Saturday, April 12, 2014

Certified Connections part 3

Earlier this year I posted the two Certified Connections pieces. This is the third and last of those. In the first I tried to disentangle the relationship between instrumental artists and the often buried ideas behind their music, using No Fixed Abode (LHF)’s “Certified” and its samples as a starting point for a meander into this history of music behind it.

In the second, No Fixed Abode took the source of some of the samples – Robin Travis – and explained the context around them; in other words the negative cycles of gang violence in inner city London that many of us are oblivious to but are in proximity to.

In this final post, I’d like to talk about Robin Travis’ autobiography “Prisoner to the Streets,” that centers around the long standing Tottenham/Hackney beef.

I’ve been trying, fairly ineffectually, to read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for a while now. It’s really quite dense but because it fulfills on its promise to re-engineer how you think about how you think, I’m persisting.  “Prisoner to the Streets” is in some ways similar, though in others it could not be more different.

If  “Thinking…” is about how your head thinks, “Prisoner…”  is a first person account of Travis’ life written as if actually inside his head. It is written in part in London street slang, so having heard some grime will help a reader. And grime is where the light comparison with the effect of “Thinking…” comes in, because while “Prisoner…”  wont make you change how you think about you think, it will – unless you’re from the roads already – change the point of perspective from which you think. I’m a slow reader and my life is so digitally saturated (laptop, Apple TV, iPhone, 4G, wifi, Twitter, Facebook, the State app, BBC app, email email email…) that the times I do read are snatched during the day. Yet “Prisoner…” gripped me so strongly this Christmas I pushed all distractions aside. It’s one of those “I’ll just read oooone more page… whoops it’s 1:30am” kinda books.

If you care about grime, there may be several reasons why you do. Obviously since its inception, its appeal lies in that it is sonically shocking music and has an aggressive, masculine, flight-or-fight impact to the system.  It’s also lyrically and musically abstract too, yet also quite human.

But a large secondary appeal for me and many others, is that it is the strong and unique voice of a broadly under-heard community, namely the unequal and often violent multicultural parts of east and south London. It’s margins music.  To me at least, hearing and understanding things from another perspective – especially packaged up in such sonically interesting way – has always been something I want to be open to.

Tiverton Estate

-- Tiverton Estate by Nico Hogg

Even with such earnest intentions however, it’s best to remember that no matter where it came from, much of grime is a very exciting blend of artistic license, creative fiction, projection and aspiration. If as many people were shot or shanked by MCs as they said they were going to be per track, Trident and half of the armed forces would have shut Bow down in a massive show of force. If every MC moved as many kilos of drugs as they talked about, they… wouldn’t be talking about it. If every MC was as confident as the perennial “I’m sick/you’re a prick” meme, they’d all be JME or Jamal Edwards. We accept all these contradictions, between grime-as-reportage and grime-as-fiction, because it’s just so sonically exciting, just like Hollywood blockbusters and the stunts that simply can not be if Newton and his laws are still right.

What most grime MCs aren’t good at is showing weakness or doubt, probably because they seem to be raised in hyper violent male dominated arenas where showing weakness is unthinkable. Arenas – either the ends itself or on radio – where the unit of currency is reputation and reputation brings protection and status.

So what’s truly remarkable about Robin Travis’ autobiography, is that to a grime fan, it re-arranges completely the point of perspective. It’s not grime as a window into another way of life, but another way of life that was pretty grimey. But with this shift from fiction to fact, we lose some or all of the over-positive projection. In my experience, even of talking to grime MCs – i.e. guys from these environments - face to face, this kind of account feels pretty unique.

Take this fragment:
“Mix up or no mix up, I can’t lie, I loved these cussing matches. Sometimes they were so funny, man would be dying of laughter. It didn’t matter who had street ratings, when these matches started anyone could be top dog. It was always funnier when a member of the crew, lower in the ranks, was able to upset one of the top dogs. Holly Street is the funniest area of all the areas I ever lived in. Which is why I liked to chill there so much, even though I wasn’t feeling certain man in the team.”
What’s fun here is the common humanity revealed through humour. As you might have worked out, Robin is from the ends. He grew up poor, his Dad was absent when he was a kid (presumed dead) and his family suffered violence from the National Front.  His early years were spent on the Tiverton Estate (co-incidentally where Keysound photographer Nico Hogg grew up).

Dawn on the estate

While he didn’t become a drug dealer or contract killer, it’s fair to say Robin lived a very violent life; much of the book’s narrative follows his many inter- and intra-ends beefs and the complex street reputation logic as to why, how and when beef should happen. Fights happen in most chapters as Robin gets better and stronger when it’s on.

(Side note: throughout this whole piece its worth considering the idea that if you were one of his victims, you might reject his entire line of reasoning, for quite understandable reasons, a bit like how one nation’s victorious war hero is another’s mass murderer. It’s a great book, but I thought this regularly while reading it.) 

Even in the backdrop of regular violence however, “Prisoner…” is not a book about violence, it’s a window into the entrenched street mentality. So when he says “it didn’t matter who had street ratings, when these matches started anyone could be top dog” or “Holly Street is the funniest area of all the areas I ever lived in. Which is why I liked to chill there so much, even though I wasn’t feeling certain man in the team” its clear how far this differs from the creative yet inflexible and humourless “I’m sick/you’re a prick” fictions of grime artists, and how every day elements like humour, love, hunger, surroundings, education, sport or family can be as much a focus as beef, violence, or road reputation.

When reading an account of a violent man in a violent environment, you naturally begin to ask the usual nature/nurture questions. And while I think it’s misguided to think there is any kind of “right answer” to that false dichotomy – in other words, that the answer is ‘both are a factor’ not ‘one or the other’ – one early entry stuck with me through the many vicious encounters in the book:

“I remember my first ever fight. I was five years old. I was playing football on the estate when one of the kids punched me. I walked upstairs to our flat on the first floor and went inside.

‘Why’s your face so push up?’ mum asked.

‘No reason. Malachi just hit me.’

‘And what did you do?’

‘Nothing, mum. You hit me all the time.’

Mum stood up. ‘Hear me good, I’m your mum,’ she said in a firm voice.  ‘I gave birth to you. I didn’t do that so that other people can beat you. No go outside and don’t come back until you win that fight. I’ll be watching from the balcony.’

I was shocked. Mum’s giving me permission to fight. Rah!

I went back downstairs with butterflies in my stomach. I was scared to start with but compared to how my brother whupped me, I couldn’t see how this boy my age could cause me any real pain. In fact I wiped the floor with him.

I looked up. Mum seemed proud that I had defended myself. But I hated fighting. I would have preferred to let it slide without confrontation, but I knew if I didn’t go and give Malachi a good hiding I would have to face ‘johnny’ at home.

That day was a turning point… I went to school with a screwface most days and didn’t pay attention in class… Here is what [his teacher] Miss Leonard says:

‘I remember Robin well. A quiet, often sad boy. He rarely smiled and often came to school angry and frustrated about stuff that was happening at home. I encouraged him to take out his anger on a cushion or a teddy, like a punch bag. Robin was underachieving although he appeared bright and eloquent. He looked thin and frail at times and appeared vulnerable. ‘”

The fact that teachers are constantly dealing with the porous “boundary” that school hours impose is probably no surprise to anyone that’s spoken at length to a teacher. The fact that someone like Robin faced violence at home as much as he did outside it is also probably not news either. Home, school, road are all in flux or dialog with each other and more than likely several other agents or environments. The point here though is that through Robin you can see them all interacting.  These interactions - or indeed intersections - only grow more vivid as Robin begins to articulate the different sides mental arguments he sees, as he faces more and more physical arguments.

So instead of just seeing the projected “I’m sick” half of the “I’m sick/you’re a prick” projection we see in grime, instead it’s a constant internal battle between “Do I want to be sick?/Do I want to be safe” (and I mean ‘safe’ in the grime parlance sense).

An example of Robin’s dichotomy:

VOICE OF THE STREETS: yeah just do it
VOICE OF REASON: No, don’t. You’re only going to get yourself life’d off in jail.

Or, in an other:

VOICE OF THE STREETS: Job? Are for real, bruv? You done tried this working ting a’ready. It’s not for you, G. You’re not keeping it real out here. You’re a black boy from the hood with no qualifications. You were fired from your last job. Do you think anyone’s gonna to take you on with that record? You’re a road man. Stick to the fuckin’ script.

VOICE OF REASON: Nah, bu’n that talk. Come better that that, my yute. Look a job. That’s the right ting. Your mum never raised no fool. And you know your Nan would want better for you.

VOICE OF THE STREETS: Bruv, Kane’s still walking around and you’re talking about getting a job. You’re acting like you’re not on this ting any more. In fact… nah, nah, get a job. At least that way when we kill Kane they won’t suspect us coz you earn an ‘honest’ living. Yeah, do that, bruv. That idea’s sick. Lol.

I’m reluctant to sketch out the main events of the book, as it’ll only ruin it for anyone who reads it, but it’s safe to say the story is gripping. Robin sees more drama in one chapter than most people see in their lives. It’s also safe to say it’s pretty amazing that he’s not imprisoned (“life’d”) or dead several times over. 

But he isn’t and I for one am intensely grateful that he took the time to write down an account – for better or for worse – of life from his perspective. Because to solve a problem you need to first understand it, and far too many people speak about the actions on the outcomes of unequal societies without understanding the nature and causes of them.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Rinse FM Feb '14

**Dusk + Blackdown Feb '14 Rinse FM**


E.m.m.a. "Candy Stripe" [unreleased]
Caski "Tunnel Music" [unreleased]
My Nu Leng "Masterplan ft. Fox" [Black Butter]
Wen & Parris "Mori" [unreleased]
Brunks "Exit" [unreleased]
Mista Men "Dread" [unreleased]
Cliques "CHRO" [unreleased]
Hodge "Renegades" [forthcoming dnuoS ytiviL]
Damu "No Pain, No Gain" [unreleased]
Dusk + Blackdown "Drenched (Facta remix)" [unreleased]
Atlas "Polar" [unreleased]
Lamont "Far Away" [unreleased]
Facta "Quince" [unreleased]
Gantz ft. Rider Shafique "I&I" [forthcoming Deep Medi]
Luke Benjamin "Buddha Flow" [unreleased]
Riffs "Black Sound" [unreleased]
Etch "Champion Dancehall" [unreleased]
Dcult "Crawler" [unreleased]
Charlux "Neck Snap" [unreleased]
Korma "Springblade" [unreleased]
Underclass "Rinse Compressor (Epoch's FTS Remix)" [unreleased]
P Money "Mad (Wen remix)" [unreleased]
Prince Rapid "Prince" [forthcoming]
Kakarot "Port Harcourt (Shriekin' Specialist's Orchestral Maximalism Bongo Remix VIP)" [unreleased]
Moleskin "Imagination Pulse" [unreleased]
Fresh Paul "Tranquilisers" [unreleased]

Luke Benjamin "Cold Roads" [unreleased]
Amen Ra "Yielding" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin "No Light" [unreleased]
Double Helix "2000 Dust" [unreleased]
Double Helix "Untitled"[unreleased]

Chainless "Artifacts" [unreleased]
Wiley "Samename (Colder Refix ((Logos Step 20 vocal)) [unreleased]
Murlo "Bowed" [unreleased]
Ruff Sqwad "R U Double F (Shriekin' Specialist Remake)" [unreleased]
Low Deep "Cheeky Violin (Arctic mix)" [unreleased]
Logos "Atlanta 96 Rework" [unreleased]

Monday, February 17, 2014

Certified connections part 2

For Certified Connections part 2, I'm going to quickly hand over to No Fixed Abode (LHF) himself, to explain a bit more about the track. When you hear people talking about someone in "Certified," they're talking about Robyn... Robyn Travis

"It's 1998 I'm listening to live shout outs on Freek Fm, every other phone call you hear 'fuck Tottenham' then 'fuck Hackney' and back and forth until they had to lock off it off. All I was thinking was that these guys were gassed. I never suspected that people were beginning to lose their lives in this beef and that things were gettin progressively worse."

"Fast forward a decade and I'm watching two youths chasing down a third with knives drawn, across 3 lanes of moving traffic, like the cars didn't exist to them. They ran with ferocity, bare faced, it was 11am on a Tuesday morning. It brought it all home for me."

"At the time I was getting a little insight into the gang issue in London straight from the youths involved, their families, social workers and youth workers."

"I knew that some of these youths were stuck in the cycles and wondered if they'd ever make it out. I watched a couple turn into murderers, locked up before they hit 16, even 15."

"So many of these kids had deep deep wounds."

"I wondered who could reach the lost youths. Some of them had no idea where they were headed, or if they did they couldn't get out of the cycle."

"Where is the badman that was smart enough and determined enough to leave it all behind?"

"Enter Robyn Travis, when I found out about this guy I told everyone I met who could benefit from it, to check him. He is a great example to the kids that are stuck on the roads. He was a hood star, heavily involved in beef who came out the other side. He came out of jail, got a degree, wrote a book and is now trying to really talk to the youths."

"I was inspired and wanted to write a tune about Robyn. The voices are all people that knew him, talking about his character. Anyone that can turn it around the way he did should be talked about and held up as an example."

"Ultimately the gang issue can't be a blame thing coz you'll just keep going further and further back to find the root cause and there isn't any singular cause."

"Robyn showed that it's about self-determination and self-teaching. It's a message that anybody can get with you ain't gotta be a road man!"

"Wisdom from the street can be very powerful, and struggle is a beautiful thing if you maintain through it."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Certified connections part 1

Here’s a casual observation from over the years: vocal music reaches a wider audience than instrumental music, especially outside of the classical realm. Just look at the US Billboard, Radio 1 Playlist, top YouTube music videos or the UK Top 40 and I challenge you to find an instrumental track.

This isn’t true in art, for example, where celebration of abstraction and non-figurative work is widespread: Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko are just as lauded figures than, say, the Dutch Masters. But it seems to be so in music.

I think the reasons why songs are so successful are fairly straightforward: that using the human voice as an instrument conveys a really rich amount of information and hence emotion. However I don’t want to challenge the assumption that the voice conveys a lot of rich information but that predominantly instrumental music doesn’t. If you can put Rothko in the Tate Modern, why can’t Basic Channel play Wembley Stadium? It sounds silly even suggesting the latter – but that’s entirely my point.

[Photo of the "press release" that accompanied my copy of the DMZ001 release (contact email addresses and phone numbers not shown...)]

It’s obvious that song, lyrics and vocal music carries additional information that generates emotion, but I do think a part of the responsibility for this lies with instrumental producers themselves, because in my experience if you engage them in dialog there often is a dense tapestry of history, thought, influences, experiences, inspiration, meaning and ultimately narrative in what they do - it’s just not found in the fore. One of the first times I remember feeling this was over a decade ago, with Digital Mystikz’s “B”, which has a whole sentiment behind why it was called that – but was never shared. More extreme examples of this are things like Global Communications’ (Tom Middleton & Mark Pritchard) “76:14” ‘90s ambient album, that only used track length numbers as track titles as not to impose any meaning upon the reactions in listeners’ minds.

  1. 4 02
  2. 14 31
  3. 9 25
  4. 9 39
  5. 7 39
  6. 0 54
  7. 8 07
  8. 5 23
  9. 4 14
  10. 12 18
 Seriously, that's what they called them...


Connections + story beneath

So as an experiment, I’m going to take one example – No Fixed Abode from LHF’s “Certified” – and try to peel back the layers to reveal two things: 1) underlying connections and 2) the story beneath. Both could contribute to a far richer understanding of the track and from there, the inference being that perhaps many other instrumental works we’ve all consumed have such depth and connections: ones worth perhaps revealing.

This is going to take three blog posts, so here’s the first…

Part 1: Connections

The first thing that hits you with “Certified” is how it’s built mostly around samples from jazz. Now in past times, sample culture was much stronger but in the last decade, perhaps since the rise & (legal or otherwise) distribution of digital studio packages, there’s been a dominance of inorganic synths in dance music rather than organic samples. Extreme examples include the trance-y pop r&b hybrids of a few years back or the whole brostep/EDM/trap sound. And synth sounds beget synth sounds: the more fashionable and hence dominant they become in current music, the less recent organic/live music there is worth sampling.

“Certified” uses samples and by doing so finds an overt connection to the rich heritage of sampledlia, the appropriation and re-contextualizing of fragments of recorded music. Using samples is quite different to layering synth sounds: sonically they’re diametrically opposed. In a synth you’re basically starting with a pure mathematical wave, in this simplest case the simple symmetric sine wave, and attempting to create asymmetry, through harmony, positive and negative interference, distortion etc – so you end up with something more complex and ideally sonically interesting.

But with a sample, you’re starting from something complex. In many cases, you have a small fragment of a live recording. As a thought experiment, let’s take an imaginary sample of the JB’s, James Brown’s amazing backing band:

The art of sampling often revolves around finding relatively isolated elements which you can extract and use an instrument itself, but even within isolated moments you have all kinds of properties or imperfections that give the sample it’s sonic characteristics. The tails of musicians fading out, the beginning of hits of musicians coming in, riffs gliding between perfect pitches, reverb from the room, the limitation of the recording conditions, crackle or even low hertz rumbles from the vinyl it was sampled from contribute to the signature. While you can filter, edit or EQ parts out, you’re essentially starting from a position of “imperfection” – and reveling in that.

As you begin to reposition the sample in it’s new context, maybe you’ll be playing a new riff with it – essentially just playing the sample faster or slower. You’ll be layering it with other samples or sounds, and finding just how close in key or otherwise it is. (Micro pitch tuning samples is a slow and painful way to find out just how close you can get yourself near to being sectioned... trust me...).

The point here is there’s an immense amount of history, context, backstory and … in each sample. And while it may not always be easily extractable, that story is there.

Sampling as a technique is and was so widespread that to pick any one example feels almost arbitrary but given the whole of hip hop was founded on cutting up and looping breaks from live disco (and other) recordings, I can’t not include these historical milestones or gems:

While they did it first (if you exclude the concept that being influenced by someone is a kind of sample, in whcih case we need to go back to classical or before...) hip hop doesn’t have a monopoly on sampling of course. Jungle did it to great effect, both rhythmically (looping, speeding up and re-editing classic breaks like the Amen, Think etc) and musically. Check Goldie lifting “Every Day of my life” from the Salsoul classic "Let No Man Put Asunder"). (Shout to this junglist, he knows what's up).


Of course "let no man put asunder" is a 'sample' of sorts from the Bible's Matthew 19:6, which, as an atheist, is always one of my favourite moments in a British church wedding because when the vicar says it, it triggers this mental image of a Salsoul classic coming on the church PA and everyone breaking into spontaneous dance to a gay-rights anthem.

While the feel of “Certified” does naturally sit with classic hip hop, in tempo it flows with UK garage and the latter is itself no stranger to sample culture. No Fixed Abode’s fellow LHF member Amen Ra is part of garage set dons, United Vibes. Their sets over the years have been drawn from a vast shared pool of UKG white labels and one away releases, collected while the genre was in full swing (sic). For anyone who’s seen their sets, one lasting memory is not just how fun garage is, but how inadvertently psychotically offkey it can be.

I asked Amen Ra for an example for this moment, he provided this, which 4Tet is re-issuing:

(Crazy Bald Heads is a Bob Marley song...)

Of course, Todd Edwards is quite distinct from hip hop but in many ways his trademark sound (learned from MK), is centered around sampling too, building melodies and in key riffs from vocals. I recall El-B, when he was making more 4x4 during the El-Tuff phase with Karl “Tuff Enough” Brown, saying just how hard it is to make all the samples pitch in key, probably because when you slow down a layered samples, different harmonics in the sample pitch down to different tones, semi tones or more like between the intervals. Respect to Todd, basically.

So sampling – there’s history to it, both the tradition and embedded in the sample, and “Certified” is no exception. Each sample based track is building on – and exists in the context of – a rich history of sampling. There’s a dialog going on, not just with you the listener or the current trends and styles, but with the past. Ideas from the past, glories from the past but also how the past is re-presented in the now.

In the case of “Certified”, it’s sampling free jazz. Now, I’m no expert on free jazz, that’s entire galaxy in itself, but I certainly can suggest some starting points – more connections if you will. It’s been a while since I read a lot about it, but I’m pretty sure people were pointing to Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Five and Hot Seven Sessions” as a starting point for improvisation in jazz.

"Certified" though samples Pharoah Sanders from much later but there’s something that connects them, and that’s a spirit of freedom, both musically in terms of the music evolving on the fly, and then sonically, to find the tones between the tones. Sampling of course, compounds this further, as micro intervals are layered upon micro intervals, such that you can never know whether something is nearly in tune (unlike a wave in a synth).

What I like about this one is that from the very first note, it’s like you’ve walked in late and Sanders is exploding upwards in a crescendo. By the end he’s ascending to the heavens.

"I sampled Pharoah Sanders in this track," said No Fixed Abode. "He's all about elevation and this whole story is about that. It's about triumph over adversity, and freeing yourself from negativity.  It's about triumph over adversity, not some dark morbid tale of woe. Rise up!"

Sanders played with John and Alice Coltrane… I mean, just read about the Pharoah, he’s a total don:
“Albert Ayler famously said: "Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.”

This is super mellow...


 ...and got sampled by Photek, back in the day…

But there’s another moment in “Certified,” that makes me think of an entirely other connection. It comes in at 14 seconds and while it’s certainly pretty “free” a sound, it has that kind of sour, almost organ-like sound that reminds in part of Kode9’s “Black Sun”, a track I have never recovered from

But I suppose at a leap, the sample connects to the kinds of drones here:

Man, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is such a don – look how much he’s smiling! It totally kicks off at around 11mins... this is hype like Roll Deep live on Rinse 2004.

And yet even here we see more connections: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a Qawwali singer and the first time I became aware of that form of singing was when Pinch handed me a CDr at Forward of this track he’d done .

Pinch went on to be a friend and good musical companion. When Dusk and I were thinking about starting Keysound in 2005, he intro’d us to Shlom at Boomkat who put us in touch with our first distribution deal – one that would allow us to form Keysound and release No Fixed Abode and other LHF records.

And so from the JB’s to DJ Premier, Todd Edwards to Pharoah Sanders via Kode9 and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the connections bring us full circle back to “Certified,” hopefully all the richer for the journey.

Part 2 to follow...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rinse FM Jan '14

Dusk + Blackdown Rinse FM Jan '14


Wen ft Riko "Play Your Corner" [unreleased]
Det Boi "My Show" [free DL]
Arka "Holding On" [unreleased]
Hodge + Facta "Tungsten" [unreleased]
Wen "Swingin' LDN remix" [unreleased]
Caski "Rare Groove" [unreleased]
Lexooo "Atthepoint" [unreleased]
Circula "Deep Data" [unreleased]
Cooly G "Hold Me" [Hyperdub]
Brunks "Daze" [free DL]
Blackdown "Timeless" [unreleased]
Caski "Awakened" [unreleased]
Parris "Pressure" [unreleased]
Fresh Paul "Statement of Intent" [unreleased]

Moleskin "Fountain Theme" [unreleased]
DLVRY "2 tha Streetz" [unreleased]
Logos "Menace (Charlux Refix)" [unreleased]
Chaksa "Dragon Breath" [unreleased]
Gage "Telo VIP" [unreleased]
Murlo "Untitled 7' [unreleased]
Blackwax "Phobia" [unreleased]
Atlas "Deity" [unreleased]
Murlo "Broken Arrow" [unreleased]
Blackwax "Grimace" [unreleased]
Shreikin' Specialist "Too Right"
TImbah "Flow Poke" [forthcoming Bad Taste]
JT the Goon "Natural Selection" [unreleased]
Murlo "Pharaohs" [unreleased]
Fresh Paul "I was Colder Alive" [unreleased]
Mr Mitch "The Lone Road" [unreleased]
Dark0 "Sweet Boy Pose" [unreleased]
Curl Up "Snap" [Terrorhythm]

Etch "Fantasy" [unreleased]
Ming da Mercilus "Paimei" [unreleased]
LV & Joshua Idehen "Imminent" [unreleased]
Buzzin' 10 "Bleakest Rave" [forthcoming Frijsfo]
Epoch "Attraction" [unreleased]
Mr Mitch "The Man Waits" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin & Filter Dread "Streets are Watching" [unreleased]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dusk + Blackdown Oct Rinse FM show

Dusk + Blackdown Rinse FM 31st October show: DOWNLOAD

Ghetts "Definition of a rebel" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin "Pray for Change" [unreleased]
Unknown "unknown" (e.m.m.a. remix) [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin "Sleeping Giant" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin & Amen Ra "Black Fog" [unreleased]
Caski "Dancehall" [unreleased]
Mistamen "Dred" [unreleased]
Brackles & Fox "Skank" [unreleased]
My Nu Leng "The Grid (Alias remix) [forthcoming]
Akkord "Folded Edge" [forthcoming Houndstooth]
Damu "Whirlybird [unreleased]
Sepia "Look around you" [unreleased]
Rakish "Reminisce"[unreleased]
Sepia "Escapism" (unreleased)
Dark0 "Skelly VIP" [unreleased]
Krytical "Tachi" [unreleased]
Atlas "False Dreams" [unreleased]
Sepia "Bullets" [unreleased]
Double Helix "Solidarity" [unreleased]
Aphix "Torn (Mix 1)" [unreleased]


Rabit in the mix

Headlock "Coax" [unreleased]
JT "Oil On Ice" [unreleased]
JT "Twin Warriors(Rabit Remix)" [unreleased]
Shriekin Specialist "Red Beach" [unreleased]
Rabit "Double Dragon(JT Remix)" [unreleased]
Chemist "Defiance" [unreleased]
Mistress "Crystal Warrior" [unreleased]


DLVRY "Guilt" [unreleased]
JT the Goon "Money can't Buy" [unreleased]
Joker "Deserted island" [forthcoming Kapsize]
Wen "Lunar" [unreleased]
Zoobi "Klubi " [unreleased]
JT the Goon "Twin Warriors (Murlo remix)" [unreleased]
Breen "Case Delay" [unreleased]
Mssingno "Xe2" [unreleased]
Chaksa "Tuhikya" [unreleased]
Sully "Charms" [unreleased]
Om Unit "Wall of Light" (Civil Music)
Desto "Now that you got me" [unreleased]

Monday, November 11, 2013

Meet moleskin...

B: So, start at the beginning then please, tell me about how and why you began making music...

M: I was a DJ long before I started producing, always meant to get into it but never really had any in roads. Within two days of moving to uni I'd met my guy and he just invited to hang out and make a beat sometime and from there it snow balled. That was roughly three years ago. Music had always been my thing ever since I clocked I couldn't be a professional footballer (tragic), when I lived in Germany I lived an hour away from all my friends, so spent a lot of time by myself listening to music, etc, etc. The hour long bus drive to school as well afforded me with 2 hours of daily solid listening time. When I moved back to England I had a similar bus drive, so yeah I've always just listened to lots of music.

B: But listening to music... everyone does that. What made you make the step to want to make it, which as we all know, is a long task that takes dedication...? And, one you'd found the way to make sound, were you aware of a sense of honing in on a sound? Because if feel you really are getting there, getting to a sound right now...

M: I'm not sure if I'm 100% honest, the DJs I was hanging round with all were into production and I wanted to DJ more and be taken seriously with it so I thought production was the next step I guess. I think I just wanted to see what it was like and what I could do. I'm not sure how much of a conscious decision it was. I think it was more that I liked a couple elements in music and I wanted to make music that incorporated them. It wasn't till last July that I decided to take it a bit more seriously, I'd finished a couple bits and pieces and really deconstructed what I did and didn't like about them and then just tried to apply that going forward.

B: So when did you first meet E.m.m.a? I don't mean in IRL I mean, talk to, to get to know, because you two seem friends.

M: Beginning of last year, found her on Soundcloud. At the time I was writing for the now defunct Inhabit online site. I asked her if she was up for being featured/doing a mix/small interview. Something I used to do a lot if I found someone who's music I liked, I asked to interview them, mainly to get chummy enough to ask for tracks haha. From there we just kept in contact.

B: I ask because I think, within the spectrum of the music we play, you and her play a key role, keeping the colourful, melodic part of the overall balance and whereas there's finally quite a lot of dark stuff about now, within our circle, the synthy colourful stuff is less abundant - but very much needed.

M: Yeah it puzzles me why people use the term "dark 130," from where I'm sitting, listening to your Rinse shows - there's quite a lot of colour

B: It's partly my fault I guess, I broke up the paragraphs in one blog post into subsections… it didn't occur to me people would ignore the other 7 paragraphs!

M: haha

B: Still "130" seems more used now. So do you feel you connect with E.m.m.a's sound?

M: Elements of. I like the sense of mystique. Tracks like "At Sea" represent something real - like it's describing a scene or something

M: Yeah, elements of is a good way of putting with it. I'm as interested in the similarities as the differences... She's been doing it for a long time, so I think she has a stronger sense of identity. I think when people hear her album then they'll know what I mean.

B: I guess another way of asking the question is what draws you to the more emotive/colourful/synthy stuff, instead of say, either dark stuff or more conventional clean dance music palates?

B: I like being overwhelmed in a club. And usually for me that happens with synthier stuff. When I first started producing I shied away from drums a lot, mainly because I wasn't confident with the drums I had. The first couple tunes didn't have kick drums. So there was a lot of space in my tracks to experiment with synthesis.

B: Funny how those accidents or constraints go on to influence your creative direction!

M: People should make more accidental music. Creative constraints lead to creative solutions kinda thing

B: Sometimes Dusk and I do ban ourselves from a given element: like "can we make this without a snare?"

M: Yeah it helps. Imagine if you gave a bunch of half step producers the brief of making a tune that didn't have a snare on the 3rd. Imagine telling Tiesto he had to make his next tune solely on a DX7

B: … or a 909!

M: Exactly. Recently I've been trying to do the reverse of what I've been doing up till now. More drums, less synths

B: As a way of breaking out of your own mold?

M: Yeah, I was stuck in a rut late last year/early this year so felt like I needed to do something new. The results of which have manifested themselves as an EP which will be coming out on Goon Club Allstars at some point.

B: For people who don't know, can you explain a bit about Goon Club Allstars?

M: Goon Club Allstars is a label that me and my two best mates in Leeds started May last year. In our first year of uni the records we were buying and playing were a lot of fun. There was a lot of people making really great, fun, club records that were exploring genres in a way we hadn’t had before. And then in the last two years a lot of people dropped off or switched up and started making techno/house. Which I don't have a problem with, I just like a bit of balance. So us starting that label is an effort to bring back a bit of balance. So far it's felt very organic, everyone we've signed up we've known and play their stuff regularly. The first release was vinyl only and we distributed ourselves. It was a tiny run of 150 records - I wanted it to feel like a really limited white label release.

B: Christ that is tiny!

M: From here on out though we will be doing digital as well as a bigger run of records and distribution. Which will be nice because it's taken us ages to be paid by people. We're still waiting on some shops

B: That sounds like exactly why you shouldn't do physical distro yourself!

M: Yeah it's been a learning process. A lot has gone wrong this first year, but it's cool. We've come out of it and I can't wait to put these next two records out. There's also the in-house production team haha. At some point there will be a Goon Club Allstars EP of just our own stuff all together ...and then the world tour.

B: Obvs! Is all the Goon Club stuff more overtly grime than your own productions?

M: The stuff we all do together? Nah, it's a real mix of stuff. There is some grime, because that's part of what we play in a club, but we aren't a grime label.

B: Where did the name come from?

M: Divine inspiration.

B: With a name like that surely you mean Satanic Inspiration?!

M: Hahaha. The name was summoned out of the ether, one day last May. That "WD25" instrumental that you just posted is one of my favourites. I wish this new crop of grime producers were willing to reach beyond scene signifiers sometimes. To be honest I'm as guilty of it as everyone else. So maybe I should make a riddim without a square wave lead.

B: Whats your take on - and prognosis for - the current trend of re-visiting Wiley's Wiley Kat Recordings-era eski sound?

M: At the start of the year I'd say it was backwards, but now I think that the ones who are really interested will evolve beyond that and into something much more interesting. I think it's fine to make something of that era, a tribute, but you definitely can't spend too much time on it. If I spent a great deal of time making tunes that sounded like Burial, people would call me out on it (at least I'd hope). I am really in no position to be telling people what they should be making but it's interesting when those sounds are re-contextualised into some new format. It's a good time for grime in general though really isn't it. There's much more going on now than there has been in a good few years.

B: What is it about r&g that really does it for you?

M: I like that switch up; that something so usually full of energy, is flipped into something more slow, softer. I think softer voices work well with grime either way though, it's interesting you know; really aggressive beats and softer vocals - the rough and the smooth. RnG is very different sonically from "straight" grime though isn't it. I mean grime is such a massive genre, but it's a different energy, very romantic. I think it probably is that mood that gets me. It's an emotional attachment rather an aggressive one, if that makes sense?

B: A track of yours we're really enjoying playing is "Clemency" - it went down really well at Keysound Sessions 2. It is quite different to the stuff by you we've played on Rinse before, much more percussive with a hint of Baltimore. Is that what you meant by "trying to do the reverse of what I've been doing up till now?" Is Baltimore an influence on your sound?

M: Yeah, something more focussed on percussion, rather than synthesis. A lot of my previous tracks were a little light on percussion, so this is me attempting to balance up the books. I suppose this is me teaching, or learning what I can do within percussion. The synthier stuff I was doing was becoming a little stale, re-using the same sounds too much I guess. I love all those club forms, but it's definitely a more recent thing, like in the last two years. When I first started DJing I liked Baltimore club but I didn't really know much and couldn't find much and I just got distracted by what was happening in this country. Clemency and a couple others was me exploring further the possibilities of merging my interests in grime and Jersey & Baltimore club which started pretty much by accident with my Ice rink edit. They're very similar - grime and all those club forms both are made with cheap equipment, both have these abstract structures patterns, both have this massive sense of raw energy and odd rhythms. There's also a massive culture built up around both that plays a huge part in their existence. I particularly love the settings that Jersey + Baltimore trax are played in, and that some songs have certain dances that go with them. It's quite hard to find out about them, because, compared to Footwork + juke, there really isn't much written about it - certainly not jersey club anyway.

B: What was it like playing Fabric & Keysound Sessions 2 with E.m.m.a.?

M: I think I probably could have played with Skrillex and still had fun, Fabric is most definitely an experience, I really love DJing and room 3 at Fabric feels very special. It was cool with E.m.m.a., there was a lot of really synthy tracks which I don't get to play so often.

M: One of the themes in E.m.m.a.'s work is nostalgia. I was really struck by the sense of nostalgia about the Tumblr your brother put up recently, of your family's history in Iran. I thought this was a really interesting contrast to the themes within your music and DJ sets, of grime & club music, energy and then wistfulness. Can you explain a bit more about that Tumblr and what it means to you?

M: Sure, my dad has lived in this country since he was 16 when he left home in Tehran to escape military service. I hold dual citizenship, so I actually cannot go to Iran now as I will be drafted into military service for a couple years. My Iranian heritage isn't something I know much about really, I've visited twice, both times I was under 13 years old so wasn't really able to form a solid opinion of the place first hand. My brother is actually returning in December to photograph a ski resort in the mountains in the the north of Iran for a month, which I'm really excited about. People hear about Iran and a lot of countries in the Middle East and forget that people still live there and do normal stuff. Mostly. We went to a photo journalism exhibition in Perpignon recently and you could easily have been fooled into thinking that it was an exhibition of men in Syria holding assault rifles.

B: Is there any connection, maybe subconsciously, between the theme of both epic grandeur running through your work and then the sense of nostalgia of hinted at in those shots?

M: Mmm I don't think so, I'd say that my music has a lot to do with fantasy though; letting your imagination run away and letting your musical process follow it. Thinking about settings and imagining what it would sound like. I interviewed Mokona a couple years ago and he said often he'd decide the name of a track before he started making the track, I quite liked that.

Fader x Keysound - the director's cut


So some of the Keysound lot - myself, Dusk, Etch, E.m.m.a., Moleskin, Wen and Logos - did a profile for Fader Magazine recently, which gave E.m.m.a. and Moleskin just the chance they'd been waiting for to use the offcuts from their recent RHS photoshoot.

Here's somes questions I answered that didn't make the team the cut:
F: It’s almost impossible for people to keep a hold of their modernist impulses as they grow up and as more things happen in their lives, but Keysound has never lost track of their mission. When did you both realize that driving things forward was a conscious project?

There’s a part of me that is incredibly purist about music. It has been such an important part of who I was growing up and who I am now, and music continues to have such an intense effect on me, that I constantly seek to optimize it: to find those tracks that make you dance, or drive like a madman into the evening, or hug some you love or make you want to dissolve into light.

Equally, I’ve always been very suspicious of music made overtly for other motives, most of all money or fame. It feels disingenuous and you can spot it a mile away. Never trying to put food on the table using Keysound – it’s impossible, now more so than ever – has liberated us to be very focused on what we do; which is to seek out, play and release the music we believe in. So, to return to your question, it’s of greater curiosity to me why others don’t hold their ground, rather than why we continue to look for inspiration.


Fader also asked about "the new producers on your Rinse FM show" an I also included some quick thoughts on a wider pool of producers that have been inspiring us this year. The feature picked out individuals from the Keysound release schedule but in a community there’s always a multitude of participants. So in case you haven't encountered them, here’s a few people you shouldn’t miss…


People will look back on Beneath as a pioneer in this thing, I’m sure of it. And while he’s since boldly dropped his bpms to make dark evolving grooves, his combination of Youngsta’s dread and UK funky’s rolling drums was a landmark step in this movement.

Parris DJ

Good friend of Wen, Etch and E.m.m.a’s, he works in the legendary Blackmarket records and runs Soundman Chronicles. But Parris’ real talent is his mix and blends, which he does on actual dubplates. He bashed up Fabric on his debut: one to watch


He was well known long before Keysound but has been great to have on the team. His collaborations with Logos is an incredibly fruitful partnership.  Honestly, I don’t know what “In Reverse PIV” actually is!

Luke Benjamin

Luke Benjamin is a producer but most of all a vocalist and his dread, road prose is inspired by – but in some ways is the antithesis of - grime.  Check “Asha”, a karmic travel diary.


Like Logos, Rabit inhabits the grimey, eski space that Boxed are pushing – yet he’s from Houston, Texas. He featured on our “This is how we roll” compilation, joined us on Rinse and at Fabric recently. He’s collaborated with Luke Benjamin and Logos – the latter featuring on the “Cold Mission” album.


His 2011 album for Keysound a brave explosion of synthetic colour and virtuosity. After a period of honing is studio craft, he’s back with some really powerful 130. Part grime, part caustic synths: the inability to define tracks like “iPolice” and “Whirlybird” only makes them more compelling.


A producer both Dusk + I and Parris have been playing a lot, Facta rolls between 130 and 140 with a dense percussive sound that has the space & dread of later dubstep but the groove of the earlier “Roots of…” era.


In earlier decades you needed to be geographically co-located to participate. That’s no longer a constraint. New Zealander Epoch makes strange, warped Wu Tang-inspired beats – the antipodean cousins of LHF’s Amen Ra and No Fixed Abode.


Played by the Boxed grime DJs and part of Manchester’s Swing Ting collective, Londoner Murlo makes the most colourful grime around; somewhere between early Jammer and Rapid and E.m.m.a’s recent baroque compositions.

The other Keysound big hitters (LV, LHF, Sully…)

All three have released albums for Keysound and we’d love to work with them again. Sully’s been on a jungle flex of late and has really nailed that sound. LV and Sully were both involved with E.m.m.a’s album; Wen has been playing “Fugese” by LHF in his sets. Write them all off at your peril.