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Thursday, Apr 28, 2011
Here Holy Spain offers tenacious thunder for the true blue rock 'n roll redux crow.

Here Holy Spain is rooted in Dallas’s oft-neglected music scene, but its punk grunt, sonic savviness, and gut-level rock ’n roll nuances explode well beyond the death zone of John F. Kennedy. Although irreverent neighbors like Reverend Horton Heat and the Toadies call North Texas a home, the megalopolis remains aloof in the American pop music consciousness compared to its southern sister Austin, which seems to ooze with reporters chasing the next trendsetters.


Up-close and face first, Here Holy Spain is a consummate power trio whose heavy combative licks feel more like the 1990s than today’s era of Cee-Lo and Arcade Fire. As such, the tough vein it probes is akin to the stoner rock of Nebula and Fu Manchu, with screamo edges for added potency, and moody, atmospheric rhythmic roiling too, such as the slowdowns on “Names” from its latest album Division .


Still, the group avoid minefields that might stem from its style: it avoids warp speed and amphetamine angst; it refrains from stuttering metallic mosh pit hamminess; and it doesn’t fly the flag of ornery hell-raising with a Southern backbone. The band is more methodical, balanced, and tuneful, able to wield rhythmic curves and deafening sonic blasts in equally controlled measures, as “Waiting, Wearing Your Skin” evinces.


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Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011
England's loquacious Lothario cuts a blazing path of heated poetry, jumbled sonics, and searing beats on his homebrewed release that's gaining some noteworthy attention in the UK. Currently touring his homeland, Dizraeli is humbly making a name for himself, keeping his feet rooted in home soil but a hopeful eye on bigger designs.

Dizraeli is a name that, at least on the American side of the pond, may have many scratching their heads. The British spoken-word artist/hip-hopper has been working a steady, mindful pace, setting his own course whilst picking up a growing number of admirers along the way. In 2009, Dizraeli unleashed his debut album, Engurland (City Shanties). The album finds the rapper delivering his sputter-quick rhymes deftly, whilst musing over love, both found and lost, in a time of social unrest. Spinning lyrical conundrums over hip-hop-jalopy beat-science, Dizraeli embodies the spirit of contradiction; he finds a fresh and unique counterpoint between the chest-thumping swagger of hip-hop braggadocio and the densely knotty theories found in your political science textbook. It’s a musical vision worlds away from the obscene displays of bling radiating from the glossies we’ve become accustomed to. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the artist infuses his words with razor-sharp acumen, traversing the line between aggression and hope, never once skimping on the grooves. Here, he talks about his introduction into UK’s beat-poetry scene, recording his debut, and the literary inspirations that feed his musical diet.   


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Tell me about your introduction into the beat poetry/spoken word scene that has emerged in the UK over the years. Can you give some of the details of your first forays into interacting with audiences in front of an open mic?


My introduction to spoken word was at university, at the African Caribbean and Asian Society’s poetry evenings. People came to perform words of all sorts, and I brought my rap lyrics to the mix. I’ve always thought of my work as songs, whether with musical accompaniment or nor—it’s still a surprise to me when I’m called a Poet. I write for music, in the same verse/chorus/verse form that songwriters have used forever. But nonetheless, what I do seems to work at poetry events. From university days I started going to the slams which had started up in Brighton—where I lived then—and found myself winning them. Slams were a completely new thing for me and for most English people, and they were an exciting place to meet writers and performers of all kinds; both a harsh competitive environment and the most fertile ground imaginable for creativity. My first slams were a slap in the face for me—I brought my very earnest utopian lyrics to this fairly tough, cynical arena and people didn’t get into them at all. I learned that people relate to what you have to say if you say it with humor and a sideways twist, not if you beat them over the head with a daisy chain.


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Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011
New this week from the depths of the electronic underground comes a new record from Brooklyn's FaltyDL, a hot potato back-to-back mix from Bok Bok and Jackmaster, plus a tearjerking dancefloor heater for the price of free.

This week I return to bring you a strong trio of electronic gems, as usual in the categories of an official release (album or EP), a DJ mix from the week, and an unofficial, free, or bootleg track, hopefully available to download. There is clear overlap between these three selections, something I make no apologies for—I like what I like, but the influences coming in on these artists music are notably varied, and connecting those dots will, I hope, be the fun part. 


FaltyDL - You Stand Uncertain (Planet Mu)


Brooklyn a la London producer Drew Lustman a.k.a. FaltyDL put out his second LP for the Planet Mu imprint this week, the follow-up to his 2009 debut Love Is a Liability. What was clear from that record—and a series of EPs he put out leading up to that release—was that 2-step and UK garage were the focal point of Lustman’s rhythmic palette. But despite the obvious nod to these sounds in his productions, they always seemed to be informed greatly by avant-garde jazz drums and hip-hop, two great reasons to choose New York as your jumping off point, and even greater reasons to flesh out a UK breakbeat already greatly indebted to hip-hop and its roots.


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Thursday, Feb 24, 2011
PopMatters chats with Rolf Klausener about the Acorn's superb and concise new record, No Ghost.

With their latest LP, No Ghost, Canadian folk-poppers the Acorn have done a strange thing: scaling down and de-glorifying their craft (after the immaculate Glory Hope Mountain from 2008), making it seem like a wonderful progression towards a woodsy, utopian breed of rock. There is an awful lot of joy in the record, as if time spent recording it in the wilderness—they retreated to an isolated cabin to piece the tunes together—was as freeing an experience as it should be, and the heaviness of Glory Hope Mountain had been lifted. Rolf Klausener was on hand to curtly and efficiently answer a few questions about No Ghost and shed a little light on its gestation.


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No Ghost—first things first, it’s not a concept album. In fact, there aren’t really any large themes drawing it together as such. Did you want to move away from the scale of Glory Hope Mountain?


In short, yes. The process of writing and recording No Ghost had little planning being it other than the location. Writing GHM was an all-encompassing affair which, creatively, dominated the better part of two years. For better or worse, we wanted No Ghost to be a lot less premeditated and commit to whatever came out of the cottage sessions.


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Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
To pair Jamie XX’s interest in this territory with a musical figure like Gil Scott-Heron makes even more sense than perhaps the original conceit of I’m New Here.

To pair Jamie XX’s interest in this territory with a musical figure like Gil Scott-Heron makes even more sense than perhaps the original conceit of I’m New Here. On Jamie’s official, Scott-Heron-approved remix record poignantly titled We’re New Here, Jamie bring Scott-Heron’s voice into the underground in the spirit of Heron himself. The breakbeat sounds of dubstep, hip-hop, and UK garage are at work here, and their relevancy to Heron’s spacious, spoken-word jazz material is essential.


Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX - We’re New Here (XL Recordings)


Last year poet, proto-rapper, and avant-garde jazz pillar Gil Scott-Heron returned to the fold with his first album in decades. Released on Richard Russell’s inimitable XL Recordings imprint I’m New Here is a collaborative affair between Russell and Scott-Heron that saw the revolutionary artist in the context of a sparse pastiche of 21st century electronic sounds. The result seemed to celebrate Scott-Heron’s legacy with a dose of nostalgia at the same time it launched Scott-Heron’s graying, monolithic voice into the future. The title said as much, re-casting Scott-Heron as a timeless figure, his visionary soul as new and fearless, as it was old and wise.


I’m New Here was undeniably Scott-Heron’s record, despite the musical crafting by Russell, and yet the potential for exploring the tensions between Heron’s legacy and his relationship to the underground of today could be mined even further.  Enter Jamie XX of breakout London R&B rock outfit the XX. Jamie is the band’s principal producer and supplier of the group’s electronic elements, and has—since the group’s meteoric rise—been making a name for himself as a member of the UK’s underground “bass music” scene.


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