MIND DE-CODER 64
To listen to the show just scroll to the bottom of the page
I wish there was some hip way of telling you this, baby, but, ah... you're one with and part of an ever-expanding, loving, joyful, glorious, and harmonious universe.
This is the opening track from the album @PEACE AND THE PLUTONIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA that was recommended to me by the owner of Marbecks, Auckland’s premier record store after I mentioned to him that I was planning a psychedelic hip hop edition of Mind De-Coder. @PEACE were an NZ hip hop collective who, on this, their third and final album, released in 2014, come across as something like The Clangers meets the Sun Ra Arkestra somewhere over the rainbow in la-la land, by which, of course, I mean that it’s an intriguing sound that they’ve conjured up – it takes all the tropes of hip hop and then plays around with them, sending them off into unexpected directions, and otherwise defying all expectations so that you’re never entirely sure what’s going to happen next; almost like a wet-dream definition of Mind De-Coder, in fact.
RAYMOND SCOTT A BIGGER, MORE IMPORTANT SOUND
Raymond Scott was one of the great unheralded pioneers of contemporary experimental music, a figure whose genius and influence seems to have seeped almost subliminally into the mass cultural consciousness. These days he’s mostly known for the use of his music in Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons (although I use the words ‘mostly known’ in some rather vague sense of the term) but in less celebrated circles was known for his avant-garde concepts and his experimentation with electronic music and musique concrète. Anyway, many of his pioneering ideas regarding exactly what you could do to recorded music were adopted by your trip hop and mash-up artists, resulting in this album, RAYMOND SCOTT REWIRED, released in 2014 and featuring a selection of 19 Scott tunes remixed, edited, looped, flipped, stretched, tweaked with equalization, pitch-shifted, compressed, and subjected to all manner of digital cosmetology by The Bran Flakes, The Evolution Control Committee and Go Home Productions. It’s not quite as good as it sounds, but this opening track, A Bigger, More Important Sound, mixed by the ECC, gives an indication of how good the rest of the album was, no doubt, supposed to have sounded.
ST. ETIENNE FILTHY (PLANET L REMIX)
Filthy is an early recording by St. Etienne that they enjoyed so much they returned to it a couple of times, even making a it a double-A side when they re-released their debut single Only Love Can Break Your Heart in 1991. Made before (the lovely) Sarah Cracknell joined the band, it features 15 year old schoolgirl Q-Tee on vocals, rapping over some dubby, spacious sounds that include a nicely realised glockenspiel and a wah-wah guitar, sampled from House Of The Rising Funk by Afrique, a studio band formed in Los Angeles whose only album, SOUL MAKOSSA, is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect the boys from St. Etienne to be familiar with.
NEOTROPIC MR BRUBAKER’S STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK
With a title like that you’d expect Neotropic to be the sort of drug-addled communal West Coast hippies who’d knock out this sort of thing while sharing an incense befuddled pad next door to Jefferson Airplane or something. In fact, Neotropic is one Ms. Riz Maslen, who’s second LP, MR BRUBAKER’S STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK, released in 1998, is a sampledelic confection of psychedelic techno-inspired beats that, in the title track at least, does seem to have one foot very much in the 60s and the other in the 90s. Very trippy.
DJ SPOOKY JUBA
…and speaking of trippy, it doesn’t get better than DJ Spooky - That Subliminal Kid (Paul Miller to his mum), turntablist, producer, philosopher, author and Professor of Music Mediated Art, who’s illbient beats (don’t ask) merge avant-garde theories of musique concrète with the kind of un-easy hip hop rhythms inspired by the likes of Sun Ra and Kool Herc. His debut album, SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER, released in 1996, is a total exploration of sound and atmosphere, urban meditation grooves, which showcase his dexterity with samplers, decks, keyboards and the odd bit of bass guitar.
FUNKI PORCINI KING ASHABANAPAL PT. 1
Funki Porcini (James Braddell to his mum) released his debut album in 1995 after returning to England from Italy, where he’d spent ten years penning film and TV music. HED PHONE SEX was the result of a committed trawl through local charity shops in a search of strange, records and flexi-discs, all of which were fed into a sampler and spat out as swirling, reverb-drenched snippets, woozy BPM’s, dubby textures, opium-inspired slow-breaks and dusty hip-hop rhythms. It’s also a little bit sleazy. It’s good; I like it.
HYDROGEN VS. BOOST FREESTYLE RAP BATTLE (TRANSLATED)
Makes me laugh. All I did was add a hip hop beat.
This terrific little mix, taking in some killer scratching and cutting, Union, The New Seekers and The Ivor Raymonde Orchestra, can be found on PRODUCT PLACEMENT, the brilliant and highly regarded release from DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist. The CD was on sale only at gig venues on DJ Shadows tours between about 2001–2003 and only 6000 were printed up, so owning a copy bestows a certain cachet. It comprises 2 long tracks, 30 minutes each (you get only an excerpt here), and a set-list involving the sort of rare funk, soul and other neglected classics one usually finds in dusty cardboard boxes in abandoned warehouses. One of the coolest CDs I own.
I don’t know much about this band at all, but Brainclag appears on their album, HIGHBURY FIELDS FOREVER: COLLECTED TALES, released in 1997 as a round-up of their dub heavy club releases. That sample: ‘Turn the machines back on, turn the machines back on!’ is from that 1983 classic Trading Places, of course.
Deltron 3030 is a collaboration between Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien and Kid Koala who between them created that rarest of things, a hip-hop concept album (hip hopera, anyone?) set in the year 3030 that tells of the fight by Deltron Zero (Del's alter ego) against huge corporations that rule the universe. Actually, I don’t know whether concept albums are a rare thing or not in the hip hop community. For all I know, all hip hop albums are concept albums about something or other – urban angst, or gardening perhaps. They seem to do a lot of gardening (what with all those hoes and all). On this album, DELTRON 3030, released in 2000, there’s not many references to gardening, but it’s filled with sumptuous, densely layered soundscapes that often resemble a film score and also features cameo appearances by Damon Albarn, Prince Paul and Sean Lennon.
According to The Bumper Book of Hip Hop Myths and Legends, Mo’Wax founder James Lavelle's debut album as UNKLE, the long-simmering pet project PSYENCE FICTION, helmed by his then-UNKLE co-conspirator DJ Shadow and released in 1998, still ranks as one of the most anti-climactic and jaw-dropping disappointments released unto the public. I’m no fan of the album myself, so I approached Lavelle’s follow-up, NEVER NEVER LAND, released in 2006, with some trepidation. It’s not entirely different to the first album - he still trades in texture and atmosphere, favouring sweeping strings, cinematic grandeur, a mix of pop sensibilities with downtempo music, and an obsession with science fiction, but it does contain the ethereal electronica of I need Something Stronger, which includes a collaboration with Brian Eno and Jarvis Cocker, which I think is quite lovely.
Not hip hop at all, of course, but tell me this record didn’t influence Portishead in some way or other and I’d happily spend 10 minutes arguing the contrary, especially if I was in a pub, mildly interested in having a conversation at all and had recently enjoyed four or five pints of bitter. Sadly, none of those conditions seem to happen very much anymore so can I just say that Nobody’s Fault But Mine, from Simone’s 1969 release NINA SIMONE AND PIANO, is one of the three tracks I want played at my funeral and I’ve been looking for a way to get it on the show for ages.
…or Protection (Radiation For The Nation) as it’s also sometimes called. What is there to say about Protection? It’s one of the most sublime recordings ever; Tracy Thorn’s vocals are so forlorn they make loneliness intoxicating, and I had a very agreeable experience listening to it one afternoon while cat sitting in a cottage in deepest Devon. This is the version that opens the Mad Professor’s hypnotic dub remix of 1995’s PROTECTION album. Called NO PROTECTION it’s an extended detour into a slow, pulsating beats, extensive reverb and the occasional vocal which fade in-and-out in typical dub stylee. Transcendentally lovely.
First time I listened to Tricky’s debut album MAXINQUAYE I thought it sounded like something beamed in from another planet – or somewhere in Bristol, whatever’s nearest – I’d never heard anything like it before. It sounds resolutely haunting, disturbing, and surprising even after countless spins. It's an album that exists outside of time and outside of trends, a record whose clanking rhythms, tape haze, murmured vocals, shards of noise, reversed gender roles, alt-rock asides, and soul samplings create a ghostly netherworld fused with seductive menace and paranoia. Abbaon Fat Tracks – I don’t even know what the title means, or how to pronounce ‘Abbaon’ – is without precedent; stops me dead in my tracks whenever I hear it. The way Martina Topley-Bird, then 19, sings is pure sleaze. It’s brilliant; an artefact. MAXINQUAYE was an album of its time, but outside of its time; it belongs to a category beyond that of mere genre. The other album I listened to a lot in 1995 was Oasis’s DEFINITELY MAYBE, released a year earlier, but it’s MAXINQUAYE I return to, time and time again over the years, just trying to figure out what it is I’m listening to.
They Came in Peace (Sea of Tranquillity) is, in many ways, your definitive Trip Hop track, mixing down-tempo hip hop beats with a chilled, jazz- haunted vibe, combined with a suitably enigmatic spoken word sample. Tranquillity Bass was the stage name of Michael Kandel, who died in 2015. By all accounts he was a forward-thinking, well-intentioned kind of guy, and They Came in Peace, released in 1993, is generally regarded as something of an ambient-house classic which can otherwise be found on the EP BROADCAST STANDARD ISSUE No. 1, released 1994.
Kid Koala is something of a renaissance man among your hip hop artists - DJ, turntablist, musician and an author of graphic novels (although perhaps not quite as renaissance-y as DJ Spooky, now I come to think of it). I’ve included two tracks from two different superb albums because I didn’t want to choose one over the other. Vacation Island, which I’ve tampered a little with myself (in the spirit of things, you understand), is taken from his 2003 release SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE DJ’S, a brief, jazz-tinged inebriated album, filled with strange samples of eccentric characters pontificating on their record collections and audio systems, whilst Bar Hopper 2 can be found on his playful debut release, the aptly named CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME from 2000, which makes heavy use of dialogue snippets from movies and TV shows, instructional records, and other obscure sources that took some four years to assemble.
Not Hip Hop at all, but the sort of thing that fits the show like a glove – I’m sure Kid Koala could have some fun with this, but I play it straight (on account of not actually having any turntables myself, if I’m honest). Originally written by Barry MacDonald and Harry Carroll in 1913, it featured, of course, in Laurel and Hardy’s classic motion picture (they were called motion pictures in them days) WAY OUT WEST in 1937. It was released as a single in 1975, and reached No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, thanks largely to being championed by John Peel on his evening show. Who knew?
Luke Vibert has operated under various pseudonyms, each of which operate within different spectrums of hip hop culture. In 1997 he made his debut release under his own name. Called BIG SOUP, it lies closer to straight-ahead hip-hop than any of his previous projects, with great production and vocal samples that offer a slew of devious and sometimes subliminal pranks throughout, creating a soundscape all of their own.
I couldn’t complete the show without Portishead, the band that did most to define the Trip Hop aesthetic, but I was reluctant to play Sour Times (arguably their own most definitive track) because it would have been, well, a little too predictable – step forward Airbus Reconstruction, a storming cover of the track by fellow Bristol band Airbus, featuring Beth Gibbons on vocals. You could find this as one of the extra tracks on the b-side of the single, Sour Times, released in 1994.