Massive Attack - Lately
A couple of years ago, I’d been out with a group of friends in Melbourne for far longer and later than I’d anticipated. Home by 1am? Add four hours on to that and you’d be closer to the truth. Despite my sleep-deprived state, this track from Massive Attack’s 1991 debut managed to wade its way through the fog and into my memory during the eventual car-ride home. Too tired to bother asking what the track was, I noted some lyrics down and vowed to Google them when I was a little less narcoleptic.
Blue Lines is critically regarded as one of the best trip-hop albums of the early 90’s, but with tracks such as Unfinished Sympathy and Daydreaming receiving the most attention, this gentle penultimate number may slip past many radars.
Whilst now a partnership of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall, the Blue Lines-era membership included a third lad from Bristol - Andy Vowles. The beauty of Lately lies in its simplicity - effortlessly laid-back, but without being boring - evidenced in the fact that it grabbed my attention rather than sent me to sleep during our first encounter.
Shara Nelson was something of a fourth member during the recording of Blue Lines, co-writing tracks and lending vocals, and it is her voice that leads the way, guiding the listener through the murky bass and well-timed industrial hammers of Lately.
I’ll always associate this track with nighttime, but it can be enjoyed any time of day - particularly during this season, for, like Shara, summertime always gives me the blues too.
The Pharcyde - Runnin’ (Philippians Remix)
The Pharcyde are one of the groups to emerge from the west coast of the US in the 90s. Their playful rhymes were a welcome difference at a time when gangsta rap dominated the airwaves. On their second LP Labcabinacalifornia they showcase a more mature outlook on life, which has been eternalised in the classic J. Dilla produced track Runnin’.
This remix from 2008 keeps the raps and feel of the original intact while chopping up a few additional samples and adding some electronic blips.
Several members left The Pharcyde after Labcabincalifornia and the group continued as a duo, releasing their final, poorly received album in 2004 before disbanding a year later. Despite their shortly lived success they have left a solid legacy and The Pharcyde continue to inspire hip hop artists
Elliott Smith - Angeles
Almost 9 years after his untimely passing, Elliott Smith’s music still maintains a haunting beauty. My favourite track from the hushed songwriter would be 1997’s Angeles.
The thinly veiled tension in this song might be a reflection on Elliott’s well publicized self-loathing destructive nature, or a depiction of the grimier side of Los Angeles - or both. Whatever your interpretation, it is evident that Elliott’s career was cut short by his alcoholism and drug use. The exact circumstances surrounding his passing is still a matter of debate, but regardless, his music lives on and captures the personal and introspective struggle of an artist at odds with himself - a tragic hero whose talents ended up being as much an affliction as a blessing.
Manu Chao - Bongo Bong
What do you get when your mama is queen of the mumbo and your papa is king of the Congo? You get the king of bongo.
Manu Chao is a French born musician who sings in a combination of English, French and Spanish. This track is a remake of Mano Negra, wherein Manu Chao was a founding member. Bongo Bong is a ska-based track that features bilingual singing and rapping, particularly in the medley Je Ne T’Aime Plus, that plays at the end.
After Manu Chao’s begun recording solo, he released Bongo Bong as the lead single from his first album. It was a huge success and went on to sell 5 million copies. This is a wonderful effort considering that his music is so unique. It has become part of pop culture with Robbie Williams and Lilly Allen covering the track and to date it is still Manu Chao’s most recognisable song.
Squarepusher - Port Rhombus
There is an odd sense of serenity I get when I listen to this frenetically paced drum & bass track.
Perhaps it is most evident when the breakbeat percussion switches pace, or when the ambient elements overtakes the frantic speed of the beats. Either way, this song from British DJ Squarepusher manages to wake me up at the same time it lulls me in to a state of relaxation.
This track was released in 1996 but Squarepusher is still around and making music. His back catalogue spans a range of different IDM styles and he is due to release his latest offering Ufabulum on May 15th.
Midnight In A Perfect World
DJ Shadow - Midnight In A Perfect World
Today I’m going to feature an absolute classic song by one of the world’s greatest DJs, DJ Shadow. Midninght In a Perfect World sounds exactly as the title suggests. He released the first ever album that was entirely recorded using only samples from other songs. The 1996 LP Endtroducing frequents lists of the greatest albums of the 20th Century and with good reason. It is a sonic masterpiece that sounds vaugely familiar to first time listeners due to the vast range of samples used.
Rather than detailing his several accomplishments, I’m just going to allow you to be alone with your own thoughts as you listen to DJ Shadow’s sampling, blending and production mastery.
Massive Attack - Teardrop (Cybass Remix)
Massive Attack’s Teardrop gets the remix treatment from Brazil’s Cybass. The remix basically reworks the minimalism of the original adding modern breakbeat and dubstep sensibilities.
The original song was released in 1998 and has gone on to become a classic. It ranked #22 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of All Time chart in 2009.
The DJ from Rio De Janeiro has allowed his remix to be downloaded for free from his Soundcloud page.
Download - Teardrop
Fu Gee La (J. Period Remix Blend)
Fugees & J. Period
The Fugees - Fu-Gee-La (J. Period Remix Blend)
The Fugees made amazing music during the 90s. Fu-Gee-La was the first single from their highly successful sophomore album The Score which has gone on to be multi-platinum worldwide and is generally regarded as a classic in hip hop and a classic album in its on right.
The group disbanded after The Score and all three members launched successful solo careers, perhaps none so notable as Lauryn Hill. She remains to this day my favourite female emceee and vocalist. Her distinctive voice and vocal range give her an unmistakable presence that manages to draw in even casual listeners. You can’t help being blown away by the power behind her singing and the soulfulness found in her expression. It’s no wonder she married Rohan, one of Bob Marley’s sons. We can only hope their children release music when the time is right.
Back to the song now.
The group never sounded more at ease with one another than on Fu-Gee-La, of which there were several alternative versions and remixes made. My favourite mixtape DJ and producer J. Period handles the mashups and blends for this track. It was released a few years ago as The Best of Lauryn Hill Fire & Water, a double disc mixtape. The mixtape boasts 82 songs and covers the career of Lauryn Hill’s music including the singles, unreleased songs, exclusive remixes and interviews with the musician. I recommend you hunt down a copy if this is your kind of music. Enjoy!