Since Liverpool won the European Champions League on penalties this week (a bit jammy at that!), I opened my DJ account this week with an old Adrian Sherwood production with loads of soccer noise from the Kop. On Tackhead’s ‘The Game (you’ll never walk alone)’ the Liverpool fans sing their adopted anthem, actually an old gospel tune (‘You’ll never walk alone’) that was covered by Mersey beat group Gerry & the Pacemakers in the early 1960s and thus found its place in Liverpudlian mythology. I’ve got an earlier awesome version of the tune by the Five Blind Boys of Alabama that is so full of holy fervour it makes you wanna holler ‘Jesus’ like Kanye West at a Brian Tamaki gig [For non-Aotearoan readers, Tamaki is a local televangelist with an Engelbert Humperdinck mullet]. This Tackhead mix is from the 12” EP based on the album track from The Barmy Army’s album The English Disease, which was released back in the late 80s at a time when football and its fans were public enemy number one. The album is sample-full of soccer commentary and the constantly mutating folksong repertoire of the terraces. It was also twenty years ago this week that the Heysel disaster at the European cup final between Liverpool and Juventus killed so many fans, so the echoes of ‘You’ll never walk alone’ carried a heavy load.
I groped around for the next track on my iPod and accidently pressed for the wrong cut. Can’t remember what I meant to play but out of the lickle white and chrome box emerged the vital organ of Jackie Mittoo’s ‘Darker Shade of Black’ which seemed to worked fine: The Beatles ‘I should have known better’ versioned in a Brentford Road style.
This legendary Studio One groove segued into 24 Karat Black’s ‘Foodstamps’, a slow-cooking scratchy guitar funk instrumental—like James Brown crossed with Brother Jack McDuff. Completely impromptu (honest), I dropped in a sample of Mos Def’s acapella called I think ‘Simple mathematics’. I was pleasantly surprised how well the Def one’s tempo fitted the unhurried beats of the early 70s funk track. Mos even had time for respiration. I’m not a beat mixer, nor scratching apprentice, but strictly an end-to-end DJ with a half-decent ear for tempo and feel. But I guess listening to a ton of mash-ups has its welcome side effects.
For some time, I’ve tentatively explored the world of Haruono Hosono (AKA Harry Hosuono), one of the most enigmatic and quirky musicians and producers from Japan. Hosono was a member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra in the late 1970s and early 80s. The YMO are as serious contenders for the mantle of deepest electro conceptualists as Kraftwerk. Like Dusseldorf’s Kling Klangers the YMO also had the touch for delicate melodies and automated beats. Ryuichi Sakamoto went on to many great things, but the track I chose to play was one by another former YMO member Towa Tei. ‘Sound museum (Harouno Hosono remix)’ has the kind of sound that wouldn’t be homesick in a DJ Shadow mix. Oh, by the way, Nick informs me that Josh Davis’s classic 'Entroducing’ has been given the special edition treatment and is re-released soon in bloated version, alongside a book devoted to it. Anyway, back to Harry---Hosono has been involved in some strange projects, including a kind of Japanese take on US exotica à la Martin Denny and Les Baxter with his project Swing Slow. He has also made some really unusual but affecting ambient country & western under the name World Standard. (Banjo electronica, anyone?). Imagine Hank Williams smoking honky-tonk hash in Singapore instead of guzzling whiskey and amphetamines in Ohio.
Was it Mikey Dread who said, ‘Dub is reggae karaoke’? So JA has been turning Japanese for a while then. Already a massive Chinese presence on the island and in reggae anyways.
Lee Perry next with one of his airy instrumentals, ‘Dreamland skank’. I’m still flogging the album 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle almost every week. Richer than a box of Rowntree Mackintosh. We’re always on Quality Street at The Basement. No wonder Scratch is often cited alongside Sun Ra as a premier Afrofuturismo. This one’s sweet and alien at the same time. Should have been used in a Disney soundtrack. There’s a dream concept album for you—Scratch Disney. Can you imagine him remixing ‘The Bare Necessities’ from The Jungle Book. Mr Kipling makes exceedingly good cakes.
I’ve also been thinking in my academic hat and as a normal person about the continuing fascination with the orient in popular music, evidenced by all this sampling of others. A bit of the other, or should I say, a bit and byte of the other. Sonic orientalism is still in full effect. For example, Bollywood samples litter hip hop and R & B. In fact, as I type these words, I’m listening to the Disruptiv show on Monday evening, and there’s a rap trick with sampled guitar and strings from some 1960s or 70s Hindi film. It’s called ‘Happy hour’ by Copywrite. Will have to track that down. Who’s getting the royalties? Shouts from Bombay.
So the next track was a grime instrumental by top UK producer Wiley called ‘Shanghai’. Plinky plonk like a Hollywood opium den but modified and distressed so it works. I think of this new stuff very much in the vein of 70s dubs by Lee Perry and King Jammy which orientalised reggae with their Kung Fu and Shaolin references years before any of the Wu Tang spawn emerged from their mommies’ fallopians. Props to Cannibal Ox for that last pleasing image. Anyhow, I followed with more beat chinoiserie from UK rhymestress Shystie and ‘One wish (remix)’ featuring Kano. The female MCs in the UK are burning up like the godmother Neneh Cherry. What is he loike? The dude’s a jigaloo, man! Buffalo stances all ’round for Shystie, Sovereign and M.I.A.
Moving from sampling the Far East sound to sampling the African-American logos (that’s The Word uttered not the brand design embossed), I played the slapback bassy techno of Thomas Brinkmann’s ‘Sweetback’ from an EP on his Max Ernst label. Max Ernst was a Dadaist artist in the Nineteen Teens and Twenties, and fancied himself as a collagist. Sonic collagist TB under the name of Soul Center has plundered the Stax back catalogue and George Clinton interview archive for three SC albums (unsurprisingly titled with Teutonic minimalism—Soul Center, Soul Center 2 and Soul Center 3). TB is a cybernetic dawg rather than an atomic dog. See his sleeves. This track from a 12” EP with one of the best sleeves ever (a faux airmail package) liberally again swipes the king of the chitlin circuit, Rufus Thomas.
Then Nick played:
Davy D—One for the treble
Mr Magic—Magic life coast to coast (Edan edit)
DJ Eddie Def—Demonic forces
Company Flow—End to end burners (instrumental)
Since Nick had developed a combusting hip-hop halo around the Base studio over the course of his set, I had to follow in that mode.
So here was a clutch of cuts that rhymed about hip-hop poetics. KRS 1 and Scott La Rock (AKA Boogie Down Productions) clunked click their criminally minded lyrical arsenal with ‘Poetry’, still the grungiest end of a gut bucket sample of James Brown in hip hop. Hip hop history is the ‘Book of Rhyme Pages’ as Jungle Brothers put it on their third and rather underrated album. And newish boys Atmosphere on the cerebral ‘Between the Lines’ capped the hip-hop literati interlude with dread thoughts of killing. Talkin’ loud and signifying something.
Then pure old gold from the sewers with Das EFX remixed by Pete Rock on one of his finest beats ‘The Real Hip Hop’. I followed with the instrumental version to chat over. Time almost up as Manaia Toa and collaborator enter the studio for their two hours so I don’t know why but I just played Renegade Soundwave, a kind of inbetweenie genre track called ‘Thunder’ that samples a Sex Pistols guitar riff (Pretty Vacant?) and still moves a dancefloor. It’s like techno but at the same time proto drum and bass, well before there was a London ting we called Jungle. To end I just wanted a burning brassy track that sounded really aggressive to signal and cue Manaia Toa’s musical assault, so I dug out an old northern soul stormer (or stomper as the soulgirls and boys would call it) from Doni Burdock. ‘Bari Track’ is an instrumental with massive horns and a rhythm section as tight as the Funk Brothers on those classic Motown hits. The title sounds like an homage to a racing track. Horses or cars, I’m not sure. But Nick and I trotted/cruised out of the studio into another Saturday evening.