The Cat’s Baked on Catnip

Yep, fully laid out.

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Days Spent in the Company of Vinyl: #9: Czarface (7L & Esoteric/Inspectah Deck): Every Hero Needs a Villain

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This is less a review than it is an expression of my admiration for good music and being entertained. There is plenty of praise for this album out there already (have a gander, if you really want to); this time is being utilized to test the speakers, smoke and enjoy a boom-bap superhero fest purely for the sake of it.

If you have no idea what the hell I’ve just said, you probably haven’t heard of Czarface. It’s a 3-strong team consisting of underground veterans 7L & Esoteric (Boston) and the Wu-Tang Clan’s highly respected Inspectah Deck (Staten Island). The 3 first collaborated on the track ‘Speaking Real Words’ back in ’01 (see vinyl below); they reunited for the self-titled Czarface debut; and returned with their larger-than-life bottle on the sophomore album, June, this year.

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Essentially, this is a comicbook soundtrack pieced together on an MPC with a load of aggressive rappers thrown in the mix (Action Bronson, Method Man and RA the Rugged just some of those getting in on it). Forget the social commentary; this is all about wordplay, tongue-in-cheek humour and pop culture samples/references.

‘Deck and Esoteric are on fire with the rhymes; 7L’s beats are nasty; and the whole throwback ’90s vibe has a fresh spin on it. This is 2015, but it sounds like ’94 all over again. Expect it doesn’t. Get me?

Just enjoy the record. I am. And be it that Mp3s are crap, it’s a blessing to PHYSICALLY OWN this album in vinyl form (with the added bonus of an actual comicbook included).

Music is much a physical presence as it is a stimulation of the senses. I like that I am able to get hold the damn thing, take the record out the sleeve, give it a bit of a dust off; put the needle on, watch it trace the grooves; then have a quick browse through the insert/comic as it goes off through the speakers.

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The experience should be hands-on and personal (I already nearly spilt my Irn Bru over it).

This edition comes in a clear ivory colour. There was a limited blue and red alternative released on getondown.com that came bundled with stickers, a cd and t-shirt, but it was over my budget.

Haven’t properly read through the comicbook yet; but it’s pissing it down outside, the 2 vinyls are getting flipped every 10 mins or so and the ashtray’s filling up nicely.

Give thanks to the bad guys for their courageous entertainment.

Kumbaya.

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Days Spent in the Company of Vinyl: #8: Qurbani OST

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Just done a 14 hour shift, so, yeah, I’m treating my ears to some fucking vinyl.

Something a bit more on my level of knackeredness. Not boom-bap; something else. I’m shattered and more than likely the back will be done in again in 6 hours’ time when I get up and live my life on repeat, in a daze. Need some form of stimulation for a couple of hours at least.

So, yeah, I’ve gone for an Indian film soundtrack. Random choice, maybe, but so what. I’ve been called a TRAITOR TO THE ENGLISH enough times that I’ve lost count, so might as well roll with it. Besides, there’s just so much music out there. Music I’ve never heard of; or bothered with (all countries considered). Can’t be ignorant in this.

I first heard Qurbani at the girlfriend’s a few weeks ago. I was knackered then as well, and it was around the same time in the morning, but the attentiveness was still there. We didn’t speak to each other for a good half hour, sharing a smoke, having a brew, listening in. I didn’t even know what record she had put on. Never heard of the film or seen it. Then a 12″ square came in the post a few days later.

And it weren’t that X-ecutioners album (I’m still waiting for); but this rather pleasant Bollywood soundtrack from renowned composer Kalyanji Anandj (yep, I know who he is). Wikipedia tells me that the first track ‘Qurbani Qurbani‘ was written by  Urdu poet Faruk Kaiser. Wikipedia also says, Indian-born, England-based produced Biddu composed 2 of the album’s 6 tracks, despite many people apparently being against him for the country he resided in (there aren’t any sources to back any of this up, like).

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I’ve seen some versions of the album with 7 tracks; others with 5. This has 6: ‘Qurbani Qurbani’, ‘AAP Jaisa’, ‘Hum Tumhe Chahte Hain’, ‘Laila O Laila’, ‘Kya Dekhte Ho’ and ‘Baat Ban Jaye’.

All the tracks are nice, esp. ‘Aap Jaisa Koi’. I’ll read up on the English lyric translation one day and might end up disappointed. But this is a real feel-good joint, sung by Nazia Hasan, with more than just a hint of enthusiasm.

And the vinyl crackles a lot. It’s an oldie – 1979. This I like.

This I like a lot.

(EDIT: And yes, I’m very aware I’m starting to sound more and more like an old man.)

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Days Spent in the Company of Vinyl: #7: Jedi Mind Tricks: The Psycho-Social, Chemical, Biological & Electro-Magnetic Manipulation of Human Consciousness

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Jedi Mind Tricks’ first LP (longest title ever) before Stoupe lost his passion for making beats and Vinnie Paz put too much emphasis on gangsterism in his rhymes.

Psycho-Social had a limited release in 1997 on a different label, and recently got this re-issue vinyl release on Babygrande Records. The remastering is cock-on; and the whole album has a dark, contemplative/paranoid feel to it.

Vinnie Paz was best with his vulnerable rhyming style. After JMT’s sophomore effort, this is probably their best.

This vinyl edition has an extra record made up of 6 bonus tracks and comes in red.

Perfect with a spliff and cup of Rooibos.

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Days Spent in the Company of Vinyl: #6: Damu the Fudgemunk: How it Should Sound (Vols 1 & 2)

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This is a fucking nice record. Took three weeks to get here (from Germany), mind, but worth it.

Damu is a Hip-Hop producer from the States taking heart from that golden era, boom-bap sound. He doesn’t try to imitate; and he doesn’t sound outdated. Hard beats and soul samples are his thing. And after being introduced to him by a good mate of mine last month, the time came to go vinyl shopping again.

Well, on Discogs. Found a new copy for 30 quid. When it eventually did arrive, the description on the back, alone, justified the money I’d forked out:

WHAT YOU NOW HAVE IN YOUR POSSESSION IS FAR MORE THAN A COLLECTION OF SKETCHES. HISS V 1 & 2 REPRESENT A BODY OF LOVINGLY CRAFTED MATERIAL THAT BEARS ALL THE HALLMARKS OF DAMU’S SIGNATURE AESTHETIC. CRUNCHY DRUMS BOLSTER INTRICATELY WOVEN NARRATIVES OF SOUL-INFUSED SAMPLES IN COMPOSITIONS THAT THUMP AND GROOVE ALL AT THE SAME TIME. HORNS APPEAR FROM NOWHERE BEFORE DISSOLVING SUMPTUOUSLY INTO THE MIX. LAYERS ARE STEADILY UNVEILED ONLY TO GRADUALLY FOLD BACK IN ON THEMSELVES. BUT HEY, YOU KNEW THAT ALREADY, RIGHT?

WELCOME. IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED. THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD SOUND.

Indeed.

Probably listened to the record(s) 7 or 8 times through over the past couple of days. The splatter gold/silver/white dye all looks very nice, but it’s the beats that really get you going. They range from the smooth, jazzy types; to the outright banging. Dug a bit deeper and went looking for Damu vids on Youtube shortly after the turntable motor started sounding tired. Turns out he uses an AKAI MPC with samples on floppy disks to piece his beats together:

Really feeling this at the mo.

This is a strictly instrumental album (meaning no emcees). Anyone familiar with the Pete Rock or Large Pro instrumentals of the past will have a good time here. 2 x LPs made up of 27 original beats, all of which were produced between 2004 and 2007 (Damu’s early years).

THIS
is how Hip-Hop should sound.

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Short sample shot on my shitty phone:

Buy this shit.

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R.I.P. Pride Funeral Breaks into Protest

Originally posted on RIP Pride:

R.I.P. Pride Funeral breaks into protest and leads the London LGBT Pride march ahead of Barclays and chases UKIP off Pride.

A coalition of individuals belonging to LGBTQI communities and holding a ‘Pride Funeral’ procession, broke through barriers at Oxford Circus to lead this year’s London LGBT Pride Parade. Coffin bearers, flag wavers, banner holders, an undertaker and a samba band sounding a slow funereal beat, all resisted security and stewards who attempted to physically remove them from the street. With flags baring messages of solidarity, politics, freedom and anti-commercialisation, RIP Pride activists solemnly strode the route section from Oxford Circus toward Embankment, until its final destination at the foot of Whitehall. The group’s action was one of sombre defiance against the fee that Pride organisers now charge those who want a place on the historically significant LGBT parade.

Anger at the annual parade reached unprecedented levels this year, when…

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Bradford or Beirut?

Originally posted on Things that Occur to Me:

Where do I live? Bradford or Beirut with a Post Office? This question came to me when I saw a tweet by Richard Horsman, “former wireless hack [in Bradford], now Journalism Teaching Fellow @LeedsTrinity”, saying that one of his students was “apprehensive” about working in Bradford City Centre and “doesn’t feel safe”.

Wow.

It’s weird how a tweet can shock you.

The response was swift and varied, from “Stop being so bloody soft” and “Tell em Bradford is a fantastic, friendly, intelligent city with a wholly undeserved reputation” to one, just one, agreeing that on a Saturday night it can be rough. My response was to invite the trainee journalist out round my city, to show them the…

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(In Defence of) Bradford

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The city I live in and no one ever
brags about

with the mills done up
as posh flats
and its workers
left to rot.

Sirens go off every ten
mins;
there’s dickheads on the roads

BRI’s a nightmare;
and the theatre’s overpriced.

From the edges of Baildon
and Shipley
the upper-racists moan:

“TOO MANY FOREIGNERS IN THIS COUNTRY”

with their Bangladesh
t-shirts
and imported silk scarves.

Hypocrites come in packs;
everyone’s miserable
and the weather’s always grim

(and, yes, that hole is still
there
never
to
be
filled).

But spend a couple of hours in Kebabeesh
and your troubles go away

My Thai or Chinese;
spoilt for choice for the best
fish ‘n’ chips.

Catch a beer down the 1 in 12
with some anti-fascist skins

watch an EDLer
get dropped
right outside the bus
station.

It all happens in Bradford
(we’ve got our own Batman).

You can smoke a shisha inside
or get away with a joint

anywhere,
out on the street or in the park.

No one likes the police.

A fair few Tories and Labourites

but more and more people
seem to hating
George Galloway.

Poetry. Yeah.

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Yeah, I Saw Jurassic World and it was Better than Most Hollywood Films these Days

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Popular, Hollywood Blockbusters are getting worse. Too remakes/reboots/reimaginings/”spiritual” spin-offs/whatever-you-wanna-call-em; or just straight-forward, crappy sequels continuing film franchises I grew up with in the ’80s and ’90s (when blockbusters were actually GOOD).

Ask my mates and they’ll tell you I’m sceptical of most things new. Every few years it seems there’s a Terminator film worse than the last; and I’ll never forgive those Alien Vs. Predator fuck-ups for trying, spectacularly, to destroy everything I loved about James Cameron and Ridley Scott’s Alien masterpieces (I’m still not over that… and doubt I ever will be).

Michael Bay getting his grubby hands into the Ninja Turtles franchise has by no means helped my faith in Hollywood Blockbusters; neither has the fact that the fifth Die Hard film is complete and utter tosh.

We aren’t talking spiritual successors anymore; we’re talking money. Hence why, at the minute, we see countless superhero movies being churned out one after the other, allowing whoever it is who’s bought the rights to quickly cash-in on the latest craze.

I’m getting side-tracked here already, but let’s just say films aren’t films anymore; they’re projects for money earners. It should be common knowledge the producers couldn’t give two fucks about what you, me or anyone else who needs their a fix. Like with most things, the reality is obvious: the bigger the profit, the shittier the output; and the less likely corporate execs are to care what the consumer wants and/or what the obsessed fanboy needs.

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There’s been talk of a fourth Jurassic Park film coming out for years and I’ve kept my ear close to the ground purely as a Jurassic Park fan (I saw it at the pics in ’93 and had most of the figures). But upon hearing the news, I’ve never really felt excited or encouraged hearing the fourth film go into production; and the urge to see it as soon as it hit cinemas never really appealed to me for the reasons stated above.

Exaggerated science, well-staged action, likeable characters and big fucking dinosaurs worked with the first Jurassic Park; things got sillier in the sequel, The Lost World, but it was still entertaining; while Jurassic Park III ended up being pretty bad, in a b-movie sort of way. The last thing I wanted was another one of my childhood franchises being ruined and dumbed-down further, with boring characters and an overuse of green-screen special effects (and a video-game tie-in release thrown in for good measure).

Let’s cut to the chase. Jurassic World is a straight-forward sequel: no bullshit, the park is open and the dinosaurs are taking over. The surprising part, at least for me, is the fact that it’s actually good. Ok, it’s better than good. I saw it at the cinema a couple of days ago and already thinking it deserves a second viewing.

The fact that it shows human beings fucking around with nature and getting eaten for it through their own ridiculous use of science could be considered entertaining and successful for the most part, but Jurassic World works simply ’cause it feels like a Jurassic Park movie. The annoying kids, animal rights theme, obsession with Bio/Computer Technology advancements — they’re all there. It’s lacking the suaveness of Geoff Goldblum and the paternalism of Sam Neil; but Jurassic World’s got a tough frontman in the form of Chris Pratt, which was arguably lacking in the films before.

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My biggest fear was seeing an endless amount of CG-effects and the dinosaur world not looking anything like the actual world. Come on, you know that feeling you get when you watch films with crappy computer-generated effects and it just feels like the human characters are overlapping computer layers and aren’t really there? Yeah, I know, they’re movies, but it’s nice to be immersed in the big-screen world, feel the tension and the struggle, otherwise what’s the point?

The first Jurassic Park blended CGI with live-action dinosaur robots seamlessly and is  considered a milestone in bridging modern and more traditional special effects. Jurassic World made me reminisce of the days where the benefits of CGI were been utilized in big budget summer blockbusters, where digital sprites had a stage presence and were actually interesting to look at. This is a quite an appealing film to the eye, it has to be said, showcasing the strengths of CGI as it’s become more advanced since the days of the first film; while co-workers of the late Stan Winston even have a hand in the animatronics.

The effects are impressive, but they’re by no means the be all and end all of the film. The atmosphere of a fully-functioning dinosaur amusement park is generated through slow-building of early scenes and the viewer relating to the sceptical nature of its central character, Owen (Pratt). We all know things are going to kick-off, but we remain intrigued enough to see how.

I like the idea that Capitalism is basically nearing its peak of ridiculousness; so ridiculous, in fact, that the CEO of Jurassic World, Mr Masrani (Irrfan Khan), has decided he wants to “build” the ultimate dinosaur as a tourist attraction in the form of “Indominus” — half raptor, half t-rex. We’re moving away from the semi-Scientific realism of the first film here, to more King Kong/Godzilla territory, but the social commentary/satire is handled well to the point that it feels like we’re shouting down a long and empty corridor to try and get the big-money corporate execs to listen.

The danger of Jurassic World’s exploitative scientific methods is very much a realistic concept (I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if some big-headed science division thought it would be a good idea to re-create dinosaurs, sometime in the future, for the sake of opening a Sea World-style theme park and making profit). The decision to expand Dr. Henry Wu’s role (from the first film) is significant in making the point that human beings have the capabilities/stupidity to outdo themselves with their own creations, with no expenses spared.

Don’t you wish human beings would stop being so greedy and pig-headed in their attempts to define nature?

Me too. Still, it’s nice to see a few of them get eaten for it; and it’s good to see a franchise still going strong without a crappy sequel tarnishing its name in the modern day. I liked Jurassic World — I could see it again — I’m particularly impressed with whosever’s idea it was to resurrect the Wrangler jeep from the first film. Nice touch.

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