Wrongtom Meets Deemas J: In East London

Rooted in the past, very much of the here and now Wrongtom and Deemas J produce a great British album.

Wrongtom meets Deemas J

In East London

UK Release Uk: 2012-09-24
Label: Tru Thoughts
US Release Date: 2012-09-24

It’s Tuesday 23rd October. Looking distractedly out of the window as I contemplate writing this review it’s grey, foggy, damp and worse of all, the clocks go back this weekend which means us poor folks in the UK lose a precious hour of daylight as we sink deeper into winter.

But then the horns kick in on "Old Time Stylee" and I turn my head away from the outside and I’m transported to back to a hot summer, sometime in the '80s, as Deemas’ dancehall/ragga vocals break through under a throbbing bassline and everything is alright again in my world. This album makes you smile, bob your head and skank around the house. It’s utterly infectious.

Producer and DJ Wrongtom has been a fixture in and on the dancehall/dub/club scene for some time, originally making a name for himself with his remix work for indie ska heads Hard Fi. But it was his remix of Roots Manuva’s single “Buff Nuff” which was so well received he ended up in a full blown collaboration with Roots which resulted in the brilliant Duppy Writer album. That album was credited as Roots Manuva meets Wrongtom and sowed the seeds for a number of …meets Wrongtom releases of which this is the latest incarnation (albeit it is now Wrongtom meets…).

In East London plays homage to Wrongtom and Deemas J’s musical upbringing, explicit in the Dancehall tracks that recall greats like Smiley Culture, Tippa Irie and Barrington Levy, but it also serves to show the debt that current London acts owe to the music from this era, from Dizzie Rascal to Plan B highlighting the links from Dancehall to Hip Hop to Grime to Dubstep. But the album, and I guess this is pretty obvious by the title, is also a love letter to London Town.

“Old Time Stylee” has Deemas J talking us through his musical history reminding us of going "On a Saturday / I have a residency / Down a club Labyrinth, a Hackney you see / The jungalist business where we make the party" in his unmistakable London patter. This is such a joyous, head-nodding introduction to the album and segues into the single ‘"Jump+Move+Rock" with a heavier bass line and machine gun vocals from Deemas J which most closely resembles Smiley Culture in his heyday. Apparently all done in one freestyle take, it is almost impossible not to dance to this track.

Next up is “Riot Ting” a social commentary on the riots that struck London (and other cities in England) last year, it doesn’t condemn nor condone the actions of those rioting but neatly sums up some of the causes as to why this could have happened in this day and age. It also nicely brings back to the mainstream, the use of the phrase Babylon, another nod to black culture and language.

“At the Dancehall” is my personal favourite on the album, bringing together elements of dancehall, ragga and jungle all wrapped in a furious vocal delivery by Deemas J with a sparse pulsing backing by Wrongtom, and I think it is in this song that Wrongtom’s influence is so clear and why so many musicians are keen to work with him. He has no ego; he lets the songs speak for themselves. In both the Roots Manuva Duppy Writer lp and this album, he provides a backdrop, a sonic base, and then lets the vocalists take centre stage, but without his brilliantly balanced backing these songs just wouldn’t be the same. He maintains the tempo and interest on the album from start to finish, a timeless reggae bassline running throughout with horns and keys appearing as dancehall, jungle and reggae tracks come and go.

If anything, the second of half of the album has a slightly slower tempo, with Deemas J pulling back on the speed of delivery, slipping into a more reggae vibe on tracks like “Wa Do Dance” and “Late Night Dance” before ending with “East London”, all Linton Kwesi Johnson brooding, as Wrongtom and Deemas J take a late night drive through the city streets of Ronnie & Reggie Kray, where the girls dress up and look glam, boys looking mean in skinny jeans and getting turned away from the ‘packed clubs’ of East London. It paints such a visual picture! And on that note, it is worth noting the sleeve to In East London has been created by illustrator Tony McDermott, responsible for the legendary Greensleeves label look and another tip of the hat to London culture.

In the year where London has re-stated it claim as a leading global city - Queen Jubilees, Olympics and Para-Olympics, James Bond shenanigans and all manner of chest beating - Wrongtom has created a fitting soundtrack, celebrating both the city and the Jamaican music culture that has done so much for black music in England.

This is a great British album.


This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Acid house legends 808 State bring a psychedelic vibe to Berlin producer NHOAH's stunning track "Abstellgleis".

Berlin producer NHOAH's "Abstellgleis" is a lean and slinky song from his album West-Berlin in which he reduced his working instruments down to a modular synthesizer system with a few controllers and a computer. "Abstellgleis" works primarily with circular patterns that establish a trancey mood and gently grow and expand as the piece proceeds. It creates a great deal of movement and energy.

Keep reading... Show less

Beechwood offers up a breezy slice of sweet pop in "Heroin Honey" from the upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod.

At just under two minutes, Beechwood's "Heroin Honey" is a breezy slice of sweet pop that recalls the best moments of the Zombies and Beach Boys, adding elements of garage and light tinges of the psychedelic. The song is one of 10 (11 if you count a bonus CD cut) tracks on the group's upcoming album Songs From the Land of Nod out 26 January via Alive Natural Sound Records.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.