Music from an architectural point of view

So I wanted to switch things up a bit this week and not go down my usual electronic music pathway, having been inspired by David Byrne’s ‘How Music Works’. Something that really stuck for me is how he speaks about the architecture of where music is performed – whether it be Classical Music in a symphony hall or Punk Rock in a grimy club – the structure and size of a space, the objects within a venue and even the lack of structure – ie outdoors, are all factors that can shift and transform the nature of the music itself into something completely new.

This got me thinking about when I used to go on a camp called Forest School Camps where, once every year a hundred of us would congregate in a field in the middle of nowhere to cook on fires, shit in the ground and, most importantly, sing around the campfire every night.

The songs we’d sing mostly originated from folk and the Underground Railroad, with the occasional Dylan and Marley songs changing the mood, and, perhaps more importantly, to include the younger generation – yes the YOUNGER generation such as my six-year-old self, who weren’t familiar with the likes of Woody Guthrie just yet. My memory of this environment – sitting on logs in a huge communal circle, surrounding a monstrous campfire and taking turns to pick songs from our songbook (that may, at times, have been soaking wet from the pouring rain) is one that is incredibly sentimental. Singing these songs cheered us all up, no matter how bad the weather or with the knowledge that I was on to my last pair of clean knickers. The present was a happy place and that was all that mattered.

I think the first song I learnt was ’16 Tons’, best known version by Johnny Cash and originally by Merle Travis. What’s interesting about this one is that none of the versions I could forage on Spotify come near to replicating my experiences of singing it on camp. What you’ll hear on both of these versions is the guitar and percussion taking a higher ground than the vocals, giving the song more of it’s country routes. But unless everyone around a campfire had an instrument (there were guitars, violins and even vietnamese harps among other things), these parts were obviously weaker than the hundred person ‘choir’ we had going and, therefore, 16 Tons was much more about harmonies, tempo and pitch. Hearing 60 year-old-men singing along with children such as myself created an atmosphere of unity and security that has yet to be replicated amongst any recordings that I have heard.

Another song that differs a lot between the recorded version and ‘our’ version is ‘Follow The Drinkin’ Gourd’. Supposedly, this song was passed on from the Underground Railroad Operative, Peg Leg Joe, so doesn’t have an original recording artist for me to signpost to. What’s interesting is that all the recordings I’ve listened to, including Richie Havens’ version, are sung in a staggered and staccato style (I’m aware that describing this music genre as staccato/legato isn’t the norm but in order for me to give a good picture of this, I need to bend the rules slightly). They’re recording in a studio with only one person singing and playing, whereas on camp (and even more so on the railroad), the sounds took longer to travel to the mass of people and so the notes would be more drawn out – legato style. Our reasons, unfortunately were very different. The nature of a lot of camp life is a relaxed environment – where people are allowed to be who they are, dress how they like and if all else failed we had the knowing that, in two weeks time, we could all go home – the polar opposite of the underground railroad. Even so, there may be some truth in the relation of camp and railroad styles that merges us closer together in comparison to the modern day recordings. One can easily imagine that in the sweltering heat, slaves needed every morsel of positive energy to boost their morale – lengthening their notes to ensure that the people at the back were (near enough) in time with the front would allow them to sing as one unit – singing would have been a rare medium to express themselves creatively and feel alive in some sense, and lengthening these notes meant that this feeling of power could last just that little bit longer. Camp can be quite laborious and the connection between the open landscapes and the movements of the singers trying to stay in time with each other stays stronger to the roots of the songs in comparison to a recorded version where this trudging effect is non existent.

Another one of my favourites was ‘Midnight Special’, known best by the incredible Leadbelly. One thing that Forest School Camps was a bit of a sucker for was it’s calls and responses, this song was definitely no exception. Sometimes we’d go as far as to repeat the end of every single line (this wasn’t my preference). I think this was more of a youthful interpretation. As we all continued to camp over the years, there became a more agreeable way to sing a lot of these songs by those of us who had sung them year-in-year-out (Midnight Special was a favourite amongst most campers) – this was usually by keeping the repetitions to a minimum and instead we’d play more with the harmonies. It’s worth pointing out here that these songs weren’t solely sung with the whole lodge or around the campfire – they were also sung whilst we’d prepare lunch or venture out to nearby waterfalls in smaller groups, therefore the architecture of the same songs would change once again – because our architecture was the open landscape, it was us – the performers – that could encompass ourselves within different parts of it and feel a change in the music instantly. Singing these songs whilst hiking in a valley added reverberations – call and response was fun to play with here as one could hear the echos of their own voices if loud enough. Reverb was then intensified when moved into smaller and more confined spaces such as caves, though I think people’s own fears of these small spaces may have been more at the forefront of their minds as opposed to what the music sounded like.  Then of course, singing in a tent with a maximum of four people (that’s all we could fit) had a more personal but bland effect to the music. Leadbelly’s recorded version stays more true to the origins of the song. It was from the viewpoint of the American South prisoners and he encapsulates this more due to the song performed in a confined space – as opposed to masses of open land.

On camp, we the performers were also our own audiences. We were judging what sounded good by the noises we chose to hear in our heads, different to how we hear a recorded version of the same song, which we hear through our ears. This is something that David Byrne explores in his book – the fact that throughout history, artists have been trying to recreate the same sound they hear in their heads without ending up with the dreaded phenomenon of hearing one’s own recorded voice played back to them. Capturing the essence of the sounds would be a tricky business – remember we’d normally be in incredibly windy places, not to mention the sparks and crackling of the campfire or the constant rearrangement of people’s waterproofs, which all added to our architecture but hearing it played back, even with the highest quality technology obviously wouldn’t be an exact replica of what we could hear. That’s not to say it wouldn’t make for an interesting recording but technology has not yet reached a point where recordings are able to sound like what we hear in our heads.

The recorded versions of these songs have therefore become irrelevant to me the listener, in comparison to the feeling of experiencing these songs in their original environment. I’d put this down to the fact that I the listener, was also the performer, and the architecture of the landscape interlinked with the sounds I heard in my head resulted not in a sound, but an experience of the sound that is impossible to replicate. The sounds we created on camp were solely for us the performers’ enjoyment and memories, whereas the artists that have recorded these songs have an external audience in mind. That’s not to say that one can’t appreciate the recorded versions – Nina Simone’s version of the ‘Work Song’ is all time favourite for me, but is difficult for me to draw much comparison to a camp version as the only thing that is a constant between the two is the lyrics.

If you are still interested in what I’m listening to at the moment, here’s my latest playlist

Rosie Lowe Vs Swayney McPorridge

The first time I came across Rosie Lowe was through the Lil Silva track, No doubt. Not taking much notice of the singer herself, I continued to trail off with Lil Silva, discovering tracks such as Mask and then of course, discovering Banks. It was about three months later that Rosie Lowe popped up on my Soundcloud feed and I was completely blown away by her. So, when I heard that she was playing at the overly trendy venue that is Clapton’s new bar, Oslo, obviously I had to get a ticket.

She appeared on stage modestly confident, joking with us saying that the lights made it look as if we were all leaving after her first song, Right Thing, making her even more endearing.

She followed that with the incredible 10K Balloons, here’s a very poor quality video:

During a bit of a break, we were given one of the sweetest anecdotes I’ve heard in a long time. She told us that she loves looking after kids and does so whenever she gets the chance to. One child once asked her whether people rush love, she was completely thrown by the question and found herself unable to give this kid an answer, but as a result she wrote Games. This precise and delicate track gives a wonderful sense of how much Rosie Lowe gives, I for one just want more! She’s just released a video too!

To finish the set off, she played Me and Your Ghost. For me, this song encapsulates Lowe’s authentically soulful style, marvellously! Throughout the set, she kept indicating how proud she is of her band, whether it was an agreeable bop of the head, showing that she liked her bass player’s groove or a wide smile at her synth player,  I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, female soul singers are rising and there’s no doubt that Rosie Lowe will be one of those who will be leading these headstrong women.

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Now, I don’t want to steel Lowe’s thunder but I did have to give a brief update on what I’ve been listening to recently because THERE’S SO MUCH!

Chronologically, I’ll start with Four Tet and Terror Danjah’s new track – Killer (Text028 A). I much prefer this to the Nasty track. With its jungle routes and the way the track just turns to something that could have been mixed by bloody David Guetta (sound’s like a recipe for disaster) but this is one bangin’ track.

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Adult Jazz - Springful - Giles Peterson spoke a couple of weeks ago about a track having an incredible intro, well I think this beats it. This song has so many textures and without sounding like a complete knob, it really is a work of art. With the traditional indie rock thread throughout, Adult Jazz are somehow able to add layers of eclectic and experimental electronic beats on top, creating something that could easily be horrific and instead a song that is defiantly reckless.

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What So Not - OWSLA’s After Dark: Part 12 - This set literally sums up my obsession with the Aussie music scene.

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Jungle - Busy Earnin’ - Just released a few days ago, this track has begun to grow on me but I still stand by my initial reaction that perhaps Jungle are too busy earnin’. Just hasn’t done it for me as much as their previous tracks.

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Swayney McPorridge - Scribbins - So, James Blake had his last BBC Radio 1 residency show this week (sad times) and started with this track that I knew I’d heard recently, but under the name Swayney McPorridge. I definitely hadn’t come across the name Swayney McPorridge and Google hadn’t either, AT ALL. I thought to myself, WTF? Is this some unreleased track or something? But if so, why have I heard it before? I rattled my brain all day and had no luck. It was only on my way home from work when I was listening to Soundcloud, that I realised who the fuck Swayney McPorridge was… James Blake 10 – The rest of us 0. Very funny.

Now Playing 09.02.14

Firstly, I want to apologise for the late post, I’ve been poorly this weekend but a friend of mine gave me a nice kick up the ass just now so here we go:

Kelis – Jerk Ribs (Mount Kimbie Remix) - Now, there is no doubt that the original is proof that being signed to Ninja Tune records was an intelligent move for Miss Kelis. She’s now established enough that going to a smaller label from the previous Virgin, has enabled her to focus more on what she wants to produce, rather than what the label wants. Her new album ‘Food’ (release date 24.01.14) is highly creditable and after having been released from Virgin, she spent a year and a half at culinary school and is now looking into making her own brand of sauces (something that, personally makes my skin crawl), but good for her! She’s insistent that the album isn’t solely about her divorce with ex-husband Nas and talks about it being, “Just about where I’m at right now, and what’s going on around me and wanting to make a record that… that I believe. That I can sit down on a stool and sing for a long time.”  And the fact the Mount Kimbie are remixing this, I mean if there were ever a musical metaphor for a really exciting meal, this remix of Jerk Ribs is definitely up there. Bon appétit!

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Rhye - Open (Ryan Hemsworth remix) - Having just discovered Rhye, I must admit that this remix of Open was a tough decision to make, when sat side-by-side with the SOHN remix. However, I do think that Hemsworth mixes things up a bit more and creates a more chirpy and uplifting track in comparison. Headphones only.

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Kwabs - Last Stand (Produced by SOHN) - I haven’t quite worked out where I stand with Kwabs. Whether it’s because he reminds me of the lower standard of 90′s R&B that I’m thankful we’ve escaped, or simply because I’m unsure of where to place him yet. Either way, he seems to be doing well for himself and has received a helping hand from SOHN on this track and Wrong or Right, I’m interested to see the direction he next goes in.

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Maribou State & Pedestrian – Mask - This track, sounding Samphaesque is a great one for a Sunday afternoon.

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Howls - 003 - Ta-Ku and Kit Pop seemed to have a bit of a dip with 002 but they’re back on fire with their most recent track. I can imagine this being great to put on if you’re running late for work tomorrow.

#nowplaying 02.02.14

Rosie Lowe is the kind of artist that makes you question why so many less credible acts get into the charts when such gems like this take so long to surface. She has the voice of a well spoken Londoner and with her precision I really hope that she gets picked up on soon. This woman has created  some great music that is well produced and lyrically intuitive.

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Banks - I’m having a musical affair with this beauty. Cannot wait to see her live again.

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Broken Bells will be releasing their second album, After The Disco TOMORROW. They’ve released two tracks on iTunes already but this one is available on soundcloud and definitely my favourite so far.

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User713112634 - Having just turned 22, this artist who wants to remain anonymous has the most colourful and rich voice. There’s no doubt that his music needs attention and an open mind to be appreciated, but this is my obscure pick of the week.

#now playing 26.01.14

Naomi Pilgrim - This song leaves no apologies and I love it.

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Blood Cultures - These guys are Youth Lagoonesque and definitely worth a listen.

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Ghost Poet ft Lucy Rose (No Replay remix) -  This track has made me realise that Lucy Rose has the ability to dabble in genres other than Indie, I like.

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Jeremih – Shlohmo Remix - My flatmate and I have had this track on repeat since she heard it in a club last week. Obviously we’re late but this is booom.

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Warpaint-Warpaint - This album was released this week, though some of the tracks have been around for a while. I wasn’t able to pick my favourite one and bought the whole album as a result. Though if you need some direction, I’d say Keep It Healthy, Biggy and Teese are good to start if you’ve already heard Love Is To Die, which you definitely should have by now.

SYD THA KYD HUGGED ME @ Giles Peterson Worldwide Awards 18.01.14

So here’s a brief update on the latest gig I went to: The Giles Peterson Worldwide Awards.

Thew biggest highlight was Jon Wayne, who appeared on stage in a baggy t-shirt that wouldn’t surprise me if he’d been wearing for the last fortnight, a pair of shorts and sandals. This was my first encounter with Mr Wayne and wow, have been missing out! His beats are tight and his on-stage presence is incredibly entertaining. My fave song is of course Numbers on a Hoard.

Then there was Cid Rim. I’m really enjoying how the artists on the Lucky Me label are popping up so organically for me. This guy looks like a private school toff, but I was so impressed with his live DJing skills. Often, when I go to gigs, I’m so absorbed by the music that I miss being able to take the time to watch a DJ do their thang. Cid Rim clearly has talent and his remix of CHVRCHES’ ‘Recover’ has been on repeat ever since.

Overall, it was a really great night and to top it all off, when we were leaving, Syd Tha Kyd from The Internet was outside with her crew so obviously I went to say hi. I told her that I thought that she’s doing great things for women in music, especially hip hop and she gave me a hug! I left with such a gleam on my face, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

What kind of music do you listen to?

There’s a question I constantly get asked by people. It’s one I absolutely detest because they ask this question in hope that they’ll either a) have something in common with me and therefore we’ll have something to talk about (fair enough) or b) (and more probable) they’ll be able to ‘work me out’.

This question is of course, ‘What kind of music do you listen  to?

What infuriates me more than anything is the fact that it is so obviously a loaded question, just waiting to fire out all sorts of prejudices -

Person A: WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?

Person B: Indie

Person A: Do you like Mumford and Sons?

Person B: Yeah, I like that song ‘The Cave’

Person A: #bye

* * *

Person A: WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?

Person B: Electronic

Person A: Electronic music? What’s that?

Person B: Like, James Blake, SBTRKT, that sort of thing.

Person B: Speaking of James Blake, have you heard his latest BBC Radio 1′s residency episode? He opens it with the BT dial-up tone!

Person A: #bye

* * *

Person A: WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?

Person B: The music I listen to doesn’t really have a genre, it’s like, a mix of everything.

Person A: …#bye

* * *

And of course, most people listen to ‘everything’, but just wait for the assumptions people will make about you for that answer. ‘Pretentious, try-hard, wanker’ is probably the general gist of it.

You can see how this question is just an absolute recipe for disaster, can’t you? Anyone who asks this question probably only wants to hear one specific answer, and the problem is, if you don’t tick that box immediately, the two of you will never bond through music, which is half the point of their question, right?

So, for 2014 I have a suggestion for you all. Stop asking people what music they listen to and instead ask,

What music are you listening to at the moment?

This question provides numerous possibilities for people to show a lot more about themselves.

It’s more specific due to the lack of genre clouding. They can offer you individual artists, which is a much easier way of them signposting to you their tastes without being categorised. Also, because this new question is more specific, it suggests that you are actually interested in music, rather than just judging people through music. And last but not least, it offers the person a chance to explain to you, shortly and sweetly, that they do, in fact, ‘listen to everything’.

I will now be writing honest weekly posts on what I’m listening to (please don’t judge).

#nowplaying

Four Tet has just re-released a batch of his music from 1999. Interestingly enough, most of this stuff has major elements of Bonobo’s stuff, especially Chiron, Liquefaction, The Butterfly Effect and Thirtysixtwentyfive. I’m fascinated by his jazzy approach to all of these tracks and the way he overwhelms the listener at the beginning of them and then eases out of it, hey, it works.

Mapei is part of the ever-growing sexy, husky, soul inspired female vocal trend and she reminds me of the great 90′s R&B that has now been long forgotten. This song completely speaks for itself though. The question is whether she’ll appear on ex flat-mate Lykke Li’s new album this year.

Lulu James - Bit late on this one, but this is definitely a case of ‘better late than never’.

Wet - ON.REPEAT. Seriously. These guys remind me of a happier version of Au Revoir Simone.

Jai Paul - Everyone went nuts for BTSTU which, of course was an absolutely epic track but Jasmine seemed to get completely sidetracked. Give this  track the listen it deserves and I guarantee you’ll have it on repeat in no time. Sounds like it should be part of the Drive soundtrack.

 

R.I.P

Sad news, TNGHT, aka Hudson Mohawke and Lunice have sadly gone their own ways, as of tnght. I’m very sad and I wish the very best to them both. Peace out http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6HzyUHxmkg0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D6HzyUHxmkg0

Jungle @ Chats Palace 10.12.13

I went to see the mystical band that is Jungle a couple of weeks ago at the charming Chats Palace (I remember going there as a kid to watch all my friends perform their annual christmas shows) it’s a lot smaller than I remembered. They were absolutely sublime.

Judging by their EP cover  and music video for The Heat, anyone who might stumble across them as I did, would presume that they consisted of two black dudes, you know, the ones sitting on the sofa in their green shell suits? So I was utterly shocked when not two but five(!) white guys plus a female vocalist, appeared on the smokey stage before us and lo and behold, this group of musicians start to play Platoon… Oh, this is Jungle! It’s a nice feeling knowing that the majority of the audience have just had the same revelation… Still, there was no disappointment at all. They all played beautifully, warming the crowd up by dropping the incredible tracks: Lucky I Got What I WantPlatoon and of course Drops.

Here’s them playing Drops. What I love about this song is that the recording sounds like a live performance, with its eery (guitar riffs?) and mellow vocals, these guys are perfect to play to intimate audiences.

Then they gave us all an early christmas present. Playing an unreleased song that is just as awesome as the rest!

There is definitely some mystery that these guys are wanting to portray here, as it was near to impossible to make out anything but their sillouttes through the sunset ombre smoke, which I like. However, they are no Burial in doing so. Huw Stephens did an interview with them on BBC Radio 1, which kind of gave them away pretty fast. But im not complaining, the question is, when will we actually see their faces?

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Jungle are signed to Chess Club Records with the likes of Wolf AliceSwim Deep and the incredible  and are voted in the Top Ten Artists for 2014 on the BBC Sound Poll, these guys aren’t going anywhere.

Jungle are doing their first world tour in march, go check em out on 4th March:

http://villageunderground.seetickets.com/event/jungle/village-underground/755220

The future is Future Classic

Future Classic is one of the top-five record labels in Australia, the heart of the Best Electronic Music Scene in the World (though we’re not supposed to call it that anymore). Founded in 2004 and with only eight core staff members, they are responsible for producing some of the most exciting, vibrant or just plain banging artists on the scene right now.

To set the picture, one must look at their most acclaimed: the (already) legendary Flume, King of Australian dance music who, by the way is only 21! If you’ve been reading my blog, by now you’ll have already gathered that I’m a massive fan, so I will try not to waffle on self-indulgently about his own music. No. Here I am trying to explain the importance of the effect that this kid, and more importantly, his label have had on other Australian artists.

I’ll start with his collaboration with DJ Chris Emerson (aka Emoh Instead) on What So Not. The duo started three years ago, making more house-y tracks (“War Paint“) and remixing other people’s stuff like the track Polish Girl (What So Not Moombahish Bootleg) – Neon Indian Vs Drake which, I’m pretty sure samples that 90s Nintendo ‘ding’ we got when we’d turn our Gameboys on. However, it has only been in the last couple of months that the pair have started to delve into dance. They released Touched just over a month ago and my god if there is a song to skank to it’s this. And let us by no means forget their most recent release, the orgasm that is Jaguar.

But there’s no saying that Emerson can’t make it without his lead man. In fact, all one has to do is look at Why Can’t You (Say So) from the Say So EP, only released a month ago. This track is definitely more one for the ladies, with it’s slow and seductive vocals along with it’s mellow guitar solo I imagine myself lying on a beach with a Pina Colada anticipating the drop of those fierce horns. What more could you want?

Now, I know I said that I wouldn’t noodle on about Flume, but there is no way to introduce the next artist without doing so:  He got in bed with Chet Faker (17 days ago) and together they released the Lockjaw EP, featuring the ma-husive hit Drop The Game. Now, what’s interesting about Mr. Faker (clearly and elegantly inspired by jazz musician Chet Baker), is that although this collaborated album is under Future Classic, his own labels hardly mention him. Remote Control Records mention nothing but his name on their website (the majority of their other artists have links to info pages) and there is nothing at all on their Facebook page. It seems like he’s made it more in the States under the Downtown Records label along with the likes of Miike SnowSantigold and Mos Def but still, isn’t it odd for someone of that calibre? So, “what’s all the fuss about?” I hear you ask? Well, he brought out his first album, Thinking In Textures in 2012, featuring songs such as the impassioned I’m Into You, which, yes, at first did remind me of my days of listening to Incubus. But when he drops the chorus you know this guy has his goals set higher than playing to the Dilla posters in his bedroom. And of course, one must not at any means disregard the cover of Blackstreet’s No Diggity. Check out his live recording here and tell me I’m losing the plot.

Now, if you imagine you’ve got these two incredibly talented artists in a room. The Future Classic room; And next door you’ve got this guy called Ta-Ku, who has also been thrashing out the tunes. You know, like that Aerosmith video. What is Future Classic going to do? Well, of course: smash the wall down and get these guys to collaborate some more! Flume’s Deluxe Album is in the making and what better way to get things off the ground than have Chet on the vocals of Left Alone. And, hey, let’s get Ta-Ku to remix it. Just wait for the triggers. But Ta-Ku has already worked with Flume a whole year ago on Ta-Ku’s own track Higher. With elements of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’, this track always puts a smile on my face. For the times when things aren’t going so well – with it’s empowering bass, I find myself saying, ‘hey, life’s not too bad actually.’

Sunday Records have the privilege of working with Ta-Ku, THE GENRE KILLER. Not wanting to put a label on his music is highly admirable and I can completely understand why that is, as it varies so much. With tracks like his remix of Aluna George‘s Best Be Believing only released a month ago and his remix of the incredible Childish Gambino’s Telegraph Ave that just make you want to be teleported to a club, like, right NOW, to Closet Drake Fans featuring Drake’s  ‘Over’, this trappy track is definitely a remix on repeat. But that’s not to say that Ta-Ku can’t do mellow. His remix of Oliver Tank’s Different Speed slows you down just enough when things speed up. Then, of course, there’s his album Songs To Break Up To, where Ta-Ku wanted to create something that was heartfelt mostly through percussion: Whether it’s trying to make the listener feel lost in Heartbreak or his drum solo in I Miss You, disturbingly sampling Willow Smith’s Summer Fling. Perhaps that’s because she cutely attempts a Australian accent in her video. Who knows. But it works! He also features bloody King Krule in the track Krule Love. Do I need to go on? Maybe not, but I must mention my favourite song on the album, We Were In Love. Ta-Ku speaks about having strategically placed this just after the mid-way point of the album to symbolise that moment of being just over someone with those feelings of anger at the fact that you’ve just lost it all. ‘We were in love’, ‘Why did we break up?’ He’s right in saying that this is definitely the most angry track on the album.

What does this all mean? Well, it means that every single person should be keeping a fine ear out for the Australian music scene, that’s for sure. It also means that Future Classic have struck gold by signing Flume. Through him they have bagged a formidable squadron that is not only incredibly talented but will be revolutionary. These guys haven’t hit UK soil properly yet and, in fact, have only  just skimmed the surface of what we can expect. Just wait ’til you hear of Panama or Danny T.

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