• Flashback Review - 1998: Various Artists - Ninja Cuts 3 "Funkungfusion"

    23 Feb 2006, 04:24 by Fidgital

    This week, I thought I'd do some flashbacks to records which profoundly influenced my own music career. Especially looking at the late '90's, immediately prior to forming Fidgital in 1999.

    It's early 1998. I've become a big Coldcut fan, immensely turned on by the "Fuck dance, let's art!" esthetic of their 1997 album, Let Us Play (which should have its own flashback review). I know they run Ninja Tune but I haven't delved too deeply yet. Enter Funkungfusion, a stlyishly packaged double disc set for the irresistible price of $11.

    So even before listening, I ponder the title. Is it "Funk & Fusion"? Is it "Fun Kung-Fu"? Is it "Fun Confusion"? Yes, yes, yes, all these things. The liner calls it "a phasechange at the edges of hip hop, techno, jazz and outrock."

    So I put it on. Immediately I'm hit with Chocolate Weasel's wild 5/4 electro Music For Body Lockers. Then a double hit of Amon Tobin, showing off both his dark spastic cinematic drum & bass, plus his sinister velvet downtempo jazz-hop. Only 15 minutes in and I know this may be the best compilation record I've ever heard.

    The end of the '90's was a rich time for the Ninjas. They were transitioning from the later-copied-by-everybody trip hop sounds of their early releases, but not quite into dichotemy they fell into in the very early 2000's, where everything seemed to be either deep modal jazz or underground hip hop. In 1998, Ma Ninja was playing with every sound and doing things no other label had done before (at least not with the semi-commercial success enjoyed by the Ninjas). We weren't quite to the stage where their tunes were on half the car ads on TV. Actually, I believe Mr. Scruff makes his Ninja debut on this compilation.

    So who do we have? Kid Koala with Money Mark, Luke Vibert, Roots Manuva, DJ Vadim, Up, Bustle & Out, Cabbageboy (AKA Si Begg), Neotropic, J. Swinscoe (soon to found The Cinematic Orchestra), DJ Food, The Irresistible Force, Burnt Friedman, and the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto. Plus double hits from The Herbaliser, Funki Porcini and The Clifford Gilberto Rhythm Combination. And even more.

    High points include Mr. Scruff's hilarious Ninja debut Fish and The Prunes epic (if you can do epic in under 5 minutes) symphonic hip hop remix of Theme From Conquest of the Irrational. Goateee (Part 1) clearly shows the path to The Cinematic Orchestra, even featuring Tom Chant on sax. The original version of The Crow contained here is superior to the version on Kaleidoscope, again foreshadowing how PC would eventually become part of The Cinematic Orchestra. I Wish I Was A Motown Star might be considered "smooth jazz" were it not for its Squarepusher-influenced nu-jazz drill & bass production.

    A seeming one hit wonder, PAC 3 is some of the best drum & bass I have in my collection - positive and atmospheric, but driving and danceable without being too esoterically fragmented. Why didn't this project yield anything else? Can anybody tell me more about Override?

    So, how to rate this? On an average song rating basis, I'd say four stars. But the sheer volume and "bang for buck" of this compilation cannot be ignored. 30 tracks, most of which have dated extremely well. Whatever your Ninja tastes, you could pick your favourite dozen on here (actually, that could be difficult, given so many great tracks) and make your own iTunes album. Or pick the many tracks not available anywhere else.

    The bottom line is that this one of the best compilations you'll ever find. Certainly my favourite of all the many good Ninja Tune compilations. And definitely one of the albums which most influenced my music career. Thank you, Ma Ninja!

    Four and a half stars.
  • Review: The Quantic Soul Orchestra - Pushin' On

    18 Feb 2006, 20:47 by Fidgital

    I've been a fan of Will Holland since I first discovered his great nu-jazz production as Quantic when he first burst into the remix scene in 2002 with mixes for Kyoto Jazz Massive, Bonobo, and United Future Organization. Since then, Mishaps Happening made my top records of 2004, and I'm now working to get his whole catalogue.

    The Quantic Soul Orchestra is a different beast. All-live, funk, breaks, with afrobeat, nu-jazz and neo-soul moments, this is the sound of a hot band kickin' it together in real time, no samples. Vocalist Alice Russell is featured on several tracks, and the band is rounded out with horns, classic keys, bass, guitars, drum kit and percussion.

    On this second QSO album, Pushin' On, you'll hear moments that remind you of James Brown, classic Stax records, Blue Note funk sessions, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, The Average White Band and Tower of Power. But it's also a 2005 record, and not all backwards-looking. More contemporary breakbeat and hip-hop influences appear as well - Jazzanova, 4hero, A Tribe Called Quest, The Herbaliser, Jamie Lidell and others.

    High points include title track Pushin' On, the Ninja-Tune spy movie hip-hop of The Conspirator (Main Theme), an inspired heavy funk cover of Mr. Scruff's best known tune, Get A Move On, and the gentley driving Latin nu-jazz of Paintings And Journeys.

    This is a band I must see live! If you enjoy funk, breaks or upbeat instrumental hip-hop, you'll dig this.

    Four and a half stars.
  • DJ Cam – Biography

    27 Jan 2006, 20:54 by willcyko

    DJ Cam – Biography

    Laurent Daumail, better known to French music fans as DJ Cam, was born in 1973. The future DJ Cam's first contact with the world of music was not headphones and turntables but the piano, which he began learning at the tender age of 8. However, Laurent/Cam would soon leave the world of classical piano music behind and develop an interest in jazz, his father, a restaurant-owner and major jazz fan, instilling a passion for syncopation and bebop in his young son. Despite his great love of music, Laurent never dreamt of pursuing a career in the French music world, orienting himself instead towards a degree in business studies.

    Laurent began to devote an increasing amount of time and energy to music in his teens, buying himself an electronic drum kit and a bass guitar. But when he discovered the magical world of hip hop and the technological delights of sampling, Laurent would sell his musical instruments and buy himself a pair of turntables instead. In the early days of his career the aspiring young DJ would spend hours listening to hip hop, mixing the records of his role models Erik B & Rakim with the cutting-edge samples of Public Enemy, a group he listened to non-stop. At the age of 16, the young entrepreneur would start organising his own evenings in local bars and clubs, getting the dancefloor grooving a mix of his hip hop samples and funk imports.

    Having established a solid reputation on the French club scene, DJ Cam went on to launch a recording career, setting up his own label, Street Jazz, in 1993. His first release on the label was an innovative hip hop/jazz EP entitled "Dieu reconnaîtra les siens". But the EP proved altogether too avant-garde for French music fans in the early 90's and DJ Cam 's style was dismissed as being too underground.

    Undeterred by the commercial failure of his first EP, DJ Cam continued his work in the studio, going on to record a debut album entitled "Underground Vibes". This first album, which DJ Cam produced entirely under his own steam, was released on his new label, Inflammable Records, in March 1995. The album went on to prove relatively successful, selling over 15,000 copies worldwide - which was something of a feat for a debut album produced on a small independent label !

    "Underground Vibes" also proved a major hit with the critics, DJ Cam's expert jazz sampling winning him a great deal of respect - even if French music critics remained rather confused as to how to label his original sound. In fact DJ Cam's smooth jazz/hip hop fusion was very similar to trip hop, a style which was about to be pioneered in Britain by a number of cutting-edge groups such as Massive Attack and Portishead. Perhaps the best description of DJ Cam's innovative instrumental fusion on "Underground Vibes" would be 'Abstract hip hop'.

    While music critics continued to puzzle over the correct term for DJ Cam's style, the French DJ was busy establishing an excellent reputation for himself on the international music scene. DJ Cam's avant-garde vibes went on to prove a veritable hit on the Japanese dance scene and the French DJ was soon greatly in demand in the studio. Indeed Lady Miss Kier, the trend-setting muse/lead singer of the American group Deee Lite, contacted DJ Cam personally to seek his collaboration on her solo album.

    The man who draws emotion from machines

    Ironically, while DJ Cam rocketed to stardom on the international music scene, he remained relatively unknown at home. This unhappy state of affairs would soon change, however, when DJ Cam performed at the 'Transmusicales de Rennes' in December 1995. His brilliant performance at this eclectic music festival would not only impress the audience gathered at Rennes - it would also provide excellent raw material for DJ Cam's first live album, "Underground Vibes Act", released in the spring of 1996. DJ Cam's avant-garde vibes did not go unnoticed by dance music critics. Indeed the latter showered his album with rave reviews, dubbing the French DJ "The Man Who Draws Emotion From Machines".

    Towards the end of 1996 DJ Cam returned to the recording studio to begin work on a new album entitled "Substances". Released on the French DJ's own label in November 1996 (and distributed internationally by Sony), "Substances" experimented with a slight change of musical direction from DJ Cam's previous albums. The tracks on "Substances" were infused with a more melancholy feel than usual, featuring a variety of slick cool-jazz samples from the likes of Alice Coltrane (the wife of the famous American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane). Cam fused his smooth easy-listening jazz samples with the usual hip hop rhythms, but this time round the emphasis was definitely on mellow - music fans only have to take a listen to the soft, velvet vocals of the Indian singer Kakoli Sengupta on the track "Meera" to get a feel of DJ Cam's new style.

    But Cam's pioneering spirit meant that he was never content to stick with one style for very long and, as soon as he had put the finishing touch to "Substances", the French DJ was out and about experimenting with new sounds. Travelling between Paris, New York and Tokyo, Cam kept up to date with all the latest developments on the international dance scene. This made him a particularly attractive prospect to French variété artists such as Carole Laure and Jean-Louis Murat who were looking to add a more modern touch to their albums. DJ Cam, a self-declared fan of French variété star Alain Souchon, was more than willing to venture into this new musical territory and play the role of consultant producer. Cam's brilliant dance remixes of Laure and Murat's songs have worked the same kind of magic for these artists as producer Todd Terry did for the English group Everything But The Girl.

    While advancing the cause of French chanson at home, Cam continued his work on the international dance scene. Indeed, the trend-setting French DJ was soon greatly in demand - after collaborating with DJ Krush on his solo album (released on the Japanese label Mo'wax), Cam went straight on to remix the work of the English group Tek 9. In 1997 the French DJ would produce an excellent compilation album (in the DJ Kicks series) featuring innovative remixes of dance tracks by a host of international stars including The Mighty Pop, Tek 9 and Daphreephunkateerz.

    In April 1997 DJ Cam turned his attention to his own career once again, recording a new album entitled "The Beat Assassinated". This creative and excitingly innovative album featured a galaxy of Anglo-Saxon guest artists from groups such as Silver Bullet, Channel Live and Otis as well as the Toulouse-born rapper Dadou from KDD (DJ Cam could hardly be accused of being narrow-minded in his choices!) "The Beat Assassinated" also allowed DJ Cam to get back into the hip hop groove which he discovered at the age of 17.

    Loa Project

    Renowned for being one of the more experimental figures in the French electro world, DJ Cam constantly plays around with music, never letting his sound get bogged down in any one particular style. On his new album, "Loa Project", Cam seeks inspiration in voodoo culture, drawing on the cult's trance-like music and hypnotic beats. Released in 2000, "Loa Project" (loa means "the spirits of voodoo"), finds Cam venturing into the world of the supernatural. But the first single release from the album has a reassuringly terrestrial title, "Juliet". In fact, the song is a tribute to Cam's fiancée, which he himself describes as a "declaration of love". Catching music fans' unawares - as is his wont! - DJ Cam proves there is even a place for love and emotion in the cold machine-dominated world of electro.

    Cam only

    Having gotten rid of his ‘DJ’ title, Cam came back in the spotlight with a new album, "Soulshine", released in 2002. Differing radically from his former work, "Soushine" only contained unplugged tracks, and as little sampling as possible. On the contrary, more attention than usual was paid to the production and the arrangements. Drawing his inspiration from soul music, the artist invited such prevailing African-American soul artists as Guru or Cameo to take part in the album. The Indonesian singer Anggun did the vocals on the first of the singles entitled "Summer in Paris".

    DJ Cam is renowned for his exploration of different musical sources and in 2001 he paid homage to the late great jazz masters, reworking the Miles Davis classic "In a Silent Way" on "Panthalassa", a tribute album masterminded by Bill Laswell.

    Cam's open approach soon led to him working on a new jazz/electro fusion project. In 2003 this project resulted in the excellent album "A Fillet of Soul", recorded with two leading musicians from the French jazz scene, Alexandre Tassel and Guillaume Naturel. The 11-track CD featured contributions from many top names from the jazz and electro world such as Laurent de Wilde, Flavio Boltro, Maxime Blesin, Franck Avitabile and Minino Garay.

    Throughout his career while working on his own solo albums Cam continued his remix work, reinventing new mixes of tracks by leading soul and hip-hop stars. His hit remixes include everything from Nas ("Made You Look"), Cypress Hill ("Highlife"), Macy Gray ("Do Something"), Malia ("Let It Happen") and Michael Jackson ("Rock My World"). In January 2004 Cam assembled the various remixes he had done between 1998 and 2003, releasing them (exclusively) on a vinyl album which soon became a sought-after record on the DJ circuit.

    Master of abstract hip hop

    On his last album, "Liquid Hip Hop", released in February 2004, Cam returned to his instrumental hip-hop roots. Rapper Jay Dee stepped in to remix "Love Junkee" (which had previously featured on "Soulshine"), but apart from this track "Liquid Hip Hop" was a celebration of instrumental work which confirmed DJ Cam as THE top French representative of the "abstract hip hop" movement.

    Later that year, Cam stepped behind the decks to mix at an event organised by the legendary Blue Note label. He appeared at the Elysée Montmartre in Paris, on 7 April, sharing the stage with the likes of La Funk Mob, Jazzanova and Bugs in the Attic. Cam also contributed a remix to the album "Blue Note Revisited," reworking the Donald Byrd classic "The Emperor." The remix featured French jazz star Eric Truffaz on trumpet.

    2006 is going to be a major year for DJ Cam. The release of “[revisted]”, full-length album including remixes from Thievery Corporation, Kid Loco, Bob Sinclar, among others, is scheduled for January 31st 2006. This release is combined with the launch of Dj Cam’s entire music catalog (100 songs) on iTunes Music Stores Worldwide, as well as select US live appearances and cross-branded lifestyle exposure
  • Top 20 Records of 2005

    10 Jan 2006, 17:53 by Fidgital

    As I've had several requests, here are my favourite records from 2005, arranged in rough order of preference. Eliminated from the running, as much as I love it, was Fidgital's own Renovations. I was just a little too close to it to allow it into the list. ;)

    1 - Jaga Jazzist - What We Must
    2 - Matthew Herbert - Plat du Jour
    3 - The Herbaliser - Take London
    4 - Jamie Lidell - Multiply
    5 - Kammerflimmer Kollektief - Absencen
    6 - Gorillaz - Demon Days
    7 - New Order - Waiting for the Sirens' Call
    8 - Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle - You've Stolen My Heart
    9 - Erasure - Nightbird
    10 - Moby - Hotel Ambient
    11 - Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
    12 - M.I.A. - Arular
    13 - Skalpel - Konfusion
    14 - Dzihan & Kamien - Fakes
    15 - Blackalicious - The Craft
    16 - The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike
    17 - Boards of Canada - The Campfire Headphase
    18 - Pest - All Out Fall Out
    19 - Blockhead - Downtown Science
    20 - Hoppy Kamiyama - A Meaningful Meaninglessness

    Lots of great records didn't quite make the list, probably your favourites. Ah, but, then, this list isn't meant to please everybody. Still, if you like some of these records, you're bound to like more.

  • DJ Set: Best of 2005

    10 Jan 2006, 04:52 by Fidgital

    As promised, my "Best of 2005" DJ set has been uploaded. Here's the set list:

    Vitalic - Polkamatic
    Cal Tjader - Los Bandidos (Michael Reinboth Remix)
    Matthew Herbert - Celebrity
    The Rebirth - Evil Vibrations
    Flanger - How Long Is The Wrong Way?
    Brazilian Girls - Sirènes De La Fête
    Moby - Homeward Angel (long)
    The Go! Team - Bottle Rocket
    Missy Elliott - Lose Control (Gerd Blend by Luminfire)
    Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhosle - Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Lover, Come To Me Now)
    Tennant / Lowe - After all (The Odessa Staircase)
    Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek
    Jamie Lidell - When I come back around
    Basement Jaxx - Oh My Gosh
    Hoppy 神山 (Kamiyama) - サイケデリックな血清投与 (Knock on food)
    Kammerflimmer Kollektief - Alles Glühen
    Zuco 103 - Vivente
    Boards of Canada - Peacock Tail
    Fidgital - Whatever, whoever, whenever (Jealous Of Frank’s wreck room remix)
    New Order - Working Overtime
    The Herbaliser - Nah’ Mean, Nah’m’ Sayin’
    Pest - Donde Pesta
    Mozez - Venus Rise
    Blackalicious - The Fall And Rise Of Elliot Brown
    Erasure - Mr. Gribber and His Amazing Cat
    Archie Shepp - Attiva Blue (Chief Xcel remix)
    M.I.A. - Amazon
    Jaga Jazzist - Stardust Hotel
    The Brut Imperial Quintet - Drophere
    Bebel Gilberto - Winter (Nuspirit Helsinki Reinterpretation)
    Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body
    Jamiroquai - Time Won’t Wait
    Röyksopp - 49 Percent
    John Beltran and The Detroit Latin All-Stars - Vente Conmigo
    Roísín Murphy - Sinking Feeling
    Lemon Jelly - ’75 AKA The Slow Train
    Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
    菅野よう子 (Yoko Kanno) - Ride On Technology

    Or directly download it here:


    Keith Gillard
  • Review: Skalpel - Konfusion

    6 Dec 2005, 23:04 by Fidgital

    The new release from Ninja Tune's Polish jazz sample-heads Skalpel is a really solid record (rekord?) of great musikal merit. Konfusion was released today and doesn't yet have it in their database, but trust me, it exists and is worth tracking down.

    Just 10 tracks and 40 minutes long, Konfusion is a beautifully-paced tour of nu-jazz, breakbeat, and jazzy abstrakt hip-hop. At times it reminded me of label-mates The Herbaliser or Amon Tobin, at other times of like-minded grooves from Fila Brazillia or Bugge Wesseltoft. The orientation is to jazz more than bossa, swing more than breaks, and abstrakt more than katchy. But as a whole, it works, delivering a beautiful musik experience equally moving intellektually and emotionally.

    The highlight of the album for me is Test Drive. Its spy movie breaks, awesome big band horn runs, distorted guitar, memorable sax melodies, and great deep mood kombine to kreate something I wouldn't be suprised to see licensed to a ton of movies, TV shows and kommercials. Hot track!

    The album ships with a bonus disk 1958 Breaks, featuring remixes of 1958 and Break In from their debut album on Ninja Tune. Sadly, the Fidgital remix of Break In (Fidgital Remix) isn't included on the disk, but you can still download it from Ninja Tune here: The bonus disk is great, with the outstanding 1958 (Skalpel remix) and a long-overdue (for me) extended mix of the brilliant 1958. Skalpel's own remix of "Break In" (Break Out (Skalpel remix)) is also really solid, as are the lovely ambient breaks from Amalgamation Of Soundz on the new tune Low.

    Although the album is incredible, I have to admit that I would love it even more if the parts had aktually been written and played by live musicians. There's no question that Skalpel are skilled, finding the right samples from their huge krates of Polish jazz, fitting them together just right, and assembling lovely kompositions from these pre-existing sounds and phrases. But no kredit is given to the original rekords, the original players, the original writers. When I hear a great sax solo, I want to know who played it! When I hear a trombone player with great tone, I want to know their name! This experience is kompletely absent from Skalpel.

    But, this quibble aside, this is a really solid rekord. It would have gotten a higher skore had the parts been aktually written and played for this rekord, but even still... Four stars.