July 8, 2010

Part 2 brought to you by Son Raw and the healthy looking folks at DMZ.

10 – Doctor P – Sweet Shop (Circus)

Much to the anger of purists, Doctor P’s Sweetshop finally removed any trace of bass from genre’s mutating, squelchy synth leads, transforming what was once “wobble” into pure screeching aggression. Paired with an irresistible early 90’s rave vamp as a hook, the effect on dancers was that of an electric guitar in a Dave Chapelle skit. 6 months, countless remixes, a Star Wars parody and a vocal version later, I never want to hear it again but would probably still lose my shit if I did.

9 – dBridge – Love Hotel (Exit)

Half-step D&B? Hyper-precise instrumental Hip-Hop? Autonomic? Whatever you want to call it, dBridge’s Love Hotel cruises by at a blunted pace like a private eye snapping photos of illicit affairs in Tokyo’s entertainment districts. Whether you’re playing to a near empty room, walking down a near empty street or scoring a film featuring any of the above, this is the sort of thing you want playing in the background. It’s also great for “making Prince”.

8 – Ramadanman – Don’t Change for Me (Hessle)

A rolling broken break tune, Don’t Change for Me is Ramadanman at his most accessible but also at his best. Snapping the drums with machine-gun precision without fussing them up too much, he keeps everything in-the-pocket funky. Meanwhile, the song’s sampled vocals loop around and around, hugging the beat before being processed beyond repair and fading into an ether of synthesized ambiance. The perfect “smart” tune that’s also explosive on a proper system.

7 – Bok Bok – Citizen’s Dub (Blunted Robots)

Riding a woozy synth pattern and tropical drums, Citizen’s Dub is an audio document of that moment in the party where EVERYBODY has had too much to drink. The emcee is chatting shit about the floors swirling, that hot chick you were hitting on is puking in the corner and everyone is falling flat on their asses trying to dance. If ever they held a rave on a sinking ship in the middle of a hurricane, this tune would be on repeat.

6 – James Blake – CMYK (R&S)

Darling of the Boomkat brigade, James Blake escapes nerd territory through his carefully engineered Kelis and Aaliyah samples. Without going on about “hauntology” or some other undergrad nonsense, CMYK’s spectral R&B vocal chop is straight out of the Burial playbook, exploding into a flurry of upbeat drums and chipmunked vocals: experimental music for a generation raised on TRL (or the nearest British equivalent). It tip-toes a little too close to indie preciousness for my tastes but it’s also the closest Blake has come to a banger so far and this time he keeps the drums steady enough to assure that this one will get more than home play.

5 – Redlight – Stupid (Digital Soundboy)

Featuring one of the most caustic bass lines in recent memory, Redlight’s Stupid propelled Funky away from spaced out tropical hypnotism into stomping “big room” anthem territory. The instrumental is tough business giving you nowhere to focus but the low end and the vocal flip with Roses Gabor is party starting hedonism of the best sort. Pardon my brevity and the pun, but writing any more about this tune would be stupid: just watch the video of the neon painted London revelers and hope the DJ plays it the next time you head out.

4 – Starkey & P Money – Numb (Planet Mu)

Starkey’s album, though excellently produced and featuring some dope vocalists, was unfortunately plagued by seriously WACK emcees. P Money however, is the exception. Unloading a furious double time stress rap detailing his life’s ills, the vocals fit Starkey’s reflective, synthesized production like a glove. The hook is even better, harmonizing with the beat without watering the song down or sweetening it up too much. With Grime often stuck between endless hype and commercial compromise and post-Dubstep still weary of rap vocalists, Numb definitely highlighted a way forward.

3 – Guido – Mad Sax (Punch Drunk)

Mad Sax merges digital horns and over-sized orchestral stabs into a shimmering, plastic piece of funk that somehow sounds epic without being cheesy. Rather than using the plasticity of his sound sources as a “wink wink, nudge nudge” send up, Guido instead uses synthesized orchestration in a way that few have done since the 80’s: to make old instruments sound new and futuristic. The look of utter confusion, followed by utter delight when this one gets played out is priceless.

2 – Rox – My Baby Left Me (Terror Danjah Remix) (Rough Trade)

Terror Danjah’s remix of Rox’ MOR soul single is pure pop, but it’s pop that’s absorbed the lessons of bass music and has thoroughly integrated them into its DNA. Grime’s wanton 8-bar aggression becomes a DDR sugar-rush, Dubstep’s tempo-switches and wobble pin the whole thing down and the neon-colored synthesizers are Crystal-Pepsi clear rather than hazy and nostalgic. Compositionally, this remix retains most of the original song’s elements but renders them in neon-hyper-color, speeding up the tempo and vocal pitch to near-shrill levels without ever reducing Rox to the kind of faceless dance-diva that populates house music. The result is thrilling enough to blast past the revivalism and soulless electro-house currently dominating the charts to claim pop song of the year so far with nothing aimed at the mainstream even coming close to the immediacy and cultural currency on display here. Fuck nostalgia, this sounds like RIGHT NOW. If it were any sweeter, and more colorful I’d have to coin the term Starburst-Pop.

1 – Addison Groove – Footcrab (Swamp 81)

What’s there left to say? Pitting mindless fun against programmed subtlety in a duel to the death, Footcrab is the most fun anyone’s going to have with a beat in 2010. Finding inspiration in Juke music, Addison Groove (AKA Headhunter) crossbred Chicago’s ghetto house variation with Dubstep tempos resulting in barely restrained insanity: crunk for the eyes-down crowd adamant on maintaining Dubstep’s darkness first and foremost but interested in Funky’s post-halfstep elan and momentum. The overall effect is that of walking into a smoky room where everyone is gone off the laughing gas: dusty, hilarious and more than a little disturbing.

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