Tag Archives: mishka

Review: Nero – Welcome Reality

NeroWelcome Reality (2011) [MTA] // Grade: D

With Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx recording soundtracks for sci-fi epics, it was only a matter of time before an act took it upon themselves to do the same, without the benefit of a film to score. On their debut album Welcome Reality, UK duo Nero aim for such orchestral grandiosity, adding a dubstep flair to the electro leanings of their predecessors. The result is a bloated companion piece for a Michael Bay flick that doesn’t exist.

Welcome Reality is over-the-top and formulaic, as if Nero took every stadium-friendly electronic music trend and simply added dubstep’s wobbly low-end to it. “Doomsday” is Bloody Beetroots’ mosh-pit electro; “Guilt” has the diva vocals and synth stabs of big room trance. Throughout the album, soaring guitar and synth lines battle four on the floor beats in a “cock rock vs. dance music” race to the bottom; the title of the plodding “Scorpions” has to be a hat-tip to the German glam rockers of the same name, right?

Du jour dance styles aren’t the only territory that Nero mines for Welcome Reality. Towards the end of the disc, there’s a suite of songs that rip mid-eighties pop without a sense of irony. Samples of the Jets’ “Crush,” Carmen’s “Time to Move,” and the coup de grace, Hall & Oates’ “Out of Touch,” prove that even your parents can enjoy dubstep!

Released more than a year after lead single “Innocence,” Welcome Reality has little in common with the sparse, luvstep romanticism promised on that track. “In the Way” is the only other time we get something that isn’t obnoxiously cranked to 11, its reverb-laced snares a brief respite from the album’s relentless synthesized explosions. The pair of tracks showcase how an act can combine dubstep’s aggression with poppy, mainstream sensibilities; it’s a shame Nero didn’t do more of the same elsewhere.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Serious Saturdays: Six Feet Deep With Tomb Crew

DJing and producing are two related but distinct skills. Not all beatsmiths can work a crowd, so when DJs with a reputation for destroying raves everywhere from Brixton to Brooklyn start making tracks, you know the beats will be battle-tested.

East London’s Tomb Crew is a perfect example of this. Since 2007, DJs Jamie Floodgate and Nick Bennett, along with hypeman Illaman (aka David Penning), have honed their craft across the globe, playing with nearly every UK bass luminary, including Zinc, Herve, Rusko and Sinden, to name just a few. Tomb Crew approaches DJ gigs like a live act, working the crowd into a bass-rattled frenzy.

After a string of successful remixes for acts including Crookers, Drop the Lime and French Fries, the Crew got to work on their own bass creations. With a sound that draws from all strands of bass music, Tomb Crew blends dubstep, club, kuduro, and jungle into a concoction more potent than anything you can buy at a rave.

This year, they released their first EP on Trouble and Bass, a perfect fit for their brand of bangers. Mixing old school jungle with new school bass, the tracks range from the tropical, horn-driven “Oh So Good” to the divebombing “King of the Tweets.”

On their recently released Watch This EP (on Black Butter Records), Tomb Crew continues to update throwback styles with an emphasis on the low end. “Yaphet Kotto Stole My Steez” – a candidate for best song title of the year – oscillates between housey breakbeats and the group’s trademark wobble (and you can download it for free on Soundcloud). The title track, featuring MCs Rubi Dan and Juxci D alongside Illaman, is a slice of tropical bashment perfect for carnival.

Tomb Crew always rocks Mishka, and the guys had a cameo in the Fall 2011 Lookbook teaser. Keep watch for the collection’s official release, and look out for Tomb Crew at a rave near you.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Mishka Presents Keep Watch Vol. XXVIII: Spooky

Grime is riot music. But as England burns, reactionaries who try to blame music for the violence have the cause and effect backwards. Grime is vicious because youth life in poor boroughs is vicious, not the other way around. That’s why grime has an energy and urgency like nothing else.

Fittingly, the latest entry in the Keep Watch series is Mishka’s first grime mix. Curated by East London producer Spooky, the mix is an unrelenting mix that captures the spirit of the resurgent sound. Spooky (not to be confused with the house duo or trip hop DJ of the same name) started DJing at 13, breaking out in 2006 when his bashment riddim “Joyride” became a surprise grime hit.

Since then, he’s produced and remixed tunes for a grime who’s-who that includes Slew Dem, OG’s, Skepta, Kele Le Roc, Family Tree, Teddy, Rude Kid, Infared, Brick & Lace and Mark Morrison. In addition to playing gigs all over London, he holds down three weekly radio shows and runs his Ghost House label. In 2010, Spooky scored another grime hit, the “300”-quoting “Spartan,” a banger reminiscent of those by Alias and J-Sweet. He’s also released tracks on the label that’s spearheading the grime renaissance, Oil Gang Records.

For his Keep Watch mix, Spooky lives up to his name, kicking off with a refix of Faze Miyake’s “Take Off” and never looking back. For nearly an hour, Spooky drops sawtooth bass, rumbling beats and verses from grime heavyeights P-Money, Blacks, Tempa T and D Double E with a turntablist’s touch. In the UK, grime is the soundtrack this week. And when the riots end, Spooky will keep starting fires.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

S-X drops Swagged Out Grime on the "5000 Followers EP"

Love him or hate him, Lex Luger is running the hip-hop beat game right now. Sure, his Fruity Loops tend towards the repetitive, but you can’t argue with facts: “Hard in da Paint,” “B.M.F.” “H.A.M.” and “Grove St. Party” have dominated hip-hop playlists for a reason – and the dude’s only 20!

Looking for the next Lex Luger? Cast your eyes to the UK, where rising grime producer S-X has been the man behind some of the most hyped tracks in recent memory. His “Woooo Riddim,” “Bricks,” and “100 Bags” instrumentals have backed grime freestyles from heavyweights Blacks, P-Money, and Dot Rotten, among others. And while he might not have Luger’s chart positions, the young Sam Gumbley literally just turned 19.

To commemorate his 5,000 Twitter follower (as he did at the 3,000 mark), S-X dropped the 5000 Followers EP for free. Over nine tracks, S-X presents trunk rattlers that owe as much to Girl Unit as they do to Luger. While the tracks are formulaic – S-X combines orchestral strings, rat-a-tat hi-hats and a deep low-end every time – they’re never boring. His synth lines go from trancey and melodic on “Mask” to towering and brutal on “G Shock.”

Along with revised versions of “Bricks” and “100 Bags,” S-X also includes mellow grooves with “Ambience,” “Expensive Talk” and “Guidance.” The best bet for grime freestyles, however, is the very vogue “Swag Bitch Swag.” With beats like these, S-X better ready a 50,000 Followers EP.

Serious Saturdays: Get Rinsed With Roska

A journey across the UK electronic music landscape takes you from the badman bass of grime, through various permutations of dubstep, until you eventually end up at UK funky. The sound combines that last major UK movement, garage, with house, broken beat, and notably soca rhythms into something more dance-friendly than its underground cousins.

The don of the UK funky game, Roska, has taken a similar journey. Born Wayne Goodlitt, Roska began his musical career as a grime MC under the name Mentor in the late 90s. His shift from the mic to the producer’s chair was accompanied by a less aggressive sound and a new alias. As Roska, he first made waves in 2008 with “Feeline” and “Boxed In,” two prototypical UK funky tracks that force you to move.

Roska’s rising profile led to a residency on trendsetting Rinse.FM, just as the (then) pirate radio station shifted its focus to funky. Not only did it expose him to an even larger audience, but Rinse also released Roska’s debut album – the first full length LP on its eponymous label. Rinse Presents Roska is pure UK funky, from the shifty rave-whistles of “Squark” to the silky dancefloor-killer “Love 2 Nite” with vocalist Jamie George.

Last year was a hectic one for the producer. He opened the doors of his Kicks and Snares imprint to new artists like DJ Naughty, J:Kenzo and DJ MA1, and he compiled a 14Tracks collection that is as good as any when it comes to essential UK funky. And after remixing Untold‘s massive “Just For You” in 2009, the duo paired up on bass bangers “Myth” and “Long Range.”

This year’s Jackpot EP pushes the producer forward from funky to the difficult to pin down bass scene. Roska can still pump up an audience with something like “4th Blind Mouse,” but he’s also experimenting with elements of rave, tech and club that we haven’t heard from the South Londoner until now. “Blame the Speakers” is a choatic fist-pumper and “Roskallion” is a take on the dub-bashment of someone like Redlight. Roska has already seen a sea change in the UK electronic music world, and he’s definitely poised for the next one.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Serious Saturdays: Taking It Back With Toddla T

Toddla T is on top of the world. In the last couple of years, he’s obtained both a slot on BBC Radio 1’s In DJs We Trust and a residency at Fabric. So what’s behind Toddla T’s meteoric rise?

Let’s start at the beginning. Toddla T is Tom Bell, a 26-year old from Sheffield, a city in England that has contributed to everything from industrial (Cabaret Voltaire) to new wave (The Human League) to post-punk revival (Artic Monkeys). The Steel City has also been important to electronic music, as the home of the groundbreaking Warp Records and the birthplace of bassline. With that rich musical background in mind, Toddla T’s globe-trotting sound makes a lot more sense.

His stage name is a tribute to his early start: DJing in Sheffield clubs since 14, Toddla focused on music full-time at 16. Originally into hip-hop, he didn’t even like electronic music until going to parties run by Sheffield DJs Winston Hazel and Pipes. Techno, house, and especially dancehall would become the calling cards of Toddla’s sound.

Since 2008s much-hyped mixtape Ghettoblaster #1, Toddla’s mix of dancehall riddims, jump-up rave accents, and wiggly bass has filled playlists across the world. His unique style is on full display on his 2009 debut record, Skanky Skanky, especially on single “Shake It,” where MC Serocee commands the listener to “shake it, shake it / get naked, naked.”

Toddla T kept things moving in 2010, with the hands-in-the-air “Sky Surfing,” featuring vocalist Wayne Marshall. The video for the song shows Toddla’s fun-loving irreverence – a key to what separates him from his more dour counterparts in the bass world.

Toddla has remixed songs by artists as diverse as Hot Chip, Roots Manuva, and Ladyhawke. His finest moment, however, was giving the high-energy treatment to Gyptian‘s reggae anthem “Hold You,” with a little help from Double D on the mic.

His latest album, Watch Me Dance, is Toddla T at his most eclectic. There are plenty of the riddim-and-bass bangers that he’s known for, along with new experiments like the disco-funk title track and the Timbaland-influenced R&B of “Body Good.” The track that you’ll be playing on repeat, though, is the rave-throwback “Take It Back.” Like all of his songs, “Take It Back” is a feel-good jam designed for the dance floor.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Faze Miyake Brings the Dogs to the Trap (via Mishka)

The DJ drop is nothing new, a Pavlovian bell that lets you know who’s behind the boards. These little signals serve as trademarks on a producer’s work: Lex Luger’s metallic drummer boy synth, or Terror Danjah’s gremlin laugh. But rising grime producer Faze Miyake is taking this type of branding to another level, lacing his tracks with a steady stream of barking dogs. Not since DMX have I seen someone so obsessed with canines, but Faze’s Take Off EP (on the appropriately-named Woofer Music) makes it work.

Take Off does just that with a pair of beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the trap house. As of late, the title track has been the instrumental of choice for grime spitters; Boy Better Know laid it down viciously on Rinse. Its raucous horn melody and boom-bap rhythm make this a perfect track for war. “Bawse” continues in the same vein, adding machine gun hi-hats and dramatic sweeps to a slab of trap hop (Frisco and Skepta got their boss on over this one).

Faze hasn’t forgotten about the club, either, dropping a few tracks with their fair share of rave influences. “Jump” rides break beats and scratches; “Blackberry” wobbles with diva-ish cooing. Before closing the EP with a dubstep remix of “Bawse,” Faze includes the unrelenting “Screwdriver V.I.P.” And the barking continues.

In grime, the symbiosis between beatmakers and MCs is self-evident: the grimiest beat still needs some verbal venom on top of it, and vice versa. Take Off is incomplete in that sense, but it’s clear that Faze Miyake is a producer to keep an eye on. These tracks don’t just bark – they bite hard.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Serious Saturdays: Put On the Redlight (via Mishka)

Electronic music is constantly in flux, and while some artists can plant a flag and never change their sound, the majority must adapt or be left behind. Case in point: Redlight, who built a decade-long career as drum and bass producer Clipz but now crafts dubstep-bashment hybrids. Certainly not the only – or last – DnB head to slow down their frenetic productions into hulking wobblers, Redlight has found a second life by focusing the over-the-top energy of DnB into something more corporeal.

As Clipz (aka Bristol-based Hugh Pescod), the man now known as Redlight tended towards the melodic side of the rave playground. There is more to songs like “Slippery Slope” and “Sticky” than unrelenting DnB. “Ugly,” featuring vocalist Holly G, is a forebearer of his current sound.

In 2009, Pescod put away childish things and renamed himself Redlight, releasing the Lobster Boy EP. Some of the trademarks of his earlier sound remained, like the breakbeats that fuel “Pick Up the Phone” and “Feel So Good (Wine Up Yr Body),” a tune that relies on singers and MCs to counterbalance eruptions of bass.

The most addictive track on the EP is “Be With You,” which bounces from bashment toasting to a wobbling, house-inflected chorus. Redlight’s handle on West Indian riddims is exceeded only by Toddla T; he puts the dub in dubstep by bringing in Serocee and frequent collaborator Dread MC. This trend has continued: his banger “MDMA” served as the instrumental for Ms. Dynamite’s grimey “What You Talking About?”

Redlight’s evolution continues. Earlier this year, he released “Source 16” and “Progress,” which both feature housey, four-on-the-floor drums and metallic synth basslines. Guaranteed big room slayers, both are far cries from the riddims of the Lobster Boy EP. But with over a decade in the game, whatever Redlight does next – under whichever name he chooses – is sure to be essential bass music.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Review: P Money & Blacks – Blacks and P (via Mishka)

P Money & BlacksBlacks & P (2011) [Self-Released] // Grade: B+

In American hip-hop, “OG” signifies “original gangster:” an old head who has roots and credibility in the rap game, the streets, or both. The same is true in UK grime (UKG), but in that country’s underground scene it has a dual meaning. “OG” is also Organised Grime, a rising South London crew who embody the same ideals of US OGs. Headlining Organised Grime are MCs P Money (who appeared on Starkey’s street bass masterpiece Ear Drums and Black Holes) and Blacks, a duo who recently released the Blacks and P mixtape.

From the first pulses of the Darq E Freaker produced title track, it’s evident that this is pure grime: symbiosis between unforgiving dubstep beats and hyped-up MCs who spit more than they flow. The tape’s behind-the-boards talent is as impressive as its vocalists; producers like Royal-T and Teddy Music are grime heavyweights. For fans of heavy, aggressive dubstep – with its sinister melodies, midrange wobble and all that bass – Blacks and P is over an hour of fire-starting battle tracks.

Along with original compositions, the duo refreshes some major, classic tunes (it is a mixtape, after all). Blacks freestyles over Nero’s luvstepper “This Way,” saving his ammo for the wobble-heavy verses and letting the female vocals breathe. “Saxon” by Chase and Status is the perfect soundscape for Blacks and P-Money to go hard over, as they do on “Timid.” For grime OGs in the audience, they even remix the recent update of Lethal Bizzle’s anthem “Pow” (a song so brutal and violence-inciting that it was infamously banned in several UK clubs).

A highlight of the mixtape arrives relatively early on in the form of “Effing OG.” The theatrical Lex Luger-meets-Girl Unit trunk rattler is an edit of 18-year old producer S-X’s “Bricks.” The chorus is more mission statement than hook (I stepped in like “Who runs this town?” / We can do this thing like it’s a Western shoot out / They’re looking at my face like “who the hell is he?” / Do your research, I’m a fucking OG), and the song features one of P-Money’s wittiest punchlines: “these rugrats are worse than Angelica.”

The question of grime’s mainstream appeal has been a source of contention since Dizzee Rascal’s 2003 breakout. But while an artist like Tinie Tempah partners with Kelly Rowland and Ellie Goulding for a top ten record, P Money and Blacks stay true to UKG’s namesake griminess rather than attempting a crossover. These OGs wouldn’t have it any other way.

Buy P Money & Black’s Blacks and P Over at iTunes Now!

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.

Serious Saturdays: Y'all Ain't Yeti for Nadastrom (via Mishka)

This should go without saying: don’t sleep on the Keep Watch Mix Series. Need proof? Crank up the fourth edition (from way back in 2008), which featured LA by way of DC-duo Nadastrom.

Nadastrom is comprised of DJ/producers-extraordinaire Dave Nada (né Villegas) and Matt Nordstrom. Established in 2007, Nadastrom have toured the world, unleashed their trademark brand of club-infused tech house on crowds everywhere, and found a home on Switch’s forward-thinking label Dubsided. It’s been a busy few years.

Nadastrom is an example of the whole being greater than the parts. Both Nada and Nordstrom were established talents when they came together: Nada as a resident of quintessential Baltimore party Taxlo and Nordstrom as a studio engineer for house music legends Deep Dish. But it was only together, when they combined the energy of Baltimore club and the pulsing vibe of deep house (along with precise studio programming), that they could reach superstar status in the global underground dance scene.

From the first bass blast of their debut Pussy EP, its been clear that Nadastrom is masterful at crafting soulful, big room bangers. The Soul II Soul-sampling title track and Blaqstarr-driven electroclub of “Tween Me + U” are still vital nearly three years after their release: guaranteed dance floor destroyers that should come pre-loaded on Serato boxes. The same can be said about “Save Us” on 2009’s The Saved EP: the shimmering breakdowns are but momentary respites from the hard-charging, soul-clapping spiritual.

Ever since they flipped Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” into a screwed-down grindfest, Nadastrom has proven to be expert remixers as well, taking on everyone from DC homeboy Tittsworth to Laidback Luke and Diplo. Keying in on the most essential element of a song, Nadastrom practically renders the originals obsolete. Last year, Nadastrom tweaked bass bangers from Udachi (“P-Funk Skank”) and AC Slater (“Take You”), slicing out most of the wobble but keeping all the intensity. Their most surprising remix, however, was a dubstep take on “Crush” by UK hip-pop act Fugative.

While their club and house credentials are impeccable, you can’t mention Nadastrom these days without bringing up moombahton. Nada may have (unintentionally) created it at his cousin’s skip party, but they’ve fostered the growth of the heatseeking genre together. Nadastrom is responsible for some — if not most — of the finest moombahton edits in existence; their Rum & Coke EP is required listening.

Since releasing the first official moombahton remix (of Steve Starks’ “Lydia”) they’ve brought songs by Florence and the Machine, Temper Trap, Win Win, and The Weeknd to the magical land of 108 BPM. Pairing up with UK singer-songwriter Alex Clare has resulted in two instant classics: “Too Close” and the as of yet unreleased “Up All Night.”

Moombahton may be getting them attention, but Nadastrom haven’t forgotten what got them where they are now. The duo dropped several singles earlier this year that hark back to tracks like “Pussy.” Ominous rumblers “Theo” and “M.U.H.” play on the dark side of house, yet the highlight of their new material is “All Night.” The track is built on a vocal riff from one of the most sampled songs ever, the James Brown-produced, Lyn Collins jam “Think (About It)” (for non-crate diggers, that’s where that classic “woo! yeah!” break comes from).

Nadastrom’s mascot / logo / spirit animal is the Yeti, specifically the one from the hilariously over-the-top SkyMall catalog. What started as an inside joke has actually come to describe the duo: this dark, mysterious beast who haunts our collective consciousness. If you’ve ever heard a Nadastrom track in a DJ set (you probably have) or have been lucky enough to see them live, you understand the Yeti. From the most powerful tech house to the smoothest moombahton, Nadastrom is out there.

If you’re in DC, just turn up the bass: the Nadastrom residency returns tomorrow July 10th to U Street Music Hall with guests Munchi and Jillionaire.

Originally posted on the Mishka Bloglin.