Tag Archives: electronica

Roni Size / Reprazent New Forms Turns 20

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20 years ago on this day, June 23rd 1997, seminal album New Forms was released by U.K. drum and bass producer Roni Size and Reprazent, a collective of artistes including Onallee, DJ Krust, Suv, Die and Dynamite MC. The successful mashup of spaced out jazz with hip-hop infused drum and bass earned Size/Reprazent the Mercury Prize in 1997 and heavy hitter status during the 90’s rave era.

I happened upon this album sometime in 1998. “Brown Paper Bag” happened to be playing on a T.V. where I worked and I was hooked. To top it off, the video was shot in Toronto! An extended intro featuring a double bass doing a seductive number with a flirty guitar, like a conversation leading back to bass place…that conversation par excellence helped that song become a bonafide hit. At first I got the single C.D. but later acquired the double disc. And that, in and of itself, was a revelation.

From the head-bopping infectious rhyming of Dynamite MC on “Railing” to the digital staccato burst of “Morse Code”  this mind-blowing album took me on a joyride through superlatively rich soundscapes. “Share The Fall” featuring Onallee’s éclair whipped vocals became a classic DnB anthem. American MC Bahamadia’s hypnotic heist on “Feeling So High” left heads speechless. Clearly, this maverick collaboration was a critical and commercial success. Roni Size graced the cover of several music magazines, somewhat overshadowing the Reprazent crew. Heck, I even saw Size spin at a rave in Toronto (he’d shorn the locks, I was disappointed! His set satisfied me though :).

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Roni Size / Reprazent

It’s fair to say that if you have not heard Disc 2 of New Forms, you are truly missing out. If you listen carefully, it becomes evident that water plays a predominant part in the production. Which is hardly surprising when you consider that Roni Size is Scorpio, a water sign. Moody and playfully mellow, “Down” is anything but. I felt like a leaf, meandering down a burbling brook on an overcast day as the water swirled around me. Skillful breakbeats layered with jazzy instrumentals, strategic looping and clever phasing give this double album an atmospheric feel that is unparalleled. It is full of textures, ranging from mysteriously edgy to effervescent. I love playing it on a rainy day as it amplifies that warm cozy feeling that makes me glad to be indoors with a hot cuppa tea, getting a proper rinsing!

20 years later, I still listen to New Forms. It sounds every bit as fresh as it did back then. Sure, I have bigger concerns than getting a fresh pair of cargos for the next rave but you know what? It just makes me all the more thankful that I had this amazing experience. Oh, and “Hot Stuff” is going off in the background, which brings to mind supers and laying down in bed, admiring my silver tone bubble chair and my Liquid Adrenaline poster which I will never forgive my mother for accidentally throwing out.

I could go on and on about the cool sound effects on each track like the windchimes on “Ballet Dance” but I suggest you discover this brilliant gem of an album yourself. Or revisit it from a mature perspective. There is much to love and appreciate about New Forms as we evolve over time.

Copyright © 2017 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

 

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The Magick of Kraftwerk

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Summer’s almost here and with DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) just around the corner, fans of electronica are shifting into high gear. Amidst all the hype,  one salient fact should be remembered. Without the pioneering antics of some funky dudes from Düsseldorf, DEMF would not exist. Plain and simple! Kraftwerk are the bonafide godparents of electronica / modern pop music, influencing artists such as Gary Numan, Franz Ferdinand, Joy Division and Bjork. Their futuristic sounds inspired American DJ’s Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson (aka The Belleville Three), to create a new form of music that would be the foundation of rave culture. Detroit’s industrial backdrop combined with Kraftwerk’s machinistic precision proved to be the perfect marriage between European metronomics and Afro-American rhythmic sensibilities. Ultimately, this resulted in the creation of techno. You can hear Kraftwerk’s influence clearly on Cybotron’s “Cosmic Cars”, and most famously, Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” which contains an interpolation of Kraftwerk’s “Trans-Europe Express” and “Numbers.” Their influence on hip-hop and electro is undeniable, yet in spite of all this, Kraftwerk’s legacy seems to be largely unrecognized by today’s generation of listeners.

 

Kraftwerk’s journey began in Düsseldorf in the late 1960’s when Florian Schneider met Ralf Hütter at The Robert-Schumann-Hochschule; a college for music studies at university level. Both musicians initiated an avant-garde experiment where they pushed the boundaries of music, subsequently opening up new frontiers (“krautrock” being one of them). In this incredible footage taken from a live WDR TV performance of “Ruckzuck” in 1970, you can hear unmistakeable elements of minimal, trance and rock. With Schneider blasting staccato stabs on flute, Klaus Dinger holding it down on kit and Hütter rocking the organ, Kraftwerk chugs along like a futuristic funky locomotive. Providing glimpses of a musical genre 20 years ahead of its time makes for a somewhat discombobulated studio audience (though you could see some hippies actually getting into it like, “I don’t know what this is but it sounds good yah!”). Then at 2:29, Kraftwerk shifts gears into some kling klang, rocked out synth experimental jiffy, playfully tweaking dynamics, resulting in sounds eerily reminiscent of a vocoder which was to become their trademark (3:53). And the zoned out expression of the couple chewing gum at the end – priceless!

 

Fast forward 30 years later to an age where the average North American household has 2 computers. Have these guys become moded, outdated even with their newfangled experimental wizardry? Hell no! Kraftwerk’s genius is ubiquitous even in hip-hop. How many of you know that Jay-Z sampled “Man Machine” for his hit, “Sunshine.”

 

Even Chris Martin from Coldplay couldn’t resist sampling “Computer Love” for “Talk” on his album X&Y. But Kraftwerk didn’t hand it to him on a platter. No sirree. Martin wrote them a letter, requesting permission which was forwarded to the notoriously reclusive group through their lawyers. Then he sat on his hands and waited a couple of weeks, until he received a written reply which simply said, “Yes.”  

The first track I recall from Kraftwerk is “Numbers.” Hearing that tune on an electro mixtape my uncle gave me really flipped my gourd. I’d never encountered anything like it before; mysterious, playful and downright funky. To my adolescent ears, it sounded like a Speak & Spell having an epileptic seizure. Robotic voices counting in multiple languages proved to be a headtrip, as I would rewind and listen repeatedly with the biggest smile on my face. At the time I didn’t know who Kraftwerk was, but I knew this was important. Little did I know that I would end up hearing that same song being played at a rave years later. “Computer World” is a must in any music lover’s collection, as one can trace the evolution of electronica from this landmark album. It’s also an eerily accurate prediction of the world we live in now where “business…numbers…money…people” are all part of the ruthless cycle of capitalization. Keep in mind Kraftwerk was creating this kind of music in the 70’s, when the majority of people didn’t have computers (or even know what they were). So you see, this power plant of artistic innovation from Germany must be given the utmost respect for their peerless contributions to modern music. Lang lebe Kraftwerk!

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

Psytrance Love-In @ Why Not Wednesdays

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Why Not Wednesday provides living proof that Toronto’s psy-trance movement is alive and kicking. This bi-weekly microcosmic gathering takes place in an urban cave, true to its underground roots. What’s refreshing about Why Not Wednesday is the super friendly love vibes permeating the atmosphere. It’s the closest thing I’ve experienced to the 90’s rave spirit in a long time. I love how this place gives capitalism the royal finger, bringing music and joy to an alternative community.

To top it off, WNW is free, making this a recession friendly way to get your groove on. They have a licensed bar and serve tap water, unlike the ruthlessly self-serving commercial clubs. Hippies and psy-trancers danced the night away to the psychedelic sounds of DJ Kadmon and Johnny Machinelf, whilst tripping out on brilliant paintings by Canadian artist Neil Gibson. The afterparty continued at a gorgeous restaurant on College St. West, where the owners kindly allowed us party animals to carry on a little while longer. In these challenging times, Why Not Wednesday is a testament to the power of peace, love, community and transcendence of duality through music.

Copyright © 2012 Frankie Diamond. All rights reserved. Excerpts of less than 200 words may be published to another site, including a link back to the original article. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety and posted to another site without the express permission of the author.

EDM Lounge Kicks Ass

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EDM Lounge recently followed yours truly on Twitter so I decided to check ’em out. What I found blew me away. These folks run a blog devoted to electronic dance music based in the States. They’ve got their finger on the pulse of what’s new and exciting in the underground scene, giving exposure to rising stars and established acts such as  Crizzly, Noisia, Big Chocolate, Weekend Wolves, Skrillex and more. For the latest on what’s happening down south in the Land of Rave, visit http://www.edmlounge.com/