Bash 21 04 2006

The Bash Crowd
This night felt like a pilgrimage. Getting there took a train journey from Sheffield to London; getting back, a long journey by foot via an old droving path in the early hours, to Hackney; via London Fields, with glowing blossom, while artful foxes stared at us.

It was a nice little meet up in the Barley Mow. This tiny little Victorian pub was my regular haunt over a decade ago when I worked on Rivington street. Dan, who is an old reggae head, translated from Brixton to Hackney and my host for the night, runs into an old friend as soon as we arrive, a guy who went to see the Abyssinians with us last year. I regard this as a good omen, given the connections I’ve been feeling between the spiritual overload of the Abyssinians, and of Shaka, with dubstep, and hence with Bash. Springtime vibes! Then the ever avuncular Martin comes over and I embarrass him by saying what a great writer he is, and it’s not long before John Eden shows up. I get a text from Woebot saying he is – surprise! – on his way, and one phone call and a few seconds later he arrives, resplendent in Stussy T-shirt and one of the nicest fleeces I’ve seen in a long time. (I’d like to say that one of Matt’s perks from his moonlighting as a restaurant reviewer is that he gets access to the latest threads from his colleagues in the style section, and that I anticipate him doing a Trinny and Suzzana soon, but of course, it wouldn’t actually be true…) The delightful and charming Boomnoise makes his entrance, before my gaze locks with a mysterious, wryly smiling, rakish figure across the bar… for it is Marcus.

To my surprise and delight, we have assembled what is effectively a Dissensus posse.

A quick trip to one of the worst shitholes in Shoreditch later (fuck knows why we went there but it did at least provide a violent contrast with Plastic People) and we were in – well, me and Dan were, we couldn’t stomach that place for long. I’d turned down a guest list we were sitting at a table in seconds anyway, soaking up the roots and lovers that Loefah was dropping. I really wish he’d been playing later because his selection was magnificent. It wasn’t really syrupy UK lovers, but big, fat, rolling dancehall with romantic slow-paced vocals. Sadly the place wasn’t that full by that stage, but then, Loefah going on first meant that Bash’s strategy of putting women centre stage was intact.
Mary Ann Hobbs at Bash
And so to Mary Ann Hobbs, who acquitted herself well despite a touch of nerves. Opening with Anti-War Dub, she moved on to some Sizzla and a bunch of roots, doing some nice set construction by noticeable taking everything down in the middle before slamming back in with a rocking Barrington Levy / Roots Radics tune.


I popped out mid-set to say than you to Space Ape for his superb set on Friday, and he said how much he and Mala had enjoyed playing Steel City. (Like, it seems, everyone else in the dubstep scene, he is an incredibly nice person.)
MAH with Apace Ape in crowd
Mala heading backstage during Mary Ann's set
Yes, it would’ve been “better” to have had Loefah on second, but Mary Ann built the vibe just fine. Dan, who knows her quite well, gave her a big hug as she left the booth; lets have a few more live sets please MAH…


Mah handing over to Kevin Martin
The Bug’s set was a real musical highlight; I’ll remember it for a very long time. As usual he was mixing high-tech JA ragga with his own angular distortion, but this time he was setting this against two – yes two – quite fantastic female vocalists. For we had the magnificent Nicolette, who was repeatedly and deservedly bigged up for being the Nina Simone of dancehall, by post-punk’s genius of skank, the irrepressibly dynamic Ari Up. Both were, well, brilliant.

Nicolette added righteous jazz-inflected roots vocals whose startling tonal inflections – all fifths, sevenths and other twisted but perfect harmonics – crunched gloriously against the body slam vibrations generated by the Bug.

http://www.grievousangel.net/BashPix/nico3sml.jpg

But then her honeyed flow gave way to Ari Up’s fabulously tight, syncopated MCing which was a perfect contrast with Nicolette’s voice. The impact was multiplied as they continually swapped the Mic through each riddim.
Not everyone liked Ari as much as me, and it was amusing the way she kept telling off Kevin Martin for playing too fast and too hard, but then again – errr – she was right. But this just added to the fun. In the end the combination was just devastating and it all came together on an extended, hyperkinetic Bionic Ras section.

And near the end of the set a third voice was added to the mix – a gorgeous a country soul version of female roots that was a bit of revelation – I think her name was Diana Love but I’m trying to check.

And then, basically, Flight slew dem.

With Pokes back on the mic she assumed control of the booth with stentorian musical authority. Sticking firmly to a blue print of 100 per cent classic 70s and 80s roots, dancehall and especially dub, she injected the night with some much desired soul and dread. Clearly Flight is an expert and unimpeachably confident selector; the crowd was just putty in her hands all the way through, cheering every Tubby rocker and sticking with her right into the ska and rocksteady climax. Yes, truly, rocked it.



Around now Loefah is holding court at the bar, and I’m talking cod with strangers and friends of all ages, making up for spending the night carousing rather than circulating. Kode 9 reflects that, no matter how much he loves dubstep, he’s missing that dark garage swing, and I agree. It’s the end of a fine night, and it’s time to head off into the balmy night for a drift across a silent, deserted, dark-of-the-moon London. It is quite beautiful. We get back to Dan’s at 3.00 and I don’t think I slept till 4.00. Dan’s awoken before six by the baby; I make it through til 7.30. A long night and a short sleep and long journey home, and I am buoyed up.

In the brutal, cold light of day this Bash was not perhaps as great as the first two; the energy levels were a bit uneven. But with a handful of dubstep nights now being put on in strip clubs, it was a gentle assertion of the real inner values of the dubstep scene, even if filtered by that scene’s showcasing of a related music. And it works. Despite the fact that Rhythm and Sound are playing with Skream across town in Ladbroke Grove, the room is full, more so than at the first Bash. It’s a bit more than just another club night, is Bash.

Digidub: the occult roots of dubstep. New Murdertone mix

Jahtari
Uncarved correspondent and reggae archivist Pete Murdertone has done a fabbo mix for Jahtari showcasing the eighties digidub sound which is such an important precursor of dubstep, and before that garage, and before that, acid house.

It’s a streaming Flash-based recording only, I’m afraid, but it’s record-able, it sounds great, and it has some of the key tunes.

Go here for the mix. Big up Pete for mixing it and Jahtari for hosting it.

And for further elucidation, go read John Eden’s seminal article on the connection between digidub and acid house, ands all that came after: London Acid City: When Two Eights Clash.

Digital Mystikz at The Plug, Sheffield 21st April


Digital Mystikz’ set last night was the best thing I’ve witnessed in a very long time. I’m just going to tell you how it went and what it felt like. What I will say up-front is that Dubstep played live by a good DJ is just the most exciting music on the planet right now and Mala is an absolutely fantastic DJ.

It was a really sweet crowd and they just got better the longer the night went on. There was a massively friendly vibe, a real sense of community, and the same kind of atmosphere you get at a really nice reggae event, or like it used to be at old underground dance music nights. As you can see from the pictures the crowd was nicely mixed too, with plenty of women soaking up the bass vibes. I have to say I think the Mystikz bring this sort of inclusive, friendly atmosphere with them; it’s like they almost insist on it. Julian C90 did a very good warm-up set. When we got in D1’s Degrees was playing and he went from there to some really very sparkly tuneage. Tight mixing too.
Julian on decks
Sure, there was a bit when he was dropping some very downbeat tekky halfsteppers and I couldn’t help thinking that I could see how people could be turned off dubstep if seems too, well, gloomy. I could see where the accusations of it being low in energy come from. But this didn’t last long – Julian rocked it, built up to a really cool climax, finishing with Rhythm & Sound – I think it was King of My Empire.
Julian C90's crowd
While bobbing around during his set I met Mala when he was coming in and we chatted for a while. Such a sweet, dignified, focused man. I broke off from talking to him to go dance when Julian played Loefah’s mix of Search & Destroy’s Candy Floss.

Mala came on at midnight. He dropped a bunch of reggae to start, which as you can imagine made me very happy indeed.
He and Space Ape were bouncing around in the booth in sheer joy but before long Space Ape got down onto the floor and started toasting from within the audience, and he stayed there the whole night. It was such a great way of hyping the crowd.
Space Ape declaims
When Mala started, it was as if a whole range of subs had been added to the sound system. It was monstrous, but they were fiddling with the sound for much of the set, getting the sound guy in every now and then. I actually thought the sound was pretty good. It might not have had the cavernous, round, world-defining bass you get with Iration Steppas or indeed DMZ, but it was still low, full, and loud – excellent really.
http://www.grievousangel.net/MalaDeckle1.jpg
The dubstep kicked off with a bunch of incredibly banging, high-energy tracks that were just stripped down noise-weapons: one-note bass lines in lock-step with the kick that were all about working the bass. It was minimal and slamming but incredibly funky. Then there was a long section of bouncy dubstep rockers, including what has been my favourite tune for the last year, Coki’s Mood Dub – the tune I had most wanted to hear him play.
DMZ Crowd
After the bouncy stuff there was a very long and unbelievably intense section of hard steppas – sufferah’s tunes, in the sense that Mala seemed to be challenging the crowd to go with these incredibly heavy, deep, hard tunes, to endure the sweet punishment of the low-end. And go with it the crowd absolutely did. The heavier the dub, the bigger the response, people were just going mad for it, and the pay-off was this sublime sense of being transported, a really deep sense of spiritual release. And Mala was driven, almost possessed, turning down most requests for rewinds, intent on making the journey ever more intense.

But never to the point of being torturous or worse, dull; there was always a finely honed judgement at work. And at just the right moment Mala relented, dropping an absolutely amazing, slow-burning almost jazz-funk dubstep tune, that I absolutely MUST have. It was a DJing masterstroke; build it right up to a peak of almost unendurable intensity and then drop it right back to nothing, just Space Ape talking you down. Mala is both technically and creatively a superb, almost supernaturally gifted DJ. It wasn’t just that his mixing was tight, it was the whole flow of the set – it reminded me of the flowing, artfully-constructed sets of the great house DJs.

Then it was time for some more up-ful tracks. The crowd was still thick and baying for more, and when Mala dropped Loefah’s Root they went wild. The sense of intimacy and recognition was extraordinary; the crowd were screaming at tunes they obviously had never heard before but were immediately captivated by. It was just awesome.

The last section featured a whole heap of devastating 4×4 steppers that was like really evil, groovy but wonky house, which was just fantastic. And maybe my favourite moment of the night was this massively long, extended mix out of (I think) the VIP mix of Request Line into Kode 9’s Seven Samurai – it seemed to go on forever with wave upon wave of EQ action twisting the sound while Space Ape declaimed over it. Just magnificent.

Finally the lights came on and the roar was vast. I’m not sure that the Sheffield audience was quite as demonstrative during the set as the Mystikz might be used to – that’s Sheffield for you, sweet, soft and laid-back – but the crowd really showed their appreciation at the end. The lights still blazing Mala pulled out one last tune and everybody, as Simon “Whistlebump” Haggis said of his visit to DMZ, “Having it right off really slowly”.
Mala pon deckle
And that was it. I was just overwhelmed by that point, staggered over the booth and mumbled some thanks. It was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had for a long time. Regular readers will know how much seeing the Abyssinians meant to me, how utterly transported and deeply moved I was by their performance. Well, it wasn’t as good as that, but then again, it was a very different kind of musical experience, albeit one with a similar spiritual core. Regular readers will also know how much l love Jah Shaka; for me, at his best and with his system in the right room, he’s the best DJ in the world. Well, Digital Mystikz are very, very nearly as good as Jah Shaka – which is extremely high praise from me – and the music is pretty similar to the more savage steppers’ sections of his performances.

For what Digital Mystikz share with both the Abyssinians and Shaka is that to go see them play is to experience spiritual healing. In my opinion, the Mystikz and Shaka in particular are not just fucking around when they drop relentlessly hard, pounding, one-note bass skankers; it’s not just some metallic testosterone work-out; they’re deliberately putting you in a different spiritual place. It’s like there is SOMETHING LIVING IN THE MUSIC, something really good and strong and powerful.

Dubstep is doing something very special right now and I don’t know how long the beauty of the current scene will last – two years? Three? Forever? – but if you have any opportunity at all to go and experience it, you should seize it.

The Fast Chat Special for Dave Stelfox’ resonance FM radio show

Fast Chat
Dave Stelfox is one of, if not the, most important reggae writers in Britain. It’s a privilege just knowing him: he’s a force for good in the world. But it’s an honour of significant proportions to be asked to contribute to the radio show he is running on the wonderful Resonance FM. This is the second show we’ve done and it’s a fun thing to do! A lot of people have askd for an mp3 of the show and while I don’t have that (yet – I’m hoping to host as many of the shows as I can, for a while at least) I do have a good mp3 of the original file. The details are below…

Originally broadcast on Resonance FM on 19-04-2006

Selection and Mix by John Eden
Edits and FX by Paul Meme

0:00: YT: England Story (White)
0:45: Maxi priest: Sensimilla (White)
2:23: Papa Levi: Mi God Mi King (Taxi)
5:07: Tippa Irie and Daddy Colonel: Jus a Speak (UK Bubblers)
6:14: Daddy Rusty: No No Way (UK Bubblers)
7:08: Daddy Sandy: Riddle Bubble (UK Bubblers)
8:10: Asher Senator: The Original Car Style (Fashion)
11:03: Tippa Irie: It’s Good to Have the Feeling You’re the Best (UK Bubblers)
14:00: Leslie Lyric: Blind Date (UK Bubblers)
16:28: Smiley Culture: Cockney Translation (Fashion)
18:17: Papa Levi: Bonnie & Clyde (Island)
21:23: Asher Senator: Fast Style Origination (Fashion)
25.00: Ends

Email grievousangelsoundsystem@yahoo.co.uk for a link. Some invites have gone out already.

DMZ in Sheffield, very very soon now…

… I can feel the vibes… so excited… can’t wait for the bass weight…

I dunno if it’s the done thing or not but I put some requests in… I doubt very much if Mala takes requests from some random fan off the internet but you never know, I might strike lucky — and if you don’t ask, you don’t get… Here’s what I wanted:

Reggae:

Wailers: Hypocrite
Johnny Clarke: Don’t Trouble Trouble
YT: England Story (or anything on 85 riddim)
Asher Senator: Fast Chat Originator
Tippa Irie: It’s Good to have the Felling You’re the Best
Anything on the Hard drive riddim
Any Jammy’s versions of Throw Me Corn
Anything on Water Pumping or Boxing riddims

Dubstep:

DMZ: Mood Dub (please please please!!)
DMZ: Conference
Loefah: Mud
Dusk & BlackDown: Lata / Crackle blues
Random Trio: Indian Stomp
Qawwali
K9’s Kingstown… and Ghost Town
Skream: Dutch Flowers / Lightning / Smiley Faces

Here goes nuttin’…

Bash next Thursday — reach

BASH

The next BASH will be sweet and low and heavy and you’re gonna love it, for it is a women’s reggae special. I will be there again with full crew and I just KNOW that you will want to join me, for the DJs are:

The Bug featuring the magnificent NICOLETTE! Aaaaaaaannnnnddd… Warrior Queen!! Together! Plus further MCs TBC…

Plus we have… from OneExtra, drum’n’bass supremo DJ Flight dropping what promises to be a killer Dub/Dancehall set!

Aaaaaaannnd… by special request – your friend and mine, the woman who brought the heavy steppers sound to Radio One and exported the vibe around the world, we have the legendary… MARY ANNE HOBBS!!!

Plus, we have the big man himself, the best producer on the planet, the BASS SCIENTIST, the dancehall don: LOEFAH!!!! This time dropping, for the first time ever outside of SE25, an utterly irresistable, red hot, never-to-be-repeated, LOVER’S ROCK SET!!!!!!!! Loefah’s opening so reach early or miss out!

It’s the ultimate summer-lovin’ BELTANE BASHMENT BASH and if you are on the East Side on that Thursday you will NEED to be there. Come nice y’selves up. Herewith, the blurb from the Bug…

“To celebrate the joys of Spring, the ladies are hitting BashMassive Attack’s collaborator/Shut Up & Dance artist Nicolette joins forces with The Bug and Warrior Queen.

Drum & Bass heroine/Radio 1 xtra regular DJ Flight trades her jungle in for dancehall and Radio One’s Breezeblock pioneer Mary Anne Hobbs are providing the pressure at Bash on April 27th. And with Dubstep warrior Loefah dropping bass heavy lovers tunes for the opening set, the night promises to be large.”

“Rephlex records ragga renegade The Bug has joined forces with Loefah from dubstep bass dons Digital Mystikz to promote a new night at
Plastic People. ‘Bash’ will be aimed directly at dancehall partyseekers fiending for the latest bashment rhythms, classic ragga, deep dubstep, heavyweight dub and reggaefied hip hop. Nerds, trainspotters and the moody boys need not apply, as residents, guests and host MCs resolutely set out to ensure the bass will put a smile upon your face.”

“Thursday 27rd April (And the last Thursday of every month) BASH At Plastic People. (Presented by The Bug & Loefah). Policy : Bashment, Dub, Ragga, Rockers, Roots, Lovers, Soca… 10-2AM. £5/Conc..”

BASH is rapidly turning into one of the best reggae nights in London and as a complement to the pure love-fire of the DMZ nights it’s essential.