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Funky on Rinse FM

Derek Walmsley

Like many, I've been warming to Funky, the [rather weirdly named] new thing on London Pirate Radio stations like Rinse FM. Perhaps we'll warm to the name itself after a while; 'funky house', the label which used to be listed on flyers plastered on lamp posts for over-25s raves all over the M25 Orbital area, suggested an attempt to organify house, to give it a certain feng-shui'd, ergonomic ease of use. Funky, though, is significantly different, and it's understandable that the second part of the moniker has been dropped. So 'Funky; will do for now. Of course, 'Grime' sounded weird to start with, but now perfectly captures the cold-concrete intensity of the music.

Listening to Rinse FM sets by Fingerprint and Marcus Nasty, the elements of soca and dancehall are pretty subtle, but are such an essential ingredient. It's often moving against the 4/4 beat, generating that push and pull feel which gives it a feeling of democracy, somehow (ie, you can dance to this how you want). Even when it's not there, it's kind of present in its absence, as that off beat feel comes and goes frequently in the DJ sets I checked out. Although it's understated, there's a certain dubiness in there – it comes and goes, but it makes its presence/absence felt - it's kinda welcome. There's also a certain melodic nostalgia there, which was always a part of two-step garage – it was always garage as filtered into a kind of of future pop form.

But all this is thrown into sharp relief by the intriguing tension between the soca feel – and the democracy, ease of access and general good vibes it engenders – and the more sophisticated NY style garage feel, which implies something more sexually selective, more exclusive. This is the key to the music – it gives it an openness to something more global, more open, rather than an exclusive London-centric locus, but there's still something distinctively urban in there. The dancehall feel is the grit in the oyster somehow, the slight friction which prevents it from drifting into frictionless Euro-style consumer house.

So I'm hopeful. Listening to this music, I feel that slight tingle, that warm mix of familiarity with the general feel combined with fresh, open structures. There's something happening here. I'm intrigued.

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"Although it's understated, there's a certain dubiness in there – it comes and goes, but it makes its presence/absence felt"

Would quite like to know what you mean by this if you're up for elaborating. If you're introducing an idea of a 'version'-ing of club house, then I think you're on to something definitely, but if you're talking specifically about echoes of dub reggae i don't think it's particularly relevant, certainly not more so than the london orbital house raves that you mention in the first paragraph

i really like the idea of a tacit dubbing of club house though, which could maybe retain a primarily dancefloor oriented vibe but strips it of its gloss. i think that's what a lot of the stuff i really enjoy in this scene is doing.

Yeah, just to clarify.

I definitely don't hear any echoes of reggae – which for me is pretty refreshing, as dubstep has plundered the archives of dub/reggae so extensively – and in many cases those samples have been rather overused before.

The dub/versioning I'm thinking about is more the kind of thing you'd find on the flip of US house/garage 12"s throughout the 90s – very subtle, restrained instrumentals with just a hint of dub spaces through some really understated echo. They're kind of like the old discomixes you used to get on the flip of 12" singles.

So, it's kinda understated, really, but there is defintely something of the striping-of-the-gloss which you refer to – often you'll get long passages in the mix which don't revolve around verse/chorus structures, but they have these weird dubby touches. They're restrained rather than wildly dubby, but that kind of sparseness and restraint can be very effective. It draws attention to itself by being so slight, a classic minimalist strategy I'd say. So when it's not there, you almost feel a 'lack'. This is the absence/presence effect I'm on about.

Which is a long way of saying, it's like those great dub sides on New York 90s House records, which sound quite straightforward, but actually there's a very precise play of elements.

Talking to Mark Fell of snd for the feature in The Wire 293. he raved about that sparse, dubbed-out NY House aesthetic. And I think he's right, there's something quite singular about those sides.

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