Offshore Presents Troubled Water Mixed by Clever
(Offshore/ Single Cell)
The last genre where any nondiehard looks for decent records these days is drum and bass, which sank under its own scowl half a decade ago. Sure, there's been the odd exception here and there, but that's what they've remained—exceptions, possibly enough of them to make a full CD feasible every year or so, though not even the most die-hard junglists of my acquaintance have tried convincing me of that. I put this 15-cut mix on at random—I hadn't looked at it too closely, and the cover, a drawing of a dolphin in the water that looks like it belongs in a kids' book, made me think it was a tech-house disc from the Areal label—and after the first rolling break, figured I'd take it off after three songs. On it stayed, and after a month and a half, I think I've figured out why: The tracks here, by a number of D&B lifers (most notably Deep Blue, who made 1994's classic "Helicopter Tune"), work the middle ground between the airy, head-in-the-clouds (or underwater, as the case may be) "aquatic" sound codified by L.T.J. Bukem and the harder snarl of early techstep from labels like No U-Turn. In short, it's as much an old-school flashback in its way as last year's SoundMurderer mix, Wired for Sound, only instead of sounding like 1994 all over again, Troubled Water moves the date ahead to roughly 1997. Even the harder, more minimal stuff sounds three-dimensional: Paradox's "I Get a Kickback" works its tinny snare-and-ride-cymbal groove into an elastic torsion that sounds like it's flaking off gold dust. The most effortlessly enjoyable jungle-today disc I've heard since DJ DB's 1999 Shades of Technology.
Like hell they're "hip-hop"—unless you're an even bigger middle-class dork than they are, in which case please keep to yourself privilege-flaunting pronouncements like, "These guys coming out of the ghetto . . . [are] projecting themselves as the godfather don of the system, whereas I think they should be rebelling against it. It could be set up by the American government, I don't know. The American government gives its money to Def Jam and P. Diddy to market this sort of, keep the ghetto culture striving for white excellence, diamond-studded mouthpieces and things. Whereas in my opinion there should be an uprising," as cLOUDDEAD member Doseone recently told The Wire. Gee, dude, are you thinking of the uprising in which those folks make what sounds more like remarkably well-constructed laptop-electronica albums that only arty bohos care about, maybe? How effective! Fight the Man! Thing is, I don't think a single laptop was used to make Ten. But treat it like a lo-fi audio collage even when it sounds crystal clear—the samples Doseone, Odd Nosdam, and Why? use are propped up like immaculately framed, black-and-white, surface-scratched photographs of fur balls—and no one will know the difference. Sure, there are those pesky voices to deal with—figuratively in that the singsong vocals and bleated verse do nudge this toward hip-hop, though not enough to suit anyone who actually likes rap music for what it is, and literally in that there's something grating in the way Why? and especially Doseone actually sound. Not to mention their deliberate obtuseness: "The Velvet Ant" has a hook that goes, "Strawberry in an ostrich throat," how, um, out there, maaaan. But pretend the vocals are just another instrument and you'll not only be fine—you'll be better off.
(City Centre Offices)
Boards of Canada remixed cLOUDDEAD's "Dead Dogs Too," and Arovane, aka Berlin's Uwe Zahn, frequently evokes Boards of Canada: somewhat plangent, dewily melodic, hazy, rustic. Unlike them, though, Zahn usually doesn't drag his skipping beats and twining little tunes through the screen door of memory and/or whatever filtering systems BoC's Eoin and Sandison employ. Lilies lives and dies on tune rather than texture, and its modesty becomes it—even when Zahn finally hits the effects pedals on "Tokyo Ghost Stories," whose drums sound like they're echoing down the hall of a secluded manor, while strings coil underneath like smoke.