Posted by: pascoesabido | April 29, 2010

ETHER FESTIVAL’S THE BAYS VS STEREO MCS KNOCKOUT

Ether Festival opening night @ The Southbank Centre, London – 16th April 2010
Written By: PascoeSabido

photos by http://mikemike.co.uk/

Resurrections are definitely in vogue, but Ether Festival has found a timeless balance. Hosted in London’s Southbank Centre – more famed for its quirky cultural offerings than live electronic music – it’s been mixing old, new and the altogether bizarre for nigh on seven years. 2009 showcased Brian Eno, Royksöpp and Thecocknbullkid, amongst others, and this this year, the recently-resurrected Gil Scott Heron joins Lou Reed (I could have sworn he was dead?) and Mercury Award-winning Speech Debelle, to name but a few… oh, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra – why not?

The opening night is a similar hotchpotch: billed as ‘The Stereo MCs vs. The Bays’ it certainly bends genres as the Herbaliser and Tom Middleton complete the roster. All have been credited with originality within and beyond their chosen sound, so an interesting night’s in store – definitely helped by the location. As the name suggests, the venue is plumped perfectly on the Thames, presiding over one of the best spots in London to sip a plastic cup of beer while enjoying the sunset behind the river. If only every sunny day could end in such a way. It’s worth checking out their schedule for the next few months (quite a bit is free), even just for the pre-party sunset drinks. The Ether Festival (www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ether10 ) is running until the 24th April, so hopefully the sun will oblige. Although that said, I think we may just have had our summer – blue skies being the rare occurrence they are on these Isles.

Out of the twilight and into the building, it’s strange to see a familiar space decked out for a different purpose. Normally a foyer area and café, it scrubs up pretty well. The Clore Ballroom, directly below the Royal Festival Hall, accommodates the stage, and any fears the bar won’t cope with the throngs of (middle aged) people soon disappear, the staff whizzing through orders. Those out on patrol – earpiece in, colourful t-shirt on, order securely maintained – outnumber the revellers upon arrival, but expertly melt into walls once the fun begins. ‘Once’ being the operative word though: a cancellation from the Herbaliser (blame the volcano – or god – or both?) leaves Tom Middleton to liven things up. Unfortunately for the DJ/producer, once of the Bays, the public aren’t ready for a DJ but need live music and instruments to draw in the dancers. Kid Fiesta, who warm up with a mix of funky broken beat and disco, leave the crowd still tepid. A live ensemble would do perfectly – especially the jazz-dripping hip-hop The Herbaliser offers – but Middleton’s efforts to find the right tone between house tracks leave people on the sidelines, embarrassed to step forward as if at a school disco with no date. The gaping space in the dance floor calls out for a breakdancer but finds itself filled by a guy with a gurn, head down, arms out, round and round, until – disoriented – he stumbles off into a siding.

Such a lull is the perfect opportunity to explore, and surprise surprise, in a building like the South Bank Centre, all manner of eccentricity pops up. Downstairs, a homage to Southall has been erected – market stalls and all – while a further wander uncovers a Tibetan drumming workshop. Time-fillers if ever there were, although no replacement for Ninja Tune’s finest. Back in the Clore Ballroom the flat-capped ginger bearded-one is still centre stage, priming the crowd for the surprising stars of the show: out of the speakers flows Middleton’s remix of Here and Now by the soon to perform Stereo MCs’ (download it for free http://www.datatransmission.co.uk/ViewNews/4731/ ), which he producer especially for Ether.

Having taken to the stage, any crowd apathy is soon dispelled: Rob Birch, Stereo MCs’ lead man, makes no mistake in dragging people forward, riling excitement for a band that is incredibly 25 years old. A quick glance at the ebullient emcee confirms it: he’s clearly been on the block a few more years than those ‘New Kids’ – and even our ghetto princess Jenny to the Lopez for that matter (unless the block in question is made of full-fat cheese). Among the first British hip-hop acts to gain commercial success both here and in the States, Stereo MCs were original to boot, one of the first to scrap samples in favour of live recordings. Now back on tour to promote new album, Double Bubble, it’s been a while coming: five years to be precise. However, going by their own standards, that’s pretty quick. Between breakthrough album Connected and the follow up Deep Down and Dirty, fans waited nine years. A patient bunch, clearly.

Back to Stereo MCs’ Birch: taking a leaf from Trinny and Susan’s new best-seller ‘How to look crack-fiend-chic’, he is either in training as a yoga guru or hasn’t eaten a meal since the last album. Either way, there’s not an ounce of fat on the boy – but that doesn’t stop his gaunt face smiling out and urging people to jump. Alongside him – and clearly the star of the show – Cath Coffey compliments her soulful vocal offerings with an incredibly sexy job as a spicy backing dancer. Considering she joined the band in its relative infancy, to be 20 years down the line and still afro-clad, rhythm shaking, hips wiggling and arms rising is all the more impressive. Listening to the repertoire brings vague memories bubbling up, as Pressure and then Fade Away are played out between Birch and Coffey. However, when their international hit Connected eventually makes it out, a groan escapes from somewhere inside me, acceptance that the ‘90s Carphone Warehouse ditty will be stuck in my head all week. But who am I to judge – becoming an advertising jingle puts a lot of dinner on the table during nine years of no album! And saying that, 3 bars in and I’m singing with the rest of them. Free advertising if ever I saw it – mobile phone, anyone?

The crowd’s response is raucous, egged on by Rob Birch and his occasionally-appearing guitar, the energy on stage now infectious. Cue Middleton – now hidden away in a DJ booth – to ride the Stereo’s wave and capitalise with a couple of easy winners (who can resist a Super Sharp Shooter?). Supposedly he even played the theme to Only Fools and Horses, but I must have been in the toilet or getting a drink because there’s no way that could slip by unnoticed. And then, as if by magic (I’m sure Paul Daniels had a hand in it) The Bays are playing, picking up from Middleton in the bassier dubstep territory before swirling through the ambient electronic, tech-house vein, the array of Korgs bringing life from behind the light show. And as if The Bays are not enough – the hottest band known only to festival-goers and live music aficionados as they’ve never recorded a track nor even rehearsed together in a studio! – up pops Beardyman. Bang for your buck and all that. His warped vocals and chaos-pad tomfoolery add the dubby edge, pushed further with the reintroduction of Stereo MCs and Cath Coffey’s echoing utterances.

A frenetic finale, fitting for this year’s first forays somewhere into the Ether. Check out the remainder of the programme for a atypical nights of live music – and just to add icing to a pleasurable slice of exceedingly good cake, the cloak rooms are free!

Posted by: pascoesabido | October 1, 2009

MINIMAL ON A MAXIMAL SCALE: CONTAKT LONDON

Published by DataTransmission.co.uk,  (http://www.datatranmission.co.uk/viewfeatures.aspx?featureID=445)

Written By: PascoeSabido
Minus presents CONTAKT @ O2 Academy Brixton, London – 26th September 2009

Anyone on the M inus roster is pretty much guaranteed to draw a crowd. Daddy Hawtin alone brings a cool million (slight exaggeration?Ed.) – so when the bulk of the labels’ artists get together, it’s clearly going to be a roadblock.

CONTAKT – the rare audio-visual extravaganza that was touring the world throughout 2008 – puts Richie Hawtin, Magda, Troy Pierce, Marc Houle, Gaiser, Heartthrob, JPLS, Ambivalent and Barem onto the same platform, at the same time (sort of), merging talents and fusing technophile tastes. Last year saw the show touch down at London’s SeOne, but a smaller capacity left hundreds without entry. This time – officially the only CONTAKT show of the year and Hawtin’s only London club date until 2010 – the O2 Academy Brixton has risen to the challenge, opening its 4,000 capacity hall to a barrage of bass and enough LEDs to cause blindness (I’m still seeing stars).

Brixton Academy (as it was more simply known before rebranding robbed it of its originality) has a first class degree in holding raves. One Nation and Hard House Academy have both etched their histories on the dance floor, and if you put an ear to the sweat-laden walls, the faint sound of Amens and hoovers can just be made out. Walking through the ornate doors and extravagant entrance hall makes you feel that a sumptuous evening of theatre awaits, not the rollicking techno specifically engineered to alter sanity. Up either side of the hall wind stairways to the Circle (‘balcony’ in layman’s terms) – which is handy when the legs demand a break but actually quite breathtaking, the 1000+ seats providing an aerial view of the light show below.

Back down on the (partially sloping) dance floor, the Minus party takes hold a little past 1AM, calling time on Fabrizio Maurizi – another Minus gem who, despite a few dodgy mixes, kept the standards high. But he’s only a starter and everyone’s there for the main. In full flow, the sound is penetrating – of a volume rarely heard in clubs. Clearly on a mission to improve on the poor performance of SeOne, there are no chances taken. Some grumble of it being too loud, but techno is a genre that befits volume [get some earplugs then – Ed]. The constant basslines, thrown into your face and then snatched right back, rise through the legs. The bleeps, tweets and clicks that are still its mainstay successfully intrude the subconscious. The sound quality might suffer as a result of blaring volume, but the balance is as good as you’ll get with a venue that size. The only thing that could tick all boxes: Funktion Ones. Looking around, most people are more than happy with what they’ve got: smiles and euphoria adorn all faces. The only issue within the comfortably full crowd is balance, the natural result of dancing on a down slope. The front was levelled, but that wasn’t quite enough.

While it’s easy to discern that at any point during the night the music is exemplary, it is less easy to know who’s providing it. Up on stage, massive LED screens frame silhouettes of mystery DJs, both behind the decks and in front, leaving them as if floating in a sky of anti-aircraft fire – or, if we’re to be honest, a pool of swimming sperm. Ali Demirel, the mastermind behind the lighting, does a fine job for most of the night, but at times it looks like a microscopic lens is studying your soldiers (have a look at the videos for vindication). Defining each DJ in their identikit black t-shirt, despite the best squint I can muster, relies on Demirel flashing their name periodically among the bright lights. Look the wrong way and you’ve missed it. But there’s no denying the entire package is a true spectacle: the opening five-ten minute sequence, all on stage, all with laptops, visuals and sound fluctuating and reforming, is spine-tingling.

Gaiser and Magda (names momentarily on screen) continue from the intro, mixing sexy rattles and maracas on top of gently-tapped cow bells. Behind them, sipping coffee and lounging on armchairs, are the rest of the gang, soon to join. Hawtin momentarily steps in to twist proceedings, sending the niceties out the window in favour of crunked-up industrial might. While there is clearly an agreed itinerary between them, I’m now sure how far it is obeyed. More names on stage would be good, as would some crowd interaction, but who’s gonna tell the Minus lot what to do? If given the chance, one word of advice: allowing twats from Essex to text in and have their oh-so-fucking-special message up in lights is a SHIT idea! Bad move.

As expected with a format such as this, a lack of demarcation on stage leads to a lack of demarcation in the minds of the audience, and while it is all appreciated and applauded, there is a distinct distance between the Minus boys and girls and their followers, which wouldn’t exist were there just one or two on stage at a time. Heartthrob is flashed on screen amid muted American vocals, broken snares across the octave providing substance to the eerie backing.

However, despite the numbers on stage ranging from one to nine, the music is still good – if lacking in any subtlety (blame the speakers) – and Richie finishes the night in style. The visuals on their own are special: Edvard Munch’s The Scream gets a look in, as does that weird skeleton face from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and just to top it off on the I-want-to-make-you-feel-a-bit-fucking-weird front, a MASSIVE human eye (if you’re interested, it’s blue – perhaps it was wearing contakts? Ba-boom-tsh) materialises and starts moving to the beat. Not only are the best visuals saved till last, but Mr. Hawtin closing out means the best music is also at the end. Revamping Plastikman (his minimal alter-ego) into a hardcore guise, he rattles along, stomping through Brixton Academy with a wall of accumulating sound – still the daddy of techno build-ups and the god father of minimal.

If you were there then savour it; if not, then lament or convince yourself it wasn’t worth it, because this is rumoured to be the last ever CONTAKT show (although according to one little birdie there may be another, but birdies do tweet a lot of shit). A night to remember – if you can; many in there looked like they chose to live the moment at the expense of lasting memories. But the moment was definitely worth living. I’m glad of a great night but feel I can draw a line under the spectacle and go back to old fashioned one or two DJ sets (how boring).

Posted by: pascoesabido | August 27, 2009

Villalobos and Raresh still can’t make Fabric fun!

Ricardo Villalobos and Raresh (B2B) @ Fabric, London, 23/05/2009

Written for Data Transmission on 25/05/09 but not published

Fabric has become a once in a while experience. No longer can it be frequented with regularity because, quite honestly, you’d do your nut in and stab someone with a blunt instrument. Unfortunate but not unexpected for London’s most successful super-club; the people it attracts are far removed from the crowd you might find at the T Bar or Loco Dice’s recent Under 300 tour. But that’s life, like it or lump it: when Villalobos and Raresh, two names that ooze with techno royalty, are enlisted to assault room one, it’s time to close your eyes and think of England.

However, despite the dynamite billing, there’s no queue to speak of at midnight, security guards wandering around sheepishly, bereft of a crowd to jostle. It’s surprising, given that behind the two techno kings lies a 2-hour live set from Slam, another live offering from Mikael Stavöstrand, Arnaud le Texier (the Frenchman responsible for Safari Electronique) and also residents Terry Francis and Craig Richards. The quiet start doesn’t last long.

Room two, under the rhythms of le Texier, drifts from industrial almost tribal gritty techno through to jazzy breaks and infectious high-hats. From a sometimes-boring base, the gradual construction of interesting loops and samples can’t fail to illicit a wiggle of the hips and shuffle of the feet (enjoy the space while you can!). The gradual building is a theme carried on by Swede Mikael Stavöstrand, bringing oil tanker fog horns out of his laptop and into our ears. Whilst his layered tracks slowly gather momentum (slowly being the operative word), there is another problem he can’t seem to solve: up on the stage of room two with nothing but a laptop, all eyes are focused on the man making music (by this point a lot of them); whilst some people such as Stephen Bodzin interact with the crowd – going absolutely mental but also sharing his creative process through a camera-fed projection – our man Mikael has all the charisma of a carrot with a comb-over. He stands by the laptop, limp and lifeless, occasionally adjusting his side-parting to further accentuate the receding hair line. It’s a shame, as I’m sure his minimal offerings are often delectable, but unlike a DJ booth, the stage requires a performance.

The lull in room two allows the full range of Craig Richard’s talent to be appreciated. Week-in week-out he warms up for the biggest and brightest names in house and techno, and not once does he fall short. He is like a piece of the Fabric furniture, having only recently dared to venture beyond the brick vaults, but always at his best within them. Blending muffled metallic clangs with electrofied jazz quartets, he brings the biggest whoops of the night. He is so good in fact, that Ricardo Villalobos and Raresh (aka ArVi:Ar? Do I honestly see it catching on? No) let him keep playing for another 15-20 minutes while they monkey around behind the decks. The end of his set moves from the bumping sounds that got people moving into warped and eerie ambience, setting the scene for the once-minimal giants to launch their back to back.

[William Kouam Djoko – Look Inside Sun (Thirtyonetwenty)]

Raresh begins, bringing a deeper, housier techno, complete with keys, jazz, vocals and bongos. William Kouam Djoko’s Look Inside the Sun grinds through the immense Fabric soundsystem and up through the bodysonic dance floor, bringing a flute and funky chords to a chunky underlay. Villalobos can’t help but plump for his much-loved industrial sound, ratcheting in a high-hat to dominate the soundscape before bringing back the funkier Raresh sample – only to then drop into filth. The rugged Chilean exudes a rawness in his mixing, surprising the audience with the unsubtle chopping of his hard-hitting techno, leaving Raresh to bring the smoother side of life. A selection of special ’90s Detroit house evokes the days of UK G (see video below), but one pick particularly stands out: a subtly crafted and suitably groovy take on Eddie Amador’s House Music, remixed by fellow Romanians, Hermannstadt Collective. The acapella “not everyone understands house music” floats in and out before giving way to a pulsating break that ploughs through the crowd. The original sexy latino keyboard melody is then relayered on top, adeptly tweaked and continuously evolving.

While the music continues to crack the floorboards and rip up the upholstery, I still flake before seven. Perhaps I’m not as hard as I thought I was, but also pissed off with the crowd. Reading the RA forums afterwards, it’s as if we were in different clubs. It talks of space and being able to move: I attempt to make my space, have a dance, yet all around me are sleazy, nasty guys all chasing skirt and all getting nowhere. It’s like flies to shit – being any where near a pretty girl is a curse; actually, being pretty is not a prerequisite: pretty nor not, swarm they will. English, Italian, Spanish, all there with the same aim: pussy. Certainly the best music I’ve ever heard played in a pussy parlour, and such a shame because the Ricardo-Raresh combo is spectacular.

Hours of out of tune banshee-wailing, out of time clapping, and out of place whistling begin to grate. Standing by the stage, a mass of preened posing poncey guys apparate before me, not looking at the DJs, not dancing, but looking up at the stage at the scant girls who remain. Next minute, each and every one of them is asking for a bunk-up. Looking up, all the girls are now gone, replaced by under-sexed, hormone-charged peacocks (without the ‘pea’), who then realise this absence and one after the other get down again. This trend runs throughout the night, all over the room one dance floor. My heart goes out to anyone there with a girlfriend, protecting her from the ravenous vultures. Each guy that walks past you has his radar on, scouting left right centre, close far, x-ray vision so as not to miss the small ones. It’s like a cattle market except we’re not allowed to send these heifers across the road to Smithfield’s. Too much; home time.

Whilst a pity, I’m sure it’s for the best seeing as Sunday is the Data Transmission BBQ. The friend who failed to convince me to stay keeps on, enjoying more tunes and even a dance with Ricardo and Raresh as they mingle among their adorers. Next time, perhaps.

A lesson learnt for another few months/years: stay away from Fabric on Friday and Saturday. No matter who is playing, the crowd does not change. Full credit to them for getting the best names in dance music, but they’ll never escape their loyal followers. However, it’s definitely whet the appetite for more, but next time is planned to be on a beach in Barcelona, watching Villalobos play the sunrise in, back to back with Cassy. No contest.

Posted by: pascoesabido | June 16, 2009

De Tropix deliver the summer sounds

Originally published in Volume 6

Summer’s on its way and with it the sweet spice of dark rum and ginger beer, but where’s the soundtrack? Pascoe Sabido hears from mad duo De Tropix about their Caribbean style, looking like a Cadbury’s wrappers and St Vincent’s alcoholic aphrodisiac.


From the outside it could be any other trendy antiques shop, but coming from behind the pristinely-aged furniture, strange voices can be heard: “It’s fallen off!”

Beyond the retro lampshades, the source of the commotion is traced to the kitchen-cum-studio where De Tropix are eating bananas and pulling faces for the camera. “Uff… it’s off again”. The culprit? Only one option: the stiletto-kicking, spandex-rocking, utterly mad winder-grinder and vocal-half of De Tropix, 27-year-old Cherry – minus an earring.

“Maaaan – It’s done it again!”

Between the snapping of a camera and the delectable shapes bring thrown over music-partner Damon, an enormous disco ball that once hung from her ear is back on the floor and refusing to clip on. Left with only one earring, there’s little choice: “Fuck it, let’s do it pirate stylee!” says Cherry. “Aaaargghhh” yells 29-year-old Damon.

Life is positively fun for De Tropix and the pair are finally doing what they love most: performing their urban tropical sounds wherever they can. “We did a gig a couple of weeks ago supporting La Roux at YoYo’s”, says Damon. “It was wicked! One of the best we’ve ever done. We don’t get paid so if it aint fun what’s it for?” Asks Damon, “I’m the brokest I’ve ever been!” But even if the pay is non-existent, the experiences have been special: after hearing Bad Name, the super-cool Radio Nova invited them across the channel to record it live in their Parisian studio. The track is now being played all over France. “Yeah!” Damon enthuses, “It was mad. You gotta just have a laugh and enjoy it all”.

They clearly do: posing for the photographer, the duo bounce off one another, radiating a raw chemistry. Cheekiness can’t contain itself, and neither can Cherry: her mischievous grin and delightful cackle can’t be contained behind the semi-serious pouting. Damon gives as good as he gets, but like on stage, is happy to leave the limelight to the queen of the tropical.

Born and raised on the Island of St Vincent, the Caribbean influence is more than skin deep: “It’s a big big part of who I am”, explains Cherry. You can hear it in the Patois singing, see it in the raw sexual dancing, but even off the stage there is such colourful animation in everything she does, it is obvious what she means.

“She’s a wicked front woman”, admits Damon, who despite his own paternal St Vincent roots, grew up DJing in Luton and is now a London-based producer. “I’m the laid back dude – let Cherry be at the front and I’ll jam behind the decks doing a verse now and then!”

A born performer, you won’t find her complaining: “I admit, I’m a full-time broke-arse artist, but I just love it on stage”, she exclaims. “I have so much fun – there could be one person and I’d have fun!” Those that do come to watch – or stumble across De Tropix accidentally, en route to other bands (“which is what usually happens!” guffs Damon) – can’t help but enjoy Cherry’s performance: “I’m a big sweaty bitch on stage, sweat, fire and vulgarness – I like to gyrate and stand on my head!” she laughs. The energy being radiated is infectious: you can’t help wanting to wind your backside all the way down to the floor – it’s just the standing up again that’s tricky.

“Cherry interacts with everybody”, says Damon, rolling his eyes, “You can’t resist her – no one can. On stage she flips: from London girl to bashment girl, from English twang into Patois.”

Cherry grins: “When I put on my wig, my sexy spandex and my accent, I’m a completely different person!” From sweet playful lion cub into a man-eating lioness; it’s a fairytale transformation if Disney were to do dancehall.

On stage her movement’s impressive, but what else would you expect from a life time of carnivals? With the exception of a Scottish grandfather, it’s clearly in the blood: “I rang my mum last month and she was jumping it up grinding a speaker – it’s like ‘fuck, I’m at work and you’re at Trinidad Carnival!’”

While the rhythm of Cherry’s derriere definitely comes naturally, it doesn’t hurt to be a trained choreographer. Aged only 12, she left the sun sea and sand for a dance scholarship in Leeds: “I look back on it now – moving so far away from my family at such a young age”, she says, “and my head spins; I’m like wow that’s crazy! I guess when you’re young you don’t think, you just do things.”

Rumour has it that in swapping bashment for ballet, Cherry even wore a tutu: “I’m not telling you that! Somebody will dig out the pictures” she cackles. “I looked like a Cadbury’s wrapper – it’s awful!”

Even if it’s true, classical could never replace carnival, so clearly embodied in De Tropix. “My Caribbean experience had to be on the forefront of what we did, but we’re both just trying to express ourselves”, says Cherry. “Musically, my background is a bit of soca and a bit of reggae… But Damon, he comes from the English grime and R&B side of things; I kind of banter with that, ride with it.”

Tap Tap, borrowing strings from Burt Bacharach, and Oi, featuring Andy Williams (“this old crooner from the 60s” says Damon”), are the obvious examples, combining tropical rhythm, dancehall vocals and a sharp urban twist in production values. Bad Name is another, beginning somewhere near Santogold’s Say Aha and Shove It, then put through a nineties rave machine. However, if it’s the old-school nineties rave piano keys you’re after, Oi Oi Oi cannot be beaten – and the lyrics? Clearly written by Jack Iron: “It’s the name of this rum from St Vincent, an aphrodisiac – it makes you super horny!”

But it is a track not from the forthcoming EP, Brap, which has ‘summer anthem’ all over it. Distorted basslines and dubby guitars provide the Caribbean backdrop for Cherry’s distressed Patois, mustering images of super-sprung Cadillacs bouncing away, windows down and heads bopping inside.

“Our music’s just a mish-mash of everything”, admits Damon, the man who is currently serving up musical jerk chicken from a fish and chip shop. The source? “I listen to such wide varieties – I love old music – but I’m a spontaneous guy, I just sit down at the computer and have a play around.” Although clearly a euphemism for something a bit dirtier, it has served him well. That said, getting to this point has not been easy. Kicked out of college and living on pirate radio stations, one thing kept Damon motivated: “Music’s been my life – no exaggeration”. It even provided a belated education – and a potential role model: “I went to the same music college as Freddy Mercury – what a don!” He laughs, “That dude could really hold down a stage!” Watch your spandex, Cherry.

These are exciting times for De Tropix, but they’re not about to get carried away. “We’re new at all this”, says Cherry, “Every time I step on stage I’m developing my style”. Damon agrees: “We’re nowhere really, tiny, grass roots. You have to work at your art and we’ve still got a lot of improvements to make”. Although they’re happy to take it slow, the summer is approaching fast, calling out for a soundtrack: Camden Crawl is the next marker on the horizon and festivals are already showing an interest.

But however it pans out, Cherry’s got a backup plan, and I’m sure Damon’s invited: “I’m gonna be a horticultural teacher! I’m gonna buy a little plot on my island, a little eco paradise, and grow fat amount of weeds and vegetables. Any one wants to make music can come to my paradise and smoke weed!” Room for a little one?

Posted by: pascoesabido | June 4, 2009

The Return of the Stag and Dagger

Not Just Any Old Festival in Shoreditch?

Stag and Dagger in Shoreditch, London – 21st May 2009

published in Data Transmission ( see original article 3-06-09  ‘The return of Stag & DaggerWritten By: PascoeSabido )

I know, yet another festival around Shoreditch, boring. Every week seems to bring a new incarnation. But having said that, if you logged onto the website or spoke to someone who went last year, you can’t help but feel tempted. The line-up is quite literally drowning in names: bereft of armbands, it can’t stay afloat, little oxygen bubbles floating to the surface as it sinks to the bottom; 188 separate slots for music, 145 artists to fill them, and 26 venues to host them – Pow! It feels like old school Batman has just sent a left hook into your eye, followed up by a roundhouse from Robin – “SMACK!” – too much to take in; so many artists, so little time.

The first acts kick off at 7:00pm (clearly not the good ones) but the doors are already closing at 1:30? A little over five hours to cram in the newly-electrofied Jack Peñate (missed it – fuck), Lovefoxxx from CSS (nowhere near catching it – shit), Skull Juice (nope – bollocks) and Casio Kids (scheduling’s fault, not mine). But that still leaves another 141 artists! Despite copious amounts of wandering around, waiting around, and generally fannying around, it’s still amusing – unless you ask the poor sods left in the queue outside Herbal.

So the scene is set: venues from Hoxton Square down to Brick Lane are jammed with music and musicians, and it is our job as the purveyors of talent to lend an ear. First things first, tickets: to give it that real Shoreditch ‘lets defy convention’ feel, wristbands are distributed in a church. The vestibules are lined with cheque shirts and skinny jeans; wacky glasses and partially-shaven heads dot the horizon. Were there a God, what would he be thinking? “Get some originality you twats!” or “get the fuck out of my house of worship, you godless sinners!” or even “have a wicked night guys, and remember to always use a condom”? I’ll ask him on my way back.

Wristband attached and clemency-granting god above, a stagger down Shoreditch High St (with neither a stag nor dagger as I thought them too conspicuous to bring with me) brings Vibe Bar and its three stages. Upstairs in the No Pain In Pop room we just miss a band called An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump. According to the programme, the “all-girl trio from London play lo-fi gothic post-rock”… clearly; stupid me, should have got it from the name. However, downstairs on the Kill ‘Em All Stage the Anglo-French disco-rock trio We Have Band (See their Myspace page)return an electro tinge to proceedings, their simple yet catchy sound pushing against the brick walls. Reminiscent of New Young Pony Club but with a darker edge and eerie harmonies, the live set brings new single You Came Out and jump-up anthem Hear it in the Cans. But it’s packed and sweaty and there’s always the next venue to get to – god knows where though? Who wants to pick this time? Expectedly poor time-keeping in the Vibe Bar means a rethink.


The Horse and Groom. Crystal Fighters. Decided. A pub that consistently plays good music, the Horse and Groom delivers. Downstairs, up and coming electronic new boy David Sugar brings a jazzy ‘80s edge to tech house and broken beats; upstairs, after various sound checks and pubescent jostling, three of the Crystal Fighters emerge. Despite being two members down (passport issues), energy is not a problem: their nu-rave tempo whips up the audience while acid-splashed synths infect your head. Bassline is obligatory. Frenzied front man and lead vocalist Sebastian thrashes and writhes before a frenetic audience as the sweet-looking but clearly far-from-innocent Laure belts and screams through harmony, edging away from convention and embracing the Crystal’s cacophony. Whilst incomparable to their havoc-wreaking performance at last summer’s Secret Garden Party (read the review), it’s still sufficiently manic to pulse with their unique energy. Yep, wicked.
Keep moving.


A sardine-can Favela Chic plays host to Micachu and the Shapes (cool ukulele), and what was supposed to be Andrew Weatherall but sounds more like a crap imitation of a bad indie DJ – has the man changed genres or are the set times up the spout? Either way, Casio Kids are supposed to be playing at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen. Gone. Alas, the Norwegian electro-funksters are not there (where are they?!), but some random Scandinavian compatriots offer consolation with a flask of red wine. Tasty.

Too many venues, too many acts, too much walking and too little time-keeping has ultimately doomed it to failure, but ending the night at Herbal with Rusko is a partial remedy. Slight problem – everyone’s got the same idea so no-one’s getting in. Once past the palaver, it’s a pleasure to hear DJ ED-DL and MC Gusto tear apart the upstairs dance floor, bringing out the old fashioned Drum & Bass. However, the people have spoken with their feet and the crowds are amassing downstairs, waiting for Rusko to abuse the sound system with his bass-warped dubstep. Whilst loving the filthy rumble that plasters grins from ear-to-ear, I’m still not a happy dubstepper. Rusko plays a predictable and fairly commercial set, sticking to bassed-up remixes of boring tunes. Just being grimy doesn’t cut it. Neither, seemingly, does N-Type, supposedly on 2:00-3:00 but robbed of his chance as everyone’s chucked out before 1:30. Pity to leave potential unfulfilled, but that’s becoming the moto of the night. Coulda been, shoulda been, never was.

Same goes for my after party: there is officially no joy in waking up on a Tottenham sofa at 9AM and having to go to work. Definitely not wicked.


Posted by: pascoesabido | May 28, 2009

Age of Stupid – good film, shocking review!

The Age of StupidFrannie Armstrong’s Docu-drama on climate change has been groundbreaking, earning her and her filmn audiences around the world, including a series of meetings with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – However… whilst I thought there were obviously some flaws in the film, SPIKED, an on-line magazine, gave it the worst review I have ever read! Read it and see if I’m being reasonable – at the bottom is a trailer for the film.

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/6359/

I thought I would write to them and point out what idiots they are! (in the best possible way)

For a website that claims to be anti-illiberals, ludites, narrow-mindedness, you don’t half fall into your own traps!

You can show off a plethora of philosophical and scientifice superiority through referencing, yet not see the economics of the day has led to a neocolonialism that is not only destroying our planet by consuming its resources, but also creating the greatest inequality we the world has ever seen.

And you missed the point of the film! Each example you chose, you misconstrued! It’s hilarious to read a piece by someone who takes themselves so intellectually seriously, yet deploys tools more at home in the Sun – or perhaps was simply to stupid to understand the subtleties of the film!

GoAir – yes, it is undoubtedly terrible for the environment to increase air travel, but rather than lambast him, it highlights the clash between environment and development, the desire to raise eveyone’s standard of living, yet how to balance this with a sustainable model that ensures a more equitable world is still inhabitable. He’s not necessarily blamed for it, but more it is a lambasting of the current paradigm where development is measured in GDP and consumerism, where giving people more more more is equated with getting them out of poverty. Poverty alleviation and fuelling consumerism have proved themselves incompatible on a large scale. Yes, capitalism, trade, entrepeneurialism pulls individuals out of poverty, but it plunges many more much further down. It is the idea that the current paradigm – if follow further – will lead to any form of equality that is the main culprit.

The windfarmer you lambast so highly – what was so depressing was not that he was turned down, it was the hypocrisy of those turning him down. ‘we all care about climate change, of course’ but just not on my doorstep. It was people’s lip-service that was so depressing. What the floods showed was that climate change is affecting the area, they are aware of it, feel its impact, yet do not want to do anything about it. It is not that building a windfarm will stop floods – don’t be so ridiculous and cheap in your argument – but that an attitude shift needs to take place which addresses climate change, where people realise that YES, their lives WILL have to change as a result.

You chose your heroes and villains, yet the film was all about contradictions and being human. That despite feeling the impacts, seeing them, experiencing them first hand in many cases, out attitudes have still not changed and we don’t find that disconcerting.

You continued claims of weak science are completely bogus, but rather than dress information in formulas and figures and confusing diagrams, it was spelt out quite simply. All the scientific information contained within has been verified by Lord Stern himself (someone who you undoubtedly have little respect for) and the IPCC, and has actually been understood by people who would otherwise have switched off.

I don’t think the film was flawless – far from it – but I don’t think it deserved the one-sided review you gave it, taking immediate offence because it was ‘environmental’. Although it is not surprising from a climate-change denier, I expected better from a website that makes the evidently untrue claims that it does.

I am dissapointed and hope that not all authors on this site have such a severe chip on their shoulder, motivated by pre-conceived falsehoods rather than the subject of their review. Think ‘what was this film trying to achieve?’, ‘to what extent did it do this?’, ‘what means were at its disposal to do this?’, and then be critical, but to take the position you did for the sake of being a black sheep is laughable. The Telegraph would love to have you on board.

Going against the grain may be cool and controversial, but perhaps a little though on what you are speaking of might be a good starting point.

For a website that claims to be anti-illiberals, ludites, narrow-mindedness, you don’t half fall into your own traps!

You can show off a plethora of philosophical and scientifice superiority through referencing, yet not see the economics of the day has led to a neocolonialism that is not only destroying our planet by consuming its resources, but also creating the greatest inequality we the world has ever seen.

And you missed the point of the film! Each example you chose, you misconstrued! It’s hilarious to read a piece by someone who takes themselves so intellectually seriously, yet deploys tools more at home in the Sun – or perhaps was simply to stupid to understand the subtleties of the film!

GoAir – yes, it is undoubtedly terrible for the environment to increase air travel, but rather than lambast him, it highlights the clash between environment and development, the desire to raise eveyone’s standard of living, yet how to balance this with a sustainable model that ensures a more equitable world is still inhabitable. He’s not necessarily blamed for it, but more it is a lambasting of the current paradigm where development is measured in GDP and consumerism, where giving people more more more is equated with getting them out of poverty. Poverty alleviation and fuelling consumerism have proved themselves incompatible on a large scale. Yes, capitalism, trade, entrepeneurialism pulls individuals out of poverty, but it plunges many more much further down. It is the idea that the current paradigm – if follow further – will lead to any form of equality that is the main culprit.

The windfarmer you lambast so highly – what was so depressing was not that he was turned down, it was the hypocrisy of those turning him down. ‘we all care about climate change, of course’ but just not on my doorstep. It was people’s lip-service that was so depressing. What the floods showed was that climate change is affecting the area, they are aware of it, feel its impact, yet do not want to do anything about it. It is not that building a windfarm will stop floods – don’t be so ridiculous and cheap in your argument – but that an attitude shift needs to take place which addresses climate change, where people realise that YES, their lives WILL have to change as a result.

You chose your heroes and villains, yet the film was all about contradictions and being human. That despite feeling the impacts, seeing them, experiencing them first hand in many cases, out attitudes have still not changed and we don’t find that disconcerting.

You continued claims of weak science are completely bogus, but rather than dress information in formulas and figures and confusing diagrams, it was spelt out quite simply. All the scientific information contained within has been verified by Lord Stern himself (someone who you undoubtedly have little respect for) and the IPCC, and has actually been understood by people who would otherwise have switched off.

I don’t think the film was flawless – far from it – but I don’t think it deserved the one-sided review you gave it, taking immediate offence because it was ‘environmental’. Although it is not surprising from a climate-change denier, I expected better from a website that makes the evidently untrue claims that it does.

I am dissapointed and hope that not all authors on this site have such a severe chip on their shoulder, motivated by pre-conceived falsehoods rather than the subject of their review. Think ‘what was this film trying to achieve?’, ‘to what extent did it do this?’, ‘what means were at its disposal to do this?’, and then be critical, but to take the position you did for the sake of being a black sheep is laughable. The Telegraph would love to have you on board.

Going against the grain may be cool and controversial, but perhaps a little though on what you are speaking of might be a good starting point.

Posted by: pascoesabido | February 16, 2009

Talking sense to Leo Hickman

The following is a  response to the Comment is Free article by Leo Hickman: ‘Welcome to Planet Earth’ – telling environmentalists to compromise and stop being so obstinate on important issues… Come on Leo, you should know better than that… Read More…

Posted by: pascoesabido | February 13, 2009

Cuban Kumar shines in Volume 5

Feature on Kumar published in Volume 5 [original article]

KUMAR

Havana’s barrios have not only given Kumar a home, but enough lyrical inspiration to launch a career. The up-and-coming Cuban hip-hopero has impressed the island with his talents, but while maturity and the desire for change have broadened his musical horizons, the art and the heart remain forever at home.

Wandering the streets of Havana (Habana to the locals), the contrast of beauty against ruin suggests of fairytales. Ornate colonial architecture crumbles before your eyes, whilst classic cars so often found in Western showrooms still pummel the roads, weathered by the years. However, grow up in Havana, or more specifically the neglected suburb of Mantilla, and the fairytale disappears in the face of reality. It is here that Kumar, a.k.a. el menor, draws his inspiration, of the state of his barrio, poverty, history, and the legacy of slavery. “You don’t ask me who we are, much less who we were,” flows his rhymes in No Se Vuelve Atras, “The important thing is not how we arrived or whether we’re here. It’s what we represent.”

“My influence comes from the streets” explains Kumar, “My music and above all my lyrics reflect the environment in which I live, the reality that surrounds me. My message goes out to the people because I’m from the people, from the neighbourhood, you know what I mean? Each day I try and make my voice sound as though it were their voice, and theirs were mine. That’s what influences the way I think and the way I create my lyrics, my story, my way of projecting myself”.

Kumar in Cuba

At 23 and without an album to his name, it would appear Kumar was just beginning his musical career, yet he’s been involved in hip-hop since the age of 13. “People started calling me el menor (the minor) because I was so young when I began rapping. I don’t know if rap came into my life through luck or mere coincidence, but I bumped into a friend one day who had this wicked hip-hop tape, and the idea of rapping in Spanish just took hold of me. For the first time I felt the message in the songs, telling the stories, talking about the real stories of my barrio, stuff I was seeing on the streets. That’s how I began creating my own songs”. Beginning in 1998 with Duros Como el Acero (Hard as Steel) where he was christened el menor, the first real break came in 1999 when he became involved with Familias Cuba Represent, leading to a flurry of guest appearances on tracks across Cuba and searing his name into the scene.

The image of hip-hop – especially on that side of the Atlantic – is struggling to escape the excesses of gangster rap, but Kumar cuts a refreshingly unpretentious figure. His lyrics are free from gratuitous chat about fucking, sucking, snorting, and killing, while modesty and a humble attitude discount any entourage – except his brother a.k.a. his manager.

However, it is the move away from conventional hip-hop that has produced some of Kumar’s finest work to date. “About four years ago I started listening to other genres of music, Afro music, jazz, funk, and I started to find myself musically. I was initially very focused [on hip-hop], but the past four years I’ve been involved with a jazz group, a rock and roll group, and a reggae group, which has helped me build up my music and define the direction I want to take.” The infusion of different sounds readily compliments his style, and offers incredible diversity across his work. Caravana marries Afro drums, traditional rumba and mambo infused Cuban jazz – resplendent trombones and subtle piano strokes – with hip-hop high-hats and Kumar’s own verse. In a completely different direction, Película de Barrio fuses subtle maracas with rattling drums, clashing symbols, and an electric bass guitar that may once have belonged to Limp Bizkit – almost nu-metal; Fiesta en el Palenke draws on improvisational jazz while Sublevao oozes funk. However, the unifying quality is Kumar’s revolutionary hip-hop lyrics, reaching out to mobilise. His words ring true no matter the music they accompany, and the importance of his subject matter is as relevant today as it was ten years ago.

Kumar Live

Kumar’s musical maturity has led to some inspired collaborations, such as this summer’s six-date tour of Ibiza with Diana Fuentes, another bright Cuban starlet. Arranged by Havana Cultura, (a platform for Cuban artists of all mediums to share their creativity with the world), the tour was a great success and with Kumar’s dreadlocks bouncing around stage, the love for the art form held by the Cuban rapper was obvious. From appreciating his fellow musicians to the obvious chemistry with Fuentes, the performances captivated their audience.

With a great year behind him – including a visit to Leeds and Liverpool in November, the next is set to be bigger still for Kumar, whose album Película de Barrio comes out in January. And if the music business slows down, there’s always acting: the dreadlocked lyricist has already appeared in Benito Zambrano’s Habana Blues, which also featured his single No Se Vuelve Atras. Not bad if he’s only getting started.

Volume 5 - Out Now

Posted by: pascoesabido | February 13, 2009

Wild Beasts in Volume 5

Posted by: pascoesabido | February 13, 2009

VOLUME 5 – Out Now

FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The long awaited arrival of Volume 5 is here… Check the website www.volumemag.blogspot.com/ or www.volume-magazine.com to see where you can pick it up from, and if you’re liking what ur seeing and think you want to contribute, send it in and get published in the next issue.

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