The bit where General Levy comes in and does jungle classic ‘Incredible’ is a real goosebumps moment. Awesome to see so many of the biggest names in UK urban music jumping around with huge grins like excited children.
Sad news this morning, as it has been announced that pioneering Chicago footwork dj/producer DJ Rashad has passed away at his Chicago home:
Chicago footwork pioneer DJ Rashad has died. While an official statement has not yet been issued, the news was broken and confirmed by Rashad’s close friends, including DJ Godfather and Chance the Rapper. Rashad, who was 35, was due to perform tonight with DJ Godfather and another longtime collaborator, DJ Spinna, at Detroit’s Inhale Art Expo.
Update: The Chicago Sun-Times reports that DJ Rashad was found dead by a friend in a West Side apartment early Saturday afternoon and pronounced dead at the scene shortly after. An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday. A drug overdose is suspected.
For some bizarre reason, it’s taken me a long time to get into the amazing music of Machinedrum, aka Travis Stewart.
If you are unaware of him, he is an American dj/producer who has been based in Berlin for the last few years (I believe in Kreuzberg, which is much hipper than Wilmersdorf, where I live), and he makes an absolutely beautiful hybrid electronic music, combining bass-heavy juke and jungle influenced beats with the beautiful melodies and atmospherics more commonly heard in the music of downtempo artists like Boards of Canada or 76:14-era Global Communication. Or you could also say that his music is a bit like Burial’s, except fun to dance to. Thinking about it, what really draws me to his music is that it is in a sense like a hyper-modern update on that old atmospheric jungle sound that I’ve always loved – strong beats, big bass, gorgeous melodies.
Although I have been dimly aware of his music for a while, it wasn’t until I started listen to Om Unit a lot that I decided to also explore Machinedrum’s body of work. I’ve listened to more of Om Unit in the past six months than any other artist, and I’ve been greedily devouring everything I can find by him, because I just can’t get enough of his unique take on slow/fast beats with tons of gorgeous electronics layered over the top. Anyways, Om Unit and Machinedrum did a one-off collaboration last year as Dream Continuum on Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu Records, where they recast old skool hardcore using modern production techniques and juke-influenced beats. Honestly, I loved it, so from there I went on to buy Machinedrum’s latest album, Vapor City, which is amazing, and then I got his previous album, Room(s), which is also amazing, and then I got a bunch more of his stuff, and then, well, here we are.
Obviously, I can’t give a comprehensive overview of his music here, but I can give you a nice little taster, so here are a few of my favorite cuts from his two most recent albums, plus a few freebies and remixes that I also dig.
Two weeks ago, Sunday Sounds looked at Chicago’s drill music scene, it’s own particular local spin on the trap sound that has dominated American hip-hop over the last few years.
Of course, over the last thirty years Chicago has been much better-known internationally for its contributions to electronic music than for the produce of its rap scene (even though Chicago has produced one of the most famous rappers of them all in the douche-tacular shape of Kanye West). So today I just wanted to throw up a few mixes of Chicago juke music, the hyper-speed polythythmic sound that has inspired producers all over the world in the last few years. It’s also been the soundtrack to a unique style of dancing called footworking, which was born in Chicago’s ghettos and is, frankly, pretty amazing to watch (as well as mind-bogglingly complicated) – I’ve also posted a documentary on that, too.
Here’s some excellent new school jungle sounds from Brooklyn/Toronto label Liondub. This Street Series of releases really capture the essence of classic jungle while still remaining modern and not slavishly imitating the sounds of 20 years ago. Drum n’ bass has really had a renaissance over the last couple of years, and it’s great to hear so many producers drawing inspiration from the past in order to move the music forward.
One thing I’ve been listening to a little bit on YouTube recently is quote-unquote drill music, Chicago’s take on the trap sound. Basically, it’s heavy 808 bass, moody atmospherics, crispy snares, and rapping about shooting people (i.e. the usual gangster rap staples). I’ve never been someone who cares about lyrics, so the ultra-violent lyrical content basically makes no impression on me (I mean, I hardly pay attention to it). Having said that, I’m obviously not the target audience for the music, being as I am from a very different background to the guys making this music.
Most of the commentary about the music that I’ve read talks about the lyrics, the rappers, and the connections to the very high crime rates on Chicago’s poorer South and West Sides (Chicago has some of the roughest neighborhoods in America). Which I guess is fair enough, that’s what a lot of musical journalism about – placing music in a socio-political context, exploring the urban reality, blah blah blah. But I’m not a music journalist, so for me what’s interesting about the music is not the lyrics, but the music, which BANGS. As a long-term fan of really bass-heavy electronic music, some of these productions are just fucking excellent (if sometimes sadly featuring the horrors of autotune).
One thing for me that’s interesting about this is that this is the first time I can think of that Chicago has become a major rap city – obviously it’s electronic music heritage is well-established, from house to acid to ghetto house and on to juke, but besides individual stars like Kanye West it’s not really been a major city for rap music in America. Something that has obviously changed now.
Anyways, some of these tunes are pretty cool. Here’s four I’ve picked out for you to check:
Although those days can’t ever be adequately recaptured, what’s cool is that they are still soldiering on all these years later and, in my humble opinion, have hit a real purple patch of quality music recently. This is that classic technical Metalheadz sound updated for a new era – pure machine music for dark sweaty rooms. So this edition of Sunday Sounds is all about celebrating the modern Metalheadz sound … here are five killer tracks from Dom & Roland, Om Unit, Jubei, Mikal, and Artificial Intelligence. Enjoy!
I’ve set up a Tumblr at sonicrampage.tumblr.com/ to post various tunes and whatnot. Tumblr is a strange place, full of lunatics, but I like the flexibility of the format, so I want to do some experimentation
Now that that’s out of the way, here are four deeper tunes from Om Unit, Kromestar & Jay 5ive, Actress, and Anton F for your Sunday. I’ve been listening to a lot of these sorts of tunes recently – I guess I’m getting old and a bit more relaxed, but they do make excellent commuting and working music.