Let it not be said that music plays a side role in the great battle for hearts and minds. As the 9/11 anniversary coincides with a particularly shrill and vicious campaign by the American right, I bring you Burka Blue.
The music sounds great, very art school frauenband, an almost industrial rock pop anti-protest. I’m not sure it says anything complex, but I find the sight of the swaying blue burkas, the lethargic, non-committed vocals, the dischordant rock instruments and simple synth does it for me.
How do you make a trio sound like a big band, and rock a club? Berliners Dirty Honkers played at the Old Street club I went to last Saturday, and did just that. In midday tropical heat at midnight, they bust up the joint with artful screeches and an entertaining set which veered like an insane drunk driver between modern club and old time jazz swing.
Fronted by a sweaty and frankly confrontational Gad Hinkis, wearing a tie over his naked torso, a towel draped around his neck, MC-ing, singing and operating a laptop with aplomb, alongside the beautiful and freshly laundered Canadian Andrea Roberts, playing alto sax, singing, and unexpectedly joining the audience to strut her stuff, and Florent Mannant playing tenor sax, clarinet, adding his voice for harmonies, as well as flogging CDs, it was a hugely enjoyable, boiling hot performance. I bought their self-produced CD for a tenner and it’s as vital as anything in the genre.
Chris the promoter at the end of the night gave a joyous assertion that there’s a new electro swing club opening every week in Europe at the moment. Lots of good people were enjoying themselves hugely. I’ll certainly be returning.
Thus, I can reveal that Electro Swing is in fact more than music made by the bastard children of Mr Scruff. It takes the genre he spawned with the seminal Get A Move On – 20th century swing samples with 21st century beats – to new levels. Whether those levels are lower or higher I leave for posterity to judge. The chic retro sexiness of electro swing is an easy sell; without the musical mania of techno, and just a hint of rave creeping into the bleeps and beats to keep it exciting, the nostalgia plays it safe to the crowds.
I used to run a DJ agency ten years ago, and since those crazed times, I’ve not really bothered to follow all the nuances and subgenres and sub-subgenres of dance music.. there are so bleedin’ many variations, and so tiny are the changes, except once every ten years or so, that the entire dance music edifice is too complex to follow unless you’re clubbing twice a week, every week in several countries, in a selection of outrageous costumes and blood-curdling company.
Still, I’ve just been told there’s a decent electro swing night on, so knowing absolutely nothing about it, I searched and found this charming dance ditty. I particularly like what happens around 2 minutes in… I’ll experience the phenomenon before I decide whether to give this genre its own category.
UPDATE – looks like electro swing might also be termed “music which sounds a bit like Mr Scruff” – it remains to be seen what the subgenre takes from this master of reinvention – will it be simply the mixing of 1930s-40s-50s swing band with contemporary dance beats, or the breathtaking cheek of El Maestro’s time-honoured collages? Report to follow.
Not every comic song has the panache to carry the idea through to its musically logical conclusion, but The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannan is refreshingly un-selfconscious in this charmingly silly ditty. I recently returned from Norway and Belgium and left behind me new fans, many of whom were standing on one leg. From song to meme…
This excellently odd song, The Leanover, was tipped me via Don Ratto from Unio and Petitio. You might not get it first off – as my pal Yana said, she didn’t dislike it, she didn’t like it. But I love its gently manic breathless stream of consciousness delivery. Once you grapple with them, the lyrics are pretty good too. The guitar and drums are really beautiful – organic, crisp, and delicate in a way that makes lots of contempary indie bands seem rather dated and woodenly formulaic.
Apparently the band Life Without Buildings has now gone the way of so many experimental and original outfits and disbanded, which is a shame because I bet they were great live. Ah well, what we have will probably attract a cult following, if it hasn’t already.