Low End Lowlife: 18.09.12

The Low End Lowlife column has become mildly reflective this week. Maybe it's because he attempted to review the excellent and complex new Dusk + Blackdown record. Maybe it's because he's a had a drink... Either way here comes a ramble.

Posted on Sep 18th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Matthew Bayfield
Low End Lowlife: 18.09.12 A few months back I moved to London. It was a triumphant time. I thought I'd grabbed that golden ring; finally living in the city where the music I love moves faster and more erratically than the terminally unhappy chappy's who rip you off in their cabbies. Where cultures and culture mingle and merge. Where the pubs have drinkers other than the Landlord. Turns out that ring was made of brass, and just had a bloody good paint job. By way of events too ridiculous to document here I'm now back in Great Yarmouth. To say things are simpler would be an understatement. I'm not going to feign poverty or any such bullshit; I'm almost offensively middle class if I were to be categorised (don't panic I still only buy my sushi in Tesco and I don't claim to like Genesis before Phil Collins took the reigns) but poverty by definition is the "pronounced deprivation" of something: be it money, food or cultural stimulus etc. Here in Great Yarmouth, whilst there are many with very little, what blights me is not the deprivation of Something but more the acute presence of Nothing. For example on any given Saturday in a Yarmouth club you'll hear such audio gems as Lou Bega's 'Mambo No.5' and Sean Paul & Blu Cantrell's genre busting 2003 magnum opus ‘Breathe’ to name but two selections. It's not that these songs aren't a laugh, it's not that they aren't without their nostalgic merit, it's more that they were being played when I used to go clubbing with a fake ID and they will probably still be being played in the future when I go out clubbing with false teeth and a replacement hip. Progress is indeed a slow process in Norfolk. Anyway that's my piece for rural tourism done, here's what I've been stood in the corner of GY nightclubs listening to on my headphones this week!

Putting things on full tilt to open this week comes the first release from original dubstep kingpin Benga's recently resurrected Benga Beats label, courtesy of four man outfit Pixel Fist (pictured). As you may have guessed from the name of the group subtlety isn't necessarily top of their priorities list, and indeed both these tracks do hit somewhat reminiscent of a clenched digital appendage to the adrenal gland. A side 'Let Yourself Go' starts slow in spacious, half step time, then swells with layering pads and vocal samples before erupting into a full blown air raid siren of a stomp. The tempo then pushes into the red with a sharp drum & bass break (members of PF have a history in that too) before dropping back to dubstep territory, bass rattling all the way. With many of the current crop of "tearout" dubstep producers seemingly happy just to make five minutes of endless sheering mid-range noise its a nice lesson in peaks and troughs of energy, and helps give the track some added texture. On the flip comes 'Shots & Straps' featuring vocals from in-house MC Stapleton, and is a deeper, more brooding cut with some vicious sub kicks that shouldn't be wasted on tin-pan laptop speakers. Between the emcee style on 'Shots & Straps' and the hyper, mash-up feel of the A-side the release invokes a bit of that mad Prodigy energy and is a strong start for the label. But with a (contextually) old hand like Benga in charge of selection it was always unlikely for Benga Beats to start off firing blanks. The label also has an EP coming from Taiki & Nulight (who were last spotted in this column when they did that banging Subway EP) sometime in October, fresh off the back of their king size remix of Benga's own 'Pour Your Love'. If you want to hear a bit more from the pair before then they've also just added a teaser of new track ‘Don't Go Away’ on their Soundcloud, which sees them moving away from the dubstep sound and into some ravey, house inflected territory which should impress anyone that digs that anthemic nineties vibe or generally grand scale sounds.

Next comes a slice of swung, funky, house influenced, garage-esque what-do-you-call-it, does it really matter, courtesy of Pusherman, a duo out of South London who previously released the lovely 'Still Feel' on DENCH. The pair are back on Audio Donuts, with the suitably titled Donuts EP. Title track 'Donuts' is potentially the finest piece Pusherman have put their name to, an eccentric bounce of a rhythm that centres around an equally eccentric Wiley vocal sample. The sample itself, as with much of Wiley's unique dialogue, has a fairly comical styling about it and when sat amongst the track's bouncing bass hits and vocal chants leaves the piece with an almost comic timing that guarantees a grin as well as some addictive foot-working. Following on from that comes 'The People', a more skeletally rhythmic track, again built around a vocal sample, warm, bubbling bass line and some tight, cascading percussive patterns that take elements of both funky and footwork, it's a tight little number but it lacks 'Donuts' overarching sense of fun. Over on the flip are a 'Donuts' remix courtesy of Diamond Bass which takes some of the focus off the vocal passages and instead throws in some much ruder bass stabs and a conga powered rhythm sectioned that pushes the track out into tribal skanking territory. For me this is the highlight of an altogether excellent EP. There is also a Naive Machine remix of 'For The People' which is footwork through and through: deliriously tight vocal loops and massively compressed 808 lines. If footwork isn't really your thing this won't do much to change your mind, but if the likes of Traxman's album earlier this year have been setting it off in the dance for you then you'll find much to love in this remix. The title track on this one has seen support from the likes of DJ Q (both in his recent FACT mix & live sets) and Marcus Nasty to name but two, so don't sleep on another excellent Pusherman outing. Lastly it also has some wonderful cover illustrations by Pablo Thomas, so bonus points to Audio Donuts for ensuring it's a full plate (oh the puns.) Go check out their website for more lovely artwork, quality sounds and a little bit of culture. Don't sleep 'Beards; bag yourself some donuts!

Wrapping up this week is a beast of an entirely different kind. Earlier this year (or possibly last year, the dates escape me as ever) The Bug announced he would be starting up his own imprint, via Ninjatune, by the name of Acid Ragga. As the name intones the aim of the label is to explore a combination of ragga dancehall and acid house stylings, and put simply, the results are absurd in the best possible way. On the A-side 'Can't Take This No More' opens with an escalating, frantic Daddy Freddy vocal criticising "rich-a-getting rich and the poor-a-get poor" as a swelling bass throb surges underneath like an angry mob. By the time the track is engulfed in scuffed up 303's and 808 barrages Daddy Freddy more or less sounds on the brink of explosion, and it is without doubt one of the most furious vocals The Bug has worked with since the Cutty Ranks helmed 'Gun Disease' from way back. On the flip, in proper dancehall style, the same riddim is versioned by Inga Copeland, of Hype Williams fame (or possibly infamy?) 'Rise Up' takes an entirely different route, with Copeland's almost ethereal vocal swamped in reverb and pushed down into the mix until it almost feels like a dense wisp of smoke drifting round a (probably) ruined dancehall. The fact an instrumental of such force can be bent around a vocal this gentle at all shows The Bug's versatility as a producer (although if you've heard any of his King Midas Sound output this shouldn't come as a surprise) but the fact that it can sit alongside that Daddy Freddy assault and not sound remotely out of place is potentially an even bigger credit to Mr Martin. To further sweeten the deal the release comes in traditional reggae format (a 7") on acidic yellow vinyl with sleeve illustration by Zeke Clough (the pen behind the beautifully grotesque Skull Disco & Shackleton sleeves) all printed in jarring blue and silver foil inks. If you've always fancied a bit of an acid trip, but without the mental stressors of watching a platoon of miniature cats march out the gaping hole of a headless rhino's body carrying shrunken heads of their own (don't ask) this is probably the most comfortably close you're going to get. If it isn't already sold out, find a physical copy quickly!

Anyway whilst you all go investigate that stuff I'd better go learn the moves to DJ Casper's ‘Cha Cha Slide’ ready for next Saturday night. I heard he's got a real underground following on the Yarmouth club scene at present.

As ever you can find Bearded and myself on Twitter talking music, culture and complete shite @Beardedmagazine and @Lowendlowlife respectively. One love!