I.F.M., Back In The Days

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Art by Hort

[Uzuri]


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House and politics, and indeed music in general, are a funny mix. For every Bob Dylan you have a Bono, and for every Big Strick you have a Sascha Dive. We’ll leave Dive’s ill-advised Black Panther references for now, but the cousin of Omar-S’ “A Walk Down Linwood” powerfully proved politics in house doesn’t end with Moodymann or MLK speeches laid over “Can You Feel It?”. All this is by way of introduction to the A2 on I.F.M.’s Back In The Days EP.

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The first reaction on hearing “September 11” is probably shock. Music that has referenced the events of 9/11 such as William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops or Theo Parrish’s “Moments Of Instant Insanity” understandably has a mournful or at least abstract tone, so to hear such a direct, hopeful and indeed almost joyful, Chez Damier-influenced house track behind various voices (including Dubya and Obama) intoning the titular phrase with a variety of emphasis, is unnerving to say the least. On the most recent Odd Machine release, the Roger Linn interview sampled posits that with the repetitiveness of the beat produced by, for example, a Linn 9000/LM2, “your mind begins to tune out the drum machine itself.” Does the same cognitive trick happen here? Does the constant repetition of the controversial phrase mean the listener stops “hearing” it, rendering it meaningless? The audience as ever can decide, but it’s certainly a provocative gambit and far more thought-provoking than the next “deep house” record with a “canyadiggit” sample. The pay-off of “September 11” is the communal “together!” chant; this is a sincere tribute and leaves no doubt as to the producers’ intentions.

“September 11” might grab most of the headlines, but elsewhere on Back In The Days there is plenty else to interest and indeed challenge the discerning listener. The title of the EP drops more than a hint to Marcello Napoletano and Francesco Schito’s preferred era of house music, and indeed all four tracks are indebted to a mid-90’s sound that is increasingly gaining currency. “Miles” in particular appears at first blush to be belle of the ball at the Nu Groove resurgence party, all chattering voices and ravey stabs. However, it maintains the forward looking agenda of that particular label, and is far too obstinate to be written off as mere pastiche. An incongruous concert piano appears halfway through, and only the streetwise “yo!” and clattering drums stops this particular debutante falling over at her own bash. An engrossing track, it counts amongst the finest Uzuri have released. “TOM” and “Raw Vibe” are similarly percussive, haunted house workouts with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Back In The Days is far from the nostalgia fest implied by its title; a deeply stimulating record, both in content and aesthetic, it moves on while paying respects to the past.

Nick  on January 7, 2010 at 12:40 PM

Interesting you mention Big Strick in comparison to Sascha Dive’s “Ill-advsed…Black Panther references”. Could the same be said about Dor’s use of Big Strick in his RA podcast? He’s not black but his podcast contains more than one allusion to Afro-American racial issues.

The same topic of debate came up in the Resident Advisor forums, as LWE mentioned a while ago. This is my two cents:

In the 1940s and 50s a white performer called Lord Buckley earned his living telling the well-known stories such as those contained in, for example, Shakespeare’s oeuvre or the Bible. Pretty straight-forward stuff, until you hear that his interpretations of these stories were in fact told in what he called the “hipsemantic” – the dialect of English spoken by many black Americans at the time which was to later influence the beat poets and every single generation since. This is a dialect which has, in the past half century, truly integrated itself into the English language.

In Buckley’s monologues, William Shakespeare became “Willie the Shake”. Marc Antony’s funeral oration: “Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger-Poppin’ Daddies, knock me your lobes”. The story of Ghandi: “The Hip Ghan”…

Richard Buckley was not a real aristocrat. His moniker was derived from the many members of Jazz royalty – Count Basie, Duke Ellington, King Oliver. His philosophy was that all people were lords and ladies, and that they were flowers of life. He not only preceded the beats, but the hippie generation too. Here, a white guy in 1940s America was hanging out in the Jazz bars of Harlem embracing a people and culture which was still at that time largely oppressed, whilst at the same time publicly preaching the unity of all peoples.

One of his most controversial moments in performance was his rendition of Joseph S Newman’s poem, “Black Cross” (Bob Dylan fans may be familiar with this). One of the lines to this poem reads “cause readin’ ain’t no good for a nigger”. A story goes that a famous jazz musician at the time almost stabbed Buckley when he heard the word “nigger”. That word out of context could no doubt be met with such a reaction, but what the story actually points out are hypocrisies which lie within white society.

Now, I’m not saying that Sascha Dive’s Panther EP is as profound or as virtuous as Buckley was, but there is something to be said about the embracing of a culture or style (Chicago, Detroit, etc). I personally did not find the Panther EP’s cover to be in bad taste. Perhaps, as a few people here have mentioned [on the RA forums], there may be a degree of naivety on Dive’s part, but I don’t really believe the sole reason for him using those images on his cover lies as shallow as being vaguely referential.

It sounds to me like the samples in “Brother” might have come from a film or documentary about Black Power or the Black Panthers, and the “trumpet swell” that comes in around the middle of the track might easily have come from the same film – at least it gives that effect. My feeling on this record is that Dive, obviously greatly influenced by the sounds of Chicago, Detroit, black producers of electronic music and black or African music in general, has at some point done some homework and perhaps taken a trip to the library and read up on some black history. Perhaps, upon reading about the Black Panthers, or watching a documentary about Stokely Carmichael, something affected him along the way – an aspect of a story, a character, a quote – and he decided to produce a record based upon it.

Who knows, the point is I don’t think it is offensive to use images from another culture as long as there is a good reason for it. Despite the reason here not being quite so clear, something certainly hints to it. And records shouldn’t be judged by their covers.

In my opinion Dive has in this case created a very solid, groovy and atmospheric piece. Having just listened to “Brother” again, I would say it does his label’s namesake a justice, though in fairness this sentiment I would not necessarily apply to all releases on Deep Vibes. Sascha Dive may or may not be a great DJ – I can’t really say much on this as I’ve never seen him play, but some of his music I do enjoy, particularly those which clearly derive a recognisable influence, such as DVR 007 and “Brother”.

It’s not often records like this come along and provoke such interesting, healthy and valid debate due to a historical context they may carry, but I am glad that they do for better or for worse, and after all, is this not an aspect which could contribute to a the perception of a records so-called deepness?

Anton  on January 7, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Although this seems like a debate for the RA forum where it started, I think there are distinct differences between playing a record and making a record. Those being, the former is some form of endorsement of the producer’s concept while the latter requires the producer to make the concept.

If Dive deserves credit for starting a conversation about his insensitive appropriation of African American history, it’s not much. Stereotypical art, grabbing really tokenistic moments in African American history for an otherwise limp record, all of it screams, “Sascha Dive doesn’t get it.” He knows his own productions are often thin gruel that only have much sought after “soul” if he takes it from the people considered to have it. It’s offensive that he can’t think of another way to conjure it without reaching for other people’s hardship and turmoil.

struggle  on January 7, 2010 at 2:28 PM

“thin as gruel” i love that!

Nick  on January 7, 2010 at 3:35 PM

Anton,
In the same sense, is Dive not endorsing something by incorporating it into his productions? One could say a DJ produces an overall concept from records in a similar way that a producer produces a concept from sound design or samples. If it’s a carefully selected sequence of records for the purposes of a podcast or CD, more so.

If Dive has more than one brain cell, which, by running a record label, I imagine he does, I would’ve hoped he knew what he was doing when he produced that record. In your opinion this wasn’t executed very well. Fair enough. It’s not the greatest record I’ve ever heard, but certainly, at the very least, it’s a functional dance record.

More importantly, though, I think it has been produced with at least an idea to create a mood or a feeling as so much house music is. In Dive’s attempt to emulate a sound he’s crossed cultural borders, but I don’t think the result is offensive. As in Lord Buckley’s case or, to give another example, Omid Djalili, this is a good thing.

harpomarx42  on January 7, 2010 at 10:33 PM

It’s a good EP musically, and A2 sounds really nice, but the whole 9/11 does make me uncomfortable. Mind you, that’s really what makes it stand out.

@Nick: Bonus points for referencing Omid Djalili.

james  on January 8, 2010 at 6:56 PM

I just dont know if I EVER want to hear Bush´s voice on the dancefloor no matter how groovy the track….

harrison  on January 10, 2010 at 7:06 PM

all about the b-sdes for me!

Adamm  on January 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM

is that little piano fill around 1:57 from jay dee plastic dreams? I can’t place it but know that little fill.

I wish the sept 11th samples weren’t in there to be honest, would be an outstanding track without it. I wonder why he felt the need to even keep it in. the together sample is ace.

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