Thursday, June 19, 2014

Album Review: Al Dobson Jr. - Sounds from the Village Volume 1 (2014)

South London DJ/producer Al Dobson Jr certainly gets around. It seems he's everywhere at the moment – with two brand new album releases and a couple of high profile Boiler Room sets behind him, along with the buzz being generated by the heavyweight likes of Mixmag, XLR8R, FACT, and Resident Advisor, he's very much a man of the moment.

Fresh from dropping a curtain raiser for the fledgling Rhythm Section International label, an album called Rye Lane Volume One, we get this one, Sounds from the Village Volume 1, a second full-length release, this time on Kutmah's IZWID imprint. There were 2013 collaborations with Creole - on the experimental Japanese-themed Japan Project - and Tenderlonious - four tracks on a shared release, and it’s fair to say Dobson Jr’s current profile and status as a genuine up and comer is hard earned and well deserved.
Quite often these new releases come with promo blurbs so far wide of the mark it renders them rather pointless, but IZWID's own description of Dobson Jr's album nails it in a way that almost makes this review utterly superfluous. I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe what we get on Sounds from the Village than … “cosmic vocal rips and a myriad of loose, soul-infused beat tape-style sketches with its digital flourishes”…

Each and every one of those sample-licious “vocal rips” blend beautifully with the bass-centric rhythmic foundations underpinning everything else, while those “digital flourishes” consist of loops that glisten with washes of warm synth and a host of other glitchy bits and bobs. This is one part soulful-5am-vibe, and two parts dirty funk leftovers, with a sense of pure decadence right at its core.

After an opening couple of minutes (and tracks) so laid back they’re practically horizontal, the highlights start to emerge, and it’s an album that steadily builds in momentum to become a rich and warm listening experience.

The production from label guru Kutmah and Dobson Jr himself is pristine, and as is the IZWID way, Kutmah contributes wider design and cover art, which LA-based collective HIT+RUN will hand-print on a chipboard jacket … (er, not quite sure how that works, but obviously this is for vinyl only copies and not something you’ll get with a download or anything … which I sincerely hope goes without saying!).

The best tracks here are ‘Dunza Blues’, ‘Maiysha’, ‘Sensi Block’, ‘Work Together’ and ‘Tomorrow’, but even some of the shorter tracks, some of the more experimental half formed ideas resonate in a way they probably really shouldn’t.

So if I have a small criticism it’s exactly that. Some of these tracks do actually feel slightly less than fully formed – just as they’re warming to their task they abruptly expire and we’re immediately onto the next way-too-short groove. I get that sometimes less is more, but equally, with vibes this good, sometimes more is also more. The entire 15 track album is over in a tick over 33 minutes, so it is fairly short by album standards.
Then again, perhaps that’s part of its charm. If brevity is the source of any genuine frustration, why not just flip it over or press “repeat play”? …

And also from IZWID, there’s this little beauty, Seven Davis Jr doing Prince’s 'Controversy', this has been out six months or so now, but it’s a freebie download so you know what you should do …

Al Dobson Jr Boiler Room DJ Set:


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Analogue Fakir - 'Dead Souls'

I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy of the new Celt Islam album, Generation Bass, over the weekend, and I’ll get around to reviewing it here sometime in the next couple of weeks. Regular readers of the blog will already be familiar with everythingsgonegreen’s obsession with this extraordinary artist, but here he is in his other guise, as The Analogue Fakir, with a recent tribute track to Joy Division, ‘Dead Souls’ …


Monday, June 2, 2014

Classic Album Review: Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes (1982)

Not quite like anything else around at the time, this superb self-titled debut album caused something of a minor stir when first released in 1982. Combining garage pop attitudes and production values with something that could best be described as acoustic folk punk, the Violent Femmes present us with a bold set of stories (occasionally x-rated) about pubescent sexual insecurities, adolescent rebellion, drug-taking, and all-round teenage angst. You know – all of the usual daily dilemmas and standard issues confronting the average Milwaukee schoolboy of any given generation.

Songwriter and vocalist Gordon Gano had a knack for that old hammer-nail-head thing, and the strength of this album is the raw and direct confessional nature of his lyrics. Always challenging, frequently confrontational, and laced with humour, the words are ably backed up by a solid set of tunes, with plenty of quirky and interesting facets to the band’s overall sound – see percussion, xylophone, and unusual acoustic bass. The band employs various loud-soft-loud teases, plus repeated and often explosive changes in pace, an MO later mastered by the likes of The Pixies.

The album would become something of a college radio playlist favourite for the best part of the next decade, and the Femmes for a short period following this album’s release built up a relatively sizable following largely through word of mouth and limited underground/non-mainstream level exposure.

The band’s career proved very fragmented in the end, the past three decades having been littered with fall outs, splits, and repeated attempts to reunite. There was a particularly public and bitter falling out in 2007 when Gano allowed ‘Blister In The Sun’ to be used as an advertising jingle for fast foods chain ‘Wendy’s’ – much to the shame and chagrin of the other rather more principled members of the band.

The Violent Femmes never again scaled the critical and commercial heights reached here, and despite attempts to reinvent themselves on more experimental later works, they perhaps suffered from being typecast too soon, and to some extent the band was viewed as a one-dimensional one-trick pony. Whatever, we’re left to reflect on what essentially became an unfulfilled promise.

‘Blister In The Sun’, the opening track, is one of the album’s genuine highlights, but look out too for ‘Kiss Off’, ‘Add It Up’, ‘Please Do Not Go’, ‘Prove My Love’, and ‘Gone Daddy Gone’. My version of the CD includes two excellent bonus tracks, ‘Ugly’, and ‘Gimme The Car’.