Mørkeblå is the project of Italian producer Alberto Rosso. His MO is summed up by the phrase “cosmic travels in dark blue”, itself a reference to his chosen moniker, the Norwegian for that shade. Working with a dark palette of sounds that drift in slow phases, his work touches on points of ambient soundcapes while pushing the listener in a more sinister direction. It’s not quite horror movie music, but it could well be used to fit that purpose. As well as his solo efforts, he’s also behind the Apparizione netlabel along with Luca Sigurtà and Rainbow Lorikeet, as well as recording with those two under the name Awkwardness. His first physical release has just dropped on Where To Now?, a label that has put out a series of oddball tapes and records since its inception last year. Following the online-only Omicron Rainbow release for Spanish netlabel Fracaso, which book-ended a 14-minute journey with two short vignettes, it expands on that epic approach with gusto.
There’s a feeling of bright hope and wonder at the outset, as “Mooloolite” presents scorched, distorted chords evocative of blinding sunshine across an icy wasteland. It hints at an expansive vision, of an enlightening journey. “Permanent Liminality”, however, is a confounding listen. The title refers to a point in ritual when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status yet have not begun their transition, it suggests a perpetual standing on a threshold, neither outside nor inside. Pained, nightmarish layered vocals hint at intergalactic rite, while chords that drudge along at once searing and overwhelmingly thick. Gasped breaths stab throughout the track, as if the mood wasn’t unsettled enough. Then, as if beaming down from above, a twisted theremin-like pitch evokes alien communication and sends a shiver through the spine, a piercing imposition through swathes of darkness.
“A Fish Hook In My Finger” is similarly unsettled, yet more ambiguous in direction. It opens with tones that shimmer and swirl as single notes play so far apart that melody is a distant memory. The creak of stone on stone, a Sisyphean drag or Ricardian shuffle, suggests creeping torment. This music is dark, yet wondrously so. A new theme enters four minutes in, a four-note phrase (unbound by the rigid structure of bar numbers) opens the piece up beyond its other-worldly sludge. Further worlds collide, as birdsong meets spoken word and beautifully rendered synths that hint at rebirth and awakening, rather than the undead. If the language here seems overblown, it’s only because this tape conjures up such vast imagery. While ambient soundscapes are wont to clear the mind or evoke calm lakes or sunny beaches, Nowhere, OK flips expectations and chills rather than chilling out.
Stream: Mørkeblå – Nowhere, OK (teaser edit) (Where To Now)
Mørkeblå – Nowhere, OK is out now on Where To Now? Buy here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 03 April 2014. Leave a comment
Our 93rd Truancy Volume is delivered by Berlin expat Jay Donaldson. Having previously produced music under a variety of monikers, 2013 marked the release of the first Palms Trax EP on new London-based label Lobster Theremin. Equation nodded to both Chicago and Detroit in equal measure with three floor ready house jams that have never failed to get us grooving. With the end result coming in as one of our favourite debut EPs of last year, it made perfect sense to get in contact with the man himself and have him deliver us a mix. We also found time to sit down and have a chat; discussing his earliest musical experiences, his live performances and the merits of German Haribo.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you came to electronic music somewhat late. What were your formative musical experiences? You played piano from what I’ve read? “Yeah I played piano, think it took me about 12 years to pass my Grade 1 but after that I wasn’t so bad. Apart from that it was just bass guitar and Black Sabbath until I moved to London. Actually I did listen to Metronomy and wear skinny jeans once which was apparently pretty hip, but the latter was owing to a washing accident more than anything else. There was the odd Aphex Twin album and J Dilla track in there but I wasn’t really aware of anything else existing beyond what was spoon fed to me by whatever magazine my local Sainsbury’s was stocking. I could just about load up Minesweeper on the PC but downloading any zip file would have been a stretch, we can’t all be listening to Philus records and a genre with wave attached to it from birth.”
As someone who has lived in both cities, what would you say the key differences between London and Berlin are? How has living in these places influenced your music? “Well I can only really speak from personal experience – and I know some people have an amazing time in London – but it wasn’t really for me. In hindsight it felt like going out was a pretty alienating experience, heavily regulated with everyone keeping themselves to themselves. Having said that Principles and Rhythm Section were both really fun just before I left and I love Phonica, Kristinas etc. The pace is just different over here and I like that there’s everything a city has to offer within a smaller, quieter space. Plus there’s a good community of people all looking out for each other. I don’t know, I’m not sure anyone wants to hear about Berlin anymore. I guess the main difference would be the admirable creativity that someone possesses at Haribo’s German headquarters.”
Can you tell us a bit about your live show? “It actually only came about because these guys in Holland asked me to do it at the beginning of the year, so I treated it sort of like a commission. I’ve since done two shows in London and Berlin as well, but it’s something I’m only looking to do once in a while really. I think on the whole I much prefer seeing DJ’s. They’re the people I look up to and, although it was a lot of fun, I enjoy buying records too much to let that side of it go. The process was pretty intense too, I just spent ages making a tonne of different loops, then had the MFB 522 running the drums, Juno 60 up there for some melodies, MPD as a controller etc. It took about two months overall to sort out but to be honest it’s something that could go on forever.”
Before launching Lobster Theremin you and Jimmy Asquith were involved in the Streets of Beige parties together. Do you have any personal highlights from these events? Did launching the label seem like a natural progression? “Well to be honest all credit has to go to Jimmy for these. I was just a resident and then came on board to release on the label but he set both of them up and has put an insane amount of time into both of them. I guess the label was a natural progression because he’d wanted to do it for a while. With the parties it had got to a point where there wasn’t anything left to explore I think, but they’re very much separate entities. I still look back to this night I played with Fred P fondly. His set really made an impression on me even if the total attendance didn’t stretch past double figures, it was drizzling and I had no bus fare home.”
You work A&R for Lobster Theremin, what’s in the pipeline for the label? “Well I don’t do so much. I stumbled across Snow Bone on SoundCloud and give a few opinions here and there but there’s so much planned now that I’m almost a spectator which I think is nice. There’s over ten releases coming this year and I’m excited to see how it goes. It’s still so surreal that the whole thing has got going and that people are into it in all honesty.”
Willie Burns was on remix duties for your first release, is there anyone you’d love to remix your music in the future? “Well I’ve been pretty lucky to have Galcher Lustwerk and Tin Man on the next ones but yeah, I think Big Strick or one of the Mood Hut guys would be cool. Heiroglyphic Being also, Silent Servant, Stingray, XDB, Legowelt in Catnip mode with Luke Eargoggle… There’s so many. Steve Bicknell or a Gherkin Jerks mix would be a bit of a dream. The list is endless.”
What can we expect from you over the coming months? “I’ve just started a monthly show on Berlin Community Radio which is cool, then I’ve got a white label out on Lobster Theremin in the next couple of weeks as well. I’ve also pretty much finished these two tunes I’ve been doing with Innershades. As well as that I’ve almost finished the next proper EP too but I’m not sure when that will be out. Then there’s one more thing, but again, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with that. Then there’s the Tin Man remix and repress real soon.”
What approach did you take for this mix? “I played in Austria just before recording it and was pretty pleased with how it went over there, even if I am still in shock with how heavily I perspired throughout, but yeah just followed that structure of starting out pretty hazily, then some housier bits, short commercial break then techno to finish.”
Aside from music what are your other interests? How do you like to relax? “Most recently I’ve been enjoying having an almond magnum in the bath, as well as reading about this barnacle called a rhizocephala. Cooking has been a thing of late too I still managed to eat a whole box of nougat bites over the weekend so maybe I’m not quite the friturier I aspire to be. I’m mostly a bag of nerves on the whole.”
Words by Matt Gibney, 02 April 2014. Leave a comment
‘When I first started working with Madlib, I had heard how he and MF Doom had made such a classic album. And I was like, man, I think I’m way better, or at least as good, as MF Doom. I can do that too. It started off as a challenge—no disrespect to MF Doom, he set the bar. I wanted something that was gonna sit in rap history.’ Conspiring together with the reclusive genius Madlib; the baby faced killa Freddie Gibbs is making extremely clear that there is a new villain in town. The stars also seemingly aligned to coincide with this momentous occasion as the project was released a few days short of the 10 year anniversary of the cult classic Madvillany. Our attention is firmly focused on MadGibbs right now though. Three years in the making, Piñata is just the type of raw and uncut product that you would expect from the coming together of two highly skilled purists. Two rare breeds who are single-handedly keeping their arts alive, crate digging and greezy gun talk respectively. A self-described, “gangster Blaxploitation film on wax” Gibbs’ autobiographical raps are suited for the screen as proven by the video for the first single “Thuggin” which was released in 2011. And who better to score this film than Madlib? Whilst many rappers are still trying to convince you that they have the Medellin on speed dial (Jay-Z at least has a photo) or that they are in fact convicted drug trafficking kingpins – Gibbs honestly rapped “I’ve never been a drug kingpin” (Live from Gary Indiana) so the symbolism of the opening scene in “Thuggin” that shows the robbery and murder of the wannabe Tony Montana in the two tone ‘Scarface’ leather jacket sends a clear message out to all.
“Scarface”, the first track on the album, acts as both an introduction to the beginnings of his life as a dealer, his favourite rapper of the same name as well as the film. The film which inspired a generation of hustlers turned rappers, turned designers, turned moguls (in some cases) and became The Complete Idiot’s Guide To: Getting The World and Everything In It. Granted, Gibbs doesn’t relay elaborate and grandiose Mafioso tales of multi-million dollar transactions and the lifestyle that accompanied it like his 90′s predecessors but he still acknowledges the inspirational and educational value of the story. The brevity of the song mirrors his stunted come up because no sooner than he has begun his Montana-esque rise to power, ‘Deeper’, the subsequent track, already sees him in prison. Call it the sequel to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”. Gibbs’ early material shows that he has a penchant for jacking R&B beats, be it from from the Isley brothers to somewhat surprisingly Bow Wow & Omarion, and Madlib, doing what he does best, flips the perfect dusty soul sample to match the tone of the unrequited love song. Gibb’s hasn’t gone Drake on us but it is a clear moment of vulnerability that shows us, once again, what it’s like when thugs cry. Not one to dwell on the past – the painful memories of his unfaithful sweetheart are dissipated in a thick cloud of kush smoke. It’s a real shame Mr Jackson Jr, Mr Gibbs and Mr Brown didn’t get in the studio together to record this track. Can you imagine the studio session for “High”? If not, the lyrical trip to “Harolds”, an ode to the Chicago chicken shack should say it all – “six wing mild sauce with all the fries you can give me.” “High” is not the first time Danny Brown has laced a Madlib production, it’s just that this time he’s not playing the lead Cocaine Cowboy. Gibbs on the other hand, who was previously unaware of Madlib’s craft, handles his unpredictable productions with great deftness showing his versatility as a rapper. Madlib, ‘[doesn’t] have time to sit there and coach somebody… to sit there like a babysitter,’ and the Baby Face Killa certainly doesn’t need one. It’s not completely new territory for him and they are definitely no odd couple. In the past Gibbs has been paired with crate diggers like Statik Selektah and Alchemist and it’s not like we haven’t heard raps about drugs, weed and women before. It just hasn’t been executed this expertly, vividly and sincerely since Roc Marciano’s Marcberg.
From Harold’s, back to his own culinary establishment “Fast Freddie’s” on the next track “Bomb”. The strung out string sample evokes the paranoia of the Geto Boys’ classic “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” as Gibbs raps, “drugs got me wakin’ up in cold sweats / sometimes I’m slightly off my rocker, but I’m on deck.” Undoubtedly caused by all the ‘a la carte’ weed he’s been smoking but he has no choice but to hold it down as he has the most Michellin starred chef on the planet, Raekwon, joining him in the kitchen. Like the true culinary wizard that he is, Raekwon the Chef serves up his signature dish of exotic non-sequitors with effortless calm. Gibbs “[does] not give a solitary fuck” on “Shittsville” and continues not to throughout the album. This sentiment or lack thereof will undoubtedly continue throughout his career – a trait that both he and Madlib share. ‘Certain guys aren’t gonna do the things that I do musically to set themselves apart. They just gonna be another motherfucker on Worldstar.’ Gibbs has expressed ambitions to one day be like the next Master P but for now is content with starting small, growing his fan base and perfecting his art and with 10 years under his belt he’s finally starting to get the attention he deserves. Madlib existed in this slightly nerdy, slightly inaccessible, avant-garde ‘art rap’ (for want of a better word) Wes Anderson type world with Doom and Gibbs being more rugged Tarentino types. His remixes of Norega, Big Pun, M.O.P and the super grimy production for Ghostface Killah have hinted at a more rugged side it seems, he just need Gibbs to coax it out of him. By teaming up with each other they have diversified their audiences without having to switch lanes or water down their output.
Holding back or pulling punches is not something the ESGN honcho is capable of, which is clearly proven by the pleasure he takes in destroying his former boss Young Jeezy on “Real” (Remember Everybody Ain’t Loyal). Madlib again providing the suitably rugged and varying terrain for Gibbs to navigate. A diss record is a rare thing these days unless you’re Drake and Jay-Z and however unlikely it is that they’ll come to blows over a Basquiat it’s surely only a matter of time before Jeezy satisfies the public’s blood lust, right? Then again, no one really cares. Do they? The killing spree continues on the superbly gritty “Uno” which sees him lining up Lil Wayne. Unlike Tony Montana, who declares himself the bad guy in a druken stupor, Gibbs announces his arrival with a deadly cool. The rap game needs people like him, not because of his ‘gangsta’ image but because of his authenticity. Despite his fearless displays of cocaine fueled confidence he realises that he isn’t bullet proof and that he may end up the victim of crime he committed in his past but as long as he goes down in a Lennox-like blaze of glory he doesn’t care. He has repeatedly emphasized his ‘realness’ and until anyone proves otherwise; who are we to doubt his credentials? With a major in Robbing (with Honours) from the Drug Dealing College – Gangsta Gibbs is top of his class . For someone who robs both recreationally and as an occupation the fact that he’s found time to work with one of the biggest record nerds around whilst mentoring young truants like Domo, Earl and Mac Miller is a feat any Blaxploitation hero should be proud of. That said, Gibbs’ final classroom scene, the title track “Pinata”, could have done with a better cast. More importantly, how can you let an ‘extra’ have the last word? Naturally, one of the highlights of the album belongs to Scarface on “Broken”. Once again Gibbs shows us what’s behind his hardcore image as he raps about his humble beginnings, giving into peer pressure and his twisted relationship with his police officer father. Madlib’s production here pulls hard on our heartstrings turning Isaac Hayes’ “Wherever You Are”- which also touches on wrong decisions made in the past – into a melancholic masterpiece. Scarface, however, chooses not to “talk [his] old business” preferring to focus on the finer aspects of his life away from the streets that involve a beach, a buxom female and pint of Guinness. Both he and Raekwon, having survived a life in the streets, play the role of those who have ‘made it’ and as such serve as mentors to Gibbs, offering jewels of wisdom and insight into the luxurious life that he can one day hope to enjoy. “Lakers” the uplifting and anthemic ode to his new home in Los Angeles suggest that he is starting to enjoy life more as the Gary Indiana native links up once again with Polyester the Saint as well as TDE’s Ab Soul to re-pledge his allegiance to the yellow and purple. Gibbs has returned to the city of angels with the gems from Scarface in order to “prepare [his] broken dream” and like our favourite bad guy; we are rooting for him all the way.
The line between Freddie Gibbs the gangster and Freddie Gibbs the rapper may be blurred but as much as he touts the Gangsta Gibbs image, how many ‘killers’ would you catch singing “Me & U” ,”Waterfalls” and “Living For the Love of You” a capella? We know he raps about selling drugs but he’s given us a brief glimpses of his gentler nature and it’s these introspective moments that we want to see more of. On this premise it should be safe to approach (with caution) and congratulate him for one of the best rap albums of the year. By releasing a string of EP’s over the course of a few years they maintained a steady and healthy buzz of anticipation that meant there was not an unrealistic amount of hype to live up to. With a product this strong Lord knows what he’s got in store for his next album Eastside Slim. Slated for release this winter and we’re already fiending. Do yourself a favour and crack open one of his piñatas. ‘Straight street shit.’
Piñata was released on the 18th of March by Madlib Invazion.
We’ll say it again: 2013 was the year of the label. Every DJ and his mum seemed to set up a new stable to bypass release schedules and change artistic modes. When a label comes along out of nowhere with a determinedly clear aesthetic vision, however, is when it gets interesting. The latest to meet that criteria is London imprint Cohort. Balancing sound and image perfectly, their carefully designed artwork, right down their white vinyl and beautifully rendered labels, matches the ominous splendour of their debut release. This comes from Lisbon artist Chainless, a shadowy figure unbound by reputation or expectation. “We live in an age where we are bombarded with thousands of images everyday, and everyone exposes themselves, and feels comfortable with it. I don’t,” he explains. All this would be moot, though, if the music weren’t up to scratch. Citing influences such as Art of Noise, John Carpenter and Isao Tomita, Chainless goes dark on the Grey Veils EP. Think ghostly chants and cavernous, sepulchral chords, an imagined rave in an 18th-Century monastery. Trance synths over heavy grime and dubstep kicks, booming echoey percussion that will fill you with dread as it hits your solar plexus. Enjoy this exclusive first play of the full EP, and then go cop it ahead of its release next week. We can’t wait to hear who else they’ve got lined up for us this year.
Chainless – Grey Veils by Cohort Recordings
Chainless – Grey Veils EP is out on March 31 on Cohort. Pre-order here.
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 26 March 2014. Leave a comment
We recently sat down for a lengthy Skype chat with Tom Lea, head of the peerless Local Action record label. There’s no one out there doing what they do, perfectly bisecting the spectrum of grime and garage. We talked early beginnings, the various directions the label has taken, the parties they’ve thrown (especially their epic Christmas party with friends Unknown To The Unknown last year) and more. We talked sweetboy life and going to Nando’s. And then fate, and a clumsy thumb, led to the whole thing being lost to the ether. Tom was good enough not only to provide this killer mix, but also to jot down his responses and sum up the path his baby has taken since its inception in 2010.
Tell us about how you came to set up the label. “I’d wanted to run a label for a while, then the record store Phonica – I used to share an office with them – approached me about working with them on one. Obviously they sorted distribution, manufacturing and everything like that from their end, and I was never gonna turn down that shortcut.” What led to the breakaway from Phonica? “A couple of things, really – Phonica’s great but it’s primarily a house, techno and disco store, and I felt like to release stuff like grime, footwork and bassline through them wouldn’t have worked. Also, I wanted to have complete creative control – it’s not like Phonica ever put their foot down over not releasing anything, but if I’m gonna run a label I want to be able to go over-budget on some dumb reissue that only 50 people will buy, and not have to worry about it being somebody else’s money I’ve spent on it.”
The artwork started off with the simple logo over a beautifully hued photo, before branching out in different directions for albums and white labels. How important is the visual identity to you? “I think about it loads. When you’re releasing 12”s, it’s definitely smart to have one template for the artwork and stick to it – the sort of thing L.I.E.S., Hessle, Punch Drunk do. It means people can instantly identify your records, it makes them seem more collectable, like Mr. Men books or some shit, and ultimately it means you save time and money. I used a template like that for the label’s first two years, but I felt that “Brandy & Coke” and Raw Missions really needed to be presented differently, and now me and Andy, the label’s designer, are doing a different design for each 12”. It does delay releases, so God knows – maybe we’ll go back to some kind of template soon.”
The next white label is the DJ Q – Trust Again remixes package. Can you talk about how that came about? “We just uploaded the acapella for a competition with Juno, that was it really. I couldn’t believe it when four of my favourite producers responded with remixes – totally grateful and overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure it we’d do a 12” or not, but they started getting such a good reaction, and people like Slackk and Oil Gang were battering the Rabit one in particular, that we had to. It was the same thing with Skydiver, the Cassie compilation – no one got a fee for it or anything, so I was blown away by how many people responded.”
Stream: DJ Q – Trust Again (Major Grave Remix) (Local Action)
You’ve got albums coming from Q and Slackk, the two anchors of the label. How are they coming along? “They are the two anchors of the label, you’re right. I started working with both around the same time – and to be honest, it followed a period of not really knowing where I wanted the label to go. When I started LA in 2010, there was so much promise and so many ideas punting around 130bpm in the UK – that period where Funky had made everyone drop their tempo, and Night Slugs, labels like that had started up – but a year and a half later everyone had gone into their own lanes, and shit just wasn’t as interesting to me. I’d been fans of both Q and Slackk for a while, but when I first heard “Brandy & Coke”, and “Sleet Riddim” – which eventually became “Blue Sleet”, on Raw Missions – that was the moment where I was like “fuck, this is what the label needs to do next”. What Q does with garage and pop music, and what Slackk had started doing with grime – and fucking hell, look at Boxed now and how ahead of the game he was with that EP – it was the opposite of all this Soundcloud house bullshit that was getting hyped all over the shop.
Stream: DJ Q feat. Kai Ryder – Be Mine (Local Action)
“The Q album’s out on March 31 [stream on Pitchfork], it’s a pop record that, to my ears, is basically how UK pop music should sound now – big vocals and melodies but totally in the lineage of Wookie, MJ Cole, The Streets, Dizzee, shit like that. Slackk’s album’s very close to finished, and you’ll hear more about it soon.”
Tell us about the mix – how representative of your DJing style is it? I dunno, the start’s probably more patient than I am in a club half the time. Bunch of grime, bit of rap, forthcoming label bits, it’s fairly representative.
What’s your drink of choice? “Amaretto, ice and lime.” And when was the last time you danced? “This Saturday.”
Truancy Volume 92 – Local Action by TRUANTS
Yamaneko – Seabrooke Rise (Local Action)
P. Morris – Submission Devil Mix
Dark0 – Karmmm
ZMoney – I Can’t Stop
P. Morris – Turtle Lounge
Fatima Al Qadiri – Vatican Vibes
Slackk – Voodoo Sketches (Local Action)
Yamaneko – Slew Wave (Local Action)
Shriekin’ Specialist – Snowy Island Breaks (Local Action)
William Skeng – Graveyard VIP
Dubbel Dutch – Load It Edit
Dark0 – Scyther
Shriekin’ Specialist – Temple 2 (Local Action)
Slackk – Millipede (Local Action)
Murlo – Roman Baths
DJ Milktray – Wifey Riddim Edit
DJ Milktray – Velour Pool
Yamaneko – Tugboat Otherworld Mix
Unknown – Unknown
Words by Aidan Hanratty, 25 March 2014. Leave a comment