Monday

ROOTS MANUVA - BUFF NUFF!






Roots Manuva: Photo by James Pearson-Howe

Roots Manuva is, as I am sure you're all aware, an absolute fucking legend. The biggest name in UK hip-hop. An international star. And also, a very funny guy.

"People see me as a rapper, or an emcee, or a musician," he says in a new documentary (below). "But I'm no different! I'm just trying to get enough money to buy an ice-cream van... I'm livin' out my dream."

Roots Manuva's new single 'Buff Nuff' is out on 7th July - you can watch the video, directed by Alastair Siddons below, plus a short, exclusive interview with the man they call Rodney Smith. The new LP 'Slime & Reason' follows in August on Big Dada.



Friday

MUSIC IS THE ANSWER? THE BUG, K.A.L. & JON PHONICS



*Editor's Note - I am going to post this on the main site as well, but I wanted to give it to my faithful blog readers first. Holla!

Music Is The Answer?

The Bug looks out over the yards...

“The role of the artist in Capitalism can be compared with that of the tour-guide: interpreter of experience for consumption on the most elite level, agent of recuperation for society’s most exquisite longings and deepest resentments – and even a tour guide may be sincere.”
- Hakim Bey, ‘For And Against Interpretation’

Where is the line between music that inspires you, and music that gives you only vicarious pleasure and experience?

Arguably, all art has been commodified to the extent that if the cultural material it presents is supposedly ‘authentic’, it is also exclusive and unattainable. It’s all about selling lifestyles – and though you can affiliate yourself with 50 Cent, you cannot live the ‘real’ gangster life which he depicts, because it is manifestly not real. You can wish for it, act it out, but there is no place on earth which truly looks like his videos, or the worlds he describes in his rhymes. This is about as far from Chuck D’s definition of hip-hop as: ‘…the black CNN’ as you can get.

The reality, of course, is that – despite his claims of ‘realness’ - Curtis James Jackson III does not live this life either. The moment he became a platinum-selling rap star, he ceased to be any kind of gangster (if indeed he was one in the first place). Why then do we accept his invalid claims to ‘realness’ and authenticity? Are we, the consumers of hip-hop, content to be chauffeured around his imaginary ghetto, and pay for the privilege? Why are we happy to do this, when the real ghettos are physically present in our cities? How many people who vicariously enjoy Fiddy’s cartoon gangsta imagery actually live in a ghetto? How many of those that don’t would dare venture into one?

50 Cent’s a soft target – manifestly ridiculous. But the point stands – entertainment has become affiliation, branding: nothing more. And yet, on the fringes of the multi-million dollar industry that music has become, there are practitioners who can still give you a dose of the real. Something other than the portfolio of accepted subcultures that orbit the mainstream like moons; each one a subtly-shaded simulacrum of the capitalist ideal.

Kobra Audio Labs, AKA Mark Scanlan is a reclusive Scottish hip-hop producer who is about as far from the money-coloured, shiny plastic reality of 50 Cent’s world as you can get. His last album, ‘Sunshine, Shadows and Luck’ was a bleak, instrumental trawl through broken-down boom-bap – irradiated samples degrading and atrophying as they played out their half-life. Ineffably melancholy, his productions echoed the stripped down nihilism of early Wu-Tang, wearing their broken beats, pops and clicks like badges of honour.

With his new LP, ‘Tones, Drones and Broken Bones’ Scanlan moves into more futuristic territory. Like fellow Scottish hip-hoppers Eaters and Penpushers, he has abandoned soundscapes that depict a degraded, broken present in favour of beats and sounds that construct a wonky, multi-cultural, imminent future. Although Scanlan claims the album was borne of his fascination with My Bloody Valentine and Public Enemy, this mixture of influences is transcended, warped and mutated. Sitars and cymbals ride electronic washes of sound on ‘Rag and Bone Beat’, while Eaters vocalist Laughing Gear pays tribute to artists such as Grant Morrison, David Lynch and Alan Moore on ‘Dumb Heroes’.

Each of Laughing Gear and Scanlan’s ‘dumb heroes’ are artists who presented, if not an imminent future, then a present warped beyond the real: and as Laughing Gear states, “For now, I talk through them.” They are his tour guides, yes – but they are merely temporary ciphers; interpreters of the imminent future. They stake no claim on absolutes of prediction or representation.

What do these influences have in common? None of the artists mentioned or echoed are overly concerned with experiential authenticity: they are too busy tracing possible scenarios arising from the present to depict a faked-up ‘now’ for us to buy into. They promise abstract possibility, as oppose to sharply delineated reality. In doing so, they offer us the potential to create our own futures in the present moment. The album in general, but this track in particular is a gauntlet thrown down to the listener.

Sonically, K.A.L. explores similarly futuristic landscape as Basic Channel, Pole and The Bug – sometimes understated and restrained; frequently bursting into moments of beautiful dissonance and harshness (such as on the Harlequinade–assisted ‘Black-hearted Bastards’). This is music that is more machine than man – never troubling to limit itself to defunct notions of black / white, or urban / electronic.

It is a fusion: a digital gumbo of shoegaze, dub, hip-hop and electronica that twists and changes with each chord sequence. It offers no lived experience, no definitive conclusions – only “… an idea of bleak probability,” (to quote the Penpushers). This is infinitely preferable to any kind of formulaic, commercialised realism.

To take another example, The Bug’s new album ‘London Zoo’ is also a powerful fuck-you to the mainstream. Beloved by the dubstep community for the massive singles ‘Skeng’ and ‘Posion Dart’, Kevin Martin has made no concessions to the scene. Indeed, he has been plying his futurescaped interpretation of ragga / dancehall since long before dubstep was a buzzword or even a scene. Collecting the huge dancefloor singles together into an album for Ninja Tune, he has leant them a meaning which transcends their undeniable, speaker-destroying bombast. The unifying theme of the album is anger – anger at the mainstream, anger at genre conventionality and same-ness. The album is a celebration of difference; a collection of songs from defiant outsiders who are nonetheless legendary in their fields.

Reggae stalwart Tippa Irie vents righteous fire on ‘Angry’, and in much the same vein, Kode 9 collaborator Spaceape wrecks the mic delivering the vitriolic ‘Fuckaz’. Both vocalists abandon their customary philosophical, contemplative styles in favour of rabid, double-time fury: railing against the bland, wilful ignorance of mainstream society.

All the ‘blood and fire’ lyrics are difficult to place in a traditional political context. They have no specific target but the world at large; at injustice, apathy and ignorance among the liberal, the conservative and the revolutionary. Theirs is the ire of conscious reggae cauterized from the framework of Rastafarian ideals: refined and boiled down into a pure and powerful venom, a ‘Poison Dart’ blown at the cultural jugular with dizzying speed.

The Bug’s beats sidestep the sleek, often simplistic lines of 2-step and dubstep, forcing an evolution of the body-shaking immediacy of ragga into a spare, rattling, apocalyptic shudder. Paranoia and distrust oozes from every kick and sub, evoking a ravaged land that is both a prediction and a warning.

This is the music of an immanentized apocalypse; of broken cities and angry mobs. If taken literally, it is a celebratory call for the End of Days, and change through violence and action. By comparison, Flowdan’s terrifyingly simple rhymes on the lead single ‘Skeng’ seem almost playful: mirroring the inevitable, laidback calm with which inner-city youth mimic the arms-race of the American ghettoes depicted by US rappers, and at home by the London grime set.

When placed alongside tracks like the Ricky Ranking-assisted ‘Judgement,’ ‘Skeng’ becomes satirical – depicting not the figure of the cartoon gangster, but the bleak shadow he casts across the urban wastelands. A signpost to a dire future, ‘London Zoo’ is the bleakest, most exciting album since the debut of Rage Against The Machine, and the only album to touch it lyrically in terms of ire and ferocious intelligence.

Jon Phonics, meanwhile, is a producer enmeshed into the London hip-hop scene, producing beats for the likes of Melanin 9 and the Triple Darkness crew. Taken as a snapshot of the health of that scene, Phonics’ mixtape ‘Half Past Calm’ both delights and disappoints. With a lighter touch than Chemo, whose ominous, Wu-Tang-influenced beats shone so darkly on Triple Darkness’ ‘Anathema’ LP, Phonics’ beats are an easier listen, but don’t always manage to carry the same weight. Half of the mixtape is inspiring, showing that the dark, hyper-kinetic flow of conspiracy-literate headz like the Triple Darkness crew can sit just as well over jazz-inflected, laidback grooves as it does over dark and grimy boom-bap.

The other half of ‘Half Past Calm’ falls prey to a kind of rose-tinted eroticism of the hip-hop lifestyle. The constant bigging-up of the self by emcees like T-Bear and Mr Drastick does nothing but sell hip-hop as an aspirant lifestyle to the listener. This is the dangerous path that American emcees are already so far down. By mythologizing their lifestyles, they have become creatures of myth: tour guides to imagined, romanticised dystopias that never existed and never will exist. If they continue down this road, all UK hip-hop stands to gain is its’ own 50 Cents – fantasy figures made up of clichés and sentimentalised ultraviolence.

None of this detracts from the beats Jon Phonics has created – they are almost exclusively slick, melodic and guaranteed to get your head nodding. The looped pianos on ‘Black Tragedy’ are intoxicating, while the pops and clicks of ‘Alternate Take’ are subtly integrated to the rhythm of the rhymes. But the choice of the emcees seems to offer a bizarre contrast between the scholarly metaphysics of Nine Planets and Phoenix Da Icefire, and the tactless boasting of Verb T and Mr Drastick.

As a listener, perhaps I’m in the minority here. When emcees drop science, I can use it to inspire, inform and criticise my own creative efforts. But I have no wish to buy into a lifestyle, or to be affiliated with any kind of image. My craving is for music that breaks down the walls between the future and the present, or between the present and the hidden past. Music that illuminates, rather than music which falsifies as it depicts. It’s a delicate difference in definition, but one that seems more vital every day.

Why sell a lie? Why buy one, however earnest? You will no doubt meet the future empty-handed; thinking you were ahead of the curve, abandoning your illusions too late.

Nobody can tell you how to live, and nobody can live on your behalf.

“Don’t believe the hype.” – Public Enemy.



By Texture, 2008.

Kobra Audio Labs - 'Tones, Drones & Broken Bones' is released digitally in early July, limited edition CDs also available.
www.kobra-audio.co.uk
ALSO:
Kobra Audio Labs Album Minimix
(available FREE)

The Bug - 'London Zoo' is released on July 9, on Ninja Tune.
www.ninjatune.net

Jon Phonics - 'Half Past Calm' is out now on Ill Smith Productions.
www.myspace.com/jonphonics


Wednesday

POETS ON WEAPONIZER




I ain't braggin' or nothing, but I know some awesome poets.

JL WILLIAMS





MILTON BALGONI





KEVIN CADWALLENDER



WELCOME! GET FUCKED...




Our good friend Squith is a lady of many talents - one of which is telling people, things, and places to just GET FUCKED.

This talent for ire and righteous anger has led her to create the marvelous Get Fucked Gallery. Started on a has-been social networking site used by pederasts and nubile teens (MySpaz), Get Fucked soon grew into a wondrous, many tentacled beast, and Squith realised it needed a bigger home. We here at Weaponizer were more than happy to provide one. Squith says:

"Inspired by Postsecret and the original 'get fucked envelope', created for the curriculum vitae's of shoddy applicants at an unnamed Edinburgh workplace, GetFucked is a fledgling community art project in expressive sociology. Intended, amongst many other things, to be a medium for the ventilation of postmodern dissatisfactions, GetFucked will provide an online time-capsule of individual sorrow and collective sympathy. All the while serious, comedic, political, personal but mostly fucking frivolous, GetFucked hopes to make disparate disillusionment a cohesive force. .. getfuckedgallery provides a healthy and productive environment to express distress, diffusing anger in a way which prevents it becoming destructive to individual and society. GetFucked is not a vehicle of hatred. Hatred is not tolerated by the GetFucked community."

So, want to know why Harry Potter can Get Fucked? Read on. Want to contribute your own vitriolic rant? Email Squith, because Get Fucked is all about YOU!

This is a great addition to the Weaponizer stable - read and enjoy.

Tuesday

SEVEN SONGS MEME




"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

1. The Bug ft. Spaceape - Fuckaz (Ninja Tune)

"Fi all dem fuckin' people who ignore blatant facts just so dem maintain a order beneficial only to themselves..." - Spaceape

The Bug's new album 'London Zoo' is full of lyrical gems, but perhaps the most affecting is Spaceape's contribution on 'Fuckaz.' In the course of his impassioned rant against societal control and inequality, Spaceape avoids merely criticising abstract institutions and movements. He goes straight for the jugular, listing every single example of the 'fuckaz' who lie, prevaricate and willfully ignore the fucked-up state of the world. A crushing attack on liberal self-delusions, 'Fuckaz' is perhaps the most overtly political rap Spaceape has written. With his customary intelligence and speculative bent, he vents spleen over an epically heavy Bug riddim, castigating the weak and the brutal, the ignorant and the self-deceived. A heavy, apocalyptic dub, rooted in reality rather than speculative thinking.

2. Rustie - Response (Stuff Records)

Part of the awesome Lucky Me crew of producers and artists based in Scotland, Rustie is changing the face of dubstep with his smooth, deep electronics and gently undulating melodic templates. 'Response' is an understated banger, slowly building and looping into a climax that has both epic weight and a fragile, beautiful structure. Unlike Pinch, whose melodic tracks are concurrently less heavy, or Coki, whose rumbling basslines preclude gentler musical flourishes, Rustie manages to pull off the seemingkly impossible - writing dubstep that is effortlessly beautiful and monumentally heavy. Other excursions into BMore / bootleg territory and wonky electro show the breadth of Rustie's taste and talent as a producer, but 'Response' is the track that best showcases his ability to fine-tune a track, and to write an extremely complex structure.

3. Spank Rock - What It Look Like (Big Dada)

"My tongue is a drum / My mind's a machine / Or in genus file fantastic extremes / Fall victim to this think-tank M16 / Sound sharp fix fake crease grease stain clean..." - Spank Rock

When Spank Rock's debut album 'YoYoYoYoYo' came out in 2006, it sounded light years ahead of other rap and hip-hop. Spank's surreal, hyper-literate flow managed to sound dirtier than 2 Live Crew and cleverer than... Well, everyone else. Two years on, and 'YoYoYoYoYo' is still pretty much unsurpassed. So what is it that makes Spank Rock so special? Is it the bubbling, underground fusion of disco, electro and hip-hop that characterises the BMore sound? Is it the undisputed raw power of Spank Rock's flow? Certainly, the magic of NY-based producer xxxChange's beats has lent some serious weight to remixes for everyone from Kool Keith to Wiley; furthermore, Cool Disco MC Spank Rock has leant his vocal talents to producers such as Japan's DJ Kentaro. But it is the confident swagger of both production and lyrical proficiency on 'YoYoYoYoYo' that combine to make a timeless, super-polished whole. Put simply, this is one of the five best hip-hop albums of all time, as demonstrated by the slightly surreal 'What It Look Like,' a driving mix of sussurant snares, glitched-out bass and surreally self-aggrandizing wordplay. Like nothing you have heard before or since, this is a template for the future of hip-hop.

4. Lanterns On The Lake - I Will Lay You Down (unsigned)

"You've got to trust yourself / You are your only hope / There is no guiding light / There is no holy force / Do what you've got to do / Be all you can / There is no calling or divine plan..." - Hazel Wilde

I first encountered Lanterns on the Lake as part of Warren Ellis' podcast, The 4am. Echoing the more sedate moments of Mazzy Star and The Sundays, the fantastic band combine hazy guitar and gentle, reverb-tuned piano motifs with the lumnous voice of Hazel Wilde. Her clear-eyed, intelligent lyrics relate a considered and rational rejection of spiritual self-deception, in favour of self-reliance and awe at the human condition ("Say what you like / I'm only the light that I breathe..."). In less skilled hands, these kind of themes are dealt with bluntly, and would produce a discord between the lyrics and the music, as is sometimes the case with Tori Amos' spiritually-themed songs. In Wilde's hands however, the song constructed is wistful, elegaic and ultimately trasncendant. This is what beuatifully orchestrated, traditional songwriting is for, in my opinion - to reveal deep truths about the human condition in such a way as to illuminate both sadness and joy in the same breath. In a word - exquisite.

5. Triple Darkness feat. Melanin 9 - Politikin' (Higher Heights)

"Unplug magazines / Russian biscuits / thermal exchange like nuclear fissions / Beneath the flickering filament / Welfare systems / Baby-mothers tranqued on prescriptions / All juveniles labelled delinquents..."
- Nasheron

Triple Darkness are Cyrus Malachi, Nasheron and Melanin 9, three London rappers who have managed to bring back the gritty, multi-layered feel of early Wu-Tang to the much-maligned UK hip-hop scene. 'Politikin' is a track from their debut album 'Anathema,' released earlier this year. Drawing on the treachings of Nuwaupu and other esoteric religious and political doctrines, they manage to combine the mystical with the urban in an intoxicating fashion: the stories they tell of urban decay and violence are always balanced with a hunger for and leaning towards spiritual and self-knowledge. Not content to simply 'keep it real,' Triple Darkness use their lyrics to question the foundations of reality and society. The production on this track (by Chemo) contains dusty analogue pops and clicks, subtly filtered funk loops and an exquisite crossfader-stab refrain that nails itself in the mind for days after the first listen.

6. Portishead - We Carry On (Island)


"The taste of life / I can't describe / It's choking up my mind..." - Beth Gibbons

Portishead's much-anticipated return to the fold contained many sonic surprises, not least this creepy little banger. Sounding like The Doors jamming with Can on a Detroit techno track, 'We Carry On' is a statement of malicious intent masked as a plaintive cry. Gibbons acid lyrics flutter like birds around the strident column of drums, organ and guitar; discordant counter-melodies squalling in feedback and washed analogue tones. Through it all, her voice gains clarity and strength, literally breaking out of the linear structure of the song. Blowing out of the water any notions that Portishead are a 'chill-out' band, 'We Carry On' (and indeed much of 'Third') sounds anachronistic, like an album delivered from a strange and apocalyptic parallel present. Terrifying and magnificent in equal measure, 'We Carry On' is perhaps the last thing Portishead fans were expecting - all the more reason to welcome it with an open mind.

7. Coki - Spongebob (DMZ)

One half of dubstep originators Digital Mystikz, Coki offered up the monstrous bassline of single 'Spongebob' in 2007, to the delight of the DMZ faithful and dubsteppers everywhere. Showcasing the sheer weight and percussive force of dubstep, it gave the lie to any notions of the genre becoming too introverted and specialist: 'Spongebob' is quite simply a sub destroyer, a flat-out bass monster that manages to heark back to old-school rave and jungle, while staying completely faithful to the dubstep rhythm and sound. There are more elegant tunes out there, and yes, probably more intelligent ones. But there are very few which can make you jump around like a complete lunatic as 'Spongebob' does. Play it to someone who doesn't like dance music at all, and you will see a mixture of awe and horror slowly take over their face. This tune is quite simply a BEAST.

Monday

THIS WEEK ON WEAPONIZER!




WEAPONS HOT... ENGAGE!



FEATURES:

Schrödinger’s Girl
Produced and directed by Huw Bowen of Sundog Industries, the new film Schrödinger’s Girl follows the adventures of renegade scientist Rebecca Hunter, whose research into parallel universes leads her on a high-octane adventure through alternate versions of England, on a quest to prevent her alter-egos from destroying reality as we know it.
Read More...

Eaters
An interview with Edinburgh's finest hip-hop pioneers, the mighty Eaters.

FICTION & FLASH:

THE VAMPIRE CLOWNS OF OLD POLAND by ICAM
Read the thrilling conclusion to this three-part chiller!
Part 3: Payment

Or start at the beginning...
Part 1: Arrival

THERE IS NO GOD by Squith
She was wearing a rainbow striped woollen jumper and a felt hat, which was also worryingly garish in colour. She was looking at my cigarette out the corner of her eye.
Read more...

THE GRAND UNIVERSAL INVENTION by Alan Gardner
'It is a grand design.’ said the serpent, as he coiled himself around this year’s winning entry in the Great Universal Inventions Contest. ‘A worthy winner, even if I do say so myself.’ His tongue flickered and darted over it.
Read more...

PLUS!
NEW COLUMNIST
Meet Elle Matheuse - the brains behind new column Elle's Bells...

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