09/05/2019: “The Dark Stranger (Origin Unknown Mix)” by Boogie Times Tribe

The original mix of The Dark Stranger is a fantastic hardcore tune, paranoid but still with healthy dose of euphoria.

The Origin Unknown remix ramps the paranoia to nail biting levels, stripping back the sound and adding the trademark beeps of the type heard on their textbook drum & bass banger, “Valley Of The Shadows”.

This eerie arpeggio is coupled with a sharp breakbeat and a deep, smooth bassline, creating a dark and nervous soundscape.

The synths in the second half of the song add another layer of fear and sonic texture, and all the elements come into their own.

The song was released in 1993 with a Johnny Jungle Remix. There was also another version called the Origin Unknown Re-Remix, which is less stripped back.

As to all the main versions and remixes of the Dark Stranger, it’s hard to say which is the best. They are all different styles, except the Q-bass remix, which is by one of the two guys in the Boogie Times Tribe.

Drenched in fear!

08/05/2019: “Africa Must Be Free By 1983” by Hugh Mundell

There’s no mistaking the message on this one!

This is Roots Reggae at its finest, combining a hard edged instrumental with a world class singing voice and conscious lyrics.

The song is about the emancipation of Black people worldwide from the after-effects of colonialism, slavery and exploitation. In a bitter twist of fate, he was shot dead in 1983 in Jamaica.

The song was recorded when he was just 16. In those 5 years until his death aged 21, he made a strong impression on the reggae scene and released some great anthems.

The album was produced by the reggae luminary Augustus Pablo, hence the strength of the riddims.

As might be expected from someone so young, the singing is a bit rough around the edges. But it’s clear that he has a great voice, and the prophetic nature of the lyrics lend themselves well to such an impassioned delivery.

The song was released on an album of the same name in 1978, and was a hit in Jamaica.

Vital!

07/05/2019: “Arrow Through Me” by Wings

Paul McCartney will always be indelibly marked with the stamp of the Beatles. His solo work is also incredibly famous.

Wings was a band composed of Paul McCartney and his wife Linda, as well as guitarist Denny Laine. It’s more of a funky and poppy outfit than anything too deep, but still quite musically inventive at times. It’s often held up against the Beatles, and unsurprisingly comes off worse. But McCartney was still making some great music!

McCartney gilds the smooth harmonies of the song with his voice, but what really stands out for me is the fresh bassline, which provides a lot of movement in an otherwise relaxed and indolent scene.

The drums are keep an unhurried pace, bolstering the swinging feel of the rhythm section. There’s also some more tribal percussion playing faintly in the background.

The keyboard horns are another great touch, shattering the tranquillity with panache.

The album this is from, 1979’s Back To The Egg, was critically panned for being uninspired and incoherent. It proved to be the death knell for the Wings band. But personally, the sheer melodiousness of this track trumps the rather forgettable lyrics.

Unfairly hated on.

06/05/2019: “Pua” by Dengue Dengue Dengue featuring Penya

Peru has an ancient musical tradition stretching back to pre-Columbian times. But it has also absorbed a host of influences from African music, Rock, and Reggae, leading to very diverse scenes and sounds.

Now, it’s the 21st century. Electronic music has a foothold all over the world these days, leading to exciting permutations and mutations as local sounds collide with global bass sensibilities.

Dengue Dengue Dengue are a duo out of Lima, who make bass music with a distinct Cumbia flavour. It’s primal, menacing and groovy all at once!

“Pua” marches forward relentlessly, propelled by the subterranean sub-bass and the hybridised drum section, composed of more traditional layers of Latin percussion and a more contemporary, pulsing dance beat.

The dread horns blare out intermittently, adding a note of unease. The paranoid musings of Penya create a deeply unsettling atmosphere. If the Incans had soundsystems, this is what they would have played at sacrifice time!

The track was released on the Semillero E.P. in 2018.

Quite scary!

05/05/2019: “Eminence Front” by The Who

The Who are often associated with the 60s and 70s, but they did get to the early 1980s despite the death of legendary drummer Keith Moon in 1978.

Perhaps that explains why, although they are played in a very competent and accomplished way, the drums in this song aren’t anything to ring home about. They function very well as a powerful, insistent backbone for the track.

Luckily, there are many other instruments in this song which are certainly noteworthy!

The keyboard arpeggio is laid down from the start, and helps mark the song as a Who song. The sound is reminiscent of the minimalist repetitions of the sort heard in Philip Glass pieces, only funkier.

The guitar work is splendid, making the 2 minute intro less of a build up to the vocals and more of an impressive thing in itself. The guitar is a fairly understated and chilled out affair, preferring to smoothly dance than to scream out its intentions.

The bassline is one of the highlights of the whole thing, adding untold levels of funky coolness, without getting too hot under the collar. For much of the song, it just plays single notes, but really comes into its own for the choruses.

The singing is done by Pete Townshend, with main singer Roger Daltrey declaring the song to be the only one on the album worth releasing! Lyrics-wise, Townshend picks apart the self-obsessed, cocaine fuelled excess of the 80s, the fakeness and depravity of the greedy nouveau rich.

The album, It’s Hard, was divisive for critics, but even the more critical critics have singled out this song as a classic…

The song was released as a single in 1982, and the band split in 1983. It came out just in the nick of time then!

The picture used is from the unreleased U.K. single, by the way.

04/05/2019: “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville

Aaron Neville is part of the Neville Brothers, so is consequently no stranger to the soulful sounds of New Orleans.

However, he is the most successful of the brothers, with 4 Platinum albums to his name.

This song is a sweet crooning R’n’B number, with oodles of popular appeal and a seriously smooth instrumental…

The bassline slowly paces under the lush arrangements of the other instruments, such as the bashful guitar and watchful horns, but of course, however great the instrumental is, Neville’s vocals would have always been greater.

The chorus is where the song really catches hold of you, but the measured and melancholy verses are an excellent counterpoint.

The song is a warning not to mess about with his heart, essentially imploring his love interest to commit or quit!

The song was written by George Davis and Lee Diamond, and was released in 1966. It climbed to number 2 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Brimming with soul!

03/05/2019: “Papua New Guinea” by The Future Sound Of London

Not many songs from the early U.K. rave era can claim the same sort of longevity as this one!

It’s still widely regarded as one of the best songs of its kind, a landmark rave track, and shows a particular mastery in blending ambient soundscapes with a heavy bassline and smooth breakbeat.

The bassline is lifted from the Meat Beat Manifesto’s track, “Radio Babylon”. There’s undoubtedly a big sampling element to the tune, but there aren’t many tunes which sound like “Papua New Guinea”…

The ominous, tribal vocals are from “Dawn Of The Iconoclast” by Dead Can Dance, released in 1987. This creates a huge contrast with the sweeter vocals from 1989’s “Shelter” by Circuit.

As a finished product, it’s hard to argue with the effect. There’s a trancelike, otherworldly feeling emanating from the exotic quilt of samples, far beyond what any of the sampled songs themselves could ever muster.

The song was released as a single in 1991, and reached number 22 on the U.K. Singles chart. It also featured on the 1991 album Accelerator.

Timeless!

02/05/2019: “If It Really Is Me” by Polygon Window

Polygon Window is one of the better known aliases of Aphex Twin, along with AFX and The Tuss.

“If It Really Is Me” is a great example of the natural melodic touch that Aphex Twin has, which often gets sidetracked by glitchy weirdness. There is still a definite touch of Richard D. James to this, but at the same time, the piano riff is positively mainstream by Aphex standards…

The track is quite lowkey, with a 4 to the floor kick drum providing the bass. One section has some echoing snares, which mesh perfectly with the splashy hi-hats. Rhythmically though, it isn’t too out there.

It feels like a techno track rather than “IDM” or strange ambient musings, and acquits itself magnificently on that score!

The trademark Aphex twin touch is the expansive, slightly discordant synth which provides a second melody at various points in the touch. The synth puts you in mind of slowly drifting clouds, warping and twisting in the wind.

The song was released in 1993 on the album Surfing On Sine Waves, which has garnered excellent retrospective reviews.

Stupendous!

01/05/2019: “Ay, Mama Ines (Remix)” by Alfredo Rodriguez

The original version of this song is a bouncy, energetic tune, like a Spanish rabbit hopping at full pace though a field of lush flowers.

This remix is more like that same rabbit after an afternoon’s hopping, having eaten a few carrots and laid down in the sunshine. That is to say; much slower and more contented!

The remixed version contains less of Rodriguez’ majestic piano, focusing on a horn and Rhodes combination. A saxophone creates a very different vibe from a piano, but enough of the original remains to hear the similarities.

The harmonies blend so nicely, creating a tranquil evening scene, lazily drifting through the air…

In some ways, it’s a shame that the Cuban influences are reduced slightly, but there remains a Latin feel to the drums, even if they are less prominent.

The original, and this version, were both released in 2016 on the album Tocororo, which was produced by Rodriguez and Quincy Jones.

Captivating.

30/04/2019: “Yee” by E-40 featuring Too Short & Bud’da

E-40 never went away; he has always maintained a level of popularity, especially amongst hip hop fans.

In recent years, however, he has experienced something of renaissance, hitting the charts with songs like “Choices” and “Function”…

This is one of his classics. His distinctive style is complemented by fellow rap veteran Too $hort, and Pittsburgh producer Bud’da, who raps on this one.

The tune is built around a simple, slightly intimidating set of piano chords. Then there’s drum loop built out of a slow, militaristic snare roll and a big, big kick drum. The kick drum is actually very bassy. It’s not the sort of bass you hear so much as feel!

The lyrics are engaging, and slightly funny in their own way, boasting of drinking, shooting and cars. A snapshot of an alternative Bay Area lifestyle…

The chorus is a nice singalong one in its own way, with the “Yee!” shout adding a bit of emphasis to a the deep drawl.

“Yee” was released on My Ghetto Report Card, in 2006.

Banger!