If Jay Electronica showed us how to waste a gift, Mach Hommy has shown us how to fully exploit it. Mach has been dropping some of the ridiculous lines in hiphop for the past year or so. No filler, just fucking killing it in every verse.
Here’s a few tracks from Mach that I thought everyone should hear, put it in perspective.
Hey you! Do you want to read an uneducated opinion on a throwaway piece of music? Do you want to read a shoddily written article riddled with grammar and spelling* mistakes? Of course you do! Here it is.
So there I was listening the radio as I drove back from the airport (a regional programme, of course!) when I heard this funky little tune. It’s nothing more than a soul loop and some drums, but it had a cool vibe. I thought “hey, Imma get me summa dat sheeeit”. So I did, and here we are.
The record in question (lol) is “Question” buy KH, or Kieran Hebden, were more acquainted. So I got it home, slapped it on the turntable and enjoyed it a little bit. A little bit less than I was expecting to unfortunately.
KH “Question” cover.
You see, every time I listen to it I get a bit of a sinking feeling. A hollow feeling right in the pit of my stomach. A little voice in my head whispers “this isn’t good, mate” and “what’s this fucking shite, mate”. My inner monologue has a heavy Scottish accent, and as such is quite succinct and to the point. There’s just no messing with that cunt.
You see, for as much as I like “Question” by KH, I know it’s not a good record. In actual fact, it’s exactly the type of record I fucking hate. It takes a lovely, interesting loop from an old house track and puts some heavier drums underneath it (see: “Final Credits” by Midland). That’s it. Really, its about ten minute work and is woefully uninspired.
KH didn’t write that cool little bassline, he didn’t write the vocals. He didn’t play those drums or orchestrate anything. He didn’t sing. KH was listening to some records, liked and section from one very much and said “Hey, I’ll put my name on that”. And that’s as far as it went.
Then it was played on the radio and a load of fucking IDIOTS (myself included) ran out and bought it. There was no thought process from the artist or the public. The exchanged when as so:
KH: Here’s this shit piece of music I put together this weekend.
Me: Fuck me, I’ll buy that!
Worse still, there’s a bunch of fucking weasel-fucks trying to flip it on Discogs.com for silly amounts of money. THE RECORD IS STILL IN SHOPS AND IS NOT FROM A LIMITED RUN. And even if it was, it’s fucking bullshit boring house music.
I am annoyed. This is killing my vibe.
So what am I going to do? I don’t know. I’ve depressed myself for the first time in a while here. I am genuinely disappointed that I was duped into buying such a thing when I’d be better off listening to the original sampled records. I mean, fuck, the new drums aren’t even interesting…
Well, in order to stop people paying inordinate amount of money for this below average record, here’s a copy. Listen with disappointment all of you fuckranauts…
All spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are intentional and for the sake of satire. Remember when we could just tell a joke because it was funny? Well now that’s ‘satire’.
Sitting down for the first leg of a twenty-five hour journey sucks. Mentally it’s difficult for me to know I’m stuck in a smelly flying tube for that length of time. As you can likely tell from previous interactions, I’m not much of a people person. I don’t strike up conversations on flights, nor do I enjoy being shoulder to shoulder with strangers for that length of time (or indeed any length of time).
I choose escapism – I have a phone filled with podcasts and music, and a painfully expensive pair of headphones that allow me to ignore the roar of a jet engine for as long as possible. And wine, plenty of it.
Imagine my fucking delight as I pull out my immaculate, rarely used, never out of the bastard box Bose QC25 to find out that one of the cups is no longer working.
I didn’t panic. I checked that the wiring was ok at both ends. No change. I changed the battery. Nothing. I searched some of my phones settings to make sure I hadn’t ballsed anything up. They were just fucked.
It turns out that there is an inherent manufacturing fault with the first generation of Bose QC2s, which means that sooner or later the right ear cup just dies. You better hope that it does so in the warranty period or Bose put their dirty (German?) cock right in your ass.
My shitty fucking Bose QuietComfort 25. Right ear broken
I’ve shot Bose a succinctly worded email explaining my displeasure at the situation. I’m expecting nothing back, although I will update if they do respond positively. I’d be less upset if I found out before I stepped foot on the plane, or if I hadn’t treated them with fucking kid gloves all the time. Or if they hadn’t cost near £300.
I’m stationed in a third world country for the next few days, but I did notice a Bose Service Center as I was chauffeured around. I might go in there and cause some white man drama. Sons of bitches.
What the fuck is this thing? Who are The Presets? Never having heard the original version of “Promises”, nor will I be making the effort to do so, I’m not going to say much about this remix.
I’m putting it up here for completeness really and as an oddity of a recording the I would never have recognised as a Luomo effort. If I had to make a guess, and far be it from me to put words in the man’s mouth, I would guess that VD didn’t much care for the source material given that the vocals are easily 6dB lower than they could be, and everything is deconstructed and layered in a way that exposes rather than beautifies. But, again, all conjecture on my behalf.
I told you I would finish when I got back from Italy. Amazingly, and in one in a million odds, everything in the studio worked today, so it all went quite smoothly. Of course, the Roland RE-201 did chew its tape but that’s what it does. It’s endearing I tell myself. It is.
Having some free time today I opened up the Eminent 1600 organ that my good lady bought me (she’s an enabler) and decided to fuck around with the spring reverb. It’s noisy as hell, but sounds lovely. I can see myself weeding some more sounds out of this one. Oh, and the drum sounds! Oh man, I’ll need to make some recordings of them because they are so lovely. Completely analogue of course, but deep and grainy. I’ll use those soon too.
The recording is very dense and disorganised. I really like this one. There’s not a lot of dynamics either, and what there is only exists through cutting instrumentation. It’s kind of mastered – and by that I mean I ran it through my ART Pro VLA II compressor a bit. This stuff doesn’t really need mastering now, and when it does I tend to mix into the mastering bus. You know, like a pro. A lazy pro.
BassDress Studio, after a messy session. Wooden spoon for percussion is irie.
I don’t have a title for it yet, but I’ll think of something soon enough. Listen below, I’ll put up some download link later on.
Well, it’s been a long and expensive journey, but I have finally secured a copy of DeepChord vs. Octal Industries “Arrival / Departure”. I’ve been searching high and low for any pressing of this record for about ten years. A decade of looking, of searching record shops in mainland Europe and the UK, of hassling dudes on Discogs.com, of fruitlessly searching GEMM every week until they pulled it down (RIP my old friend).
DeepChord vs. Octal Industries “Arrival / Departure”
So after all those years (and all that money) was it worth it? Well, maybe. The music is beautiful, especially the Octal Industries cut. My copy is absolutely immaculate, both visually and audibly, so I’m very pleased. But I can’t help but feel I’ve lost more than I’ve gained. I no longer have a white whale that I’m searching for, I no longer have a reason to email random guys on Discogs to see if they’re finally looking to sell. I don’t think anything will replace this, I just can’t see anything being this sought after for such a long time. It’s not the most expensive record I own, it’s not musically the best nor my favourite, but it is for some reason or another, the most magic.
Octal Industries “Arrival” is a poppin’ repetitive electro techno masterpiece. Deep, rhythmic and just a wonderful five minutes of perfect techno. Octal Industries has never been close to equalling this level of quality again, and I can’t blame him. Perfect magic, pressed to bright orange PVC.
DeepChord “Departure” is the minimal essence of modern Detroit techno. Pulsing PWM minor chords bounce in amongst a hazy background and locked beat. You know who DeepChord is, this is his best work.
Any disc containing “Arrival” would have been highly sought after, but the fact that it’s backed with another almost master-piece makes it something very special.
I travelled 850km to see this man, and what a great set he put on.
Here are some snippets I recorded, I hope it gives you a flavour of what went down. I missed most of the more rhythmic pieces, but this was really just to serve as a recording to jog my memory in the coming years.
If you ever have the chance to see Vladislav Delay live, do it. 10/10 Magic Johnson stuff.
The Life Of Pablo is a bit of a mixed bag – it’s difficult to find any coherence and the majority of the production would be described generously as rough. I’m hoping eventually he’ll recall the Tidal version and proclaim that was a bit of an early preview, but we’ll see. That’s not to say it isn’t without its good points though, Real Friends, Wolves, 30 Hours (that Arthur Russell sample), and I Love Kanye are all fairly solid efforts.
Kanye West “The Life of Pablo”
My favourite at the moment is the weird and wonderful house track that closes the album called Fade. Fade is getting a lot of heat at the moment, and is being proclaimed as Kanye’s Worst Track™. Now I’m a contrarian at the best of times, but Kanye West “Fade” is a fucking solid piece of house music. In fact I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to call it the best house track I’ve heard in the past five years or so. What it’s doing on a hiphop album released in 2015 2016 I don’t know.
Fade has a very steady 4/4 beat, plodding along for a mere three minutes, and underpinned by the least ‘hiphop’ synth bass. I would never have guessed this was a Yeezy track, but that’s no bad thing. There’s a very poorly time stretched vocal sample (your love is fade / I feel it fade) that is used as the main hook, layered against Kanye’s heavily autotuned vocal (when no one ain’t around, I think I think too much). I chopped female vocal stab is then layered against some soul backing vocals and lots of digital delay giving it a 90’s house vibe.
I think it’s really interesting that Fade was included on The Life Of Pablo, but it’s such a lovely little track that I guess Ye thought it was too good not to use. That could be the case for the majority of the efforts on TLOP.]
After weeks of waiting I have finally received my “Blackstar” vinyl. It’s a nicely packaged, heavy weight 180g transparent pressing which comes accompanied with a lovely 12″ matt print book.
Visconti mentioned that the master for the vinyl would sound like a “good old record”. But it doesn’t really, not to my ears anyway. It’s slightly brighter than the digital releases, but certainly not more dynamic. This leads me to believe that a lot of the compression used on “Blackstar” was done during the mixing/recording process, which would seem like a reasonable assumption.
I’ve lived in a world devoid of David Bowie for 14 days now. We all have. I’d like to say it’s a little less interesting and a little less colourful, but it’s not. It’s a lot less interesting.
Blackstar felt genuinely significant upon release, a heady message was being told but in typical Bowie style, it was difficult to decipher fully with any level of confidence. I flippantly suggested a few weeks ago that it sounded very much like the closing chapter and death of Major Tom. I was half right.
Context changes everything, and as cliché as it maybe, hindsight is definitely 20/20.
Anyone reading this article will be acutely aware of what happened next. The events that followed crystallised Blackstar to become Bowie’s clearest message, his most fully realised artwork. A clean and clear ending with all questions answered when few had time to be asked. I’ve never experienced anything like it, I dare say there will never be another album that serves as a closing chapter to so many characters, and to so many people.
The album is short (succinct or efficient maybe a better word) by Bowie standards, coming in around the forty-two minute mark. Nothing is drawn out, nothing feels out-of-place. Even on the title track which spans a full ten minutes (Bowie’s second longest track, second to Station To Station), there is no fat. There was no time for it.
David Bowie “Blackstar”
Blackstar is, to my knowledge, the only Bowie album not to show him on the cover art. Excluding The Buddha of Suburbia soundtrack and its monstrously horrid BBC produced artwork, of course. Maybe this was a sign. His face obscured on his second last outing (The Next Day), only to be entirely absent from his last. He was disappearing before our eyes, and we didn’t even know it.
It appears that with Blackstar, Bowie was finally able to complete that concept album he’s been trying to create since the early seventies. Station To Station attempted it, Ziggy Stardust attempted it, as did 1. Outside. All abandoned the idea, or at least deviated from it significantly enough that none could be called concept albums. With Blackstar David created what he’d been trying to achieve all this time. Unfortunately for him (and for us), it contained the story of his final days. He was kind enough to give away the ending of Major Tom’s story in “Blackstar” and let Davie Jones say goodbye in “Lazarus”. It’s one of the most self-aware artworks of recent times, and the death of Bowie has transformed it into one of the greatest pieces of performance art of the 21st Century.
The opener, “Blackstar” is a ten minute long, sprawling, tense affair. It’s an agitated, restless piece with cinematic strings and a frantic double-time beat pinning down a short two note electronic bass line. A long drawn, slow attack sax presents itself to be the real star of the piece, before everything devolves into a strange, twisted ballad. The whole track is very Bowie, but in a very contemporary way. Blackstar represents the death of a deity, the end of Major Tom. The story of a stranger from another world, and the end of the beginning.
“‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” is what follows, and is a distorted, rough sounding, demo-esque, two-stepping rock piece. With a title ripped from a John Ford play that’s I’ve never seen nor read, and telling the story of a World War 1 Soldier’s visit to a brothel, “‘Tis A Pity” is a Blackstar’s allegory of time passing, cleverly disguised in a grungy pop-rock piece. “Hold your mad hands, I cried” referencing a clock face as the heavy tick of the beat marches on, “that was patrol, this is the war” being used to contrast to the perception of time, then and now.
The third track, and the most poignant to circumstance is “Lazarus”. Completely dissimilar to anything else in Bowie’s back catalogue, it’s extremely modern in execution. If the opening track was a reflection of the death of a character, “Lazarus” is the album’s acceptance of circumstances. “This way or no way, you know I’ll be free“. Although the massively distorted guitar chords fight and struggle, crying out, all other instrumentation is more passive – nothing else resists. Bowie’s vocal is frail and brittle – gasping a little for breath on the beginning of every line, and is used beautifully. The lyrics, now, seem very purposeful and deliberate. “Look up here, man, I’m in danger“. The saxophone cries out after the delivery of every line of each verse, giving the whole tracks such a beautifully bleak feeling. The video is absolutely incredible, and does more to fully explore the music than I ever could.
“Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)”, I’m told, is the literal retelling of the John Ford play from which track two takes it’s title. Again, I’ve got no idea about the play, having never heard of it until the release of Blackstar. What I can tell you is that “Sue” is the darkest track on the album. A fast, aggressive drum ‘n’ bass beat smashes along intricately and distorted guitars swing back and forth. It tells a story where deceit and collusion are rife and lacks any atonement. It’s possible that Bowie sees the play as a reflection of his life.
“Girl Loves Me” begins with crazy vocal syncopation, not a single word of which I understand. I try to write these things in a vacuum, rather than subconsciously regurgitate what I’ve read/heard elsewhere. I have no idea, most of it’s not in English. I don’t know what it is.
“Dollar Days” is a bittersweet piano ballad on which Bowie proclaims himself “dying to… fool them all again and again”, breaking and playing with the phrasing.
Aesthetically it’s the most recognisable ‘Bowie’ track on the entire album. Certainly, “Dollar Days” is most self-referential tracks on Blackstar, acknowledging the twisted music industry, Bowie’s fans, and his impending death all in adjacent bars. Bowie contemplates his regrets and successes, juxtaposing with lines about what may or may not become of him. “Cash girls suffer me, I’ve got no enemies“.
Within “Dollar Days” appears Bowie’s last truly great line; “I’m dying to…push their backs against the grain” which in typical Bowie style is a meshing of two – “back against the wall” [desperation] and “against the grain”[contrary to common practice].
I Can’t Give Everything Away thick, dense, lamenting ballad, clearly intended to be his swan song. “The pulse returns the prodigal son, the blackout hearts, the flowered news, with skull designs upon my shoes“. Soft synthesiser pads wash and fleeting snatches of harmonica reverberate over a small electronic beat, giving the track a lot of space – a lot of emptiness. The track finally ebbing into the distance, echoing away.
It’s difficult not to see Blackstar as more than a sum of its parts. Everything is linked and precisely penned, everything feels intentional. Everything feels significant, especially now.
David Bowie “Blackstar” Spells “BOWIE”. I bet you didn’t know that.
God damn can Tony Visconti keep a secret. That fucking guy… This whole time he had us fooled, played like a fiddle. And what’s more, I’m glad he did. The few days after the release of Blackstar and before the death of Bowie where extremely interesting. Having this weird album in our hands, trying to dig into its secrets and layers. Trying to understand exactly what was going on – and then to have all those questions answered in one static moment, to have our whole perception of the album changed before our eyes. If you listened to Blackstar in those few days, consider yourself a very lucky person, you’ve seen both sides of the coin.
I’m a hipster, fuck, I don’t like music other people have heard of (what’s the point?), never mind the music of self-proclaimed ‘pop stars’. Bowie was an exception. Blackstar is the best album in decades and quite possibly our lifetimes. I find it difficult to imagine what it would take to produce something that would equal the quality and authenticity of this.
A lot of reviewers and fans are saying that they find the album difficult to listen to now – I’m finding it increasingly difficult to listen to anything else.