Wednesday, 21 September 2011

PCCP cracks a smile as Smutlee unleashes a slew of edits

Now, anyone who has ever been promised any copy from me knows that speed and productivity are perhaps not my forte, so it makes me feel a whole lot better when I see Smutlee put something up on Soundcloud, as it reminds me that he's one person who could possibly give me a run for my money in in a lazy-bastard off.*

Cheap and utterly unfounded pops aside, I'm glad that my boy Smutlee doesn't flood the moombahton scene, as it allows us to fully savour what he does and maintains his status as the UK's first and finest producer of 108s. As I've mentioned elsewhere, his subtle transplanting of bashy vibes in place of the reggaeton element of Dave Nada's creation has worked a treat, and has been influential on up-and-coming producers - and was always utterly logical given that the UK urban scene landscape is informed more by dancehall vibes than latin ones.

Moombahton suffers from people who are content to try to work with the innovations of others, but Smutlee has never been like that - from the off he's forged his own sound, and his position on the scene shows that people are happy to wait as they know they won't be disappointed. He's actually been sitting on these edits since the start of 2011, since his cracking Mixpak session, don't you know - but the fact that they still sound impeccable and haven't dated in a scene that sprouts genres daily shows that he's on to something. From Majic, Look Pon Me and his Chambacu remix through to this batch, he's shown a ridiculous grasp of melodic hooks and an intuitive production style that searches for freshness and doesn't rely on a small clutch of tried-and-tested-yet-ultimately lazy samples.

He's working on original material at the moment, full of cowbell-handclap-whistle party goodness, so expect that to be released some time in 2017. Till then, drink in these beauties...

Stronger Clap (Smutlee Moombahton Edit) by smutlee

Hoodrat Stuff Hot Wuk (Smutlee Moombahton Edit) by smutlee

Mad Balloon (Smutlee Moombahton Edit) by smutlee

Hey You Driver (Smutlee Moombahton Edit) by smutlee

*This is not true. Smutlee is a highly productive man, who would probably rescue your nan from a burning house - he just doesn't release much.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Exclusive: Skinny Friedman gives PCCP the skinny on Moombahton De Acero 3

I love Young Robots. You love Young Robots. People who maybe don't even know about Young Robots will come to love it in time. How long it will take non-believers to love this Brooklyn-based label will depend on the speed of their Internet connection - but it'll be roughly the sum total of the time it takes to download Young Robot dons Skinny Friedman and Apt One's Moombahton De Acero 3 and take it all in.

The past few months on the Moombahton scene has seen the welcome arrival of a slew of buzz-rider kids, all full of enthusiasm, grand schemes and cracked software, yet of equal importance, a number of OGs who were perhaps taken for granted have asserted their rightful place in the pecking order with high-grade productions - I'm thinking Doc Adam with his La Reconquista EP, Sabbo with Deepaton and Lightning Eyez with his monumental Wildstyles comp. One of the pitfalls of this scene is the reliance on the idea of the fam - play up to the mutual support and you prosper, do your own thing and bypass the PR games and you'll sit in the stands. You rarely hear a peep from Apt One and Skinny, yet they're as important as anyone on the scene - when I first got into this beast, their first MDA EP was a key part of me becoming a mark - tracks like Apt's Con Alegria edit and Skinny's take on Count and Sinden's Mega nailed what made Moombahton so unique, and proved it had an unrivalled scope and an alchemic ability to improve almost any track. Skinny doesn't get the credit he deserves for helping to build a firm link with the urban scene, while everybody needs to go through their Serrato libraries and take stock of how Apt One has quietly and consistently delivered fuss-free bombs - just go back and listen to Fich So Sexy on Sabo's Moombahton Massive 3 EP, for starters.

This brings us to Moombahton De Acero 3. Immense. Apt One's deep latin banger Carlito is among my tracks of the year, full stop, a worthy partner piece to the fiesta vibes that Kwest, Sabo, Melo and Pickster have been dropping recently, but with the sweeping minor-key expanse of O-Wey by A-Mac. On the back of his Trap Rave release, Skinny has again truffle-pigged around in his hip hop roots and tweaked Drake into a more airhorn-friendly domain. Young Robots have also made a smart move by bringing Jay Fay and Cassius Slay into the fold, two up-comers who have already had maximum impact in a short space of time - check Jay's recent remix of Javier Estrada and Cassius' first EP.

I'm really pleased that Skinny added to his already wired, sleep-deprived state by taking the time to speak to PCCP and give us the lowdown on MDA3.

Now all you need to do is download
Moombahton De Acero 3 - and if you're in that New York place tonight, head to the launch party here...

I'll shut up now and let Skinny take over...

"It's crazy how big a part of our sets and our parties moombahton has become over the last year and change. Thanks to all the remixes and edits everyone's making, we can run seamlessly through house, dubstep, dancehall and 90's R&B. And the kids love it. The kids!
This is me and Apt One's third Moombahton De Acero compilation. It means Moombahton Of Steel, which is a nod to our Pittsburgh roots. Back when it was a funny experiment, it seemed like giving one's moombahton project a Spanish name was the thing to do. Now it honestly sounds a little corny, like when every rap album had a hip-house song with a bad pun based on the word 'house'. (Unrelated: we also did a hip-house EP.)As well as the usual remixes from me and Apt One, MDA3 also introduces Cassius Slay, Jay Fay and Tiny Cat, who we'll be working with on moombahton projects on our Young Robots label. Hope everyone loves it."

Skinny Friedman + DJ Apt One - Kick It! (Evil Dee)
"This flips the intro to Rawkus's Soundbombing I tape, with DJ Evil Dee yelling and the first few notes of Artifacts' Brick City Kids. We were underground rap heads back then and this was a big record for us. We used to play mad underground rap at house parties until the girls complained. So this is an homage to our backpacker past."

Skinny Friedman + DJ Apt One - Kick It! (Evil Dee) by Young Robots Records

Drake + Lil Wayne - "I'm On One (Skinny Friedman + Cassius Slay remix)
"Cassius Slay is my dudes CJ and Keith from Columbus. I was down there for some gigs this summer and we threw this together. Then we went to like five clubs that wouldn't let us in because we all had hats. Columbus is weird. I always have fun down there though."

Drake + Lil Wayne - I'm On One (Skinny Friedman + Cassius Slay remix) by Young Robots Records

Mark Reeve - Carlito (DJ Apt One remix)
"This is Apt in his element. I'm a lot more into the hard, dumb stuff and he goes for funkier, deeper tracks and you can see it in the tracks we've chopped up on the compilations. It creates a cool dynamic when we spin back to back though; we cover a lot of ground."

Mark Reeve - Carlito (DJ Apt One remix) by Young Robots Records

Tiny Cat - Touch
"Fundamentally, moombahton is an excuse to take genres into new speeds. Tiny Cat is a deep techno dude and he thought he hated moombahton until I broke it down for him like that. It gets hyped up as this offshoot of dutch house or dubstep, but smart DJs know it mixes well with dancehall, hyphy rap, NOLA bounce, etc etc. So dude hits me a couple days later with this totally original, synthed-out track, and it's probably gotten the best reception of all the tracks here."
Soulja Boy - All Black Everything (Jay Fay remix)
"I met Jay through Twitter after I used his Look Pon Me remix on a mixtape. When he started doing moombahton it was a no-brainer to try to get him involved. Dude is crazy talented. I love the bass drop on this one."
Cassius Slay - The Bouncer
"Anyways, CJ and I connected over a love of ignorant-ass rap music, so it caught me off guard when dude up and sent me a whole grip of original moombahcore. They're sitting on a lot of tracks and we're aiming for November for their EP."
Scottie B + King Tutt - African Chant (Skinny Friedman remix)
"One of my favorite Baltimore Club joints of all time, I don't think I played a single gig from 2006 to about 2008 without dropping African Chant. It slowed down pretty nicely."

Scottie B + King Tutt - African Chant (Skinny Friedman remix) by Young Robots Records

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Gerard Butler's new film - is this for real?

You know how they had all those McBain trailers in The Simpsons? The ones that totally nailed the ridiculousness of mainstream Hollywood genre conventions? It may be possible that Quantum Of Solace director Marc Forster has perhaps not realised that they were intended for rofls - either that or perhaps he thought he'd see if he could help kickstart an Heavily Armed Unassuming Person action sub-genre in the wake of Hobo With A Shotgun.

Either way, this looks... I can't quite put it into words. Curious? Bad? Lame? Potentially hilarious?

Turns out Machine Gun Preacher is actually based on the life of wrong-un-turned-top-bloke Sam Childers, who gave up a life of crime to set up orphanages in Somalia – therefore proving that yes, this film actually is indeed for reals. Thanks for the bad movie buzz-kill, real-life dude.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Nice one, London Film Festival

The line-up for the London Film Festival was announced today, which I'll have a rifle through soon enough.

While they're going out on a limb by programming the critically ooh-Jesus-really?-not-sure-let-me-get-back-to-you W.E., Madonna's allegedly shit/okay-ish new film (depending on how charitable you are), I think that's more than chalked off by the fact that they've also scheduled The Artist, Michael Hazanavicius' supposedly ravishing silent movies tribute. This got a lot of love from Cannes, providing a welcome distraction from the gravitas-gloomcore tagteam of Terence Malick's Tree Of Life and Lars von Trier's Melancholia.

Here's the trailer for your peepage, though it may be worth noting that the Weinsteins have their paws on it now, so they may have asked for dialogue to be added and for the black and white footage to be full technicolour by the time we get to see it. They have form, you know.

An open (though albeit belated) email to Jon Kwest

From: Neil Queen-Jones
Date: Tues, 6 Sept 2011
To: Jon Kwest
Re: Moombahjaz

Dear Mr Kwest,

It was with great anticipation and a little bit of a Japanese schoolgirl handclap-squeal combo that I received the email from you containing your latest release, Moombahjazz Vol 1, a 108bpm-dembow tribute to the great Tito Puente. Over the past god-knows how long, your tracks have never strayed far from 'oh fucking hell that's very good indeed', and even on the rare occasions that quality does vary, a lesser track would still be worth a solid 'oooooooh!' and a contented facial expression, not dissimilar to when finding a beer tucked away at the back of the fridge.

This time, however, I have to admit that I had some slight reservations. I've become concerned with moombahton's minor obsession with genre assimilation. I even got to the point of having chin-stroking, self-important chats about it with my moombah-peers about the issue, and feared that, on the back of Dust Mask, you too might be veering towards an over-reliance on that. I think there's a threshold of four new sub-genres a week - any more than that and the system starts glitching.

So you can imagine the size of the Japanese schoolgirl squeal-clap combo part 2 when it transpired that within the EP was Chang, an absolute screamer of a track that cannot be reisisted; a glorious, percussive, uplifting and joyous one that carries on the fiesta vibe you recently displayed with Cubia, your also-overwhelming track on Sabo's Moombahton Massive 5 EP.

Chang - Moombahjazz Vol 1 by Jon Kwest
Jon Kwest - Cubia ft on "Moombahton Massive V" by Jon Kwest

Of course, this does have the added disadvantage of making me look a dick in retrospect in terms of my whole genre cross-polination leading to moombahton retardation thing. But I'll take that swap, just this once.

Keep it up, and ta everso for the freebie.

Yours with an increased sense of faith,

Neil Queen-Jones

Thursday, 1 September 2011

New trailer for a great-looking film you might have to wait a while to see

Martha Marcy May Marlene, which hits the UK next February, was a massive hit at this year's Sundance, and reeks of that highbrow critic-luring, brooding US indie vibe that'll ensure folk will be talking about it for ages, then get forgotten about, a la Catfish.

Hat tip to Empire and Twitch.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Kool Kids Klub's Moombahton Special: the night the UK caught up

All photos: Lee Tickett

If you look closely enough, you can see the smear. The ugly, jealous smear left on the window, put there by my nose, after it was repeatedly pushed up against the pane, enviously watching the rest of the world enjoy what we here in Britain were being deprived of. Amid all the excitement and, yeah I admit it, my obsession for moombahton, one of my key joys was reading Marcus Dowling’s heady, sweaty, evangelical reports from the Moombahton Massive parties over in DC, along with raucous tales from the Arizonaton bashes of DJ Melo, Pickster One and Frank Mendez’s El Cuco fam. Meanwhile, the likes of Dave Nada, Heartbreak, Dillon Francis, Sabo, Munchi and Skinny Friedman were jetting all over Europe and the rest of the planet, spreading the word like hipster jehovah’s – yet apart from a short residency from Dillon Francis, the UK’s door remained unknocked.

The irony was painfully clear – for a scene forged in a global workshop, only a handful of geographically favoured people could get the full picture, right there, in the clubs, where moombahton truly makes sense – the punk-acid house energy streamlined by an unfettered, languid and sexy latin grace and nobility. Moshpits kicking off and G-spots being located on the dancefloor: the same hedonistic vibe you get from any great scene before it’s co-opted by the mainstream – the debauched freedom that comes from knowing you can do your own thing while the uninformed majority aren’t paying attention.

But it’s okay, we’re here now. It happened. The Kool Kids Klub, Smutlee and Jake Twell made moombahton work in the UK. This isn’t to demean what has gone on here before, far from it – both Club Popazuda’s Fiyahpowa and Boyfriend’s Club Tropicana were perfect ambassadors, both stepped up to try to bring moombahton to London, both were offered scant reward for their efforts. DJs, producers and club nights had also sprung up all over the country – but there had yet to be a major statement event that resoundingly gave the club scene the UK cosign to corroborate the media support from Toddla, Annie Mac, Mistajam and Nihal from BBC radio, and Mixmag and The Guardian *proud face x2*. Yeah, it’s arrogant of us to think that it matters, but even though we live in the era of a global community, this place remains an unquestionable epicentre of dance music - just ask Dave Nada: “I'm beyond excited about all the positive UK response to moombahton. To me that's the biggest compliment. I feel like if you win over the UK, then you’re automatically ahead of the curve.”

Anyway, we’re here now, we’ll have what you’re having, ta very much – and it’s all down to The Kool Kids. Alex Baker, George Smith and Justin Reid-Simms already stood tall on the bass scene from their base in Southend, just outside of London - their last three guests were Toddla, Annie Mac and French Fries, while A-Trak, Herve have also done a shift, as have any number of up-and-coming talents like Mele and Warrior One. If you do bass, you either play or want to play there. The Kool Kids haven’t just swooped in to claim the prize, by the way – when I discovered moombahton last year, two of the first people I found in the UK who were on it here were Smutlee and Justin, Whole Sick if you want to find him on Soundcloud. For around a year, Whole Sick was dropping 108s into his warm-up sets, to the point that Smutlee’s Majic had become a minor anthem.

There’s a neat symmetry to it happening outside of London. With the rise of regional hip hop and moombahton setting up shop in DC and Phoenix, the dominance of traditional cultural meccas like New York and London has been challenged. Arguably, it was the strength and diversity of the London club scene that stopped it bedding in earlier, with both Fiyahpowa and Club Tropicana coming up against a city with a fiercely competitive club scene that wasn’t keen on nurturing fledgelings. Away from that mecca pressure, it can grow, and it’s no coincidence that many of the producers and DJs in the UK are from outside London – guys like Twell, Jamrock, Mr9Carter, Untimely Sounds, Jera and Jimi Needles.

So logic was on the Kool Kids’ side, as was the crowd - loyal, committed and fervent. If you have a crowd’s trust, you have more freedom to take them places. It’s only right that Whole Sick prepped the crowd for Smutlee – and gave us the first of the night’s key moments, supervising the switch to 108 for a crowd weaned on 130. After French Fries’ Senta got the place up, a pitched-up DJ Sabo’s Spock’s Delight dropped – which could have indicated an evening of compromise, but instead it morphed smartly into Snoop’s Drop It Like It’s Hot - and then back to the Sabo track at the correct speed. The gear shift was palpable – as was the cultural shift. The hard part over, Smutlee had carte blanche. Lee excels in smart, melodic, well-crafted sets, warm in character and diversity. From his own dancehall-informed edits, to the metronomic squeaks of Halo Nova’s Get Sticky, via DJ Melo’s Told Ya, that Get Yr Freak On edit by Alvaro that I really need to get my hands on and Heartbreak’s monstrous remix of Toddla’s Watch Me Dance, Smutlee packaged up the depth and breadth of this sound, and provided symbolic moments two and three. Much of what was played early on had the feel of a Trojan horse, edits with enough familiarity to reel in those on the fence, so hearing Ckrono’s edit of Samim’s Heater felt pivotal. Sure, it’s an edit, too, but its cleaner use of the dem bow, reined-in bass and cumbia-tinted melodies suggested a point in the night when moombahton stopped wanting to be something else and claimed a spot of land for itself. Then Smutlee delivered a simple, devastating few minutes: Daft Punk’s Da Funk into Dave Nada’s Moombahton, two mid-paced, unique EDM icons providing a sweaty cosign. Next to DC, we’re at ground level still here, so you’ll forgive me for reading small moments as portentous.

There was nothing small about Jake Twell’s set, though. Put simply, Smutlee popped the cork, then Jake quickly shotgunned the contents (note: check metaphor works before publishing). Twell’s one of the nascent UK producers brought over to the scene from dubstep by Munchi’s Firepower, and brings a sound that works on a partycore level of beats and bass that both bounce and wobble. His set felt like blue balls being drained in the middle of a primal scream therapy session – the pressure of a year’s wait being released in one fierce burst. It was a blistering set, and the kind you can only ever hear once, packed with the cherry-picked killers that people aren’t tired of yet. This was Moombahton 101, bringing newbies up to speed at pace: Firepower, King Kong, Cam Jus’ Big Boss, Sandungueo, Sabo’s Jump Around – tick, tick tick. Yet this wasn’t just a hall-of-fame routine, this was fully up to speed, with still-fresh tracks like Sazon Booya’s La Bomba, Pickster’s Dem Bow Is The New Amen and Bro Safari’s Wombats ensuring that this was no half measure.
It worked - Smutlee and Twell helped the Kool Kids provide a platform for moombahton to grow here in the UK, using both tropical and bass as door wedges to let it in. Seeing that Munchi played London shortly after, and Smutlee gained his wings by playing at New York’s Que Bajo, signs are this won’t be the end of it. The real pity is that The Kool Kids appear to have no immediate plans to follow it up, which is a huge shame, as they could seriously boss it here in the UK. Who will profit from their hard work? We’ll see.

It’s funny, a few years back, I was writing a new music column for The Times’ website, and the need to write about the newly formed Mumford & Sons was far outweighed by the urge to big up what was emerging stateside, hipster rap, with acts like The Cool Kids offering a buoyant, populist sound that cut across much of what I was hearing. We all know where that ended up. Yet, now, another buoyant, populist sound just took a step to making the grade. It’s an irony that isn’t lost on me: Kool Kids 1, Cool Kids 0.