Sunday, August 08, 2004

more d'n'b---soundsystems---gripes---to my london crew get paypwa

Revisited one of my favourite killing time/ procrastination haunts yesterday the oxford street HMV (our halls were opposite selfridges don't you know) and killed time/procrastinated like the good old days. ah yes, many an hour would be spent leafing through drum 'n' bass singles and getting all indignant that it wasn't very exciting, flinching at ludicrous over-production of pendulum and such like (pendulum are three behoodied australian ex-metallers whose d'n'b tunes resemble earpiercing versions of some hellish gameshow theme tune, thanks for that guys). anyway i listened to these records just to see what still a gwan today in d'n'b, and see for myself how depressingly little these records shared with the old jungle i was getting into at the time. Often there would be ones I liked, Roni Size 'bumbakita' is good fun, Technical itch can clearly rock a compressor, Ebony Dubs is always catchy ('muderation' has a retro junglist intro: "*siren* when i came in this business it wasn't about money, it was about music" hmm...). I liked Lemon D's latest effort called 'Pharoah' or something, tough looped amens and a no-nonsense bludgeon bass, rhythmically twitchy enough to make me think of bizzy b 'bad boy sound'. Dillinja 'in the grind' was also kind of bizzy-ish but with standard snare boredom and without the rave heritage (the recognition thrill you get from hearing it in a new context) of the mentasm sound in bizzy, and just goes on and on and on. If only these records used their loops for a fraction of the time before moving onto something else, THEN we'd be talking.

One of the most annoying things about nu-d'n'b records is that they're mastered at a ridiculously high volume, and try to fill every range on the frequency spectrum. This means you're basically listening to white noise, all pitches rolled into one aggressively loud mixdown. The last d'n'b event i went to (fabric i think) all you could hear was a nasty overdriven hiss, a snare dull-ly sounding through the fog, with the mc bigging this mess up over the top. Such is d'n'b's need now to impress with raw power, it's become all so turbo-cosworthed up far beyond what it's weak musical chassis can handle. It's become an excercise in hi-tech engineering, who can design and manufacture the heaviest bass, ot the biggest drums, the tune that will come in with the most force to wobble peoples trousers and big up the stadium-slaying sweeping effects. LFO and Nightmares On Wax built their bleep 'n' bass around a similar competitive premise; who could physically cut the loudest bass, but then it was adventuring into areas of the soundsystem that weren't exploited before. In d'n'b today systems are being over-revved and pushed way beyond what they what they can handle in the name of 'progrssion'.

When he hears something particularly wicked and dancable, one of my friends tends to say 'i could dance to that all night'. To this day i've never heard him say it about a jungle or drum 'n' bass tune, which is suprising as I'm pretty sure it has popped up in conversations about about garage/house/rock/hiphop, but that's not how jungle is supposed to work. It's strength is in temporality. It's not meant to settle into a safe followable pattern with seamless mixes creating one endless continuity. It's all about those momental contortions, being swamped by too much rhythmic information to process at once. Moments needing a rewind because you can't work out what actually happened during them. That's why the structures are so strange on '94-'96 jungle records; they need to be heavily punctuated to keep the potency of these seperate moments. If you look at a d'n'b 12" today you notice that in the right light it will always show three concentric rings (as well as the grooves being a relatively long way apart like a fingerprint, for extra volume). The outer ring is the intro, ususally just drums with a scary/futuristic synth or 'soulful' sample depending on whether they're hoping Grooverider or Fabio will play it. Then the second ring, the largest is where the bass comes in and remains for the majority of the record. This is sometimes preceded by the bass drum going buf buf buf buf bufbufbufbuf bubububububububu. The next one is another scary/soulful break down and then back to the main riff. The punctuation is standard and the moments are rendered useless by their reptition, bludgeoning the point about their one rhythmic idea.

oh well, i won't stop listening, if only to stir up my (self-)righteous ire.


a late arrival to the charts as market force capitalism debate: surely simon reynold's SOACAs also have market forces exerted upon them from within, the dancefloor acting as trading floor. Producers will create tunes that pander to what the dancefloor wants, even refining them after dubplate pressings so they do their job more effectively, nothing is created in artistic isolation. However small the scale music is created with demographics and purposes in mind, which is all part of the self-criticism process everything is subject to.


Listened again properly to Dizzee's new one 'Stand Up Tall' and i'm really beginning to Love it. Love to hear it played bassily in a house set. Love the way that the lyrics and synth have a similar *but not quite* rhythm in the first part of the verse. Those strings in the chorus are really one of THE great unexpectedly melodic grime moments (like the sinister cello/ cor anglais 'Peter and The Wolf' bit in Igloo), like suddenly it flourishes into something that makes perfect harmonic sense.

I'm so glad it's a big party track as well, just to show those 'fix up' nay sayers. Too many people treated bonafide party slaying anthem* 'Fix up look sharp' as a guilty pleasure, or just rubbished it entirely as a record-company-placating thrown together promo piss-about. It probably didn't the critical respect it deserved as it didn't really fit in with 'this new grime thing made on playstations by 14 yr-olds, vibrant blah blah blah' broadsheet reviews, and was kind of ignored as a step in the wrong direction. 'Stand up tall' is both grimy and party rockin'. Dizzee didn't rocket up through the underground because of his skill just as a chronicler of introspection, but through wrecking raves and 'flushing mc's down the loo' as well. 'Fix up' has amazing flow, those bits where he lets the first beat go to leave room for the Oooh sample, and then picks it up and it just rolls on, he sounds like a world-beating rapper, more vocal grain, imagination, style, rhythm than most i can think of. I am now sooo hyped for the album.

*scientifically proven when played as climax of DJ Le Jacques Magique's cannot-fail floor slaying final trio after 'run to the hills' and marc smith vs. safe'n'sound 'identify the beat'.


Blogger PRANCEHALL said...

"The outer ring is the intro, ususally just drums with a scary/futuristic synth or 'soulful' sample depending on whether they're hoping Grooverider or Fabio will play it."


what about intelligent drum and bass?

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