Year of the Ant
Ant and Nick Grater "Nitrous Oxide" (Cluster, 12"): Ant "Midnight Black" (Maximum Minimum, 12"): Ant and K.N. "The LOUD Shit!" (Powertools, 12")
Some reckon that listening to a type of music completely divorced from the context for which it was designed can't be legit, or at least sensible. Why would you listen to Dido except when attending some dinner party or, in current climes, barbecue under extreme duress ? Why ever contemplate Coldplay aside from their natural setting of shopping mall muzak or as the piped soundtrack beloved of our more unimaginative pub and restaurant chains ? And why oh why oh why lend an ear to Ant's barbarous rhythms outside the sweaty atmosphere of a packed club in the capital, brimming with adherents to the S.U.F. Collective ?
Well, for one, Blueboy weren't kidding back in the day when they noted (kind of) that there ain't that much love in the clubs. For two, well, good music transcends place and status. It must do, else I wouldn't be able to appreciate anything other than the rickety white middle-class indie-pop of the ageing post-c86 hipsters whose growing pains I identify most closely with (and by god do I appreciate that stuff, as you know). And for three, the difference between Ant and the other examples is that his tunes do not suck. Look, I'd no more pop a pill than vote Conservative, but I can't get enough of the way that techno like this reverberates around my head, and the less addled my brain and the quieter the surroundings, sometimes the better it seems. Just makes me feel that I'm still getting something out of this insane emotional over-investment I've made in vinyl and cassette and CD and minidiscs over the years, makes me feel lucky that I can get the same buzz from Cluster or RAW or Max / Min now as I used to from Sarah or Subway or Ron Johnson (or, indeed, as I still do from Sarah or Subway or Ron Johnson). It may just be that 2005 is as joyous a year for acid-tech as 2004 was for grime: let's just hope that this scene doesn't plunge itself downhill quite so speedily as grime seems to have done over the last few months.
So. "Nitrous Oxide" lacks the monumental energy of Ant and Nick G's "Emergency Red": it's a conventional high-bpm drum intro for a minute or so, then sequencers repeating a sub-low bass mantra, all brought constantly to the boil by fill-ins. Halfway in, more traditional A&NG sonic enterprise resumes (awkward moments on the dancefloor = yaaay!) but the earlier hook returns and by the time it's over you kind of wish there had been a little more experimentation: it's still a worthy addition to the canon though. On the other side, "Chromed" is an instant undercurrent of throbbing, vaguely menacing synths, joined by drums after a half a minute but again only really getting interesting about halfway through.
The Max side of "Midnight Black" is much more instantly adorable, a tight, chatty hook counterpointed by sprightly bleeping and swooshing drums to create an unforgiving sirocco of sound. After the statutory 3 1/2 minutes (you know the pattern), clanging metallic sprites start to canter and cavort, banishing the original riff; by the time it returns to chase them away, the song is nearly over. The Min side, however, lets the rapacious sprites out to play again, skidding around in the undertow of slightly more considered techno beats. It's hard to resist the cheery mix of rolling rhythms, especially when the formal beats recede entirely for the last 30 seconds or so.
The Ant and Kenichi Niwayama 12" starts with a rare extended sample - some bloke going on about the sound he wants (basically, yes it's "the loud shit"). The song goes nowhere special for a couple of minutes but picks up with depth charges and feedback-like swathes of noise (remember Purity's heavenly marriages of beats and migraine screams ?) rattling around, Ant and K.N. messing around with the faders and all the usual sonic tricks getting a decent run out. The flip is maybe a tad less engaging, revolving around a sample "We want your soul" and looped soundclips about succumbing to the capitalist consumerist feeding frenzy from the comfort of your very own armchair. Though I like the various "bloody blimey space invader" noises that turn up unannounced four or so minutes in. But overall the feel of the whole single is much more like the ready bombast of "Midnight Black" than the more spacious, warmer sound of "Nitrous Oxide".
So all good stuff - but I still think that Ant's "Homemade Discord" is even better: and possibly my favourite single of the year so far. My favourite album to date ? Er, that's coming up next time.
You won't like it.
Anyway. Current listening:
Magazine - Definite Gaze (a post-punk revelation)
Math & Physics Club - Movie Ending Romance (Matinee Recordings: M&PC's best moment yet)
Siege - Walls (from "Choosing Death" v/a comp on Relapse: gorgeous. Please someone reissue more Siege stuff!!)
The Grey Tapes - White Ant (s/t CD on 555: this is what rock, and in particular rock vocals, should sound like)
Ice Cube - We Had To Tear This MF Up (from "The Predator": DJ Muggs' finest hour ?)
Jasmine Minks - Forces Network (now on "The Revenge of the Jasmine Minks" CD on Rev-Ola)
Schrasj - The Birge (from "f" album. All pop should sound like this ?)
Beat Happening! - Fortune Cookie Prize (Dreamy LP. This too)
KRS-One - Outta Here (from "Return Of The Boom Bap" LP but recently reissued on 12" - I will never tire of this)
Forest Giants - So You Think You're Unhappy (? hopefully forthcoming)
Mark Owen - How The Mighty Fall (Sedna LP) - oh, I don't feel inclined to justify myself right now.... ;-)
The (Mighty!) Fall - New Puritan (from the heavenly Peel Sessions box set. The best record ever made ? I wouldn't laugh it out of court).
And finally, some *sports* reviews:
Barnet 1-1 Bristol Rovers: Sloping pitch. Slow turnstiles. Dreary game. "Boring boring Atkins". Basic errors. Unlikely late equaliser. Hurrah.
Bristol Rovers 2-3 Peterborough: 0-2 down. Basic errors. "Atkins Out" unfurled (proper banner, well, bedsheet). Ooh, sending off. Comeback! 2-2! Back from the dead! Oh no, dead again.
Millwall 2-0 Bristol Rovers: White elephant stadium. No atmosphere. Not a bad performance. But it all comes undone in the end. Only the FA Cup left if we are to qualify for Europe.
...Leyton Orient at the weekend. See ya.