31/05/2019: “Capricorn” by George Duke

George Duke was one of the more visionary Jazz artists, with a prolific and varied creative output. He tended towards the Jazz-fusion style, but incorporated a lot of genres into his often eclectic music.

A lot of his songs involve singing, but I have to admit I’m just not a fan of his voice. As songs like this prove, he can express himself perfectly fine without it anyway…

The song is a slow and steady jam, with a bluesy feeling and relaxed contentment seeping from it.

His skills as a keyboardist are evident here, with a knack for building up simple and catchy melodies into much more intricate and impressive sections.

Some wordless vocals are incorporated into the track, adding a more gospel-esque refinement. Heavenly soul beams out of every note!

The song was released in 1974 on Faces In Reflection.

30/05/2019: “My Propeller” by Arctic Monkeys

Sometimes fans get a bit carried away with their interpretations of songs, to the point where the artist has to step in and categorically deny the perceived nature of the song.

That happened here, as fans thought the track was about erectile dysfunction, and Alex Turner says it isn’t. Instead it is about emotional decline. Turner is asking someone to bring him out his low point.

It’s a flagship Arctic Monkeys song from that era, blasting off with a catchy guitar riff and then settling into the familiar dark pacing of many Monkeys songs.

There is a short “have a spin of my propeller” that provides a momentary uplift in tone, before dropping back down. The drums are almost tribal, with an interesting break pattern.

For the last third of the song, everything is noisier and more energetic, a classic Monkeys trope.

The song was released in 2010, the third single off Humbug. Interestingly, a 10″ single of the song was available only in Oxfam charity shops.

29/05/2019: “Nutville” by Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich is often viewed as being the best Jazz drummer of all time. Even if he wasn’t the best, he is almost certainly the most famous, and most charismatic.

His frenetic style is engaging and powerful, laying down a constant stream of snares, hi hats and cymbals.

“Nutville” was composed by Horace Silver and released in 1966. That version is quite similar in pace and tone, but it lacks one thing: Buddy Rich’s intense drumming.

The big band style which Buddy Rich’s bands employed was slightly anachronistic at the time he recorded this. Still, you could never accuse him of being stale or fusty.

The drums are joined with a raucous chorus of horns, organs and bass, forging a track which is both fun and intricate.

The song was released in 1973, on The Roar of ’74.

28/05/2019: “Raspberry Beret” by Prince

Prince could often be quite dirty minded, but “Raspberry Beret” is not too provocative by his standards.

It tells the tale of a shop worker startled out of his bored stupor by a beautiful woman, who brings a bit of interest to the dull drudgery of his working day.

They then go to barn together, and he has a much more exciting time!

The sound is classic Prince, bolstered by the influence of his backing band, the Revolution. The distinctive lo-fi drums contrast with the refinement of the strings, and fit well with the funky electric bass.

The vocals are instantly recognisable as Prince, switching between a more rhythmic chat for the verses and normal singing for the soaring choruses.

The song was originally recorded in 1982, but the form of the song that is most well known is from 1985. Released as a single from Around The World In A Day, the song climbed to number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100.

27/05/2019: “Out Of Limits” by The Marketts

I love a bit of surfer music. It has a set of distinctive guitar styles, reliably energetic rhythm sections, and usually a fair amount of horns and other assorted musical accoutrements.

The Marketts are distinctive for their rather space inspired instrumentation, using organs to produce pretty cosmic sounds. This leads to music that is possibly more tense and paranoid than many other surf groups.

“Out Of Limits” starts with a nervous guitar riff, chiming uneasily with the background, before a more assertive hook kicks in, to play alongside a menacing horn refrain.

Then the organ flares into action, setting a more relaxed pace before the guitar jumps back in.

The song was released in 1963, and shot to number 3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1964. Since instrumental surf music was a relatively short lived phenomenon, the Marketts did well to have a hit near the beginning with “Surfer’s Stomp” in 1961, and this one just as the sound was starting to fade.

26/05/2019: “Kadia Blues” by Orchestre De La Paillote

This song shows the diversity of African music. Much of the music that is popular among Western audiences tends towards the funky, afrobeat persuasion.

“Kadia Blues” is a mournful, reverb drenched slice of contemplation, like a cross between the wild west and early dub music.

The hooks in the song are from the trumpet and guitar, alternating and sometimes entwining, and both helping to evoke a melancholy mood.

The bass part sounds very modern, almost like some long lost cousin of a rocksteady bassline. The slow purposefulness of the rhythm section goes a long way towards creating the sad atmosphere of the song.

Orchestre De La Paillote are from Guinea, and in their original incarnation were called Syli Orchestre National, created as part of President Sekou Toure’s drive to promote Guinean music. The group then became
Kélétigui et ses Tambourinis.

The song was released on Syliphone records, on the album Orchestre De La Paillotte ‎– Volume 2, and was released either in 1967 or 1968.


25/02/2019: “Praxis” by Ikonika

Ikonika is one of the artists gracing Kode 9’s Hyperdub label, where you can be sure to find producers pushing bass music into new and interesting places.

Her sound is built on lush and somewhat retro-futuristic melodies, with a healthy complement of 808s looming at the low-end.

Some of her songs are more orientated towards techno; others are more geared towards abstract sounds and textures.

“Praxis” is more of a trappy track, although that label doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. The drum beat is worthy enough of a Southern hip-hop instrumental, but the melodies of the track are more space age, more colourful, but at the same time more inorganic.

It’s probably more prudent to say that “Praxis” is a kind of Electro track. The skittish percussion and mournful bassline are interwoven with some agile and fresh synth melodies, but the core of the track is like a slowed down Electro one.

The song was released in 2014 on the Position E.P., on the Hyperdub label.

24/05/2019: “Daylight” by RAMP

RAMP is an acronym, standing for Roy Ayers Music Productions. It’s a group which he isn’t actually in, instead helping the members write and produce songs.

His musical creativity is brought to bear here alongside the funk legend Edwin Birdsong and William Allen.

The group is heavy on vocalists, especially these days, but they originally had two singers instead of four like they do now.

“Daylight” is a chilled out rare groove jam, with a definite smoothness characteristic of Roy Ayers and anything he touches.

There’s a lot of space in the song, with the cool as ice bass twanging slowly under some dreamy keys and a crystal clear rim shot. The guitar is soulful and

The vocals are about positivity, overcoming darkness with light.

The song is from the group’s only album, the highly acclaimed Come Into Knowledge, released in 1977 and now a highly sought after LP.

The track also featured on the GTA IV soundtrack.

23/05/2019: “Algodao” by Quarteto Novo

Quarteto Novo only recorded one album together, the 1967 Quarteto Novo. However, that one album had a disproportionate influence.

The group utilises a regional Brazilian music style called baiao, and blends this with Jazz. The particular chord structures and rhythms of that sound give a characteristic verve to their music.

The album is one of the high points of the Bossa Nova movement, unmistakably South American, but easily the equal of the North American Jazz artists.

The song comes in waves, each emphasising a certain quality and instrument. So at the start, the piano predominates and sets a slow place. Then the song builds, and the guitar moves to the fore. The song quietens down again, so that the percussion can lift it back up into a clamour.

Even the bass has its own section, marshalling the rest of the song around it as it twangs and reverberates gracefully.

The song is a master class in the art of setting and controlling the energy levels of a song, surging forward and gently washing away with all the poise of a moonlit beach in a Brazilian lagoon.

22/05/2019: “Modjadji” by Chicco

Film soundtracks are very often carefully curated and interesting collections of music, containing songs selected for a variety of moods.

Even the most unlikely of films can serve to popularise otherwise obscure songs, or introduce the songs to wider audiences.

Here, the tacky 2016 Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Brothers Grimsby” finished with a classy piece of South African disco, and I’m glad that it did because I might not have discovered the song otherwise.

The song is joyous and catchy, led by a chorus of vocals which mingle with the relaxed Afropop beat. More instrumentation follows, a rich smorgasbord of African percussion and westernised dance patterns.

Although the song is very much driven by the vocals, the marimba part could probably sustain the song by itself.

Chicco is the stage name of Sello Twala, a producer from Soweto who was very popular in the 80s.

“Modjadji” was released in 1995 on an album of the same name.

A true gem!