Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


12:05 Posted by neil kulkarni , , 1 comment

OK, what we have here is one of the greatest albums of the year that will doubtless be sidelined or plain forgot in those end-of-year-polls & Mercury nominations so let's get the facts out the way soon as and start dreaming. Telemachus is a 28 year old London-based hip-hop producer who used to be called Chemo and promoted legendary nights in Brixton called 'Speakers Corner', made the 'Character Assassins' series of one-take breathless mixtapes and has created beats for Kyza, Kashmere, Verb T, Triple Darkness and others. He listens to everything, ask him today and he might tell you that includes Roc Marciano, Cyrus Malachi, The Doors, Ghanaian High Life, David Bowie, Mobb Deep, Django Reinhardt, Barbra Streisand, Martin Hannet, DJ Krush. All in their way hints to the wonder within 'In The Evening' but what's really crucial is that Telemachus listens with a hip-hop head, has that essentially revolutionary impetus behind his hearing that only hip-hop can really give you, that destabilising of auteur reverence, that emphasis on limitless possibilites for sound, the view on theft, the view that destroys the dated hierarchies of taste & chronology in the search for joy.
   Cos this is music that surges into your year and takes over whole seasons. 'In The Evening' will possess your future recall of these months and days and hours like an invasive illness of immersion you don't want to be cured of, music that strings you out, lances your laziness, destroys your endless desire for digital nimbleness and celerity cos it holds you as it spins, and with its own briney eyes spirals you down into it until you can see and feel nothing else. Easynow to be fooled into thinking all you're doing anymore is hearing everything and being moved by nothing but 'In The Evening' kills such moochy nonsense - breaks past barcodes, reaches inside, won't let go from the moment the needle drops into its ocean which is precisely the moment you realise this can't be background, can only be a new old world to explore, one you're so so lucky to have landed on. Dappled pony sunlight opener 'Planet Earth' hits you holds you doesn't move - most divinely rolling psyche-funk opening to an album since 'Ogden's Nut Gone Flake', the f-f-f-f-f-f-lute opening those Boards Of Canada/Ultramarine zones of wide-eyed wonder but with delicious scratches and a thunkafunk heaviosity neither of them managed and that you start to need and crave immediately upon first contact.
    Things you can already spot straight off: Telemachus is interested in imagination and pleasure above all and the whole album is a natural extension of that generosity of musical spirit through to the listener. Although you can hear what producers he might have listened to in the past (Edan, Alchemist, Scientist, RZA, Marley Marl, Bomb Squad, Tubby,  Underdog, Muggs, Krush, Premier, Pete Rock, Scratch, Dilla, Teo Macero etc etc the anti-roll call of hip-hop, jazz & dub dissidents & pioneers) it feels wrong to do so or even name those names because it forestalls the baptismal bliss of simply swimming into what Tele has created here. It's simultaneously the most exquisitely informed yet sublimely INNOCENT sounding deluge of emotion and imagery sound might give you in 2013. And oft-times it has the good grace to simply NOT COMPUTE: 'Tennis Season' has you drawling Baloo-style 'maaaan what a beat' and bejebus is that 5/4 or love 40 or what the fuck is that rotation of sharp snare and almond-bitey kick, hellzapoppin synth bubbles like prime J-Zone, best hawaaian geetar you done heard on a hip-hop joint since Redman's 'Green Island'? You might doubt the evidence of your own ears but there's no doubt you don't want to let go of Telemachus' ankles as he whisks you round his cosmos. Sometimes you're so breathless you wanna gasp - where you taking us man, past the first star to dawn, where are we going?

    Which would seem to hint at a trippiness, the need for pharmaceuticals but I've actually been finding 'In The Evening' goes best with a tinny, a joint, the hissing of summer lawns, the laughter of summer kids, the buzz of waking anthophilia. This is true summer music in the sense of too hot to move so lets stay still and leap lithely through the inner cosmos. Help yourself to bbq and help yourself to a hit but make sure you're building and burning as well and holyfuck it's too hot in here it's too hot out there but in the world of 'In The Evening' every aspect of your reality is suddenly and totally controlled by a benevolent sky and a seething earth and Telemachus' place in his own music becomes something more than a spirit guide, more like a fellow traveller to nowhere and everywhere at once. He's a reminder that being a musician is one of the most/last magical things you can be and I still have no idea how he makes what he does. I just know that 'In The Evening' suits your summer delirium and will offer shade and releif and release from now until the nights shorten, and continue to do so long after that.

   The unique sublime of 2012's 'Sheltering Sky' shatters through you still, genuinely infused with the diseased deranged spirit of Paul Bowles, desert psyche guitar tying you off, a fat rumble of Bedouin beats heating the spoon, Jehst on fire pushing the plunger, sinking a mirage of pure chilled heat within. Atmosphere so thick your lungs burn from it, menace and cinema for the neck up and the waist down and one of the finest singles by any British artist in the past decade.

   Also check out the Eric B heaviness and heartfelt Barry Biggisms from the wonderful Jah Mirakle on 'The Light', the fragile wonder of 'The Boy Who Thought He Could Fly', the ancient-future drone skyshot taken by 'Trivandrum', the Hammer-House-Of-Hip-Hop vibe of 'Scarecrows' and the way 'Technician' somehow manages to be part M.R.James part Prince Paul and yet entirely convincingly Telemachus throughout. 'Father's unsettling Eno-esque stealth is just a cut way above any other ambient/soundscaping tricknology I've heard in years but all my words are only stopping you hearing, only proof of how far this music has your mind slipping. Your mind slips cos Tele never misses a beat, never falsifies a step. Worse cliche to deny the pictures this makes inside you, or to pretend that this music can be contained merely by what it contains. True art lets you create also. Unlike so much of what passes for state-of-the-art right now Tele's music never overly fusses things to a point where you can't be an ACTIVE listener. You don't just bear witness. You don't just receive and respond. You are a living participatory element within this adventure. That can only happen when an artist doesn't give you everything but gives you a glimpse so tantalising you have to dive in headfirst, heartfirst: Tele leaves you to populate the spaces he leaves with your own unique visions and echoes because Tele knows that editing, not indulgence, is what liberates expression for both musician and listener alike. With a mainstream AND an underground that seems to have forgotten conciseness, that both rely on a fundamental mistrust between artist and listener, this is a rare groove indeed. I haven't heard an album so clearly in that heretic strain of definitely English yet universally-reaching hook-laden oddity since the golden age of Disco Inferno, Bark Psychosis, Laika, Brotherhood, early early pre-shit Mo'Wax, Grantsby, the longlost astonishing Trevor Jackson (Underdog) and his Output imprint - signposts if you need em but you don't really, the rejection of the cowardice of filing and categorising is something the album gently insists and allows you to do with glorious ease and freedom. Telemachus is an ancient, modern, unique voice in British music and consider your 2013 bereft if you miss 'In The Evening'. Nothing short of a masterpiece and way more open than a masterpiece has any right to be. Enough of my yakkin. Whaddaya say, let's boogie.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Nick Drake - Bryter Layter Boxset Review

Nick Drake
Bryter Layter Boxset
(Commercial Marketing)

"I think that's one of the problems with Nick's legacy, if there is a problem. I get sent tapes just by people out there who have a guitar and want to write songs, and they are very touched by Nick Drake and they make a demo tape, and they send it to Nick Drake's producer and they say, "What do you think of this? I love Nick Drake, can't you hear it in my music?" And 99 percent of those tapes that I get – or electronic submissions these days – are breathy vocals, Aparicio guitars and form without essence. There's nothing in there of the wit or the subtlety of Nick, or the sophistication of his music. What drew me to Nick wasn't the subject matter, but the tremendous originality and freshness of the musical vision. And it's always been mysterious"   - Joe Boyd

There is an epidemic out there, a nasty rash. Even Simon Cowell's noticed. It would seem that the singer-songwriter is everywhere, all so similar, all so dull, all so slimily seeking our fondness. Everywhere you turn there is someone bearded, someone earnest, someone with passion trying to sing you a song from the heart. The song is nearly always the same. It will be about 'holding on'. It will be about 'letting things go'. It will be about 'staying together'. Not a single word will be poetic, although the writer will frequently mistake the use of scientific or managerial speak in the lyrics as being poetic. It will take a condescending look at a 'character', mistaking pity for compassion and metaphor for depth. It will be the very best the writer and singer can do. And that is why these people need informing of something. That they are all, convincing though the mutual backslaps and incestuousness is - suffering from a severe type of mental illness, the kind of Aspergers-delusion that in any other walk of life would require a psyche-evaluation and a recommended sabbatical for six-months to a year.

    I know some of these people. Every city has them, their little community of folkies and troubadours, who all go to the same pubs on the same night to watch each other close their eyes and be transported within the ever-engrossing confines of their windswept souls. Together they keep their delusions alive, that they're cutting away the flab and fanny that chokes meaning in modern industrial pop and returning things to an agrarian wood'n'wire purity, a place where the city can be risen above even as it's so 'bravely' explored. There's several fronts to this arrogance - first and foremost the supposed gallantry of 'writing their own songs' immediately auto-annointing themselves with the burnished glow of self-sufficiency, their superiority to those puppets who sing only other people's words, play other people's tunes, y'know like Elvis, Frank Sinatra. These folk have the guts and grit and dauntlessness to write all their own songs, y'know, like Nickelback, Ed Sheeran.  There's also the further arrogance that can only come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what music's all about - collaboration between people- this rather modern idea that the singer songwriter stands alone, works on their vision alone, that we are lucky to bear witness to such purely committed artistry, uncut as it is by the concision or urge to edit that others would bring. Finally there's the arrogance in assuming that what people want to hear is songs 'from the heart', which usually means an incredibly constricted set of cliches have to be in place for that song's writing and execution. Politically it can be extroverted yet must always return to a deeper message of survival DESPITE the interference of others, personally it has to arrive at a moment where the singer figures it all out, self-diagnoses his or herself and prescribes a better future or a self-satisfied stasis. It's from their heart and you will listen, regardless of any selfishness behind the expression, attuned as you are to the lazy universality of the lyrics, the ease of empathy all that vaguery about confinement versus the open road inspires. Vocally the singer must twitch, at carefully timed ("quirky) moments of particular import, into their 'other' voice, the one they only flex when they're really feeling it, tapping their internal maelstrom for the rawest emotion, that moment where all the men get to sound like that overrated cunt Jeff Buckley and all the women set their larynxes to 'foghorn'. In the delivery of their songs, eyes will be constantly closed, heads will sway, locked in on their own genius, rarely making contact with an audience who should feel honoured to be witness to such courage and daring.
   That inflated sense of truth and connection doesn't just animate the performers, it also brings together the audience, galvanises their sense of commitment to an entirely urban bucolic ideal of 'what music is all about', the tacit unspoken critique and conservative fear of the real city and all that problematic post-60s diversity that despoiled and defiled the true troubadour impulse.
    To a tiny extent you can blame people like poor old Nick Drake for these kind of delusions. Drake was off on his own, toted a tape, he played a 24 hour festival with Fairport, got his tape to Joe Boyd, and Boyd knew then something special was happening. As Boyd points out though, this gives too many people the idea that in their seclusion, in their endlessly self-important, humourless explorations of their innards they'll find something unique that needs hearing. Whereas what actually emerges as important whenever you listen to Drake, particularly 'Bryter Layter', his most interesting album, is that other people's interference was crucial, and that really what Drake was can't be reduced to so brutishly simplistic and loaded a formulation as 'singer-songwriter'. He's far too odd still, far too different and special still despite the legion of lunkheaded copyists he's inspired, to be so easily summated, or so confined to the tools he used or the supposed lack-of-image he put across (which of course becomes its own image).

   For starters, his guitar playing. If you're 'committed' a music-fan enough to only experience one sense at a time then you'll see on the cover that he's playing an acoustic guitar, but if you're a human being you'll realise - my god WHAT a thing he turns it into. Not simply an up and down thing of strum, or a finger picking thing of detail but the fretboard as dancefloor, the soundboard as rumpus room, a labarynth of geometry and shadow, a rhythm section all to itself. One of the funkiest guitarists of all time and the only other British people I could remotely compare his playing to is John Martyn and Vini Reilly - players so unique that a lifetime spent trying to emulate them would be a lifetime wasted. Anyone who's ever tried to learn how to play a Nick Drake song knows that it's not contained in the chords, or the structure. It's contained in the unplaceable tunings, the shape of the way he leans into what he's playing, the way his fingers, deep within themselves, are actually possessed of an almost frighteningly inhuman mechanical grace, the way he absolutely resolutely refuses to play everything he could be playing. And where alot of musicians allow their bad cliched habits as players inform their equally uninteresting songwriting, so Drake's songs are always pitched in a totally unique place, somewhere between reverie and resistance, somewhere between being buffeted away by a breeze or a whim and being the heaviest blackest darkest shit you've ever heard in your life. There's a private humour to Nick Drake's songs that allows that heaviness to not hurt or become wearisome, there's a cellular bleakness that stops it being all air and light, that slowly has his vision closing in on you, closing you down, enveloping you. 'Bryter Layter' was the first Nick Drake album I ever heard, consequently it's my favourite, but I think beyond that initial way his voice just made me crumble I think it's my favourite cos it's his poppiest, his lushest, the one where you feel he's most part of the world. 'Introduction' I used to put on as a little bathe of sunshine every morning, still it's one of the most evocative openings to an album you'll hear, cracking your shell, letting the rays in, and the clouds. Listen to Jake Bugg's fuckawful pointless cover of 'Hazey Jane II' and then listen to Drake's and you can hear exactly how much is going on here more than chords and words. Richard Thompson's guitar is key as it is throughout, sliding things round the corner, fracturing and forming the shapes, Robert Kirby's simply gorgeous strings (best 'rock'-band string-arrangement this side of Paul Buckmaster or Tony Visconti) force Drake out of himself and out into the street. 'Chime Of A City Clock' & the heart-rending 'One Of These Things First' both gently remind you just exactly what an astonishing riddim-machine Nick was, how vital Dave Pegg's bass is throughout, what a genius move it was getting Beach Boys veteran Mike Kowalski in to do some sunkissed shuffle & stealth.
   "Hazey Jane I" is the moment for me when 'Bryter Layter' stops just being dazzling and starts negotiating its place in heaven, Dave Mattacks giving the drums the same sense of rippling endless fade-out that Paul Thompson does in the last minutes of Roxy's 'For Your Pleasure', Pegg, Drake & Kirby making the rest a swish of zephyrs and brokenness. 'Bryter Layter', the title track is twisted supermarket muzak, the most unsettling warp of almost too-sweet melody my young head had heard since the 2nd side of 'Forever Changes'. John Cale's viola and harpsichord on 'Fly' are just exquisite, working with Pegg's fantastically medieval low-end to lend Drake the poet-knightly air of the Stones 'Lady Jane' with none of the meanness of spirit, just a beautiful proneness and wilted need that suits the words and the voice perfectly. Boyd's brilliance at bringing the right people together in service of the songs, not the artist, works so brilliantly throughout 'Bryter Layter' it becomes less and less like a singer-songwriter's album, more and more like an ensemble piece, albeit an ensemble who have to follow the curious mix of clear-eyed hardboiledness and red-eyed dissipation that Drake's songs inhabit. All the words I've ever heard to describe Drake, 'ethereal', 'airy', 'introspective' seem to me to be reflecting a response to his voice rather than the way his songs actually come across - this idea that Drake's natural shyness leads to an obscurity of purpose or meaning is demolished through 'Bryter Layter's stunning closing side, perhaps suggesting that it's always a mistake to think the shy boy can't be a monster on the quiet, or that a naturally weak voice can't dominate your day. Drake's voice sounds anything but non-committal, has the same unbridled sense of personality and difficulty and bloody-minded naturalism that you sense Drake was always possesed with. So 'Poor Boy' is never in danger of being earnest, is always taking the piss out of its protaganist and out of you, P.P Arnold & Doris Troy's sweet backing vocals cutting loose on the chump, skewering his self-pity. "Northern Sky" seems to want to wipe the slate clean, clear the clutter of poesy any songwriter finds him/herself backed into, start afresh with a "new mind's eye", Cale's wondrous celeste adding to that sense of rebirth at the dead-end of a loveless lifetime, Drake now seemingly getting down to the basic yet inherently ambiguous statements of hope and irredeemable darkness the whole album's been playing with. And 'Sunday' is just the perfect closer - back in the strangely off-key muzak world of the title track, suffused with a warmth that's pure Bosworth archive from Kirby's hanging strings, the flute at times embodying what you feel Drake might have sung, at times slipping free and skipping down the road with a naivete and innocence you couldn't credit him with - it leaves you wondering who the hell is this Nick Drake guy and why has he chosen to bookend and sandwich his LP with these moments of purely instrumental lissomness when you've been told he was a singer-songwriter, someone who meant it man, someone who played from the heart. Throughout 'Bryter Layter' it's clear he's playing, writing, from a way more twisted, more open, more generous place than that.

   A word about the box. I don't have it. I don't care about it and neither should you. Drake's is a story that needs no more fleshing out (and Brad fucking Pitt should be banned from ever talking about him again), and requires no more artifacts beyond the records as they are. They themselves are inexhaustible and infinite enough to be getting along with, and ticket stubs, posters, extra artwork, free downloads, sketches, nuts'n'bolts demystifications I can do without.  I'm utterly disinterested in Nick Drake the man, just as I'm utterly disinterested in all singers 'from the heart', all musicians who see music as a way of keeping a journal, inflicting their self-absorption on the rest of us. I'm still, despite the unpleasant speculations and romanticising of the rock 'audience', totally fascinated by the sophistication, ease, and suggestiveness of Drake's music. His depression and demise are as tragic to me as any persons passing, but no-one should allow them to in any way affect their enjoyment of the things he made, cos his music in its sheer intransigent existence absolutely denies the sadness, denies whatever 'message' you might draw from the way he ended up. What you hear on 'Bryter Layter' is the man at play, in delight and wonder, exercising his powers to their fullest in collaboration with some of pop's brightest sparks and most humane spirits. Nick Drake, though so often used as emblematic of some auteur spirit, especially by his fans who've "discovered" him through something other than the records, is, like any interesting musician proof of the exact opposite, that the best artists need others to truly bring out what isn't inside them, what's more than they contain, that you only get to be thoroughly honest when you're being honest about your own inherent dishonesty, unreal about your reality, real about your unreality, and music is the perfect artform to express that essential dualism so many straight-ahead singer-songwriters are missing. In comparison to Drake's shy reticence, the confidence and sickly self-regard of his self-appointed descendants is a natural consequence of their musical myopia and their pipsqueak souls. Drake's harder, tougher, funnier, than any of them, and 'Bryter Layter' is his most welcoming and giving statement. If songs were lines in a conversation the situation would be fine. It aint, and Drake knew it, knew how much more songs could be, how much more his songs had to be. Love it, and live in here forever.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Laura Mvula
That's Alright 

People I'd trusted had said good things about Laura Mvula and I'm gratified to find they were absolutely goddamn right. Fantastic rolling beats, sudden smears of indecently clean horns and that's pretty much it but soaring above it all is Mvula's voice, clear, powerful, fantastic lyrics. "I will never be what you want & that's alright/ Cos my skin ain't white/And that's alright/ Who are you?/ The center of the universe?". What an utterly fucking brilliant brave necessary thing for a pop song in 2013 to say. Imagining how massively inspirational this will be to the people who need it. Also thinking GOT to get hold of the album toot sweet. Count me in as obsessed from first contact. 

Jake Bugg 
Country Song 

Mindful to fill this review with enough lucrative keywords to keep my SEO optimizers happy (hi guys, check the caps!)  in the whiter than white corner we have this little QUALITY arsewipe and oh my giddy fuck you won't believe what you're hearing! A voice so bereft of pleasure it's like filling your pants with TOP hot gravel, a guitar so aimlessly MINT dull you wanna see if his basin-bowlcut head will fit inside the soundhole, well aware that it won't, still keen to bloody well try with some heft and a CLASS shoehorn and several stout whacks with a polo mallet.
  Bugg, you donkey, be quiet. Lots of people are telling you you're great. They're all twats. You're not great. You're fucking CLASS rubbish.


Definitive, state-of-the-art indie-folk that immediately makes you think you've heard it already. You just can't remember what product it was advertising. You're pretty sure it was a slimline device of some description but it could've been anything from car insurance to a new, liberating type of sanitary towel. A little research reveals it's never been used on an advert, but the fact you THINK it's from an advert is testament to Daughter's ability to seamlessly slip alongside the zeitgeist of sounding both sparkly and as if under the pall of a Victorian illness, and take their place amongst other listless croakers covered in fairy-lights and filled with what sound like pleurisy on the gravy train of soundtracking adverts directed at middle-class students and 20-30 yr old ABC earners and other people who close their eyes in bliss as soon as they hear an acoustic guitar and a glockenspiel in heavenly bearded & floral-dressed union.
    I remember when I first started hearing female voices like this, Lisa Germano, Lois, other 4.A.D acts like Liquorice - like all 'weak' voices (see also Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Paul Westerberg, Marianne Faithful) what was winning was when you felt that they were at least trying to sing the best they could, or at least not giving a fuck and making you live with their technically imperfect throats. What bands like Daughters suffer from is that here you get the feeling they're AIMING for that weakness, trying to sound frail ergo damaged ergo interesting. It's music that settles for being the aural equivalent of a Zooey Deschanel Marie Claire photoshoot and I pretty much blame Cat Power for all of it. Pass.

Palma Violets
We Found Love
Rough Trade 
Had to check a few times that this wasn't a live bootleg, or ripped from a youtube video of a live show. It sounds like the really dull final 5 minutes of a set wherein a band drag out a song to tediously strung-out, drawn-out lengths of quiet/crescendo, of interest only to the die-hard & drunk. Turns out they think this is actually a single and counts as a song. Quite astonishing. No hook. No shape. Nothing of interest. Sonically we're talking Shed 7 at their arse-pummelingly overwhelmingly headfuckingly very very best. I hope you're feeling as massively imbued with hope as I am. Remember, cut down the vein, not across. Speed is of the essence. Early bus home. Down. Not across. 


Deliberately dated but like Stooshe's other singles just damn well irresistable. Best girl band in the UK and should be getting precisely three thousand times as many column inches as the anodyne likes of the shitting Saturdays right now. "Slip" you know, and you know it's catchy as fuck and you know it's absolutely salvaged by the twenty second bridge whereby the thumping undertow totally absconds - gives the entire song a pivot around which it can work its propulsive magic. You have no choice in this matter. Summer smash par excellence. 

Jay Leighton 
Wish I Was Springsteen 
Strata Music 
" . . . or maybe James Dean, I'm forever waiting for the start . . . I need something to jump start my heart". I can help you out there actually mate. Seriously. 
    First off, face it, the Springsteen thing ain't gonna happen (thank fuck, last thing we need is yet another Springsteen - can you imagine how many sweaty bandana-wearing saxophone solos that's gonna put in the world?) - you're "Jay Leighton" (real name Zarathustra Fantakkabo, renamed himself to blend in better), yet another shitty singer-songwriter whose coming decade will be spent vainly waiting for the call from the Match.com ad-department that will never come. So here, attach these bulldog clips to your nipples and I'll start rotating the vitreous lever on the Leyden jar. I'll kickstart yr heart alright y'stubbly loser, I'll kickstart its fucking head in.

Azealia Banks 
Young Rapunxel 

Wonderful unsettling intro like something Cabaret Voltaire woulda boomed out of a Sheffield-circling van circa 1975 — then the beat gets going, AB gets going and so does any interest you might've had right out the door. Bass nowhere near loud enough, vocals actually too distorted to be effective as anything other than a messy irritant. Two minutes in, it all falls apart, and AGAIN it gets interesting. Then the beat starts, she starts blahblahing and again you start snoring. Next time, AB, go harder, go weirder or just plain GO.


One of those videos where all the lyrics appear on screen. In the 5 seconds in between the word 'stunt' hitting the screen and the pay-off rhyme arriving my mind, as yours will, whirled through a few possibilities, the anticipation growing. I was set to tip Lissie the wink for her lyrical boldness, even though the rest of the record is a horrible mess of raunch and over-produced 'tude' like they rebuilt Meredith Brooks using the body parts of K.T.Tunstall. And, perhaps inevitably the rhyme, when it finally arrives, is a massive dissapointment which necessitated a massive dish of ointment on my wounded expectations. We don't need anyone to make this kind of music except Pink, who is the best at it.

Hit Me 
Warner Music Group 
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you ARE broke, definitely don't fix it. La la LA la la. La la LA la la. Works damnit. 

Mylo Stone/Percy Filth/Split Prophets/Serocee/DJ Rogue 

Love it when a posse cut actually stops you asking the usual questions about why people need to collaborate (too little to say on their own usually) by actually piling genuine rhyme talent together and creating something undeniably great. This is an awesome cut from some of Bristol's finest including Res & Upfront from Split Prophets (much boosted in this column), shot through with a great heavy reggae vibe & fantastic scratches from DJ Rogue. Ruff n rugged n essential.

Nametag & Nameless 
Brick Records
Had to keep checking this, turning it off, turning it back on, to make sure that what I was hearing was what they intended. At first the way the beat comes in over this strange shard of Americana-touched bliss-pop just sounds WRONG - as the track progresses that wrongness doesn't dissipate but does start to make a weird kind of wonky sense, especially cos the rhymes seem entirely oblivious to the musical mayhem underneath. On the flip check out the comparatively conventional but still odd 'Namecheck' and wait for the album 'For Namesake' armed with tranq darts and a butterfly net. Here be madness. 

Little Nikki 
Where I'm Coming From 

One of yr bona-fide growers, interesting latinate-touched melody, sprightly production, great mid-section of crossfaded bleeps & bloops. See what the record company have done to it though? Made a video wherein she has to go stand under a flyover and sing her song whilst a dance-troupe and some kids on skateboards & BMXs wheel around her with such a total pointlessness it's like a Tory Party central office idea of youth culture. It all serves to stop you listening, stop you noticing that there's something interesting going on melodically in this song, forces its odd crooks and shapes into an almost staggeringly identikit notion of 'that urban sound'. Embarassing, horribly dated, faintly sinister shit that only seems to happen with UK record companies and their treatment of UK black music. For shame.

Ghostface Killah Ft. Adrian Younge 
The Rise Of The Ghostface Killah 
Soul Temple Entertainment 
I haven't heard '12 Reasons To Die' yet but wooaah if this gives a flavour of Younge's production I'm gonna have to hunt it down soon - spectral spindly shimmery heavily reverbed desert-guitar & Morricone touches riding a bristling breakbeat, Ghostface sounding more agitated than he has in a while (v. reminiscent of 'Niggamortis) and a scratch-laden breakdown that's so gorgeous it sounds like goddamn Tarnation! You're damn right you need this to send you into the sunset, both barrels smoking. Superb. 

Misha B 
Here's To Everything 
Simco Limited/Sony
Bit of advice for young artists, when your record-company people come through the door and assure you they have a 'summer anthem' ready for your next single, give 'em a swift knee to the groin, a clenched palm to the windpipe and then run in the opposite direction, fast, until you can no longer hear the advances of their moist sucking tendrils and the hot guff that ripples over the sharp cilia they extend towards your soul. I LOVED Misha's 'Hot Fun' and was GUTTED over her getting outstayed by Little Mix (although have to say LM are redeeming themselves with their singles - love the old-skool 90s hip-hop thunk of their Missy collaboration). Since then though she's been getting increasingly 'anthemic' ("Do You Think Of Me" was the first sign) - her personality getting erased in favour of big production jobs, expensive-sounding show-off-shit, asked to sing increasingly meaningless lyrics, reaching a zenith with this little-bit-liquid, little-bit-dubstep, little-bit-house bolus of nothing . Nothing of HER in it, and with someone clearly so capable of being an amazing pop star if encouraged to, that's a criminal shame. Get dropped Misha and do your own thang. It'll be much better than this. And you'll keep getting hits after summer's come and gone cos you're good enough.

Panic Station 

Usual comparisons. Queen. Bowie. Bullshit. What 'Panic Station' sounds like is EXACTLY THE SAME as the bridge in Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. I mean, uncomfortably so. To the point where all you can hear is that verisimilitude. In my experience, Muse, live, are an effective, value-filled use of your entertainment dollar. Quite why you'd want to waste any of your leisure time sitting around LISTENING to this drek I can't imagine. You're outta time. You're paralysed. Without the soul for getting down.

Ocean Colour Scene 
Doodle Book 
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 
Old farts at play. Them and me. Have it on good authority that Steve Craddock's an absolute wanker. Not just being mean. Just passing on some insider info to fans who should know . Have it on MY authority that 'Mermaids' is a weak Tindersticks rip-off. Being mean. Just pissing off fans. OCS's last album peaked at #49 on the album charts. Just cheering up everybody.

Nitty Scott MC 
Language Arts 

Loving Nitty's soundcloud page cos the music's ace &  female MCs not willing to appear in children's clothes are too few and far between at the moment. 'Flower Child' & 'Bath Salt Freestyle' had me intrigued but this is even better, beautifully laced together by the Good Reverend Dr. who was also behind 'Auntie Maria's Crib'. The album 'Art Of Chill' drops soon, get in on this now. 

The Staves 
Facing West 

"Why are The Staves using what looks like a woodcut print-stencil for their font? We've got computers that can do that kind of thing now. Why are they using ukeleles & accordions on their music? We've got computers that can do that kind of thing now?" - that was the first thing I typed.
    Then, this song got under my skin a bit. It's the harmonies man, really nice. No wonder Glyn Johns is involved, he knows the score. Sweet stuff from Watford. See? I am here to be convinced. No false vocal affectations here, good lyrics, a Freakwater-stealth in the playing and just a lovely levitational sense of multi-headed Roches-style one-ness from the chorus, leaving enough space for you to try out yr own harmonies - it's lovely. Fuck. What's happening to me? 

 Durag Dynasty 
Spiral Event 
Nature Sounds
DD are Planet Asia + Tristate + Killer Ben (this track also features Evidence from Dilated Peoples) but what you should really know about this track is that yerman Alchemist is on the mix - getting kinda addicted to what he's been cooking up in his soundlab of late and 'Spiral Event' is no exception, a queasy unsettling mix of blaxploitation funk and wierded out jazz-wibblery lashed with fire from the various MCs but velcro-ing the oddest melodys to your brainpan since the first time you heard 'Black Satin'. Stoopidly stoopendous.

Strange U 
Klaatu Barada Niktu 
Eglo Records 

Superb new stuff from Kashmere & that loon Zygote that you KNOW you need to own. Apparently lifted from the 'Scarlet Jungle EP' which is now top of my shopping list cos fuck me this is fetid, bass-heavy, aggressively heavy mental wreckage par-excellence, the mix occassionally getting so lo-end dense it spills into distortion, the rhymes and loops like some way more aggravated UK version of Quasimoto but possessed of a doomed menace all its own. Absolutely essential. 

Swiss Lips 
U Got The Power 
The 1975 
Dirty Hit Records
Sony fucking own the world now don't they? So could they find some time to plow some funds into music colleges, changing the curriculum from its heavy emphasis on pro-tools & production and getting some teachers in to conduct a new unit called 'REMEMBERING TO WRITE A FUCKING CHORUS'? Cheers.   These twin bunches of wannabe Trevor Horns are much loved by Radio Fuckwit, sorry Radio 1's Sara Cox and Scott Mills and Jo Whiley and Zane Lowe and it shows. If you want to find an unfunny long-winded cunt who knows fuck all about music tune in to Radio Enemy Of Humanity, sorry Radio 1. Shittest most utterly worthless radio station on the planet and I hope they all, from Grimshaw thru to Lowe, get done for kiddie-fiddling in 20 years. Seriously, look at a Radio Funny As A Burst Polyp, sorry, Radio 1 schedule one time. Who the fuck are these people? Local commercial stations have to squeeze in at least 4 ad-beds an hour and still manage to talk less shite than these fucking wannabe Butlins redcoats, and be way way funnier with it. A generation of DJs now who probably 'look up' to Chris Cunting Moyles. Big fans of Swiss Lips anyhoo. All you need to know. This is the kind of music that such feckless wankshafts consider 'exciting' and 'awesome'. It should be ignored, avoided, scrambled away from desperately like the over-tooled runny cockcheese it all is. 

Maybach Music Group

Something weirdly fantastic about this utterly amoral, lyrically inexcusable paean to crack dealing (esp. when heard in conjunction with its deeply lurid video). Partly it's the demented dwarves-in-the-rockmine loop that's shot through the whole thing, partly it all hinges on this little hook that happens every other minute that sounds like metal popcorn popping in a pan. It surges ahead in the mix, summoning up both the rock-making process but also the chatter-toothed insanity of the most desperate crackhead better than any more earnest analysis could ever give. Like I say, utterly irredeemable. Utterly essential.

Van Der Graff 
Genuinely couldn't believe what I was hearing. Felt sick to the stomach when I realised I'd have to hear it again just to check that something so utterly awful, so entirely irredeemable in every way, actually existed. Rare to hear but everything The Courteneers are doing is bad.You can't believe that songwriting so utterly inept, that music so stupendously dreadful can actually be paid for and promoted in this day and age. Before I heard them I was willing to just let them be off on their own shit, being as terrible as their name warned. Now I want to hunt the fuckers down and do the brakes on their tourbus.
   Of course, I wouldn't because entirely innocent non-shitty indie-rocker people could be hurt so it looks like I'm gonna have to get my HGV license, slowly work up through the ranks of the haulage and coach-driving industries until I can cunningly manouevre myself into position as Courteneers driver-of-choice (I'll wear a big floppy hat. massive Raybans and a false tache, they'll never suspect a thing), make sure I travel with them on their next Alpine or Andean tour and then simply accelerate through the first cloud-height mountain road-barrier I see, plunging me and them into a suicidal freefall and subsequent impact-explosion that should evenly splatter our fragile bodies within the wrecked confines of twisted metal, games consoles & chemical-toilets that will become our final smouldering resting place. Don't ever say I'm not dedicated.

Cappo & Nappa 
Red Hot 
King Underground Records

Oh maaan, what a fantastic piece of music - a beautiful swell of strings, ringing rhodes, sublime jazzy touches, Cappo really showing what a unique voice he has and Nappa proving yet again that as a producer he's a great LISTENER as well as creator. Wonderful stuff that seems to bring summer on with each surging second. Lap it up and hold tight for the soon-come 'Rebel Base' album. 

All Alone 
Fueled By Ramen 

'We Are Young' wore me down eventually. Not to the point of liking it, but to the point of accepting its existence, the fact that for the next few years I can legitimately expect to hear it at least twice a week against my will because I live in the modern world of radios and televisions and in-store broadcasting and it is irrevocably now part of that world. This is poop though, as you'd expect from anyone formerly willing to be in a band called 'The Format', from its deceptively Left Banke-like synth part which shoulda been on harpsichords, all the way to its crappy chorus, shot through as it is with all the melodic grace of Opus and Freiheit and a kindergarten hook as desperate as it is sinister. I've heard better songs sung by Mr Tumble to be honest. Lazy pricks.

Juicy J feat Pimp C and T.I. 
Show Out (Remix) 
Again, it's the bass that's crucial here, and it's so solid and engulfing it seems to take up over 50% of the soundscape until you're waist-deep in it, struggling against the quicksand, happy to slip under. JJ typically great on the mix and on the mic, and the soon-come album 'Stay Trippy' (great title) should be one of 2013's most illicit thrills. A one-man hit factory.

Primal Scream 
It's Alright It's OK

It's not though Bobby, is it? It's not alright. It's certainly not fucking ok. It's a cliche that Primal Scream just keep wanting to sound like the Stones, and it's become something they've done so often you can guess that on Last FM The Stones are listed as an artist 'like Primal Scream'.
    But hold on a minute - this somehow manages to transparently aim for an 'Exile'-era 'Shine A Light/Just Wanna See His Face' gospel pulse but falls SO calamitously short in every respect it almost seems an insult to call it 'Stonesy', an offence to God and the Devil to even mention the Stones in the same breath. No feel, no Charlie/Bill/Keith gaps or wobbliness to the playing, just a stiff competence that erases pleasure and Gillespie's voice as ever this weak whining pathetic punchable thing that stinks of leather-trousered gusset-chafe on a hot day. What it reveals is that really, in every respect Primal Scream are simply inadequates, always have been, and are the godfathers of every single band since who've had irrefutably 'classic' record collections but a total inability to summon even one tiny iota of the spirit or joy of any of that listening to their own music because they have nothing to give except pisspoor fanboy wannabe dress-up and musically empty pasquinade. Fuck Primal Scream man. I prefer music.

God Hour 
We The Best 

Love the bass on this, a thick, oozing detuned thang oddly reminiscent of New Flesh For Old at their most out-of-control, well served by some heavy kicks and rippling choral vocals. Great lyrics from Vado as well about religious paranoia, the church and the streets that church aims to interpret and control. Crucially, there's a palpable sense throughout 'God Hour' that this could only come from those Harlem streets it so effectively portrays. That's not down to anything you can put your finger on, but anyone from anywhere can feel it intuitively and instinctively. Addictive, engrossing stuff.


Piss Test (Remix) 
Fools Gold 

Juicy J, Jim Jones, Flatbush Zombies, Flosstradamus and the mighty EL-P guest cameo on this, and for once, the party deserves that kind of multi-headed ruckus. Nice thick, heavy synth-saw leads, pulsating dubby electro backing and absolutely no attempt to try and falsely turn that kind of instrumentation into anything lame'n'lazy enough to be 'club friendly' or euphoric. Wicked posse cut, as found on Fool's Gold excellent 'Loosies' comp.

Shake The Room 
G Sound Records 

Why the fuck were people surprised that Cheryl "Get The Jigaboo Up Here & I'll Sort Her Out" Cole sent through Katie "Kill Me With Knives" Waissel & Cher "Eternally Shit" Lloyd in favour of the far superior Gamu Nhengu? Cole is a remorseless violent shit-for-brains with not a clue about music and is a nasty racist bitch into the bargain, what else was she gonna do? She just did the cleansing job before the public got a chance to rid themselves of another black face on the telly, duhh. That said, this new single from Gamu is a nonsensically dated 'nother attempt to retool Arthur Conley's 'Sweet Soul Music' for generation CandyCrushSaga and a song that Gamu herself seems massively uncomfortable with. Let young artists make their statement about the present before you confine them to the past you dimwits. A waste of a great voice and a unique story. 

Theme Park 

The male Haim. If they're gonna play their guitars up that high, tucked in under the nipples, couldn't they take the stance to its logical conclusion and cover up their fuckugly faces as well? I think they think they're Orange Juice but they're nowhere near as pretty and have nothing to give or grace us with other than more music, more of it, more lumps of music, more drums, and more bass and more guitars, just more of it, until it feels like it's up to your windpipe & tickling your glossopharyngeal nerve, until there's no way out without your orifi getting dangerously impacted. Not quite Disneyland. Flamingoland, just outside Pickering.