Ten Songs No. 4
After finishing Kodwo Eshun's More Brilliant Than The Sun, this comes as a pleasant surprise: emerging from Birmingham, from his own world and environment and networks, with an aesthetic already iron-forged, another seismic triumph for Big Dada in the British hip-hop stakes. The vein of righteous anger that runs through so many of these songs, like 'BRIGHTON' through a stick of seaside rock, reaches its apogee on this: telescoping together the astral-Afro futurism of Sun Ra and the justified vitreol of the Rastafari end of the Jamaican inheritance, here he is a black Dr. Who, "straight back from the future, back from the past", landed in Britain '09, the scene set by the fragments of dubbed rude-boy vocals and white 50s voices straight out of the first hip-hop productions (The Hellers' Life Story sampled on 'Adventures on the Wheels of Steel'), the spooked edge of a sound from a time out of joint. With judicious, relentless pacing, he lashes with verbal fire all those prepared to lose their self-respect and forget their culture - "Since when the fuck was it cool to be a rent boy?!" - the Jamaican inflection rising in his voice as if it were a guilty reminder of their origins, vocodered on the choruses into the electro Voice of Doom. Social justice is theological justice is sonic justice: the white hegemony of history ("Show me yr white Jesus, make me take off the safety") is reverse-engineered, the illusory pseudo-world of capital disappeared, the people called to regain the "New Jerusalem mothership connection". The glad day is always heard ahead of time.
2. Sa-Ra Creative Partners - 'Traffika' (from Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love)
It gets impossible to tell whether or not this is cynical, celebrating the decadence of typical gangsta-made-good narrative ("Cocaine is running through yr brain, in New York city!"), or condemnatory, setting the sins of drug-running against the proferred escape of cosmic Afro-futurism, so animated is it by the electro-narcotic power of its production. It's probably the most exuberant song on this 2-disk set, aside possibly from 'Cosmic Ball', abetted for nearly its entire length by the Gary Bartz Quartet, liquidised and etherised with omnipresent synthetics; they've certainly no objections to narcotics, but perhaps get their kicks from elsewhere.
Edit: oh fuck it. I've nothing useful to say about this. I just like it, that's all.
3. Can - 'Yoo Doo Right' (from Monster Movie)
Do I have to write about this one? It's just that I have nothing especially clever to say about it. You sure? Alright, fine. It sees the band at its most deceptively simple: a caveman-primitive groove, as if the rhythm section of Jaki Liebezeit and Holger Czukay were playing at 33rpm to the rest of the band's 45, but one that can suddenly mutate or drop out altogether, its combination of perfect mindlessness and intelligent subtlety presaging techno. It can keep going, you imagine, forever, and keep surprising and entrancing you for that long as well, always evading critical analysis. Malcolm Mooney's vocals - what Frances Morgan calls his "Gnostic gospel" - are just as brilliantly meaningless: "Drum beat twenty-four hours a day"; Michael Karoli's guitar moves, seemingly without warning, from rhythmic support to grainy, technicolor abstract noise. Sublime.
4. Diana Ross & The Supremes - 'Stop! In The Name of Love' (from Motown Forever)
Kodwo Eshun's wrong: it's not merely the case that the mnemonic of the sample makes the rest of the original track from which it was strip-mined boring. Admittedly, the chorus of this song, which I first heard as part of Steinski and Double Dee's 'Lesson No. 1 - The Payoff Mix', is a punctum of stunning proportions - but that's not to denigrate the totality of the song, which reprensents one of the most finely honed products of arguably the greatest pop machine of the 20th century. The surprisingly middling tempo, the rhythm converted further into timbre by dots of glockenspiel and tambourine replacing the snare, the high organ droning away underneath like a half-heard cry, and the breath-machine of vocals: the tinge of vulnerability in "Haven't I been good to you", echoed in the voice of a conscience knowing it won't be heard - "Think it o-o-ver". And then, surging into desperation on the chorus, hands out, the organ jumping, the nagging mnemonic chattering away in the background like the voice of guilt - "Baby baby baby" - and the constant dilemma of the economy of desire: "But any time that we are together/I'm so afraid of losing you forever". There is no escape.
5. Electrelane - 'I've Been Your Fan Since Yesterday' (from home-made compilation/Singles, B-Sides & Live)
For the smell of salt air, and everything else left behind.
6. Charles Mingus - 'Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting' (from Mingus In Antibes)
One of my finest finds, as far as secondhand CDs go: picked up at Birmingham's The Diskery, a bootleg version of this astonishingly fine set from possibly the best of Mingus' 60s line-ups, including both sure-touch drummer Dannie Richmond (whom Mingus famously bullied and bent into the role) and Eric Dolphy on alto sax alongside Booker Ervin. I first heard of this through, as always, Marcello Carlin (scroll down to entry for June 17, 2004), and Dolphy's solo on here - preceded by Mingus' exhortation "Talk about it Eric!" - is as brilliant as it seems. Curson and Ervin aren't quite as bad as Marcello makes out - the former's hummingbird trumpet flurries are really rather nice - but Dolphy, in the midst of an already loose structure held together by the rhythm section, getting increasingly agitated and aggressive as it goes on, knocks them into an amorphous cocked hat, the other horns scaling riffs in the background as he stabs the air with lusty honks and screeches, a vertiginous explosion that eventually bursts out of its context, previewing the kind of full-register runs and abstract clucking noises that Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders will be making in 5 years' time. Mingus's shouts of "Woo!" as he enters the final moments, before dropping into Richmond's brief solo, are wholly justified. That, at about 10 minutes in, it suddenly dissolves into a cacophony of falling screeches, only to come back together into the central riff, is some testament not only to Mingus's tight organisation, but the stunning thinking of these players.
7. Golden Oaks Three Billion - 'Tequila Sunscraper' (from 'Weekend Picnic' CD-R)
I happened to see these gentlemen - a trio of Jefferson Starship, from local noise wrecking-crew Sunshine Republic, Alan James Read, boss of noise label Krayon Recordings, and bass clarinettist Jerome Richards - play an impromptu basement set a short while back, which ended with the latter smashing his instrument for no apparent reason. That performance was considerably harsher than this: a near-narcotic drift through the same warm, supernaturally bright territory as Emeralds, or Birchville Cat Motel's Gunpowder Temple of Heaven, dusted with snaky, insinuating trails of clarinet. Lovely.
8. Blackpepper - 'Vqarekk' (from 'Vqarekk / Colour/Color' 7")
It's excellent to see DirtyDemos so productive again, and nice to see new product from Jason Kerley, whose Blackpepper alias has so far had so little in the way of recorded evidence. This, the a-side from the new 7-inch, is a lithe and heady piece of decidedly non-pomo jungle that harks back to the rave-stabs and rhythmic convolutions of the first Rufige Kru 12"s, before mutating into first something briefly resembling LTJ Bukem, then equally briefly one of the more 8-bit-infected wonky artists. In short: CHOON.
9. Xela - 'In Misericordia' (from In Bocca Al Lupo)/Philip Jeck - 'Below' (from Stoke)
Horror music: the really malevolent thing is not what is there, but what isn't. 'In Misericordia', from one of last year's most criminally underrated albums (alongside Burial Hex's similarly spooky Initiations) is the calm before the storm of closer 'Beatae Immortalitatis', whose tearing noise and explosive percussion are foreshadowed by the soundcloud that smothers this song, manifesting the low-level unease that dominates the album, buzzing like a hornet swarm enclosing your head. 'Below' translates the dark, ancient grain of In Bocca Al Lupo into mechanical parataxis: the Freudian slip in the turntable, the fatal compulsion-repetition, the crackle and drag of memory painfully audible in the static, the increasing degradation of the sitar sample at its centre, disrupted by what sounds like automated scratching.
10. Skullflower - 'Drenched In Moonsblood (Waxing Gibbous)' (from Malediction)
The seventh trumpet
sounding the depths of black fog.
(Not a "prose poem".)