Wednesday, September 19, 2007

[Bring the Noise deleted scene #16]

Melody Maker, April 23 1988
by Simon Reynolds


Up Home! (Rough Trade)

A.R. Kane return, with an impossibly total vindication of one’s hopes: not so much living up to the rhetoric as burning it up, leaving it exhausted and impoverished. “Baby Milk Snatcher” returns to the deep, deep dub-sway and heavy reverb reaches of “Anitina”, the hideously under-exposed B-side of the M.A.R.R.S. smash/scourge. But the other three tracks on this EP are the real deal.

I don’t know how Alex and Rudi get these sounds: they seem to be playing not guitars but stalagmites and stalactites. “WOGS” is a vortex of refractions, an overload of colours canceling each other to produce a dazzling white-out. You think of Arthur Russell, subaqua reef worlds or the dreamscapes uncovered by explorers of the underworld: the kind of grottos we haven’t encountered since Garlands, maybe even Bitches Brew.

Alex’s voice is the human heartbeat at the core of this miasma, listeless and withdrawn, carrying the melody as though nearly borne under by its heavy burden of wonder, then dissipating into whispers and cries through all the secret, silent spaces in this sound. “One Way Mirror” is almost dancey but for the near unbearable magnesium radiance of the sound. “Up” has an intolerably lovely melody that slowly, slowly paces an endless spiral “stairway to heaven”, while all around the ice cathedral resonates like a giant bell.

Up Home! is the slow supernova of rock: not its burn-up in velocity, rather the supercession of riffs and even chords by a shapeless radiance of sound seemingly without origin (certainly not in the human touch), conceivably without end.

This is rock’s Ice Age, its Antarctica, its final petrifying spell. The chiming of a million icicles.

“The Real Beat” (Gee Records)

I’ve looked on in sadness as hip hop has reached a tedious consensus with the rare groove snobs, and has come to draw on a smaller and smaller repertoire of approved R&B samples, trading in its baleful rigour for a boisterous fluency. Maybe that’s why the slow and deadly stealth of this track is so appealing (although that’s an odd word to use for something so unsettling and disinclined to ingratiate).

Against a backdrop of ominous drones, distant detonations, and a shiftless electro pulse, a rapper examines, with murderous finesse, “how the world just goes today”. Cross-dressing, transsexualism. AIDS, the breakdown of borderlines and differences: this is an apocalyptic vision, but one that is fetishised, reveled in, even -- perhaps because the toughter things get, the more the rapper’s survivalist prowess is brought into relief.

The only sample here is a howl of female anguish, strangely suggestive of Diamanda Galas, that seems to issue from some dungeon languishing in the depths of the mix. The title ‘The Real Beat’ isn’t a claim to authenticity or unique dance-powers, but a claim to “realism”, a shedding of rose-tinted vision.

This is a different tkind of machismo, measured not in throwing your weight around, but in how hard and cynical a look you can take at the world, how much shit you can face.

“Party People” (Idlers, import)

This track is like being possessed. It turns you into a marionette. It sucks away your will, the autonomy of your limbs, and invades your body, makes it thrall to a kind of disciplined epilepsy. It’s the closest House music has yet come to simulating the effect of a strobe. Incredibly brief snatches of reverb, long since severed from the musical events which birthed them (a deliberate piano chord? a string crescendo? a minute segment of party hubbub?) are mixed up with micro-consonants of vocoder gabble, and turned into a stuttering shudderquake. Dancing on hot coals.


“Listen to my Turbo” (Show Jazz, import)
“Bad Young Brother” (Tuff Audio)

More hip hop like they used to make it in the good old days. “Listen to my Turbo” is wound uptight, so superstressed you’re sure the mechanism must break any second. Its grid of beats is like some mad scientists’ lunatic creation left untended, warning signals bleeping, circuits about to combust: a B-movie master computer heading for a nervous breakdown. Hi-hat ticks like a cardiac monitor 10 seconds before a stroke, scratches that harass like mosquitoes on PCP, this will turn your sinews to cheesewire, pop every vein on your temples.It’s great, but it’s not the thing to help you unwind after a day’s wage-slavery. This is for the idle numb who need a dose of hypertension.

As for Derek B, “Britishness” is not an issue here. How tired I am of the lazy journalism that, unable to say anything about the music, needs to resort to knee-jerk attempts to rally us to some obsolete punk-derived patriotism. Why should we support initiatives just because they hail from our manor? “Bad Young Brother” is simply very good, and so confers upon young Derek the status of honorary American (I notice he doesn’t rap in a British accent, which is all to the good). This is a pugilistic, jabbing bout of Moog bass and disfigured, thankfully unrecognisable samples.

“My Philosophy” (Jive import)
"It Takes Two” (Citybeat)

These two are more squarely in the swing of current rap trends, ripping off R&B’s more sanctioned sources. KRS1, the late Scott La Rock’s other half, is a bit of a pompous git, dramatizing himself here as a poet, savant, and all round positive role model, berating his more dissolute fellow B-boys from the pulpit about the need to shun the dissipatory lure of drugs and violence. But “My Philosophy” manages to be both groovy and grueling, which is quite a trick these days.

The Rob Base/EZ Rock track is another exercise in attrition through overbearing sensual soul power. They take a shriek of JB at his most histrionic, and turn what is on the original record a singular peak of ecstasy into a jackknifing rhythmic copula that just goes on and on and on, like a locked groove. Climax after climax after climax. The effect is akin to hyperventilation.

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