graves of bad people

graves of bad people

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Dennis Brown

Dennis Brown

This week we are two contributors to BDAW down with the dreaded parmageddon that is swine-flu. I’ve personally got man-flu, but I can sense through the glands that things could turn nasty. My imminent demise however did have a silver lining in that it led me to be around on a Wednesday night to check out one of my favourite radio shows—the 50 50 Soundsystem on Resonance FM

I have very few appointments to listen in my life, but if I’m in, this show is always on. I know little about 50 50 other that the music that they play is so spiritual it makes the two hours of broadcast involuntarily propel me into a communion with my maker. Dusty roots 45’s sit next to a cappella chants, sirens and moans to make a collage of sounds that when I close my eyes feels like my idea of a perfect church. This is mystery and wonder timed to perfection.

50 50 don’t podcast or archive their shows, but I’ve got a feeling that I might start doing it myself right here (…if you are already on it let me know!) This is, besides the joy that is Jonny Trunk, the best show on Resonance and one of the best listens anywhere on the dial. Milo Lapis, Jah Beef and crew are the most humble, understated of DJ’s, but their selections and craft are top drawer. 

Cheeky bootlegs coming soon, but if—like me—you are owned by Google, you can sync the Resonance running order to Google calenders here to remind yourself when to stay home and tune in.

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Mala of Digital Mystikz

Digital Mystikz’ ‘B’ is the first dubstep record I ever bought and the first dubstep record I fell in love with.  Mala was the man who made it, the man who was and still is utterly instrumental within the genre and, arguably, without him dubstep would lack much of its musical soul.  He’s a big thinker, a quiet talker, a genuine gem; I had high hopes for this hour-long journey with the legend himself through his streets and sights and sounds of his London via Red Bull Radio.

The programme kicks off with Mala back in his childhood ends of Norwood and runs through some of his earlier musical memories & local hang outs.  He rattles around a couple of record shops and south London markets and winds up in Forest Hill, where he gets technical about cutting dubplates.  He plays us a few of his favourite tunes, old and new, we meet some of his collaborators, he tells us how cool Red Bull Academy is etc. etc. etc.……Ok, so I’m a huge fan and I know a fair bit about Mala already, but given that he’s such a central figure in such an urban scene, even my Nan could’ve guessed that he probably used to listen to pirate radio in his room, that he hung out in Croydon at Big Apple Records and that Blackmarket is something of a spiritual home to him.   Quite frankly, Wikipedia could’ve done the job.

Look, there are bits of this programme I loved- Mala on the phone to Coki and the subsequent chat with his long time friend and label mate, the nods to fellow Londoners Jehst & Roots Manuva, the bits about him using every penny of his overtime money on that precious first cut of a track.  I get that it has to be about Mala’s connection with London, but I just felt that this programme didn’t entirely do him justice.  A lot of the time, there’s little link with what he’s talking about and the music in the background.  Who were his favourite artists growing up?  Which nights did he go to?  Where in London did he meet his fellow dubsteppers?   Where did he work before he made it?  There’s not even a mention of Brixton, the home of his DMZ night- the biggest dubstep event in the capital, which is rammed to capacity every month.

You very much get the impression that London is something of a disappointment to him, not somewhere he feels totally at home.  At one point he says that he in no way feels patriotic to its cityscape and grey concrete, but that it probably has shaped him.  And maybe that’s the problem.  Get him on the topic of music and he’s away, talk to him about his current locale and he has less to say.  However, for the tracks played along the way, for Mala’s insights into dubstep’s evolution and to get a beginner’s guide to where it all began, you still need to tune into this.  Personally, I’d just like to skip to the sequel.

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south african radio

There are moments when you only truly arrive somewhere when what you see from your window conspires with the sounds eeking from your transistor.

You know the drill – you’re driving down the motorway and then in a moment of madness you flick to Radio Shropshire, Donegall FM, or the Pulse of West Yorkshire. Accents and adverts suddenly connect you to the area and landscape that your comfy car has kept you insulated from.

This most excellent moment hit me like a piledriver crossing the Orange river – from Sith Ifrica to Namibia.

Two things conjoined to make crossing a tangible moment. The first is that – unlike most land borders, where one despondent cabbage field reaching to the horizon gives way to another – the orange river is a real physical, geographic change. It’s as though God had looked down and said “I’m not leaving this up to those stoopid poeple,” drawn the line across the ground, and said “let there be two different places”. The rocky Mediterranean scrub gives way to Jabba the Hut’s back yard. Luminous sand dunes and desert outcrop stretch from the curb to horizon.

We’d had our passports stamped in the border hut, and were crossing the bridge when, for no discernable reason the stereo which all through the veldt had been happily playing CD’s, decided no more hip hop, you Hafrica now boy.

From the static hiss emerged some weird juju Ndebele dude talking pops clicks and whistles to the sounds of jangly gee-tars recorded in a mud hut with a pair of 1960’s headphones.

Low fi from the beyond.

Awesome.

rob booth

rob booth

Say you’d decided that for your staycation this year you were off to the Lake District, Ambleside to be precise.  You’d packed your picnic rug, put the dog in the car & landed up there at some point on a Friday evening.  You check into your b&b and it’s all really green and countrified and you’re really starting to feel like you’re getting away from the grind.  You wake up the next morning and the birds are singing and you think that obviously what you need is a fat fry up to start the day.  You spot the delightful looking Daisy’s Café just over the road, it’s got really pretty net curtains and hanging baskets outside and so you drag the fam over there, walk in the door and WHAM….you’re surrounded by beardy weirdos ravin it up in white gloves to a futuristic soundtrack of Aphex proportions.

This is how I imagine Rob Booth- originally of the West Country via London and now proprietor of said Daisy Café- gets down on a daily basis.  In his spare time away from baking scones & serving Earl Grey to the rambling fraternity of the Lake District, Rob is an underground soldier of a rare variety.  At the last count he’s on the 75th edition of Electronic Explorations (the latest featuring Kid 606), his show that explores some of the most experimental electronic beats & artists that don’t get enough love elsewhere.

Clocking in at two hours, it’s an absolute labour of love on his part- I mean how do you keep in touch with the latest grime techno while chatting to grannies about their dead cats?  The BPM’s rarely drop below 140 and you can expect everything from acid to ragga to minimal tinted tech from the likes of Planet Mu, Rag & Bone and Surface Tension, plus he puts together mini podcasts for the shows and you can either stream them or download the file.  Yeah, ok, his presenting style is more West Country train announcer than hyped up youth vibes, but he loves what he plays and that counts.  His guests (Akira Kiteshi, Optika Technika & Syntheme) represent via mixes throughout the show and this is where it gets really clever.  Not only do they mash together some mad beats- Lee Perry, Girls Aloud & sounds from bearded seals a mile underneath the Arctic, in the latest case- but they also intro all the tracks as they’re coming in, giving us an insight into why they’re there.  Annoying?  You might think so, but it actually works.

There are shows out there that could do this, should do this, but none that succeed in quite the same wonky way and that’s why Electronic Explorations is a winner.  Maybe it’s all that fresh air.  Whatever. If you too would like to witness Rob frantically whipping cream to a mental Milanese-style soundtrack, you can find him here-

Daisy’s Cafe
Ambleside
CUMBRIA
LA22 9BS

Otherwise, just tune into the show and I’m sure you’ll get the picture.

Newbit.

The Breezeblock was a radio show on BBC Radio 1 a few years ago, a mix show for freaks late at night hungry for electronic music. The show featured a bunch of different DJs and producers from Matmos to Bjork, but Jace Clayton AKA DJ Rupture always occupied a very special place in the show’s pantheon of pornographically good knob-twiddlers.  A firm favourite of John Peel, he was The Breezeblock’s daddy.

What Rupture has always done exceptionally well is play stupid music for clever people, and mix it up with clever sounds for those who want it stupid. Sure, a lot of it is electronic with beeps and bass, but he manages to keep a live, analogue, human feel to proceedings that is all his own.

DJ Rupture’s radio show, Mudd Up is available on WFMU and on iTunes as a podcast. If one week’s isn’t enough you can go to his show page where every single show is archived complete with guest information and playlists. Fellow BDAW’s blogger Matt put me on to the show and I can safely say it is the most surprising and rewarding music podcast I currently subscribe to.

Mudd Up! is made with a lot of love. Guests frequently pop up from all continents and disciplines (musicians, poets and more) and the show is full of genuine exclusives. Jace describes his musical sweep as ‘Cumbia. Dubstep. Gangsta synthetics. Sound-art. Maghrebi’, but in reality this is a DJ without respect for fashion, with a thorough disdain of musical genre, audience demographics or conventional broadcasting norms.

Rupture creates sound collages of mystery and drama that consistantly challenge every synapse in my brain. Subscribe immediately.

Big Up Radio on your iPhone

Big Up Radio on your iPhone

In the first of a series of posts with radio from the iPhone it seems righteous to kick off with something incredibly Ronseal—that does what it says on the tin. When you are lying in bed at night there are some moments when only uninterrupted reggae will do. On some occasions this leads to my default evening FM station Conscious FM or—on a Wednesday night at 11pm in the UK—the absolutely incredible 50-50 Soundsystem show on Resonance FM (post coming soon). However an alternative for the technology fetishists amongst us is to download the free Big Up Radio app for the iPhone.

Big Up is, according to its page, a loose collection of reggae enthusiasts in the California area that started broadcasting together in 2000. Their website looks like its been put together in a long, democratic committee meeting (just toooo much to read / listen to / click on for anyone with a job) but their iPhone app is the bomb.

It may only be a music jukebox service, but sometimes simple is great. Boot it up, spin the wheel to the station you want to listen to and plug it into your speakers. Cue a non-stop reggae music mix. I know that for the musically literate Last FM can do something similar (you do have to know what artist’s station you want to start with), but Big Up proves that there is life in the no-presenters idea. The skill with all of these things is picking the right music, and Big Up do this very well—check the ‘Lovers Rock’ or ‘Steady Rockin’ Roots’ channels for the sweetest prelude to sleep.

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You know what the big problem is with radio interviews? You’ve heard it all before. Usually the guest is doing the rounds to plug their latest product, so they’re on the promo carousel, and will, this very same week, be appearing on five other stations near you. And even if the show has managed to wangle an exclusive interview on a subject you’re interested in, the presenter will follow the approved route; talk about stuff the guest is well known for, talk about stuff they’ve been doing recently, talk about their new product. If this is Tuesday, it must be Bono. Thursday, we’ve got Tom Cruise. And on, and on…

Thankfully for the adventurous internet surfer, there are alternatives.

The Sound Of Young America is, in the words of its host Jesse Thorn ‘A radio show about things that are awesome’.  But then, Jesse bills himself as ‘America’s Radio Sweetheart’, and revels in the lofi production, getting listeners to intro the show over the phone, and proclaiming at the top of each show that it’s ‘live on tape from my home in Los Angeles’. So I think we can safely assume tongues are planted firmly in cheeks.

TSOYA is unique in that it a) books guests that are interesting, even if you’ve never heard of them before, and b) then goes on to have a really good time with them. Recently Lloyd Kaufmann, the completely hatstand head of lo-budget schlock factory Troma Films, came on the show to claim that he was the best producer ever. Thorn was actually falling about laughing at Kaufmann’s ridiculous chutzpah, and it made for a fantastic interview.

I go weeks on end without listening to TSOYA because I don’t recognise the names that come up on the list on my iPod, but then after being lured in by a name or act I recognise, I gorge again – three or four editions in a day.  Jesse’s presenting style is addictive like that.

The guest list ranges from actors, including Bunk and Bubbles from The Wire, and musicians – from the reclusive and legendary Betty Davis to underground rappers – to writers, such as ‘The IT Crowd’s Graham Linehan and comics writer Brian Michael Bendis, the man who’s been charged with recreating Spiderman for Marvel comics.

However, Thorn’s main love is comedy, in all its forms. Films, TV, books and stand up, plus some others that I haven’t heard yet. From big Hollywood names to US circuit stars who haven’t broken in the UK, they all get love from TSOYA. Which is nice (for them), and also good for listeners, who get to hear some really funny people doing what they do best, which is be funny.  Go on, have a laugh.

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Mobtown Ska Sounds

Ska and classic reggae are fairly well represented on t’internet. It seems that every graduate with a Trojan box set and a bong has at some point thought ‘I know, a podcast showcasing old school music from Jamaica – there’s not enough of those out there!’

However, recently, as the weather has got warmer I’ve been digging around for something to satisfy the desire for some skanking sounds. And the itch has been well and truly scratched by DJ Bobby Babylon and his Mobtown Ska Sounds podcast. Like all the best music selections, BB has a record collection to die for, a burning desire to show it off, and a lightly worn expertise.

The shows are generally themed. Recent episodes include ‘Reggae Court’, which gathered together loads of tunes which feature rudeboys being sentenced by ‘Judge 100 Years’, ‘Judge Roughneck’ and the fantastic ‘Judge Black Sulphuric Acid’. . Then there’s the excellent Beatles tribute show, which not only rocked a bunch of Fab Four reggae versions, but also paid tribute to ska’s US heritage by dropping a number of obscure R’n’B covers as well.

It’s not all reggae – the Bo Diddly tribute is well worth an hour of anybody’s time – but mainly that’s the fare. As well as the classic stuff, BB covers the modern ska scene as well, tucking in a number of current or recent tunes in to podcasts as the mood demands.

Babylon has recently moved his host from podmatic to Music Is Our Occupation, so there might be a bit of a hiatus while he gets things up and running on the new platform. But there’s over fifty shows in the archive, available on iTunes, and each one’s a delight. I’m saving the ‘early Wailers’ and ‘vinyl reggae selection’ specials up, but if they’re anything like the dozen or so I’ve already sampled, they’ll be crackers. Enjoy.

 

Jerry Seinfeld

"The thing I admire most about the Chinese is that they are hanging on in there with the chopsticks."—Jerry Seinfeld; .977 The Comedy

Much like many of you, in the morning all of my radios are tuned to different stations. The kitchen flops between Radio 4, Radio 1 and 1Xtra (what else do you listen to on a DAB over breakfast?); the bathroom, waterproof and FM/AM, does the pirates (dancehall being the audio equivalent of Nivea Sport for Men – waking you up with a start) and upstairs the most recent addition to the family, an Intempo digital number, goes all over the place.

Over the last couple of months though, as I throw on my clothes in the morning I have checking out .977 The Comedy that also goes by the name of Comedy 104. Whether by design or accident, this station has the privilege of being the first of the 86 stations in the ‘Comedy’ genre on my radio, and as such was the first one to be given a go. Since then I have pretty much skimmed through all of the comedy stations (including several that sound like they are recorded at the wrong end of the night in an Austrian bierkeller) and .977 is still probably the most reliable of the jukebox comedy options.

I like my comedy straight up, not-messed-about-with, but I do appreciate that comedy radio provokes a very large range of reactions (my other half can’t stand comedy jukebox radio). What .977 does is give you 3 minute chunks of the world’s best stand-ups (and Jasper Carrot) telling a few jokes. Then it cuts immediately to another stand-up and the cycle continues until the end of time. Contributions are 90% American (thank the Lord) and on any given morning you might hear, as I did today, the likes of Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor and the overlord of comedy – Jerry Seinfeld.

Sometimes the contributions err a bit towards the US’s equivalent of Jethro or Freddie Starr (‘aren’t men and women different?’, ‘anyone else here like beer?’ etc) but you are generally only 5 minutes away from someone with a brain. There is no censorship or mediation whatsoever which can make for pretty uncomfortable listening when segueing from Radio 4 in the kitchen.

A station like this can only have a short listening lifespan: as I am quickly discovering people who listen to a lot of stand-up soon become jaded, hearing the familiar patterns again and again. Also, I have no idea how they are getting the rights to this stuff (I’m not sure how E4 radio with its comedy remit would have existed with international comedy talent 24/7 on the same dial) but for the time being I will still be surfing this station and others like it to get my morning fix of slander and willy jokes. 

Check out .977 here.

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