Low End Lowlife: 03.07.12

It’s that time again: bass, booze and breadline income!!!

Posted on Jul 3rd, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Low End Lowlife: 03.07.12 It’s been a while admittedly, this column has gone from weekly to fortnightly to whenever I get round to it really, but good news abounds! I’ve recently become unemployed, so I did what any mature man living in central London would do in my admittedly awkward situation: borrowed fifty quid off a mate (he didn’t get the nickname Pleasant Tom for nothing) to purchase tickets for the Hit & Run boat party and the Skream & Plastician Booze Cruise at Outlook Festival this coming September then hot-footed it back to Great Yarmouth in rural Norfolk, where the beer comes cheap & flat and the teenage girls come perma-tanned, pregnant and pickled, ready to pinch gin out of my mum and dad’s fridge and spend my days catching up on all those Eastenders omnibuses I missed by finding “gainful” employment… Hopefully I’ll find a few gaps in my packed schedule to write about those big bass sounds we all know and love.

So here it is; intoxicated, bloated and about a week later than planned.

Right, the big one this week (it was actually released a few weeks back but my little Lovebox excursion slowed productivity somewhat) comes via Skream’s Disfigured Dubz imprint and is the new Echo Park LP Can’t Help It. It is, without doubt, the ideal record to spin whilst you are sat inside watching the late June drizzle and not having a barbeque. From the sheer audio ephedrine of suitably titled opening track ‘Go’ to the blissed out, pastel shades and rubberised bass of closer ‘Dope Flakes’ this is a full on journey to the mothership, and it glows like a Piz Buin’d Essex girl’s forehead at a summer festival. It’s an interesting debut LP for Skream’s label too, as the album is arranged in very much a traditional style, with “proper” songs preferring vocals, chorus and verse, as opposed to the style of the label’s previous releases which have included the likes of Truth, Cluekid and dBridge. There’s the classic themes of the funk/r&b style throughout, from the lovesick title track about obsession, which cruises on a chunky, Kahlua smooth bass line, to a classic paean of loving up your best friend’s girl in ‘Stop Before We Start’. It’s an album that makes no effort to hide it’s unabashed passion for the old school worlds of funk & boogie and even manages to apply vocoder vocals without sounding like a piece of digital excrement alá T-Pain or in some sort of post-modern comical manner. Much like the characters on many of the tracks Cant Help It wears its heart on its (possibly purple polyester) sleeve. As well as the many cuts for the silk suit wearers sweating on the dancefloor there’s also plenty of low slung tunes for cruising sunkissed coastlines with the rag pulled back on your Chevy... or sitting on a clammy tube to Elephant & Castle in central London… Even if you find yourself doing the latter, the Zapp & Roger esque G-funk squelch of ‘Cutlass Supreme’ or the slap bass led ‘Picture Perfect’ should help you forget all about the fact your shirt is damp enough to grow moss and someone keeps poking you in the kidney with their umbrella tip. A definite buy on sight for anyone who enjoys a splash of classic groove, the works of Dam Funk or Plantlife. Any hip-hop heads who are frankly fed up of waiting for Dr. Dre to release what will probably be a damp squib follow up to The Chronic will find much to love here too and If Erick Sermon catches wind of this record his sampler might shit itself.

Senseless Records are rolling out the sunshine vibes as well this summer, dropping the third instalment in their Synesthesia series on July 9th. Lenkemz brings a tense yet bouncy eski vibe something like 2004 with ‘Murder Mics’, a suitably heavy set number, with big robust bass kicks and flailing synths all over the shop. If you were digging the Straight Outta Croydon EP by Plastician I flagged up a few months back then this is a definite tip. Poirier also turfs up to take the lion’s share of production on this one, with the sweat soaked, digi-dancehall vibes of ‘What’, vocalled in traditional tuff style by Face T, some delirious tropical joy on ‘Festival’ and a bit of a moombahton/reggaeton/doesitfuckingmatterton switch up on ‘Ladrillo Por Ladrillo’. Before you ask I’ve no idea what it means, it just sounds lovely. There’s also the inclusion of ‘Sidney St.’ by Walter Ego, a young upstart from Sheffield who has been catching the attention of the likes of Toddla T with his roughed up grime production style. This one’s a bit of a gem, opening up all ambient pads and swirling keys before dropping into some big sub kicks, rattling 808 rolls and some deliciously tacky digital synth stabs. Sonically just imagine Sean Bean twatting you with a SNES cartridge out the front of Barry’s Bar and you’re pretty much on it. Feet offa di seats gally!

Black Acre, a label that have thus far had a stupendous little 2012 including that beautiful Romare EP and a Dark Sky double 12” return with the long awaited new release from Fantastic Mr. Fox (pictured). After a rather lengthy hiatus, which him staying relatively quiet in both a live and production context, the man is back with a bang. Well, sort of. As ever it’s a gentle, almost pastel toned bang. But it is lovely. And it does bang. Hypothetically. His new San’en EP comes packaged on two 10” plates (the 10” thing seemingly a pattern for FMF’s Black Acre releases) and features four new slices of that strange, slightly off key, warm fidget Fox has been perfecting since his first drop alongside Rich Reason on Hemlock waaaay back in not that long ago 2009. Opener ‘Pascal’s Chorus’ takes keys not too far from an accordion sound and sits them atop a thick layer of swirling pads and a massively warm and gentle bass swell which is frequently present throughout the whole EP. Alby Daniels is also on hand to lend a spacious, gentle vocal layer not too far removed from the sort of fevered murmur you might have heard in some of James Blake’s less jittery cuts. Over on the flip of this first 10” is ‘Speak Nuh’ which carries on the almost accordion esque synths of the previous track, but takes things in a slightly harder, more pronounced direction and probably provides the most solid head-nodder of the set. Plate number two opens with the title track ‘San’en’ which is, for my money, the standout of the collection. Opening with Daniels again providing an almost mumble of a vocal the track then picks up into a solid bounce which bobs along firmly on some maracas and handclap styled percussive ticks without ever actually ending up with sounding too “hard” or unnatural. It has that strange organic nature some of Four Tet’s work generates, and also features a drop of the most infectious nature that again doesn’t actually ever seem to impose itself in a brash manner. Closing track ‘Yesterdays Fall’ brings things down to a slower groove, with the most pronounced vocal from Daniels over some Joe style handmade percussive loops and airy, brushed synths to leave you with a gentle, sun blushed vibe. To call the closer downbeat isn’t quite fair, as it doesn’t leave a negative vibe at all, but it’s definitely one to pull at 6am when the last few bleary eyed revelers are shambling across the floor. ‘San’en’ is probably the finest thing Black Acre has put out this year, and probably Fox’s best set to date too. As a little bonus treat if you go pick it up from Chemical Records for a few quid extra you get the wonderful artwork on a nice cotton tee, so you can look as wonderful as this sounds. Spiffy.

Getting a bit darker and heavier to round this one up there’s been an absolute boat load of wonderful releases from the weightier end of town too; the ever almighty Deep Medi, who seem to have been on a non-stop hustle since about 2010 follow up releases from folk like Mensah, VIVEK and Commodo (who we should hopefully have an interview with on the site soon if I ever sort my life out) with two new slices of pressure for your player courtesy of Jack Sparrow, someone who seems to be slightly overlooked in his lengthy history as a producer. A side ‘Afraid Of Me’ is a lurching stomp of a number, rolling on some fat galloping bass kicks, atmospheric pad application, numerous digitized bleeps and a nicely screwed sample possibly from a Batman film. Fuck hearing this one’s drop on your ten pound Camden Town Beats By Dre knockoffs, get out and about and hear it on a proper system! This shouldn’t be too difficult as it’s been getting battered by any number of big names in recent months, so nip out the house. On the flip comes a slower, more atmospheric number in ‘Good Old Days’ which features some old school samples and what might be live saxophone. I’m not going to lie, I can’t tell if it’s a sample or a purpose played piece, but given the work of Author, Sparrow’s collaborative project with Ruckspin, which took dubstep in the direction of live instrumentation and performance it may just be the latter. Either way go buy it, and let me know if you find out the answer.

Black Box are also back the this month with a new slice of something courtesy of Killawatt & Thelem, teaming up again after their collaboration on New Moon which I told you to go cop a while ago. A side ‘Kaba’ is all about that brooding Thelem tension and the rolling, tribal percussion that has become to Killawatt what being a completely pretentious prick has to Damon Albarn, so fuck off the opera, go listen to this. On the B comes the dread soaked ‘Point Of No Return’ which storms in with massive, reverberating bass blasts something akin to Degenerate era Vex’d, heavy like the coffin of dearest Pat Butcher. You are not forgotten rose of Albert Square. As well as this drop Black Box has also recently seen a marvelous little Matt U 12” and a thundering, weapons grade LP from Seven entitled Evolution. Apart from having some brilliant cuts on it (peep ‘Bounce To This’ & ‘Morning Light’ in particular for a flavor of what’s in store) it also features some album artwork involving a monkey, which tends to be a ‘buy on sight’ requirement for me personally. It’s survival of the fittest my Darwinian friends, so run to your nearest record shop, cop some if not all of the above and get ahead of those other sniveling simians that ride the tube to extinction!

Remember, as ever, you can catch me on Twitter promoting primates, questioning the price of Tanqueray and abusing tossers on the tube via Twitter @Lowendlowlife