Monday, 28 December 2009
As promised SO BONES is not dead and buried, rotting somewhere in a diamond encrusted casket underneath the bones of so many defunct, DOA crunk&b girl groups. I just needed to mull things over and wait for this generally terrible year to pass me by. Well I guess we only have a few days left until we enter into the "XXs", and I would have held out if it hadn't been for Usher's new song totally rattling my brain in the best possible way. My feelings towards Usher have always been conflicted. On the one hand his pinched vocal delivery and smug as fuck "playa in need of redemption" schtick have often proven to be less than appealing, but on the other hand, he's had a undeniably decent track record for managing to bag the kind of productions that make jaws involuntarily drop. "Yeah!", "Dat Girl Right There", "You Don't Have to Call", and "Love in This Club" are some of the decades finest examples of aggressive R&B invention, and as we enter into a new decade he's pulled it off once again hooking up with his old sparring partner Polow Da Don to come up with "Little Freak", which I'm happy to report is genuinely something quite different. Usher is in familiar cocksure swagger mode and the song has all the hallmarks of a Polow production what with the hollow, dead-thud drums, and the luxurious synth melodrama, but in "Little Freak" both figures push themselves into stranger, darker territories. Don't let the carnal numbskullery of the lyrics fool you.
Putting "buzz" single "Papers" aside, it's certainly an interesting way to kick off a campaign for a record, which following the breakdown of his marriage, we've been led to believe will be a return to Usher's XX friendly, bleeding heart throb "Confessions" days. Instead of weepy domesticity "Little Freak" positively oozes with Caligula style excess, Usher, sounding old and jaded, assuming his role as the cold hearted emperor of clubland, demanding to be brought "freaks at the bar who like fucking with a star", as if he hasn't a clue how sad and shallow his existence appears to almost everyone outside of the court, a certain atmosphere of nihilistic entitlement offset by a sample of Stevie Wonder's - Living in the City which is transformed into something overarching and sickly decadent. It's almost on the same level as Britney's seminal dead eyed stripper jam "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)" in being a sex song that takes on a whole other dimension in being entirely devoid of sexiness. Everyone says their having fun, but no one's smiling.
For those who care the following, in no particular order, are my favourite R&B/hip hop songs of the year. Excluding "Blame It" and "Diva" (kinda) it's a shame none of these songs were hits (the ones that were at least released)...they deserved better. Anywho, let's not dwell on such things.
The Dream - Fancy (Prod by The Dream & Tricky Stewart)
Jamie Foxx - Blame It feat T-Pain (Prod by Christopher "Deep" Henderson)
Christina Milian - Chameleon (Prod by The Dream & Tricky Stewart)
Electrik Red - Drink In My Cup / Bed Talk (Prod by The Dream & Tricky Stewart)
Young Money - New Shit (Prod by Chase N. Cashe & B.Carr)
Tay Dizm - Beam Me Up feat T-Pain & Rick Ross (Prod by Bangladesh)
Trish - Bump (Prod by Major Music)
Vistoso Bosses - Delirious (Prod by Mr Collipark)
Lil' B - I'm God (Prod by ?)
DJ Quik & Kurupt - 9 x Outta 10 (Prod by DJ Quik)
Sean Garrett - I Wanna Get Up In Your Heart (Prod by Bangladesh)
Cassie - What She Don't Know Wont Hurt Her (Prod by Darkchild) / Must Be Love (Mario Winans & Bryan Michael Cox)
Rich Girl - He Aint Wit Me Now (Tho) (Prod by Rich Harrison)
Rich Boy - Drop (Prod by Polow Da Don)
Lil' Wayne - Yes feat Pharrell (Produced by The Neptunes)
Amerie - Why R U? (Prod by The Buchanans)
Dudley - Hot Car (Prod by The Underdogs)
Lloyd - Day N' Night (Prod by Jim Jonsin)
Keke Palmer - Superjerkin' (Prod by ?)
Ashe Watson - Shallow (Prod by Battery 8)
Gucci Mane - Weird (Prod by Zaytoven) / Lemonade (Prod by Bangladesh)
Beyonce - Diva (Prod by Bangladesh)
Jennifer Lopez - Fresh Out the Oven (Produced by The Neptunes)
Omarion - I Get It In (Prod by Tank)
If you want to know what else I liked this year check out more of my ramblings at 20 Jazz Funk Greats, where right now we're hosting some pretty great mixes made exclusively for the site, namely the Darkstar mix which is beyond brilliant. N-Joy.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Well, not really, but they might as well have been chewed off considering the shocking lack of So Bones activity over the last few months. I'll come clean and say this much. While it's no lie I've had an insanely busy time of late (with something very, very exciting coming up), I have to be honest and admit that not that much new material has really excited me and consequently I haven't felt compelled to hark on about anything in particular. Of course it could just be that I've subconsciously been in a sulk over the non appearance of "Electro Love/ Connecticut Fever/ This Record Aint Never Gonna Happen." Whatever the reasons, enough is enough.
I'm going to collect my thoughts...
Thursday, 3 September 2009
The thunderbitch has emerged to show all those demi-divas floating aimlessly outside the palace of B how to do things. I'm talking about Kelis, one of this generation's most sorely underrated pop stars, the girl who came out spitting blood and bile in a kaleidoscopic frenzy of rainbow colours and blistering sexual rage, and who went on to effortlessly vamp over some of the strangest avant R&B bangers ever made. Having recently turned up on the UK funky flavoured "Scars" with Meleka and Chipmunk, we now have "No Security" which was produced by Crookers, who before now I could have cared less about. Unlike the blunt electro by numbers I've become accustomed to associating them with, on this dubstep laced clubcrusher they create for the "mighty one" a skittering latice work of code red beats and giant cinematic drum poundings that whip Kelis up into something bordering on frenzied. Revellers should volunteer their heads for the block, because frankly this slays. Welcome back.
What with the fuzzed out noisy dissonance, the drugged vocal delivery and the spooked deathbed oboe sound that wouldn't have seemed out of place emerging from the forests of Wonderland when Alice fins herself surrounded by an assortment of fantastical bird like creatures with hammers for heads and mirrored faces, "Bump" would be weird enough as a stand alone song, but add to that a seriously lo-fi video which transcends it's low budget circumstances through looking like a thug fascist snuff movie directed by Rubber Johnny phase Chris Cunningham and you've got probably one of the wonkiest, most brilliantly uncomfortable club songs of the year.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Apologies for disappearing into the mists, but things have been crazy of late. Anyway I'm here now.
I recently wrote an article for FACT magazine in which I attempted to try and breakdown some of my favourite Danja productions which you can check out here. Here's an excerpt from the piece about Britney Spear's horror stripshow masterpiece, "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)".
Perhaps inspired in equal parts by a thirst to prove himself as a producer capable of functioning without Timbaland - and by the unique craziness that surrounded the recording of a monument to Britney's public meltdown - Blackout was the record that really unleashed Danja’s extreme, avant-garde pop sensibilities on his own terms. Producing seven tracks for the album overall, including the black glitter, electro throb of 'Gimme More', the song that was made notorious by “that” performance, chances are that Danja will never create anything as bizarre and uncomfortably dark-hearted as the standout on Britney’s mecha-nihilist masterpiece: 'Get Naked (I’ve Got A Plan)'. What seems on the surface to be the most vapid of sex-jams, seemingly designed to keep strippers happy and hanging off their poles, is in fact a queasy, creeped-out psychosexual masterpiece of levitating space-dream beats, zombified drums, and unbalanced horrorshow synths that positively wreak of doom and sound forever on the verge of falling apart - as they lurch forwards and compete to envelop Britney and Danja’s greek chorus of masterfully manipulated chants and exhalations. The quiet violence that’s often been threatened in that serpentine slither of a vocal is here coaxed right to the fore.
'Get Naked (I’ve Got A Plan)' is significant in Danja’s canon for also being one of the very few occasions when he’s stepped out from behind the board and entered the booth himself. Unlike Timbaland - who has always maintained a vocal presence on his tracks, more so as his career has gone on, much to the detriment of the music - Danja has tended to shy away from self-exposure, but 'Get Naked (I’ve Got A Plan)' is a rare exception to the rule. Recorded almost as a duet between Britney and himself, his presence on the track, which drips with backwater voodoo menace as his voice is screwed and reconfigured into a frightening rotting creak in one instance and in another an intoxicated vampiric slur that should come with a warning sign for impressionable young girls, is as intrinsic to the song’s success as the alien-sex sonics and Britney’s own disturbingly dead-eyed performance - a performance dotted with effecting, fleeting moments of sudden, tardy comprehension of a situation that she knows has already dragged her way too far down the rabbit hole.
Of course knowing all that we think we know about Ms Spears - the rumours of crystal meth addiction, a deteriorating family unit, suicide attempts, the witch-hunt level persecution and severe mental instability - adds an extra dimension to this already plenty disorienting song. There’s certainly something potently tragic about observing an individual seemingly retreat into their own fabricated world as Rome burns all around them, and so as it is on 'Get Naked (I’ve Got A Plan)'. While her life falls apart, Britney appears to be concerned with nothing but the discussion of cold, hard fucking devoid of any sense of love or intimacy. Add to that the fact that Blackout is a masterclass exercise in autotuning that subjects Britney’s voice to a series of quite brutal sonic violations, until it’s stripped almost entirely of its humanity, and your left with the sad and yet horribly thrilling sound of a woman who seems to have checked out of reality and given herself up to grinding mechanics - which in return assimilate and transform her into a ghost in her own machine. Even detached from the horror-flick storyboard that Britney Spear’s life had by this point evolved into, 'Get Naked' loses none of its impact.
So the reason why I've been so busy has been because of my recent reacquaintance with life in NYC. This week I'm djing at a few things you should come to and shake bones.
Tonight is SHAME, an anything goes kind of affair that will involve myself and my psrtner in crime, Lauren Chillhard, playing whatever we like, free of shame or regret. This will entail Madonna's "Erotica" album, 90s house, that new Shakira song about being a sex wolf, creeped out coldwave, and of course, lots and lots of SO BONES jamzzz! Its at Lulu's in Greenpoint. It will be a chilled affair.
On Friday, in collaboration with True Panther, its SOCIETY, a night of amazing, horrible, disgusting noise. Tanlines, Teengirl Fantasy, Sewn Leather, MNDR and Angels in America will be playing live, while Dean from True Panther, and myself will be playing African tekno, homo-haus, and plenty of Todd Edwards remixes. Lets smoke. Its at Monster Island Basement in Williamsburg.
Monday, 27 July 2009
Cassie; really, what can I say that I haven't said already? One of the most misunderstood, unnecessarily maligned vocalists of the decade? The always beautiful ice cold still in a storm of groaning machines and coral coloured beats. Electro Love HAS to be released this year, but in the meantime another song has leaked, this time with Darkchild on production duties providing Cassie with a rare, straight up, dancefloor killa. Channeling her inner Janet Jackson when Ms. Jackson was only concerned with making hi-tech brittle funk, Cassie effortlessly taunts and teases over a juddering electro beat continually tripping over itself and a series of tron laser whooshes. If it's not as nuanced as something like the minimal, future girl doo-wop genius of "Summer Charm" it's still a damn sight better than the Red One attrocity I'm choosing to ignore forever.
I would never confess to being any kind of expert, and I'm still in the process of navigating my way through the chaff and the wheat, but after some initial confusion between niche, wonky, bassline, etc, I've slowly embraced the fresh new sounds of Funky (still an appalling name) on the grounds that it's combination of feminine energy, heavyhitting frenetic percussion and a strange sense of awkward tension that seems to haunt over so many of the scene's best songs, happens to tick all the right boxes. That's also not to mention the fact that a 2 hour mix Marcus Nasty made for 1Xtra has continued to blow my mind with it's sheer restless noisiness and the way in which the scene in general has really started to impress in producing some seriously strong tracks that could easily contend with the best of 2-steps digi-diva heartbreakers. "Go" is another slice of "you did me wrong, get out of my sight" angst R&B, but Crazy Cousinz with their ever faithful piano staccato stabs and rumbling drums inject some urgency and frenzy into a track that should rule the airwaves if there was ever any justice in the world.
It's been a very busy week so I haven't had a chance to say thanks to everyone who came out last week for SO BONES and to Alex who DJed an amazing set! So....THANKS! "R.P.M." and "Drink In My Cup" absolutely killed! It was amazing! Goodbye London. Hello NYC.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
"Break Up" has been perplexing me for a long time now. A few months ago I kind of dismissed it when commenting in relation to a new Mike Jones song, on how many "A Milli" copycats had been born since that monumental masterpiece of drunk gamelan atmospherics entered into our lives. Something about Mario's oddly balanced admission for being a bad boyfriend, who even so is incapable of hiding his shock at the notion that someone would ever want to break up with him made me feel uneasy, not to mention the way in which sonically, absolutely nothing seemed to make much sense at all.
Then sometime this week I came to my senses and remembered how much I love uneasy music, and now I wonder why I ever questioned this lecherous Bangladesh banger in slo-mo which feels as if multiple, monotone drunk loverboys are slurring robotically into your ears at the end of a heavy night, while a nagging Fisher Price melody skips across the distinctly weird jumble of low bass drops and repeating snare hits. It shouldn't be addictive, but it is. And horribly so.
Look out for my Essential Guide to... Danja article which is going to be appearing in FACT magazine very soon, where I dork out over ten of the man's best and brightest robo-funk demons. One song I seriously considered musing about, but that was narrowly edged out of things, was this unreleased Danja produced bliss pop gem from newly signed NYC duo, Pen Up Girls, which opens up with the atonal chugging noise of an obnoxious, fuzzy synthline encrusted in grime which is suddenly submerged and swept up into a seriously dreamy milkshake tsunami of surging bubble beats and super soft cloud cruising electronic tics.
Lastly, I know that commercial success doesn't necessarily equate creative accomplishment, but it's hard to feel good about the fact that so many SO BONES heroes have lately been floundering in the charts, if they've even managed to get close enough to tip their toes into such heavily polluted waters. Electrik Red, Rich Girl, Cassie, and even to an extent, Ciara, have all had their recent material fall upon a mass of deaf ears. "Delirious" by Vistoso Bosses is another beautifully crafted gem that has failed to catch on in the wider world and it's really a crying shame. Produced by Mr Collipark, taking a break from extolling the virtues of ringtone rap and seemingly retired from helping to make sex sound like the creepiest possible thing a person could engage in, "Delirious" is a sweet and breezy piece of candyfloss R&B floating on an updraft of pastel flute and haunted by the dew eyed freestyle balladeers of yesterday, the kind of thing Cassie and Nina Sky sing on their bittersweet bambi days. It deserved so much more.
FINALLY...SO BONES is happening tonight at Catch in Shoreditch. It's going to be last SO BONES to take place in London for the foreseeable future, what with me swanning back off to NYC, where there will definitely be some SO BONES activity taking place very soon.
If you wanna shake out some joint muscles to the sounds of everything you read about on here (no fucking Akon) then make sure you come down! Alex Macpherson is guest DJ for the night, and Isa GT will be doing her thing downstairs!
Obligatory Facebook thing
Plus check out what The Metro had to say.
My kindred (Diamond) in mid Scherzinger rapture...all that we can aspire too for tonight.
Friday, 17 July 2009
The headfucker of the year has arrived and Christina Milian has her name all over it. The woman, whose album I'm most surprised to be looking forward too this year, has been working exclusively with The Dream and Tricky Stewart, hence why I'm anticipating her stuff so much, and on the basis of "Chameleon" it could very well be some next level stuff. One thing needs to be said about this track right from the outset; it WILL screw with people's brains. Some will love it and understand the genius that goes into making something as sonically extreme as a song that almost entirely dispences of the sonics all together, whilst others will scratch their heads, dumbfounded by something so minimal and odd, and loathe it with a consuming kind of passion.
"Chameleon" is virtually an acapella, sung so closely you can't help but feel an intense creepiness wash over you, Milian whispering left of centre lyrics throughout, her voice occassionally breaking out under the pressure of trying to maintain such a quiet register and creating vocal tic moments that could have almost the same power as the finger cymbal moments in Milkshake. While Milian's serpentine voice takes on the heavy lifting, a hypnotic phantom tabla full of mysterious voodoo charm plays over an unmovable low bass growl that ominously rumbles throughout. And that's it! Honestly listening to this I feel like a spider trapped in a web, the reverberations of the skeletal soundframe just another terrifying pluck of the silk. But seriously at a time when most R&B sounds so maximalist it's as if malfunctioning robot armies are running through minefields, "Chameleon" feels intoxicatingly fresh. Elope indeed!
Don't forget that next week SO BONES bids farewell to London once again and heads on over to NYC, so come to Catch on Thursday 23rd July for a dance party of Electrik Red and vintage Darkchild!!!!
Obligatory Facebook thing
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
If this isn't one of the most inventive club bangers of the year, then 2009 will have been a golden year indeed. Based on the leaks, Clipse look all but destined to stumble over the remnants of their previous classics with their upcoming album Til The Casket Drops, but miraculously, and almost from out of nowhere veterans of the scene Quik and Kurupt have emerged out of the mists to deliver the kind of crushing minimalist genius we've usually come to expect of the Virginia duo.
Emamanting from the speakers with tooth cracking verocity "9 x Outta 10" attacks the eardrums like a tighter wound version of "Grindin" that continues to slither and mutate from beginning to end, a diced up, semi-operatic, mournful vocal line fluttering in suspension throughout, barely managing to hold itself above the violently, hollow drums that penetrate the empty spaces in the song, while the sounds of gathering storm clouds hover and threaten to engulf everything beneath them. Seriously, by the end of the year few things will have probably rattled as viscerally as this future classic.
It's interesting and fascinating how music can unexpectedly transport your mind to places you never expected it to take you, especially if you happen to have a ridiculously overactive imagination which tends to lead you down strange pathways. When I listened to the hyphy madness of "Jacka No Hoe", equal parts industrial mood, drunk goof, I never anticipated that it might remind me of the classic 1980's ghost film "The Changeling", but it did and that's almost entirely down to the four note echoing bang that brings the track to life, a sound eerily similar to the supernatural noise that haunts the unfortunate soul terrorized in his cavernous mansion by a phantom child. Add to that a whining plastic violin, the kind of which might be heard drifting from under cracks in the doors to the locked rooms of cheap, phantasm B-movies, and a sparse, chattering synth line that drifts and vibrates in the air, and you've got one of the more bizarre bangers of recent.
After a few weeks of sun, thunder and lightning here on the island of castles and ghosts, I shall be returning to NYC very soon, and in excited anticipation I've been listening to a lot of Ricky Blaze, more so than usual. Last time I was in Brooklyn the trancehall strains of assorted hyperactive Blaze productions seemed to drift through the dry air for an eternity (as well as "Turnin Me On") which made me feel if I closed my eyes I could imagine I was wondering the streets of some pixelated sub-tropic jungle. This cut from Young AK is one of my favourites. I'm just a total sucker for those midi-epic, trance synth arpeggios that wash over you as various sized electronic bubbles make their way to the surface. Roll on Supercore.
Friday, 3 July 2009
I wasn't expecting this. Keke Palmer is one of those Disney poppets that I like to imagine are being produced Queen Alien style in the murky bowels of the Magic Kingdom hidden away beneath the Cinderella Palace, with such speed more and more of them emerging from their pods with terrifying, world conquering white grins. Anyway her debut album kinda came and went despite containing some surprisingly interesting moments like the almost indecipherable, video game rainforest lolita-pop of "Game Song". "Superjerkin", which may feature on her upcoming album is a shockingly decent nod to the L.A. Jerk sound I wrote about a while back, another dance crazed influenced sub genre that sounds like a combination of snap and hyphy. The song itself is built on a skeletal framework of fingersnaps, sparse Atari beats, machine claps, and dive-bomb bass which is intermittently shattered by blunt blocks of electro dread and the robotic gabbering of an evil T-Pain chipmunk, all coming together to create a seriously addictive, dark, disco killer. Dancing on glass.
Love Vs Money has only been out for a few months, and will probably end up being the R&B album of the year, but The Dream is already gearing up to release a new album by the end of the year called Love King. "Hit It On The Road", which will probably end up on the new record, sees The Dream operating in ominous, creep crunk mode working with the sound he perfected on Drink In My Cup and High Price, pounding beats and 808 violence, not to mention a hypnotic droning chorus that whirls around inside your head til you feel like you're eyes might roll into the back of your skull. The man can do no wrong. Bring on the Milian LP now.
Don't forget about tomorrow. SO BONES will be playing a set at IAC, as will MJ Cole and Zomby. I don't need to explain how good this will be.
And in a few weeks SO BONES bids farewell to London and heads on over to NYC, but not before throwing a party at Catch on July 23rd. COME!!!!
Obligatory Facebook thing
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Song of the Summer. Last year it never truly materialised, unless you include the kosmiche-disney balladry of Jordin Sparks and our generation's Ike, which even if you do, wasn't really the same as previous year's tropic monsters; the icy Carpenter film-score minimalism of "Me & U", the skeletal riddim blues of "Uh Oh", and the all synths blazing juggernaut that was "Umbrella." I was a little concerned one wouldn't emerge this year either, but thankfully Nina Sky have shown up to own it (along with some friends.)
Appearing on the Major Lazer digi-dancehall record, "Keep It Goin Louder" also features trancehall star Ricky Blaze in full on autocroon mode, and is a galloping, dumb & fun paean to good times shrouded in enough Florida swamp mist to keep things interesting. The girls effortlessly weave around a framework of echoing kiddie calls and euphoric synths, before the whole thing bizarrely seems to transform into a riddim update on Olive's "You're Not Alone." If this and Chelley's "Took The Night" drown out everything else in the NYC air these coming months, I shall be content.
And while I'm talking about Nina Sky...where is the second album? If you think Cassie has had release problems, Nina Sky look professionally cursed considering The Musical was supposed to come out in 2006. What makes the pill all that more bitter is that so far all the leaks have been amazing in a bringing back freestyle kind of way. This Ryan Leslie produced track with it's metallic butterfly wing flutter synths and weeping machine beats has definitely been one of the best to have emerged so far. Fingers X for this year.
Just a reminder, this Saturday SO BONES will be djing IAC 17 at Corsica Studios. UK garage legend MJ Cole, rave phantom Zomby and lots of other kool people are playing. Get your tickets now cause chances are you wont be able too on the night. Obligatory Facebook page!