11/07/2018: “Blue Monday” by New Order

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For some people, this sort of thing is cringey 80s overload. Believe me, I understand that the 80s produced some eye wateringly embarrassing stuff.

This,  I don’t think, is not one of them. It’s a banger today, albeit not one that might be played in modern club!

House music was in its infancy in the early 80s, and this sort of electronica filled the gap. The singing is famous, of course, but it isn’t why I like the song. The reason I like the song is the groove.

Starting with that kick drum beat, the timeless synth fades in before the bassline kicks into action. Personally, I would be satisfied if that first section was the whole thing!

But the song does add more to the mix. The strings and synth pads create a very ethereal soundscape, yet the song remains rooted at all times in that fantastic bassline.

The song was released in 1983, and had a popular remix in ’88. It remains the best selling 12″ single ever.

It’s a masterfully produced song, and well deserving of the label of “classic”.

06/07/2018: “Freestyler” by Bomfunk MCs

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I can’t really name many Finnish songs, or artists. But in fairness, I didn’t realise that this gem was of Finnish extraction!

The bassline and drums on this one help it to sound ahead of its time even now, almost 20 years after it was released in 1999.

Many contemporary songs with similar samples and production techniques will sound quite dated now. The 90s, as with all decades, has a distinctive sonic template that can often mark a song and render it anachronistic as the years go by.

Yet using some now cliched orchestral hits, a simple appegiated melody and some MCing, Bomfunk MCs create a hit that still sounds fresh today.

I think this is down to that bassline. If the groove is right, you can dance all night!

The video is also quite iconic, with the dreadlocked hip-hop kid using his remote control on a selection of larger than life characters…

Such a tune!

 

28/06/2018: “Hard Noize” by Dillinja

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“Hard Noize” may well be my favourite drum & bass tune, at least of the less “intellectual” type of D’n’B anyway!

For one thing, the bass is absolutely monstrous. On big speakers, this song will vibrate your eyeballs…

But really, this song shows how Dillinja is such a master at constructing a dancefloor hit that can captivate an audience for 5 minutes without getting old.

The song opens with an eerie selection of beeps and crackles with strong delay effects, before quickly dropping into the main beat.

As is often the case with this sort of thing, simplicity is key, and here is no exception. The bassline goes up and down a scale, and the drums clap away with a 2 step beat (with some well timed breaks). Then, midway through, the second bassline comes into play, making the song even heavier.

The release was a 12″ single in 1998 with Lemon D as well, backed with”Fluid”.

What a belter of a tune!

21/06/2018: “Ye Ke Ye Ke” by Mory Kante

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“Ye Ke Ye Ke” or “Yeke Yeke” was the first African single to sell over a million copies. Not an inconsiderable feat in a pre-internet age!

Mory Kante is a Guinean kora harp player and singer, who released “Yeke Yeke” in 1987 on the album Akwaba Beach. 

The song is a frantic, euphoric afro-disco cruise,  with a mixture of modern disco elements and Kante’s singing and harp playing.

The verses are more sparse but the vocals are still rich. It’s impressive just how much of the sound spectrum is filled by the combination of Kante and his backing singers.

The choruses are an explosion of sound, with the jubilant backing singers, the colourful brass, the African drums, all creating a brilliant and rapturous sound.

An interesting fact about Mory Kante is that he was literally destined to be a musician, being born into a family of traditional West African griots, which are kind of like medieval European bards. He learnt to play the kora in Mali as a child before returning to Guinea.

What a groove though!

 

03/06/2018: “Leisure Suit Preben” by Todd Terje

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Todd Terje produces songs with a certain, rather indefinable style. He is very well known for his updated disco edits of old funk and disco songs, where he splashes tracks with his colourful style and makes them more dancefloor friendly and more… Todd Terje-esque.

The Norwegian scene where Todd Terje made his name showcases more of this nu-disco style, a style of lightweight, very pleasant, impeccably constructed tracks that have a tinge of 80s retro-futurism about them without taking it too far and becoming cliche.

“Leisure Suit Preben” is taken from the rather whimsically named It’s Album Time, released in 2014. It’s his own production rather than a remix, and has a dreamy quality about it.

The music video is very weird, and fits the song perfectly, giving the instrumental song a bit of a narrative. It’s basically the stages of a guy’s heavy night out, paying homage to an old video game called “Leisure Suit Larry”.

The song starts off in a sedated, lo-fi way, with a bassline drunkenly staggering about. After that, a rich orchestration builds up, until the soundscape is awash with lush strings and celestial harps.

Suddenly, as Preben enters the club, the song becomes much more disco, with an  arpeggiated bass and some reverb heavy synths.

All in all, a nicely done little track.

13/05/2018: “Another One Bites The Dust” by Queen

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What a bassline. Apparently, John Deacon (Queen’s bassist) was inspired by Chic’s “Good Times” to come up with the absolute monster of a bassline in “Another One Bites The Dust”. There’s certainly more than a passing resemblance.

What’s true beyond a doubt, is that from the moment that bassline kicks in, you know what song it is…

Queen were a very versatile band. At points it’s hard to believe that the same creative minds were responsible for “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “The Show Must Go On”, “Fat Bottomed Girls”, and so on. The range of sounds that they use is just staggering.

For a Queen song, “Another One Bites The Dust” is quite a stripped back sort of production. The band weren’t really doing so much disco stuff at the time, and due to Micheal Jackson’s influence (another guy who threw out hits as if he was throwing confetti), this song came out.

The song was originally released in 1980 on The Game, and has since become Queen’s best selling single. That’s not for want of decent competition…

03/05/2018: “Thousand Finger Man” by Candido

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I came across this on Dj Marky’s Influences compilation. It’s a great album with a variety of unusual songs.

“Thousand Finger Man” was originally the title track of a 1970 LP, which placed the emphasis on the percussion; Candido is mainly known as a conga player.

In 1979, the song was released in a reworked form on the 4 track Dancin’ and Prancin’, a disco album on the truly excellent Salsoul Records. Here, the percussion is downplayed, but still complex, and instead there is a mindblowingly funky bassline which propels the song forward through its 9 minute journey.

The vocals are unobtrusive, with the main hook really being provided by the piano, which exuberantly bashes out a off kilter rhythm.

The trumpet and synth lines contribute to the songs spacey feeling. The whole thing is a pilgrimage to the holy lands of Funk & Soul.

I could imagine this song fitting a variety of situations, from parties to relaxing evenings, to car journeys.  Lovely stuff.

28/04/2018: “A Face In The Crowd (Dub Mix)” by DJ Assassin

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House music can sometimes be a bit repetitive. But often it needs to be; a club setting is all about having a groove for dancers.

DJ Assassin gives a masterclass on how to keep a solid groove rolling for a decent few minutes with “A Face In The Crowd”. The drums kick hard, with a fat kick drum, a boisterous set of skippy snares and crisp hi-hats all creating a great foundation. Then there’s the almost underwater sounding bass, with a dynamic warp to it, which nonetheless provides a bit of weight without dominating proceedings.

The song originally came out in 1998 but it’s such a classic it got a re-issue in 2011.

The strings and pads are ethereal and give the track a floaty feeling up until the plucked riff kicks in. After that the song really comes into its own as a beach party anthem. It isn’t easy to make an energetic dance banger that still feels chilled out, but DJ Assassin nailed it with this one. Absolute belter of a tune.

27/04/2018: “Does Your Mother Know” by ABBA

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ABBA have announced today that they are releasing some new songs, the first since 1982. It seems like a good time choose an ABBA song!

“Does Your Mother Know” is one of the more dance-floor ready ABBA tunes, which is saying a lot really. The song kicks off with a chunky bassline, which chugs along nicely until the verse kicks in. ABBA truly excel at producing stellar melodies, and here they really come through with a great guitar riff, smooth vocals (normally it’s the women who sing but it’s good stuff), and of course, a fantastic chorus.

The song came out in 1979 on Voulez Vouz!, and was released as a single.

With the ubiquitous I.D checks these days, the song isn’t so relatable, but it’s a great song nonetheless…

21/04/2018: “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc.

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The 80s gets a bad rep sometimes, in terms of fashion and music. But there’s a whole load of songs from the 80s that will still rock in 100 years!

Funkytown came out first on 1979’s Mouth to Mouth, but was released as a single in 1980. So tentatively, I’m going to class it as a 80s jam. It just seems so 80s!

As a single, it was number one all over the Western world. Listening to it, you can see why: the beeping synth hook is just phenomenal. The rhythm just drives forward, with the more restrained verses chugging along under the arm of the bassline, until the vocal chorus, “Talk about, talk about, talk about movin'”,  then the song breaks down into a strings and guitar riff that completely switches the song up.

It’s just packed full of melodies to be honest; check out music radar’s dissection.

This song is just a guaranteed groove. If this gets stuck on at a party and nobody moves, it’s probably time for bed.