The Big Chill festival (Herefordshire, England) really stepped its game up this year, managing to bag Kanye West‘s only UK festival performance and fill out the festival bill with a great mix of emerging and established talent, and some really forward thinking artists. I was lucky enough to go, but rather than regaling you with tales of how good Janelle Monae was (very, even in heavy rain) and how you missed an on form Jamie xx (you missed out bro), I’m going to use this post to highlight music from some of the less well known artists who might or might not be new to you, but all of whom caught my aural attention. Hit the jump to get into some great music, and who knows, there might even be mention of the performance a certain superstar rapper…
As always, hit up the comments section with your thoughts, and let me know which artists your feeling.
We’ll start with Crystal Fighters, who were featured on a Euro Session back in November of last year, as well as on DMP 3, but really deserve their own post. These guys are fairly well known in the UK, having had a couple of songs on mainstream radio, and being popular in the blogosphere since 2008. One of the most interesting aspects of Crystal Fighters is the Spanish origin of the band, which is apparent in their use of traditional Basque instruments, which are liable to suddenly give way to dancey synths and heavy bass.
Their live performance lived up to expectations, managing to get a great reaction from a crowd which was still recovering from the previous night’s raving epicness of The Chemical Brothers, Plastican and Digital Mystikz. Check out festival singalong “Plage”, and then slow building dance tune “Xtatic Love” from last year’s debut album Star of Love. Support Crystal Fighters on their Facebook, listen to their whole output on Soundcloud and maybe even make it rain on yourself in their online shop!
The Bullitts Ft. Jay Electronica & Lucy Liu
Following Crystal Fighters’ successful attempts at waking us all up were one of the weekend’s real highlights – The Bullitts featuring Jay Electronica and Lucy Liu. It seemed as if most of the crowd didn’t really know what to expect, and I was mainly interested in seeing Jay Electronica, but after a slightly shaky opening 5 minutes (later explained by the fact that it was their first live show) the Bullitt’s super creative “5D” project really delivered. For the majority of the 45-minute set frontman Jeymes Samuel was joined by both Lucy Liu (who was narrating a story) and Jay Elec who alternated between rapper and super-energetic hypeman. A high energy live performance is always reflected by the crowd, and my image of Jay as a reclusive almost mystical figure was shattered by his obvious enjoyment as he leaped around the stage, and even jumped into the crowd to sing along with one of the choruses.
The concept of The Bulllitts is that they are telling the story of on the run murderer Amelia Sparks (played by Lucy Liu), but this really came second to what was a passionate and up-tempo combination of Jeymes’ deep and soulful singing, Jay’s lyrical awesomeness (“Eternal Sunshine…” = jaw dropping) and Lucy Liu looking stunning! In just 45 minutes the crowd went from mainly chilling to synchronized mass waving (being orchestrated in the picture above). In fact, The Bullitts got one of the best crowd reactions of the weekend mainly on the strength of new material – definitely the mark of great performers.
The Bullitt’s debut album They Die By Dawn & Other Short Stories (featuring Jay, Mos Def, Tori Amos, Lucy Liu and others) will be out sometime this year, but for the moment there are two singles to listen to (and buy here if you wish) and the Jay Elec featuring “Run & Hide” to download below.
The Bullitts – Landspeeder
If you want to try and get your head around the Amelia Sparks story follow @ameliasparks to read her violent and sometimes disturbing diary, check this article from Soulculture explaining and recapping the first 42 days of the story, and take a look at an interview with Jeymes and Jay after their Big Chill performance here. Follow The Bullitts on Facebook and YouTube – but be warned there is a load of content and they’re always adding more!
One lady recently making a dent on the charts, riding this curious wave of mainstream dubstep popularity (Skrillex playlisted on BBC Radio 1…what the fuck?) is Katy B. There have been suggestions that she’s just “in the right place at the right time” with her debut album produced by Geeneus and her collaborations with Magnetic Man, but for me she is a genuine talent with great personality and power in her voice. She also dances like a normal person enjoying themselves in a club. And jumps up and down a lot. Up and down. In a tight white t-shirt. Up and…well you get the picture.
Anywaaaay, many others were obviously attracted to Katy B’s set, as the large tent she was performing in was rammed with a massive mix of ages/types of people. From casual radio listeners, to young pop lovers to dubstep kids, everyone knew set closer “Katy On A Mission” with its trademark “Wooo oo ooo oo ooo”. For me Katy’s set was a little bit of a feel good lift before the hellish three hours standing to be at the front for Ye’. If you haven’t heard any Katy B before, the three tracks below should serve as a good introduction to the various styles employed on her debut album Katy On A Mission, which can be purchased here.
Katy B – “Katy On A Mission”
Katy B – “Go Away”
Katy B -“Witches Brew”
LV & Joshua Idehen
Festivals are the perfect opportunity to discover new music. Unless you’re the musical equivalent of a dictionary, it’s guaranteed that there will be artists who you’ve never even heard of, let alone seen live. This presents us with one of life’s difficult questions. Do I risk missing a performance I know will be inoffensive at worst to check out a super-hyped post-tribal trance ensemble who could turn out to be a bunch of hippies playing instruments made only of organic vegetables? It is of course easier and safer to stick to what you know, but it can be that
bunch of organic vegetables band you decide to check out on a whim who turn out to be the most satisfyingly enjoyable. At The Big Chill, LV & Joshua Idehen were “that band”.
LV are a fairly reclusive bass music making trio from London mainly known for their output on heavyweight dubstep label Hyperdub, and last year they teamed up with well-respected poet Joshua Idehen for the 38 EP. Following the success of their collaboration they released a full length this year entitled Routes. The album combines the dance music making prowess of LV with Joshua Idehen’s mellow and often amusing delivery to make a surprisingly fun London-centric album.
All this I learned after having seen them live, which only happened because I was dragged towards a small, quarter-full, smoky tent by some thunderous sub-bass. On entering I could make out an MC wearing a very bright shirt, dancing like a fool to some heavy sounds being made by two extremely serious looking bald men behind him. This dancing was very enjoyable to watch, but Joshua Idehen got the whole crowd (of maybe 30 people) smiling with the brilliantly simple “Northern Line” – a bouncy ode to the London Tube line that I could not stop shouting at people for the rest of the weekend. Have a listen to “Northern Line” and two more, quite different sounding tracks off the Routes album. Buy the album here.
LV & Joshua Idehen – “Northern Line”
LV & Joshua Idehen – “Primary Colours”
LV & Joshua Idehen – “Melt’
If you live in the UK you will have heard of Jessie J – FACT. I’m not sure how big she is Stateside, but she has been touring opening for Katy Perry, and collbed with B.O.B., so she’s not exactly a nobody. Her big hits ‘Do It Like A Dude” and “Price Tag” are undeniably catchy, and her breakthrough performance on Later…With Jools Holland showed her vocal talents, but I wasn’t sure whether that would translate to a good live performance.
In short, it really did. Miss J, even with her foot in a cast, had a great stage presence, and an especially sharp sense of humour. Being scheduled immediately before Kanye, she was aware that much of the crowd (myself included) was only there attempting to get as close to the stage as possible, and seemed to especially enjoy making fun of snapback wearing wannabe rappers in the crowd (myself included!). I probably still wont buy Jessie’s album, but I’d make an effort to see her live again as it was quite simply, good fun. The video for new single “Nobody’s Perfect” is below along with breakthrough single “Do It Like A Dude”.
Jessie J – “Do It Like A Dude”
Ghostpoet is one of a crop of young, inventive British producer/rappers who are combining a variety of sounds into what I might call minimal-electronic inspired hip-hop. I might also call it dope as fuck. Or sweet, sweet sad music. Whatever you want to call it, Ghostpoet accompanies often thought-provoking storytelling with melancholy electronic backdrops to paint a portrait of the ups and downs of modern life. This somehow translates into a strangely uplifting live show; maybe it’s the honesty and raw emotion in the songs, or the fact that he threw a lot of badges into the crowd, but there was a lot of dancing and a lot of hands in the air. Most likely it was the slow building nature of tunes such as “Cash And Carry Me Home” and “Liiines”, which eventually explode into their eminently shoutable hooks, as well as the incredibly affable nature of Ghostpoet himself.
Ghostpoet’s wonderfully named debut album, Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam, is out now and you can check out the video for third single “Liiines” after downloading “Cash And Carry Me Home” with an added verse from always on point Kano. Being a producer, Ghostpoet has a number of atmospheric remixes to his name, so grab his bass heavy remix of Metronomy’s “The Look” as well if that floats ya boat. Here’s the man’s Facebook, here’s his website and finally his Soundcloud where you can check out his always cool Ghost Tapes.
A bit of dance music for you now, from Parisian crew Dirtyphonics, who shared this tiny “Starburst” stage with a lot of big and soon-to-be-big names on the electronic side of things. You think a sunny Sunday afternoon in a field isn’t the time for some slamming Drum & Bass? Well think again young sir. Dirtyphonics came out and smashed things up with their awesome-to-see live show. Not only do these guys play live, they put a hell of a lot into it, and have great 2ManyDJ’s-esque chemistry as they move around each other with dance-routine like precision. They also have what every band needs – their own entry music (a machine like voice saying “Dirttttyyyy…Phhonniccsss”) which you could see one of the guys playing on his drum machine.
Dirtyphonics played a mix of their own and others material, potentially including the two tracks below. Or maybe not, as all I really remember was dancing, hard. Keep up with theses bad-boys on Facebook and Soundcloud where they currently have a dope half four mix available for DL.
Last but not least Spoek Mathambo, a South African producer/rapper/designer/graphic illustrator who I’ve been meaning to post on since he came to my attention recently signing to Sub Pop. Spoek is one of those artists that you feel could turn his hand to pretty much any style of music – he’s been in a couple of electro/ravey bands, he DJ’s dubstep and house and draws influences from traditional South African music, UK Bass music and Afrobeat. Unfortunately Mr Mathambo, and his Theophilus London-like line in extremely edgy clothes, was scheduled too close in time to Kanye, so I cannot tell you what his live show is like. I can however, offer this download of mildly disturbing “Put Some Red On It” from a forthcoming EP, and point you in the direction of this pretty hype video of a live performance of a much more club friendly, Eli Porter referencing banger. Go find out more on his Facebook and website.
It would be a little bit ridiculous to write about the Big Chill, and not mention Kanye – he’s one of the biggest and most recognizable stars on the planet, and one of the main reasons I went to The Big Chill this year. Just so you know how much of a step up this was for the festival, last year’s Saturday headliner was M.I.A., a great performer, but not in the same league. But who really is in the same league as Kanye West?
Are there comparable rapper/producers? Maybe, but are there any comparable crossover stars who can appeal to hip-hop heads and glow stick toting teenagers alike, whilst seeming to remain astonishingly un-managed and impassioned? I think not. The Big Chill performance was a perfect representation of the many contradictory sides of Kanye West; he started 45 minutes late, but then apologized, explaining he was being a “perfectionist”, he put on an incredible, hit-laden show even though he was losing his voice, but then launched into a rambling 10 minute speech, parts of which were obviously going to get a negative reaction from the media. Of course Kanye is a little bit up his own arse (understatment much?!), and of course he often acts without thinking, but it is the passion and single-mindedness that makes his live performance so incredible, that also has him running on stage in support of someone elses video.
All in all, Kanye’s headlining show officially blew my mind, and I for one have a lot of respect for him as an artist and performer – certainly a lot more respect than I have for the sensationalist media who’s descriptions of booing crowds and incorrect reporting of what was said just go to show that maybe everyone is “trying to pull that old bullshit again”.
So, maybe The Throne can headline next year…