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Funky Accordions

Derek Walmsley

"Accordions are banned from the office," comes the judgement as yet another lame East/West dance fusion disc gets abruptly slung out of the CD player. Like any rules, there's exceptions of course, and I'm sure we'll be giving this new Pauline Oliveros album a spin at some point. But It did get me thinking about funky accordions, and in the mid-2000s it seemed you could hardly move for sick beats busting a squeeze box.

Roll Deep "When I'm 'Ere", produced by Danny Weed. This sent the Roll Deep producer spinning like a dervish through a million takes on this style.

Cut-up accordion action!

But not as amazing as this remix, beatless in parts, that surfaced around the same time, just an accordion riff ran backwards and forwards (Eliane Radigue eat your heart out) over a minimal beat. On pirates around this time they would mix two copies of the records so they could just stretch out the beatless intro for minutes at a time (and the MCs could take a breather after a heavy set of bars).

A couple of years after "When I'm 'Ere" first appeared Danny Weed returned to the theme with the amazing "Heat Up". What struck me about these accordion tracks was that a couple of years earlier violins had been all the rage. Somehow the more incongruous the instrument on a grime track the better - synthetic string quartets, fake hoe-downs. Like the use of Eastern melodies on Grime tracks, producers were teleporting themselves out of the ghetto with sampled exotica. A year or two later Wiley was sticking bluegrass fiddle on his tracks.

Of course, around this time, Madlib was rocking an accordion too, and Doom even manages to make a rhyming couplet out of it.

The push-pull nature of the accordion makes it a clumsy beast to play or to sample, and it's hard to make it sing. But like a jazz violinist, when you find player or producers who have the knack, they're rare gems indeed.

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