Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Manhattan Byline (+ singles)

"If you want to call round, just come around"

Shouts going out to AFC Wimbledon - after last night's win over Hornchurch, it's Staines Town on Saturday for a place in the Conference South. Shouts also going out to whoever nicked our i-pod in Angel the other night. Cue up the Bubblegum Splash! playlist, and you might find that crime pays.

You know we had to mention this new Manhattan Love Suicides single, "Clusterfuck", a 7" on Squirrel Records. For just as the band continually bely their lazy, offputting name, yet again the songs here are so much better than their leaden, cliched titles ("Detroit Diesel", "Burning Wire", "Heat and Panic") suggest - this is a woozy, ragged, dirty, bliss-drenched four track EP of girl-fronted, growling guitar burr which we would aver is even more of a treat than even the "Keep It Coming" EP; and "Clusterfuck" itself, which we suddenly realise we remember fondly from many an MLS gig, still boasts a prettyish tune beneath all of the studied cacophony and black-clad po(i)se. True, at some point there must be a risk that MLS will get sucked in to a different, less forgiving, genre altogether: but at the moment they are playing merry hell with the frayed, fuzztastic edges of indieness, and that is only to be applauded. Vigorously.

A word (well, maybe 150 or so) too for the Hillfields' 3-track EP on the ever-prolific, ever-brilliant Cloudberry (who put out one of MLS' other singles last year: we are admittedly somewhat behind on Cloudberry reviews generally, but the problem is that we're never going to catch up, at least not until whatever we go on about has sold out anyway - in the meantime, yes we are avidly keeping up with what we can, most recently and especially the Honeyheads and the Danny Says and the three-track fog of sheer divinity that is Cloudberry 504...)

Listening to Northern Portrait in particular has kind of rekindled our desire to seek out able, discerning guitar pop, and the Hillfields, another band formed only last year but with the assuredness and style to suggest otherwise, deliver restrained yet rolling washes of it, diluting any poppier tendencies with Jactars-ish tautness to create the mysterious, short-form indie of "A Visit" (again, we hear something of the Windmills in its appealing mix of darkness and buoyancy, the singer's warm, low voice) or the more chiming, sedate, perhaps even more beautiful composition "The Front Room". The EP needs just a chink of time to grow - but it's a mature, rewarding debut.

Speaking of mature, Fortuna Pop! have just launched the Ladybug Transistor's "Always on the Telephone", off last yr's "Can't Wait Another Day" album, as a single. Now while there was some mumbling disquiet in the indie-pop community (that we didn't necessarily disagree with) about the er, expansive nature of "Can't Wait Another Day" taken as a whole, "Always on the Telephone" was always our favourite track on it: and taken in isolation, it's much easier to appreciate its cascading, luxurious, softly tumbling flow, at least before that controversial sax solo (to our minds, any sax solo is controversial: only Orange Juice have ever got away with it, and that was probably because for a time Orange Juice could get away with anything).

Ooh, and while we don't want to broadcast this too widely, and while it doesn't sound like his normal stuff, and while it's not even in his best 100 songs, we are kind of enjoying Wiley's disarmingly sweet "Wearing My Rolex" crossover which is currently hogging the *TOP FOUR* near you, even if we'd rather be impaled on a rusty spike than invest in or wear one of them things ourselves. Yes, it would be even better if Horowitz or the Pocketbooks or the Parallelograms were in the top ten too, but that's a year or two off we reckon.

Right. There doesn't seem to be time to mention Sway's amiable if less-than-groundbreaking "F Ur Ex", (Mobb Deep) Prodigy's gormless "The Life", DPF's forever-in-the-making "What Can I Say", Buju Banton's conscious, rootsy "Cowboys" nor Knucklez' rather more vital, and happily downloadable "Jack Me In 3Style" (mixtape anytime soon!), so let's finish this one with a quick memo to the Respect party: ways not to campaign effectively for the local elections probably include driving around the city blaring out Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69", of all things, at headsplitting volume. No wonder you got the full force of the stressball.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Poised over the play button

"It's a loveless city / You've got to grab what you can / It's okay..."

"Your Cassette Pet", a new thing from every cowboy and cowgirl's label of choice, 555, is indeed a proper audio cassette. Cassettes are still brilliant, not in a ooh-aren't-we-retro way (*nothing* is good in an aren't-we-retro ? way), but in a kind of ooh, satisfying click of cassette into machine, sticking one finger up at the audiophiles while sinking another onto the button to press "play" and pressing it down until a gentle click and a familiar whirr let you know that the music is on its way, er way. This is no cassingle revival - what 555 appear to have done here is just get as many bands as they can (32!), including but not confined to many past collaborators, to throw new tracks at them, and strung them out over a full C90 or so, meaning that there's more packed in here than you can get on any CD, and nothing that you'd be able to track down otherwise without employing private investigators.

Above all, the bands and songs on here are still of the calibre of any other artists that have dented the 555 roster, or appeared on 555 compilations over the years, although here is not really the place for yer over-experimenters or your "Chihauauas and Chinese noodles" remixes: aside from some pleasingly dense stuff from Hood side-project The Declining Winter, this is 555 in song mode, perhaps attempting, like that International Lo-Fi Underground "Honey The Dog's Home" comp, to try and breath life into the near corpse of "indie", now that indie has become accepted shorthand for "band with guitars who aren't the Rolling Stones".

Picking highlights would be hard and a little unfair, but we'll mention for now Mytty Archer's "Fire In Sydney", the School of Two's "Party Line" (so that's where the genius Jason Sweeney (you know, Other People's Children, Simpatico) has got to!), Sarandon's "Soapy", Dr Konig Arthus' "Ende der Fahnenstange" (how had we never discovered this band earlier ?) great tunes from Akina Kawauchi and Forest Giants, and the Grey Tapes' epic closer, "0.20 a.m.". Oh, and a word for the Green Apple Sea's plaintive "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton", which is far better, and more deliciously affecting, than the title gives it any right to be. And has nothing to do with Inspector Frost's patch.

We could go on - there are well over a score of tunes that merit closer and better examination - but why not leave you to discover them ? Because essentially, not least given exchange rates, this is a steal. Less than a price of a pint, and far more lasting goodness.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Northern Uproar

"I love your kind words / pointing my way"

We did actually see Northern Uproar play once, in Notts. They were supporting Marion (an even more than usually ephemeral 'next big thing', for those of you with long memories), which at least made them look better.

But anyway, this one is a biggie. Staying with the mini-renaissance, we shift our gaze from Sweden to Denmark for the tour de force that is Northern Portrait's "The Fallen Aristocracy" EP. Lead tune "Crazy" is the one the kids and blogs have been propping, the one where the singer accompanies breezy, lush instrumentation with a debonair vocal that isn't too far away from the swooning croon of One Thousand Violins' Vince Keenan, in the days when the latter were making utterly ignored pop classics like "If I Were A Bullet Then For Sure I'd Find A Way To Your Heart". "Crazy", is, of course, less wordy, a little less clumsy, if yet to stand the same test of time: it's a single sumptious chord sequence that is gently overlaid with embellishments as it progresses, but rarely have raffish charm and polished pop been deployed with a surer hand. And after all that, the title track, another that veritably gleams with 1,000 Violins-isms, is possibly even better - again, the hooks seem to rain down, the writing to brim with natural, not misplaced confidence.

And Math & Physics now have some real competition, because the whole EP (completed by the crisp, twinkling Marr-isms of "Waiting For A Chance" and the defiant post-Morrissey poetics of "A Quiet Night In Copenhagen") is deeply impressive: as well as that long, magnific shadow of the Smiths, there are glimpses of quality only achieved more recently by former Matinee flagship bands like Harper Lee or the still-missed Windmills. The acid test will be, as ever, an album.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

All Rise

"There was nothing I could do, to make you stay by my side"

Aaah. Equally earnest, if a little removed from Nasum sonically, are fellow Swedes the Electric Pop Group, whose new EP "Sunrise" arrives just in time for 'spring', showcasing their linear wraparound of guitars and the Aamot brothers' vocal harmonies in full blossom. "I Could See The Lights" is the first number: like their track on the Matinee Hit Parade CD, "My Only Inspiration", it's an impassioned paean to a hug target, seemingly one met at a Magic Numbers gig, but despite those unpromising beginnings you can feel the love. It shares gently understated indie-pop bounteousness - think maybe BMX Bandits circa the Star Wars LP - with the closing track, "Come And See Me", ensuring that the EP is topped and tailed with headskipping 6-string chimes of the highest order, guitars vying for the truest jangle.

In between, just as Ghetto skipped back a generation to metamorphose into Sticky Fingaz, we swear that EPG do the same with none other than Brighter. "This Is The Town", its delectable verses dripping with the melancholy of smalltown entrapment, starts to ring towards the end with musical hints of the harder-edged Brighter singles. And then there's third track, "Summer's Day": it would be possible, we suppose, to listen to it and not think of Brighter, but you'd probably have to be on crack (although given that Brighter once garnered a review that mentioned the Beatles, Snow Patrol and the Stone Roses, some reviewers evidently are). What is laudable, however, is that "Summer's Day" is a hale, rather than a pale, imitation: it could almost be from Brighter's "Laurel" sessions at the White House the best part of 20 years ago, the lyrical wistfulness ("I wanted to run away") and world-worn sentiment ice-wrapped by acoustic guitars. It is, honestly, delish, and the Sunrise EP is part of the Matinee renaissance.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Sweden Project

"So tied up with no devotion / Your life is falling apart"

If you've ever listened - presumably as punishment for some suitably grave misdemeanour - to the Radio 1 Punk Show, hosted by an entity called Mike Davies, you may well be wondering whether punk still exists, or indeed ever existed (to be fair, it's not all bad, but were we to get our hands on any punk show then we'd be giving you Discharge, Scalplock and Flyblown to the max, and possibly attempting to indulge our usual after-three pints argument that everything on Sarah was punk. Especially the Poppyheads). Anyway, proof that punk does exist and - fans of the Exploited will be delighted to hear - is not dead, is provided by a new 7" from Lognhalsmottagningen, the bastard hardcore child of men who've recorded on both Sarah and Cloudberry, which makes a nice double. "Oron Nasa" is on four labels (Yellow Mica, 555, Promenade and Slumberland), has an authentic crust-punk sleeve and contains seven amazing tracks, sung in Swedish, that start with the raw magic of Riot City bands or even Bullshit Detector compilations but can't help but weave in Boyracer-ish energy and even some guitar melody.

"Oron Nasa", in turn, is mild-mannered when compared to Nasum's "Doombringer". The immutable laws of musical cliche have long provided that any band of any genre associated however tendentiously with metal must release at least one live-in-Japan album, and Nasum duly deliver theirs, recorded in 2004 before Mieszko's death in the tsunami heralded the band's demise. What saves "Doombringer" being merely a tour souvenir, as most of these things are, is that the recording quality rather belies its status as live album - and that the usual loving care has been taken by Anders Jakobson to order and curate the record, albeit that it was probably rather easier than when he had to assemble the 141 tracks of the still ineffably perfect "Grind Finale".

Friday, April 25, 2008

Big Zinc Cake

"... ... ... ..."

As you can tell, we're crowding as many posts in as we can before May 1, on the basis that we may be too depressed after it to want to write again for a while. Anyway, best pick up the pace. Zinc's "Goblin" 12" on Bingo does that and is very jolly indeed, a neat shebang of colourful drum n'bass: he also produces our favourite remix of Benga & Coki's ubiquitous "Night", an umptempo junglist thing on the remix 12" with Digital Soundbwoy that knocks several shades of the proverbial out of the rather tame original (Benga's "Diary of an Afro Warrior", as you might have feared, spends far too long on the coffee-table side of the line, although in places, notably the great "26 Basslines" also previewed on Rinse 2, it is very difficult to resist: similarly, Benga & Walsh's 12" vs Darqwan, "Addicts", is worth investigating).

Cluekid's "Toadstep", on his appropriately named Bullfrog Beats label, is the follow-up to last year's amiable "Crazy Legs" but is basically a one-trick pony, the joke being that the melody is delivered by electronic croaks: mind you, the beats are worth a listen, and one trick / joke is the same as the new Darren Hayman band, and more than a lot of artists out there - witness Double Zero or Snoop's latest efforts, which are probably best summed up as woefully ineffectual (a phrase first imprinted on our brains when Radio 5 described Darren Beckford's contribution to a match).

Peverelist's "Infinity Is Now", a 12" on Pinch's Tectonic label, also has Beckfordesque tendencies, doing about as much for us as Darren did for Norwich City, but "Junktion" on the AA is really well crafted - gently warped keyboard and crackle eventually joined by a roving pulse of bass. An unexpected bonus is that if you are malcoordinated enough to accidentally play it at 33 revs, it still sounds pretty good, the keyboard turning to piano, giving you 11 minutes' worth of blissed-out, lazy sprawl.

And while we're on an instrumental tip: if you'd been wondering where all that fine London techno stuff had got to, well so were we.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Choose Life

"Every day, religiously, I'm working lyrically to refine my rhyming artillery"

Double-yay with bells on for this one. Life is the UK's king of the simile, a hero of the old school and, no question, an all-round general favourite of ours. He might be 35 now, but he's still angry, aware, conscious, considerate and, quite properly, a hater of all those rappers who, to coin a rather fetching phrase, are "wacker than Younis". So if you thought the Phi-Life Cypher man's second solo album, "Realities Of Life", was pretty great then you (a) were right, and (b) will enjoy this third one, "Outside Looking In", fresh out on Zebra Traffic.

If, on the other hand, you were never lucky enough to hear "What Our Estates Have Become" et al, then we honestly think you should investigate: Life (now without the question mark) packs comment, observation, extended metaphors - it's all words, beautiful words - into every song: it's about the message, and thanks to DJ Nappa it's one that's delivered over easy-to-love loops and beats. Only albums like "Original Gangsta" or "From Enslavement To Obliteraton" can match it in terms of the sheer *volume* of common sense talked: from his pride in his kids, through how he listened to John Peel as a teenager in prison, to the impassioned "What's Going On", a closer that thankfully deals sanely with Islamophobia, "Outside Looking In" is not only tough enough, but also not a little inspirational.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You Do My World The World Of Goodz / Through The Eye of Terror (Danjah)

"And when I'm live on the set / the guy that's behind the decks / better pay me respec"

Pausing only to observe that a proper fight, rather than a weak pun-based text juxtaposition, involving the Harvest Ministers and a presumably somewhat outnumbered Bolt-Thrower would actually be quite hard to call: having given it not much (but still rather too much) thought, we settled on a Calzaghe-style split points decision as being the most likely outcome.

Now believe this. Durrty Goodz has bare skills. If you'd been sceptical about some of the praise heaped on last yr's "Axiom EP" (was it really 9 places better than Shrag, etc) then a truth needs repeating: yes. It was a landmark grime record, any of the tracks on which could have served as a "how-to" template for any aspiring MC. And the fact that the returning Goodz is on fire is only emphasised by his contribution, "Reloadz", to Terror Danjah's new "Hardrive Volume 1" mixtape: picking up from the Nani-style showboating of "Switching Songs 2", the bounce of "Boi Dem" and the raw confidence of "Axiom" itself, it simply exhilarates, a veritable "If I Could Shine" of brittle promise that makes the listener somersault into headnoddingness.

And while there are other slivers of goodness on "Hardrive" - which features a cast of almost thousands of guests - Levy, Badness, Triple Threat, Teddy Bruk Shut, Bruza, Double S, Griminal, Youf, Messy, S Kid, Chipmunk, Little Dee, P Money, Lethal, Marciephonix, Hypa Fenn, Calibur, Scorcher, Wretch 32, Shabba D, Trim, Wiley, Riko, Footsie, D Double E... it is worth getting hold of the CD simply for "Reloadz" and its remix. Plus, along with Bless Beats' "Hard Days Graft", the release of Hardrive means we have a few more nicely clinical girl-sung UKR&B numbers to get into, which is bad news for you lot next time we're on the decks.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Baseball Caps and Novar

"Finsbury Park's in my heart / It never left me"

With Skinnyman and latterly Taskforce having been a little quiet of late, it falls to Supar Novar to rep for some of the low N postcodes at the moment. This he does via a Tricksta-assembled mixtape, "Wordz From The Frontline", from Wolverhampton's Wolftown empire, and it's fair to say that even over 75 minutes the quality only rarely slides, Supar Novar supplying the talent to match Tricksta's in a way that puts this mixtape above solo efforts from Wolftown's own roster like Late's US-UK collabo last yr.

The usual Wolftown suspects (Late himself - most winning line: "I'm sick of seeing the world through the eyes of Judith Chalmers"), Jai-Boo, 10Shott appear, along with Novar's latest protege Big Ben, but "Wordz From The Frontline" is designed to be, and works as, a showcase for Supar Novar himself. His gruff, grimy rapping is to the fore, and as such "Wordz...", which includes "Measure My Success" (effectively the single, being the video that they've decided to throw at Channel U) and "New Year Startin'" (almost a rose-tinted UK "It Was A Good Day"), is a worthy accompaniment to '06's album proper, "From The Beginning". The only gripe we can find, if we try, is that like so much UKHH (and unlike so much grime), we wish it could sound more completely like it was from this side of the Atlantic: image-wise, Wolftown have always seemed slightly taken with the stateside hip-hop cliche thing, which is a mild disappointment, as plenty of their records have actually kind of transcended it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What Do I Ghett

"They say grime won't get man a mortgage / That's because you cunts don't support it..."

What next ? Ghetto, perhaps. 2007's "Ghetto Gospel" was not quite all that it could have been - the first 5 tracks were dazzling but, a little like Scorcher or Wretch's tapes from last year, there was a sense of trying a little too hard to touch all the bases, and not enough to truly hit the heights. Now, "Freedom of Speech" sees him more focussed, a mixtape of crunchy, more hip-hop flavoured beats over which his trademark raspy flow sounds more kinda minatory and Sticky Fingaz-ish by the day (the way he exclaims "I don't give a fuck" during an Onyx-like rant on "Buss 1" almost sounds like the real Sticky has dropped into Bow to take over the mic).

In common with Trim, he has the sense to kick off proceedings with a pulsating, dynamic duo, "Commandments" and "The Ghetto", and there's also some commendable picking and choosing of guest spots, so on "Threats" he teams up with Griminal (whose "Dance" on Scorcher's "Thunder Power" compilation last year was a kind of '07 equivalent to Tinchy's seminal "Move") and Brutal for something rather rougher and tougher; the nervous energy of "Ghost Town" is pristinely marshalled by Smasher; and Chipmunk turns up again, part-rescuing a perfunctory remix of "I'm Ghetts". We also get excellent tracks like "Mountain", just out on white label 12", which keeps up the pace and tension without overspilling into unnecessary gangster stereotypes. A tad galling, then, that some of the later tracks suddenly trail off nearly as badly as "Ghetto Gospel" did.

But in all, "Freedom of Speech" works far better than "Ghetto Gospel". In places it may seem more of a competent hip-hop album than a grime landmark, sounding formulaic almost in the same breadth as it excites: similarly, the lyrical edginess jumps awkwardly between sounding forced and genuinely zestful. But these, we guess, are just the contradictions of a genre that even now is skittishly betraying and then rediscovering itself at every turn.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Riko Arena

"It's been about 14 years / I've been killin' MCs and taunting br'ers"

Were we not such dyed-in-the-wool Londinistas that we rep for public transport at every turn, we'd almost be tempted to go out and nab a cabriolet with Koni air-shocks, just so we could boom Riko's "The Truth" opus at max volume as we cruised around the manor. Riko, as "Big Time Veteran" (also on this double-CD) acknowledged, is fairly ancient - early 30s - in a game where the best established producer right now is still in his teens: but this is the first Riko product we've managed to get hold of since "Chosen One" with Target on the first Run the Road, and his phoned-in verse from HMP Brixton to Lady Sovereign's "Random" remix before she too joined the queue of faller-offers. (And yes, we know that we increasingly devote plenty of pixels to asides of mourning for those who've fallen off, but then that's the territory if one writes, however badly, about music: incidentally the reason we don't write about Estelle any more, who's all big tings now, isn't that she's fallen off: it's just that her thing isn't our thing no more).

Sorry. Again assembled over a period of years - this time more than just the last two - "The Truth" is shrill with the kind of lairy, eager, buzzing gun-clap that sounded so exciting when "Run The Road" first rolled round, as Riko peppers pleasingly raw passages of ragga-style toasting with more conventional rhyming. Also, more than many mixtapes, and probably because it hasn't been thrown together in a matter of months, this one manages to stay in high gear, hardly ever derailing into the stock mixtape filler territory of R&B shlock tributes to mum, girlfriend, fallen soldierz etc.

It starts by exhuming "So Amazing", last seen on Eskiboy's "Da 2nd
, and then delivers a stream of should-be singles. As well as the imperious, Bless Beats-anchored "Big Time Veteran", there's "No Boad Test This Corner" which bounces with nervous energy and irresistible, rippling beats (guess who it's produced by); "It's War", all busy rapping over "My Mistakes"-style backing; "Grand Theft Auto", a series of digs at Lethal Bizzle and no doubt those boasts of Punto-nicking on his last album; and the very neat, dancehall and reggae-tinged "Informer Dead" and "Retaliate". The second disc is bookended by six minutes in the sassy company of "Dumplin Riddim" (sirens, skank, sublow = swell) and an 18-minute 1Xtra soundclash with Flowdan. Plus, when let loose on Skepta's Stage Show riddim, Riko proves nearly as hyper as Jammer is on the excerpt that appeared on Skream's Rinse comp...

Unlike Eskiboy and Trim's tapes, Riko does rather concentrate on banging out these foursquare crowdpleasers and club tunes one after another - only on "My Style" and "I'm Still Here" does he really give us more of a glimpse of his story, his personality - but the package is generally imperturbably great, falling off (there we go again) only with the likes of "Selfish Lies" (see comments above re wishy-washy songs about relationships) and the nadir, the predictably un-liberating "Women's Liberation". But in the end, if you can make a few quid go further than this double CD, we'd be extremely surprised.

PS Congratulations to Queen of the South. Today, you have qualified for Europe.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Trimski Korsakov

"If you didn't catch my name I'll throw it to you / And for those that can't catch, I'll roll it to you..."

Ha. Third division survival secured with three games left - better than we were expecting back in August. Well done, all.

Next up is the "Leaf Out of Their Book" tape from Trim (aka Trimbal, Trimothy and now, on this the third volume of the "Soul Food" series, "my name's Trimski for today"). On which Trim, whatever his suffix of choice, is increasingly chatty and engaging, even revealing that like most Londoners, he holds a flame for Manchester United. Aside from that admission, however, all is good and vital in East 14, not least when we're hit with the strong opening brace of "Signal" and "Ask For Trim", which set out his stall nicely.

For many, the highlights will be the reflective "Inside Looking Out" or "The Bits", which suddenly remind us of those tracks on "Boy In Da Corner" where Dizzee found his inner voice, but for us "The Low-Dan" and "It's A Cold World" are even better. The former is the most obvious of several bites at Flowdan (Trim is now seemingly exiled from Roll Deep, and paints accusations that Flowdan was the cause, although there's nothing quite as vicious as Trim's January Flowdan dub, which subtly opened with Trim calling Flowdan a cunt) but is accompanied by a searing battery of quickfire beats which refuse to play second fiddle to Trim's bittersweet narrative. "Cold World" is, it would appear, a sideswipe at Dizzee himself, the most prominent E3-er in exile, but it's a thoughtful, regret-strewn thing, a mature musing on the power of money. Plus, notably on the couple of tracks where Trim busses in Radioclit for production duties, there are a wider variety of beats, including pronounced Asian stylings, than most mixtapes care to offer.

Given the track record of, er, every other half-decent grime artist ever, the likelihood (and our fear) is that within a few years Trim will either have disappeared or, even worse, graduated to a half-baked proper album on a major label subsidiary. But this would be a real shame, because "Soul Food" volume 3 is the best demonstration yet of Trim's versatility, and good evidence that he is capable of shaping his own "Playtime Is Over" one of these days.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stryder House Rules

"They can't fuck with me, I'm protected / Not just in Bow, I'm connected"

It's well known that pubs or bars which have people (especially old men) queuing to get in at 11 a.m. are the real top-drawer: whereas hostelries that have people queuing to get in at 11 p.m. are well worth avoiding. So since the wrongful demise of the Jorene Celeste, which has turned into one of the latter, we've gravitated to the Florence a fair bit: by and large, it fulfils its claim of being the last "real pub" on this part of the A1, a little oasis tucked away behind the, er, petrol station. Mind you, things got a little concerning the other night, when someone tipped us off that the Islington Conservatives had been allowed to book a table in there, a surefire way to cast a sudden shadow over an otherwise favourite haunt. We were looking around us all the time, as shivers invaded our spines: suddenly, our cold Carlsberg felt like it could tip us into frostbite, and warm, happy homeliness iced over into mild discomfort. There are plenty of places where the innocent punter should be spared from being shoulder-to-shoulder with Islington Conservatives, and the local is definitely one of them.

Anyway, to E3 (again). We can bring you gladdest tidings to the effect that the *real* Tinchy Stryder is back, to(u)ting a CD-EP by the name of "Cloud 9". To be fair to Tinchy, he did tell us last year that he was "tryin' to get mainstream money", which probably explains why the "Star In The Hood" set lacked his usual punch and guile, and the singles off it were such guilty pleasures: but it's still a relief to find that the new EP, seemingly self-released, has largely been produced without any obvious aim to please / appease the crossover audience: "This is simply what I do best", he notes on the first track, "Full Effect".

Like others of the genre (most impressively Durrty Goodz' "Axiom"), extended play here means not a Sarah-style three track 7", but instead a meaty nine-track CD: a formula which can work so much better than the 20-25 track mixtape. And, with the sole exception of "Thump" smack bang in the middle, a dreary crossover tune that takes the just-add-slush formula of the two Total Entertainment singles to a reductio ad absurdum of urban gloop, "Cloud 9" is a powerful and oh-so welcome return to form. It probably does no harm at all that Tinchy employs Maniac, a man who hoovers up any superlatives lying round here, to supervise the first three tunes, as they all slay (and include recent 12" "Sorry U Are ?" with the ever-rising Chipmunk - btw Badness' "The Lava Continues" CD from last year, which we highly recommend, features amongst many other great tracks a barnstorming tune with Chip called "When We Rize").

On "Six 4 Fire", the third of the Maniac productions, Tinchy cockily says, "I'm back in your top ten line-up". But you know, not least with Ruff Sqwad's "Man Dem" tearing up Channel U right now, and a 12-tracker "Stryder vs Maniac" allegedly on way, we think he's right.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The latest from Olympic East London

"All I've ever done is say Bow E3, rude boy, and you know that..."

Yep, all that is good and holy rather compels us to mention Eskiboy's latest treasure trove. We'd been waiting a few months for a new Wiley mix CD, an unusual sensation (no doubt he's been partly preoccupied by Rolex sweep shenanigans): but the outcome is neither the heavily-trailed "£10 an Hour" volume one, the not-unhyped "Tunnel Vision" volume seven that was allegedly on the blocks months ago, the apparently on-way Roll Deep opus nor even "Grime Wave", which we understand is imminent-ish. Instead, it's something called "Umbrella" (volume one, naturellement).

Oddly, while it's a rush-release job (the tracklisting on the back of the CD is markedly different from the one on the insert, meaning you can work out what tracks were dropped or moved), most of them are actually of less-than-instant vintage - part of that 2006 revival we've been banging on about, no doubt. So "Umbrella Volume 1" is a mish-mash of family favourites (the ace "Taliban", the saccharine "Daddy's Little Girl" - later spun into "Playtime Is Over's" "Baby Girl" - and the tonking, Scorcher-produced "Class of '07", extracted from the "Thunder Power" mixtape), worthy curios (the shining "Big Time Veteran" collab with fellow Roll Deeper Riko, "God's Gift War Dub", a typical double-header of street menace and blitz humour as it's the turn of Riko's mate GG to be mocked by the Eskiboy, and an anthemic sino-grime thing called "Spirit of Da Beat", also on Bless Beats' new Eskibeat CD, that begs to be a single if it hasn't been already), and Wiley productions for other MCs, the most impressively tight being Mega Montana's "Whoa". So "Umbrella" isn't really new, but regardless of the filler, it's still worth getting for what's killer: if you can listen to "Bazooka Freestyle" or "Class of '07" and not be inspired either to smile or to dance, there may be no hope for you.

Friday, April 04, 2008

(Slight) return of the real

In case you think we've been surprisingly quiet about it all given our past leanings, yes, we are still excited about what has been, despite our team getting battered 5-1 on national TV in the quarters, the best FA Cup competition since the original incarnation of Bristol City got beaten in the 1909 final (especially as the Chesterfield v Wimbledon "dream final" briefly promised by the tantalising '97 semis draw sadly never materialised): the 727 teams so far knocked out include 19 from the top flight, meaning that we're guaranteed a final that won't be between the same old PLCs.

All welcome respite from the sadness of the Milton Keynes franchise winning its first trophy, as well as the ongoing soap operas of the two most tedious football competitions in the world, the Premier League (spit) and the Champions' League (punch, dismember, place bomb underneath). Sad, given the storm rightly being kicked up over Game 39, that the shark was kind of very obviously jumped well over a decade ago, when the European Cup format, may it rest in peace, was finally butchered beyond recognition... it's a bit late to bring common sense and proportion into things now.


the short stories "cover star" (forthcoming 7" on the international lo-fi underground)
kelman "shut a final door" (from 2008 lp sampler)
the doubtful guest "electrobotz (gigue's bot-selectro mix)" (from remixes 12" on planet mu)
julie ocean "#1 song" (here, at the mo)
yellowtail ft. juakali "pressure dem (silverback reload)" (from "pressure dem" on raw fusion)
queen omega featuring gentleman "revolution" (from "revolution" ep on special delivery)
coki "mad head" / "bass" (12" on ringo records)
the arc lamps "billboard storm" (from "wave of sound " 3" cdr on cloudberry records)
d1 "speed" (from "v.2" 12" on tempa)
the fantasy lights "like yesterday" (from "you're my september" 3" cdr on cloudberry records)
tes la rok "santa claus is lost" (from "bass 31" 12" on 3.5 records)