Various Artists - King Size Dub Vol. 1

Disc 1 Disc 2

The first - and by far the best - installment of the long-running King Size Dub series is dedicated to British and British/Jamaican productions. At 27 tracks on two discs, it's quite a varied collection of amazingly high quality. Actually the only dull moments are two rather clumsy attempts at a fusion of dub and house by Got To Move and Zion Train. Highlights include tracks by the On-U posse (two each by Dub Syndicate and Revolutionary Dub Warriors and three Bim Sherman collaborations), Iration Steppas and The Disciples. I've hardly been keeping up with UK dub for almost ten years now, but I'm told that these tracks from the early and mid nineties catch the scene at its last creative peak. Could be true, given that most of the handful of newer tracks I've heard were quite by-the-numbers.

Listening to those two discs for the first time in years, what struck me was how dark, claustrophobic, cold and sometimes almost brutal a lot of it sounds in comparison to classic Jamaican dub. Often cluttered with eerie sound effects, the sonic space is incredibly dense and - especially on the steppers style tunes with their typical relentless four-to-the-floor drums - the beats and bass lines often come down with a brute, forceful ultra-heaviness. (Btw, these are all compliments in my book.) At times there's also a kind of haunted sadness contrasting quite effectively with the powerful rhythms. There's a unique quality to this sound that you don't even get from the bleakest and most militant Keith Hudson tracks or Lee Perry at his craziest and most paranoid. Actually, I'd say that a close comparison would be the best of current dubstep productions (i.e. the stuff that doesn't just sound like drum'n'bass played at the wrong speed).

Of course the use of digital equipment partly explains the difference between Jamaican and UK productions. But maybe the bleak vibe of UK dub owes as much to the fact that the tunes were recorded and/or mixed in the monochrome grey of English cities. To my ears this music sounds very urbane and even borderline-dystopian at times. Its eerieness and slightly creepy sense of alienation reminds me more of a band like Joy Division than any Jamaican dub. I don't know too much about the UK dub scene, but I think that maybe this similiarity in feel to a certain strain of post-punk has more to do with a specific sense of place rather than just some personal ties to punk and post-punk (Adrian Sherwood and some of the On-U Sound posse, Small Axe who evolved out of sub-Clash band The Ruts...). Dread music straight outta the grey heart of Babylon...


Palais Schaumburg - Wir bauen eine neue Stadt

This one's for Not Rock On, Dorfdisco Braunsfeld and Mein Walkman ist kaputt ;-)


Chrome - 3rd from the Sun

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The classic Helios Creed/Damon Edge-led version of Chrome is one of the most hilariously cartoonish bands ever (and I mean that as a compliment): the most obvious and sensationalist aspects of Hawkwind, The Stooges, sixties psych-garage, punk rock and early industrial thrown in a blender to create a kind of pulp trashy, totally over the top pseudo-sci fi punk psychedelia. If Roger Corman had hired Kim Fowley to record a punk/industrial/acid rock-exploitation soundtrack for a Mad Max-rip off about a bunch of acid-fried, mutant fighting, post-apocalyptic motorcycle warriors, it would probably have sounded similiar to this.
Compared to Alien Soundtracks or Half Machine Lip Moves, 3rd from the Sun is definitely a more conventional rock record. But I'd say that it's also a lot more cohesive and less uneven. Also, though many of their fans obviously love the lo-fi production of early Chrome, I always felt that the tinny, muffled sound seriously impaired their music. So it's nice that 3rd from the Sun sounds relatively full-bodied and punchy. Of all the Chrome records I've heard so far, this is the one were they almost live up to their promise of a wild ride through a seedy, surreal, psycho-delic rock'n'roll phantasmagoria.


My Bloody Valentine - Soon

Back in the day I had a bit of a crush on Bilinda Butcher. Still think that the combination of bedroom eyes and breathy, barely-there vocals is quite something...

My Bloody Valentine - 4 EPs and a single

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For the ancient Greeks and Romans a genius was a kind of benevolent, but somewhat capricious daemon responsible for artistic or philosophical inspiration. Which means that a human being cannot be a genius, he or she can only be possessed by one. And unfortunately this daemon comes and goes at his own whim. Maybe this explains how Kevin Shields, a second-rate indie rocker, managed to come up with two of the greatest lps ever - and then completely lost it again.

All that said, I can't even begin to say how much I love Isn't Anything and
Loveless. But I never got hold of the four eps from My Bloody Valentine's heyday while they were still widely available. About a year ago, a friend hooked me up with rips he downloaded from various sources and, boy, I sure did miss something! So, thanks to my man Martin and the internet, here's Feed Me With Your Kiss, You Made Me Realise, Tremolo, Glider and the promo single Only Shallow. Bitrate varies, but nothing's under 192 kbps. This really is essential listening!

Pluramon - Render Bandits

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Pluramon is essentially the project of Markus Schmickler. This is his second album and it's a far cry from the My Bloody Valentine/Ride/Slowdive inspired sound of his last record Dreams Top Rock, a collaboration with Julee Cruise (she of Twin Peaks fame). Like on his debut Pickup Canyon, Schmickler teamed up with a group of collaborators, most notably Mouse On Mars/Microstoria-member Jan St. Werner and Jaki Liebezeit, to record some loosely structured jams, using everything from glockenspiel to analogue and digital electronics to tapes. Schmickler then edited, remixed and sound processed the recordings and came up with this sublime and immensely listenable album. Mostly propulsed by Liebezeit's sturdy grooves, Render Bandits' hypnotic, circular melodies and thick layers of electronic ambience culminate in a kind of trippy nocturnal psychedelia with an elegant, cinematic sweep. (The cover has to be one of the ulgiest in the history of recorded music though.)


Gramm - Personal Rock

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Jan Jelinek is taking his cues from the micro house sound of labels like Kompakt, Force Tracks or Playhouse - especially its more ambient-leanings strains - as well as from the clicks & cuts and glitch techno approaches pioneered by the likes of Oval, Pole and Vladislav Delay and there's also more than a shade of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction/
~scape-like dubbiness. It's a case of innovation through adaptation: Jelinek doesn't so much invent a new musical vocabulary. Rather, he combines his influences in a highly idiosyncratic fashion and distills a distinct and fascinating sound from them.

In a way, Jelinek's releases as Gramm are halfway between his more abstract output under his real name and his relatively dancefloor friendly work as Farben. Personal Rock - Jelinek's first full length album - is tranquil, gentle and melancholy. It's full of skippy, fluttering micro rhythms composed of tiny glitches, clicks and static, the basslines are deep and droning, but house is constantly and explicitly present - not so much through four-to-the-floor beats, but more through the structures of hooks and riffs or typical filter effects. But it's a weirdly spectral and ghostly presence. Personal Rock mirrors the feeling of the rave-comedown: it's like coming home from a club just before it starts to dawn, the rush of dancefloor euphoria slowly ebbing to become a fading, yet still present memory, and you can still feel the basslines and the thumping beats pulsing through your body.