Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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BRINGING YOU THE STORIES BEHIND MUSIC + ESSENTIAL NEWS, REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS...

Column

BEN LOVETT'S GROOVEYARD

BEN LOVETT'S GROOVEYARD
BEN LOVETT'S GROOVEYARD

A month has passed in the blink of an eye and here we are with column two. Plenty of new music has crashed onto my doormat ahead of the summer season but, to be honest, hasnât it arrived already? Weâve undoubtedly had some corking weather recently and, yes, it has taken some quite serious effort to tough it out on the lounger in my sun-lashed back garden working through one serious list of CDs, press releases and interview transcripts. I jest of course. Itâs always a pleasure for the B&S!

SCRATCH PERVERTS

Interviews are probably a good place to start. This month Iâve been chatting to Scratch Pervertsâ Tony Vegas. Former DMC World DJ Champions, the Scratch Perverts â also including fellow mind and ear-boggling turntablists Prime Cuts and Plus One â are on the mix compilation case with hit new release, Beatdown, via Fabric Records; the release is named after their hugely popular FabricLive night and offers an accurate, totally jumpinâ reflection of its shenanigans, featuring cuts from the likes of dubstep king Skream, drum & basser Fresh and electro-don Diplo.

Itâs been an incredible 12 months for the trio, who solidified from a constantly changing line-up of around 8 spinners after the momentous DMC win in 2000 and, since then, have steadily built a massive âliveâ following which shows no signs of abating. âWeâve never been so in demand,â laughs Vegas. âI definitely feel like we in the ascendancy with our DJ commitments right now.âHe adds: âA lot of the work for turntablists like us has come from the university circuit, where young people from all walks of life are hooking up, exchanging ideas and basically opening their minds to anything. The digital boom has also led to the same thing. It means weâve been able to play an ever wider range of tunes and develop our sound and style. Itâs really refreshing; we love all our gigs at the moment.â

And that leaves little time for the studio. Nevertheless, Iâve caught Vegas on the blower when heâs chilling at home (after a hectic weekend performing) and listening to tunes for ârecording inspiration.â Vegas confesses: âWeâve all got solo plans and ideas for new Perverts tracks but itâs really difficult finding the time to sit down and make new music; weâre experiencing such a demand to play out, and the gigs weâre being offered are so interesting, that the studio is pretty much out of the window. Weâre easily distractedâ¦.â

The Scratch Perverts, incorporating everything from hip-hop to jungle to house to rock in their unique, quick-fire sets, have witnessed quite a change in the club music scene over the past decade. Vegas himself grew up in the fine independent record shops of Soho such as Soul Jazz and Mr Bongo â the kind of independent shops which have largely perished in the current, fierce recessionary headwinds. Soul Jazz might still be operating, as Sounds Of The Universe, but Mr Bongo is now confined to online orders and there are countless others following suit.

âItâs sad to see stores closingâ laments Vegas, âparticularly in my old Soho stomping ground. Itâs not just the economy though, or even the fact itâs hard for stores to compete with downloads and stuff. Take a look at the UK hip-hop scene, for example; I think by and large itâs been on the slide for years now. Itâs starting to turn round; I mean we all miss the physicality of pressing wax, making hard-copy music and hanging out at stores to hear the latest records, but the internet is paving the way for a lot of cool, new sub-genres and we soak all that up for our performances.â Vegas, 37 now, philosophically concludes: âI think people like us need to accept thereâs a younger generation of talent rising up. In our day, it was all about physical stores and records but now everything is electronic and viral. Itâs not a bad thing, just something you have to adapt toâ¦.â

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SURYA

Adaptability is definitely something on the mind of Andrew Charalambous, a former Tory Party candidate and âhardcoreâ promoter turned property millionaire, who is this week celebrating the 1st birthday of his revolutionary club Surya. Based in Kingâs Cross, London, Surya is an eco-marvel thanks to its unique dancefloor, which harnesses the movement of clubbers via piezoelectricity â two materials, in this case quartz crystals and ceramics, rub together to create a charge that is fed into batteries powering everything from the clubâs lighting to its air purifiers. The club also uses wind turbines, solar panels, waterless urinals and recycling to support its operation. Suryaâs uniquely green business model seems to be working, but has the club really made a difference in the fight against climate change? âThe club circuit is the one place where you have the convergence of different cultures, creeds, backgrounds and a stronghold for the young generationâ Charalambous, readily adopting his Dr Earth tag, outlines to Blues & Soul. âGreen has got to become mainstream if we want to do something constructive; Surya is a springboard; and things are going more than well so far. Week in, week out weâre attracting clubbers and positive headlines â weâre incredibly busy right now.â Plans are actually afoot for new sustainable clubs in South Africa and the US.

HOW OLD?

One more âgenerationalâ story â in fact, it seems all the topical talk in dance land is about the rapidly emerging gap between different generations of clubbers. People forget, I guess, that electronic dance music is now several decades old â itâs no longer solely a young personâs game. Just as a wave of early 90s music nostalgia crashes down on us thanks in no small part to the resurgence of classic dance acts like The Prodigy, Underworld and Orbital, commentators find it suddenly easy to distinguish between those older âheadsâ there at the start of it all, and the young bloods glued to MySpace and the new sub-scenes it seems to break every nano-second.

THE FUTURES PURPLE!

Like âPurpleâ for example; a rather bizarrely labelled new movement bubbling up in Bristol thanks to its hooky, melodic fusion of grime and dubstep. Bristol, of course, has a rich pedigree when it comes to pioneering urban music â the West Country city brought us the pioneering trip-hop of Portishead, the gritty, urban manoeuvrings of Massive Attack and Roni Sizeâs intelligent, tuned-up drum & bass. And thatâs forgetting the likes of Nellee Hooper and Tricky. âPurple is the colour we all get along with but itâs not a genre,â mentioned 20-year-old producer Joker, rather intriguingly, in a national newspaper interview last month. âWhen you hear a song, you envisage things â soul music is mahoghany, basslines are yellowâ¦.â Joker, already an established dubstep star, represents purpleâs ear-catching frontline alongside producers Guy âGuidoâ Middleton, 21, and Jemal âGemmyâ Phillips, 23. The threeâs choice of colour for their sound suggests a sonic warmth a million miles away from grimeâs razor edged machismo and dubstepâs unfathomable, juggernaut-like bass wobbles.

Indeed, purple aims to wrap grime and dubstepâs weighty rumblings in bold, hooky melodies, soulful keys and rich, uplifting vocals; there are further nods to peppy 80s synths and 90s Yank G-Funkers like Teddy Riley and Snoop Dogg. An early Gemmy release was actually entitled Purple Moon, but the tag has become more prevalent in recent weeks - one of Jokerâs latest tracks is called Purple City; both Joker and Gemmy are currently recording a Purple Wow album with Guido, and there is the guarantee of more colourful shenanigans on the boysâ respective solo long-players; all currently works in progress. Thereâs no reason to think purple will be a flash in one very niche pan. Gemmy has actually just signed an album deal with the revered Planet Mu label; Joker is getting high-profile remix commissions from the likes of Bloc Party; and Guidoâs online mixtapes and recordings via Bristolian imprint Punch Drunk are leading to wider opportunities.

The three are keen on making music that can be listened to in headphones as well as nightclub; crucially, by both sexes. Grime and dubstep have mounted increasingly fruitless expeditions to find fierce new sub-bass and drum sounds, and left themselves open to accusations of becoming inaccessible, too club-focussed and too masculine. There have obviously been the negative headlines about male-heavy club nights pushing aggressive urban music and attracting gun and knife crime; the boys simply feel things can change. Purple is, according to Joker, âsomething for people without decksâ â something forward-thinking, in other words, set to attract a whole new crowd of devotees away from grime and dubstepâs traditional spheres of reach. If the music is upbeat, flirtatious, even happy-go-lucky, then it still packs a meaty punch; and one likely, for once, to leave a big, âphatâ smile on your face.

For further info:

myspace.com/guidoproductions
myspace.com/thejokerproductions
myspace.com/djgemmy
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ESSENTIAL REVIEWS
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Tarantulaz feat. Courtney âSo Dangerousâ Dennie â Handle It (UK Curious)

Singer, songwriter, musician, producerâ¦. Just how many lives does London boy Sir Piers live? Probably as many as the legs on one of those bird-eating creepy crawlies he names his cult studio pseudonym Tarantulaz after.

Tarantulaz is actually a super-soulful double act with regular cohort Toni Econimides, and the pairâs new single Handle It, featuring Courtney âSo Dangerousâ Dennie on vocals, absolutely nails it. The original mix tees up Dennieâs lush R&B-style vocals with a loose, funky dance groove complete with neat key solos and bouncinâ 80s synths. Scott Wozniak adds crisp, jackinâ house beats for his remix, while Jojoflores & Joe DiPadovaâs revamp with typical deep and abstract finesse.

Excitingly, too, Sir Piers is ready to release his debut artist album Sirvival. Release dates are currently to be confirmed, but collaborators include Level 42, Robert Owens and Los Amigos Invisibles. Canât wait for that oneâ¦.

5/5 (BL)
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MPHO â Box N Locks (UK Wall Of Sound/Parlophone)

Hereâs a South African-born, Brixton raised crossover star in the making. MPHOâs Martha And The Muffins-sampling single here is peppy, energetic pop, if rather soulless and anodyne too. Armand Van Helden offers some safe mainstream dance remixes, with few surprises, but electro-maestro Herve pleases thanks to a dubby re-interpretation with more than a nod to Basement Jaxx at their idiosyncratically funky best.

2/5 (BL)
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Chocolate Puma feat. Shermanology â Only Love Can Save Me (UK Defected)

Solid from the Defected favourites. The Pumaâs latest offering should pull listeners in with its deep, thumping beats and potent build into hypnotic chords, sharp synths and well executed vocals. Totally infectious house music, backed by an intense, swirling remix from Funkerman.

3.5/5 (BL)
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DJ Disciple Vs Prok & Fitch â Red Light (UK Floorplay)

Great little rendezvous between New Yorkâs house master Disciple and Brighton duo Prok & Fitch, which swings on tough and tribal, yet super-funky drums and some delightfully raw vocals from Dru Hepkins. The overall effect is dancefloor seduction â this is sexy summer house music with more sizzle than a barbecue convention. Canât help thinking of Murk and thatâs no bad thing at all.

4/5 (BL)
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The Bionics â Supertight EP (UK Paper)

Did I tell you last month how much I love the fact that cult Mancunian house label Paper is back in business? Of course I did! Paperâs first two new releases were corkers and number three here from studio band The Bionics doesnât disappoint either. The Bionics, of course, are probably best known for their killer 2007 album Solid Silver, which rightfully earned them rave reviews. This new EP kicks off with four-to-floor stomper They Prefer The Disco, an amazing workout with live distorted bass, cool stabby keys and neat vocals; I Care comes on like a dancefloor express train, mixing tight production loops with sharp percussion and synth arrangements; Novosoho, finally, is the kind of stylish Balearic mirrorball groove for which summer, surely, was made. Original and funky - top marks.

5/5 (BL)
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ALBUM/COMPILATION ROUND-UP
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ERIK MORRILLO - Subliminal Sessions Summer 09

Plenty to get through. Weâll kick off with Erick âMoreâ Morilloâs Subliminal house label and its latest mix CD. Subliminal Sessions Summer 09 (US Subliminal) launches yet another big room, top quality assault over two CDs, typical of the sexy club sound you can expect to hear at the labelâs world famous Wednesday night Pacha Ibiza residency. Morillo, on mix duties, whips in dancefloor monsters from the likes of Wippenberg, Dr Kucho! and Subliminal veteran Jose Nunez, not to mention Mark Brown & Juan Kiddâs current Subliminal hit Burning, a destructive 2009 remix of Who Da Funkâs classic label anthem Shiny Disco Balls, and his own new tune, featuring Deborah Cooper, I Get Lifted. Relentless but totally stirring stuff.

LIVE & DIRECT - IBIZA 2009

Moving on, Live & Direct â Ibiza 2009 (UK Cr2) sees Mark Brown mixing up 3 discs of solid White Isle party fayre. The tempo is expectedly fast and frantic, rather than subtle and soulful, and thereâs little wild originality, but then here is a release with the sole aim of getting mainstrem butts moving â and, more than matching its popular 2008 predecessor, a huge commercial success across Europe, itâs likely to do just that. Brown, alongside Adam Shaw, drops his own pumpinâ re-rub of David Moralesâ 98 classic Needinâ U, and brutally effective contributions from DJ Sneak, Juan Kidd and Kurd Maverick help maintain compilation momentum. The techier middle-CD showcases exclusive new beats from Tapesh, Paolo Mojo and Danny Freakazoid.

Ministry Of Sound - The Sound Of UK Funky

On the final straight, Ministry Of Soundâs The Sound Of UK Funky (UK Ministry Of Sound) is a slick triple-mix extravaganza devoted to the London-based street scene which first gained attention for its vibrant fusion of UK garage, Yank house, soca and R&B back in 2007. Radio 1Xtraâs DJ Footloose, Total Kissâ Pioneer and scene stalwart Supa D each front mixes with an enjoyable blend of bass-bump, soulful melody and underground grit. Thereâs too much âtuneageâ to big up here, but efforts from Donaeâo, Brasstooth, Geeneus and Crazy Cousinz are the tip of a very phat iceberg.

JOVONN - BLAQUE HOUSE

That leaves Brooklynâs revered underground house producer Jovonn and his superb new studio album Blaque House (US Code Red/UK Defected,) a truly masterful production encompassing deep, percussive beats, dazzling jazz solos, spot-on guest vocals and a little Latino pep. In much the same rich, consistent vein as Blaze, Jovonn makes soulful, emotive house music look so easyâ¦.

FABRICLIVE 46

And so we end with FabricLive 46: LTJ Bukem (UK Fabric Records.) AKA Danny Williamson, DJ and producer Bukem set the drum & bass agenda back in 1996 with pivotal artist album Logical Progressions. His new 70-minute mix for Fabric incorporates a significant sweep of material from fresh talent on his long-running Good Looking label and offers a welcome redirection from the raucous, jump-up Pendulum-style drum & bass sounds currently dominating clubs and airwaves.

FabricLive 46 is actually the best drum & bass mix Fabric has released in ages. Bukem ably demonstrates his trademark âintelligentâ sound, moving fluidly between tracks loaded with sumptuous piano rolls, soulful melodies, soaring synths and luscious double-bass b-lines, and manages to offer up something completely unique in the current sonic climate. OK, so thereâs nothing really that new here - weâve heard these âliquidâ drum & bass sounds before. Itâs been a while, however, and so FabricLive 46 represents a rather glorious reminder of drum & bassâ illustrious past. Hereâs hoping that that reminder sparks some bold new ideas in the coming months.

NEWS
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DJ Food, Kevin Saunderson, Ame...

In the first of a couple of bursts of news, itâs great to hear that after a studio absence of some 8 years, legendary Ninja Tune project DJ Food has announced its return. A new EP, One Manâs Weird Is Another Manâs World, out July 6, offers six new tracks and over 30 minutes of new music, as well as a 12â poster cover drawn by cult 2000AD artist Henry Flint. Two further EPs are set to follow before the release of a brand new album next spring, tentatively titled Stolen Moments. Components of all 3 EPs are expected to make their way onto the long-player.

DJ Food was first produced by Coldcut in 1990 with the aim of providing metaphorical âfood for DJs.â Covering everything from soulful house (do you remember Peace?) to hip-hop, via jungle, dub, techno and ambient, the project expanded to include input from producers such as Patrick Carpenter, Isaac Elliston and Strictly Kev â DJ Food was never simply one person. Ironically, Strictly Kev is the sole protagonist behind Foodâs latest revival.

Meanwhile Detroit techno legend Kevin Saunderson has announced an exclusive album launch bash July 11 following my chat with him last month. The block party, in association with Eastern Electrics, promotes Saundersonâs excellent compilation retrospective History Elevate (one CD of the manâs classic remixes; a second, of the classic man remixedâ¦.) and takes place in the Hearn Street Car Park, London, EC2 between 10.30pm and 5.30am. Saunderson himself will DJ before performing as Inner City alongside original collaborator Paris Grey, and vocalist wife Ann. The DJ line-up is completed by Claude VonStroke, Mike Shannon, Another Amit and Ben Comori. Grab your tickets via www.residentadvisor.net and www.easternelectrics.com

Elsewhere, revered German deep house duo Ame (Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann) are making a one-off London appearance at secretsundazeâs special July 26 shindig at Shoreditch Villageâs Underground club. Well, Beyer is certainly; so too local talent Wbeeza; a 23-year-old house music prodigy who has been taken under the wing of Third Ear owner Guy McCreery and from whom big things are expected.

And lastly...

Bringing things to a close I, like many others, would like to pay my respects to superstar entertainer and innovator Michael Jackson. God knows enough has already been written about the man-boy recluse recently, so I wonât add too much more. Simply to say Iâd have never got into soulful music or writing on it without listening to Jacksonâs early Motown moments in my youth, and for that I will always be grateful. Michael Jackson was the complete musical package and itâs hard to see how anyone, in the future, will have anywhere near the same cultural impact on such wide expanses of our planet. I sincerely hope he finds peace now â RIP the King Of Pop.

Thatâs the Grooveyard shift over, see you in Augustâ¦.

Ben Lovett

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Please feel free to contact me at B&S with any dance orientated news that you feel would benefit others - Cheers!

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