Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dusk + Blackdown August 18th Rinse FM show

Dusk + Blackdown August 18th Rinse FM show

Lana Del Rey "Gods & Monsters (Mokadem remix)" [unreleased]
Beneath "Soho" [unreleased]
Beneath "Internal" [No Symbols]
Klient "Korosu" [unreleased]
Parris "Scyther" [unreleased]
Scalade "Walk it off" [unreleased]
Lamont "Other Side" [unreleased]
Caski "Mad Charge" [unreleased]
Wen "Backdraft" [unreleased]
Aphix "Clapsicle" [unreleased]
Funkystepz "Pirate Material" [unreleased]
Sly One "Cow Bell" [Black Butter]
Plastician "Spring_Roller (Roska's veggie mix)" [Terrorhythm]
Funkystepz "Gamecube Riddim (Original Mix)" [unreleased]
Murlo "Coral" [unreleased]
Zoltan "Pardon What" [unreleased]
Pinch & Mumdance "Turbo Mitzi VIP" [unreleased]
Pedro 123 "Turbulence" [unreleased]
Blackdown "Wot Do You Mean?!" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin and Threnody "Going Mad" [unreleased]
Damu "Clammyness is next to Godliness" [unreleased]
Detboi "Give Love" [unreleased]
Wen ft Riko "Play Your Corner (Kahn remix)" [unreleased]
Filter Dread "Stolen Dub" [Ramp]
Girl Unit x Cecile "Club Rez (Rizzla's "Club Cecile" bootleg) [free Night Slugs DL]
Etch "Solidified (Atlas Remix)" [unreleased]
Amen Ra "Wet Harmonic" [unreleased]
Fingerlick "Picture You" [unreleased]
Amen Ra "Mud and Root" [unreleased]
Epoch "Aerospace" [unreleased]

*** "Imminent" remix competition shortlist ***

LV & Josh Idehen "Imminent (Paper Tiger remix)" [unreleased]
LV & Josh Idehen "Imminent (Kissinger remix)" [unreleased]
LV & Josh Idehen "Imminent (LKD Beats remix)" [unreleased]

Eva808 "Wannabe" [unreleased]
Etch "Mangled" [unreleased]
Turboforce "Holloway" [unreleased]
Bloom "Keyframe (Gage fukup)" [unreleased Crazy Legs]
Shrieking Specialist "Kontaky High V2" [unreleased]
Mattwizard "Rick James's Mescaline Dungeon Of Funk" [Boxed free DL]
Samename "Mishima's Curse VIP" [unreleased]
Sticky & General Levi "Pull Up" [unreleased]

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fabric, Rinse and Brooklyn

The Keysound clan re-convene this Friday at Fabric. To celebrate we shared our recent Brooklyn set, complete with crowd noises.

We did a big interview before the gig. It's here:

Finally we were on Rinse in April, here's what we played:

Rinse FM April '14

Sully "Blue (Logos vapour dub) [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
Moleskin "The fantasy between your lips" [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
Moleskin "Slow Dancing with Ms Haversham to Moments in Love in Satis House" [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
Charlux "Unmarked Patrol" [unreleased]
Flava D "New Era" [Formula]
Otik "Fist Clench" [unknown]
Blackdown "Timeless" [unreleased]
Brunks "Sioux" [unreleased]
Cliques "Chro (Wen Remix)" [unreleased]
Kalbata & Mixmonster "Voice make a joyful noise ft Prince Jazzbo" [forthcoming]
Parris & Etch "Kill A Deep House Guy Dead" [unreleased]
JD Reid "Ralph" [released]
Damu "0001 24-Audio-19" [released]
Filter Dread "Square Layer" [unreleased]
Circula "Word" [unreleased]
Silas "Untitled" [unreleased]
Woz "Cold" [Black Butter]
Krept & Konan "Don't Waste My Time (DJ Cable Jersey Edit)" [unreleased]
Moleskin "Turnt On" [forthcoming Goon Club Allstars]
Samename "Sakura" [forthcoming Pelican Fly]
Qualifide "Think about it" [forthcoming]
Sully "Feel it" [Frijsfo Beats]
Qualifide "Think About It" [forthcoming]
Murlo "No Name Yet (Can't Keep Calling Them Untitled)" [unreleased]
Wookie ft Zak Abel "Higher (Wookie 94 raw remix)" [forthcoming]
Nights "GTR" [unreleased]
J Majik "Your Sound (Etch refix)" [unreleased]

Threnody "Fractured" [unreleased]
Chainless "Gatekeeper" [Rinse]
Luke Benjamin & Occult "3rd Eye" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin "Hoods Up" [unreleased]
Innke "One Two Three" [unreleased]
Etch "Seaside curse" [unreleased]
Grovestreet "Mook" [unreleased]
LV & Josh Idehen "Imminent" [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
Kalbata "Man God" [forthcoming]
Spyro & Mumdance "Don’t Get Lemon" [Rinse]
Dark0 "Amethyst" [unreleased]
Moleskin "Grand Ballet" [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
VesperTown "Fancy" [forthcoming Donky Pitch]

Monday, May 05, 2014

Rinse Keysound takeover for Fabric

Pre Fabric takeover. 

Catch all these DJs in Fabric Room 3 May 16th. "Imminent" launch party.

DOWNLOAD the set here.

Dusk + Blackdown 

Dusk + Blackdown "Epic Jam"
Dusk + Blackdown "Back 2 Go FWD>> (Sweet 2 Go Sour mix)"
Dusk + Blackdown "Peng One Two"
Damu "Whirlybird"
Moleskin "Grand Ballet"
Luke Benjamin & Strict Face "Will You Remember"


E.m.m.a "Sorbet"
E.m.m.a "Mirage"
E.m.m.a "Untitled"
E.m.m.a & Etch "Karma"
E.m.m.a "Untitled"
E.m.m.a "Pyramids"
Dark0 ft E.m.m.a "Slo Mo"

LV & Josh Idehen 

LV & Untold "Beacon (Mount Kimbie remix)" [Hemlock Recordings]
LV & Josh Idehen "Imminent" [forthcoming Keysound Recordings]
LV & Joshua Idehen "Primary Colours (Extended Mix)" [Keysound Recordings]
LV  "Work (Instrumental)" [Hyperdub Records]
LV "Thatha Lo (Instrumental)" [Hyperdub Records]
Troumaca "Layou (LV remix)" [Brownswood Recordings]
LV "Safe in Sound (Instrumental)" [Hyperdub Records]
Lewis James "All or Nothing (LV remix)" Original Cultures]

Parris DJ 

Facta and Hodge "Untitled" [dub]
Beneath "Dum" [dub]
Hodge "Renegades" [Livity Sound]
Wen and Parris "Blessing" [Dub]
Hodge "Prototype Fear" [Punch Drunk]
Wen feat Riko "Play Your Corner" (Tease) [Keysound]
Wen "Finesse" [Dub]
Mumdance and Logos "Reese Club Tool" [Dub]


Toasty "Bump" [unreleased]
Etch "Intro (Lost Orbit)" [unreleased]
Wen "Swingin (Facta Remix)" [unreleased]
Circula "Blunt VIP" [unreleased]
Lee ANY "The Warehouse Concept" [unreleased]
Etch "Altered States" [unreleased]
Etch "Mangled" [unreleased]
Etch "Inner Distance" [unreleased]

Sully ft Riko 

Sully "Routine" [unreleased]
Sully "Charms" [unreleased]
Sully "Flock" [unreleased]
Sully "Helios" [unreleased]
Sully "Concord" [unreleased]
Sully "Checkmate" [unreleased]
Sully "Blue" [unreleased]

Don't forget you can also download the recent Dusk + Blackdown show.

Next Keysound: "Imminent" out on May 16th. Digi only for now (vinyl to follow in the autumn).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Certified Connections part 3

Earlier this year I posted the two Certified Connections pieces. This is the third and last of those. In the first I tried to disentangle the relationship between instrumental artists and the often buried ideas behind their music, using No Fixed Abode (LHF)’s “Certified” and its samples as a starting point for a meander into this history of music behind it.

In the second, No Fixed Abode took the source of some of the samples – Robin Travis – and explained the context around them; in other words the negative cycles of gang violence in inner city London that many of us are oblivious to but are in proximity to.

In this final post, I’d like to talk about Robin Travis’ autobiography “Prisoner to the Streets,” that centers around the long standing Tottenham/Hackney beef.

I’ve been trying, fairly ineffectually, to read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” for a while now. It’s really quite dense but because it fulfills on its promise to re-engineer how you think about how you think, I’m persisting.  “Prisoner to the Streets” is in some ways similar, though in others it could not be more different.

If  “Thinking…” is about how your head thinks, “Prisoner…”  is a first person account of Travis’ life written as if actually inside his head. It is written in part in London street slang, so having heard some grime will help a reader. And grime is where the light comparison with the effect of “Thinking…” comes in, because while “Prisoner…”  wont make you change how you think about you think, it will – unless you’re from the roads already – change the point of perspective from which you think. I’m a slow reader and my life is so digitally saturated (laptop, Apple TV, iPhone, 4G, wifi, Twitter, Facebook, the State app, BBC app, email email email…) that the times I do read are snatched during the day. Yet “Prisoner…” gripped me so strongly this Christmas I pushed all distractions aside. It’s one of those “I’ll just read oooone more page… whoops it’s 1:30am” kinda books.

If you care about grime, there may be several reasons why you do. Obviously since its inception, its appeal lies in that it is sonically shocking music and has an aggressive, masculine, flight-or-fight impact to the system.  It’s also lyrically and musically abstract too, yet also quite human.

But a large secondary appeal for me and many others, is that it is the strong and unique voice of a broadly under-heard community, namely the unequal and often violent multicultural parts of east and south London. It’s margins music.  To me at least, hearing and understanding things from another perspective – especially packaged up in such sonically interesting way – has always been something I want to be open to.

Tiverton Estate

-- Tiverton Estate by Nico Hogg

Even with such earnest intentions however, it’s best to remember that no matter where it came from, much of grime is a very exciting blend of artistic license, creative fiction, projection and aspiration. If as many people were shot or shanked by MCs as they said they were going to be per track, Trident and half of the armed forces would have shut Bow down in a massive show of force. If every MC moved as many kilos of drugs as they talked about, they… wouldn’t be talking about it. If every MC was as confident as the perennial “I’m sick/you’re a prick” meme, they’d all be JME or Jamal Edwards. We accept all these contradictions, between grime-as-reportage and grime-as-fiction, because it’s just so sonically exciting, just like Hollywood blockbusters and the stunts that simply can not be if Newton and his laws are still right.

What most grime MCs aren’t good at is showing weakness or doubt, probably because they seem to be raised in hyper violent male dominated arenas where showing weakness is unthinkable. Arenas – either the ends itself or on radio – where the unit of currency is reputation and reputation brings protection and status.

So what’s truly remarkable about Robin Travis’ autobiography, is that to a grime fan, it re-arranges completely the point of perspective. It’s not grime as a window into another way of life, but another way of life that was pretty grimey. But with this shift from fiction to fact, we lose some or all of the over-positive projection. In my experience, even of talking to grime MCs – i.e. guys from these environments - face to face, this kind of account feels pretty unique.

Take this fragment:
“Mix up or no mix up, I can’t lie, I loved these cussing matches. Sometimes they were so funny, man would be dying of laughter. It didn’t matter who had street ratings, when these matches started anyone could be top dog. It was always funnier when a member of the crew, lower in the ranks, was able to upset one of the top dogs. Holly Street is the funniest area of all the areas I ever lived in. Which is why I liked to chill there so much, even though I wasn’t feeling certain man in the team.”
What’s fun here is the common humanity revealed through humour. As you might have worked out, Robin is from the ends. He grew up poor, his Dad was absent when he was a kid (presumed dead) and his family suffered violence from the National Front.  His early years were spent on the Tiverton Estate (co-incidentally where Keysound photographer Nico Hogg grew up).

Dawn on the estate

While he didn’t become a drug dealer or contract killer, it’s fair to say Robin lived a very violent life; much of the book’s narrative follows his many inter- and intra-ends beefs and the complex street reputation logic as to why, how and when beef should happen. Fights happen in most chapters as Robin gets better and stronger when it’s on.

(Side note: throughout this whole piece its worth considering the idea that if you were one of his victims, you might reject his entire line of reasoning, for quite understandable reasons, a bit like how one nation’s victorious war hero is another’s mass murderer. It’s a great book, but I thought this regularly while reading it.) 

Even in the backdrop of regular violence however, “Prisoner…” is not a book about violence, it’s a window into the entrenched street mentality. So when he says “it didn’t matter who had street ratings, when these matches started anyone could be top dog” or “Holly Street is the funniest area of all the areas I ever lived in. Which is why I liked to chill there so much, even though I wasn’t feeling certain man in the team” its clear how far this differs from the creative yet inflexible and humourless “I’m sick/you’re a prick” fictions of grime artists, and how every day elements like humour, love, hunger, surroundings, education, sport or family can be as much a focus as beef, violence, or road reputation.

When reading an account of a violent man in a violent environment, you naturally begin to ask the usual nature/nurture questions. And while I think it’s misguided to think there is any kind of “right answer” to that false dichotomy – in other words, that the answer is ‘both are a factor’ not ‘one or the other’ – one early entry stuck with me through the many vicious encounters in the book:

“I remember my first ever fight. I was five years old. I was playing football on the estate when one of the kids punched me. I walked upstairs to our flat on the first floor and went inside.

‘Why’s your face so push up?’ mum asked.

‘No reason. Malachi just hit me.’

‘And what did you do?’

‘Nothing, mum. You hit me all the time.’

Mum stood up. ‘Hear me good, I’m your mum,’ she said in a firm voice.  ‘I gave birth to you. I didn’t do that so that other people can beat you. No go outside and don’t come back until you win that fight. I’ll be watching from the balcony.’

I was shocked. Mum’s giving me permission to fight. Rah!

I went back downstairs with butterflies in my stomach. I was scared to start with but compared to how my brother whupped me, I couldn’t see how this boy my age could cause me any real pain. In fact I wiped the floor with him.

I looked up. Mum seemed proud that I had defended myself. But I hated fighting. I would have preferred to let it slide without confrontation, but I knew if I didn’t go and give Malachi a good hiding I would have to face ‘johnny’ at home.

That day was a turning point… I went to school with a screwface most days and didn’t pay attention in class… Here is what [his teacher] Miss Leonard says:

‘I remember Robin well. A quiet, often sad boy. He rarely smiled and often came to school angry and frustrated about stuff that was happening at home. I encouraged him to take out his anger on a cushion or a teddy, like a punch bag. Robin was underachieving although he appeared bright and eloquent. He looked thin and frail at times and appeared vulnerable. ‘”

The fact that teachers are constantly dealing with the porous “boundary” that school hours impose is probably no surprise to anyone that’s spoken at length to a teacher. The fact that someone like Robin faced violence at home as much as he did outside it is also probably not news either. Home, school, road are all in flux or dialog with each other and more than likely several other agents or environments. The point here though is that through Robin you can see them all interacting.  These interactions - or indeed intersections - only grow more vivid as Robin begins to articulate the different sides mental arguments he sees, as he faces more and more physical arguments.

So instead of just seeing the projected “I’m sick” half of the “I’m sick/you’re a prick” projection we see in grime, instead it’s a constant internal battle between “Do I want to be sick?/Do I want to be safe” (and I mean ‘safe’ in the grime parlance sense).

An example of Robin’s dichotomy:

VOICE OF THE STREETS: yeah just do it
VOICE OF REASON: No, don’t. You’re only going to get yourself life’d off in jail.

Or, in an other:

VOICE OF THE STREETS: Job? Are for real, bruv? You done tried this working ting a’ready. It’s not for you, G. You’re not keeping it real out here. You’re a black boy from the hood with no qualifications. You were fired from your last job. Do you think anyone’s gonna to take you on with that record? You’re a road man. Stick to the fuckin’ script.

VOICE OF REASON: Nah, bu’n that talk. Come better that that, my yute. Look a job. That’s the right ting. Your mum never raised no fool. And you know your Nan would want better for you.

VOICE OF THE STREETS: Bruv, Kane’s still walking around and you’re talking about getting a job. You’re acting like you’re not on this ting any more. In fact… nah, nah, get a job. At least that way when we kill Kane they won’t suspect us coz you earn an ‘honest’ living. Yeah, do that, bruv. That idea’s sick. Lol.

I’m reluctant to sketch out the main events of the book, as it’ll only ruin it for anyone who reads it, but it’s safe to say the story is gripping. Robin sees more drama in one chapter than most people see in their lives. It’s also safe to say it’s pretty amazing that he’s not imprisoned (“life’d”) or dead several times over. 

But he isn’t and I for one am intensely grateful that he took the time to write down an account – for better or for worse – of life from his perspective. Because to solve a problem you need to first understand it, and far too many people speak about the actions on the outcomes of unequal societies without understanding the nature and causes of them.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Rinse FM Feb '14

**Dusk + Blackdown Feb '14 Rinse FM**


E.m.m.a. "Candy Stripe" [unreleased]
Caski "Tunnel Music" [unreleased]
My Nu Leng "Masterplan ft. Fox" [Black Butter]
Wen & Parris "Mori" [unreleased]
Brunks "Exit" [unreleased]
Mista Men "Dread" [unreleased]
Cliques "CHRO" [unreleased]
Hodge "Renegades" [forthcoming dnuoS ytiviL]
Damu "No Pain, No Gain" [unreleased]
Dusk + Blackdown "Drenched (Facta remix)" [unreleased]
Atlas "Polar" [unreleased]
Lamont "Far Away" [unreleased]
Facta "Quince" [unreleased]
Gantz ft. Rider Shafique "I&I" [forthcoming Deep Medi]
Luke Benjamin "Buddha Flow" [unreleased]
Riffs "Black Sound" [unreleased]
Etch "Champion Dancehall" [unreleased]
Dcult "Crawler" [unreleased]
Charlux "Neck Snap" [unreleased]
Korma "Springblade" [unreleased]
Underclass "Rinse Compressor (Epoch's FTS Remix)" [unreleased]
P Money "Mad (Wen remix)" [unreleased]
Prince Rapid "Prince" [forthcoming]
Kakarot "Port Harcourt (Shriekin' Specialist's Orchestral Maximalism Bongo Remix VIP)" [unreleased]
Moleskin "Imagination Pulse" [unreleased]
Fresh Paul "Tranquilisers" [unreleased]

Luke Benjamin "Cold Roads" [unreleased]
Amen Ra "Yielding" [unreleased]
Luke Benjamin "No Light" [unreleased]
Double Helix "2000 Dust" [unreleased]
Double Helix "Untitled"[unreleased]

Chainless "Artifacts" [unreleased]
Wiley "Samename (Colder Refix ((Logos Step 20 vocal)) [unreleased]
Murlo "Bowed" [unreleased]
Ruff Sqwad "R U Double F (Shriekin' Specialist Remake)" [unreleased]
Low Deep "Cheeky Violin (Arctic mix)" [unreleased]
Logos "Atlanta 96 Rework" [unreleased]

Monday, February 17, 2014

Certified connections part 2

For Certified Connections part 2, I'm going to quickly hand over to No Fixed Abode (LHF) himself, to explain a bit more about the track. When you hear people talking about someone in "Certified," they're talking about Robyn... Robyn Travis

"It's 1998 I'm listening to live shout outs on Freek Fm, every other phone call you hear 'fuck Tottenham' then 'fuck Hackney' and back and forth until they had to lock off it off. All I was thinking was that these guys were gassed. I never suspected that people were beginning to lose their lives in this beef and that things were gettin progressively worse."

"Fast forward a decade and I'm watching two youths chasing down a third with knives drawn, across 3 lanes of moving traffic, like the cars didn't exist to them. They ran with ferocity, bare faced, it was 11am on a Tuesday morning. It brought it all home for me."

"At the time I was getting a little insight into the gang issue in London straight from the youths involved, their families, social workers and youth workers."

"I knew that some of these youths were stuck in the cycles and wondered if they'd ever make it out. I watched a couple turn into murderers, locked up before they hit 16, even 15."

"So many of these kids had deep deep wounds."

"I wondered who could reach the lost youths. Some of them had no idea where they were headed, or if they did they couldn't get out of the cycle."

"Where is the badman that was smart enough and determined enough to leave it all behind?"

"Enter Robyn Travis, when I found out about this guy I told everyone I met who could benefit from it, to check him. He is a great example to the kids that are stuck on the roads. He was a hood star, heavily involved in beef who came out the other side. He came out of jail, got a degree, wrote a book and is now trying to really talk to the youths."

"I was inspired and wanted to write a tune about Robyn. The voices are all people that knew him, talking about his character. Anyone that can turn it around the way he did should be talked about and held up as an example."

"Ultimately the gang issue can't be a blame thing coz you'll just keep going further and further back to find the root cause and there isn't any singular cause."

"Robyn showed that it's about self-determination and self-teaching. It's a message that anybody can get with you ain't gotta be a road man!"

"Wisdom from the street can be very powerful, and struggle is a beautiful thing if you maintain through it."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Certified connections part 1

Here’s a casual observation from over the years: vocal music reaches a wider audience than instrumental music, especially outside of the classical realm. Just look at the US Billboard, Radio 1 Playlist, top YouTube music videos or the UK Top 40 and I challenge you to find an instrumental track.

This isn’t true in art, for example, where celebration of abstraction and non-figurative work is widespread: Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko are just as lauded figures than, say, the Dutch Masters. But it seems to be so in music.

I think the reasons why songs are so successful are fairly straightforward: that using the human voice as an instrument conveys a really rich amount of information and hence emotion. However I don’t want to challenge the assumption that the voice conveys a lot of rich information but that predominantly instrumental music doesn’t. If you can put Rothko in the Tate Modern, why can’t Basic Channel play Wembley Stadium? It sounds silly even suggesting the latter – but that’s entirely my point.

[Photo of the "press release" that accompanied my copy of the DMZ001 release (contact email addresses and phone numbers not shown...)]

It’s obvious that song, lyrics and vocal music carries additional information that generates emotion, but I do think a part of the responsibility for this lies with instrumental producers themselves, because in my experience if you engage them in dialog there often is a dense tapestry of history, thought, influences, experiences, inspiration, meaning and ultimately narrative in what they do - it’s just not found in the fore. One of the first times I remember feeling this was over a decade ago, with Digital Mystikz’s “B”, which has a whole sentiment behind why it was called that – but was never shared. More extreme examples of this are things like Global Communications’ (Tom Middleton & Mark Pritchard) “76:14” ‘90s ambient album, that only used track length numbers as track titles as not to impose any meaning upon the reactions in listeners’ minds.

  1. 4 02
  2. 14 31
  3. 9 25
  4. 9 39
  5. 7 39
  6. 0 54
  7. 8 07
  8. 5 23
  9. 4 14
  10. 12 18
 Seriously, that's what they called them...


Connections + story beneath

So as an experiment, I’m going to take one example – No Fixed Abode from LHF’s “Certified” – and try to peel back the layers to reveal two things: 1) underlying connections and 2) the story beneath. Both could contribute to a far richer understanding of the track and from there, the inference being that perhaps many other instrumental works we’ve all consumed have such depth and connections: ones worth perhaps revealing.

This is going to take three blog posts, so here’s the first…

Part 1: Connections

The first thing that hits you with “Certified” is how it’s built mostly around samples from jazz. Now in past times, sample culture was much stronger but in the last decade, perhaps since the rise & (legal or otherwise) distribution of digital studio packages, there’s been a dominance of inorganic synths in dance music rather than organic samples. Extreme examples include the trance-y pop r&b hybrids of a few years back or the whole brostep/EDM/trap sound. And synth sounds beget synth sounds: the more fashionable and hence dominant they become in current music, the less recent organic/live music there is worth sampling.

“Certified” uses samples and by doing so finds an overt connection to the rich heritage of sampledlia, the appropriation and re-contextualizing of fragments of recorded music. Using samples is quite different to layering synth sounds: sonically they’re diametrically opposed. In a synth you’re basically starting with a pure mathematical wave, in this simplest case the simple symmetric sine wave, and attempting to create asymmetry, through harmony, positive and negative interference, distortion etc – so you end up with something more complex and ideally sonically interesting.

But with a sample, you’re starting from something complex. In many cases, you have a small fragment of a live recording. As a thought experiment, let’s take an imaginary sample of the JB’s, James Brown’s amazing backing band:

The art of sampling often revolves around finding relatively isolated elements which you can extract and use an instrument itself, but even within isolated moments you have all kinds of properties or imperfections that give the sample it’s sonic characteristics. The tails of musicians fading out, the beginning of hits of musicians coming in, riffs gliding between perfect pitches, reverb from the room, the limitation of the recording conditions, crackle or even low hertz rumbles from the vinyl it was sampled from contribute to the signature. While you can filter, edit or EQ parts out, you’re essentially starting from a position of “imperfection” – and reveling in that.

As you begin to reposition the sample in it’s new context, maybe you’ll be playing a new riff with it – essentially just playing the sample faster or slower. You’ll be layering it with other samples or sounds, and finding just how close in key or otherwise it is. (Micro pitch tuning samples is a slow and painful way to find out just how close you can get yourself near to being sectioned... trust me...).

The point here is there’s an immense amount of history, context, backstory and … in each sample. And while it may not always be easily extractable, that story is there.

Sampling as a technique is and was so widespread that to pick any one example feels almost arbitrary but given the whole of hip hop was founded on cutting up and looping breaks from live disco (and other) recordings, I can’t not include these historical milestones or gems:

While they did it first (if you exclude the concept that being influenced by someone is a kind of sample, in whcih case we need to go back to classical or before...) hip hop doesn’t have a monopoly on sampling of course. Jungle did it to great effect, both rhythmically (looping, speeding up and re-editing classic breaks like the Amen, Think etc) and musically. Check Goldie lifting “Every Day of my life” from the Salsoul classic "Let No Man Put Asunder"). (Shout to this junglist, he knows what's up).


Of course "let no man put asunder" is a 'sample' of sorts from the Bible's Matthew 19:6, which, as an atheist, is always one of my favourite moments in a British church wedding because when the vicar says it, it triggers this mental image of a Salsoul classic coming on the church PA and everyone breaking into spontaneous dance to a gay-rights anthem.

While the feel of “Certified” does naturally sit with classic hip hop, in tempo it flows with UK garage and the latter is itself no stranger to sample culture. No Fixed Abode’s fellow LHF member Amen Ra is part of garage set dons, United Vibes. Their sets over the years have been drawn from a vast shared pool of UKG white labels and one away releases, collected while the genre was in full swing (sic). For anyone who’s seen their sets, one lasting memory is not just how fun garage is, but how inadvertently psychotically offkey it can be.

I asked Amen Ra for an example for this moment, he provided this, which 4Tet is re-issuing:

(Crazy Bald Heads is a Bob Marley song...)

Of course, Todd Edwards is quite distinct from hip hop but in many ways his trademark sound (learned from MK), is centered around sampling too, building melodies and in key riffs from vocals. I recall El-B, when he was making more 4x4 during the El-Tuff phase with Karl “Tuff Enough” Brown, saying just how hard it is to make all the samples pitch in key, probably because when you slow down a layered samples, different harmonics in the sample pitch down to different tones, semi tones or more like between the intervals. Respect to Todd, basically.

So sampling – there’s history to it, both the tradition and embedded in the sample, and “Certified” is no exception. Each sample based track is building on – and exists in the context of – a rich history of sampling. There’s a dialog going on, not just with you the listener or the current trends and styles, but with the past. Ideas from the past, glories from the past but also how the past is re-presented in the now.

In the case of “Certified”, it’s sampling free jazz. Now, I’m no expert on free jazz, that’s entire galaxy in itself, but I certainly can suggest some starting points – more connections if you will. It’s been a while since I read a lot about it, but I’m pretty sure people were pointing to Louis Armstrong’s “Hot Five and Hot Seven Sessions” as a starting point for improvisation in jazz.

"Certified" though samples Pharoah Sanders from much later but there’s something that connects them, and that’s a spirit of freedom, both musically in terms of the music evolving on the fly, and then sonically, to find the tones between the tones. Sampling of course, compounds this further, as micro intervals are layered upon micro intervals, such that you can never know whether something is nearly in tune (unlike a wave in a synth).

What I like about this one is that from the very first note, it’s like you’ve walked in late and Sanders is exploding upwards in a crescendo. By the end he’s ascending to the heavens.

"I sampled Pharoah Sanders in this track," said No Fixed Abode. "He's all about elevation and this whole story is about that. It's about triumph over adversity, and freeing yourself from negativity.  It's about triumph over adversity, not some dark morbid tale of woe. Rise up!"

Sanders played with John and Alice Coltrane… I mean, just read about the Pharoah, he’s a total don:
“Albert Ayler famously said: "Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.”

This is super mellow...


 ...and got sampled by Photek, back in the day…

But there’s another moment in “Certified,” that makes me think of an entirely other connection. It comes in at 14 seconds and while it’s certainly pretty “free” a sound, it has that kind of sour, almost organ-like sound that reminds in part of Kode9’s “Black Sun”, a track I have never recovered from

But I suppose at a leap, the sample connects to the kinds of drones here:

Man, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is such a don – look how much he’s smiling! It totally kicks off at around 11mins... this is hype like Roll Deep live on Rinse 2004.

And yet even here we see more connections: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is a Qawwali singer and the first time I became aware of that form of singing was when Pinch handed me a CDr at Forward of this track he’d done .

Pinch went on to be a friend and good musical companion. When Dusk and I were thinking about starting Keysound in 2005, he intro’d us to Shlom at Boomkat who put us in touch with our first distribution deal – one that would allow us to form Keysound and release No Fixed Abode and other LHF records.

And so from the JB’s to DJ Premier, Todd Edwards to Pharoah Sanders via Kode9 and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the connections bring us full circle back to “Certified,” hopefully all the richer for the journey.

Part 2 to follow...