18/10/2019: “As We Enter” by Mikey Dread

Why is this song so heavy? You can only assume that it is intentional; that the waves of bass which crash out of the speakers are the result of a conscious desire to make an earth shaking roots tune, rather than heavy-handedness at the mixing desk.

As you might expect, the low-end propels the song forward, but the hook is still a vocal one – and there’s able assistance from a guitar riff as well, providing a good deal of melodic staying power.

The lyrics, delivered in a gruff but positive manner, are a classic affirmation of Rastafari faith, of not being swayed by evil and being close to Jah.

The song was released in 2000, on the limited, self-released album World Tour. The release is a CDr, not a proper CD, and is on his own Dread At The Controls Imprint.

Mikey Dread was a true legend in the Reggae world, having been at the forefront of roots in the 70s. Tragically, he died in 2008 of a brain tumour.

12/09/2019: “1969” by Boards Of Canada

Boards Of Canada are undoubtedly a rare sort. You might put Aphex Twin and Burial in the same class; they make weird electronic music that straddles the world of Ambient and IDM.

“1969” exemplifies the strange charm Boards Of Canada’s music has. A scratchy, lo-fi beat holds up a truly cosmic synth. These two elements create the hypnotic backbone of the song. Then, some disturbing and garbled lyrics appear.

The “hook” of the song – in so far as it has one – is the discordant wave of bleeps.

As with much Boards Of Canada music, the sound is both beautiful and disorientating at the same time.

The song was released in 2002 on Geogaddi, which has a vaguely occult feeling, full of obscure references to vaguely occult things.

30/08/2019: “Why Am I A Rastaman” by Culture

A lot of more hardcore songs about Rastafari can be quite impenetrable to people who don’t listen to a reggae.

The accent is thicker, the subject is religious, the version is more African influenced.

Here, the essential theme is feel good roots reggae. It’s very easy to vibe along to this. That doesn’t mean, however, that the song is somehow diluted and the message lost. The lyrics are a strong affirmation of the Rastafari faith.

The bassline is relatively restrained, but as this is a roots reggae song, it’s naturally very present…

The majority of the melodic power is from the singing. The verses and chorus flow into one, each as catchy as the other.

There’s also the guitar picking, which adds that crucial embellishment, a great little riff.

The song was released in 2000, much later than you might think, on Humble African. 

20/08/2019: “Heamophwiza” by Slaughter Mob

When 2-Step legend and dubstep pioneer El-B gives you recognition for your drum programming, it probably means you have a knack for making impressive beats.

This track isn’t even one of the more rhythmically complex songs in the Slaughter Mob arsenal, but still packs some heavy percussion laden firepower…

There’s more of a halftime, traditional dubstep feeling to “Heamophwiza”, providing fertile ground for the grimey, distorted bassline to take root. It’s a simple enough recipe, but mastering a rolling groove like this is a crucial art for this kind of music.

Even so, the relentless congas and hi-hats rattle out a dark and tribal sequence throughout, keeping the atmosphere paranoid.

Although many of their most potent songs are from their early 00s Garage days, a song like this shows how they could adapt with the times without sacrificing their essence. The song, sometimes spelt “Haemophilia”, was released in 2009 on Southside Recordings, on Di Hit Maker E.P.

18/08/2019: “Triplets” by Sticky

Sticky is a garage producer associated with the early Grime scene. The bass on this is definitely grimey enough, and a real ear worm with it.

For a song which exudes badboy attitude, it’s surprising catchy. The sharp drum pattern shows off the triplet hi-hats that give the track its name, and the snappy snare slaps satisfyingly!

The simple glockenspiel synth is what makes the track such a classic, adding a friendly touch to an otherwise hard edged tune. It echoes up and down in a delicate reflection of the bassline.

There’s even some cheeky strings, following the short and sharp pattern that the rest of the song’s components do.

“Triplets” came out in 2001. The single is backed with “Triplets II”, which is a much more beefy version, well worth a listen for its chunky bassline alone…

27/07/2019: “Ska” by DJ Zinc

DJ Zinc has been knocking about the U.K. electronic scene since the hey day of acid house, and was at the forefront of a very interesting movement as the head of the Bingo Beats label.

Some of his best stuff is drum & bass, which he produced in his own style, with distinctive use of breaks and bass sounds which tend to mark out a DJ Zinc production from the crowd.

“Ska” was released in 2002 on the True Playaz label as part of the Present Tense E.P., with a very good remix by DJ Zinc himself in 2004.

The bassline is a classic Bingo Beats style, slightly rough yet ineffably bouncy. There’s a very natural rhythm in that bass!

There’s also a heavier bassline of the more basic square wave kind, to keep things moving.

The drums are beautifully constructed, with a supremely danceable shuffle in the hi-hats.

20/07/2019: “DARE” by Gorillaz

It’s surprising that I haven’t done any songs by Gorillaz before, because they are undoubtedly a massive name.

Led by Damon Albarn, the band are notable for their self-presentation as animated characters.

Musically, they’re quite diverse in their offerings, but tend towards dark electronic pop.

That would just about sum up “DARE”, which is a song with more than enough bright and catchy melodies to counterbalance its otherwise quite murky countenance.

For me, the song is pinned onto the bassline, a very simple affair with 3 or four notes altogether played with a coarse and abrasive synth.

The vocals are provided by the sweet and melodic Rosie Wilson, playing the character Noodles, Damon Albarn in the role of 2D, and the decidedly less sweet and melodic Shaun Ryder.

The track was the band’s only U.K. number 1; “Feel Good Inc.”, the biggest song, only reached number 2. “DARE” was released in 2005 as a single from the album Demon Days.

17/07/2019: “Eple” by Röyksopp

Röyksopp consists of 2 Norwegian electronica producers, who make music revolving around trip hop and downtempo focused styles.

“Eple” is very chilled out, but somewhat unfairly has been appropriated by various corporations for use as background music. It does a great job at providing unobtrusive background noise, sure.

But it’s a really engaging song, layering a sample from “You’re Right As Right” by Bob James (released in 1975 on Two) with an airy breakbeat and cosmic sounding pad.

They take the original sample, sedate as it was, and injects it with new life and energy. It was a catchy enough sample, but sounds so much better sped up with a breakbeat.

Interestingly, “Eple” means “Apple” in Norwegian, and the company Apple have used it in their software.

The song was released in 2001 on the duo’s debut album Melody A.M., which for some reason was most popular by far in the U.K.

16/07/2019: “Acknowledge” by Masta Ace

Hip Hop has a long tradition of diss tracks. It’s good for the artists because it gives them exposure and generates hype. It’s good for the listener because it’s funny and brings out the most acerbic side to MCs.

Acknowledge is a great diss track. The background to it is that a rapper named Boogieman had accused Masta Ace of ripping of one of his tracks. The Boogieman track was called “Ghetto Love”, and the Masta Ace one was called Ghetto Like. So Boogieman released a track entitled “Just You Wait” dissing Masta Ace.

Masta Ace’s reply is “Acknowledge”, a scathing reminder to other MCs about Masta Ace’s talent and long standing in the rap game.

The word play is on point, and the message is a straightforward one: who’s Boogieman?

Such a takedown deserves a decent arena, and the instrumental provides a fantastic backdrop to the lyrics, with a deep, smooth bassline and some catchy strings sampled from “Home” by Cafe Del Mar.

The song was released in 2001, and also appeared on the album Disposable Arts. 

17/06/2019: “Time (T’n’G Remix)” by EEDB vs The Flirtations

“Time”, by 60s vocal group The Flirtations, is actually very hard to find. Unless there has been a crediting error somewhere, the original might not be on the internet…

Soul purists might object strongly to this speed garage remix, but it’s a quality song in its own right, if not quite so classy.

The vocal hook is a banging one for sure, especially when those hard driving choruses hit. The track had the status of an anthem within the Speed Garage and Niche scenes, and is now a stone cold classic.

As is usual for a speed garage banger, the bassline is both heavy and warping, providing the lynchpin of the track. It’s a catchy one too, a very important trait for a song like this one. The drums skip and dance magnificently, providing a swinging feeling. And that’s about it; just those three elements work great together!

The song was released in 2003 on an E.P. with a couple of other remixes on.