Brooklyn Connection

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DJ Olive Featuring Honeychild Coleman
THWIS
USA THE AGRICULTURE AG055 CD (2013)

Looking past the tiresome and arbitrary nature of journalistic neologisms such as ‘post-rock’ and ‘folktronica’, usually utilised to fence in disparate but geographically proximate artists, I have to say that I never felt there was much substance to the music that fell under the ‘illbient’ banner back in the ‘90s. Wordsound releases often hit the spot (were they illbient?) but little else. I gave DJ Olive’s We™ a try and quickly traded it in, the same with some of DJ Spooky’s stuff. Whatever parties they were playing at, I certainly wasn’t invited, nor was I covetous. So with a hint of apprehension I have given this one a shot, many years on.

To my surprise, it’s a warm and friendly post-party playlist of minimal dub/dancehall rhythms infused with tickly twinkles and drizzlings of delay. Snare – as is pointed out – is largely absent, and the drum palette is sparse by design. This effectively foregrounds whatever rhythm or texture Olive has established as the dominating feature at any given time. For the most part, the music sits innocuously on the border between background and mood music: neither to be ignored nor distracting, and always effusive when engaged, if a little forumlaic. This attribute is mitigated somewhat by the silken tonsils of vocalist Honeychild Coleman, whose invitation to ‘come home’ (with her) and such on several tracks will inevitably prove divisive. Personally, I’ve never been one for ballsy R&B voices, so I’ll skip, thanks. If you’re fine with that, you can fill your boots for roughly a third of the album.

By Olive’s admission, this work is the culmination of ‘countless hours’ refinement – both live and in studio. The process presumably being one of paring down operations; to the point at which – I imagine – it was probably a relief just to get it out there. Still, the care shows, every track exudes a feel-good exuberance – and for me it’s a surprisingly appealing formula. At the same time, I find the evidently painstaking approach amusing, considering how King Tubby’s early dub inventions supposedly arose from happy accidents.

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Locust
You’ll Be Safe Forever
AUSTRIA EDITIONS MEGO 162 CD (2013)

Latest on the list of superannuated rock star cash-ins is the return of Londoner, Mark Van Hoen’s Locust project after a 12-year absence, his better-known work under the alias being a number of records on labels R&S and Apollo in the ‘90s. Word has it that Locust’s latest dispatch arose serendipitously during a jam session with one Louis Sherman in the latter’s Brooklyn studio, prior to a set on WFMU radio. The duo went on to record and perform live, the fruits filling much of this album. I’m guessing that they’re the ones that sound an awful lot like Boards of Canada, who seem to be the main muse here, right down to their hazy swirls, starry stabs, and predilection for interludes between every fully realised idea. Which is not in itself a bad thing – lest we forget the many layers of that much-cited duo’s popular music, which reward repeated listens as easily as the upper blanketing confirms impatient accusations of homogeneity. Observe, for example, the mechanical, shuffling snares that subtly counterpoint woozy, atmospheric stabs and clicks in ‘Fall For Me’ and ‘Oh Yeah’ – two of the album’s stronger offerings. Other tracks express less subtlety, favouring a more overwhelming collision of big drums and vocal samples, ‘Just Want You’ being one such example. Climate changes towards the less expansive in the final third of the album (mood remaining reflective albeit): stretched and muted guitars make more ‘90s allusions, certainly to Seefeel; the more moon-booted jazz moments to Herbaliser and even Amon Tobin. Make no mistake, surprises are not on offer here, nor is the nostalgia for the unnameable. However, these ‘post-trip-hop’ (to coin an inevitable future trope) ditties should fail only to displease.

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