popguns, or The Popinjays, or bits of Lush or bits of Avocado Baby. Girls with guitars and songs and punka and a knack with a tune and a bit of attitude.

The Duckworth-Lewis Method, Heb Fod Allan (Catchpenny) CD

I say, I say, I say. What’s the connection between a complicated mathematical formula for calculating the runs required by the team batting second in a rain-affected limited-overs cricket match and underground Welsh lo-electro? It’s not a joke, I’m just interested. The D/L Method probably know the answer, them being one in name and the other in nature, but they’re not telling. Or if they are, it’s hidden in one of the Cymrusamples that pepper the hissy disco and trash techno. As a child (animal-lovers please look away now) I once trapped a bee inside an Ovaltine tin and shook it. The thunk-buzz-thunk-buzz-thunk couldn’t have been more entrancing if I’d been on ecstasy (although I was drinking a lot of raspberryade in those days) and I’ve never been so intoxicated by a beat. Until today. And Heb Fod Allan has the added advantage that no insects were harmed during the making of its tinny thrills.

Dobosky, The Best Of/ Hulk, Fixed Star Day (both Static Caravan) both 7"

There’s a noise that sounds like a flattened squelch. You know it. It’s how you tell you’re listening to an electro record. I love that noise. Dobosky loves that noise. Sixer, the best track on this 5-piece confection, splashes the noise down onto tape liberally and at various pitches, following up with basslines made out of robot heartbeats and melodies dubbed from old Atari games. Magic Swan and White Swan inexplicably leave the noise out, but add chimes and morse code rhythms, and I like that too.

Hulk obviously has some kind of anger management therapy going on these days. He comes at the gentlectro thing from the viewpoint of someone who needs time to roll another fat one and so the vibe is take-it-easy, sailor, and relax on those throwdown cushions while the music just caresses the back of your mind. Not psychedelic, but not something to get your hips into gear either, Hulk’s coupla tracks are pure head(phone) fodder and gorgeous.

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