Tex-Rec "Encoding" (Darknet): Tobias Luke "Hard And Dry" (Hydraulix): Tom Laws & Henry Cullen "Wolf Slayer" (Hydraulix): Ryuji Takeuchi "Last Piece" (Bound): Pe'ja "Gilgamesh" (Sick Weird Rough): Cripple Bastards "Senza Impronte" (Relapse): Public Enemy "I Shall Not Be Moved" (Enemy Records): The Purist featuring Roc Marciano / Action Bronson "Change" / "Northern & Roozey" (King Kong Holding Company): Roc Marciano "Warm Hennessy" (GoodFelons): Footsie vs. Darq E Freaker "B.O.G. (Bag Of Grease)" (Braindead Entertainment): Rival "Headshot Season" (Major Music Entertainment): DPower Diesle featuring Frisco, Riko, Flowdan, Chronik & G-Man "Horror Show" (DPower Recordings): M.I.K. "Mor£" (Launchpad): Experimental Pop Band "Little Things" (Wear It Well): Wormrot "Many Funerals" (Earache)
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Like Creation Records, the Factory label still seems to bask in a mythical glow that dramatically over-represents the number of great records it actually released (although at least Factory had Joy Division and New Order delivering the goods right through into the mid-1980s, whereas the best bands on Creation tended either to splinter, fall off quite badly or disembark from the label early doors). But without ever pretending that more than 1% of their catalogue was any good, we still dabble in sporadic Factory-worship. As none other than Keris Howard told us, sometimes Joy Division remain the only band that ever mattered, and we can always make time for the understated, ghostly joys of "Unknown Pleasures" or the youthful gloom of the Wake in the days before they lightened up, turned the sarcasm up to 11 and signed to Sarah.
But it's not just those doomier corners of the Factory roster that merit close attention. We raise a pint to anyone anywhere who, like us, owns and treasures "Meat Mouth Is Murder" (FAC 196). And we've been listening to a lot of the Bemusic (Donald Johnson / New Order) productions, courtesy of LTM's excellent "Cool As Ice" and "Twice As Nice" selections. There are some real stunners within, especially Marcel King's "Reach For Love", 52nd Street's "Can't Afford To Let You Go" and Paul Haig's "The Only Truth", a woefully underloved but brilliant torch song which provides the missing link between "Blue Monday" and Revenge's "7 Reasons".
Now Tex-Rec was barely born when the Factory chapter closed. But, as we've opined before, we hear something of the Martin Hannett in his more skeletal productions. And the thing about "Encoding", a truly crashing release on Electrax sublabel Darknet following the excellent Michael Schwarz single "Incarnation" earlier this year, is that it provides a gateway between the eerie, feedback-splashed, bent of Tex-Rec's recent "Line" single and the kind of unashamed danceability which Bemusic injected into a disparate range of artists back in the day. Powered by a decidedly non-minimal bassline, and featuring a fragment of drum pattern which is a dead ringer for a roll deployed on "The Perfect Kiss", "Encoding" takes up where "Incarnation" left off, injects "Line"'s ghostly wail and proceeds to embed thudding bliss into your lucky, lucky cranial cavity.
There's something of Bemusic / New Order in the two new Hydraulix offerings too, particularly Tobias Luke's compact "Hard And Dry". Like "Blue Monday", in one sense it's little more than a drum machine workout, all sneaky trills and percussive layering while the bass pulse rattles along modestly, yet like "Blue Monday" it has a magnetic quality that makes it the perfect tonic to prescribe for an even mildly-discerning dancefloor. Tom Laws and Henry Cullen's "Wolf Slayer" is more expansive: its no-frills, no-gimmicks approach makes us fair weep for the nostalgia of tracking down Hydraulix 12"s in the HMV racks on Oxford Street, rather than having to resort to mouse-clicks for our fix. As we've said before, Hydraulix must be one of the most consistent UK labels this century, in any genre.
And then there's the marvellous Ryuji Takeuchi. While capable of scripting beautiful instrumental narratives ("Possibility" from last year's "Ichi-Ren-Taku-Sho" EP was, despite its hurtling hundreds of beats per minute, engagingly pretty, like apple-blossom discarded by the warm spring wind), he also excels at the kind of dystopian machine instrumentals that made "Vital" such a colossal record. Indeed, were it not for the fact we can't stand science-fiction, we'd recommend his songs as perfect accompaniments to sci-fi's darker fantasies. "Last Piece" inherits this tradition, Takeuchi appropriately enough forging an unforgiving jigsaw of percussive clatter which uses drums not merely to punctuate the song, but to drive it on and on, as a variety of industrial sounds and smog-bound white noise populate the mix and roundly whip any remaining vestiges of melody into meek submission.
Pe'ja's Sick Weird Rough début, "Gilgamesh" (effectively a quarter of an hour, split over two tracks) shows yet again how new artists up their game when producing for Sven Wittekind's somewhat imperious imprint. The song pivots around a repeated, scuffed and fuzzy motif, Amedeo Mazzotti masterminding its rise and fall with the confidence of a man who's been raised into the firmament by starmaker Sven, but what distinguishes it from much of the rest of Europe's minimal techno crop is Pe'ja's use of breakbeats to provide a crunching, pizza-crust edge to proceedings. Nice.
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Staying in Italy, but switching genres slightly (OK then, switching genres massively), Cripple Bastards have come a very long way from their early demos (as showcased on "A History Of Grindcore"), which were essentially staccato blasts of white noise accompanied by lung-scarring screams. Their new five-track 7" on Relapse sees them combining a more refined high-speed grind with Gridlink's treblier, screamo tendencies, creating songs of substance (especially the title track) underneath still-fairly excitable high-pitched yells. Best of all, there are guttural, grunted low-end vocals too, which help to give the songs a real 'Peel Session' feel.
Public Enemy are hard-faced veterans too, and "I Shall Not Be Moved" is another defiantly retro single, the samples still hard, regimented and funky as Chuck D excoriates everything that moves and that doesn't keep it real. Tantalisingly, it's a taster for the two (yes, two) albums that P.E. are ostensibly to release this summer (I know we really *shouldn't* be tingling with anticipation for these, but we just are).
As for new New York blood, two of Cormega's mates from "MARS", Action Bronson and the hyper-prolific Roc Marciano, each team up with UK producer the Purist (and on the label that brought us Salvo and Kashmere's "The Info") for a joint, um, joint on 7", although it's actually the former's "Northern & Roozey" which takes the prize, a Queens summer love song set to swooning string backing which presses every possible right button. Roc's "Change", on the other hand, seems surprisingly timid for its subject matter ("fuck what the Bible says / I hustle with my final days... bang! bang! to get change"). There's nowt wrong with the Purist's laidback and jazzy backing, which gives Roc more than enough space to spit fire, so either Roc's just mumbling, or his voice is simply too low in the mix. It could also be that any song called "Change" feels like it must be either a parody, or a dis, of Obama (friends from across the pond have opined that his technique for presidency rather resembles Boris Johnson's blueprint for his first four years as London Mayor, i.e. do nothing much; let things slide).
Fear not, though, because Roc has also released (re-released ?) "Warm Hennessy" as a single: again, we think there are 7"s of this floating around, not to mention a dozen (we're not exaggerating) remixes. With the Arch Druids again providing the beats (as they did for the excellent "Emeralds"), it's another great song, a convincing evocation of the Marc's life on road. For a man who's released, Wedding Present-style, at least a single a month during 2012, he hasn't half got a good hit rate. So if "Emeralds" is his "Come Play With Me", then "Warm Hennessy" is his "Blue Eyes". Or something.
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What about the UK ? Here, overall, the news is not so good. You may have tripped across Plan B's "Ill Manors": according to the Guardian, "the greatest British protest song in years". Naively excited by such a prospect, we invested 79p (I know; I know). We deserve all we get for this, true, but dear God it was disappointing. It's like he'd listened to Scorzayzee's "Great Britain" and More Fire's "Oi!" and then just chucked in some half-hearted stuff to capitalise on the riots, thinking "this'll do - after all, the broadsheets reckon the Streets are proper hip-hop". "Ill Manors" does not soundtrack a rebellion against anything, except quality.
For a better taste of the capital's far more complex street flavours, the best recent singles have been true grime: Footsie and Darq E Freaker's "Bag Of Grease", a very loose update of Newham Generals' 2010 EP of the same name on Dirtee Stank, Rival's "Headshot Season" - on a fairly ambitiously-named label! - which is full of invigorating urban darkness even if it's not a patch on last year's "Lock Off The Rave" (which - incidentally - we were very pleased to see on Dandelion Radio playlists), the DPower Diesle and friends skengman love-in "Horror Show" (a promo for Diesle's latest mixtape) and M.I.K's recent proto-capitalist outing, "Mor£" (again, though, a mere trinket as compared with the grandstanding, head-popping greatness of M.I.K. and Merky Ace's "Shut Down" in 2011).
Even better tidings from these shores come via Bristol, via the incremental renaissance of the Experimental Pop Band. "Little Things" (and yes, we know it's been out for ages) still owes much of its sound and feel to their 1990s heyday, during which we purloined everything EPB produced with near-religious fervour, but it's still a very enjoyable single: Davey Woodward still drawls deliciously (even though you can hardly imagine the Brilliant Corners in their early days coming up with lines like "if you're glum / I'll make you come"), and we swear that he has a pop at Gasheads at one point. While EPB are no longer particularly experimental (in contrast to their early days as the South West Experimental Pop Band) there is an enjoyably chaotic and heavy guitarbreak which emerges from nowhere, just when you were thinking that this is otherwise the kind of song that Sleeper or their comrades in the Britpop front-line would have killed for back in the day. "Little Things" is apparently from EPB's sixth album "Vertigo", which we'll be making a beeline for when we're next allowed out.
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Finally, Wormrot (they have to be last really, as they are basically unfollowable). Last year, Wormrot staked extremely serious claims for best single of the year, best album of the year *and* best gig of the year.
There's nothing properly new from them yet in 2012, but the Earache i-Tunes release of last year's extraordinary "Noise" EP is accompanied by one previously unreleased track, "Many Funerals". It's a cover of a song by the Texan band Eisley, but whereas the original is excruciatingly dreadful (think bad indie meets bad rock meets bad folk meets M.O.R), the Wormrot interpretation of it is inevitably JOYOUS, a verily hectic punkcore pound which spiritedly douses the original to remove all trace of its unremitting poorness (lest this seems too harsh on Eisley, we would point out that they merely sound like a thousand other bands, rather than being uniquely terrible in any respect, and to be fair you can't entirely dislike *any* band who have managed to inspire Wormrot). It seems a little odd, given that 2011 was positively awash with brilliant new hardcore, grindcore and powerviolence records, that 2012 has been almost completely devoid of them: "Many Funerals", if hardly up to Wormrot's now-exacting standards, at least gives us something to tide us over.
And, um, that is all.