Wednesday, 16 December 2009


Artwork by Chris Cheal





Sunday, 6 December 2009


Soul Jazz Records Bitesize profile

I should mention (out of fear of sounding like a P.R creep) that I don’t work for the label or know anyone affiliated with it but after years of seeing their ridiculously cool adverts staring back at me from the bottom of The Wire magazine I was lured into the Soul Jazz jungle and i’m having a real hard time making my way out.

One of the UKs best independent record labels releasing one spellbinding compilation after another, Soul Jazz was founded in the early 90’s. The London based label specialises in all manner of non mainstream musical delights with its main focus on principally black music with compilations featuring some of the most radical artists and musicians; including Sun Ra, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Alice Coltrane and Os Mutantes. Amongst their incredible catalogue of innovative black music, Soul Jazz also delve into the world of psychedelic, DIY post punk and no wave and global sounds with the label imprint Sounds of the universe.

Soul Jazz don’t just deal in soundwaves, they’ve got the visual goods to boot with a whole host of excellent Blaxploitation films and music documentaries such as Les Stances A Sophie, Dub Echoes and Studio One Story.

Soul Jazz recently reignited (and sadly snuffed them out again) the flames of their infamous 100% dynamite monthly Sunday event in Brick Lane, featuring Soul Jazz sound system and hosting a huge roster of talent including Warrior Queen. They played dancehall, dubstep, funk and soul and hosted a film screening of Franco Rosso’s Babylon, a poignant look at working class black youths living in South London in the early 1980s accompanied by the sounds of I-Roy and Aswad.

With the likes of global music conduit Gilles Peterson regularly putting together compilations for the label, it is the first port of call for anyone interested in delving into the wonderful world of...Haitian voodoo tribal drumming say, or perhaps the polyphonic voices of Georgia. Whatever the niche, chances are Soul Jazz have covered it. But before anyone dare say it, Soul Jazz don’t deal in novelty exploitative new age rubbish; care and attention is paid to each release, usually coming with some artwork integral to the record itself and a nifty booklet chronicling the development and history of the genre or scene featured.

Here’s a small snippet of some recommended Soul Jazz releases.

Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound
An amazing selection of Brazilian Tropicalia featuring legendary artists such as Os Mutantes, Tom Zé and Gal Costa.

New Thing!: Deep Jazz in the USA
As usual Soul Jazz offer another microcosm of the cream of the civil rights jazz crop, in a similar vein to Universal Sounds of the America but less afro futuristic and more politicised tracks.

Universal Sound of America: Universal Sound of America
This is what the future should sound like. Theme de Yoyo is possibly the best track on the album. This release just proves Space is the Place.

Can You Dig It? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968 – 75
A recent release putting together some familiar and alien sounds inspired and hired by some of the greatest Blaxploitation films, including Coffy, Foxy Brown and of course, Shaft Goes to Africa.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Now Then: The Field

Sometimes it’s necessary for electronic music to provide some warmth, depth, sometimes it’s ok to combine a hybrid mix of luddite and technophilic sensibilities, man maketh the machine, the machine do not maketh the man. Sometimes techno can do with a god damn heartbeat. Enter The Field to provide the circulatory electronic system needed to pump some blood through the wired veins of Bungalow and Bears sound system.

Joining Sheffield’s Pygmie Globetrotters and Forest Creature for an extraordinary rare free gig, (yurp that is correct, FREE) the Kompact signed swede, known also as Axel Willner, is accompanied by live guitar, bass and drums. Together they look more like a warped metal band, all tattooed up with a wife beater vest thrown in for good measure but the sound produced is far removed from what their attire might suggest. Delicate, danceable rhythms that pull in a large hipster crowd and most importantly get them moving. The sort of beats that are repetitive but not tediously monotonous, the sort of driving beats that make you want to dance until your feet bleed. Motorik beats that give a mechanical nod to Can and Neu!

80’s power ballad ‘Everybodys Got to Learn Sometime’ by The Korgis is translated into a dreamy, whimsical mantra, gently aided by light tribal like drumming. As much as some are transfixed by the beat, others are most probably lost in the cyclical luscious soundscapes The Field is clearly renowned for.

Watching from the side of the stage to admire the drumming, the live instrumentation really elevates the spectacle, it’s no longer Vladislav Delay (whos performance at East London based Concrete and Glass last year failed to thrill visually) hunched over a laptop with an icy stare transfixed by a blank screen. What kind of a human being can pretend to be enthralled by that?

It’s often hard to catch any of the onstage antics, every so often the tip of a shiny bald head bobs up above the crowd at the front, but maybe sometimes a shiny bald head is all you need to see.

Who said you can’t get something for nothing.

Now Then: Hicks Review

Sheffield docfest: American: The Bill Hicks Story

(Directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas)

The Resurrection of Goatboy

‘Ever notice how we always kill the good guys and let the demons run amok?’

The self proclaimed ‘Chomsky with dick jokes’, Bill Hicks was a prophet and philosopher, embittered by religion, American unipolarity and capitalism, i’m yet to come across anyone who wouldn’t agree with his wise musings. Three years in the making, it was two brits Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas that were granted the divine right to tell the story of one of comedy’s if not humanity’s most iconic figures. This feature length documentary adopts innovative animation technique, using photos and snippets of footage of Hicks’ family and friends to go above and beyond the conventional talking heads set up. Harlock and Thomas speak to those who knew Hicks best, with each one capturing the essence of Bill with their amusing anecdotes and memories of the fellow. His close family recall his Baptist upbringing, which seemed to be the butt of some of his more extreme material. His childhood friend Dwight Slade reminisces over the duos high school days, performing guerrilla routines in front of anyone who happened to be within their perimeter. We’re launched into an animated recreation of the world of Hicks, his beginnings in Houston sneaking out of the house to perform at the Commix Annexe. Perhaps the most impressive footage is 15 year old Hicks performing to a crowd twice his age as the accompanying voiceovers recall his rare observational talent from such an early age. With the footage of Hicks live routines we feel as if we are in the audience, we cringe when he puts down drunken hecklers in the audience and almost compelled to shout praise in agreement of his poignant quips. The animation really excels itself during the documentary’s ‘squeegee clean’ third eye segment; recounting Hicks experiences with magic mushrooms and goes hand in hand with his liberal take on the ‘war on drugs’. A notorious chain smoker, the documentary deals with Hicks struggle with alcohol and pancreatic cancer without too much unnecessary hyperbole and sentimentality culminating with footage of Hicks last show in New York in 1994 just before his untimely death at the age of 32. As one friend puts it, as is so often the case with reluctant heroes, If Hicks was able to see the messianic status he’s been afforded in the entertainment industry he’d either find it highly amusing or be disgusted by it, but as biographic documentaries go ‘American...’ is a much needed celebration of Hicks life and philosophy; the vital importance of which in this day and age I cannot stress enough. After all It’s just a ride.