Monday, 23 August 2010

Ninja Tune XX

The much followed label behind Roots Manuva, Mr Scruff, Ty, Amon Tobin, Herbaliser, Bonobo, Andreya Triana, Cinematic Orchestra and many more are celebrating their 20th Birthday this year.

I found myself at their exhibition near Islington last week where amongst the trinkets and oddities were all of the album covers, Roots Manuva's plaster head from the Slime & Reason album, the Ninja family tree, The little ninja dude and the vinyl stack from Big Dada's Well Deep album.

If you're in London you can catch the Exhibition from now until 16 September 2010 Mon - Fri, 12-5pm, 10a Acton St.

To celebrate those 20 candles or 'XX' in roman speak, the label are releasing three different box sets and have made this pretty cool (and well mixed) video. Now where's my Mr Scruff branded mug?..

Monday, 16 August 2010

Rakaa- Crown Of Thorns

This landed on my desk a couple of weeks back and ever since it's been on high rotation. Well overdue that I gave it a proper review! :)

In the world of authentic hiphop only the the most select producers and acts seem to be counted as worldwide stars. This includes the likes of Slum Village, DJ Shadow, De La Soul, RJD2, MF Doom, ATCQ, Run DMC and The Beastie Boys. Add to this Los Angeles group Dilated Peoples. One third of this world renowned act is Rakaa Iriscience, their lead emcee who steps into the tricky ground of a debut solo. 

On Crown Of Thorns he has primarily brought in a sample sound produced by 7 different producers including The Alchemist (Eminem, Mobb Deep). Opening with gospel backed vocals and hook duties from Aloe ‘I Need A Dollar’ Blacc on the title track, the album does start as it means to go on, cleverly intertwining sonic-prisms accompanied by Rakaa who raps of the myriad cultures taken in whilst on tour. KRS One of 'Sound Of The Police' fame features on ‘Human Nature Now Breathe’ , Rakaa commenting that ‘pollution makes a beautiful haze’ over a flutey instrumental J Dilla might have been raised a knowing smile to. It's not an entirely solo album though as on the old skool soul of CTD fellow members of Dilated Peoples producer Babu and Evidence join in. Aces High meanwhile is another stand out track, Rakaa collaborating with three other mc’s over chunky Alchemist produced riffs.
This is not just a beats album either, the subtle calypso groove and African chants on Rosetta Stone Grove coupled with the thoughtful end track Upstairs give the album a worldwide feel fitting for an artist who has travelled much of the globe.
In the same way that Q-Tips first trip away from A Tribe Called Quest was a success, so here Rakaa treads. A varied album from the top drawer ****

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wanted, The Beat Goes On & DJ Shadow

Hi, thought i'd start this blog with something homegrown! If you like this feel free to subscribe or follow me on twitter.

Two of my favourite record shops in Bristol are Wanted Records in St Nicks Market and The Beat Goes On which is just off Whiteladies Road. Both shops are run by enthusiasts who love music and have that wonderful dusty record shop feel which is getting harder to find. Wanted is co-founded by John Stapleton who regularly DJ's at various Bristol shindigs including Blowpop and former Massive Attack owned Tube Bar. Since Rewind and Imperial on Park Street closed (not to mention Bang Bang), vinyl enthusiasts have had to venture a bit further from the beaten track for their fix. These two shops are specialists in 7" disco, soul and funk records. Whenever i'm Bristol bound I try to pop in.

At Beat Goes On there are many crates underneath the cd shelves and second hand dvds to delve through including much of the Philadelphia International back catalogue and classic labels such as Chess. A month back whilst on a short visit I found myself purchasing a £25 rarity from Wanted (the record was The Positive Sounds- Fired Up, in case you were wondering). At Wanted the really good stuff is actually kept under lock and key round the back and you have to ask specially for a small flightcase box of select 7's which are worth too much to keep on the shop floor. Well worth checking out if you can. At times like these I can't help but think of the cover art and story behind DJ Shadow's seminal LP Endtroducing. The album cover is a classic; a homage to the art of crate digging and record shopping in such dens as those I mentioned above. He has an impressive 60,000 records in his collection. That takes alot of time & dedication, not to mention space and money.

Due to the pressure on Indie record shops and downturn in physical sales, there is an initiative to raise awareness and to help the smaller shops called Record Store Day. This is the day when exclusive records from big bands like Blur as well as limited edition records made specifically for that day from other bands, record labels and acts are put on the shelves and queues formed outside. It's a great idea and one that's growing each year in support.

My hope is that record shops stay for a long time to come, they're part of our heritage. As much as I love the accessibility of downloading music from iTunes or Amazon, it just doesn't have the same feel as the experience of venturing into a real independent record shop; I appreciate the authentic music they offer that little bit extra.