Songs for a Heatwave #1: Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
There’s a heatwave in London, the mercury is touching over 30C for the first time this year, and the city is sweltering under a clear blue sky and an unrelenting sun.
The physical pace of life always seems to slow down when it’s this hot, and musically, days like this are captured by long, looping rhythms and an epic guitar solo to match. Funkadelic’s effort is got to be up there in the greats of epic guitar solos, if only because it’s ten minutes long and was improvised while the guitarist was high on acid.
Chuck it on, lean back, and watch the city crawl through the heat haze…
Das geht ab, alter! German Hip Hop…
While recommending playlists to a friend new to Spotify earlier today, I got around to putting together a playlist of German Hip Hop, and I’d forgotten how cool it can be.
German Hip Hop is fairly old school by US/British standards, with a lot of emphasis on rhyming, story-telling and, frankly, profanity that’s got things in common with 90’s American Gangster rap.
The genre also comes with a dose of comic relief, with artists who are almost Goldie Looking Chain like in their subject matter and style. The track in the video above is a classic of the trailblazers of mainstream German Hip Hop - Die Fantastischen View - who are rapping about the tendency of Germans to turn everything in to acronyms:
ARD, ZDF, C&A
BRD, DDR und USA
BSE, HIV und DRK
GbR, GmbH - ihr könnt mich mal (In English: “You can do one!”)
As well as the spotify playlist, which you can check out here, here are three of my favourites on YouTube:
Samy Deluxe is one of the best rhymers out there.
Over the top of a cracking instrumental, Sido raps about his Jordan trainers
They’re impregnated and freshly polished
Directly imported from the USA, my Jordans
Savas raps over the top of Hans Zimmer’s exit music to Inception. And it works!
Major Lazer - Get Free ft. Amber Coffman (What So Not Remix)
I bought Get Free on vinyl the other week, and it came with this ‘exclusive’ remix of Get Free which I’ve been loving ever since. Andy C’s well-known remix of this great track used his brand of melodic DnB to great effect, and What So Not effort does the same with some of the trap elements you might expect from one of Major Lazer’s own tracks.
At first, he just puts some more layers on the brilliant hook and Amber Coffman’s great vocals. But wait for the drop at around 1:15.
Also worth noting from the limited edition vinyl B-side is the Instrumental version of Get Free. Reminds you that the basics of this track, even without Coffman’s vocals or the vocoded hook are quality in themselves.
Daft Punk ft. Pharrell - Get Lucky
It’s rare that I’d write about a Number One on this blog, but this really is great. It’s got all the ingredients of a great Daft Punk song, but they’ve turned out something that sounds like a cool 70’s funk song…until the vocoder kicks in at least (keep an eye on the YouTube vid when it does!).
DJ Spoko - Azange
As you know if you’ve seen some of my other posts, I love world music. World music sometimes suffers from the assumption that it’s a load of ancient traditional tribal dances, indian classical sitars or arabic flutes.
DJ Spoko from South Africa will cure anyone who holds that assumption quite handily. On this track from his first EP to be released in the West [Spotify Link] (called ‘Ghost Town’ after the township outside Pretoria he spent his teenage years) you can hear the influences from traditional drums, the unusual tuning of guitars in African music and South African female vocal groups like the Mahotella Queens. But it’s also an edgy, modern dance track, akin to some of the trap and moombahtron coming out of the caribbean and America.
Now I just need to track down his early cassette tape releases.
Postal Service at Coachella
I was gutted I didn’t get tickets to see the Postal Service in London May, but this 47 minute video of their set at Coachella almost makes up for it!
Bit of a frustrating week this week, with both of the albums I had marked down as ones to watch having their release dates pushed back. But hey, it’s Friday and the weekend is here. This week, tracks for every part of the weekend.
Friday night: Odesza - IPlayYouListen
There’s just something really chilled out and upbeat about this track. It’s exactly how you feel on a Friday night when you walk out of the office, into the twilight after a long week, no idea what the weekend will bring, but safe in the knowledge that the next 60 hours are yours, to be used as you will.
Saturday morning: Coves - Wicked Game (Chris Isaak Cover)
This is one my favourite, most melancholy Chris Isaak tracks (although let’s face it, Chris Isaak’s back catalogue is hardly free of melancholy numbers). Coves, a great new band from Leamington that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live a couple of times have covered in a pretty cool way - a bit Lana del Rey, but bringing enough of their own freshness to the arrangement to lift it beyond mere vocals. Perfect for Saturday morning in bed if the freedom of Friday night went to your head a bit.
Saturday night: Dash Berlin (feat. Emma Hewitt) - Like Spinning Plates
Because occasionally, you just need some classic trance. This Radiohead cover seems to span the whole genre in it’s six and a half minutes, from Italo pianos to Tiesto-esque frenetic beats to synth cords and Emma Hewitt’s vocals. It’s Saturday night - enjoy yourself!
Sunday afternoon: Vieux Farka Toure - FafaIf you’ve read previous entries, you’ll know of my love of Malian music. This track from Vieux Farka Toure (son of the legendary Malian bluesman Ali Farka Toure) epitomises the rolling rhythms, strange tuning and sheer virtuosity of ‘the desert Blues’. Speaking of virtuosity, check out ‘Bamako Jam’ on YouTube.
Petula Clark - Cut Copy Me
Yes, you read that right - Petula Clark, her of ‘Downtown’! Now, I can’t say it’s my favourite song of the last six months, but I really admire the way an 81-year old, whose first public performances were on BBC Forces Radio in 1942 has recorded a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lana Del Rey album more than 70 years later.
So the Major Lazer takeover train is stopped in it’s tracks. Concerned by the lack of buzz about the fact that Free The Universe was supposed to be released tomorrow, I did some googling. And buried in a Billboard article about the upcoming world tour was the bad news:
Free The Universe has been pushed back to March 12th. This after the original release date last autumn was pushed to tomorrow. Gutted.
Old But Good - Major Lazer & La Roux - Lazerproof
If this were Radio 1, I’d bill this week as ‘Major Lazer’ takeover as part of some sort of tie-in campaign to the new album release, but as it’s not, I won’t even pretend I’m not just massively excited by the new album coming out.
Anyway, yesterday evening, Oli Q pointed me in the direction of this mixtape that Major Lazer and La Roux had put out some time in 2010, and I’d somehow managed to miss.
I’ve come to the conclusion that La Roux’s voice is amazing, but it doesn’t really shine on her own material. Whenever you hear her collaborating or remixed by somebody else, it’s much better than her own stuff. For validation of this theory look no further than Foamo’s remix of Bulletproof, or Skream’s absolutely seminal remix of In For the Kill. Outside the dubstep genre, this mixtape continues to provide proof positive that when La Roux’s vocals are added to somebody else’s music, magic can ensue.
The mixtape opens with two of it’s strongest tracks, starting with Nacey’s remix of Bulletproof, followed by a mashup of La Roux’s Colourless with the Ken Boothe’s roots reggae classic Artibella, which shows off Elly Jackson’s ability to do something other than belt out heavily-produced pop-dance numbers.
And while In 4 The Kill Pon De Skream, which you would imagine to be the centrepiece (comprising as it does both groups breakout hits) falls flat, there are other good tracks on the mixtape, including Independent Kill, Keep It Fascinating and I Said It which features Opal, one of the best female dancehall vocalists about.