Sunday, January 27, 2008

Last Night Cosmo Baker Saved My Life / Hip Hop History

Photo: Nicked from Cosmo's Myspace.

Cosmo Baker comes straight out of Brooklyn. You might already have a hint of who he is - what with his re-jigging of that old synthpop classic "Oh Sheila" from Ready for the World, popping up across mixes highlighted on this blog, both on that recent one from DJ Half Dutch and, ages ago, on DJ C's Bouncement.

Last night he played Toronto, a tight blend of smarts from a man that really digs deep and back. His Martial Law CD, for instance is made up of old 45' funk records. Baker is sometimes mix buddy with DJ Ayres - one of those types that blows Baltimore club sounds all over poptastic hooks in a sick formula for club music. Grab a track called Shake from Ayres and you'll see what I'm taking about.

A few years ago, literally about half a dozen people I know had just read Simon Reynold's Energy Flash, his excellent journey into what would end up becoming know as the hardcore continuum, or 'nuum as parts of the blogosphere call it. At the time, compilations such as We Call It Acieed - named after that old D Mobb track, and The History Of The House Sound Of Chicago were passed around manically to accompany the read.

And here's where it's good, now it seems another book has popped up inspiring a similar infectious reading routine among friends. This time it's that Jeff Chang Can't Stop Won't Stop look at the hip hop generation. So no better time to check out the radio show Cosmo Baker does alongside DJ Ayres, it's called the Rub - and there's an amazing archive of shows on it, including 14 different specials looking at hip hop on a yearly basis from 1979 through to 1994.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Eye Candy: Dufferin Hoarding Gallery

Gladstone library is located at the intersection of Bloor and Dufferin, right acrss the road from those every present Timothy Horton coffee joints, a franchise named after some famous Canadian hockey player - bought out and flung across the nation to giddy middle range entrepreneurs desperate for a quick buck from the hideously addictive vanilla tinged coffees they dish out by the gallon. With building work going on, hoarding has popped up all around the old library building. It's an area of the city on the fringe, walking distance from the hipster capitalism of Queen St West and mashed into an old Portuguese, come Ethiopian come what ever neighbourhood - one night framed photographs started popping up on the hoarding, and then more and then some more. Here's what it looked like yesterday.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Review: Heads for the heart of the Sun – The Welcome Return of Dumb

Review: Under the Stress of a Headlong DiveThe Heads (Alternative Tentacles, 2006)

“…they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language...”

Karl Marx - The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852)

"Er ..." said Arthur after a moment, "what exactly was it that was wrong with your planet then?" "Oh, it was doomed, as I said," said the Captain, "Apparently it was going to crash into the sun or something
Douglas Adams - The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

As popular music slowly faces the reality of its own terminal decline as a business, it finds itself tottering over the edge of an abyss. It is gripped with a fevered existentialist anxiety, or maybe even, terror! No one any more is “standing in the way of control” to quote Beth Dido. God is, in fact, dead!

A fundamental question leaps out of this void. The artist is now liberated from “the man” and with close to complete access to means of production and distribution - but has to create for close to zero financial reward - who’s going to be bothered? Nietzsche claimed creators needed to be hard. Karl Marx (retired rolling stone columnist) or Lester Bangs – one of em anyways - would have it these are heavy times in which, in ways, it’s easiest just to fetch some riffs and beats from the past in order just …to go on…

One could even roll, and then, smoke; seventeen hundred giant blunts and only to observe:
“Creating in the Eternal Now is Always Heavy” (last track on the album!)


You have emerged from the tunnel and this is one of several growling embers of the 1970s that are rekindling to light a possible way to move forward via the past. Step up Comets on Fire, Boredoms, Omm, Sun (O) Earth and a plethora of other bands with not, in fairness, that much in common except a toe dipped into the UR Ocean of stoner hair metal.

Step forward The Heads!

The first thing that strikes you about this album is that it’s a smashing mess of bass driven, oceanic, nay titanic, fuzzy nose-diving guitar rock – and that’s also the last thing that strikes you. Then an ambulance arrives – if you’re lucky!

OK there are some slow and gigantic nods to ambient (maybe on cloud) and a few other ideas floating about in the swampy dirge. But like who the fuck asked for “other ideas”!??! Lets Sneer at “other ideas” maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.
Is this jazz fusion? NO.
Is this post rock? NO!
Post, post rock maybe? NO NO, fuckedy, NO – Give it a rest!
This is the sound of R O C K with maybe even a little from its primitive blues prehistory. This is loud, huge glorious fountains of semi melodic troglodyte noise reverberating in some lonely, smoke filled bat cave high up in the smoky mists of don’t Bogart that joint mountain. Maybe its generic – definitely it’s been done (1970-3) but they are doing it so fucking well!
And they are doing this cataclysmic end times sounds-cape on Jello Biafra’s minute alternative tentacles label for little more than a toke and a bean…

It’ll be hard to be a creator in the future.
And that’s a GOOOD thing.
Hmmmmm these end times!
Smell of diving sales in the morning – yes we are “under the stress of a headlong dive”

Hey people worked (OK badly paid and treated) in HMV, Fopp, Virgin etc…

But these will not be times of record label advances, smoozing artist and reptile men, accountants thinly and badly disguised as bands (hi Thrills), unlimited coke budget and stretch limos and groupies in the back y’all.

Nor will these will not be the days of support for all the “causes” AFTER we’ve minted it and stashed the cash off shore (big up Bono!)

These will be hard times: the end game or, at least, the beginning of an end game – or the potential start of a new game.

It’s the maggots (to refer to a very old idea of Steven Wells) that have digested the past and can regurgitate it in luminous colours, the crazy ones, the big dope smoking, peddle stroking fuckheads who just don’t and just can’t even conceive of a bottom line who might just be the only look in that popular music is now going to get at movement…

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In Me Ears Nine: Maximum Carnage

Ever earlier in the eternal monologue that is Soundtracksforthem I stuck up some links around bassline/niche. Partially I was looking for some more pointers, none came - but I did stumble across DJ Venom through a mention elsewhere online. His Maximum Carnage mixtape is getting serious dues around parts of the net at the moment, it's well worth a listen if you can let yourself get past parts of the real ready for chipmunking vocals scattered through out.

The shout outs from Drop The Lime, DJ Assault, Starkey and others on the mixtape will give you some idea of who and where is converging through niche, sure to make it a much fuller part of their own sounds. The Smugpolice blog's worth keeping an eye on for more of this, while over at Fact magazine K-Punk looks at bassline as the feminine yin to the male yang of grime and dubstep.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

In Me Ears Eight: Ghislain Poirier

Ghislain Poirier is known for tearing it up over in the direction of Montreal with regular monster raves under the city's bridges. More fool me I've missed him every time he's hit Toronto, including both the release of his latest album down the Drake Hotel, then on Nuit Blanche - a 24 hour art mad rush around the city, and the only time it feels like there's a night life outside the Orwellian "clubbing district" - when his partners in illegal partying Megazoid played off the same hotel's roof to crowds below.

Poirier's recent "Blazin'" track was a pretty big number, getting the remix treatment from Trouble and Bass' Starkey, Modeselektor and ripped with the vocals of TTC's Telephone. He sounds a bit like a heavily fractured electro dance hall in places or just stonking slap down rhythms poked around some more familiar club voices and rap artists, at least that's my impression of his Bounce Le Gros mix CD.

Recently Pitchfork had him do a pretty short mix poking back and forth between African rap and grimey bass lines. Anyone that liked the templates of exotica opened up by those Maga Bo mixes I linked to before, is sure to like this shit. If you are looking for more along these lines, get yourself a copy of The Rough Guide to African Rap compilation and do check out X Plastaz, their "Msimu Kwa Msimu" number is one of my recent favorites.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Vidiot: Dubstep Dance Demonstration and Bassline House

With Nialler9 throwing himself into some soul searching over how much life is left in that chest rattling beast they call dubstep, this Youtube video and the one below seemed too perfect not to share. It is shamelessly stolen from Prancehall's blog, but cuts to what dubstep appears to be for many now; a dedication to repetition, conformity to expectation and rigorous formula, things it once seemed to originally blow out against. For me AC Slater, Pirate Soundsystem, and Dexplicit seem to be taking things in a far more enjoyable direction than most dubstep production, though I'll still keep Shackleton and Appleblim's Soundboy Punishments for my reading sessions.

The kids in Toronto are raving about bassline, niche or what ever else they want to call it too. It slams around a club's systems in tandem with baltimore, grime, dancehall, juke, baile, all of the usual party banger mix. DJ'ing one style all night, something dubstep lends itself too, really seems tedious in comparison. Apparently bassline's what speed garage used to sound like, and if dubstep was some evolution of parts of garage (that's what the internet and tireless commentators have parroted so it must be true...) then maybe its a case of stepping back to go somewhat forward.

Fact Magazine have an interesting enough interview on one of the labels putting out such bassline, of course that master of the ghettobass Rupture has some links on it all too and John Eden has a pretty funny article making some serious points and, of course, Dissenus gets all psuedo-academic on it's ass. Anybody with pointers to more free downloads and other bassline artists will go home loaded with lots of virtual Soundtracksforthem candy. Either way Dexplicit who made his US debut courtesy of Trouble and Bass recently will be dropping a mix on Rupture's show on January 23rd.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Me Ears Seven: DJ Half Dutch

Spent a good chunk of time listening to this over the Christmas, it's one of a series of mixes released online under the title of the Chopshop Podcasts. Volume 5 in the series comes from DJ Half Dutch, I'm not going to say much about it apart from the fact that it's real soulful, full of old skool vibes from the likes of Kurtis Blow and with some very tasty exotica beats from that master of the favella beat DJ Sandhrino. In parts there's an odd soundtrack feel off it, or so I thought till a mate ensconced in Jeff Chang's history of the first hip hop generation Can't Stop Won't Stop, explained to me that releases from Ennio Morricone, especially his Apache were big DJ tools back in the day. Definitely my favorite mix of the past while, the perfect thing to sneak up and garrote you from behind with sneaky progressions on a night out.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Graphic Novel Review: The Blog of War

(Review of Dan Goldman and Anthony Lappe, Shooting War, November 2007)

One of the most buzzed online web comics of the year finally got a hard copy release this side of the pond last month. It's called Shooting War, and it's made waves over at since May 2006, when uber-Geek (that's hard ware and binary, not math rock and horn rims) bloggers Boing Boing blew the roof off it with a throw away casual link. It threads terrain typical of graphic novels, reaching into a future dystopia to stick some allegories about the present up our ass for awkward digestion.

The setting this time round is a 2011 Iraq, sectarian tensions are spilling into overdrive, rumors of an Iranian invasion from the south abound and President McCain's only exit strategy is a re-alignment with what's left of his old friends in Saddam's Baathist party. There's a My Lai massacre a minute, a McDonalds on every block and mortars are raining down on what's left of the Green Zone like it was Saigon '75.

Enter Jimmy Burns to the fray. He's your penny dreadful Brooklyn blogger churning out anti-corporate rants all over the east coast but has no mass movement market to hitch his ride to. One day he's doing a story on the new enclosures brought about by eminent domain. It's a nasty piece of legislation allowing re-distribution of your property to corporations that find a more productive use. Next thing a terrorist bomb goes off in a Starbucks behind him and he's got the exclusive.

Suddenly stuck for footage, mega media bad guys Globalnews steal his video blog feed, turning him into an insta-celebrity and selling him to the world like a new brand of toothpaste. Forced to dance a line between his DIY journalism and corporate cash, he's shipped to Iraq as one of only four American war correspondent's left there.

It's nothing but a slight stretch to guess the novel comes from the direct experience of Lappe. The blokes traveled to the Middle East several times on assignment and produced Battleground: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge, picking up some awards for it along the way. Alongside this peeled back re-imagining of his own jaunt through bombed out Baghdad, there's visual gimmicks and vocab from activist sub cultures for a sprinkling of further credibility from his years with the Guerrilla News Network.

The comic panels are a combination of drawings and photographs, some look like they've been automatically fed through a few Photoshop filters, and there's a neat stylistic use of web feed uploads and network TV graphics framing pages. Anything from a soldiers perspective angles at you like the screen of a first person shooter.

It's in imagining the incidentals of future war and the political props of our own evolving dystopia that Shooting War rocks most. There's the jihad group that's cornering the call centre market with its throat cutting labour standards and the use of a dirty bomb to neutralise competition in the hi-tech squalor of Bangalore. Their leader, a maniacal Guevara stereotype bent on the Koran, delivers standout Bond villain lines to steal the show: “we are the Sword of Mohamed. We are not some sons of rich men hiding in caves and releasing videos to the internet like 13 year old girls.”

Back home a video game called Infidel Massacre rises up the charts, both a manual for terrorism and a sharp riposte to military recruiting freebies like today's real America's Army. The US military has harnessed civilian technologies and next gen consoles to exploit skilled self-trained gamers that control robotic gun-bots engaged in asymmetric warfare straight out of one of Mike Davis' urban terror-scapes.

Sadly Burns becomes completely divorced from his inception as the netizen every-man, used by mainstream news networks with faces battered from the blogging storm. He takes on this paper cut out April O'Neil as Naomi Klein routine that starts to grate.

Much will be made of the novel's politics of the media. Really the authors pass up poking around at the consequences of Web 2.0. If you are going to name check Negri for kudos, then picking at the immaterial slavery of uploaders and bloggers generating free content in wageless legions for major players in the media market might be a thought.

At heart there's just a raging cynicism dying to be proved wrong for once. The shits and giggles come from predictable across the board ironies, its all a flue of outraged liberal steam before the story arc can end with a final affirmation that our governance by a capitalism with the personality of "Godzilla on crank" really is just an issue of a few bad men. In that way its quite like Brian Wood's Jenny One series - Shooting War shares his concern with the media but in a much more disturbingly plausible mode.

In comic book land it'll never end up a classic like Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis or more obviously Joe Sacco's brilliant account of his photo journalism in Palestine. That said, with history unfolding on our screens, context free and maybe, just maybe, sometimes analyzed with tones reserved for a Britney Spears outburst - Shooting War nicely drops us in boiling pots of speculation for the crime of complacency.

Ye can check it out online at and this A.D: New Orleans After the Deluge might be worth a gawk. This article was originally destined for the website.

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to

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