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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » hip-hop

50 great tracks for March from Chvrches, Riko Dan, Machine Head and more

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Wed 7 Mar 2018 11:00 am

Check out Angolan kuduro, fluffy disco-funk and whimsical fingerpicking in this month’s roundup of the best new music. Subscribe to the playlist of all 50 tracks and read about our 10 favourites

Related: The month's best music: Jonghyun, Marmozets, Peggy Gou and more

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Elvis Presley’s power, Tina Turner’s legs: musicians pick their biggest influences

Delivered... Interviews by Rachel Aroesti | Scene | Thu 1 Mar 2018 7:18 pm

Sade taught Jessie Ware quiet confidence, while Sly Stone helped Baxter Dury ‘make the unlikely into something rational’: some of our contemporary favourites salute the stars who had the most impact on them

● Guardian writers on the most influential artists in music today

My greatest influence probably isn’t very evident in my music. Sly and the Family Stone, or more Sly, captured my imagination from the moment it was forced out of a giant pair of Tannoy speakers placed in our front living room. He was a handsome opportunist hippy who manipulated the times, but definitely changed the course of them. The music is soulful, subversive and sleazy, but beautifully arranged and played. It’s a theme park of unrelated ideas made logical by Sly’s magnificence. I learned so much about making the unlikely into something rational.

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Young Fathers: ‘Everybody has a dark side. We’re all complicit…’

Delivered... Kathryn Bromwich | Scene | Sun 25 Feb 2018 8:00 am
Award-winning Edinburgh hip-hop trio Young Fathers on ‘bad men’, shadow-boxing with portraits, and their new album, Cocoa Sugar

On a cold Sunday night at the end of January, a rapt audience at London’s Barbican Centre is watching a new film called Fetish, showing a naked black man walking through the streets of New York. It is an evening of audio-visual art marking the end of Boom for Real, last year’s monumental exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Directed by Topher Campbell, the film is a commentary on the black male body, vulnerability and “othering”, and it is scored live by the Scottish band Young Fathers, powerfully matching the video’s growing sense of dread leading up to a euphoric release.

It’s hard to imagine many other bands in the country who could pull this off, or even attempt to. Back in 2014, as relative unknowns, Young Fathers beat favourite FKA twigs to win the Mercury prize with their debut album Dead, a mesmerising mix of genres that sounded like nothing else around. They quickly followed it up with White Men Are Black Men Too, a disconcerting, occasionally abrasive but captivating second album. They have toured the world, collaborated with Massive Attack, and Danny Boyle liked them so much he included six of their songs in last year’s T2: Trainspotting. They are, it is generally accepted, a critical success if not a mainstream one.

A lot of bands are coming out of the woodwork and being overtly political because of the current climate we’re in

Related: Best albums of 2015: No 9 – White Men Are Black Men Too by Young Fathers

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Everything Is Recorded: Everything Is Recorded By Richard Russell review – mogul music with a stellar cast

Delivered... Kitty Empire | Scene | Sun 18 Feb 2018 10:00 am

As head of XL, Richard Russell shaped UK music for three decades. His own debut release finds its voice in many singers

Imagine, for a moment, being the man who signed Adele. You run a label – XL – home to mavericks as diverse as Dizzee Rascal, Radiohead and Arca, and you produce records by your heroes – Gil Scott-Heron, Bobby Womack – in what one might laughably call your spare time. By many people’s definitions, you’d be about as fulfilled, three-dimensional and jammy a human as there is. In 2015, your net worth was guessed at £75m, but your impact on British music is harder to calculate.

Then imagine being paralysed. One minute, you’re putting out Gil Scott-Heron’s final album. And then – insert an obscure sound effect here, the kind that you collect – you’re laid low by Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system. It’s 2013, you’re in hospital, and you can just about twiddle your fingers. Geoff Barrow, on behalf of Portishead, sends you a dinky synth – a pocket piano by Critter & Guitari to be precise – to retrain your synapses and stop you going mad. You can’t help but read Russell’s paralysis as one of those defining moments that would map the road ahead, if he could ever get his motor skills back.

Related: Everything Is Recorded review – Richard Russell's XL supergroup shines

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Electronic pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto: ‘My great regret is not reconnecting with Bowie’

Delivered... Joe Muggs | Scene | Thu 8 Feb 2018 5:00 pm

With the Yellow Magic Orchestra, he inspired the sound of hip-hop, electro and techno. Then, the Japanese composer won an Oscar and worked many of the greats, including Davids Bowie and Byrne. Now, in recovery from cancer, his impulse to innovate is as strong as ever

On the roof of a half-built tower block overlooking Oslo’s harbour, Ryuichi Sakamoto – former global pop star, a godfather of techno and hip-hop and an Oscar-winning composer – is in a makeshift plastic shack, coaxing microscopic scratches and scrapes out of a cello, then turning them into huge tonal washes with his laptop. As the sun sets, artificial mist billows through the crowd, floodlights suspended from the construction site’s cranes swing above us and the lithe dancer Min Tanaka strikes alarming poses on the parapet of the building, disappearing in and out of the fake clouds.

This performance for the city’s Ultima festival, a collaboration with “fog sculptor” Fujiko Nakaya, is profoundly moving: elegant, nuanced, emotional, rich with cultures from across the globe. Themes of ageing and mortality emerge as Tanaka disappears into the mist; he is 72, Nakaya is 84 and Sakamoto is 65 and in recovery from the throat cancer he was diagnosed with in 2014. These themes also appear throughout the 2017 album, Async, Sakamoto’s first solo effort in seven years. Heralded as one of the year’s electronic highlights, it is now bolstered by Async Remodels, a set of remixes by the cream of the avant garde, including the Björk collaborator Arca and Oneohtrix Point Never.

Asian music influenced Debussy, who influenced me – it’s all a huge circle

Related: Observer readers' hidden musical gems of 2017

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The month’s best music: Jonghyun, Marmozets, Peggy Gou and more

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Mon 5 Feb 2018 11:00 am

Our monthly playlist has camp country by Kylie, freaky funk by George Clinton, a dub odyssey by Leslie Winer & Jay Glass Dubs and more. Subscribe to the playlist of all 50 and read about our 10 favourites below

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Maschine with audio arrives; here’s how to get the most of it

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 18 Dec 2017 8:47 pm

Maschine’s Audio module has arrived, with looping and time stretching. And that makes the perfect time to look at some new ways of playing Maschine.

Maschine has had a year full of growth – new features, new ways of working from the community. As of Friday (well, after some glitches with the update server), that also includes an update that delivers a feature Maschine users have been asking about the longest: pitch-independent time stretching and looping.

The bad news is, this isn’t integrated with Maschine’s existing Sampler module. The good news, perhaps, is that this means the new module is focused on its own set of functionality, and won’t disrupt what’s already there. (I’m going to play around with it a while longer to reach my own conclusions on how I feel about this decision, but it certainly does keep each module cleaner and simpler.)

I’ve seen a lot of people posting the sentiment lately that music making isn’t just about updating to the latest-and-greatest — and I certainly agree with that, that’s fair. But some updates do come from real user needs and remove technological barriers to things you want to do.

On the human side of the equation, of course, you’ve got all the ways people pick up an instrument and make it their own. And the Maschine community this year has been astounding – all the reviewers, users, experts, trainers, and yes even the Maschine team themselves.

So, for starters, here’s a great demonstration of how that Audio Module works:

(Ha, that musical example is a bit wacky, but… you can of course apply this to whatever music or genre you want; I’ve done some really experimental stuff on Maschine that I suspect no one would guess was that tool)

From the same creator (“loopop”), here’s a unique take on how to use Maschine Jam, the clip launching grid + touch fader hardware for Maschine, alongside the traditional Maschine hardware. He takes on Jam as a “virtual conductor,” a mixer for different parts, and even an easy way to strum instruments. It’s a reminder that it’s best to think of Maschine as a live interface, not something specific to a particular genre. And the result is something different than what I’ve seen from other interfaces (like Abletoh Push), demonstrating how many different directions live interfaces for computers can go.

Maschine has also worked well as a hub for other instruments – hardware and software alike. It can be a trigger for snapshots in Reaktor, as we saw in our run-down of Belief Defect. (I’m reprogramming my own Reaktor-based setup, so I’ll do a more complete tutorial soon.)

And you can use snapshots and morphing with hardware, as loopop shows in this video. This was initially a Jam feature, but it has extended to other hardware controller.

(I just played right before Grebenstein Friday night, and he was using a Maschine MK1 alongside the Vermona as his live rig, so more possibilities with this setup. It blew me away; it was really tight.)

This next example is worth another story on itself – I’m a huge fan of Reactable’s recent, overlooked apps for sequencing and drum pattern creation. The latter, SNAP, has integration with Maschine Jam. The upshot: instead of repeating the same old loop over and over and over and now I’m bored, you can work in a fluid, live way to create more human, varying patterns. Watch – the Jam stuff kicks in part of the way through:

Stepping outside of one genre can often help you to better understand techniques and musicality. So here’s DDS with a great series on Maschine from the perspective of a hip-hop producer. (If you make hip hop-influenced music, that’s already relevant – but even if not, listen to the producers of the genre that gave you so much of how we think about this hardware in the first place!)

Finally, worth a read:


If you have more tips / tutorials or videos to share, send them in and I’ll update the article here.

And in the interest of fairness, we’ll have a bit more on the Akai side of the equation shortly, too; it’s also been a good year for the rival MPC.

More soon.

The post Maschine with audio arrives; here’s how to get the most of it appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Kitty Empire’s best pop of 2017

Delivered... Kitty Empire | Scene | Sun 10 Dec 2017 1:00 am

From Jay-Z to Taylor Swift, it’s been a year of high political and personal drama in the worlds of rap, pop and rock

• Observer critics’ reviews of the year in full

With a couple of weeks to go until the new year, a number of significant records still teeter on the edge of an unannounced drop in 2017. Rihanna, for one, loves a fourth-quarter release; and Frank Ocean has hinted tantalisingly that he did make his promised five albums before he turned 30 at the end of October – he just hasn’t released one of them.

But the past 11 and a bit months have already seen more than enough melodrama: heartache and soap operatics, lawsuits and moral victories, and everywhere a political climate that was impossible to outrun. There were albums that engaged explicitly, from Hurray for the Riff Raff’s The Navigator to Joey Bada$$’s All-Amerikkkan Bada$$.

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Queering Hip Hop Beat by Beat

Delivered... Theresa Beyer from Norient | Scene | Fri 8 Dec 2017 11:00 am

Hip hop is always changing, and recently LGTB and Queer Hip-Hop – for long time out of sight – has seized the stage. Not as a subgenre, but a part of hip hop culture that has a long history. It’s a history about activism, too, in the USA and worldwide. A short historical round up. An article from the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here).

The rapper Mykki Blanco performing at Rhinoceropolis in Denver. (Photo © by Imnotcmjames/ Wikimeadia, 2014)

In 2012 rapper Frank Ocean declared on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Surprisingly, this small statement triggered a tremendous reaction from mainstream hip hop, which caused it to start stumbling across its own institutional taboos. By now, Ocean’s admittance should be considered banal; however, queer rappers such as Mykki Blanco and Zebra Katz came into the center of media attention. The two New York-based rapper marked a turning point in hip hop: they are intellectuals, rooted in poetry and performance art, with gender-bending performances that resonate with voguing and the Ballroom culture. Their music is fast rap over minimalistic electronics; their videos heavily edited and visually stunning and sample the pleasure of multiple identities. During the same year, Brooke Candy and Angel Haze joined the new playground of queer hip hop and gained mainstream success. Since 2012 it seems, hip hop is officially no longer a heteronormative bubble.

No, I am not gay
No, I am not straight
And I’m sure as hell not bisexual, damn it
I am whoever I am when I am it
Loving whoever you are when the stars shine
And being whoever you be when the sun rises
Angel Haze, «Same Love,» quoting
genderqueer poet Andrea Gibson
(USA, 2013)


It never was. 1981, a gay center in Los Angeles: John Callahan and David Hughes met and founded «Age of Consent». In their song «Fight Back», the white duo was rapping «I’m a faggot through and through». In an era in which hip hop was still perceived as primarily belonging to black culture, the duo decided that hip hop was a more suitable mouthpiece for gay rights than disco culture. More than 15 years had to pass until LGTBQ rapper such as Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Queen Pen, and Rainbow Flava gained recognition in music business. LGTBQ hip hop arose not just in the US, but also in Cuba. Queer and vegan activists Las Krudas Cubensi teamed up for rapping in 1996 in Havana and became part of the local hip hop scene. As the popularity of the three women grew, they wanted to link up with other queer scenes in Latin America. However, because of the harsh immigration policies they initially couldn’t answer invitations to give concerts outside of Cuba’s borders; so, they moved to Texas.

Well pardon me for not being a mermaid that
bewitches and seduces and then poisons.
I am ball, whale, turtle, how cool, yellow, brown,
Las Krudas, «Sy Ke Ser» (What could
this be) (Cuba/USA 2006)

Activist Agenda

There was a good ground to continue, prepared by God-des and She, queer activists, that gained cult status with their song «Lick it». Important for the visibility of these artists in the US and UK was the PeaceOut-Festival (2001-2007) and the documentary «Pick Up the Mic» (2005). Both helped to link and mobilize American LGTBQ rappers in a physical space. What these rappers continue to have in common is a clear activist agenda, the aim to empower and to turn hip hop vocabulary and imaginary into their own. As in many countercultures, subversion is an effective strategy for this. In «Lealef et ha soreret» (2007), for example, the lesbian rapper Shorty from Israel raps over arabesque samples, stating that she has nothing to apologize for and will never hide herself. In the video she sits on a car and depicts herself as a pimp. She turns the tables and slips into the poses of a character that in hip hop is a code for male dominance. In their song «Pro Homo» (2011), Sookee and Tapete (Germany) emphasize that hip hop can be just as homophobic as is their society. They chose a clever way to subvert: with the slogan «pro homo» they reframe the hip hop, typically homophobic slang phrase «no homo».

Cause they wanna know details
And label us
They want our private life
To be a public fuss
Scream Club feat Nicky Click, «You Make
Me Smile» (Germany 2011)

However, subversion can only work if one is being heard. In many countries, LGTBQ rappers risk their lives when they defy convention. The lesbian rapper Saye Sky is from Iran, where it’s forbidden for women to sing in public. YouTube and Facebook are also banned, so in 2009 she gave a CD to a Canadian friend and asked her to upload her song about LGTB rights. Right afterwards the government started following her and she had to emigrate. This example show that hip hop stays the voice for the oppressed and is often twinned with activism, but the frames and resources are extremely different — there is still much in the dark.

Now, I know I’m talkin’ blasphemy
Knocking gay culture with a capital «C»
But it never was my sort of scene, you see
I don’t want to be a faggot professionally
Age of Consent, «Fight Back» (USA 1981)

Looking back to the US-American queer hip hop in 2015, the clear political agenda from before seems to have vanished and is being replaced with fun: with the attitude of post-digital pop, Big Dipper, for example, raps «show me your penis» and is playing around with his sexual orientation. Maybe in this context there is no need anymore to use terms such as queer hip hop or homohop. They have helped to promote a space and a community within the hip hop culture. However, they have led to othering as well. Let’s hope they will become superfluous soon.

This text was published first in a very short version in the second Norient book Seismographic Sounds. Click on the image to know more.

Read More on Norient

> Theresa Beyer: «Queer Hip Hop Clips From 8 Countries»
> Kalle Berggren: «The Queer Star of Swedish Hip Hop»
> B Camminga: «Queer and Of Here»

The top 100 tracks of 2017

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Mon 4 Dec 2017 12:00 pm

In the year the album’s power eroded, we collate the 100 best songs of 2017 as voted for by Guardian critics – and put them in a giant playlist

Many listeners are still in love with the album: a piece of work that allows a musician to fully sketch out their current worldview. And we’ll be counting down our favourite 50 albums of the year over the next three weeks.

But others have made a decisive shift away from albums and towards playlists on streaming services – often curated by Spotify or Apple themselves. We explored the phenomenon here – as well as how albums are mutating in response – and started our own monthly playlist.

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The top 100 tracks of 2017

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Mon 4 Dec 2017 12:00 pm

In the year the album’s power eroded, we collate the 100 best songs of 2017 as voted for by Guardian critics – and put them in a giant playlist

Many listeners are still in love with the album: a piece of work that allows a musician to fully sketch out their current worldview. And we’ll be counting down our favourite 50 albums of the year over the next three weeks.

But others have made a decisive shift away from albums and towards playlists on streaming services – often curated by Spotify or Apple themselves. We explored the phenomenon here – as well as how albums are mutating in response – and started our own monthly playlist.

Continue reading...

Grammys 2018: Britain’s reign comes to an end as diversity flourishes | Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Tue 28 Nov 2017 5:03 pm

With Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris and various One Direction members snubbed, it paves the way for one of the most ethnically diverse Grammys ever – though female musicians have been sidelined

The iconic moment of the 2017 Grammys was Adele beating Beyoncé for album of the year, and the former acknowledging what a force of nature the latter is. “The way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering,” she said. “And you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you.” She vocalised what everyone else already knew: that Beyoncé, and indeed black American music, had become culturally dominant in the US.

Related: Grammy awards 2018: Ed Sheeran snubbed as Jay-Z leads nominations

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Gorillaz review – Damon Albarn refuses to be pigeonholed in hip-hop jamboree

Delivered... Alexis Petridis | Scene | Tue 28 Nov 2017 2:04 pm

Brighton Centre
The Blur frontman brings his animated band’s world tour to the UK, and it’s the house vocalists – such as Peven Everett and Jamie Principle – that really shine

The first Gorillaz tour in seven years is an event that arrives in Britain trailing a certain degree of hype. It is apparently the fastest-selling tour that Damon Albarn has been involved in: not even the re-formation of Blur shifted tickets around the world so quickly, testament perhaps to the fact that, initially at least, Gorillaz achieved the kind of multiplatinum success in the US denied to Albarn’s original outfit. There has been much talk of the vast, continually rotating cast involved: in addition to Albarn, a band that features in its ranks two drummers and six backing vocalists, there’s the ever-changing menu of guest stars to contend with. Over the course of its American leg, the Humanz tour variously featured appearances from Carly Simon, Kelela, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Yasiin Bey, Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano and Savages’ Jehnny Beth, while last weekend’s shows in Paris brought Popcaan to the stage for an encore of Saturnz Barz.

Tonight, however, the Jamaican MC is merely on a big screen at the rear of the stage, while Chicago brass bands and indie frontwomen are noticeable by their absence. The supporting cast is stripped down to something approaching a skeleton staff: depending on your taste in hip-hop, the biggest names present are either Long Beach rapper Vince Staples or two-thirds of De La Soul, the latter performing a rapturously received version of Feel Good Inc. The visuals featuring Jamie Hewlett’s familiar animated figures are strong, but not quite as eye-poppingly innovative as the show’s excitable advance billing might have led you to believe – amid the synched videos and interstitial cartoons, there’s nothing quite as visually arresting as the moment during their 2005 shows when the children’s choir who sang on Dirty Harry unexpectedly broke first into synchronised dance moves, then gleeful body-popping.

Related: Gorillaz, Oxfam and a tarot fool: the art of Jamie Hewlett – in pictures

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BBC reveals its Sound of 2018 longlist

Delivered... Guardian music | Scene | Mon 27 Nov 2017 12:51 pm

Artists on the broadcaster’s annual poll of musicians tipped for success next year include Norwegian singer Sigrid and London rapper Not3s

The BBC have revealed their annual Sound Of … list, which predicts the musicians likely to make waves in 2018.

This year’s crop include representatives from genres including rap, R&B, indie, dance and pop. The list was voted for by 173 critics, broadcasters, DJs and other music industry figures, with the poll’s winner set to be announced on 12 January on Radio 1.

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Thurston Moore, Holly Herndon and more on today’s musical underground

Delivered... Rachel Aroesti | Scene | Mon 27 Nov 2017 11:00 am

Thurston Moore, The Black Madonna and other underground musicians discuss how the scene continues to mutate – and why quantum physics is where today’s avant garde truly resides

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