I had a recent trip to Washington, USA for work, and was lucky enough to be able to spend a long weekend in New York afterwards. Mid-August and almost unbearably hot and humid, there wasn’t all that much going on in town, but one thing did catch my eye in the listings: a free gig in Central Park by Public Enemy.
2010 is the twentieth anniversary of the album Fear Of A Black Planet, one of their finest, featuring possibly their best track in Welcome to the Terrordome:
Restless, raucous and aggressive, they still sound unique after all this time.
Back then I was quite interested in certain strains of hip hop, especially where it crossed into jazz (a style that PE never strayed into). Jungle Brothers, The Pharcyde, Gang Starr, Tribe Called Quest were all favourites, and I saw all of them live a few times. As my tastes changed I stopped listening to that genre and didn’t really go back to it: in the last year I have seen gigs by Jay-Z and MF Doom at the Roundhouse, and it really underlined for me that I’m just not into hip hop, over- or underground. But in contrast, Public Enemy still sound good to me.
The gig was in a small walled area of Central Park with a temporary stage, probably holding about 2,000 people. PE were awesome, as they’ve been every time I’ve seen them: the fire still burns brightly. Other acts on the bill included Son Of Bazerk, Blitz The Ambassador, and opening was DJ Kool Herc.
Herc is credited with inventing the whole hip hop genre (see, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kool_Herc) but never released any records and was quickly overtaken by other early pioneers such as Africa Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, on both of whom he was a big influence. He seems to have faded from the scene quite early, and come in and out of it ever since, overcoming some huge personal problems along the way. At the gig he played a vast range of tunes, from disco to soul to reggae, all of them classics, and all pointing to the various roots of hip hop itself in some way.
It was a great experience to go back in time like this: to my own musical past, and to rediscover one of the seminal groups, and founding fathers, of this music.
On a recent visit to the US, due to a cancelled flight I found myself stranded in an airport hotel overnight during a thunderstorm … luckily this was not the opening scene of a David Lynch movie, much as it felt like it. It was later the next day that I finally managed to arrive in New York. The intervening hours were difficult but I was lucky enough to have laptop, headphones and wi-fi at my disposal. The following short mix was the result …
This is music I have been listening to recently, put together with no other theme than that it all sounds good to me. I hope you like it.
1. Gorge - Imara
2. Shiny Objects - Black Spaces (Pezzner Version Two)
For my money, Pezzner is making some of the most interesting music around at the moment. Long known as a go-to remixer, he’s recently released his first album, ‘The Tracks Are Alive’, to great acclaim. Listening to it as I write this post, it’s full of left-field sounds and grooves, perfectly produced as always and never taking the obvious route. Check it out here:
Dave Pezzner was half of house duo Jacob London, who it turns out were remix buddies of Big Hair, close friends of mine. They even remixed a track of theirs, ‘Lick The Frog’, the original of which I played some bass on, many years ago:
On his recent album tour of the UK I was lucky enough to meet up with Dave a few times, and see him perform at both the MUAK summer party that I played at and at the Russian Bar in Dalston. His sets are as awesome as his productions, rich with ideas and sounds and with no letup in the groove.
Lost My Dog are one of the best and most consistent underground house labels around - and now they’re five years old. To celebrate they’ve released this fabulous LP featuring tracks by Jay Tripwire, Pete Dafeet, Dominic Martin and Nathan Coles, with mixes by the likes of Milton Jackson, Atnarko, Burnski and Nacho Marco. Wonderful stuff.
You’ve probably seen Inception by now. Smart, challenging, and visually awesome, it fully deserves all the critical plaudits. I think the scene of folding the Paris skyline in on itself has already become an iconic movie image; this and many other sequences left an imprint on my mind and I’m pretty sure I’ll not be satisfied until I see it again.
The main subject matter of the film is dreams; what is also very smart about it is that it manages to weave in a classic heist thriller and an affecting emotional story line into this scenario, and retain it’s coherence. Some achievement.
I’m always interested to see how dreams are portrayed in fiction. Inception is concerned more with the mechanics of dream logic than the content; it plays with the concepts of dream time very cleverly, eventually layering three dreams-within-dreams all running at very different speeds; it also messes with the real-world logic of space and distance to deliver a convincing feel of different dreamscapes.
To my mind one of the best descriptions of lucid dreaming comes in Kazuo Ishiguro’s amazing novel The Unconsoled, which is told as one long continuous story that is dictated purely by dream logic. No background explanation or context is given; this only adds to the hazy feeling of strangeness that comes with realising that you are dreaming. It ties in all the feelings of urgency and dislocation, of focussing on irrelevant detail and connecting illogical parts of the whole together, that are the hallmark of the dream state; I’d fully recommend it as a compelling and very strange literary accompaniment to Inception.
Underworld are amazing. I’ve seen them twice at The Roundhouse and both times they have filled the venue with an explosion of light, sound and beats. Aided by the awesome production provided by iTunes as part of their annual live music festival, this July they blew me away:
After a brilliant time at the Roundhouse we moved onto the Brewery Tap in Dalston and played after two fabulous dj’s, Sophie Lloyd and Suze Rosser. No pictures could really do it justice but it’s the honest truth that tables were danced on …