Sunday, 30 September 2012

Music - Part 12 - Dave Aju

Ooh, I like this.  I like this a lot!

Dave Aju formerly known as Marc Barrite and AKA The Unorthodoctor came to prevalence on the DJ Scene of his native San Francisco in 1995.  Since then he’s been responsible for remixing some of the most popular tracks of the last few years.

Taking jazz, hip-hop and funk/soul, and, mixing them with house and techno beats, not only does he create something very original, but also something incredibly likeable and infectious.  The sound is fresh, sharp and melodious and uses great percussive loops.

As well as remixing, Dave performs DJ sets and live performances recently appearing in Berlin and Paris, showcasing his enthralling electronic dance rhythms.  

The title track from his current Listen To Your Heartbeat EP starts with muffled voices. A pacey synth driven beat ensues with a driving bassline.  An interesting percussion, which sounds like coins rattled in a tin, accompanies looped vocals.  If there was ever a comparison to be made to James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem this is it.  Throw in some analogue blips and beeps in a VCMG style and you’ve got this track.

Strolling On A Sunday follows with a variation on a Samba beat.  No! Wait!  It’s really very, very good.  Almost an instrumental with the exception of some sample ‘Doo Doo Doo Daa’s’, this is catchy little number.  It’s the sort of track that leaves you slightly bewildered as to what you’ve just listened to - pleasing, catchy and rather quirky.

If I’d been told that De La Soul were involved with the loose and lazy Homegrown I wouldn’t have been surprised.  A little bit of Gorillaz grooved funky hip-hop, and, more lovely sampled drum sounds bring the EP to a close.

Next?  I played the whole thing again.  And Again.

I for one, will be checking out his back catalogue, because if this EP is anything to go by, there will be some rather brilliant things hidden away.

In his own words, Aju wants to “rescue dance music from the blahs” – he’s certainly succeeding with this little gem.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Music - Part 11 - Rough Guide To Hungary

If your knowledge of Hungarian music is limited to your knowledge of classical composer Franz Liszt, and, you thought Hungarian music was all folk and violins, you’d be like me.  You’d also be in for a bit of a surprise.

If you plan to listen to this album whilst relaxing with a Horlicks before bed, then with a few notable exceptions, you may as well have 5 double Expresso’s and a bar of Green & Blacks 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate, because the Hungarians clearly know how to have a good time!

Opener, Erdelyes by Robert Lakatos, is for four minutes a beautiful fiddle and (I’m guessing) cimbalom affair.  Perfect in every respect, played stunningly.  Shortly after the four minutes, the track explodes and it’s Party Time!  I’ve discovered that trying to tap your foot whilst playing in your car isn’t a wise thing to attempt.

After all that excitement follows a gorgeous haunting, vocal only piece.  Beata Palya has a voice that could melt hearts, and, Agrol-Agra is breath-taking.  Fortunately really, as I reached work just as it ended and was suitably calmed to walk into the building without performing the Urgos (otherwise known as the ‘jumping dance’)!

The very upbeat Csango Boogie by Kerekes Band brings to the fore bass, drums and an improvised zurna (a type of wind instrument).  A jazzy little instrumental.  A slow down after a couple of minutes with the wind instrument takes over before going full steam ahead again.


The introduction to Keseredes Kave (Bittersweet Coffee) is played on a cimbalom, a metal string box that can be plucked or struck.  Picture East-End pub sat around the piano, before turning into a Charlie Chaplin heartbreak scene where our hero pines his lost love.  After a couple of minutes, the bass enters and the soundtrack could now be for the Keystone Cops chasing criminals down the city streets! 

Sondorgo & Ferus Mustafov begin their instrumental offering at quite some speed.  Mainly the instruments that remain prevalent throughout the album, but, played with expertise on Kisacko Kolo.  Imagine the equivalent of a buzzing bluebottle in the background before shouting voices towards the end of the track with participants clearly having a great time!

The majority of tracks on the album do seem to be instrumental, but, it’s testament to the musicianship that they remain interesting and engaging without the need for a voice.

The wonderfully titled track 6, Puter Mama (Mother Open), starts with a lone female voice, very enduring and enchanting, almost an all-voice affair from Bela Lakatos & The Gypsy Youth Project. 

Baj Van Medley could almost be a Kosack dance, I can’t help imagining Di Naye Kapelye & The Tecsoi Banda playing in a bar, fit for bursting, with people shouting and singing as if it were their last beer!  Multiple voices being track 8 with a female vocal soon emerging from the sound of acoustic guitars.  The folk feel remains a common denominator throughout the majority of the album. Suss Fel Nap (Come Out Sun) by Csurrento is one of those tracks that, despite being in a foreign language, I find myself humming the melody to long after it’s finished.  A distinct influence of Irish folk music (or, was Irish music influenced by Hungarian folk? – Discuss).

A very pleasant, skiffle-like Elmentem A Piacra by Agi Szaloki preceeds the wonderfully named Hungarian Hurdy-Gurdy Orchestra.  Even if Mikor Kend Es Pista Batyam isn’t an enjoyable song, they win the award for Best Name For A Group 2012.  Fortunately, it’s another pleasing track with what I can only describe as a kazoo sounding instrument featured throughout!

The Fiddle In His Hand, translated from Hegedut A Kezibe, starts at a lightening pace.  If Szalonna is the chap mentioned in the title, then I would suggest he was born with said instrument as he plays with superb skill.  Agnes Herckzu provides the vocals on a track which is perfect for driving extremely speedily to - I would of course again not condone this type of behaviour.

For me, the stand-out track from this album is A Szeretet Probaja (A Test Of True Love) by Szilvia Bognar.  A beautiful voice, played over a background of delightful instrumentation.  This ‘could’ be a track to play before retiring to bed at night with a nice mug of Horlicks.  A quite stunning track.


There’s a trumpet-sounding sound on the next track.  The bluebottle bouncing off a window trying to escape to the outside returns once more.  Don’t let that put you off, there’s another uplifting track in Parno Graszt’s Ravagok A Zongorara (Hit The Piano).  Kurucz Mahala performed by Buda Fold Band again re-enforces the skilled, intricate musicianship of Hungarian folk. 

Next, I’m blasted back to 1982 when Csillag Vagy Fecske (Star Or Swallow) reminds me of Dexys’ Too Rye Aye period.  That loose, relaxed, Gypsy sound from Csik Band & Andras Lovasi.  A lone saxophone sound dominates the penultimate track, Megy A Nap Lefele (Now The Sun Starts To Sink).  Primas Parade tantalisingly keep this track lovely and calm, threatening to burst into some mad, folk tune at any point, but somehow, resisting the temptation.

The final track is bizarre.  A female, sounding like she has recently inhaled a tank of helium backed by an instrument that I really don’t recognise.  Possibly a synthesizer somewhere in the background over an Asian sounding soundtrack. 

I took a bit of a gamble reviewing this album as I really didn’t know what to expect.  I have to admit, that I’ve found it a very enjoyable album, which is also a great amount of fun.  New sounds and techniques that I haven’t encountered before.  Intricate songs, superb musicianship, and, as with the rest of the Rough Guide series, there’s a bonus cd – this time, an album by Tarkany-Muvek.

And, I’ve found out that a Duda sounds like a bagpipe.

Published on Louder Than War 28/09/12 -

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

On The Wire - Interview With Steve Barker

Music Like Shower………

September 16th 2012 is an important date.

It marks the 28th Birthday of the BBC’s longest running radio show – On The Wire broadcasted by BBC Radio Lancashire.  Maybe the number 28 isn’t as significant a Birthday as 18 or 21 or 40 (as the greeting card makers would have us believe), but, given the recent developments in the BBC  Drive For Quality initiative, it is quite a landmark.

In 1984, I was 16.  I listened to the Top 40, I was a convert of electronic music and many a hit single.  I made handwritten lists of the Chart every week.  I listened intently and believed it as gospel.  Back then, I’m pretty sure that Radio 1’s chart show was piped through local radio from 5pm until 7pm, and, I’d always tune in ready for the countdown.  There soon came a time when rumours of ‘fixing’ were rife and I started liking stuff that wasn’t an instant hit. 

Sometime during 1985 when I was waiting for the Top 40, I stumbled across On The Wire on Radio Lancashire.  The host, Steve Barker (along with ‘The Boy Fenny’), was playing loads of stuff I’d never heard before.  I thought I knew so much about music, but, quickly realised that there was a World, a bigger World outside the hits of the week.  He played a track, Bop Bop by Fats Comet, still one of my all-time favourites.  Part of it was a sample from People Are People by Depeche Mode (of who I was/am a big fan) – an On U-sound remix, by a chap called Adrian Sherwood.  I loved it.  I hunted it down.  I was hooked.

Over time I became a regular listener to OTW.  Music that was completely new to me on every show.  I didn’t like it all, but, that wasn’t the point – the point was that it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff.  It had feeling, essence and purpose.

I’ve always loved music, and, On The Wire opened up a new World to me.

So, back to the cuts.  'What is not so well known is how these cuts will (not 'could') impact the specialist shows hosted locally.  Effectively, there would be no 'local radio' after seven o'clock in the evening.  Shows will be shared between groups of stations.  For instance, in the North West this group will be the Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside stations.  There is a possibility that BBC Radio Lancashire will only be responsible for shared programming on a Sunday afternoon.  The high probability is that any output in this slot will be in an 'easy listening' format.  Therefore, sometime between now and April 2013, by which time all the agreed changes will have been implemented, there is a danger that On The Wire will disappear from the airwaves after over 28 years of continuous broadcasting.'

For me and many others like me, this is devastating news, and quite literally, a huge loss.  So much so that towards the end of 2011, I set up a Twitter account, @SaveOnTheWire, to try and rally support.  I tweet links to the show, featured tracks and news.  It's my way of both saying thank-you and trying to preserve something I truly love.

I caught up with Steve Barker recently and asked him what his initial plans and hope for On The Wire were, and, to what extent he thought they had been achieved.
“Basically to play tunes that we either liked or felt should get an airing on radio, basically we are still doing that. I would have to thank a series of managers at the BBC for letting me self-produce the show.”

On The Wire was last under threat in the 90’s when a certain John Peel lent his support.  Did you ever meet him?
“Yes, two or three times. Once at Broadcasting House at the Beeb during one of his shows. He did all the usual stuff like play a tune at the wrong speed and listen to the football whilst music was playing. I feel very ambivalent about John’s influence from the time, he was very helpful to us but then again because John Peel was there then he represented the whole 99% of the music that wasn’t played elsewhere – so there was no room for anyone else, and then he became a yardstick by which others were measured. On the Wire was never an imitation of Peelie, we were totally different.”

My introduction to On The Wire coincided with my discovery of On U Sound.  Adrian Sherwood is obviously a good friend, and, you’ve written several sleeve notes for On-U releases.  What in your opinion makes the label so special?
“Well, On U Sound has become a bit of an institution – unfortunately! It started out for the first few years very radical – an experimental UK dub excursion -  but people weren’t really interested. Then it became more hip and the problem there is that people then move on to next big thing. On U has kept a focus on the more radical over time and Sherwood’s new album is probably his best solo effort as he’s created it largely himself rather than relying on other input.”

Once a month On The Wire presents Funkology – how did that come about?  Do you like a good funk?
“This has to be seen in context, as Funkology started out soon after the show itself began. There was little black dance music played on radio. Things are different now with all the numerous shades of Radio 1 etc. However, Pete and Andy still plough their own furrow and are not affected by plugging or fads. Funk is the preacher, jazz is the teacher ……….”

I’ve just reviewed Rough Guide compilations of Ethiopian and Hungarian music for Louder Than War.  The Ethiopian one really surprised me at the diversity of the music.  Are there any other countries that you think are worth looking at?
“All of Sumatra and Java, Columbia, North West Africa – the Sahel.”

What was the first record you bought and where did you buy it, favourite record of the moment, and all-time favourite?
“With my own money? Probably late fifties or early sixties, maybe Buddy Holly. My favourite of all time remains “The Mountains High” by Dick and DeeDee from about 1962. And now listening to a lot of instrumental music, drone and drift. Chilly Gonzales “Solo Piano II” is nice also the recent Robbie Basho reissue on Tompkins Square, and Jeb Loy Nichols “Long Time Traveller” album although it’s only out in Japan.”

Who, or what music excites you nowadays?
“It’s good to hear new generations dealing with drone, drift, process music. Lots of good new stuff coming out of the USA and Europe from people who don’t feel guilty or embarrassed about their influences especially lots of new women artists like Julia Holter and Maria Minerva.”

Listening to your show, your knowledge of music seems infinite – who’s the most famous person in your phone directory?
“I have only a few famous people in my phone book and they probably would not answer the phone to me now anyway”

We seem to live in a world of ‘talent’ shows nowadays, do you think they’ve damaged the music industry or made it a better place?
“They are just a manifestation of the dumbing down of the media and life in general, basically they are pretending that a music biz exists that actually doesn’t exist anymore, they are their own self-contained environments into which people get sucked then spat out. I find people’s fascination with them offensive, and that goes for Big Brother and all its derivations.”

My first article for Louder Than War was called Home Taping Is Killing Music, from a strictly personal point of view, what are your views on ‘illegal downloading’?
“A bit like weed – for personal use only ……….”

Why does Fenny still sound like he’s 20 years old?
“Apart from the regular monkey gland injections, he remains resolutely a fan and young at heart.”

In 2002 Steve absconded to Beijing initially relying of the help of Christiaan Virant, co-founder of the China-based nu electronic unit fm3.   Is he in the UK to stay now, or, is a return on the cards?
“Staying in UK now, hoping to be asked to do some gigs ……… Will return to China for short trips now and again.”

Over the years, the show has featured more and more reggae and dub.  Is there any reason for that?
“Yes, because we love the dub! And its rebel music that is under-represented.”

I’d publicly like to thank Steve and his team for many years of musical education.  Without it, my music library would be a lot smaller (although, my pocket would be a bit fuller!)  With support, I feel sure that On The Wire will be around for many many more years to come.  If you want to do your bit, and at the same time educate yourself, then I’d strongly suggest your tune in to the show every Saturday 10pm until midnight (subject to change!), and check out the Blog at Alternatively, follow the @SaveOnTheWire Twitter account and get the links to playlists, downloads, etc…

As a final question, I asked Steve that if On The Wire is ever a casualty of the cuts, would he aim to carry on elsewhere.  The answer is still bringing me to goosepimples.
“On the Wire will never die  …………..”

Published by Louder Than War 15/09/12 -

Mentioned on Twitter by Q Magazine 18/09/12

Friday, 7 September 2012

Music - Part 10 - Rough Guide To Ethiopia

My expectations of Ethiopian music were maybe very predictable, and, it would seem, misguided.  I love music, I love listening to all things new and when I have heard African music in the past, I’ve always liked it.  I know very little about the genre, but when I was given the chance to review this album, I jumped at it.

What did I expect in my narrow-mindedness?  Tribal songs perhaps.  Lots of percussion.  Loud voices and chants.  Yes, I was being stereotypical, but that, it would seem, was my ignorance of something that really opened my ears.

Rightly or wrongly, I purposely ignored any background information to this cd until I’ve listened to it completely independently.

The album starts with Ametballe by Bole 2 Harlem, multiple vocal, tight horns, multiple voices over a funky  (dance disco?) beat.  Incredibly lively.  Very unexpected, but, very entertaining.  Given that the songs here are not in my native language, it’s surprising how catchy they become.  By the end of track 2, Guragigna by Dub Colossus, I found myself singing part of the chorus.  Starting with a deep bass piano, a rumba rhythm enters to a female vocal accompanies more brass accompaniment.

Music is all about the feel, what it does to your soul, not who the artist is or what style of music it is.  The opening of Ohoho Gedama by Mahmoud Mekuria reminded me of When A Man Loves A Woman then later A Whiter Shade Of Pale, mainly due to the Hammond style sound.  I would have called the vocals more ‘traditional’ in an African sense, an almost jazzy little affair with a funky little guitar riff.

Track 4, Musicawi Silt by Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Guests is an instrumental.  I’m thinking – movie soundtrack as the hero enters.  Rocky Part XXXIV?  Another instrumental follows with Orchestra Ethiopia and Datchene Koba (Trio Of Emblitas), a short, live sounding track.  Hypnotic but enthralling.

I’ve heard of Krar Collective on BBC Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire programme (if you haven’t never heard it, you really, really must!).  There’s a real bundle of ‘sounds likes’ on Ende Eyerusalem – Spanish sounding guitar, eastern vocals sung in an almost Anglo-Scottish twang.  Quite folky with continual percussion.  A fairly hypnotic track.

I’m thinking West Side Story when I hear the intro to Abet Abet by Samuel Yirga, followed by percussion and an Egyptian sound.  Freestyle jazz saxophone follows.  I’m not instrument expert, but, I’m sure there’s a didgeridoo and Jewish Harp throughout Sek’let by Zerfu Demissie, or both. Again, I’m no expert on language, but, the vocals are maybe in German?  Almost all spoken-word – I love this track.

More of what I was expecting with Invisible System, where Ambassel perform what I would call a ‘traditional’ African track.  Again, I’m surprised by jazz on Alemayehu Eshete with Ney-Ney Weleba, several tracks on this album seem to have a similar sound, but, mixed with an African style.  Influences from around the World are clearly spotted, but, create truly original sounds in their own right.  Another surprise, with a Rockabilly/Cramps style guitar on Gue by Tirudel Zeneba.

A lot of acoustic guitar and percussion on track 12 by Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed.  Performed in front of a live audience, Mela Mela receives great applause on the end.  To end the album is a haunting, semi-classical piano based track.  Homesickness reminds me of maybe Anglo Irish/Scottish origins.  Smashing to pieces any ideas I had of what to expect on this album.  A beautiful track, ending an album of very genuine surprises.

The Rough Guide to Ethiopia turned out to be quite a journey – I’ve really been quite taken aback by the many many styles of music on offer.  Several styles borrowed, then intermingled with others, to create sounds that a truly original. 

If your appetite has been whetted by the first disc, then there’s a second one containing tracks by Invisible System.  Not only is this album cracking value for money, but, it’s also one to cherish.

Published on Louder Than War 12/09/12 -

Monday, 3 September 2012

Music - Part 9 - Archive

I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of Archive.  This surprises me as they’ve been going for 18 years! 

I’ll be even more honest when I say that With Us Until You’re Dead is an absolute cracker.  I’m hooked, and, can see that I’ll want to investigate them even further.

Intrigued by the Press Release describing them as “Part-orchestral, part-electronic, part-soulful, part-progressive”,  I know exactly where that description is coming from.  This album is haunting, it has soul, it has real passion.  Three years in the making and it’s easy to see why.  Archive clearly don’t rush things and there’s a reason for that – they make songs that are perfected.

I’ve spotted several members taking lead vocal on this album which adds a great deal of depth and intrigue.

Violently (my personal favourite) and Hatchet, the lead singles from the album,  remind me of Recoil’s Luscious Apparatus from the Unsound Methods album.  Tracks that start from something simple and grow and grow and grow into crashes of sound, throbbing basslines and immense voices. 

Their debut album, Londinium, was apparently regarded as a trip-hop classic with Peter Gabriel known to be a huge admirer, but, they’ve remained somewhat unknown in the UK.  In fact, With Us Until You’re Dead, is their first album to obtain a UK release despite them being superstars across Europe.

It’s a very diverse album, helped by the multitude of vocalists.  The vocals on Damage reminding me of Jon Anderson, and, Things Going Down of Kate Havnevik.  Well, that’s my opinion anyway!  In fact, so diverse is the album, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that it’s a record label sampler showing off several artists.

I can see some comparisons to Soulsavers’ recent album, The Light The Dead See too.  Epic songs, crafted with love, crafted with precision, crafted from the heart.  I can hear, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Royksopp, Depeche Mode, Genesis and maybe a bit of Otis Redding?.....   I’ve watched a clip of the making of the album on YouTube and it’s fascinating.  The Supersonic Symphony Orchestra feature, and, Archive are clearly people who live for their music.

If I’m totally honest, I’m slightly stuck for words.  If, like me, you’ve never heard of Archive, all I can suggest is that you check out this album.  I love it and have got some serious catching up to do with them!

Oh, and I love the album artwork too!

Published on Louder Than War 5/09/12 -