Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Music 2014: Chicago Bop, The Lisbon Sound, Hy Brazil and New-Wave Grime

Although this hardly touches the surface of new music in 2014, it does give some shine to a bunch of styles and sounds that have caught my ear, and have provided me hours of pleasure. I can understand if some of this stuff is not for everyone, it can get pretty niche. However, if you love music, I'm hoping this will be enough for you start deep-diving a few of these styles yourself and enjoying them as much as I have.

Chicago Bop

Chicago is known for its holy marriage of music and dance. It is the home of house music, and the birthplace of footwork and juke. Even more than house, footwork is inextricably tied to its signature dance style as much as the music that drives it.

And so it is with Bop. Influenced by the pulsing beat of house, the dance and percussive elements of Footwork and the swagger and flow of Hip-Hop, Bop is a sound definitively of this time.

It's also a sound of its location. The minimal beats and melody of Bop relay celebration, but it comes with a sinister undertone, like a bunch of mobsters living it up the night before a heist. Given the history of high murder rates in #chiraq, it shouldn't a surprise that even its most celebratory music is couched in paranoia and the threat of violence.

Although the stark beats feel dangerous, the intention of the sound is to get you on the floor. The Bop dance is a combobulation of loose yet precise chicken wing arms and complicated footwork. The sound ebbs and flows, the speedy high-hats competing against standard hip-hop snares, allowing the dancer to deviate between dance styles. 

Given that the dance is as synonymous with the music as the music itself, it's no surprise that Bop dancers are getting as much if not more love than the musicians. Lil Kemo is the undisputed king of Bop and can be seen #boppin with local acts in several Chicago area videos.

As for beakout acts, Sickko Mob have taken the sugar rush of Bop into the mainstream, signing to the record label owned by pop hit-makers Stargate, so you may hearing Bop grace the top ten sometime soon.

Either way, its yet another example of how place, time, cultural lineage and youthful enthusiasm feed into the way we create and the way we live.

Further reading:

The Lisbon Sound

Lisbon is a city that has seen hard times in recent years. 

Long standing rental laws keep young people out of the city, forcing them into isolated suburban ghettos. But whilst ghettos inherently trap people in cycles of poverty, the close proximity to others and depth of population in project building areas also provides interaction and therefore inspiration and innovation through communication.

DJ Marfox, a lifetime resident of Quinta do Mocho, a housing project 30 minutes from the city,  was approached to join record label 'Principe' by its directors Pedro and Nelson Gomes. For the Gomes', the idea was to take the ghetto sounds they were hearing blasting out of local cars and expose it to the world.

Marfox and his contempories (including DJ Nigga Fox, Niagara, Lilocox and more) take traditional  Afro-Portuguese styles such as kuduro batucada, itself a sub-style of samba, and mix them with batida, kizomba, funaná, house, afro house and tarraxinha, genres mostly (but not exclusively) rooted in Angola, Cape Verde and São Tomé E Príncipe. 

The Godfather of the lisbon sound is a man regularly touted by Principe artists, DJ Nervoso. He was a heavy contributor to the seminal Lisbon compilation DJ's Do Guetto Vol.1.

The Lisbon sound itself is hard to define, due to its ever-expanding strains and sub-genres. However, if you had to describe it, it would be a style that is faster than traditional Portugese dance, with highly repititive drums and rhythms, programmed to perfection through drum machines. As Phillip Sherburne puts it in Spin, it's like "U.K. funky, the uptempo, Caribbean-flavored strain of British house music; but this stuff is even more intense".

If you're sick of pristine commercial EDM and want something with a little more edge and rhythm, then this raw, ghetto dance style will get your booty shaking.

Further reading:

Hy Brazil

Hy Brazil is supposedly a mythical phantom island in the Atlantic. However, in the present day, it's also the title of a series of compilations of various Brazilian music compiled by veteran producer Chico Dub.

Brazil is on the economic up-swing, so it shouldn't be a surprise that fully-formed bands and musicians are being curated and presented to the world.

It also shouldnt surprise that a country that is so culturally rich is producing such high-quality music. What is surprising is that up until now, it's been so hard for so many to be heard.
The music covers the spectrum of genres, with Baile Funk, Trap, Garage, House and Hip-Hop all finding there way into the various tracks across the four Hy Brazil compilations.

With the World Cup and Olympics coming up, it might be 'Hy' time that you bone up on your Brazilian and get into carnivale mode with this series of albums.

Hy Brazil Vol 4 is available from bandcamp for ‘name your price’.

Further Reading:

Neo-Eski and New Wave Grime

Grime is a dormant genre, the successor to garage and 2-step and the birthplace of EDM stars like Dizzee Rascal and Wiley.   It's driven by its basslines, another bass-heavy strain in the lineage of the hardcore contiuum, and sounds to newbies like angular Hip-Hop. 

As Garage and 2-Step became mainstream, other producers started creating harder edged sounds, darker and sometimes enhanced by equally grave staccato rap flows. This became the template the for Grime, a sound that is said to have originally been created on Playstations (necessity breeds innovation).

The first wave of Grime rose quickly and died even quicker, taking Garage and 2-Step down with it. Violence, drugs and the media co-erced to bring an early end to any mainstream aspirations for grime.

So where has it been and why is it back? 

Grime, like most of the genres in the hardcore continuum before it, crashed and burned, and yet out of the ashes it birthed styles and stars that went on to become influences themselves. 

Without the violence and heavy-handed posse mentality of Grime, would we have seen the birth of dubstep? Dubstep was once an insular, hazy low-end dream, the polar opposite of Grime, but it was also direct descendant of it. 

Whilst dubstep morphed into the backbone of the first wave of EDM in the late noughties, strains of Grime DNA were finding their way back into UK clubs through new genres like UK Funky and the Purple sound coming out of Bristol. Not only did these both sounds lead to the third wave of UK House that is dominating charts all over the world currently, it also lead producers young and old back to Grime itself, an alternative to the safe, pristine sounds of groups like Disclosure and Rudimental.

It has been suggested that Grime didn't have the chance to grow and mutate as it should of at the time, and it's only now that younger producers are taking the templates of earlier incarnations of Grime and re-purposing and re-contextuallizing them for the future.

The beats and sounds are still minimal and stark, with clean, crisp synth stabs and staccato kick drums. But the melodies are more complicated, and in the hands of the more experimental, prettier and more melodious.

If you ever thought that a de-tuned guitar sounded beautiful, then maybe this your 21st century substitute.

Further Reading:

Friday, May 2, 2014

Review: Duck Sauce - Quack

Duck Sauce, which started as a side project for House heavyweight Armand Van Helden and Turntablist turned label mogul A-Trak, has become enough of a concern that the duo decided to release an album. 

That an album would appear this late in the groups rise is both a surprise and a relief. With the benefit of hindsight it's easy to say that after four years of working together it was inevitable that these two could make a dope album, but lets be honest, we all thought it could have been a disaster.

Thankfully it's another solid entry in the discographies of both of these artists catalogs, and that's saying something. This album was made with a purpose, and that purpose was to make you dance and dance as furiously as a Tony Jaa roundhouse kick.

The album kicks off with 'Chariots of the Gods' and does not let up for it's length. Sometimes the extended length of the tracks wears, but that's only because this music was designed for the stage and not for the headphones. 

'It's you' and 'Barbara Streisand' sound like novelty hits, but they also move, bringing levity without losing the tempo. On an album that is both pounding and funny, these tracks are a welcome interlude.

The apex of the sound of Duck Sauce has always been at the crossroads of the artists styles - the sample-driven House chop and flip of Van Helden and the turntable dexterity and humour of A-Trak. This comes through in spades on highlights like 'Radio Stereo' and 'NRG', although it could apply to 90% of the LP.

Whilst this album is better heard out in a field surrounded by like-minded duckologists, it still bangs in the bedroom and cranks in the car.

Not Sunday morning listening, but definitely gets you pumped for a night out... or even a night in.