Monday, June 29, 2009

Elektralux - Missing Out

With a name that sounds like a brand of electrical goods it’s perhaps no surprise that this little ditty about finding someone to poke (I’m not normally this base…blame the sunshine) whilst being broke quickly plugs itself into yer lugholes. Our hero (vocalist Nik Walker…who sounds a little like Keith Flint’s younger bro) is trying to impress a lady who has loadsamoney, whilst he’s as broke as an MP with some serious moat cleaning to be done. It’s a kind of reverse Common People for the credit crunch…he’s trying to get her to see beyond his lack of Benjamins, she’s all about the bling. Backed by a certain MC Erl Grey (classy name there fella) it’s a timely reminder that whilst money can’t buy you love a lack of it ain’t much cop either, especially if you’re after a certain kind of lady. You’re better off without her Mr Walker. Get yourself down Wetherspoons and find yourself a real lady…someone’s who’s quite happy with a bag of chips and a pint of Old Rosie. Musically the band's debut single is an upbeat, light garagey kinda track that bounces along nicely whilst somehow managing to reference both Madonna and Dire Straits – now there’s a collaboration I wouldn’t mind seeing. No doubt Michael Eavis has ‘em both booked for Glasto 2010 already. As is the way with singles the lead track comes with a brace of remixes. Out of the two the broken beat version (remixed by Slugabed) works best, the stuttering bass reflecting the sheer hard slog of working for your money and your ‘lady’…probably...who says I overanalyse things eh?

Missing Out by Elektralux is out on August 3rd 2009 on Naim Edge. You can choose between 12inch vinyl (old skool stylee) or digital download (if you’re down with the yoot).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Michael Jackson’s been on my musical radar for my whole life. First with the Jackson 5, then on through Off The Wall, Thriller and BAD (let’s gloss over Dangerous okay?). Whilst I’d never describe myself as massive fan, for my generation he really was ‘the king of pop’. At a time when record releases and video premiers were real events, millions of us around the world would turn on, tune in and attempt to moonwalk across the living room carpet (not the easiest thing to do). Of course the last decade or so has pretty much been a write off and I really couldn’t see that O2 comeback happening (surely it would have done more damage to his reputation than anything else that’s dogged his later years?), but strip that away and you’ve got an impressive body of work that stands up to anything in pop history. I’ve picked ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ as the best way to pay my respects - a video that looked like it cost $50 and Jacko looking like happier and more full of life than he ever had done…and, sadly, was ever likely to again. RIP.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cllr Martin Mullaney...genius.

Nice to hear Martin Mullaney (who seems to be some sort of Councillor in Birmingham) on TV adding his invaluable contribution to The Rainbow debate. He witters on about The Rainbow playing loud music in the courtyard until '2 or 4am' and suggests that they just 'turn the volume down', clearly oblivious to the fact that this has already been done, or that the latest complaint was about music being played at 11pm or that the very cultural fabric of the entire City is in danger of being torn to pieces by just one individual...

Shouldn't our Councillors be trying to make our City a better, more vibrant and attractive place to live, work and visit? Shouldn't they be standing up for a local business that helps some of our best new bands, DJ's and promoters make a living? Shouldn't they make the effort to find out the facts before making a lame ass appearance on local TV? I forward a motion to abate Cllr Mullaney.

On a more positive note there's now an e-petition thingy that you can sign and send to the Council, although if our Martin has anything to do with it he'll probably just stick his fingers in his ears and start singing 'la la la I can't hear you' (either that or he'll be sat in his garden muttering about young folk and plotting ways to get us all in bed by 8.30 with a good book...nothing too stimulating mind you...and careful how loudly you turn the pages).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rainbow warriors

I'm painfully aware that I've not been to The Rainbow for weeks now...after being a regular for years and just as the place faces the biggest challenge to its survival ever I've been AWOL. A combination of funerals, parties and holidays has kept me away and meant I missed last Friday's mass gathering. It was, by all accounts, stirring stuff and happily both Pete Ashton (of Pete Ashton fame) and Nicky Getgood (of Digbeth is Good fame) have captured the highlights on their respective sites. Here's the biggie though, Kent's (the Rainbow landlord) speech about the whole bloody mess and what he intends to do about it.

Rainbow Meeting - Kent Davis from Pete Ashton on Vimeo.

It strikes me that Birmingham City Council and the environmental health bods ain't exactly covering themselves in glory here. In fact, with 20,000 plus Save The Rainbow group members on Facebook and coverage in the local press, it's nothing short of a PR nightmare. Hopefully the powers that be will see sense and allow the Rainbow to continue doing its thang until they're able to fit a new roof that should...that's SHOULD...solve the problem. My big fear is that they go to the expense of fitting the new roof and then mystery protester makes yet another spurious complaint. What then? Wrap the whole bloody place in bubble wrap? Watching John Tighe's (the landlord of the already silenced Spotted Dog) piece it seems as if the Council's planning team has been, let's say, a little lax when it came to the Abacus development that's at the heart of all this. Some would call it downright sloppy. I think Mr T (I pity da fool who messes with him) could well press for some kind of enquiry into the whole debacle, especially as his request for document's under the Freedom of Info Act seems to have uncovered some dubious tactics. Suffice to say that, if I were in Planning for BCC - and had anything to do with this matter - I would start looking for another career if I were you.

Anyway, enough of dodgy dealings for now, The Rainbow is holding a ruddy great street festival thingy on August 1st to raise dosh for the new roof. Nicky G is also celebrating the 1st birthday of Digbeth is Good this Friday - muchos congratulations and a big thank you for all your hard work on this's ruddy good - at The Spotted Dog 7.30-ish where she'll be gathering donations too.

In the words of Karen and Richard Carpenter 'It's only just begun...'

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Flyover Show…under a flyover in Hockley, Saturday 13th June 2009

‘Where’s the BBC, ITV or MTV eh?’ asks Ty. It’s a good question. Where were they? Why wasn’t there more support for this event from the ‘mainstream’ media? Mind you I just can’t see Nick Owen in a baseball cap and pair of MC Hammer trousers bustin’ some moves with his homies can you? Throbbing with positivity this brainchild of jazz supremo and local boy Soweto Kinch saw an impressive line up of local and international talent play the distinctly unusual venue of a flyover in Hockley. Its aim is pretty simple. The area perhaps doesn’t have the best reputation and by putting on a show like this Soweto’s clearly hoping to change perceptions, with or without the more traditional media’s help. I have to admit that I rarely venture down the Hockley and Handsworth way myself. I think even the most positive resident of the area would have to agree that, to the outside world, the place seems a little ‘edgy’ but, having spent 6 or 7 happy hours chilling out with a good natured bunch of people from the ‘hood I’d happily go back there. So job done in my case Soweto.

The organisation was brilliant. Barely any gaps between sets, enough loos to go round (oh so important) and surprisingly good sound (even more remarkable considering we were standing underneath several tonnes of fast moving traffic). There was a decent enough crowd too, which grew steadily as headliner Bashy’s set drew closer, but I can’t help feeling that more people should’ve seen this. Still it’s only the second year and Hockley (and its reputation) wasn’t built in a day eh?

Plenty of highlights to report, from local rapper Tan to Jonzi D (an MC/poet and hip hop choreographer with a rich CV dating back to the 80’s - a true old skool original), Tumi (a darn fine rapper all the way from South Africa) to Spokinn Movement (Spearhead-ish rap rock from Noo Yawk) and Natty (ina reggae stylee) to grime MC Bashy, not forgetting Ty (who, together with Soweto, did an excellent job of hosting the event). I really enjoyed the poem written and recited by Gemma Weeks too. Can’t remember what it was called but I can remember thinking that it had some lines of pure genius. Oh the jazz duo of Robert Mitchell and Corey Mwamba were good as well…balls…everyone was good. The fact that (presumably…as this was a free show) they got paid little or nothing at all somehow made it all even more impressive.

Soweto was all over the place (in a good way), guesting on loads of sets, meeting and greeting the crowd, sorting out the running order, co-hosting with Ty…I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d built the stage, wired up the PA and prepared the fried chicken too. It was one of those events that made you feel proud to come from Birmingham - hell, scratch that - the human race. And there aren’t enough times these days when I feel like saying that.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Supper(club) man…

…or DJ Marcello in this, the fifth in the Supperclub series (bugger…looks like I missed the first four…wonder what they had…I always like a nice bit of cheese on toast…either that or a chicken kebab). It seems that this double album is designed to act as something of a ‘post dinner, pre-dancing soundtrack’. Sounds very posh. It is too. In fact it’s the kind of music that you imagine being played in beach bars full of beautiful people with all over tans, bods to die for and a 60ft yacht anchored just outside Monte Carlo. For us lesser mortals (I’m not so much a yacht man…more of a rubber duck dude) it’s actually a pretty fine Sunday morning CD too - you know the deal, Sunday papers, cup of tea and hot buttered muffins in bed...nothing but a mild hangover on your mind.

Amongst the 30 tracks that make up the album you’ve got some big names, Bebel Gilberto, Ennio Morricone (both neatly remixed) and Trentemoller, but it’s some of the lesser known tunes that distracts me from my muffins (and it takes something pretty special to separate me from my muffins). ‘Magpie’ by Abraham lays some nifty 80’s sounds onto a bed of chilled out beats with some lush female vocals (like a happier Beth from Portishead). ‘Baaaby’ by Ta’raach samples some 70’s soul funk which is just right if you fancy getting a little jiggy, especially as it morphs into the breathy ‘Swim (With The Dolphins)’ featuring the soft as silk voice of a certain Victoria Wilson James. ‘First Transmission’ by Al-Pha- X is another highlight from Disc 1, a string soaked Arabian adventure, followed a few tracks later by Marzebian’s ‘Let It Ride’, 5 minutes and 45 seconds of chilled down salsa flavoured heaven. Why bother exploring the world when you can lie in bed and let it come to you eh?

Disc 2 can also be safely filed in the ‘Chilled Out Beats’ section of your music collection (actually my filing system just consists of piles and piles of CD’s on the floor…under the floor…in the bath…everywhere…it’s like a large branch of HMV has thrown up all over my house). In fact, if anything it’s even more chilled…perhaps a degree or two. I can personally vouch for the gypsy tinged Taxi To War by DJ Disse which gets the old head nodding and Je T’taime by Kerri Chandler, a tribute to the trials and tribulations of lurrrrve. If your man/woman done you wrong stick it on and dance around the garden in your pants. It might not help but it’ll give the neighbours yet another reason to blank you in Tesco Metro. Seriously though (shit, I have to be serious?) this album’s a pretty perfect soundtrack for just sitting back and letting the world wash over you, whether you’re in bed with the Sunday papers (and your muffins, don't forget the muffins) or fully i-podded up on the beach (muffins optional here I guess). Ciao.

Supperclub Naivety, mixed by DJ Marcello, is out on United Recordings on July 13th 2009.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Some care over The Rainbow...

Okay. This is serious. It seems that the threat to shut down The Rainbow (one of the UK's best venues for new music) is now rather too close for comfort. ONE PERSON has complained about noise from the venue. ONE PERSON who, may I add, chose to live near the bloody place. In my book it's a case of 'first come, first preserved' and The Rainbow was there long before they were...we can all start by signing up to the Facebook group set up to keep The Rainbow open. They want to get 15,000 names ASAP. It's here. Click. Join. Simples. There are plans afoot to arrange a march of some sort and details should be posted there too. I was going to write a long rant about the whole situation but the words on the Facebook page do the job better than I could. No matter where you live if you love music just sign up.

Thank you so much for your support so far.

We are looking for 15'000 names. Please help make a difference.

Please invite all of your friends to join this group.

Thank you x
Birmingham's Environmental Taliban Sit In Judgement On Rainbow.

Birmingham City Council EPU (Environmental Protection Unit), are today sat in session considering the serving of a noise abatement order against The Rainbow.

This is the latest move in their wish to see a once vibrant Digbeth transformed into a souless artistic wasteland populated by Stepford wives and cultural pygmies, and where the only entertainment is watching tumbleweeds race down deserted back streets.

This latest outrage is yet again the result of one - yes that is right ONE- resident of the Abacus flats complaining about a noise nuisance.

This resident since occupying the flats has seen off the Spotted Dog (its nearest and most immediate target), is now close to achieving the same with The Rainbow, and will no doubt soon be turning their sights on The Rainbow Warehosue and The Custard Factory.

Just how much devastation are they allowed to cause before someone has the wit to halt this senseless slaughter? Many of the council's own departments vaunt the vibrancy of Digbeth, and indeed the Planning office makes much reference to Digbeth's unique 'jewel in the crown' potential as part of its big city plan. Just how much vibrancy will soon be left - perhaps just the vibarting echo of a hollow vaccum? Anyone who has followed this issue online is aware of the strength of feeling it arouses, and the sheer frustration of how Birmingham seems determined to always be the ugly sister/poodle next to far more dynamic cities like Manchester, London and Liverpool who provide their cultural spaces with oxygen to breath and prosper as opposed to smothering them.

No-one can underestimate the significance of art and cultutre on the desirability of a city to live and work in - and it is generally a city's youth that are best placed to take a city's cultural pulse. Increasingly Birmingham's is flatlining. Just think how different it could be if institutions and organisations like The Rainbow were given support, and how much change they could effect in other people's perception of the City.

Noise nuisnace is a totally subjective matter - it is not measured - it is all about a council officers 'trained human ear'. There have been instances where even the EPU's own officers have failed to detect a nuisance following a complaint against The Rainbow - but different day and different officer - different result..

There are residents on the same facade and elevation facing the Rainbow that maintain there is absolutely no nuisance at all and that far from having a problem with the Rainbow - the reason they moved in was to be close to such ammenities (this is similarly the overwhelming view of Digbeth's Residents Association).

The Rainbow's own research from the Abacus rooftops indicates that yes a bass beat can be heard when there is a lull in background traffic noise - but would struggle to see how this was a noise nuisnace behind closed windows and doors and should certainly cause no problem when trying to sleep within a bedroom.

Nevertheless accepting the views of the Council and having had a number of 'noise nuisances' subjectively witnessed againt them from one resident's flat, the Rainbow has agreed to erect a roof on it's courtyard area to prevent sound leakage.

This in itself is a highly sensitive subject as the Rainbow is being made to pay the price of the council's own negligence over the construction of the Abacus flats (which failed to comply with thier own rules on noise surveys). The Rainbow agreed to do this as soon as plans could be steered through the planning department - so completion would be around August.

Meantime The Rainbow has regularly asked to negotiate/discuss with EPU/complainant its events over the ensuing 3 months, to try and ensure that everyone keeps a cool head, as we cannot afford to close for the period, and any suggestion of us playing music at an ambient level is just naive. This has included giving them details of what times events will start and finish, planning noisier events around times when they may not be in reidence (on holiday), offering to put them up at our expense in a hotel for the night if needed - even very simply getting them to phone us if the levels creep too high. REMEMBER this is just over a 3 month period until a roof prevents any further issues.

Unfortunately EPU and the tenant refused to countenance such an initiative and have decided to simply stick to - 'if you make what we consider to be a nuisnace meantime, we will act' - this was even when informed we would need to hold some fundraising events meantime to ensure we could provide for the very solution to their problems.

Anyhow following another subjectively witnessed noise nuisance committed before 11.30pm on Monday (hardly the middle of the night) we now are now awaiting a decision on an abatement order. Knowing what a ridiculous injustice this is and what the wider implications are for the area - we will fight it should we get it - to the bitter end if necessary - to the point we are physically ejected and the pub is boarded up. But we would like your help - sign up to the facebook group so we can present it to the council.

Thank you

The Rainbow Team

Friday, June 05, 2009

Yo da Cologne…Ancient Astronauts touch bass.

If you like your hip hop tripped out then you’ll do your nut for Cologne’s Ancient Astronauts. The opening tracks in particular (‘From The Sky’ and ‘I Came Running’) are just designed for kicking back in the Summer sun and cracking open a bottle of Weston’s Organic or, as the Press Release has it here ‘…sinking into the sofa and blazing another fat one’. Oh what a wonderful world it would be if everyone did just that. Maybe our MP’s could claim for a bit of ‘erb…on second thoughts I wouldn’t be surprised if half of them already have…Duck Island! WTF. You gotta be whacked off your bonce to come up with that one. Anyway, back to the music. Things get a little livelier with the appearance of hip hop heroes The Pharcyde on the flutetastic ‘Classic’ then you’re straight into drum n’bass territory (albeit a squiffy version of d n’b) with ‘Dark Green Rod’. Fast forward a couple of tracks and the legendary Tippa Irie makes a guest appearance (presumably fresh from sitting on his sofa, blazing a fat one) with the Jah toasting ‘All of the Things You Do’. I defy you not to have a crafty skank to that one...

As a lover of the darker side of hip hop too (Dalek, MF Doom…that kind of snizzle) ‘Oblivion’ is probably the highlight for me though. Featuring DJ Zeph and Azeem it’s an ominous bass heavy cut with some particularly neat word play. The album ends where we came in, back with the trippy spaced out grooves of ‘Surfing The Silvatide’ and ‘Crescent Moon’. Astronautical…but nice.

‘We Are To Answer’ by Ancient Astronauts is out on ESL Music on 29th June 2009…or, if you happen to be visiting Venus, I believe Bob’s Record Store has a really good hip hop section.