Musicophilia Daily

[Audio] – Tonio Rubio – “Bass In Action No. 1” (1973)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 8, 2009

Tonio Rubio – “Bass In Action No. 1” (1973)

Sound library music doesn’t get any more stone cold than this track.  Music of any kind rarely does.  What should have been a cornerstone of golden-age hip-hop, “Bass In Action No. 1” is an incredible audio stroll consisting of sweet glistening electric piano glissandi, an ice cold single-note bass line, and the ready-made laid-back hip-hop breakbeat.  It’s enchanting for the first minute; but when the beat kicks in at 1:05, you won’t be able to keep from grinning. [Tonio Rubio is featured in on an equally groove-laden mix of tunes from around the world at Musicophilia.] Update: Corrected the streaming link.

[Audio] – Kode9 & The Spaceape – “Quantum” (2006)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 5, 2009

Kode9 & The Spaceape – “Quantum” (2006)

To the casual follower of the Hyperdub label, Burial’s work looms large.  However, Kode9 & The Spaceape’s album ‘Memories of the Future’ is almost equally appealing.  Existing in a less hazy/rain-drenched landscape of sharper shapes amidst the cavernous dub, propelled as much by The Spaceape’s vocal contributions as Kode9’s beats, this music lives up to the album’s name.  It sounds like a future that knows the past, a futurism that isn’t about pretending to exist ex nihilo.  [Kode9 & The Spaceape are featured in an appropriately spooky, rich mix, ‘Tall Stories of Evil Gris-Gris,’ at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Death Comet Crew – “Exterior Street” (1984)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on June 3, 2009

Death Comet Crew – “Exterior Street” (1984)

Rammellzee posesses a rhythmic fluidity and a full-force speed that made his MCing pretty damned advanced for the early days of hip-hop.  And it fits the post-punk-ish artiness and darkness of this Electro/hip-hop track.  The combination adds up to a manic, tense, sharp, and fiery concoction.  Certainly it doesn’t feel like party music, unless it were a celebration of an apocolypse.

[Audio] – Digable Planets – “Black Ego” (1994)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on May 20, 2009

Digable Planets – “Black Ego” (1994)

I hope by now it’s common knowledge that Digable Planets weren’t the hip-hop-hippies their “one-hit-wonder” single made them seem.  Like the best trip-hop, their mellowness (especially on their second album, ‘Blowout Comb’) fronted a complex blend of emotions, telling stories of the personal-as-political and the political-as-personal.  Plus, with their Modern Jazz Quartet-like approach to vibes-and-strings and their judicious beat-borrowing (here the eternal Zigaboo), they made hip hop sound as good as their best new-school contemporaries.  They tapped a deep well, and another fifteen years on, it’s far from dry.

[Audio] – Emmanuelle Parrenin – “Topaze” (1977)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 13, 2009

Emmanuelle Parrenin – “Topaze” (1977)

I can guarantee you’d never match this track to its cover. Parrenin’s ‘Maison Rose‘ is an odd one, but fascinating: mostly pastoral in the Drake/Bunyan vein, but with bits of an edge that remind me a little of Laurie Anderson or Brigitte Fontaine or Linda Thompson; quite lovely and worthwhile.  And then there’s this track, that seems like it’s from another album; but also from another time and place: abstract wailings ostensibly derived from a hurdy gurdy (the link with the rest of the album) are wrapped around a booming, single-note bass tone and then. . . holy shit, that beat: all echoed, sliced up, turned around, and utterly cool.  Where this came from out of this artist, I don’t at all understand; Like a cousin to This Heat’s ’24 Track Loop, it’s simply out of nowhere.  I’ll leave it for you to supply what genres it anticipated and by how many decades.  All I know is, I can get completely lost in this beat, on repeat.

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[Audio] – Jaylib (J Dilla & Madlib) – “Raw Shit” (2003)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 2, 2009

Jaylib (J Dilla & Madlib) – “Raw Shit” (2003)

Nothing touches ‘Donuts‘ for me.  But even though I’m not a huge Madlib fan, I’ve come around to the “Jaylib” collaborations between he and Dilla.  This track has a little of the feeling of both, succinctly capturing the chopped playfulness of J Dilla, and bounces along confidently with a catchy vocal hook (featuring Talib Kweli sounding as good as I’ve heard him) and a great organ sample.  [J Dilla is featured here and here in very different contexts at Musicophilia.]

[Audio] – Jeru the Damaja – “Ain’t the Devil Happy” (1994)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 19, 2009

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Jeru the Damaja – “Ain’t the Devil Happy” (1994)

Though it’s a little unfair, “conscious” has come to be a near-synonym for “soft” or “hippie” or “not real” when it comes to hip-hop.  Jeru, though, is conscious like hip-hop forefathers the Last Poets or Gil Scott-Heron were conscious: politically conscious, sociologically, spiritually, economically: not “foolin around”.  Jeru felt no reason to compromise between brains and musical brawn.  So also like those forefathers, he achieves the rare feat of political music that matters as much for its music as its message.  Spare and efficient, “Ain’t the Devil Happy” is not the least bit dated, like even plenty of other musically enjoyable mid-school hip-hop.

[Audio] – 9th Scientist – “Do You Love Me?” (2004)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 10, 2009

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9th Scientist – “Do You Love Me?” (2004)

9th Scientist is carrying the torch strong for those who love mid-school sample-based hip-hop, but he’s not living in a DA.I.S.Y. retro world.  He takes it Southern slow (Atlanta, not Houston or New Orleans), with an unhurried delivery, and for him “consciousness” is not an aesthetic, but a life’s pursuit.  Musically his strongest suite is production, where he’ll appeal to fans of Dilla, with simply utilized, unpolished soul/funk loops.  This track uses a perfect sample, sounding almost like a heartbeat echoing the intensity of an ode to a lifelong (possibly estranged) friend.  Check him out here, pick up a new album here.

[Link] – Kutiman – ‘ThruYOU’ (2009)

Posted in Link, Video by Soundslike on March 6, 2009

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Kutiman – ‘ThruYOU’ (2009) [Video EP]

Often one hears about how it took, say, John Cage weeks to create the tape splices for “Williams Mix” in 1952, but how it would take some random kid fucking around on his iMac ten minutes to create it now with a few clicks of a mouse.  Well, I’d say this “technology today makes it all so easy” thing is at least a little half-baked: any sort of musician who ultimately prides himself more on how long his music takes to make, rather than how good it is, is no musician I trust.  But regardless of the effect–good, bad, or indifferent–on the quality of “sample-based music” of  streamlined/accessible technology, I think the same basic impulse is there and the same search for resonance is at play now as in 1952.  Technology–primitive or advanced–only takes things so far.  Still–if we concede it’s gotten any “easier” to undertake, this guy, “Israeli Afrobeat artist” Kutiman, seems to have decided to make it just about as difficult and time-consuming as it was for those early tape-spicers.

The funny thing, though, is that instead of creating avant-garde abstraction via laborious technique, ‘ThruYOU‘ encapsulates the full-circle from experiment to pop: countless hours of disparate-sound-seeking and (digital) splicing have come together to create songs, songs that “could have been made the old-fashioned way” (at least as old-fashioned as circa 1976 or so).  Some might say, then, “why bother”.  For me, I think it’s pretty masterful: through the video medium, this guy is laying bare a lot of technical factors most people probably don’t think about, and getting them to ooh and ahh (or maybe boo and hiss) just like the crowd at the first performance of “Williams Mix,” and making a nice little joyous statement for combined creativity being greater than the sum of its parts.  But the impressive thing is, even if people didn’t know the technique–and it is impressive, it is laborious, it is some sort of “YouTube finally came to something” social/cultural moment–it really wouldn’t matter.  For the most part, these are good songs, as well as good avant-garde application of tech.  For me, that just does it–I love best where these supposedly oppositional forces meet up seamlessly.

The idea here has been done before, even as a 15-minutes-of-fame viral YouTube sensation (the one with the training videos spliced together).  But this takes it to another level.  The basics: the guy waded through surely thousands of YouTube videos by totally unrelated video makers, spent who knows how many hours cutting and editing and mixing them, and came out with lovely funk/Afrobeat/dub/hip-hop/R&B/dance fusions.  Perhaps this process of splicing and sampling eventually becoming normal elements of pop music, just another instrument, was inevitable.  Things start out a little cute, but like a good Matthew Herbert concept or an Eno/Byrne deconstruction, these tracks take on (through the seven songs in the playlist) increasing emotional resonance, transcending their theory-exercise origin.  And thanks to a few lovely borrowed melodies and catchy beats and hooks, they honestly have some pop potential.  I just love synergy, those serendipitous moments when sounds just fit, so I imagine Kutiman must’ve been grinning ear to ear.

Watch and listen here.

[Audio] – Steinski & Double Dee – “Lesson No. 1: The Payoff Mix” (1983)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on March 5, 2009

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Steinski & Double Dee – “Lesson No. 1: The Payoff Mix” (1983)

This track is embedded in the trajectory of contemporary culture, just as much as it (and its sequels) drew from mass culture through ’83.  But besides all that “importance” bit–it’s just a great listen for those who dig electro, early hip-hop, and cultural sampling in general.  Reissued in 2008 on the compendium ‘What Does It All Mean? 1983-2008 Retrospective,’ it’s a good thing this stuff is now quasi-legitimately available.  UPDATE: New stream link.