The Wire

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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

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Derek Walmsley

First up in April's office ambience was Ricardo Villalobos's "Enfants", a minimal Techno masterpiece comprised solely of a metronome-like hi-hat and beat, rolling piano and samples of a children's choir. The music is derived, oddly, from a piece by Christian Zander of Magma, and it becomes a matter of fascination trying to spot where the loop of singing starts and finishes (I still haven't managed it).

The treatment is so simple and elegant that, despite running for all of 17 minutes in its full version, you yearn to play it again as soon as it finishes. The 12" was hammered repeatedly in the office in the run up to the April issue. Personally, I could happily hide myself away with this record for a day or two to try and discover its secrets. It exemplifies a trend that has developed in my listening habits over the last year or so: as the amount of music easily available grows exponentially, a reaction is a corresponding fascination with singular pieces of music, whose multiple layers can be unpeeled onion-like. Minimal Techno 12"s on the Cadenza label have tracks that run for well over ten minutes on each side, with endless tricks of perceptual acoustics that you have to listen to and relisten again in order to grasp.

I can hardly remember the last time I listened to a recent album more than 20 times, but I'm probably close to it with this 12". Whether this yearning for simplicity is a lifestyle matter, like the desire to have all your record collection on one handy Mp3 player, I'm not sure. But there is a desire to have more-of-less that my obsession with this track reflects.

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in search of space

Derek Walmsley

Over the last three years, Dopplereffekt - whom common consensus suggests is Gerald Donald, originally once one half of Detroit duo Drexciya- has quietly reorientated his electronic muse, turning away from the physicality of electro and towards the quietude of deep space. His albums Linear Accelerator and Calabi Yau Space are the closest contemporary electronica has to a true music of the spheres: vast, echoing spaces, with cold, pristine tones unspoilt by human hands, and elliptical melodic orbits strangely akin to the use of the Blue Danube in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. These albums are love-letters to technology: eulogies to massive man-made marvels such as the nuclear particle laboratories housed underneath the French countryside.

Given his love affair with technology, it's perhaps not surprising that Donald himself is an elusive character, never having given an official interview. Live dates are few and far between, and often unpredicatable affairs. Which makes a recording of an excellent recent Dopplereffekt set in Sweden, downloadable here, even more valuable. It's not clear if the material is actually performed live, but the material, drawn mostly from the material from 2007's Calabi Yau Space, is clearly in a constant state of evolution: the music now incorporates lingering electronic grace notes of almost heartbreaking melancholy, and subsonic shudders that hint at ghosts in the machine. It's an essential document of an electronic artist who currently seems light years ahead of the pack.

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spirits rejoice

Derek Walmsley

DJ Rupture's blog has a new track to download from The Wire ex-cover star Wiley, who is going through another of his purple patches of frenzied activity (last seen around the time of 2006's five – or was it six? - editions of Tunnel Vision mixtapes). "Spirit In The Beats" also features Flo Dan, here in more lyrical mode than his more ranting recent outings with The Bug.

The track is decent enough, but it's the reference to "spirits" that makes the hair prickle up. Spirit is a recurring obsession of Wiley's. On the classic "Boogieman" from many years ago with Trim, he "breaks the doors down and lets the spirits in"; on a recent freestyle on a Maniac beat, it was a reference to a burned out car and "spirits leaving the vehicle". In an interview many years ago, Wiley says regarding estranged ex-Roll Deep member Dizzee Rascal that "my spirit is with him, his spirit is with me".

There's various ways to interpret such references. There's a kind of comic book resonance to the way he uses it, as if he believes he has a non-material doppleganger, a sort of uber-Wiley who's all-seeing, all-knowing. Such a fantasy seems to fit: in the ultra-material world of grime, where everything is cold hard concrete or cold hard cash, it's not surprising that an MC invokes a spiritual side-kick. Dizzee Rascal had a track about being "here, there... everywhere": a yearning to turn urban chaos into some sort of cosmic order.

What really strikes a chord is that "spirit" seems something of a grimey-counterpoint to hiphop's painfully overused category of "soul". For American music, soul (as a concept and genre) is so tired it has nothing to do with James Brown and Bobby Byrd: it's simply a prosaic, statement of 'this is who I am' individualism. Grime very rarely mentions soul: by invoking "spirits" instead, it taps something much more uncanny and chaotic. It reminds me of one of the true reasons grime felt so fresh, a few years back: it suggested urban poetry where the slate had been wiped clean of all hiphop's tired, burdernsome political and [a]moral ideology.

Tags:

spirits rejoice

Derek Walmsley

DJ Rupture's blog has a new track to download from The Wire ex-cover star Wiley, who is going through another of his purple patches of frenzied activity (last seen around the time of 2006's five – or was it six? - editions of Tunnel Vision mixtapes). "Spirit In The Beats" also features Flo Dan, here in more lyrical mode than his more ranting recent outings with The Bug.

The track is decent enough, but it's the reference to "spirits" that makes the hair prickle up. Spirit is a recurring obsession of Wiley's. On the classic "Boogieman" from many years ago with Trim, he "breaks the doors down and lets the spirits in"; on a recent freestyle on a Maniac beat, it was a reference to a burned out car and "spirits leaving the vehicle". In an interview many years ago, Wiley says regarding estranged ex-Roll Deep member Dizzee Rascal that "my spirit is with him, his spirit is with me".

There's various ways to interpret such references. There's a kind of comic book resonance to the way he uses it, as if he believes he has a non-material doppleganger, a sort of uber-Wiley who's all-seeing, all-knowing. Such a fantasy seems to fit: in the ultra-material world of grime, where everything is cold hard concrete or cold hard cash, it's not surprising that an MC invokes a spiritual side-kick. Dizzee Rascal had a track about being "here, there... everywhere": a yearning to turn urban chaos into some sort of cosmic order.

What really strikes a chord is that "spirit" seems something of a grimey-counterpoint to hiphop's painfully overused category of "soul". For American music, soul (as a concept and genre) is so tired it has nothing to do with James Brown and Bobby Byrd: it's simply a prosaic, statement of 'this is who I am' individualism. Grime very rarely mentions soul: by invoking "spirits" instead, it taps something much more uncanny and chaotic. It reminds me of one of the true reasons grime felt so fresh, a few years back: it suggested urban poetry where the slate had been wiped clean of all hiphop's tired, burdernsome political and [a]moral ideology.

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