Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Decadance UK / Shaanti
What’s underground about dance music anymore? Absolutely nothing. Like anything that starts off in opposition to the mainstream, the culture-mongers soon get hold of it, polish the rough edges away, and sell it on. Punk soundtracks Hollywood blockbusters, Hip Hop sales overtake Country sales, Electronica sells cars. Up next? The Urban Underground. The title is a lie; for ‘urban’ read ‘Asian’.
So what’s here? Artful Dodger rhyming “room” with “Mills & Boon” and deserving to be shot. A remix of the Knightrider-sampling Punjabi MC tune (plus the original too, as if you hadn’t fucking heard it enough already), Ganja Cru and Transglobal Underground and a half-dozen others peddling anonymous, aimless drum n bass/garage/hip hop/Asian fusion.
About half the tracks are worth bothering with. Shabz knocks off a couple of cuts of wicked Asiatic dub on the first disc, all rubbery bass, droned melodies and eerie backing vocals. Asian Dub Foundation find themselves remixed into some jerky drum n bass that sounds like they couldn’t be bothered but is still the most underground thing here. Mindi Dhaliwal gets close to being blissfully brilliant and Beenie Man bangs it out on top. With so many compilations and mixes lining the shelves these days you’ve gotta be offering something pretty special to stand out, and this set doesn’t quite cut it.
Jason Pierce’s sixth album as Spiritualized sticks two fingers up at the detractors of his last, over-orchestrated LP and shows that the Rugby Spaceman hasn’t forgotten how to rock. Stripped back to basics and recorded in secret, Amazing Grace is the heaviest and most concise thing Jason’s ever been involved with, and yet still miraculously finds time to throw in some inspired free-jazz skronk and beatific post-everything minimalism.
This Little Life Of Mine borders on unlistenable heaviosity while Cheapster puts the nu-rock revolution to shame (Jason’s been doing this since you were in nappies, kids) by shoving Chuck Berry into the twenty-first century. The Power And The Glory winds through rapturously spacious piano beginnings to find a seething, honking instrumental climax, and Lord Let It Rain On Me finally nails that gospel thing that’s been bugging Pierce for years.
Sure, the lyrics descended into abominable rock n roll cliché years ago and Jason’s now a respectable father fast approaching middle-age rather than a translucent teenage drug-rock messiah (who once wrote a song called Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To), but musically he’s a cut above anybody else even getting close to mining a similar seam. He’ll never make a record as good as Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space again, but he’s still more than capable of making an occasionally divine racket.
Time (The Revelator), Gillian Welch’s third album of minimal roots country, saw her delve as deep as is safe to go into the realm of depressive self-realisation, the final, 14-minute track (I Dream A Highway) reaching a point of unavoidable exorcism as the layers of her very soul were stripped away to nothingness. Soul Journey shows that after reaching rock bottom, the only conceivable way to go is back towards the light.
To the uninitiated Welch’s fourth LP might sound like downbeat country-blues, but fans will recognise it as a bold embrace of positivism. Compared to the dust and bones of her earlier work, the acquisition of drums, fiddle, and *gasp* electric guitar makes this as revolutionary a step for Welch as Dylan going electric. Spiritually too, this is as gospel music next to the death and heartbreak of before. Look At Miss Ohio is a statement of selfish intent informing us that Gillian’s going to enjoy singing us these songs for once.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Soul Journey is all sweetness-and-light country-pop though. One Monkey’s steady drum pulse and cathartic repetition is as harrowing as anything Nick Cave could dream of lately, and the jaunty swagger of No One Knows My Name hides a confessional birthright lyric that cuts like a knife, while Wrecking Ball is a ravaging thrill. Soul Journey is already one of the year’s very best albums.
6/10/2003 01:17:00 pm