Nostalgia is perhaps the fashion industry’s biggest tool; dominated by youth, underpinned with vintage references and sold to consumers via desirable memories. More and more frequently it comes down to how a label translates the past that determines its future amongst the current sartorial landscape.
“Youth,” advises Andrew Bunney of the collective draw to subcultures (predominantly prescribed by young people), “it's the most formative time in our lives, so people like to either reminisce or recognise and celebrate.”
Flaunting nostalgia in perhaps one the cleanest, modern and relevant ways today, Bunney’s label Roundel London was founded in 2013. Describing itself as ‘a contemporary youth brand inspired by London and designed for the world’, the city’s Underground system is at the core of proceedings.
“It came about in an unlikely scenario,” he tells Clash, “with a previous project that my friend and I did, British Remains, we played around with the London Underground motifs with some irreverence (thinking we were very clever and very funny) and sold these products to great shops. Within 24 hours we had a letter arrive from their lawyers – 16 pages. I went and had a chat with the director in charge of the intellectual property, David Ellis, and we talked for about two or three hours – he was a nice guy.”
“It turned out that he was very interested to see some of the companies that I have worked with over the years; his background was from Mountblanc and Dunhill,” Bunney continues, “London Underground has many different licenses and David asked if I would be interested to talk further about seeing if there was an opportunity (with London Underground).”
Now four collections deep (the fifth – SS16 – previewed above), Roundel London boasts one of the clearest visual statements around, something no doubt picked up from the creative director’s aforementioned stints (at Dr. Martens, and before that as a buyer – he was responsible for Bathing Ape’s initial UK arrival). While it doesn’t scream and shout like some of its contemporaries – preferring, subconsciously or otherwise, to follow a subtle path not dissimilar from Aries – the aesthetics are there.
“I thought it could be interesting,” he explains of his initial intentions for the brand, set up with Giovanni De Marchi of Slam Jam. “They wanted to do something that wasn’t just souvenirs; we needed to have something credible and real that spoke about London and spoke to young people. As funny as it sounds, we have taken a lot of the philosophy of the actual Underground system, so that is something that is very inclusive; obviously everyone can use it, it’s very democratic, so I suppose that is one of the key things – the democracy wherein a lot of people can access the product.”
The pieces then, primarily but not exclusively tees and jackets, are easy to read, displaying practical features with silhouettes borrowed from core subcultural groups; biker jackets nicked from punk and MA-1’s copped from Buffalo. Initial plans, we’re informed, were to reference past rail uniforms, an idea dashed in favour of something more relevant. “It made much more sense for us to take the spirit of that and be respectful of that, but actually try and marry it with the kind of energy of London today.”
Adding of the train network, Bunney continues: “I suppose the Underground and London are very much one and the same thing, it’s hard to separate the two. When people first arrive in the country, it’s the first contact they have, they get on the Underground and go into town. It’s very much a London story.”
So preoccupied is Roundel with the city, the brand’s tagline taps an original London Underground slogan: ‘Thanks to the Underground, we are all Londoners now’, picked up from a trip to the West London archive, a visit that the designer admits left him intimidated at the size of the task he’d undertaken.
Strong contacts quickly fought off such worries: amongst the brand’s early output was a successful collaboration with Nike, while similar partnerships with George Cox and the photographer Derek Ridgers have followed.
“I’m not wed to the idea of making endless collaborations,” explains Andrew, “but if the project is right it can be really exciting. For example, Nike were very keen to do some projects in London, and the release was at the end of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground where we were able to make a store in Piccadilly Circus – it opened at the same time as the station, five in the morning at one of the busiest stations in the world. Now there is a pair in a time capsule buried at Tottenham Court Road station.”
More recently Roundel London has used its position to champion new talent; before Christmas it supported the first REP show at the Ace hotel, a night of grime shot by the genre’s pictorial cheerleader Vicky Grout and boasting a line-up of Cadell, Aj Tracey, The Square’s Elf Kid, Blakie, Streema and Deecee. “It’s important to make something new and modern rather than always refer backwards,” remarks Bunney of this immersion in contemporary culture. On the official site Skinny Girl Diet’s ‘Prozac Nation’ plays overhead.
Embodying to some extent the contrasting notions that inform the label (the idea of past meets present), for SS16 Roundel London is looking back with the ‘End of the Pier’ collection.
“I feel that few things can symbolise British seaside holidays as much as piers,” the creative director says. “The introduction of the railways meant that for the first time many people travelled to seaside resorts, and the piers began to feature attractions… The other element that is famous to all is the mid-60’s seaside riots with the Rockers and Mods. Again these are framed somehow by the Piers, so it seemed a fitting tribute.”
Itself a salute to an age old transport system, the confidence of Roundel London is apparent in its campaigns and marketing; this is not a label selling retro to Carnaby Street or knockoff TFL to tourists, there’s nothing naff about it. Similarly, Andrew Bunney is keen not to create a niche product, as he explains: “We are really not trying to make something elitist, because I think that is really going against what the Underground stands for. So that’s our main aim – to keep creating something inclusive and hopefully make it wider, but to do it credibly and the right way all along.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Imagery: AW15 by Vicky Grout, SS16 c/o AI PR
News is coming in that Motorhead frontman Lemmy has died.
The band have published a statement on their Facebook page, confirming that the singer has passed away. Lemmy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer on Boxing Day (December 26th) and died yesterday (December 28th).
It's a tragic blow for the band, who lost drummer Phil Taylor just one month ago. Lemmy was a true rock icon, someone who walked it like they talked it for almost fifty years. As a roadie and then member of Hawkwind, the bass player was a stalwart of the squat rock / free party scene, essentially an anarchic psychedelic offshoot that carried the spirit of the counter culture into the 70s.
Forming Motorhead – slang for a heavy amphetamine user – the band's brand of loud, obnoxious heavy rock chimed with the opening era of punk. Touring across the globe, Motorhead smashed all before it. Need an example of their influence? Metallica's Lars Ulrich was president of the Motorhead fan club. A tragic, tragic loss to rock 'n' roll,
There is no easy way to say this…our mighty, noble friend Lemmy passed away today after a short battle with an extremely aggressive cancer. He had learnt of the disease on December 26th, and was at home, sitting in front of his favorite video game from The Rainbow which had recently made its way down the street, with his family.
We cannot begin to express our shock and sadness, there aren’t words.
We will say more in the coming days, but for now, please…play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD.
Have a drink or few.
Share stories. Celebrate the LIFE this lovely, wonderful man celebrated so vibrantly himself.
HE WOULD WANT EXACTLY THAT.
Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister 1945 -2015
Born to lose, lived to win.
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Along with the early work of Travis and Deejay Punk-Roc, small scale British indie label Independiente released ‘Crazy On The Weekend’ by Sunhouse towards the end of the ‘90s. It remains a special record, lost amongst the impenetrable detritus of the Britpop death rattle when it should have been held aloft. Those people who were lucky enough to encounter it at the time still hold it dear. Somewhere between folk and rock with a snarly edge and warmly weathered vocals, it is one of frustratingly few offerings from Gavin Clark over the years.
The quite remarkable voice at the heart of that debut, as well as several albums by Clayhill, Clark died unexpectedly in February of this year aged only 46. He had been working on a collaboration with Toydrum, a duo formed by UNKLE collaborators Pablo Clements and James Griffiths, building on previous successful encounters with both bands. In the months that followed, these songs were completed in tribute to a lost friend.
Conceived as a loosely autobiographical concept record built around the highs, lows and failures of vice-prone preacher, ‘Evangelist’ is a varied but intense listen. It ranges from the kind of spacious acoustic songs for which Shane Meadows often turned to Clark when building the soundtracks for his work, to the shuddering combustion of ‘God Song’ on which the preacher figure cuts loose. The one coherent factor is a voice that is imbued with perhaps too much humanity. Clark was known for suffering from crippling anxiety and the aforementioned Meadows had previously produced a film about his attempts to get his friend back on the stage. A natural star he was not, and that tension always manifested itself in stirring fashion in his recordings. Whether solo acoustic or atop a wall of electronic noise, his ragged, aching tone is captivating.
‘Same Hands’ stomps along with shuddering drums and marauding synths adding a murky edge, while ‘I’m In Love Tonight’ is a brooding, claustrophobic piece that is held together magically by the trademark violin work of Warren Ellis. Another noteworthy participant is Clark’s eldest son Michael, who provides backing vocals on ‘The World That I Created’ and ‘Never Feel This Young’. The former is the record’s brief opener, the fuse which sets the story of the Evangelist alight, while the latter is its longest track which builds to the sort of fuzzy chorus that wouldn’t have been out of place on that Sunhouse record back in 1998. It features a piano coda from Ludovico Einaudi, somebody with whom Clark had previously worked as part of the musical textures for Meadows’ ‘This Is England’ series. It is one of many well-judged touches which make this release a fitting tribute to a remarkable artist.
The album’s best moment is also its most sparse. ‘Whirlwind Of Rubbish’ is essentially just Clark and his acoustic, a neatly unsettling synth backdrop aside, and his quite beautiful vocal feels like he’s singing just for you. Concluding with the line “the old life is over”, it is utterly heartbreaking and perhaps a little too bleak a note upon which to conclude proceedings. As a result, the cello-assisted ‘Holy Holy’ offers a swirling devotional upon which to draw a line under a fascinating record.
It is mystifying and rather sad that Clark’s talent wasn’t more appreciated while he was still with us, but ‘Evangelist’ should ensure that a new audience becomes acquainted with one of the finest songwriters of modern times. Clements and Griffiths have sculpted something truly special out of their final time with their friend and, while too late for all of the numerous lists, it deserves to be held up as one of the most affecting and impressive releases of a difficult year.
Words: Gareth James
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When Cage the Elephant emerged from Kentucky in 2008, they were never going to break boundaries. Their eponymous same-year debut took elements of blues and classic rock and infused them with the rich southern flavours of their native state. In comparison, their second album harboured a woozy, college rock vibe reminiscent of The Pixies, but in short, neither had given fans a real taste of the band's true personality, just a hint of it beneath a layer of aesthetic appropriation.
Third album 'Melophobia', however, was a concerted effort from the band to not just exhibit their own sound, but to find it as well. It was their first real critical success, and showed Cage the Elephant not as genre chameleons they were becoming known as, but as more than competent musicians in their own right.
It's disappointing then, that fourth effort 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' follows in a similar, albeit weaker vein to that third album. The dripping-in-fuzz, garage rock duality of opening pair ('Cry Baby' and 'Mess Around' respectively) suggest the touch of producer/Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach might be all too ubiquitous, a fear that thankfully proves unfounded, whilst fourth track 'Too Late To Say Goodbye' follows a similar sing-song rhythm to Hozier's 'Take Me To Church', something which can't be unheard.
It's not just the reappearance of easy comparisons that's disappointing however. In their bid to capture the essence of their bluesy, garage rock, Cage the Elephant have effectively managed to lose the quirky personality they once had, and whilst 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' is far from a homogeneous record, the tracks do have a tendency to bleed into one another, particularly on repeat listens.
Fortunately, there are a handful of obvious highlights too. The '60s pop of 'Cold Cold Cold' is nothing short of excellent, and following cut 'Trouble' harks back to the stoned melodies of 'Melophobia', or even further back to singles like 'Aberdeen'. No matter the quality though, they still feel like token gestures in an otherwise average album.
Of course, this could well be the sound of Cage the Elephant growing up and building on the foundations they laid with 'Melophobia' – all but leaving behind their first two records. With that in mind, 'Tell Me I'm Pretty' could, in theory, be viewed as the band's “difficult second album” and for that, we can forgive them for their transgressions. Sort of.
Words: Dave Beech
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2015 has been a funny one for release formats; mixtapes have been released on iTunes (and in some cases getting Grammy nominations), artists are offended because they considered those tracks on BandCamp an album, and every week it seemed like there’s a surprise release of some sort!
While it’s been difficult to keep tabs on what we were calling it, one thing is for sure, there was a shedload of great music! So while this year’s annual mixtape countdown might require you to part with a bit of cash – it’s definitely worth it. Here are ten tapes that you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on…
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Skepta – 'The Tim Westwood Mix'
In a huge year for grime, it’s been Skepta that has cemented his place as the movement's de facto leader. The BBK kingpin may not have released his long-awaited album Konnichiwa (which was originally billed for March 1st), but fans were more than satiated with his Tim Westwood-hosted mixtape. Handed out exclusively on the streets of New York before surfacing online, the nineteen track mixtape features Skeppy's huge singles 'That's Not Me', 'Shutdown' and 'Nasty', as well as his remix of Jamie xx's 'Good Times' and a touching tribute to his late friend Lukey Maxwell. This is the perfect place to get you primed ready for that album, which we’re hoping we’ll finally get to hear in 2016. [LL]
Grab it HERE.
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Erykah Badu – 'But U Caint Use My Phone'
Like the rest of us, Drake’s latest earworm, ‘Hotline Bling’, burrowed itself deep in Erykah’s short-term memory. Yet while most of the creative response seemed to be around crafting the cleverest meme, Badu got back in the studio to record a whole mixtape contemplating phone culture. Her goal is to ‘recalibrate’ with this generation and by bringing sounds from her parent’s record collection together with reposts from her son’s SoundCloud feed, she offers a direct line to her mysticism. Complete with a Drake impersonator, a robotic riff on the plight of bees and her son Seven’s father, Andre 3000’s only verse of ’15, BYCUMP is spectacular and wide-eyed project, that might just make us put our phone’s down over the festive period. [RR]
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G Herbo – 'BLIK'
At just 20-years-old, G Herbo’s ragged, scratchy vocals might not be telling of his age, presenting like he’s a bit wiser than someone who’s still physically an adolescent. On the first cut off Ballin Like I'm Kobe, ‘L’s,’ he grapples with the realities of life on the Eastside of Chicago, nicknamed Terror Town, “In the streets, ditchin' school, murder, drugs around me / Rappin' it just found me, thank God it wasn't in county / Buncha shootouts, lucky that them bullets went around me.” That’s just a portion of his allure, which comes in two parts: That the streets have hardened him at such a young age, but that he’s taken that and flipped his drill music genre.
Squarely sitting in the Chicago-rooted subgenre that’s marked by punitive beats and turbulent street stories, Herbo’s made it his mission to shine some impassioned lyrical solvency on drill, establishing himself as the style’s more noble and principled backbone. On BLIK, he presents us with his controlled version of chaos. [TM]
Grab it HERE.
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Section Boyz – 'Don’t Panic'
After killing the streets of South London with their first mixtape Sectionly last year, Section Boyz thrived in 2015. Not only did the collective snag a MOBO for Best Newcomer this year and get co-signed by everyone from Drake to Rita Ora, Section Boyz are proving that people really want to hear rap music from the UK that sounds authentically British, with bangers like ‘Lock Arf’ and ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’ ringing off in the clubs as much as any track from their peers over the pond. Don’t Panic’ is a vivid picture of what the streets of London looks like in 2015, and with a debut headline tour already scheduled for next year Section Boyz aren’t likely to stop any time soon. [XM]
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Drake – 'If You’re Reading This Its Too Late'
While fans continue to await his fourth album, Views From The 6, Drake seemed to have pretty fun year. From releasing two mixtapes that both managed to snag the number one spot on US Billboard charts to getting a Grammy nomination for dissing Meek Mill, announcing a deal with Apple to Dad-dancing in the Hotline Bling video – he made being Drake look so fun, that it’s not even cool to hate anymore. His surprise solo mixtape IYRTITL is a masterclass in flows and meme-ready rap with tracks like ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘Energy’ becoming chant-along club favourites while ‘6PM IN New York’ and ‘You & The 6’ were perfect for some late night introspection. He took a break from Views now it’s back to that! [GB]
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Tink – 'Winter’s Diary 3'
While people have tried their damned hardest to nail a comparison, Tink isn’t the next anybody! The Chicago artist has forged her own style of honey soaked R&B vocals that can switch up for razor sharp rapping at any point, and this is best demonstrated across her Winters Diary series as she breaks down the spectrum emotional turbulence of a deteriorating relationship, from defiant ‘Medicine Interlude’ to the vulnerability of ‘There’s Somebody Else’. With Timbaland taking her under his wing as she crafts her anticipated debut album Think Tink, we’re certainly looking forward to more from the 20-year-old protégé in the future. [GB]
Grab it HERE.
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Young Thug – 'Barter 6'
Atlanta rapper, Young Thug, is like marmite to rap fans, and yet with opinion divided there can be no doubting his work rate. Thugga has been putting in the work this year, releasing three projects could've made this list, with Slime Season 1&2 deserving a special mention. However, the standout body of work was Barter 6, which saw Young Thug cement his status as one of the raps games 'go to guys' when it comes to making those bangers. This one won't change your opinion on Young Thug, but it's place amongst the year’s top projects is undeniable, and it's definitely a good starting point for those new to Thugga's world. [MW]
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Kehlani – 'You Should Be Here'
When you look at artists who've made huge leaps in 2015, it's hard to look past Oakland native Kehlani. Backed by a legion of die hard fans, the singer released her mixtape You Should Be Here to huge critical acclaim earlier this year. Sitting at fifteen tracks of pop/R&B goodness, YSBH is the perfect mix of catchy hooks, bumpin' beats and sing-along choruses. With a couple of slick features from the likes of Chance The Rapper and BJ The Chicago Kid, Kehlani has shown that she also has the pulling power to get some of the game's most promising stars to hop onto her projects. After selling out two London shows this month, Kehlani received the news that YSBH has nominated for a Grammy, in a category alongside albums by The Weeknd, Lianne La Havas and Miguel, and for a mixtape, that's not half bad in our books! [MW]
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Boogie – 'The Reach'
It seems like all of L.A. appears in the video for Boogie’s biggest hit ‘Oh My,’ squaded up on rooftops, public transit, and street corners. As he recounts some of the nastier things that have happened to him — getting shot with a .40, not having food on the table as a kid — the 25-year-old rapper yowls in surprise, “Oh my goodness!” He might be just as amazed as everyone else at his own personal history. That sort of revelation is woven throughout The Reach (where ‘Oh My’ is housed), Boogie’s breakout tape that saw bigger names in production, like Roc Nation’s Jahlil Beats and TDE’s Willie B., while also keeping a homegrown feel with beatmaker and nephew Keyel. On The Reach, Boogie — native to L.A., a city rich with hip-hop history — speaks to some of gangsta rap’s more violent attributes, unapologetically delivering conscious raps knee deep in modern concerns like social media, and more archetypal matters, like street life and the pursuit of success. [TM]
Grab it HERE.
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Future – '56 Nights'
After the underwhelming reception to the breakthrough-primed Honest last year, Future took it back to his core fan-base with the Monster mixtape in October 2014 and then opening 2015 with Beast Mode in January, he returned again in March to seal the deal. Closing the trilogy of tapes, 56 Nights, is a ten track collection inspired by DJ Esco’s horrifying ordeal spending 56 Nights in a Dubai prison. This tape displays Future at his most refined, expressing the pain of the trap with a wash of hazy delivery and melodies that rival any R&B singer, just the set up he needed to send his uncompromising third studio album DS2 straight to the top of the US Billboard charts. [GB]
Grab it HERE.
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Words: Grant Brydon, Mike Wood, Tara Mahadevan, Lewis Lister, Xyrenn Maddox, Robbie Russell
Devised by the same people that brought us Festival No.6, Electric Elephant, and the legendary Snowbombing – a week-long winter sports and music festival held in the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen – comes Snowbombing’s rowdy little sister: Transition Snow.
If there is one thing Broadwick Live know how to get right, it’s location. All the company’s events are first and foremost set in stunning surroundings, and the first ever Transition Snow festival is no exception. Held from December 13th to 19th, all the action takes place in Avoriaz, a picturesque ski-in ski-out village set in the middle of the Portes du Soleil area, taking in a vast panoramic of the Alps stretching across France and Switzerland.
What better way to spend a week than going from pillow to piste first thing in the morning to clear the cobwebs? There’s no better hangover cure than 10 minutes of crisp mountain air on a high altitude ski lift, followed by the same air and snow smashing into your grid as you hurtle down the slopes.
The opening night kicks off in fine fashion with headliner Dizzee Rascal nailing a raucous set in a natural basin in the woods, surrounded by massive Christmas trees and sparkling lights lending the whole valley a festive twinkle. There was a slight delay in getting accommodation sorted which threatened to make some people miss the start of the live music, but this was down to the hotel chain and not the Transition organisers.
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It’s a minor hiccup that is mitigated by the fact Dizzee ate too much cheese before his performance and so put his stage time back by half an hour. The woods soon fill up and the town centre is bustling with thousands of new arrivals, all creating a seasonal ‘up for it’ ambiance. Dizzee belts out a frenetic set filled with crowd pleasers like ‘Dance Wiv Me’, ‘Bonkers’, ‘You’ve Got The Dirtee Love’ and ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’. After the set, which culminated in fireworks, throngs of festivalgoers spilled away from the main stage and into an array of alpine styled bars and venues. Places like The Yak, Shooters and Le Bistro – a three-storey wooden building with an outdoor terrace overlooking the pistes that is perpetually busy.
The rest of the week for most people is a blur, both literally, as you spend glorious sun-filled days careering down a sprawling selection of slopes, and figuratively, as the local beers and gullet-warming shots take effect and you need to be told how you got to bed. Some verbatim quotes overheard on mid-morning shared ski-lifts include, “Steff vomited off the balcony and then pulled Josh… he didn’t seem to mind”, “Vodka and gin is a surprisingly delicious combo… I call it gidka, but you can’t ask for it in a bar” and personal favourite, “Can you die from a hangover?”
Broadwick Live arrange a packed itinerary of events throughout the week so there is always something going on. Highlights include the Ride & Seek – a ski and snowboard competition with pro-riders battling against festivalgoers for shits and goodies, the Transition Winter Olympics – a rally with obstacles, dares and teamwork tests, the Pool Party – a host of DJs including the likes of Ben Pearce livening things up inside a tropical indoor water park, the Snowball Fight – like rollerball on ice, a Japanese import that comprises helmets, body armour, pyrotechnics, solid balls of ice and equally large and sturdy balls between the legs, and finally the Mountain Meal – Europe’s largest torch-lit skiing procession to the Lindaret Valley, a wondrous night of food, starlit skiing and headline DJs.
This year some standout sets were dropped by James Zabiela, Huxley, Luedms, Bondax, Wilkinson, Barely Legal, Krafty Kuts and Pedestrian. This inaugural event bodes well for the future and Transition Snow is sure to make the ‘must-do’ festival lists for snow holiday newbies and slope weathered veterans alike. Go for the après ski dinner and drinks, the broad electronica line up (Grime, Pop, RnB, Russian Techno, Drum n Bass, Umpah?!) the carnage on the nights out and the calm of the morning lift up the mountain. Après the Lord.
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Words: Nick Rice
Berlin has always been home to many multi-talented producers. Although in recent years international attention has focused on its thriving techno scene, there's always existed a solid collection of enthused jazz, funk and hip-hop artists, ploughing their trade. In recent years Max Graef has played a pivotal role in this scene. His enthusiasm for vinyl and solid, eclectic releases on Tartelet, Money $ex Records and his own Box Aus Holz (that's wooden box in English) have secured him an agreeable role in the underground scene.
In recent interviews with Graef, he expressed a need to move away from sampling towards using more real sounds in his work. Well he's certainly done that with the Max Graef Band, whose debut album, 'Dog', is about as live as you can get whilst retaining the driving artificial funk of his solo productions. Graef leads on bass, whilst long time associate Ludwig Labuzinski, who featured on his debut album 'Rivers of the Red Planet', is on hand to add some percussive sampling. He serves Graef's penchant for those crisp, offbeat claps, which have always been present in his work (and which appear in number on 'Dog'). Drums, electric piano, synth and guitar complete the textured setup.
In the past, Graef's respectful, inventive take on classic G-funk and house gained him a legion of fans, but often his cuts felt like extended jams, straying from the realms of improvisation into noodling territory. 'Rivers Of The Red Planet' certainly contained some top-notch tracks but at times Graef's jazz-like curiosity with song structure appeared to inhibit his compositions rather than help them to excel.
This is exactly why 'Dog' is such an enjoyable listen. The record is devoid of any vocals, at least in the traditional sense – the band's studio chat patters away between tracks, which gives the album the air of a live session in flow. The tracks are tight, as is the band's interplay and extended passages of guitar work avoid self-indulgent riffing. The Max Graef Band has created an atmospheric LP that will most likely satisfy new and old fans alike. 'Dog' may not invite repeat listens in the average listener, but it will give an accurate portrait of a group of involved and talented musicians in full artistic flow.
Words: Alex Green
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Rise, in its second year, has upped the ante in the Alpine festival stakes. The brains behind the event have worked out exactly what was needed to improve upon last year, and – sure enough – smashed it. ‘Party On Top Of The World’ is the mantra of the festival, and at 3,600 metres, we know we’ve arrived at a unique party location.
Since last year’s debut, the festival organisers have doubled ticket sales to over 3,000 attendees, and the fact they are now hosting the likes of Hospitality and Rinse is testament to how fast they have grown.
From the top of the slopes to the bottom, we see a mix of festival-goers young and old, all with a shared passion for the extreme. The usually quiet town of Les Deux Alpes has become awash with party seekers, brought together by a line up crossing electronic music genres. Huge names from the UK grime and bass scenes such as Novelist and Faze Miyake are sharing stages with the likes of Metrik and London Elektricity.
For people used to the grungy, mud, Carling-sodden pits of Reading, the picturesque mountains that surround L2A are breathtaking. The pride and joy of the festival is the Pano Bar, a bar and stage with stunning 360-degree views across the snowy peaks. Open from 1-5pm each day, this particular high altitude watering hole plays host to the likes of Jackmaster, Axel Boman and Amy Becker. Axel and Jack play a b2b set laying down tunes like Dominica’s ‘Gotta Let You Go’ and Axel's own ‘ABBA 002’, the perfect tonic to a day slip and sliding down the mountains.
The biggest draw up to Pano Bar was always going to be So Solid Crew. Especially given the fact that fourteen of them would be there, including Romeo and Lisa Mafia. ‘21 Seconds’ was obviously what the crowd was waiting for, and all the alpine ravers, young and old, go suitably insane.
Though it's Rise’s first major headliner, Sigma (live) that's getting most airtime on the mountains. Sharing chairlifts with guys and girls from up and down the country, the vibe we repeatedly get is that “Sigma are gonna smash it, mate”. These are the young D&B heads to keep an eye on, who have come to see one of the hottest acts the genre currently has to offer. After a slow start at the main stage, the group gradually raise the party levels before ending with big hitters ‘Changing’, ‘Higher’ and ‘Nobody To Love’.
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We can’t neglect to mention Ms. Dynamite, and her support set to Sigma. Given that she is only scheduled to play for half an hour, we all thought it would be a brief, nostalgic (and possibly forgettable) set. Oh, how wrong we were. She teases the crowd, opening with 'Dy-Na-Mi-Tee' going against all expectation. What follows is some old-skool, hardcore grime and garage with a seemingly rejuvenated Dynamite so into it she ends up losing her voice.
Jackmaster and Skream then play b2b at the cavernous W.A.R Arena the following night. While Sigma are arguably a more accessible headliner, these two play their unique and sometimes unpredictable brand of house and tech right through until 2am. At this point, the two of them end with that wedding classic, ‘Zorba The Greek’. Everyone knows the tune, and you can imagine the scene, so we don’t need to describe the moment any further.
Rise is one of those inclusive festivals, without agenda, small enough that party-goers and performers get to mingle as one – if we can say that without coming across too naff. The best example of this has to be when Novelist boards down the mountain in a peach coloured onesie straight into the Pano Bar DJ booth and proceeds to tear it up in front of a frenzied crowd.
Rise throws the almost customary festival ‘secret party’ on its last night, although this was rather more special than the kind of ‘secret’ party you might expect. After a 2km trek up the mountain, led by glow sticks, we and 300 others arrive at a little starlit grotto with open fires and a BBQ with tunes coming from Triple Cooked star Jamie Thompson, as well as a set coming from the old school collection of Tango Williams. Not to be forgotten, Cirque du Soul also weigh in with their share of house, garage and all-round party beats.
There’s no doubting Rise is a festival on the up for three reasons. In 2015 they nailed their target market (students), growing in presence and increasing ticket sales, and plans to expand beyond that market next year. This year they nailed a slamming line up, crossing and blending electronic genres – and we know they have already started making bookings for next year. Lastly, and most simply, they have one of the most stunning festival locations in Europe, and with a glacier at the top, skiing is guaranteed all year round.
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Words: Milo Wasserman
It's Reshma B, back with her final Reggae & Dancehall round up of 2015…
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The Grammy nominations for Best Reggae Album are in, and the field is looking stronger than ever. Congrats to Jah Cure, nominated for ‘The Cure’, Morgan Heritage for ‘Strictly Roots’, Barrington Levy for ‘Acousticalevy’, Luciano for ‘Zion Awake’ and Rocky Dawuni – a Ghanaian reggae artist based in Los Angeles – for ‘Branches Of The Same Tree’. Grammy winners will be announced on February 15th in LA.
Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service has jumped into the reggae arena with the announcement of Damian Marley as the company’s latest signee and and co-owner. Jr. Gong joins the likes of Kanye West, Rihanna, and Coldplay as shareholders in the service, which celebrated its one millionth subscriber this year. The youngest of the Marley brothers has stated that he and his team will curate Tidal’s reggae catalog to make sure it’s up to the highest standard.
Cham sticks to his winning formula on ‘Yeah’, a stripped-down, hard-hitting digital dancehall riddim courtesy of Cham’s go-go sparring partner, superproducer Dave Kelly. “Everything is OK, but we did it our way,” the DJ boasts on the rags-to-riches tale, his latest release for Madhouse Productions. “I would never sell out my friends cause of all the new trends, despite everything them say.”
UK grime diva Lady Chann takes aim at wutless men in her new dancehall-flavored track 'Not Me' ft. Rage. “Cocky me nuh run down, no not me,” the UK riddim killer proclaims in her lightning-fast flow. Chann’s girls show off some slick dance moves in the video for the song, which is set in a parking lot somewhere in London. Rage of the SlewDem grime collective represents the male side of the conversation – along with some male dancers who look like they know what they’re doing.
Despite producer Anju Blaxx’s incarceration in the United States on lotto scamming charges, UIM Records continues to drop powerful productions like the brand-new ‘Zen’ riddim, which features tracks like ‘Company’ by Alkaline and ‘Gone’ by Serani, but don’t light the incense too soon! Popcaan’s feisty track on the riddim titled “Suck Yuh Modda” sets a whole different mood.
VP Records took a different approach for the 2015 edition of its popular ‘The Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems’ series. Rather than compiling tracks from various labels, they stuck with one great producer, Clive “Uglyman” Hunt, who has worked with Jamaican legends like Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and The Wailers, as well as international stars like The Rolling Stones and Grace Jones. “I’m very touched to be working as long as I have and not just with established artists but young up and coming,” says the producer who included such rising talents as Jah 9, Iba Mahr, Raging Fire, Jah Vinci, Randy Valentine, and Yahsha on the album, as well as veteran singers Richie Spice and Luciano.
Lovers rock rules when Janet Kay and Caroll Thompson grace the the Jazz Cafe for a Holiday season concert on December 28th. If it’s Boxing day in Jamaica then it must be time for Sting. This year the annual showcase delves into classic dancehall with featured performers like Tiger, Burro Banton, and Wickerman. Shaggy and Friends kicks off the new year with a star studded lineup to raise funds for the international hitmaker’s charitable foundation. Popcaan and Cham are confirmed for this year’s event. For more info and tickets visit HERE.
To Wrap Up
Now in its second year, Damian Marley’s Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise pushed off from the Port of Miami on November 30th for the first of two back-to-back voyages loaded with no fewer than 23 different acts plus 10 sound systems. If you were to imagine the ultimate reggae lover’s fantasy lineup, packed wall-to-wall with top-tier talent, this would come close.The decision to undertake two trips in 2015 was made last year after the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship filled up within a matter of weeks. Headliners Damian and Stephen Marley returned this year, along with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Morgan Heritage and Christopher Ellis. Among the new acts were legends like Super Cat, Barrington Levy, Third World, Maxi Priest and Sly & Robbie plus Popcaan, Elephant Man, Ky-mani Marley, Protoje and Capleton—as well as esteemed sound systems Saxon Studio out of South London and Black Scorpio from Kingston, JA.
For those who have never visited Stone Love’s ‘Weddy Weddy Wednesday’ party in Kingston, selectors Rory and Geefus showed how they rock a crowd whether they were juggling on the main deck or in the ship’s atrium. King Jammy’s Wednesday night showcase featuring freestyle performances by Jr. Gong, Shinehead and Elephant Man was a definite highlight, particularly when the Energy God reminisced about growing up in Jammy’s yard. This night was rivaled only by the Thursday night sound clash, which pitted Japanese sound Mighty Crown aka ‘The Far East Rulers’ against heavyweight Jamaican sounds Bass Odyssey and Metro Media in a musical battle royale, as each sound showed off their collections of exclusive dubplates punctuated by slick microphone talk.
The competition was so fierce on the first leg of the journey that Mighty Crown and Bass Odyssey were forced into a tie-breaker round, which led to a controversial non-decision and talk of a forfeit. It might have been all in fun but the rules were still being hotly debated the next morning at breakfast, as some questioning Chris Dubmaster’s refereeing skills. The winner had to be decided on the second leg of the cruise, with Mighty Crown finally emerging victorious on the strength of a Super Cat dubplate that proved to be the knockout punch.
Every artist rose to the occasion, delivering standout performances—perhaps none more than the lineup on Wednesday night, when the boat traveled from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios, allowing artists like Bounty Killer, Popcaan, Jah Cure and Busy Signal the chance to perform for an international crowd while staying in Jamaican waters. Unlike last year’s smiles and girl tunes this time around Bounty killer was in full Warlord mode from his choice of badman tunes to his harsh talk for the sound engineer.
Newcomer Papi kept his set extra real with tracks like ‘Rup Rup’ and ‘Party Shot’ just when you think he’s heading mainstream papi reminds you that real thugs never forget the dumpland. Since none of these artists are currently able to travel to the UK or the U.S. due to visa restrictions, the cruise presents a rare opportunity both for the fans and for the artists themselves. During Cure’s powerful set he introduced his song ‘True Reflection’, released during his seven-year incarceration, with a personal anecdote about his own time behind bars. “When I was down, there was a lot of artists everywhere in the world that say ‘Free Jah Cure” the singer said, but the first to come to his aid was Buju Banton, who is now doing time in the U.S. on Federal drug charges. “Tears come to my eye” said Cure as he recalled how Buju looked after him and his family.
Encouraging the crowd to raise their hands in the air and shout “Free Buju!” Cure evoked a day when another star will take the stage on this cruise, which has already become an indispensable platform for bringing Jamaican musicians to the world—and vice versa. Watch the Wild Apache Super Cat perform live on the Jamrock cruise:
See ya next month!
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Words: Reshma B
Here it is, the Baroness album that almost never was. It seems impossible to write about Baroness' return without referencing their 2012 tour bus crash. The injuries sustained were severe enough to force half the band to give up the touring life. They're probably sick of people talking about it, but when the rejigged line-up comes back with an album this assured and uplifting, it demands consideration.
Dave Fridmann's warm production has rounded-off the harder edges of the band's earlier sound, but conversely there's little of the quiet introspective strumming that made up so much of 2012's 'Yellow & Green' double album. This is a much more energetic affair. Yes, the guitars snarl rather than scream, and John Baizley's voice is more nuanced – but the songs are the most focused and compelling Baroness have penned.
Layers of piano just crest the huge rolling wave of 'Shock Me', a tune so good it will stay in your head for days. 'Kerosene' sees the new rhythm section of Nick Jost and Sebastian Thompson leading the charge. Guitars dance around, building up and up until you're thrust headfirst into chorus that expertly balances vulnerability with driving power.
The lyrics to epic centrepiece 'Chlorine & Wine' are rife with images of the helplessness felt while recovering from injury – and how reliant you become on the people surrounding you. By the time it comes to a close it contorts all the insecurity into an exultant roar of backing vocals and massive guitars.
There's a reason that 'Purple' is already appearing on tons of end-of-year lists before it's even been released – it's just that good. It's the soundtrack to triumph over adversity. Every Baroness album before this has featured huge shifts in style, this being the one where they take the best of each to create a propulsive, thrilling whole.
Words: James Barry
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