21 December 2012

Some Last, Tangential Notes of Drummage (Lightweight Milkcrate Edition)

Simon with his own drummage selections mentions Hamilton Bohannon. Coincidentally Bohannon had crossed my mind as a possible candidate at one point, or at least deserving of an honorable mention, even if things did get fairly spotty after his first couple of albums. But this brings a few other things to mind...

Right, so back during the "midschool" days, I used to be a big hip-hop head. But over the course of the 1990s, he music moved on and I eventually moved on, too. By "moving on," morelike I did what a lot of other hedz did -- moving backwards. I started tracing beats and grooves back to their sampled source material, abandoning the refurb'ed for the original models. But I didn't become a fanatical beatdigger or collector type. I knew far too many people who who owned about 8000 rekkids, and advised me to buy about as many, just because this, that, or the other joint just because it "has a break on it." Nope, my shelf space is limited to something within reason, what I have is a pain in the ass to move already, and I'd prefer not to weigh or clutter things up for 20-second scatterlings spread throughout a warehouse's-worth of LPs. A market of reissues was there to supply the demands and desires of people like myself; most of it in the form of limited-edition pirate editions of obscure LPs of old. So I didn't go the purist or zealot route -- and so I'd sometimes resort to buying "crate-saver" discs for DJing purposes, or stuck to those albums that I knew would give me the maximum payoff for my invested time and money.*

I could go on forever with breaks-related drummage yadda, but who cares? Here's a few best-bang-for-the-buck jawns from over the years...

When someone says "that Skull Snaps break," they're usually talking about the one everyone's heard a thousand times -- the one from "It's a New Day." Damn thing has been sampled so many times that by about 1992 it had already become the pro-forma, generic hip-hop break. Which I guess is somewhat appropriate, seeing how the break comes off of the only album -- circa 1974 -- that the Skull Snaps ever released. The band works a range of tempos and styles on the thing; and it's fairly solid throughout, leaning heavily into the beat on most of the cuts.

Reputedly, Nico Gomez wasn't actually from South America, but rather Belgian by way of South American lineage. Or that's what the internet's now telling me. All I knew when I first bought this thing -- Ritual -- many years ago and that a good portion of it turned out to be a monster of frenzied Latin-esque percussion. Was apparently released in the early '70s, even though it sounds very '60s due to the all the fuzzed-out guitar and quasi-pop stylings. Psychedelic shingaling, cranked up to eleven. Some mid-tempo stuff that's pretty nice, the only dud being a sore-thumb cover of (ugh) "El Condor Pasa." Not without its kitschy trimmings at times, but the rhythm section makes up for it. The title cut is a soundtrack for a b-boy breakdance battle on its own.

Demon Fuzz: Another one-shot, to my knowledge. Whole thing's like some post-psych/proto-prog take on Afrobeat; very much following in the wake of Santana's "Soul Sacrifice." The first track starts off with a heavy, lumbering, almost doomy guitar riff that seems like it wandered in from an adjoining studio -- like maybe a studio where Black Sabb were recording one of their first two albums, by the sound of it. The vocals that turn up on a couple of tracks suggest an Anglo outift, but the depth and ferocity of the groove very much indicates otherwise. Searching now, I see that some information about the group has appeared in recent years. Apparently they were active in London in the late-'60s/early '70s, comprised of immigrant musicians. Having emigrated from I'm not sure, because no one seems to know or say -- judging by the credits on the back sleeve, one assumes Jamaica and Africa. Whatever the case, very nice.

* * * *

But back to prior armchair musicological yadda of earlier. In citing my prior bit about go-go, Simon offers the aside:

(at the time i took an anti-go go stance, partly out of antipathy to its Face/City Limits/NME-soulboy constituency in the UK, but also because it felt like rap was the futurist option in 1986 and go go a Seventies throwback. it does seem like its sweaty collectivity only really made sense in DC, in live situ. So in that sense the opposite of rap, which in those days was almost invariably shit in the concert situation, but records-wise worked as club fodder and through being personality and persona-driven, was ripe for mass media,  MTV, etc)

I didn't see it that way at the time, because as Simon's commented elsewhere (perhaps in relation to recent dubstep), sometimes "progress" or aesthetic evolution moves laterally -- taking sideways steps. If anything, go-go seemed like the continuation of where things left off before disco came in and took over, but with a twist -- and no more retrograde than, say, the Gap Band's numerous reworkings of a "(Not Just) Knee Deep" type groove, or any of Prince's invocations of Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, at al. If anything, one might argue that hip-hop might be seen as the most fetishistically reactionary of the lot -- or at least the sound-system aspect of it, with its reliance on "butter funk"-era breakbeats.

Speaking of which, I suppose there were things other from go-go that appealed to the polyrhythmically-deprived in the middle of the 1980s. A few things coughed up by the burgeoning "World Music" market gained listenership. One of those being recordings by new-gen New Orleans street musicians who were updating the city's musical traditions -- groups like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Rebirth Brass Band bringing a strong funk punch to the repertoire, as well as incorporating a lot of contemporary tunes to the songbook of N.O. standards. If you wandered the streets of the city, you saw a number of such groups around the Quarter, their members wildly ranging in age. Plenty others would follow in their wake...

The Soul Rebels I saw in New Orleans at one point around 1996, shortly after they'd started up. Caught them at Donna's Bar & Grill (R.I.P.) on Ramparts,a small locals-only joint that billed itself as the "Brass Band Headquarters" of the city. Some nights you'd walk past the place and they'd have a traditional ensemble in there, playing to white-haired patrons who stayed on their barstools. But they also booked for younger crowds. Place was small, no stage -- with the band playing on the floor, just a few feet from the kitchen window where the orders of ribs, chicken & whatnot were served. The band showed up gradually -- one of two members arriving at a time, falling into the loose warm-up the others had already started. But by the time the full band was in place and the beat had finally coalesced, the entire place was already on its feet and moving as a whole. Nights like that were when there was an unspoken zero-tolerance policy against wallflowering, and the moves some people had were like some modern equiv of some complicated Lindy Hop-era isht. Kind of amusing to now see some of the places the band has turned up recently.

And I recall when cut-and-paste maestro Steinski began doing his radio show on WFMU about 5 years ago, he devoted an entire show to younger, funky New Orleans brass bands.

Other things of that sort in the 1980s: There was afrobeat being introduced to a new generation of listeners via Bill Laswell's reissuing of a number of Fela discs on his Celluloid label. And then there was Island's signing of King Sunny Adé...

...And the layers of interlocking rhythms being woven by the phalanx of percussion and guitars he had in his band at the time. Which hipped a lot of people to exactly what Byrne and Eno had been immersing themselves in when they did Remain in Light and Bush of Ghosts a few years earlier.

* * * *

One last thing I noted while assembling the go-go post: In Toop's article for The Face, Trouble Funk's Big Tony Fisher talks about the band's use of cartoon theme music and other pop-culture references in their sets, describing it as a making a connection with the audience, a way of meeting them on some shared, common ground. That Trouble Funk clip I used for the post serves as a example of that. It had been years since I'd last heard that edition of their "In Concert" discs, and I had forgotten that it included a call-and-response "Can I fall down?" reference to this number...

Bill Cosby and crew doing a "give the drummer some" James Brown tribute, from an album from the mid '70s that included good-natured parodies of various musical artists -- Barry White, Isaac Hayes, et al. Which I guess demonstrates how there once was a time when Cosby was a topic on which a lot of people could agree. (Or at least up until the point that he went all bougie on airybody.)

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* Apparently this sort of pragmatic scrimpiness makes me -- in the shared parlance of such purist record-hoarding, catalog-completist sorts -- a "total fag." Whatever, dudes...it ain't like I was planning to help you move, anyway.


David K Wayne said...

Of course it wasn't a 'competition', but reckon you've posted the best drummage pieces this week.

Greyhoos said...

Yeah, I know it's not a "competition." But aside from "throwdown," I'm not sure what the best, optimal term would be for the spirit of the all this.

In cases like the above, I suspect it amounts to just indulgent geekery on my own part. So it's nice to know that others read, enjoy it as well, etc.. So thanks!

Greyhoos said...

Also, I can't help but be amused by some of the comments that piled up under that Soul Rebels clip. Like "FUCK YOU, LONDON!", and:

> "I'm english, and i'm FUCKING ashamed none of those upper class wankers danced!"

Don't worry about it, mate. Last time I saw Rebirth was in Chicago about 4 years ago, and there was a lot of that same thing going on there, too.

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