Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sleeve Art

I came across the Keyboard Masher website the other day and beyond it being home to some great mixes and edits and a couple of tracks for your downloading pleasure they have a decent archive of some of their favourite sleeves from their collection. I've always been taken by record sleeves every since I was a young lad leafing through my dad's collection and being taken in by all the die-cuts, colours and printing even though if memory serves me correctly they were all prog rock bands committing heinous crimes against fashion (and some would argue music).

I remember seeing a copy of New Order 'Blue Monday' in it's original die-cut form when I was 5 or 6 and thinking that it was the done thing for all record sleeves to look that way and then years later being quite excited when I found out the story that Peter Saville designed the sleeve under Tony Wilson's 'money is no object' brief and even though it's one of the biggest selling 12"s of all-time it ended up costing more to produce than they were able to recoup from sales. No wonder half of the records that come out nowadays come in generic disco bags and have nothing to do with Mr. Saville, which is a pity really. I most certainly hold firm in the belief that the 12" format is still the best one for records both aesthetically and artistically and I'm sure that just about any designer you'd care to mention would agree wholeheartedly, that and have you ever tried to roll a joint off an .mp3? Exactly.

I've chosen a few examples from Keyboard Masher and a couple of examples from my collection taking in some of the better sleeves from the past couple of years. I think you'll agree that they don't make them like they used to.

Getting Keith Haring to design your record sleeve can't be a bad thing, can it?


And a post about sleeve art without a Fela piece would be wrong.

Only in Japan

Japanese television never fails to crack me up and these are just two of my favourite examples.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Coming Soon

I've got loads of bits 'n pieces coming up both here and on Basic Soul such as interviews with Flying Lotus (Warp Records), Carlos Nino (Build An Ark), Dubble D (20:20 Vision), Colonel Red (Ruff Language) and Darian (Reel People). I'm also doing a feature on here where I'll be doing short interviews with 100 people and hopefully they'll also be furnishing us with short mixes/blends that I'll be sharing on my new podcast that I'll be starting soon, the interviews will be a little more off beat then the ones that I do for Basic Soul and hopefully you'll enjoy them. The people I've chosen for the series are from all facets of life; artists, musicians, producers, label owners, collectors, friends, pimps and pushers, and the reason why they've all been selected is purely because I like them, simple really.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SNKR FRKR best of 2007

I'm a sneaker head and then some. I outnumber my wife in the shoe department 10 to 1 and she's no slouch herself. I could give you a sob story about how when I was growing up my family couldn't afford to buy me all the OG kicks, so I'm making up for lost time but the truth is that I just love shoes with adidas being my poison of choice. One of the foremost publications on sneakers and sneaker culture is Sneaker Freaker based out of Australia, which is an enthusiastic and exhaustive look at the constant developments and trends in the world of kicks. They've recently published their best of 2007 feature and to be honest I don't really agree with the choices as they're all Nike based (and someone even chose a pair of Chuck Taylors) but it may be worth a gander for those of you who have no love for the three stripes.

Claw Money check her choice here.

Bobbito Garcia check his choice here.

Read the article here.

And for the record these lavender Superskates from their limited Flavours of The World series were my choice for best shoe of 2007.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Band

I was listening to The Incredible Shrinking Man - Peculiar Times and having always had a love for it I never really knew who was behind it until today and low and behold it is none other than Shawn Lee who some of you may know from Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra on Ubiquity or his Discomfort album that came out on the sadly defunct Talkin' Loud imprint.

What really gets me about Peculiar Times are the strings and the arrangement which all combined make for an honest, sombre yet funky recount of his life and his experiences. I have no idea if he's singing it or not as the record sleeve isn't exactly the most revealing, that and it's a b-side to the frankly bizarre Wichita Lineman. It's always been one of those records that I pull out when I don't feel like bashing it out a bit and it strangely always has a calming effect on me. I've ended quite a few nights with it and, to be honest, it's not really the final fist-pumping swan song that people expect but it does work and people in England seemed to know the words, too. Although to be fair when I say 'people' I actually meant the last pissed straggler in Dry Bar on a cold empty night in January 2007, still it made my night.

Download it here.

I think Shawn's various bios tell his story best. (That and I can't find any interviews/articles on him)

Talent will out, they say, but sometimes the exit route is a long and winding road. For Shawn Lee, the journey began in Wichita, Kansas.

Shawn grew up in a rural area on the outskirts of the city. His mother is half Lebanese, half American Indian, his father Irish-American. While his peers got off on cheesy corporate rock and the kind of line-dancing tunes recently fashionable in Gap ads, Shawn was groovin' to the blaxploitation funk Sly and the Isleys. Later, his local Baptist Church widened his appreciation of black music, but when he sang in its gospel choir, he discovered some of his white 'friends' were racists who disapproved. "Fuck this," he thought. "I'm leaving the Mid-West" It was 1988.

Next stop Los Angeles. Already an able multi-instrumentalist (guitar,drums,bass,etc) Shawn now set about developing his song-writing. There were bands, publishing deals, relationships and day jobs: more notches on the bedpost of experience. This period also saw Shawn befriend the late Jeff Buckley, and somebody, somewhere has a tape of them jamming "Honky Tonk Woman" Be sure that Buckley would have recognised Sean's talent.

In 1995, Sean moved to London, where he recorded his solo debut. For all the wrong reasons, the album was never released. It was soul destroying; a bit like somebody erasing 3 years of your life." Resolving to write and record on his own terms, Shawn kept working. He passed CD's of songs to friends with no agenda other than "hope you enjoy it"As Shawn continued to do it his way,air play garnered by a self-financed EP prompted several major labels to phone him. He had no intention of re-boarding the corporate merry-go-round, though. Instead, he opted to sign a deal with Mark Jones at Wall of Sound. "The label's got real credibility," he says "and Mark was happy to put out a record which sounds exactly like I wanted it to." Subsequently Shawn became the flagship artist for the new Wall of Sound imprint, We Love You....

Which brings us to Monkey Boy, an inspired and beautifully crafted album which warrants your undivided attention. Like the best work by The Isley Brothers , it takes rock, soul, funk and folk textures, then fuses them with unquestionable panache. For afters, there's deft scratching, sumptuous bossa-nova and a dark waltz which evokes Burt Bacharach on downers. What's New pussycat? This is.

The bossa track is 'Happiness', all itch-scratching Latin percussion a la Sergio Mendez. Had Arthur Lee's Love formed in Rio rather than Los Angeles, they might have sounded like this. Further in, A&R Man of Love" (yes, the title's ironic) was inspired by Vincent Gallo's fabulous soundtrack for Buffalo 66. You'll be pleased to know that as much as Shawn admires Gallo's many talents, he doesn't share his arrogance.

Shawn's album was self-produced, and although friends dropped by to add strings, double bass, brass and woodwind, Shawn's skills as a multi-instrumentalist hold court. You'll notice, too, that his voice is a marvel throughout; check out "Harmony In Falsetto" (a self-explanatory ballad), or his sweet-honey-in-the-rock delivery on "Floating" Class.
If Ian Brown is the king of the swingers, I'm a baboon's arse and Britney's Nina Simone..

It's time to swap bravado and pap for soul and a solid gold talent. Shawn Lee, aka Monkey Boy, is top banana...

- From his website.

Taking inspiration from classic library records produced by companies like Music de Wolfe and KPM, Ubiquity presents the first in it's series of Studio Sessions albums. Volume one features 25 mood setting tracks that work great as an album to listen too, as a DJ tool, a production tool for sampling, or music for beds in advertising or film.

Library records were often recorded by top session musicians and featured tracks capturing a variety of moods - from the frantic bongo-driven chase scene to the string-laden back-drop for a tender love scene - the music featured was aimed largely at TV, film and radio producers. Many of these obscure records are highly collectible for the single one or two tracks that the best LPs featured - often times selling for hundreds of dollars for an amazing breakbeat or a great funk track. The Ubiquity Studio Sessions will include all killer, no-filler tunes for the DJ, funk connoisseur, film, TV, ad or radio music supervisor. There are plenty of breaks and beats, loops galore, and mood setting tunes from the bass line driven suspense of "Friday The 13th" to the hard hitting adrenaline rush of "Bongo Fury". Each tune a perfectly formed short-but-sweet vibe catching moment in it's own right.

"Music And Rhythm" is produced by Shawn Lee who will be known to breaks n'beats collectors as the man behind "The Ape Breaks" and "Planet of the Breaks" series which were sampled by everyone from Guru to The Gorillaz. As a multi-instrumentalist and singer he has played and recorded with a diverse range of artists including Coldcut, Leeann Rhimes, Martina Mcbride, UNKLE, Tony Joe White, Chateau flight, The Dust Brothers, St. Etienne, Jeff Buckley, Bomb the Bass, The Spice Girls, and Natasha Atlas not to mention solo records for Talkin Loud and Wall of Sound imprint We Love You. His new album "Soul Visa" is out in Japan.

- Taken from Ubiquity's website.

Clearly he's a man with a lot of personality and his output at times can be as brash and confident as he quite clearly is. His records have a charm and quirkiness that makes them stand out from the rest when you're buying records. They might not exactly be dance floor fillers but they certainly have a place early doors or at places like Aficionado where a record like 'Kiss The Sky' would go down a charm during those first few 'just one more pint and then i'm off' moments and granted his records aren't for everybody but they certainly do hold pride of place in place in my collection...and I can't ask for much more than that.

Ryan Hunn

A 22 year-old who spends too much on records and not enough on bills, Ryan Hunn started working for Manchester record labels Players and Estate Recordings at the age of 19, starting with jobs that no-one else wanted to do. Throughout this time Ryan did the odd bit of work at gigs for Mr. Scruff and RSL before being asked to produce a radio show, which was started to promote the newly founded sister label, Vox Pop 45s. The show grew rapidly and was broadcast worldwide on five internet channels and featured guests including Quantic, Mr. Scruff, Monk One and DJ Emskee, Natural Self, Jon Kennedy, Rob Luis, Nostalgia 77, Andy Votel, Hugo Mendez and Miles Cleret, Treva Whateva and many more. Remember the name because he may just be starting to write his own chapter in the history of music in Manchester but with a knowledge of music that belies his age and the ability to challenge and entertain dance floors in equal measures all over the country the future is looking very promising for this jazz maverick.

Read the interview here.

Ryan has also been kind enough to upload his latest mix for all of you to enjoy. You can get it here. This mix will be appearing soon on Cosmic Disco but we've got it as a little teaser before it takes it place amongst all the great mixes that are on the site. Don't sleep on this as it is seriously dope.


1. William Onyeabor- Body & Soul (Wilfilms)
2. Level 42- Love Meeting Love (Polydor)
3. Edmund Sylvers- Have You Heard The News (Casablanca)
4. Chazz- Dancing Shoes (QT)
5. Darryl Douglas- Holding On (Kon's Edit) (BBE)
6. Harvey Mason- We Can Start Tonight (Arista)
7. Aretha Franklin- Get It Right (Arista)
8. Shirley Lites- Heat You Up (Melt You Down) (Meltdown Mix) (West End)
9. Pacific Express- The Way It Used To Be (Mountain)
10. Manzel- Just For You (Dopebrother)
11. Christy Essien Igbokwe- Rumours (Afrodesia)
12. Maze- Right On Time (Capitol)
13. The Originals- Down To Love Town (Soul/ Motown)
14. The Hamilton Movement- She's Gone (Soul Beat)
15. Jesse Anderson- I Did It Again (Land Of Hits)
16. Winfield Parker- I Wanna Be With You (P & L)
17. Jewel- Paradise (Lotus Land)
18. Casual- T- Hands Off (Version) (56 Hope Road)

Ryan is also one of the heads behind Hoya:Hoya which will be taking over the coveted last Saturday of the month slot at the Music Box previously held by Manchester institution the Electric Chair, and on the opening night it'll be Ryan playing all night long in the main room with Jonny Dub doing the same in the Shack. It promises to be yet another floor-filling night with some truly tremendous guests lined up and if it is anything like their other venture Sketch City then the atmosphere will be effervescent and the tunes firing!

Ryan is a DJ who has that rare ability to seamlessly segue between styles with ease by joining those dots that connect jazz to broken beat to dubstep to house to disco to techno to soul to funk and at the same time break those records that ultimately has everyone bouncing off the ceiling to (and scouring the stores the next day for). His September 2005 mix is probably one of my favourite mixes ever and it still gets a run out at Casa Casual* when i'm in the mood for a little inspiration.

His previous residency at Common was unfortunately on the same night as my radio show but invariably I'd come down before and/or after to have a listen to his selections of which I spent most of my time asking, 'What's this one called?" Hopefully Hoya:Hoya will raise his profile even more because we need more Djs like Ryan out there.

Catcalledmorris, Andy Peek and Ryan Hunn at one of the Last Rites BBQs in Manchester.

Another nUboogie*

Ema has once again uploaded her latest show and you can download it here. Listen out for the awesome Hercules & Love Affair record and the Simbad remix of Jose James' latest bubbler on Brownswood, which has had me dancing around my front room all week. Also have a listen out for JC's 5am post Chair ramblings and the exciting new hook-up with The Fiasco Radio show. I love this show and its broad cross-section of quality dance music coupled with Ema's superb presentation makes it stand out from the deluge of middle of the road shows out there.


Glenn Underground & Daisy Ville -Rize (NeedtoSoul)
Afroganic - Emagbo (Afroganic)
Benga & Coki - Night (Tempa)
Jose James - Spirits up Above, Simbad's Cosmic Boogie Mix (BrownswoodRecordings)
Jean Carn - Don't Let it Go to your Head
Soul Vigilantes - Do it Like Roger, Elektrons Data Transfer (Love Monk)
**"THE FIASCO RADIO - hook up"**
Hercules & Love Affair - Blind (DFA)
Goldfrapp - A&E, Maps remix (Mute)

For more information of the show and Ema have a look here.

And this Friday you can catch Ema and Adam H at One Central in Manchester playing their educated mix of Funk, Electro Boogie, Balearica, Acid Rock, Disco and House all night long all played with enthusiasm...basically you'd be a mug to miss it.

Keep On
Stay Free...

Ema and Adam

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Bears Upstairs Radio Show

Paul Hughes & TC, they'll be here all week and please do try the fish...

It is quite honestly going to snow in the Sahara today, The Bears Upstairs have only gone and recorded a show after what seems like years and here is part one and part two for your listening pleasure. Paul, TC and Jif were the disco granddads on duty.



Journey To The Moon: Armstrong & Aldrin
The Whitest Boy Alive: 24k
The Dynamics : Whole Lotta love
Gabriela Cilmi: Sweet about me (Ashley Beedle vocal)
Freddie Cruger: Running from love (instrumental)
Giorgio Moroder: Sooner or later
Leo's Sunship: I'm back for more
Melody Stewart: I'm Ready For Love (SJNRL06)
Debbie Jacobs: Lovin Spree
Ahzz: New York's Movin'
David Gilmour Girls: Tar & Feather
Half Cousin: The Absentee (Fujiya & Miyagi Remix)
Blackghosts: Repetition kills you
Hipnosis: End Title (Blade Runner out theme)


Denton & Cook: Tomorrows World Theme from the BBC series

And then back to...

Hipnosis: End Title (Blade Runner out theme)
King Creosote: You've no clue, do you
Haircut 100: Ski club of Great Britain
Sade: Paradise (dub)
Leo's Sunship: Give me the Sunshine
Detroit Emeralds: Baby let me take you
J Dilla: Love Jones
The Chosen Few: Shaft
Loud E: Palaza break
Joe R Lewis: Love Of My Own
Eddie Russ: I Heard That
Ofra Haza: Im nin alu
Monsoon: Ever so lonely
Barbara & Ernie: Play with Fire
Lola: Wax the van
Earons: Land Of Hunger

You can listen to them every Thursday on Unity Radio at 10pm UK Time. I get proper mardy when I miss a show as I'm guaranteed a few laughs and cracking tunes, I do get a big sad though as I miss the hairy gits.


January is always really slow on the record front and this year has been no exception. I usually use this time of year to catch up on releases I never took for some or other reason from the previous year but last year I think I pretty much got everything that I wanted to and there wasn't too much I missed out on, obviously that's no including my eBay and Discogs wants list which is as long as my arm. I'm really digging the Radioslave remix of Slam, proper heads down groover. My Gloomy Head is the best disco, jazz and balearic record in a long, long time...don't sleep on it. Al has also outdone himself with what is a truly impressive album of disco goodness, no samples and a full orchestra to boot. Top stuff.


Gatto Fritto - Hungry Ghosts - Dissident
Smith & Mudd - Tanglewood - Claremont 56
Partial Arts - Telescope - Kompakt
Kabal und Liebe/Daniel Sanchez - Mumbling Yeah - Arearemote
Flying Lotus - Massage Situation - Warp
The Dynamics - Whole Lotta Love - Groove Attack
Francois K - Rhythm of Life - Deep Space
Slam - Azure - Radioslave remix - Soma
Wighnomy Brothers - My Gloomy Head - Freude Am Tanzen
Lexx - Axis Shift - Permanent Vacation


Al Kent presents The Million Dollar Disco - Better Days - BBE
Bjorn Torske - Feil Knapp - Smalltown Sounds
Webster Lewis - The Club 7 Live Tapes - Plastic Strip

Monday, January 14, 2008

A few of my favourite artists.


Granted this choice is a bit girly by she is Jeni's favourite and I've grown to like her work.

Born and raised in Toulouse France, Fafi's strong presence in the graffiti and fine arts scene was first witnessed on her hometown walls in 1994. Back then, as she was painting and hustling, her sexy, funny, and sometimes aggressive girl characters made the whole world look and help kick-start a whole new graphic language; by exploring feminity through stereotypes, and using it to her advantage, she drew enormous attention and thus started to travel the world with thousands of Fafinettes in her brushes and paint cans. Europe, USA, Japan, Hong-Kong, the planet is a playground. And it's only started.

Soon enough Sony would ask her to design a six-character toy set for the Time Capsules collection, an almost natural move for her three-dimensional measures. Other successful figurines would follow, as well as numerous expositions and collaborations with Colette, Adidas, LeSportSac, Coca-Cola and countless press stories in the most prestigious magazines (ie. Vogue, Elle, The Face, XLR8R, Yen etc...).

The animation world started to eyeblink her vision in Mark Ronson video featuring a Fafi-ed Lily Allen.

Her multi-faceted work was all documented in her books GIRLS ROCK (2003) and LOVE AND FAFINESS (2006), both being also succesful prints in museum libraries and selected shops.

As for 2007, Fafi entered a new phase. Having become a mother and moving to Paris made her introduce a new depth to her creations. Now not only the Fafinettes are fly girls, they also run a whole universe of creatures, homes and vehicles. It's called The Carmine Vault. It's a dreamy and peculiar place. Welcome in.

-- Taken from her website.

James Jean
United States

James' bio simply states, '1979 - ?', and that is all that I know about him/her. Great work though.

Check the website for more.

Mark Ryden
United States

Mark Ryden came to preeminence in the 1990’s during a time when many artists, critics and collectors were quietly championing a return to the art of painting. With his masterful technique and disquieting content, Ryden quickly became one of the leaders of this movement on the West Coast.

Upon first glance Ryden’s work seems to mirror the Surrealists’ fascination with the subconscious and collective memories. However, Ryden transcends the initial Surrealists’ strategies by consciously choosing subject matter loaded with cultural connotation. His dewy vixens, cuddly plush pets, alchemical symbols, religious emblems, primordial landscapes and slabs of meat challenge his audience not necessarily with their own oddity but with the introduction of their soothing cultural familiarity into unsettling circumstances.

Viewers are initially drawn in by the comforting beauty of Ryden’s pop-culture references, then challenged by their circumstances, and finally transported to the artist’s final intent – a world where creatures speak from a place of childlike honesty about the state of mankind and our relationships with ourselves, each other and our past.

Clearly infused with classical references, Ryden’s work is not only inspired by recent history, but also the works of past masters. He counts among his influences Bosch, Bruegel and Ingres with generous nods to Bouguereau and Italian and Spanish religious painting.

Over the past decade, this marriage of accessibility, craftsmanship and technique with social relevance, emotional resonance and cultural reference has catapulted Ryden beyond his roots and to the attention of museums, critics and serious collectors. Ryden’s work has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including a recent museum retrospective “Wondertoonel” at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle and Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Mark Ryden was born in Medford Oregon. He received a BFA in 1987 from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles where he paints slowly and happily amidst his countless collections of trinkets, statues, skeletons, books, paintings and antique toys.

-- Taken from his website.

Oksana Badrak

Oksana Badrak, a Moscow native, developed her distinctive illustration style at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Upon graduating with distinction, she quickly earned recognition from the Society of Illustrators and other prestigious bodies. In addition to featuring in numerous group and solo exhibitions in the US and abroad, Badrak's work has been published in Entertainment Weekly, Travel + Leisure, Playboy, Fast Company, and the New Yorker. The artist's diverse client roster includes Nike, Warner Brothers, Nokia, Showtime, and Target. At present, Badrak works out of her studio in Los Angeles with a pet chinchilla named Guinness by her side.

Check her website for more.

Frank Kozik
United States

Frank Kozik is an US-american graphic artist who is famous for his music posters and comic toys. Kozik was born in Madrid, Spain in 1962 . At the age of 14 he moved to the United States and settled in Austin, Texas. Credited with single handedly reviving the "lost" art of the concert poster, Frank's creative career grew largely out of his enthusiasm for Austin's growing underground rock scene in the mid-eighties. Starting with black and white flyers for friends' bands posted on telephone poles, his reputation grew as an artist whose work was graphically compelling as well as culturally gripping.

Check his website for more.