Low End Lowlife: 07.11.11

More rants and raves from resident renegade Matthew Bayfield

Posted on Nov 8th, 2011 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Low End Lowlife: 07.11.11 Death it would appear, contrary to popular medical belief, is not final. Indeed before the lead riddled carcass of Tupac Shakur had even kissed the cobbles of Las Vegas (which may or may not actually have any cobbles) in the mid nineties there was a greasy palmed executive holed up in a darkened studio somewhere already bolting random verses from god knows who emcee's onto songs Tupac never wanted to release, probably on the grounds of them being god-awful. Indeed Kurt Cobain has sold more of his dreary, self pity fuelled, whining albums since his "tragic" suicide than when his band could actually tour. Maybe that would have put a smile on his face... Had the top half of it not been flamboyantly applied to the wall of his Seattle home in what I can only imagine was something like a Jackson Pollack homage through a cherry filter. Possibly the best piece of art that man ever produced in my opinion... And alas we come to the predictable present; the Amy Winehouse memorial release. No doubt it will include a few shambolic attempts from what was to be album 3, most probably under a misty veil of drugs and booze, a couple of skeletal "rare, early demos" that aren't anywhere near as good as the finished pieces, and god forbid, some shitty remix cuts featuring cash-cow dubstep produces or washed out rapper types. Fuck all these cynical "tributes", save your money for the posthumous Jimmy Saville DJ mix. One love and chubby Cohibas my track-suited Sage...

Anyroad, whilst some chauffeured/coiffured fat cat types strip the financial flesh from the artistic bone let us see what sounds have been dribbling out of the ears of some (at the time of going to press) alive, kicking and (most probably) consenting artists.

Warp, the label that have more or less released a high quality something by a well known someone or other including Hudson Mohawke, Brian Eno, Battles and pretty much anyone else you care to name continue their run of form this week with the release of Glass Swords, the long awaited debut album from Rustie. Put bluntly, it's mind boggling. Stepping forward from Rustie's last release, the colourfully frenetic, psychedelic slap to the ears that was the Sunburst EP, this release carries nearly an hour of joyous racket, interspersed with a couple of sublime, more relaxed passages to help the listener (hopefully) remember to ingest air in-between tracks. From the electro stabs and chipmunk voice squeaks of 'Ultra Thizz' through the machine gun 808 bump of 'Death Mountain' Rustie doesn’t let up with an onslaught of the most pleasant noise imaginable. Rustie's increasing skills as a beat maker are visible in almost every track. Whereas, as good as it was, Sunburst sometimes had a tendency to become so crowded with ideas a few of the tracks veered off into an almost formless wall of sound, here no idea ever seems to be applied in a manner that would swamp the rhythm or melody, and as a result you are left with a wonderfully cohesive Technicolor expletive of a record. The undeniable highlight for me definitely comes in the form of 'Hover Traps', a stadium sized rave of a track loaded with thundering sub kicks, a ridiculous 80's synth line that would make Erasure blush and, it definitely isn't a typo; a slap bass line keeping things swinging throughout. At one stage during listening I'm fairly sure I saw the ghost of Patrick Swayze trying to seduce me with a hand made pottery piece (the crafty devil!)Then again, I had just had half a tin of hairspray out of a NikNaks packet. Dead perm dancer and CFC gasses or otherwise, it's still a deranged little darling of an album.

Bristolian bass bigwig Joker, a man who many have been hankering for a long player from for time now, finally dropped his debut album as well this month in the form of The Vision, released on 4AD. Sadly it isn't quite all that. The quality of the productions are, as you would expect from Joker, undoubtedly high but put bluntly, just aren't anywhere near the quality of his earlier groundbreaking efforts such as his classic Hyperdub release 'Digidesign' and 'Play Doe' his collaboration with the aforementioned Rustie on his own Kapsize imprint. Certainly nothing even reaches the coattails of his 'Purple City / Re-Up' 12" of 2009. Not to say the album doesn't have its share of remarkable moments though. 'Magic Causeway' is undoubtedly the standout, feeling far fresher than any other track present with its cascading synth lines that swell in an almost orchestral manner on the back of rolling drum patterns only to trail off in the last 30 seconds in to what sounds like a surreal attempt at the theme tune to a daytime TV show revolving around antique hunting in the quaint suburban homes of dead relatives. To be entirely honest it is also possibly the only track on the album that actually sounds like Joker is attempting to have fun. Indeed it is a telling sign of Joker's ambitions being a touch murky at present that the only other track the truly grabs attention is 'Tron' the undeniably impressive, if somewhat po-faced, anthem that was actually released more than a year ago. The majority of the other contributions to the piece all suffer from a distinct lack of the invention that made the man a staple of the scene in the first place, or, in the case of tracks like 'The Vision' and 'Slaughter House', excellent productions which are bogged down by washed out R'n'B vocals aiming far too heavily for mainstream approval. They are pretty much the sonic equivalent of visiting a Michelin starred restaurant, ordering the lobster and then caking it in Daddies brown sauce. It is missteps like these that make an album which is crippled under its own sense of accomplishment and po-faced grandeur seem almost ironic in deciding to call itself 'The Vision'. A missed opportunity all round I'm sad to say.

Determined to end on a positive however, lest we all crack out the Cobain lyric sheets, it pleases my ears as always to hear the new EP from Slugabed, released, as with his previous outing Moonbeam Rider, through Ninjatune. The title track 'Sun Too Bright, Turn It Off' takes a much more melodic line than some of Slug’s previous outings with its twinkling synth keys gently sat on top of trademark lumbering bass and mathematically staggered percussion hits. 'Depth Perception' takes things to a slightly darker enclave than the neon ones usually occupied by Slugs with cavernous, reverb soaked sub hits shaded by gentle warbling keys and pulsing synth lines. Deep at the back of the mix you'll find some almost sub aquatic bleeps and bubbles going on and is certainly some of the most proggy of Slugs work thus far. Closing track 'Dragon Drums' takes on the unique sound of dramatic chamber beats in what sounds like some form of flooded cell, with big hollow percussive reverbs only serving to make the icy spaces in the track more imposing. On the whole the EP is a much more chilled out, occasionally brooding affair than the acid jamming fizz of Moonbeam Rider and shows Slugabed diversifying slowly further a-field, but, unlike Joker, without ever losing touch with the core ideas that make him unique.

So as Kurt metaphorically weeps in his success and Amy chemically pickles in hers let us raise a glass and look to the shining example and beacon of all things pure & good. Now then, now then, where's the whiskey...