Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Download: Guapo Feo drops a different kind of moombahsoul

We've all been loving David Heartbreak's Moombahsoul comps, haven't we? Of course we have – they're as slick as a Brylcreem otter making his move on a sexy lady otter during the BP oil disaster, and they've been a welcome antidote to the dominance of the Dirty Dutch sound and its sometimes-meh derivatives that tend to boss the moombahton scene. It's also provided a much-needed stepping stone to an expansive, more developed use of melody and texture that's essential if this thing is to last beyond the point when the hipsters sell up and leave (freebie joke that you'll have already heard 23 times, courtesy of somebody or other: hear about the hipster who burned his tongue? He ate his pizza before it was cool).

Yeah, so we're all about the moombahsoul, agreed? Then say thank you to New Yorker Guapo Feo for reminding us that soul music is also about passion, raw emotion and dizzying highs and lows with his edit of Nothing But A Heartache by The Flirtations, which just happens to genuinely be my joint all-time favourite Northern Soul tune (Chapter 5's You Can't Mean It is the other, if you're bothered). Given that Northern Soul is so raw, and the prodcution on the original track was so warm and full of life, Guapo's edit could have easily gone very wrong. It doesn't - hear it for yourself...

Animal Kingdom DVD review

Clammier than Ryan Giggs’ hands when his lawyer calls, this Australian crime drama has emphatically placed one foot in the cult-classic section of our collective cinematic heart. After being taken into care by his aunt, youngster J (James Frecheville) inadvertently finds himself bang in the middle of tense battle for survival among the notorious Cody crime family – with each of his cousins locked in their own particular struggle with grim fate.

Right from the word go, Animal Kingdom hits homes with its distinct take on the crime genre, less concerned with the spoils of felony, more with the family’s quest to maintain their status under unsurmountable pressure – the police are arguably even more arseholy and ruthless than they are, and the crooks' long-term prospects are starting to look increasingly grim. The siege mentality that springs from this persecution fuels a gloriously ironic domesticity, soap-esque, that undercuts much of the bravado – two of the gang discuss getting proper jobs while picking up milk at the supermarket, while the deceptively cruel matriarch Smurf directs traffic from the kitchen. The pecking order that gives this film its title also plays itself out, with the weakest through to the strongest asserting their place in the food chain – none more than the feral Pope, thanks to a kettle-boiling performance from Ben Mendelsohn, whose sullen fa├žade struggles to contain his primal scumminess, and Jacki Weaver’s Smurf, whose dark and twisted version of maternal instincts earned the Oscar nod that helped firm up Animal Kingdom’s status. Like A Prophet before it, Animal Kingdom plonks J into this territorial domain, letting his survival instincts lead the narrative.

As J starts to find his place, the consequences begin to stack up and the tight-knit bonds begin to unravel. Guy Pearce’s Detective Leckie spots what remains of the old J and sees a chance to bring the family down – the youngster has both his and his family’s fates in his hands, and the consequences of his actions have huge consequences for all involved.

Tight, tense, sweaty, gripping and addictive, Animal Kingdom is excellent from start to finish. Flip to the extras and you’ll find the usual suspects: theatrical trailer and director interviews. All told, there’s no reason for you not to buy it.

Animal Kingdom is out now on DVD and Blu-ray

Less Than Zero: who wants to watch a film projected onto a load of fridges?

If you live in the Hackney area and have a love of films that's matched by both an undying admiration for the common fridge's continued contribution to society and a sadness at how the Olympic urban renewal programme has come at the expense of a hideous eyesore, then Films On Fridges is the event you've been waiting for. Starting tomorrow, Wednesday 27th July, Films On Fridges will adding to the lively pop-up cinema scene by projecting a season of classic and new sports films onto a recreation of east London's infamous Fridge Mountain, a 20ft-high stack of discarded fridges which used to call the site of the new Olympic home.

FOF kicks off with a sold-out screening of Rocky, then follows it up with the likes of Cool Runnings (duh), Escape To Victory, Rio Breaks, Saint Etienne's What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day? and the premiere of Pelada, the SXSW-wowing documentary which looks at how the love of football veers towards being a faith that can help people around the world cope with hardship *points to trailer below*

Find out more about Films On Fridges here – or buy tickets to the screenings here.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Dammit, I got sucked in by the Star Wars deleted scenes press release

Yeah, it goes without saying that we all got off the Star Wars bus at around the same time. For me, it was the moment that Liam Neeson uttered the line: "You hear that? That is the sound of a thousand terrible things coming this way," which, for me, is the yardstick by which all bad dialogue can be judged. Then there's the whole Lucas the cultural desecrator thing, with each repackaging of the series digging away at what was left in my heart of the child that stood in line for hours with his dad to get in to see them first time round.

But God damn you, Lucas, there's something almost untainted about the raw footage in this clip for the forthcoming Blu-ray extras which could almost make up for the many of those failings.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Download: Jon Kwest's new Dust Mask compilation

Seeing the name Jon Kwest on something means you have a guarantee that what's within is going to be somewhere between top quality and the top drawer, so arms are well and truly open for his new compilation, which sees moombahton hanging around the M25 waiting for the tip-off for the location of the party, rediscovering the original rebel buzz of UK Hardcore.

Moombahton's rapid progress is in part due to its quest to push its limits, to experiment with genre conventions to see what fits. The beat beneath is fine, that's pretty much locked – a hearty dem bow rhythm set to 108bpm or thereabouts, just tickle the snare texture and add percussion to taste. But everything else on top is up for grabs – we've had Heartbreak pushing both the soul and dancehall elements, and now Philly-based producer and BMore Original don Jon Kwest is drawing a line between moombahton and the rawness of Hardcore for his new Dust Mask comp, which you can download now from Pop Culture Care Package.

Let's let Mr Kwest fill us in: "I was around to hear these originals when they dropped, I had a sister who listened to house music and I recognized, even then, that most of the songs were just two existing popular house/techno records sped up with a Simon Harris break over it and I loved it! Not to say I didn't love the original tunes, but something about just snatching something and making it new always appealed to me. There are a lot of parallels between UK Hardcore and Moombahton - back then they sped it up, now we slow it down. Some people hated it when they first heard it, then grew to love it. It was, and still is, all about a good nasty time. I can't tell you how proud I am of this project. Despite their busy schedules, everyone really came through and showed their ass!"

With respect to said guys - like Smutlee, DJ Melo, Uncle Jesse - I'm not sure if I want to see their asses. No offence, you understand. Bare cheeks aside, this ongoing genre-dipping restlessness may suggest an identity crisis, but it feels more like a drive to find a sweet spot. The riffs of Dirty Dutch house have a finite appeal for mant, so exploring formats to find one new magic element that sets off the beat is totally logical. Either that, or moombahton is the proverbial shark that dies when it rests. While there's the potential for Dust Mask to be little more than a new angle, instead it's a project that finds its own spot. A while back, I figured that the UK guys would soon be producing a sound that had the fierceness of moombahcore with the drive and party bounce of moombahton, but it hasn't quite panned out like that, instead the US boys have moved towards that – and this comp is packed with it, taking the dubstep-derived moombahcore wobble and fusing it with the siren blare of Hardcore. Also, at the moment there's a need to further nail the use of melodies beyond the snippet sample – Dust Mask in places takes on that challenge, with heavily reverbed vocal lines and the naggingly hypnotic gargantuan riffs reminding us that killer beats and placeholding melodic considerations won't be enough in the long term. There are some beauts from the likes of Kwest himself, DJ Melo, Smutlee, Uncle Jesse, Ckrono, Pickster One and the Tactic boys — now all you need to do is download the damn thing and tuck in.

Then head make sure you over to Jon's place at Moombah Original and grab the mixtape that goes with the comp.






The Awsome 3 - Don't Go ............... Nate Metro Ft Avonlea (Pickster One Rmx)

Bass Boy - Let The Bass Be Louder ....................... Steve Konkel & Nate Metro

Skin Up - Juicy Red Apple .............................................................. Jon Kwest

2 Bad Mice - Bomb Scare (Ckrono Rmx) .............................................. Ckrono

Rocking Down The House .................................................................. DJ Melo

The House Crew - Keep The Fire Burning ......................................... Jon Kwest

2 Bad Mice/Flippa Mafia/Cham - Bomb Scare (Smutlee Rmx) ............... Smutlee

Cosmo & Dibs - Star Eyes .................................................................... Tactic

Acen - Close Your Eyes (Optikonfusion) .......................................... Jon Kwest

Circa '91 - Can You Feel Me (Sonido R&N Ghettocore Rmx) ... Rampage y Nader

2 Bad Mice - Drum Trip ............................................................... Uncle Jesse

Halo Nova: Goombahton review

You can’t review this EP without first acknowledging the people who released it, Generation Bass, and without also them giving a hat-tip for their contribution to moombahton as a whole. From the off they’ve championed, encouraged and given a home to everyone who’s flirted with the sound, be they Munchi or the guy who made that really ill-advised moombahcore edit of the Inspector Gadget theme that Umb is hopefully still hanging his head in shame for posting. They’ve given focus, momentum and legitimacy to the scene, pretty much helped to make moombahcore a genre in its own right - and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it would have been a far less unified community without them.

This is their first moombahton digi release and another example of how GenBass’ links with dubstep have brought a gritty look to proceedings, a big move which has helped prevent this burgeoning movement slipping into the haha!-no-seriously-is-that-what-that-thing-is-blimey-kids-these-days-will-listen-to-any-shit, along with Skweee and other things which I’m not motivated enough to look up on Google. Florida-based dubstep producer Nick Pittsinger aka Halo Nova has tried to bring a more refined, cleaner sound at a time when the movement is desperate to shake off the stigma of being just a bunch of edits. For the lead track Get Sticky, he's switched the formative Dirty Dutch riffs for tweaky acid, a sensible move that a few, like the Philidelphynz Skinny Friedman and Lighning Eyez, have tried before, and the online dating agency has then paired that up with some percussive military procession drums, all of which layered over the 108bpm Dem Bow-derived beats that are a must if you want to get in the metaphorical or literal moombahton club.

Get Sticky bears all the hallmarks of somebody trying to do something new, but along the way something feels like it got slightly lost - moombahton is nothing without a dirty great bottom end, which is where this slightly loses its edge and feels slightly too first-day-at-school in its efforts as a result. This actually isn’t much cause for concern though, as Sabbo, the ever-impressive Israeli, offers up a remix which both papers over the cracks and makes sure there are biscuits for the decorators. The acid is acidier, the beats are enough to entice Stephen Hawking debate the neurological function of swag and the drops bring out the inner beast within the track. The EP is worth it for that track alone. Shazalakazoo, the Ernie Wise straightman to Neki Stranac’s light-hearted edit Eric Morecambe tries a more controlled approach, sticking closer to the original, just smartening it up for its appearance on iTunes.

Anyone who knows Umb and Gen Bass will know their love of moombahcore, and it’s perhaps surprising there's not more evidence of that here, but Panty Raid at least ensures that those who like their tracks to be able to perform a colonic are catered for, though if I'm going to get said colonic, the big party vibes and carnival whistles here at least ease the pain.

The good people at GenBass wanted PCCP readers to have a taste in the form of the instrumental version of Get Sticky, which you can download here.

After you've done that, you can get the bus and buy Goombahton down at your local iTunes.

Essential Killing DVD review

There can’t be many things more irritating for a Guardian-reading, Quorn-eating smug artsy critic than watching a left-of-the mainstream film by a foreign director and coming away wondering if you’ve missed something. Not, like, a key plot moment or a hidden subtext, but, you know, the whole bloody thing. That’s intellectual impotence on my part. Embarrassing.

Maybe it’s not me. My gut feeling is that Essential Killing is striking, bold, beautifully shot, engaging and thoughtful, but there’s a whole load of other things that it should be, but sadly isn’t – like compelling, entertaining or similar. It may very well be me, but I once retweeted something really noble about boycotting something or other, so that says what kind of guy I am. Anyway, after killing a team of US soldiers, a Middle-Eastern insurgent rebel (Vincent Gallo) is captured and transferred to a Guantanamo Bay-style facility for the kind of full-board hospitality that has earned the US military a respectable spot on TripAdvisor. Now, we’re okay up till this bit; crazy-eyed beardy Gallo as the captive is a superb piece of casting which brings with it plenty of moral ambiguity as to who the enemy really is, echoing the Shoe Bomber Richard Reid and the tales of Guantanamo Bay inmates who were actually British shop assistants. Granted, Gallo’s character is clearly guilty of at least multiple murder, but the moral gray areas hang there – we’re given no clear guide on who’s the bad guy here, especially as we spend a great deal of time watching from Gallo’s perspective before he’s subjected to waterboarding and the kind of physical abuse that would be called at least a foul in a dead-arm competition.

So a curious moral position is established – do we empathise with the prisoner or the real victims? Are we meant to weigh up the validity of the entire conflict? It doesn’t matter that much, as things soon veer off. While being driven to a part of Europe where the army is permitted to get a tad more freestyle with its torturing, the truck crashes, offering Gallo the chance to escape into a wintry wilderness. What’s left is a chase movie, with Gallo evading capture, scavenging for food and fighting for his survival in a hostile, but cinematically pretty, environment. Given that we’re encouraged to put ourselves in the fugitive’s shoes and there's no dialogue to help construct a narrative, it takes on an element of a first-person computer game. The problem is that the game in question feels like a rejected first-draft demo of Metal Gear Solid, more particularly the moment in the game when you’re not quite sure how to solve the next bit and instead start jumping around like Leeroy Jenkins and hitting the action button in the vain hope that you stumble upon something. The good news for Gallo is that his peformance was the only thing that got me through it, as the lack of dialogue focuses it all on his suffering and need to survive getting a thespy channeling – and as a result he got to be in an Old Spice ad for the finale. So he's all right.

As for the extras, there’s an interview with director Jerzy Skolimowsky and some CGI production footage of the sequence where Gallo is hunted down by helicopter, which is sadly the kind of thing most people will by now take for granted. Maybe it’s me who’s wrong and Essential Killing is actually a smart and brave deconstruction of modern narrative methods and a critique of a war that nobody wanted. Personally, I wouldn’t put any big money on that.

Essential Killing is out now on DVD and Blu-ray

Monday, 18 July 2011

Moombahton 2011: A Quick Catch-Up, Plus Moombahsoul Volume 1 Review

Another month, another batch of big moments in moombahton’s development. It’s getting to the point where epoch-definition ennui is close to setting in; it's almost becoming de rigeur. If one thing sums up how accelerated the progress is it’s this: the release of Mad Decent’s Blow Your Head compilation was supposed to herald moombahton’s ascent and establish mainstream legitimacy - yet that buzz was quickly supplanted: Dillon Francis dropping the video for Que Que then remixing Calvin Harris, CSS, Chase & Status, Digitalism and probably even yer ma, Munchi playing to god-knows-how many thousands at Sonar, Nadastrom’s glorious tickling of The Weeknd’s House Of Balloons and their Church collabo with Heartbreak getting an airing, Diplo doing the full-on cosign with a mixtape, Generation Bass releasing Halo Nova's EP, the UK club scene potentially blowing up with the Kool Kids Klub special - and David Heartbreak firing off Blaze Up on his EP for Toddla T’s Girls Music after dropping his Moombahsoul comp. I’ve probably missed a hundred of other things, and by the time you read this there’ll have been a hundred more, during which time Neki Stranac will have finally fused to his hard drive after making his millionth edit.

It’s exciting to watch. From the moment Munchi took it from DC to Rotterdam, the defining feature has been a global wide-eyed eclecticism and a kids-in-the-sandbox abandon. Dave Nada’s original template of Dirty Dutch plus reggaeton has been fucked with so thoroughly and frequently that even if you’re not feeling that style, there’s the punch and scrape of moombahcore, the balearic textures of Sabo and Obeyah, while moombahsoul is there to make sexy in your ear. What’s also admirable is the flexibility of the pecking order. The swift ascent of El Cuco Records and guys like Australia’s J-Trick, Sazon Booya and DJ Melo cohort Pickster One has shown that quality is allowed to show through and that everyone is given a fair crack. Many look to Nada, Munchi, Dillon and Heartrbeak for the breakthrough, Sabo, Smutlee and Boyfriend can all make a difference with one drop, and time feels ripe for the one thing that puts a match under this thing.

Heartbreak & Toddla T Blaze up ( That Jeffrey ) by David Heartbreak

You can see it coming – tracks are being produced that reek not of the bedroom, but of the big rooms – moombahton is mutating and honing a sound that appeals to both the loyal and the uninitiated. For me, Cam Jus’ edit of Aaliyah’s R You That Somebody sums it up, redolent of all that we love, the beats and touchstones are all spot on, yet it’s working in perfect harmony with a pre-established mainstream sound – that there is a calling card to any major label looking to commission a remix. I’d argue that Cam’s track is as key, if not more, than Major Lazer going 108 for his remix of The Beastie Boys Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win. It’s not all about the potential for commercial success; no underground scene really wants to be defined in terms of commercial acceptance, but the producers involved here deserve something back for giving so much for free for so long.

Aaliyah - r u that somebody (brenmar remix) (cam jus edit) by Cam Jus

Though I’ve mooted that any producer can make a difference, one of the usual suspects will surely be the first to break out. Munchi has the respect of everyone, and his productions command instant hype, thanks to his flair, passion, imagination and untouchable freshness. Munchi's more interested in making the right move, rather than the big move, and in turning down jobs that would have sent him and the scene skywards - yet push the movement in the wrong direction - he’s taken a hell of a punt and seemingly put the long-term integrity of the scene before his own profit. Heartbreak’s off-the-pitch effort is as key as his tracks – nobody works harder at broadening the scene’s horizon, as his spots on the BBC’s Asian Radio and moombahsoul comp show - and his proposed moombashment comp will only reinforce that. The sheer scope and weight of Dillon Francis’ remixes show how his sound works in a wider setting and is getting recognised by the industry at large – though thank fuck he delvered a dubstep remix for the noxious plastic-swag X Factor concoction that is Cher Lloyd, rather than a moombahton one. Jesus. The more curious case is what Dave Nada does next; Blow Your Head aside, only a small clutch of strong, stylistically progressive remixes have emerged while peers have been getting busy – all eyes will be on his next move, this may be one he doesn’t want to get wrong.

Still, Cold War Kids syndrome looms large, the phenomenon where blogger frenzy fails to translate to anything substantial. While that notion suggests that internet warriors are no match for the system, it strikes me that this time it’s subtly different, that the initial impulse is stronger and from a different place. Firstly, it’s a primal drive, not an intellectual one. People react to it in the club, lose their shit, then, because of that, guys like Marcus Dowling, DJ Umb, Chris Kelly, Walmer Convenience, myself et al rationalise it and help to push it. It’s validated in the clubs before many blogs even have a sniff. They aren’t setting the pace - the producers, DJs and clubbers are. Big difference. Moombahton isn’t on the verge of selling out, it’s just found its feet. And anyway, as for selling out, I don’t think that’s a problem: it always was a populist, euphoric sound that simply retooled that which is already culturally accepted.

For me, David Heartbreak’s Moombahsoul Volume 1 comp represents an important step, a sign that the scene has nailed the ability to be emotionally expressive. Emotive, minor-key tracks have been slipping through: I nearly wept when I first heard the Nadastrom remix of Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition, though granted that was due to the unfortunate synchronicity of discovering that Fernando Torres was leaving Liverpool for Chelsea, the bastard. It’s okay, I’m over it now. A-Mac’s skyscraping O-Wey also delivered rich emotional melodic texture, and Nadastrom’s tryptch of remixes - Alex Clare, The Weeknd and The Deathset – are all far warmer and soulful than anything they’ve managed so far. But for me, Moombahsoul delivered – and provided a bold counterpoint to the bombastic Blow Your Head. Both house and drum n bass scenes had a similar fork in their paths, when producers sought to gentrify their sound and infer heft - but those shifts were laden with snobbery, even the names deep house and intelligent drum n bass were elitist. No such problem this time, Hearbreak is just expanding the scene rather than splitting it – there’s no rejection of the parent sound, this is polymathbahton.

Anyway, Moombahsoul vol.1 is at turns beautiful , sensual, stylish and utterly sumptuous. HB’s I Am Legend and Munchi’s Me And My Bitch (which only Spinal Tap’s Lick My Love Pump can top for gloriously inappropriate titling) were early flare signals on the H/M EP of what was to come, and both are included here. This is pure coffee-table business; a fur-rugs, drinks-on-ice and big-pack-of-condoms album. Sonora contributes with two radiant, luxurious downtempo R&B rerubs, which make whale songs sound like a row outside a Weatherpsoons in Romford at kicking-out time fighting over the last cab in comparison. It goes on: Cam Jus’ Ease The Pain counterpoints sweeping diva-isms with his trademark tougher production, and Jon Kwest maintains his rep as a go-to guy for well-crafted, flawless edits with two smooth and hypnotic joints. There are some truly divine moments. Given that this is a pet project for Heartbreak, it’s only fair that he should boss this, and his take on The Weeknd’s Rolling Stone is magical, while new tracks Style And Grace and Mi Amor make him four for four – but for me, two tracks loom large over the others. DJ Melo and Kwest’s team-up for Ecstasy is one of the most striking tracks to emerge from the entire scene, let alone this comp – the clean beats drive a winsome, soulful and gently cascading landscape of lilting chord pads and sweeping builds that are smooth enough to clear a Russian’s hangover. And then there’s Munchi. His Despair floored me when I first heard it. Deeply cinematic, mournful and haunting, its heartbreaking and childlike Art Of Noise-esque melody is genuinely moving - which comes as no surprise when you learn that it’s partly a tribute to his cousin, who sadly passed away last year. Talk about a sound maturing, that’s it right there. Munchi’s talents were never in any doubt, nor was his dexterity, but this suggests what he’s capable of, that he’s not just a man of ridiculously agile beats and intricate and fresh productions.

DJ Melo & Jon Kwest - Ecstasy by azdjmelo

Still, Moombahsoul is dominated by certain types of glossy arrangements, and I feel in some places that some of the tracks are weighed down by their source materials, but that fails to undermine what’s an impressive outing. Vol.2 can’t come quick enough. Same goes for everything else that moombahton has in store. I’m constantly being surprised and impressed by the sheer volume, quality and passion that the scene is generating. Bring it.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Treat yourself : download DJ Melo's moombahton edit of Foster The People's Pumped Up Kicks

Ah, email. So often the bearer of press releases so bland that even mustering the energy to delete them is a struggle. Not the one I got within the past few minutes. No, that one contained a new edit from DJ Melo, one of the safest pairs of hands on the moombahton scene. Having grown with the sound, Melo has honed hius skills to the point where he always turns in top-drawer, impressive productions, with his impeccably smooth beats always matched by an ear for rich mood and texture - his is always a deep sound, whether its an airhorn banger or a more sedate, slick latin-soaked workout.
You can hear all that for yourself in said edit, which I'm passing on to you kids. Taking Foster The People's already blissful, dreamy and Summery Pumped Up Kicks, it's now all the more blissfuler, dreamier and Summeryer, and all the more seductive and swish, thanks to our friend from Arizona.

Here you go...

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