Friday, June 29, 2007

Thursdays can be great too

Last 2 Thursdays some good things were happening in Luxemburg, so I couldn't help myself but go out and check 'em.

1) Black Devil Disco Club @ Fete de la musique

I didn't know about this project before, so it was a nice surprise. The history of Black Devil is rather unusual and worth telling. Bernard Fevre — the man behind this moniker — together with Jacky Giordano released an record called Black Devil "Disco Club" back in 1978. That was an absolutely fabulous and innovative music for that time — a spooky and dark but truly original masterpiece of electronic disco without using any computers and MIDI. However, at that time the record didn't succeed to get attention it deserved. Until the Rephlex guys Luke Vibert and Richard James got a copy and found it so good that re-released it on Rephlex. Eventually, 26 years after the original release Bernard Fevre got back into recording and released a new album on Lo Recordings.

So, there they were — kind of fancy looking Bernard Fevre and his assistant performing at Exit Café. Both leaning over their macs, and Bernard singing with a slight French accent and his finger stickedinto his ear in order to hear his own voice better. Everything together looked and sounded a bit naïve but also true and enchanting. There was the element of originality and spirit that sometimes temporary electronic music lack. If you haven't heard of them, go and check immediately.

Tracks from the Disco Club record on Myspace.

Black Devil Disco Club - I regret the flower power

2) Coldcut @ Kulturfabrik

No doubt Coldcut are living classics of electronic and hip-hop music. As you likely know, these guys are also creators of Ninja Tune — one of the most successful and innovative independent record labels. They've been in this broken beats sampling crossover scene for 20 years, still being in avant-garde when it comes to music and technology. Their new show A Journey by VJ (do you still remember their A Journey by DJ mix series?)involves art-of-state technologies and is truly mind-bending, first of all because of the great video and sound sync. There was a guy (was it Coldcut's Jon More or somebody from Hextatic - creators of these videos?) simultaneously scratching videos and sounds. The result is a kind of post-modern meta-language with profound references to hip-hop/sampling and pop culture in general and Ninja Tune's history as well. Anyway, it makes sense to buy their DVDs instead of CDs.

They played some songs from their last album Sound Mirrors. When it came out, I had mixed feelings about it. Some pieces were just great, having that unexpected crossover approach (Boogieman, Aid Dealer etc.), whereas some others I found a bit too pop or too much leaning towards "the British club sound", for instance, the rocky "Out of Control" (with Jon Spencer) or "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" that owes much to UK's garage/soul thing. However, together with videos songs were entertaining. And it was funny that the video stream sometimes was so intense that people were just staring at screen instead of dancing along. "True Skool" made me think of UK music traditions again, this time particularly about bhangra music influence on London's scene. The artists like Asian Dub Foundation, Talvin Singh and all the others related to "Anokha/Asian Underground", and more recent MIA and Punjabi MC came to my mind. That was damn groovy music! I remembered my ass dancing off during ADF concert in 2004, or while Asian Equation explosive performance with live drummers and dancers at Arte Riga '99.

Apart from the entertaining aspect, Coldcut's music and videos contain a big amount of political criticism and the sense of social responsibility, employing technologies and multimedia as tools for contra-propaganda. In this sense, visuals are more effective than plain music. So, for instance, for me their old classic Timber made bigger sense when seeing the video — contrasting images and sounds of motor-saws cutting out the rain forests and peaceful chanting of a native Indian woman.

Or a fast motion mush-up in "Revolution" using the war related quotations from G.W.Bush, D.Cheney , T.Blair and the other suckers showing how absurd and amoral the war in Iraq is and the double-standards of the Western "democracies".

There were also some old-school hip-hop cuts in da mix — the classics from Erik B. & Rakim, Run DMC, NWA, House of Pain etc. Oh, what a trip!

And here comes a funky ninja bonus:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Passion not fashion

Although I like this type of music, when I see that at the moment Justice and all those French distorted house artists (mainly put out by Ed Bangers and Institubes) are featured in stylish fashion magazines and it's called a new hype, I just feel there is something wrong. Apart from the fact that this sound is not so new any more, I'm afraid that it may turn into another short-living trend. You know that may happen when mass media and fashion biz creates a buzz around a certain music style - new opportunists start copying "standards" and in the result music gets less original, less creative. That happened to electroclash and electrohouse, as we know. On the contrary, for example so called minimal techno despite being kind of trendy as well is not so much dependent on music press coverage and other marketing tools, because it's more a scene thing with a common culture codes and roots.

Going back to the subject, the moniker "new rave" makes me grin - under this term quite loose stuff has been marketed lately - from The Klaxons to numerous electrorock bands to Riton to Justice etc. Who's invented this bullshit? Well, ok, some of them may be ravey, but rock bands doesn't have anything to do with raves, but stadiums, ok?

On the other hand, the media attention can be partly understood because some of these "new rave" bands have released albums lately. It's kind of funny that "DJs community" cares more about singles and EPs, whereas "standard" listeners and mainstream mags need albums. So, no surprise that these albums - namely by Justice, Simian Mobile Disco and Digitalism - are based on some solid singles actually been known for a while. This particularly applies to Digitalism's LP Idealism, where the only hit is the same old Zdarlight, then there are some weak imitations of it and some crappy electro/rock/pop tunes. However, SMD and particularly Justice deliver interesting records, smoothly balancing the old school influences with new techniques. Nice dance music, but I can't get really what all this fuss is about?

Justice - Phantom

Kuduro — a new ghetto beat from Luanda

As I've already mentioned, in the conference, where I took part, Frederic Galliano presented a new electronic music style from Angola, called kuduro. In fact, it's not so new, but just now it starts getting international recognition, and Monsieur Galliano has taken upon himself the role of "ambassador" of this style.

So, what kind of shit is it? Oh, it's the wild one. The core element is a rather unique rhythm, created electronically, even if it doesn't sound like a "computer music" — the traditional percussions, similar to the ones of batucada, are used. The real street style employs rough sounds and wicked beats. Then there are MCs aggressively rapping on beats. Rapping itself sound more like of hardcore dancehall than hip-hop. The dominating language is Portuguese. Another kuduro element is crazy dancing, which seems to be influenced by traditional dance and break-dance. To have a better idea of what kuduro sounds like and how it's danced, check these videos presented by Galliano:

Frédéric Galliano Kuduro Sound System


Tony Amado has been credited as a creator of kuduro sound. The style was born in the mid 90's, but it stayed really underground and local until recent. It's funny that Amado says that he got inspiration for creating kuduro after seeing how Van Damme dances in one of his movies.

The creation of Kuduro by Tony Amado

You can also check Galliano's myspace, where you can hear his Kuduro Sound System, which is somewhat milder and more production orientated version of kuduro, but still featuring original MCs.

Another bit worth watching is this video for a kuduro piece by a gang Os Lambas from Luanda, Angola. I've been told that when they had released this song, all the taxi drivers, when they entered their neighbourhood, were forced to play this particular tune.

Apart from Angola, there is a kuduro scene in Portugal as well. However, Portuguese kuduro is milder, smoother and in a way more commercial, too. The most known band is Buraka Som Sistema, which can be seen at different music festivals:

Their myspace page here.

I'm going to write more elaborated feature on kuduro for the next Jaffa Magazine issue.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where the West meets the East


I'm back from Casablanca, where I took part in a conference for indie magazines. It appears that there is an upcoming and thriving hiphop scene in Morocco. While some acts/MCs follow commercial h-hop stirring towards all that fucked-up bling attitude, there is some really interesting and original stuff with references to traditional Mahgreb music. Some of it, which is particularly close to suffi's spiritual music, is called issawa. MCs freely mix French with a kind of Arabian street slang.

I would like to share some groovy tracks from the CDs I bought in a market in Casablanca.

As far as I know, H-Kayne is the most successful Moroccon h-hop crew, with remarkable production qualities and cool rapping skills. This particular song had a huge dance response in a local resto where the conference's participants where dining.

H-Kayne - Issawa Style

Casa Crew, as their name suggests, is from Casablanca, and they seem to be quite popular there.

Casa Crew - La Slam La Klam

And here is a crew from another Moroccon city - Fes.

Fes City Clan - Arde L'baisse Nass

During the conference Frederic Galliano had an interesting presentation about Kuduro music - an electronic ghetto music from Angola - but this topic deserves a separate entry.