Little White Earbuds » urban tribe Hook up your ears Thu, 22 Jan 2015 18:54:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 LWE’s Top 10 Albums of 2010 Mon, 20 Dec 2010 06:01:49 +0000
Electronic dance music may be indefinitely wedded to the single as its format of choice, yet each year it grows clearer that albums are the ultimate test of producers’ artistic mettle. In a set of genres where going long is expected and encouraged, the long-player is a canvas large enough for artists to show off the many facets of their musical vision — as well as how it fits together. 2010 was another stellar year for albums, one which offered still more hope that dance music continues to evolve even as many of its adherents rehash past developments. The year revealed the gorgeous way forward for house, hosted artistic transformations, bold first statements and returns to form, and yielded plenty of stunning music that defied categorization altogether. These 10 albums, as voted on by LWE’s writing staff, represent the best and most intrepid among the year’s long form statements.

10. Darkstar, North
[Hyperdub] (buy)

Darkstar’s debut LP, North, represented a sizable stylistic shift from music they had released up to that point, but when put to the test, transpired to be one of the year’s triumphs. Having evolved from a production duo to a live trio, Darkstar were likely to find themselves trapped between identities, and this album finds comfort in curling up inside the space between old and new. In one sense stepping away from their more obvious dubstep inclinations, the album’s dark, intimate atmosphere simultaneously hearkens back to the early, moodier roots of the genre, huddling in the middle-ground between the electronic and organic as demonstrated on the fizzling beats and sorrowful overtones of “Deadness” and the title track’s machine-gun ballad. However this is a record of cohesion, not conflict; North presents such a introspective train of thought that the spark of brightness injected by earlier hit “Aidy’s Girl’s A Computer” almost seems out of place. However, this isn’t an album that seeks to depress. The mournful strains ebbing throughout are colored with a melancholic hopefulness rather than despondency; and while closing track “When It’s Gone” is just a few black-clad mourners short of a funeral march for the technological age, North christens the promising future in store for Darkstar’s fledgling sound. (Jack Scourfield)

09. Urban Tribe, Urban Tribe
[Mahogani Music] (buy)

Even though the main contributors (Kenny Dixon Jr, Anthony Shakir and Carl Craig) to Urban Tribe are well known, there is still an air of mystery that pervades this year’s Urban Tribe album. Combing through several interviews with founding member Sherard Ingram won’t make it any clearer who did what. In a way, not knowing only adds to the fantastical realm the album inhabits. The industrial dub landscape envisioned in the landmark 1998 debut, The Collapse Of Modern Culture, is expanded upon as the tracks here cover plenty of new ground. Morphing from strange yet wonderful excursions into future soul dubstep (“Program 2″) and claustrophobic hip-hop (“Program 7″) to more straight-ahead deep electro (“Program 5″) and melancholic deep house (“Program 12″), Urban Tribe is provocative in a way that haunts you long after the record stops.
(Kuri Kondrak)

08. Autechre, Oversteps
[Warp Records] (buy)

Autechre’s place in electronic music has often been slightly ahead of everyone else. From the gestational IDM of Tri Repetae to the proto-glitch of Envane and Draft 7.30 all the way through to Confield‘s controversial noise excursions, they’ve had a knack for sneaking up on emerging sounds. The post-dubstep bass textures coupled with beautiful melodies on Oversteps find Autechre with their ear to the ground in 2010 even while continuing their career trend of constantly looking a step beyond. Certainly, opener “R Ess” is rides the resurgence of deep and dark dubstep from artists like Kryptic Minds and Horsepower Productions, even while it sounds uniquely like their handiwork. Even on more standard experimental productions like “Illanders” and “Treale,” the steady thump and deep low-end easily makes these contenders for speaker-rattling choices in the club. In amongst the modern beats and bass are some of the boldest forays into melody Autechre have produced in years. “Known(1)” and “See On See” are both heavily focused on melody, with baroque sounds and structures weaving throughout seemingly abstract backgrounds. Yet here’s no doubt this is an Autechre album, as strange, bubbling music-scatters like “D-Sho Qub” and “St Epreo” clearly show the producers have not emerged from the rabbit hole to aim for dance floor stardom. In an exciting and varied years for electronic music, Sean Booth and Rob Brown prove that songs can be experimental, sound beautiful, and bump heavily all at the same time. (Keith Pishnery)

07. Peter van Hoesen, Entropic City
[Time To Express] (buy)

The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy (“disorder”) of the universe tends to increase. Peter van Hoesen was wise to choose this as the subject of his first techno full length — not only to capture the hearts of nerds like myself but also because his work seems to embody the concept. His tightly wound tunes, alive with texture and warmth, seem to break down and disintegrate or coalesce around a cloud of synth-born matter. We’re treated to plenty of sweaty 6 AM jams often associated with PVH, but Entropic City stands out as one of the years best because he tempers the tempo and energy with languid, atmospheric cuts. It’s on these slower tunes where van Hoesen’s attention to detail and trance-inducing powers are on full display, where the cliches of techno albums break down. Entropic City is hardly just a collection of tracks: it’s a living, breathing ensemble, with each part’s motion tied into the larger whole — not unlike a city. (Chris Miller)

06. Jon McMillion, Jon McMillion LP
[Nuearth Kitchen] (buy)

Jon McMillion’s debut album didn’t so much appear out of nowhere as it did slowly take shape amongst the fog of other long players this year; in fact for many it was heralded by the stellar collection of remixes that succeeded it. With little to no fanfare to the Seattle producer’s past efforts, he released his imperforate self titled album in September on CD and digital formats, unwittingly turning in the sleeper album of the year. Densely packed with intricate melodies that owe as much to progressive rock and free jazz as conventional house music, McMillion’s album seeps into your senses like a rising tide. The familiar emblems of house are present throughout the album, but it’s the free-form embellishments that tip this long player over the edge into rarely explored territories and mark its uniqueness. McMillion’s voice is a constant presence throughout, but as it coaxes the listener into aural hypnosis with heavy delays he also patches in to sampled elements, making for some of the most familiar-fresh sounds you’ve heard of late. With the digital release of the album clocking in at nearly two hours (and not a scrap of any filler), this is without a doubt one of the most rewarding start to finish albums you’re likely to hear in a long time. (Per Bojsen-Moller)

05. Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers
[Hotflush Recordings] (buy)

On their early EPs, Mount Kimbie sounded like they’d shattered the vase of futuristic dubstep and were trying to figure out how to superglue it back together. By the sound of their debut album, however, the group decided to shatter the vase once again, this time just for fun. Crooks & Lovers exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from Mala’s Return II Space, another one of this year’s finest, albeit for very different reasons: where the DMZ opus restated dubstep’s purpose, Mount Kimbie’s record — a jangly, flawed-to-perfection set not much longer than a Villalobos single — corrupted seemingly without remorse. This year of all years, though we’ve learned that dubstep can sound awesome when it’s all out of whack, and on Crooks & Lovers, there’s truly an art to Mount Kimbie’s nonchalance. Across 11 tracks, each scraggly drum hit, guitar twang, and shred of diva vocal sits mismatched and in precisely the wrong place. But I’m sure anyone who cherished this album shudders to think of what Dominic Maker and Kai Campos would sound like if they’d followed the directions. Other records might have evoked the music of tomorrow as much as Crooks & Lovers, but it’s safe to say that no other album envisioned the year 2100 as a world dominated by an elite of Etsy barons. High tech and handcrafted? Mount Kimbie has proved no one else does it quite like they do. Let’s hope they keep doing it.
(Jordan Rothlein)

04. Scuba, Triangulation
[Hotflush Recordings] (buy)

Forget dubstep for a second, forget its fruitful crossover with techno that’s been going on for years now, forget everything. Scuba’s second album, Triangulation, is just a beautiful piece of spatial sound design: that it comes packed with fantastically inventive beats is a lovely bonus. Triangulation picked up all the loose ends that have been poking out of UK bass music and enveloped each one in Paul Rose’s particular array of moods and sounds. As sensually humid as it was coldly industrial, its sounds had a habit of diffusing in and out the mix like warm breath in a frozen warehouse. It was sufficiently sleek to fulfill even the most extreme futurist fetishes but approachable enough to satisfy listeners looking for something more soulful and affecting. Scuba adeptly played with techno (“Heavy Machinery”), dubstep (“Three Sided Shape”), garage (“On Deck”), and crawling halfstep drum-n-bass (twin standouts “Before” and “So You Think You’re Special”) without ever moving beyond his (vast) comfort zone. However, the album’s best quality is that it made context needless even in the presence of multiple genre exercises: in providing a comprehensive survey of current dance music, he demolished dance music itself and rebuilt it with his own set of rules. Triangulation was a collective epiphany, the sound of an accomplished artist discovering what he needed to do and then doing it right before your eyes. It doesn’t matter what you think about “dubstep,” anyone who was interested in electronic music in 2010 needs this record to witness one of its most daring and inspiring events. (Andrew Ryce)

03. John Roberts, Glass Eights
[Dial] (buy)

After a string of laudable 12-inches and a few scattered remixes and compilation cuts, John Roberts made good on his promise as Dial’s next great album producer with his debut long player, Glass Eights. The album finds him coalescing around a more uniform aesthetic, sounding a bit like you’d expect the producer’s headspace would during a succession of ten sunless winter days. Gone are the overt ghetto-house references, that former swagger now drenched in piano reverb and twinkling bells, those eternal signifiers of electronic melancholia. Deeper listens divulge an intensive attention to detail, compositions so nuanced and personal it feels shameful to worry about their efficacy in a club setting. Roberts notoriously composes in bed, and Glass Eights bears its influence, using house music as a bridge between the openness of his own space and the claustrophobic rest of the world. To sound purely like oneself, especially on one’s debut album, is a high achievement, and this is precisely what Roberts has done. (Steve Kerr)

02. Shed, The Traveller
[Ostgut Ton] (buy)

If Shedding The Past, René Pawlowitz’s first album as Shed, was a personal manifesto then his sophomore long-player, The Traveller, was closer to a collection of short stories. Its 48-minute run-time belied how many styles and ideas Pawlowitz was able to execute, containing 14 tracks wherein the revered artist flexed his production muscles in almost every imaginable direction. Despite flitting from euphoric ambience (“Stp2″) and chunky, Detroit-influenced techno (“Atmo-Action”) to face-melting techno (“Hdrtm”) and grandiose junglisms (“Leave Things”), the sustained complexity and quality of the arrangements bind the album together. Its diversity recalled the genre-spanning albums that were once common in electronic music (think early LFO, The Black Dog or B12 LPs) and Pawlowitz’s ravishing slate of melodies echoes the timeless sonorities of early Richard D. James productions. The Traveller feels like a product of its circumstances — having been created at the behest of Ostgut Ton in a mere two months — and its maker’s curt personality, taking only the time necessary to make its case and then moving on. Standing in contrast with his first full-length, Pawlowitz’s sophomore album was sure to disappoint those who anticipated another grand treatise. Expecting as much missed the point: The Traveller was a potent dispatch from where Pawlowitz stood in 2010, one that found him still far ahead of the pack with plenty of ammunition to spare. (Steve Mizek)

01. Actress, Splazsh
[Honest Jon’s Records] (buy)

Discussing the quest for his own little corner of the electronic music spectrum with The Wire, unabashed techno enthusiast Darren Cunningham spoke candidly on the anxiety of influence. “When you’ve got the Detroit shadow looming over you… you need to come with something quite decent. I took time to find what my sound was.” Splazsh is the stunning realization of that effort, a richly introverted hour whose modulated drones, anxious stop-start rhythms and swung funk distinguishes itself from forebears and contemporaries through what are, by now, Actress’ calling-card idiosyncrasies: the raw rumble of blown-out bass, the overdone EQ-ing and, of course, the security-tape rendering of compression and distortion. These tricks coalesce hypnotically in a twinning of the ominous and euphoric, but it isn’t sound design that made Splazsh one of 2010’s major events. It’s that Cunningham just seems to be viewing music from a markedly different vantage point than the rest of us. This is a guy who originally fancied 2009’s “Ghosts Have A Heaven” a good fit for Underground Resistance, and who described “Hubble” as a study of “Erotic City.” And his sophomore LP is every bit as eccentric, abstract and playful as we hoped to hear. Hopscotching from spectral haze to glassy R&B to nightvision garage to aggro glitch, Splazsh sometimes manages to roll and swing and swagger and coo all at once. But it regularly puzzles and surprises us too, never quite fitting the hybridized genre tags we lob at it. We’ll surely be listening closely to this one long after 2010 ends, clamoring for a glimpse of whatever it is that Darren Cunningham sees through his prismatic window to the world of rhythm music. (Chris Burkhalter)

Staff Lists:

Per Bojsen-Moller

01. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records]
02. Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers [Hotflush Recordings]
03. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
04. Jon McMillion, Jon McMillion LP [Nuearth Kitchen]
05. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
06. Four Tet, There Is Love In You [Domino]
07. Christopher Rau, Asper Clouds [Smallville]
08. Conforce, Machine Conspiracy [Meanwhile]
09. Peter Van Hoesen, Entropic City [Time To Express]
10. Caribou, Swim [City Slang]

Chris Burkhalter

01. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records]
02. Arp & Anthony Moore, Today’s Psalter [RVNG]
03. Autechre, Oversteps [Warp]
04. Peter Van Hoesen, Entropic City [Time To Express]
05. Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek, Bird, Lake, Objects [Faitiche]
06. Digital Mystikz, Return II Space [DMZ]
07. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh [Motown]
08. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
09. Lerosa, Dual Nature [Further]
10. Donato Dozzy, K [Further]

Steve Kerr

01. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s]
02. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
03. Urban Tribe, Urban Tribe [Mahogani Music]
04. DJ Roc, The Crack Capone [Planet Mu]
05. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Tonträger]
06. Salem, King Night [IAMSOUND]
07. Autre Ne Veut, Autre Ne Veut [Olde English Spelling Bee]
08. Arp, The Soft Wave [Smalltown Supersound]
09. Lukid, Chord [Werk Discs]
10. Grimes, Halfaxa [Arbutus]

Anton Kipfel

01. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
02. Sandwell District, Feed-Forward [Sandwell District]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Ton]
04. Brandt Brauer Frick, You Make Me Real [!K7]
05. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records Records]
06. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
07. Jon McMillion, Jon McMillion LP [Nuearth Kitchen]
08. Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers [Hotflush Recordings]
09. Ripperton, Niwa [Green]
10. Peter Van Hoesen, Entropic City [Time To Express]

Kuri Kondrak

01. A Guy Called Gerald, Tronic Jazz The Berlin Sessions [Laboratory Instinct]
02. Urban Tribe, Urban Tribe [Mahogani]
03. Lone, Emerald Fantasy Tracks [Magic Wire]
04. Red Rack’em, The Early Years [Bergerac]
05. Actress, Splaszh [Honest Jon’s Records]
06. Jon McMillion, Jon McMillion LP [Nuearth Kitchen]
07. Fabrice Lig, Genesis Of The Deep [Fine Art Recordings]
08. Aybee, Ancient Tones [Further]
09. The Black Dog , Music For Real Airports [Soma]
10. Oneohtrix Point Never, Returnal [Editions Mego]

Chris Miller

01. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
02. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Ton]
04. Peter van Hoesen, Entropic City [Time To Express]
05. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records]
06. Demdike Stare, Liberation Through Hearing [Modern Love]
07. Autechre, Oversteps [Warp]
08. Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers [Hotflush Recordings]
09. Donnacha Costello, Before We Say Goodbye [Poker Flat]
10. Donato Dozzy, K [Further Records]

Steve Mizek

01. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
02. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records Records]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Ton]
04. Robyn, Body Talk [Konnichiwa]
05. Emeralds, Do You Think I’m Here? [Editions Mego]
06. Jon McMillion, Jon McMillion LP [Nuearth Kitchen]
07. Lindstrøm & Christabelle, Real Life Is No Cool
[Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound]
08. Tobacco, Manic Meat [Anticon]
09. Arto Mwambe, Live At Robert Johnson Vol. 4 [Live at Robert Johnson]
10. Brandt Brauer Frick, You Make Me Real [!K7]

Sarah Joy Murray

01. Reagenz, Playtime [Workshop]
02. Lerosa, Dual Nature [Further]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Ton]
04. Space Dimension Controller, Temporary Thrillz [R&S Records]
05. Pantha du Prince, Black Noise [Rough Trade]
06. Redshape, Red Pack [Present]
07. Margaret Dygas, How Do You Do [Power Shovel Audio]
08. Peter Van Hoesen, Entropic City [Time to Express]
09. Virgo, Virgo (Reissue) [Rush Hour]
10. Aybee, Ancient Tones [Further]

Keith Pishnery

01. Rudi Zygadlo, Great Western Laymen [Planet Mu]
02. Ital Tek, Midnight Colour [Planet Mu]
03. Starkey, Ear Drums and Black Holes [Planet Mu]
04. Autechre, Oversteps [Warp]
05. Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma [Warp]
06. Terror Danjah, Undeniable [Hyperdub]
07. Four Tet, There Is Love In You [Domino]
08. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
09. Ikonika, Contact, Love, Want Have [Hyperdub]
10. Take, Only Mountain [Alpha Pup]

Jordan Rothlein

01. Mount Kimbie, Crooks & Lovers [Hotflush Recordings]
02. T++, Wireless [Honest Jon’s Records]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Tonträger]
04. Digital Mystikz, Return II Space [DMZ]
05. John Roberts, Glass Eights [Dial]
06. Tin Man, Scared [White Denim]
07. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
08. Sleigh Bells, Treats [Mom + Pop]
09. Actress, Splazsh [Honest Jon’s Records Records]
10. Salem, King Night [IAMSOUND]

Andrew Ryce

01. Scuba, Triangulation [Hotflush Recordings]
02. Darkstar, North [Hyperdub]
03. Shed, The Traveller [Ostgut Ton]
04. Jack Sparrow, Circadian [Tectonic]
05. ASC, Nothing Is Certain [NonPlus+]
06. Sandwell District, Feed-Forward [Sandwell District]
07. Guido, Anidea [Punch Drunk]
08. Pantha Du Prince, Black Noise [Rough Trade]
09. Roof Light, Kirkwood Gaps [Highpoint Lowlife]
10. Terror Danjah, Undeniable [Hyperdub]

Jack Scourfield

01. Eleven Tigers, Clouds Are Mountains [Soul Motive]
02. Jimmy Edgar, XXX [Studio !K7]
03. Darkstar, North [Hyperdub]
04. Baths, Cerulean [Anticon]
05. Teebs, Ardour [Brainfeeder]
06. Four Tet, There Is Love In You [Domino]
07. Salem, King Night [IamSound]
08. Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma [Warp]
09. Terror Danjah, Undeniable [Hyperdub]
10. Dettmann, Dettmann [Ostgut Ton]

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LWE Interviews Sherard Ingram Wed, 18 Aug 2010 15:01:48 +0000 The Wire, Little White Earbuds eagerly turn to Ingram with some follow-up questions of our own. ]]>

With a discography extending all the way back to 1987, Sherard Ingram’s music and life have simply seen too much growth and change to permit easy characterization. Sure, a through-line connects the span of his work, but not one that parallels any single current of electronic music history. Which is kind of funny because, telling his story, Ingram can’t help but mention the key players of Detroit’s seminal second wave. His debut solo production, “Covert Action,” originally appeared on a 12″ alongside Underground Resistance’s “The Theory” and Carl Craig’s “The Climax.” Techno proudly claims that record as its own, but listening to “Covert” today, its stutter-and-groove has as much in common with hip-hop or beatdown house. Ingram’s first full-length recording — 1998’s Collapse of Modern Culture — enlisted the talents of friends Anthony Shakir, Kenny Dixon Jr., and Carl Craig, and its anomalous collection of deep-space funk and leftfield downtempo is held as a classic by followers of multiple genres. The next chapter in Ingram’s story is no less auspicious.

Shortly before his untimely passing, Drexciya’s James Stinson rechristened Ingram “DJ Stingray,” an “assault-based DJ” for the legendary aquatic sound warriors. Galvanized by this Drexciyan connection and informed by a brisk DJing style that challenged the hegemony of the 4/4, Ingram’s latest work favors breathtakingly fast-paced techno whose wiggling keys and searing bass lines roll and weave in agitated surges, yet glide in lithe, unbroken lines. Lately he’s used his Urban Tribe and DJ Stingray monikers to disseminate this sound through Rephlex, WéMè, Trust, Pomelo and, most recently, Planet E and [Naked Lunch]. This year he also masterminded a reunion of the Collapse team, whose new long-player on Mohagani assumes a different template altogether. In April, The Wire‘s Derek Walmsley took down Ingram’s story in a must-read interview. Tipping our hats to The Wire, Little White Earbuds turn to Ingram with some follow-up questions of our own.

I wanted to start with “Covert Action.” That track had sort of an interesting journey, first appearing alongside Underground Resistance, later compiled with broken beat and sort of introspective hip-hop via Mo’ Wax, and then getting a reissue on Planet E, a label we tend to associate with the dance floor. What sort of audience did you originally have in mind for that record? And what sort of listening situation did you envision for it?

Sherard Ingram: At the time within my own my mind I had placed some distance between myself and the sonic status quo. So the track came about as an expression of this mind state. I was listening to hip-hop of course and industrial, along with doing some hip-hop tracks for some younger guys. As far as the listening situation, I just saw it as something a person could sit back and chill or drive to.

Was it a record you could fit into your own sets when you were DJing?

No way could I have ever envisioned that track being played in a DJ set, and certainly not one of mine at that time! [laughs]

So DJing and producing were separate ventures for you back then?

At that time I was moving away from DJing and became more interested in production. I was subscribing to musician magazines and audio engineering magazines like Mix. I had always wanted to be an engineer. I was even in a recording school for awhile, and worked in it as well. But I must note that DJing helped me with sampling and selecting records for sounds.

I read that you worked with an Yamaha RX-5 early on. What other equipment did you cut your teeth on?

The first drum machine that I worked with was by a company named Mattel, and the machine was named SynSonic. I used the Alesis MMT-8, Alesis HR-16, Casio CZ-5000, Roland 909 and 808, Dr Rhythm — I think it was DR-550, I’m not certain — and a few more devices here and there. In fact I still have the manual for the RX-5 and a memory card with songs on it.

Wow. That’s probably quite a time capsule.


Several year later, you were working on The Collapse of Modern Culture. Was this always conceived as a group project?

Urban Tribe started with “Covert Action,” which was just myself. With The Collapse of Modern Culture, it was my first LP. I can say it was very nerve-wracking and it made me appreciate artists, from all genres, who put out LP after LP for years. At one point during the production I felt overwhelmed and like I needed a little help. So I called up two men who I had great respect for even before there was an Urban Tribe, Ken [Dixon Jr.] and [Anthony] Shake [Shakir]. With their advice and production skills, along with Carl’s of course, the LP got done and I really liked the sound of it.

Were there periods where you had this whole team in the room at one time? Or…?

That’s classified.

How long did it take to complete the album?

About a year. I would pull away from it for a month or two at a time, so it made it a longer process than it should have been. [Laughs] I really wanted to take my time and not feel pressured and stale.

You mentioned in the interview with The Wire that your plan at the time was to live off of your music for a while. How long were you able to do that?

With a little frugality and denial I was able to stretch things out for about a year, I would say. Naturally I had to do some odd jobs to make ends meet.

After Collapse, there was a period of relative quiet in terms of published material. Were you making much music between ’98 and ’06?

Between ’98 and ’06 I was working menial jobs and doing minimal production, but nothing that was released with the exception of a mix I did on Ken’s first 12″. It was a strange period for sure. I was a little too focused on chilling. It took the DEMF and a meeting with James Stinson to snap me out of a malaise that I was in.

Was that the first time you’d met James?

No, I had known James since ’89 – ’90 from working at Buy-Rite records in Detroit.

What was it about this meeting that changed things for you?

Well, this is when he brought up the concept for a Drexcyian assault DJ, based on what he heard me doing at the first DEMF.

How did you get involved with DEMF festival?

Carl called and asked if I wanted to play, and I said yes. It was my first time playing in front of such a large crowd. It had its ups and downs, but I was richer from the experience.

Do you know what it was about your set that caught James’ eye?

Of course I’m speculating, but I believe it was the overall selection. I don’t really get into trendy tracks, and I look for eclectic or cutting edge material. Not to say everything I played was mind-blowing, but I think it caught his interest.

Starting around 2006, your catalog really picks up steam, and your music takes on a more anxious, fierce quality. It’s much faster. Did your time with James Stinson play some role in this?

2006 to now is a reflection of my contact with James and my travels through Europe, along with my experiences in Detroit. Add to that a desire to liberate others from creative monotony. The tempo is a tribute to Detroit and the jitters of yesterday and today.

I see your music as carrying on a certain Drexciyan tradition. Do you feel any responsibility for furthering the Drexciyan concept and spirit?

You can definitely view it as such. Yes, without trying to copy Drexcyia, I do incorporate what I think are aquatic textures and high-tech refined funk. I don’t listen to Drexcyia and then compose, however.

I wouldn’t think. Given the differences between the music on Collapse and, say, your latest Planet E record, do you feel any pressure over people’s preconceived ideas associated with the Urban Tribe brand?

Not at all. I enjoy mixing things up. I think when an artist begins to become too concerned with branding, then things get stale. It’s okay to have a style, but as electronic musicians we have to keep pushing or we are doomed to stagnation.

How do you typically determine whether to author a record as Urban Tribe or Stingray?

Urban or Stingray? With Stingray I look for uptempo, no-nonsense electronic warfare audio. UT, I’m looking for more at-home or in-car relaxing vibes.

But the division isn’t so rigid. A good deal of the “Social Engineering” and “Loyal Opposition” records have that surging, anxious vibe.

No, it isn’t a rigid division, and when you’re involved in the creative process there are anomalies to be certain.

Do labels ever request one name over the other?

No, I usually determine that. Although I like to keep one concept with one label.

For your most recent record, you’ve reunited the Collapse team. Was this something you guys had always planned on doing?

Shake, Carl, and Ken are very busy, so I have to be the catalyst behind bringing those guys together. But they are always cool and give it one hundred percent.

How did you collaborate on this one?

This particular project came about through different methods, from FTP exchange to live mixes to pre-formed concepts that were changed or editied. Almost the full range of possibilities.

Yet it’s been characterized as a sort of “jam” project.


Credit it, perhaps, to the record’s loose, low-slung mood. There’s a lot of discussion about the album’s runtime. Why one- to three-minute long compositions?

It’s a break with tradition would be my best description.

Out of curiosity, whose voice do we hear on “Program 2″?

[aughs]That’s classifed too. Sorry, man.

Alright. You’ve worked with Nina Kraviz on something forthcoming. How’d you two meet?

Through Mr. [Heinrich] Mueller. I was looking for a vocalist, and he recommended her.

It seemed like maybe they’d been working together on something — but then things aren’t usually crystal clear with Herr Mueller. Speaking of whom, you and Gerald Donald (aka Heinrich Mueller) are collaborating as well, no? Can you tell us anything about that?

I’m really excited about that project and I really look forward to getting it out. I didn’t intend to let people know of his involvement so early, but I was just too hyper, I guess. You should hear something this fall.

I’m excited to hear it. Will it have any sort of conceptual frame, along the lines of Arpanet or Zerkalo?

Let’s just say that it will be a surprise to everyone, this I can promise.

Excellent. So you’re touring Europe next month, and presenting Urban Tribe live. What can people expect from those shows?

I had to tweak some parameters based on the past shows. I think people can expect a good sonic presentation along with a new face or two.

So you won’t necessarily be up there alone?

No I will not, and anyone you see on the stage is a person who has or will be contributing to the Urban Tribe project.

Will all parties be masked? …Sorry, silly question.

That’s okay. I’ll save that for the cam phones and YouTube.

On that topic, though, can I ask you about the mask? Is that a part of your persona today because of Drexciya, or is there more to the story? I’ve heard Mike Banks talk about it as, in part, a reaction against a nasty side of the commercial music business they saw in Detroit.

You can thank Mr Stinson for the mask idea. I just decided to keep it going. I think it is a byproduct of the UR paradigm, however.

On a sort of similar topic, I was also interested in the name “Urban Tribe.” This concept of an urban tribe as a small counter-cultural group built around shared interests and a common ethos. Would you say that this applied to your time working at Buy-Rite Music? Or, at least, to the creative community you found with guys like Ken and Carl?

I think that’s a fantastic description. My time at Buy-Rite was a learning and growth experience, and the owner Cliff Thomas was a tough mentor and teacher. His store provided the environment and opportunity to meet a lot of cool artists and DJs and people in general.

Do you see communities or meeting places (whether a record store or what-have-you) of that sort today?

Yes. Facebook… Myspace! [Laughs] Seriously, other than seeing cats at a party or social event, I personally don’t know of any places like Buy-Rite anymore.

So for your work relationships today, do you rely more on face-to-face, or online interaction?

Broadband is a must!

Your track titles suggest a dystopian vision of contemporary technology, but you seem to have come to terms with the (I’m kneading here) post-Collapse landscape.

I think that with maturity comes perspective. You can look at something as holding you back, or you can turn it into an opportunity. I think we are at the very beginnings of some major global sociological shifts. Here in North America one can look at the Hurricane Katrina response and the Gulf oil spill blunder as examples of outdated modalities.

Do you think that changes will be made, that those errors won’t be repeated? It’s hard not to wave those things off as beyond our control, even hopeless.

Accidents do happen but in the cases of Katrina and the Gulf spill, reactions were insanely slow. Humans can control how they prepare for events beyond their control, which should directly affect reaction time. The current model for energy is surely out of date.

And surely there’s opportunity in that. It sounds like you look on the future of these situations with hope.

With the right people and thought patterns, humans can do almost anything. I do see hope if we can move aside certain negative and destructive forces.

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Urban Tribe, Urban Tribe Thu, 05 Aug 2010 15:01:08 +0000
Illustration by Dan Bergeron

[Mahogani Music]

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The Urban Tribe project is a revolving door, so it’s understandable that it doesn’t have a recognizable sound outside of its electro-influenced jerkiness, ostensibly the product of having Sherard Ingram (aka DJ Stingray) at the center of it all. The project’s latest release is an LP on Moodymann’s Mahogani label and features quite an impressive lineup: Stingray, Moodymann, Carl Craig, and Shake. Usually this type of all-star cast leads to too many cooks in the kitchen, but Urban Tribe is low on pretense and grandiose gestures: it’s more like a quaint document than a magnum opus, the techno equivalent of a living-room jam recorded on someone’s cheap tape deck. But in its laidback quality lies its genius, ascending to the heights of mastery almost casually.

There’s an odd, almost wooden ricketiness to the tracks, and the LP is presented with a bit of intriguing mystery, from its untitled tracklist to its implacable sounds and weird vocal samples: samples that don’t sound as much exotic as they do alien. For an album produced by so many people, it’s disarmingly spare. The elements are given plenty of room to breathe, or would be were the air not saturated with old and desiccated dust. What’s even more disarming is how dense the tracks seem as they unfold themselves inside your head, taking up far more space in their mental existence than their physical. The second track features a thin bass riff, shrill squalls, and a moaning vocal, but as presented on the LP it feels like some mammoth vehicle of inhuman funk, especially as a simple drum sound is introduced over top of vocodered vocals. The fourth track is simply a minute of hushed dripping sounds and swelling low-end dread, but it’s a multi-layered epic of cinematic drama.

The music can’t help but recall Drexciya in not only the sound at the surface, but in the same indefinable way that the legendary Detroit duo buried so much depth and complexity into their pseudo-simplistic productions. Their omnipresent aquatic obsession rears its head in the undersea disco of the fifth track, which shares in Drexciya’s flimsy rubber as well as the overt hydro-obsession, but it’s not as if they’re just biting at Drexciya’s coattails. Instead, Urban Tribe taps into that fabled well of pain and emotion and ends up with something just as complex and confusing, an LP that can make you cry as much as it’ll make you dance, and you won’t have a clue why. It’s a relief that the album is only 28 minutes long, because any longer and it might have been a sprawling mess. If nothing else Urban Tribe give value for your time and money, packing more into half an hour than many artists pack into entire careers. And let’s not forget that this is only a living-room jam. Sometimes things just end up exactly like they should, and sometimes, even better than that.

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Urban Tribe, Social Engineering Wed, 17 Jun 2009 02:11:59 +0000 Social Engineering is one of the more feverish entries to Ingram's catalog, and surely one of the best.]]> paint


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Under the Urban Tribe moniker, Detroit’s Sherard Ingram quickly built a following for his quality down-tempo fare with help from labels like Mo Wax and collaborators such as Kenny Dixon Jr., Carl Craig, and Anthony Shakir. Since then, and under a variety of guises, he’s increasingly trended toward sped-up, acid-inflected electro and, in the process, conspicuously added James Stinson to the above list. “Social Engineering” is one of the more feverish entries in Ingram’s catalog, and surely one of the best.

Stunning opener “Her” begins with glitchy plinks, a breathless low end, and a snippet of sensual diva vocals, hinting at both 90’s IDM and jungle. The track utterly swells, though, with the onset of ecstatic, palpitating quivers of synthesizer. These blissful repetitions are the track’s most salient feature, their shifts from strobing sensory overload to smooth melodic undulation giving “Her” an enlivened restlessness that’s simply gripping. Extending the high, “Gencon”‘s euphoric electro is at least as huge. This one boasts an even more anxious bass line, which is generously complemented by streaked treatments of the smacking percussion. The rhythm’s Drexciyan connection slaps you in the face but, once again, the synths elevate this to something fresh and special, their squiggly, high-pitched melodies darting about — larval beginnings perhaps of further, ongoing mutations to the hydro funk reverently referenced.

Over on the B, Ingram maintains the pace, but the mood’s darkened considerably. An array of zombie movie audio grabs lend “Shambling Masses” some campy narrative, injecting the atmosphere with hysteria (“I can feel myself ROT!”) and paranoia (an extended exposition linking Dow Chemical, the Army, and the war on drugs to the reanimation of the dead). Ingram scatters these over a punchy frame that cements the earlier jungle link, deploying ominous piano samples to enhance the sense of dread. Less heavy-handed, and without the reliance on samples, the brisk “Sabotage Clique” is a different take on the apocalyptic. There are twinkling flourishes of treble like those heard on the A-side, but here they’re intermittent, and mysteriously unstable, allowing the spooky low end to drag the track into the abyss. A package of any two of these tracks would be worth charting, but a consistent four-tracker with peaks as high as “Her” and “Gencon,” well, that’s a generous treat indeed.

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