Saturday, January 30, 2010


Thanks to Nochexxx for sending me a pre-Christmas Red Cross parcel fulla assorted goodies, incl. this - his collaboration with (recent Wire cover-featured) rapper Sensational. It's a fucking excellent twelve, in my opinion, one that rocked my record-deck over the Xmas hols and rolled me over into the Noo Year rather nicely. It'll make a great additional to anyone's record-bag.

"S.Y.S" lurches into view on chunky, yet oddly sinuous syncopated beats. It's spacious yet muscular; an athlete with a wooden leg working out on an exercise bike. Steadily pumping, pumping, pumping, thighs burning from lactic acid...he stops to preen himself, check his reflection in a steamed-up mirror, shakes out the sweat and starts pumping again, each successful pedal-rotation celebrated by an odd trombone-like doubleparp. The bike-gears click and ratchet as he pumps, pushes, stops and preens; occasionally his gammy leg gives him some gip, but he pushes on past the pain - the strange inner ache that only he can feel - a film-loop of a never-ending road stret-tuh-tuh-tching out into infinity in his inner-eye.

Prrarhp/Prrarp. Tikk-takka-tooh.

Sensational's flows weave precariously in and out of the beats; his voice a battered old bubble-car sliding between lanes. "Get out the fucking way," yells the cyclist silently inside his mind. But they never collide; it's like an endless cartoon ballet, beautifully choreographed...little cars and vehicles bobbing in and out of each other's paths, a tiny plasticine freeway. City of Tiny Lights.

Sensational's voice is like smoked chicory; his vowels smell of Columbian coffee and weed. Dry roasted cadences. Words slide and roll as he flicks his tongue, licks his lips, lets the words hang and fall. Poetry in motion, motherfucker.

He says: "This is a scorcher from Taunton / This is a scorcher from Taunton ."

Okay, okay: I know he's really saying "Torture," but I'm a West Country boy and I need to believe. Ah, too late: it's hardwired into my ears now. "Taunton", it is, then.

Flip-side "Sinbliss" is a fairground ride stuck on auto-play, a roundabout unable to stop; wooden-sticks instead of hi-hats. Then it all falls away, and someone's pounding on the wall of a metal prison-cell. It's Sensational and he's saying what sounds like "Yacht...yacht...yacht..." the word punctuating each blow of his fist against the cell-door that hems in his mind. I'm feelin' foggy, he thinks.

Then the beats come in and we descend into cough-syrup madness: something that might be a thin butcher's slice through a guitar-sample bwwaps its way along in the opposite direction to the rhythm-track. A lone man elbowing his way through a crowd. Everyone's going the other way...there's something oddly lonely about this track, not the voice, but the music and what it seems to say... *puts fingers to temple* (I'm wearing a swami's turban now; a fake mind-reader doing vinyl-psychometry): I'm getting, ummm... isolation, alienation...

"Yo' rocking wit tha big dawg..."

Seriously, you should buy this shit. Whether you like bumpin' Techno, Hip-Hop or just the perilously strange, you really should buy this shit. The beats and the rhymes mesh perfectly. But in a disorientating, queasy way that flashes forward-backwards to tha abstract quantum.hop of CoFlow, AntiPop Consortium, etc.

Quick, let's talk to Nochexxx before I completely lose my fucking mind:

How would you personally describe the music you make?

N: "Ummm, not sure tbh: electronic club music with ever-changing nods towards some kinda continuum."

Are you happy talking about *process*? Do you have any set methodology for working?

N: "I suppose my process is to let the first sound or idea determine what I feel should come next. I play with sounds and rhythms until my speakers talk to's important I feel bugged out or possessed, otherwise I don’t bother to continue and would rather to rip it up and start again.

"I watched that Brain Eno doc recently and he mentioned something about keeping the world interesting by manipulating your own reality - soundsabout right!"

Do tracks start with a certain sounds or patterns, or do you take inspiration from other more abstract objects / things in your environment (like books, films, something that someone says)? Or are tunes triggered by a variety of sources?

N: "I don't worry about adhering to musical gestures; I prefer to reach out for something close to me (usually it’s an obsession weighing heavily on my mind). I quite possibly have a personal complex, which feels relieved once I have given back to that small minute. it’s my way of paying respect, I think. But yeah, I love my beats and funk, so sometimes that serves as a good starting point. Could be anything really."

What do you think it is that drives you to make music? Is it something you've always done - a gradual, on-going thing - or was there some sort of tipping-point in your past?

N: "'Tipping-point'? I prefer tripping point! I think I have a deep need to create, have done since I was young. I do trip from it and therefore it feels like the most exciting thing I can do right now."

As I get older I'm increasingly fascinated by people who continue to work creatively, often with little hope of recognition or major financial's an amazing thing to me that certain people constantly find strength in themselves to push onwards and create - these are the people that interest me the most and who often do the most challenging / engaging work, often almost completely off-radar...

N: "Please keep supporting people that operate off the radar. As you know, there’s a few of us here in Cambridge! Shout outs to The Doozer, Pete Um, Man from Uranus and PDA."

How did you hook up with and start collaborating w/Sensational....?

N: "MySpace! I just said: “Dear Torture, you’re the greatest rapper on the planet. If you ever want to rap on some scuzzy techno, please holla”. I also asked Kool Keith, but he wanted crazy $$$$. Myspace is great; I hooked up with Zackey Funk that way."

I'm curious what came first - the music or the voice or what? I love the way the sounds track his cadences / flow - rather than just a repeating multi-bar thing for him to work over - the music and voice are v. synergistic; they work beautifully in tandem...

N: "Both ways, to be frank! I produced the tracks, sent them to Sensational; he rapped on it, sent them back and then I did more post-production. I had to re-edit a great deal, kneading it into something concise and market-ready.

I like the fact that your stuff is serious-minded, but there's also a playful streak in some of your work - it's a nice balance; neither devalues the other. It's interesting to me that your beat-based work suggests one strand of influences, whereas elsewhere you're also dipping into old style Musique Concrete/Montage, and also more modern Glitchier-sounding's cool you've got a wide restless palette...

N: "Thanks! I love lots of music, including - as you say - Musique Concrete. I own quite a few of those Metamkine CDs, love Luc Ferrari etc - his record "Presque Rien" was a particular favourite."

So, what have you got in the pipeline next? Is there any other stuff on its way that you can talk about?

N: "I have a few records out on Ramp this year, but we've yet to make our minds up what exactly. There's also a Xylitol remix album on the cards. The album will also feature remixes from AJ Holmes, Belbury Poly, Sculpture, Woebot, Pete UM, Strange Attractor, Nochexx, Ommm. And I've also been asked to compile a record for Pete UM, which should be a luxuriously packaged release! Exciting times."

Where can people buy the Sensational / Torture collab. ?

N: "It's dripping out now.


At 10:32 pm, Blogger Pete Um said...

City Of Tiny Lights, yeah!

At 6:11 pm, Blogger Jason Gusmann said...

i love this: "I watched that Brain Eno doc recently and he mentioned something about keeping the world interesting by manipulating your own reality - soundsabout right!"

At 6:04 am, Blogger db said...

I was just thinking about Sensational as I dug out my copy of Ice's Bad Blood earlier this month and it's interesting how prescient some of that stuff sounds now -- I'll definitely have to check this out...


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