Blaktronics: Ready Set Blow (Tokyo Dawn Records)
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UK release date 26.03.2012
When Tokyo Dawn records sent me this album, I was slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of reviewing it in its entirety…there’s 18 tracks on here people, but here we go.
From the off, I must say thank you to Tokyo Dawn for sending me such a different, eclectic and pleasurable album to review! I have listened to this, from start to finish and can seriously say there are some really strong tracks on this long player.
There isn’t enough room in this column to review all 18 tracks, so I’ll review my favourite six, a nice even number and one third of the album. Before I get into the review, let me give you a hint as to the genres/influences this album draws from.
Are you ready?
Well, the ones I could immediately think of included Massive Attack, Kraftwerk, Jill Scott, Model 500 (Juan Atkins) DKD and Leftfield. If you recognise those artists, you’ll understand why I say this album is diverse. Very!
The first track to have drawn my attention was ‘It’s All Right Now’ feat. Alicia Renee. This is a really pleasant down tempo soul number, which has fuzzy warmth surrounding it. Alicia Renee (aka Blue Eyes) does a really good job with the vocals and the whole track carries well from start to finish. There are slight shades of Jill Scott on this one, a good compliment in my mind.
Next up on the hit list is the fantastically named ‘Strawberry Cough.’ One word, electronica! This is a very quirky piece of dance music, not being classed as deep house, techno nor broken beat but still drawing an influence from all three genres. There is something about this, I can’t put my finger on it, but it made me listen to it a few times before deciding I liked it.
‘Sky Scrapers’ is another more electronic left-field recording, and again, I can’t put my finger on what makes this pleasant. It could be the summer feeling that the track encapsulates, it could be the vocoded voice merrily singing ‘Sky Scrapers’ (I’m not a fan of the vocoder after Cher massacred the sound), but whatever it is, it works well without being offensive. In fact, it’s not offensive, it’s happy if that makes sense?
Up next is ‘The Plot.’ Immediately I am thinking ‘Fluffy Little Clouds’ by The Orb, but as the track progresses it warps into a Massive Attack number (think Tricky rapping), before finally transforming into something that Leftfield might have done during the trip-hop heyday of the nineties. ‘The Plot’ is a great track and I absolutely love just how this track evolves and morphs on the fly. Hold on, now I’m hearing old school electro - 808 sounds galore… wow, this gets better and better with each listen! I need to listen to this again, it has really captivated me (NB, I really am listening to this as I’m typing.)
Now then, I had marked next track ‘Occupy’ as my favourite but again, I need to listen to this once more after last track ‘The Plot’. ‘Occupy’ is in much more familiar territory to me, the sound of broken beat that I absolutely adore. There are shades of Colonel Red on this number and again it has an incredibly harmonic factor about it.
I must mention the album cover whilst listening to this as it depicts a vivid image everyone here in Britain saw during the riots of 2011.
There was very striking footage of a shop burning down, whilst several youths stood in the street looking on. This is what Blaktronics have chosen as their artwork and, unless I’m mistaken, the lyrics of ‘Occupy’ seem to be a reference to the riots. The opening lines of “There’s no jobs, there’s no opportunity, I’m asking the government would you set me free” are quite poignant in my mind, what with youth unemployment being at a 25 year high (at the time of writing this). The lyrics to this track are thought provoking, they have made me think and for me that is the sign of a good piece of music. Taking away the politics or underlying message of this track, the piece again flows brilliantly and is still my favourite on the album.
So, the final piece on the album I’ll mention is ‘Special Kind of Love’. I don’t really know how to describe this as it’s kind of a cross between soul, hip hop and Balearic (flamenco guitars galore!) This is another really strong track, it has sunshine, sea and holiday written all over it. Put this one on when you’ve got the other half staying over and you want to chill and relax. Oh, and have a snuggle…
All in all, this is a good album representing some very underground and non-commercial music. For that alone I like it and have to say that this is a very impressive avant-garde release.
Words GARETH MORGAN