Thursday, July 4, 2013

open your (re)mind

Foul Play mini-mix by John Morrow formerly of FP now trading as Skeleton Army

via Blog to the Old Skool, who rightly and righteously notes that"with a back-catalog like theirs, it’s hard to call [it]  just a “mini-mix” since there’s about 60-90 minutes worth of top notch tunes crammed into about 20 minutes..."  He also offers a bigupyachess, which I fervently second, to John and his sadly-RIP partner-in-ruffage Steve Bradshaw.

Hard to pick a favorite Foul Play tune but these five would be equal first I think:

But then there's also "Being With You" the original and the remix... plus all their remixes of other people...

Some back in the day writing about FP, by me

Moving Shadow
Melody Maker, 1995
With next to no media profile, Foul Play's John Morrow and Steve Bradshaw have quietly built up one of the finest back catalogues in drum & bass. As is the norm with jungle albums, the back-cat is basically what you get on "Suspected": this is Foul Play's greatest hits, reworked by the band plus a r-r-r-rollcall of famous remixers, and bulked up with a handful of new tracks. While this makes "Suspected" a superb introduction for the uninitiated, for fans who've been following the duo's career for a while, it's a tad disappointing (ditto the ratio of new to old material on Omni Trio's "Deepest Cut" and Goldie's "Timeless").

Still, fans will crave those remixes, which all add new dimensions to the beloved prototypes. "Re-Open Your Mind" remodels Foul Play's 1993 classic (possibly my fave drum & bass track of all time), retaining the goosepimply synth-ripple (still the ultimate aural analogue of a skin-tingling E-rush) but convoluting the beats and bass in accordance with 1995 specifications, and making the twilight-zone bridge passage even more ethereal. "Total Control" is rinsed and blow-dried by Desired State (one of several alter-egos used by top production team Andy C & Ant Miles), who toughen the beats and sub-bass and  curb the original's misguided sax solo (for which, many thanks).

Then come all four new tracks in a row. "Ignorance" sustains "Total"'s military-jazz vibe, with stabbing bass and almost be-bop hi-hats and cymbals, which are programmed with such glistening intricacy they tie your ears in knots. Less impressive is "Artifical Intelligence": E-Z listening jungle, its Mantovani strings and twinkling tinkles of cocktail piano conjuring up a rather obvious aura of  'heaven'. As does "Night Moves", a stab at downtempo hip hop graced by a keyboard motif uncomfortably close to Omni Trio's "Together". "Strung Out" is far better, living up to its paranoiac title with fidgety, feverish snares, a stalking B-line and an edgy, persecuted guitar-figure that sounds like it might be sampled from Santana or somesuch jazzbo fret-wanker.

The remainder of "Suspected"  reverts back to Foul Play's 'Club Classics, Vol 1'. "Cuttin' Loose" is a drastic revamp of the duo's contribution to Moving Shadow's experimental EP series "Two On One". Kickstarted with an unnerving Afro-futurist kazoo motif sampled from Herbie Hancock, the track unleashes a swarm of scuttling breaks, glassy percussion and furtive, sidling bass. "The Stepperemix" is even more militantly minimal, an endless tidal wave of rustling snares and metallic rim-shots, sheer digital gamelan. Hopa & Bones' evisceration of "Being With You" is the most brutal of the four  remixes this late '94 beauty has undergone, with a brand new drum & bass undercarriage and a spray-job to boot. Wiping the floor with the fusion-lite that dominated  'intelligent'  jungle in '95, "Being With You" is real phuture-jazz, its densely-clustered synth-chords verging on harmolodic dissonance. The CD version of "Suspected" adds Omni Trio's widescreen film-muzik reinterpretation of  "Music Is The Key" (beautiful, but the 'real' diva vocal is a tad Whitney) and the original version of "Total Control".

Hardcore Foul Play devotees, like myself, might be impatient for more new hints as to where the duo is headed next.. But as a summation of the story so far, "Suspected" is fabulous and undeniable.

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