Last year’s Oxjam Walthamstow gig ((dis)organised by this very blog) was fortunate enough to have a stonkingly good line-up. Now, by chance, B.Dolan, The Melting Ice Caps, Akira The Don, and Barbarossa all have new music ready and waiting at pretty much the same time.B.DOLAN
I was going to say “House of Bees Vol.2” started life as a mixtape, but it still is a mixtape, just one that was a year in the making and more than stands up against any “official” release.
The NWA inspired “Film The Police” became something of an anthem for the Occupy movement, then “Still Here” leaked in May as a tribute to MCA, and now the full album’s here, headed by the epic “King Bee“.
The opening line owes something to Jay-Z & Kanye’s “Otis” but where Jay Z declared “I invented Swag“, Dolan kicks off with “I invented Ugly” (although everyone knows Bubba Sparxx invented that in 2001). The lyrics were written at Dan Le Sac’s flat and Dan’s disinterested response to the “ugly” line as he looked up from an email: “Mhmmm. And you kept it all to yourself, didn’t you?” ended up being the second line.
The track itself is based on the Stone Foxes reworking of the blues standard “I’m a King Bee“, chopped up and turned into something else entirely by producer Buddy Peace. As Dolan delivers a polemic statement of intent, “I don’t practice in the mirror, don’t rap to a focus group” the guitars snarl and deliver a sound that if Rage Against The Machine ever got off the festival circuit and wrote material half as good would sell a million.
Dolan also guests on Dan Le Sac’s new album (see “Caretaker” video below)”
AKIRA THE DON
In between recording 23 minute long video blogs bemoaning the “ridiculous, shlocky, dumb, anticlimactic, nonsensical MESS” that is Prometheus, Akira The Don released the 28th ATD Mixtape, entitled “Unkillable Thunderchrist”. As you’d expect from a Don mixtape its got a long roll call of guests including PolarBear, Envy, Footsie, Big Narstie, Mr Lacey, & Joey2tits. Denver based MC Time features on the tribute to Beastie Boy MCA “Too Sweet To Be Sour“.
In Envy, Akira appears to have found something of a musical soulmate, and as the number of collaborations mount up she must be wishing Virgin offered railmiles between Manchester and Akira’s Hackney home – or Nu Olympia as the Don has renamed it. Last years duet “Nothing Last’s Forever“ takes some matching but the tone of “Give Me Something” is very different with Envy taking the lead delivering a heartbreaking tale about the loss of her mum.
The chorus samples Rufus Wainwright’s song about the September 11th attacks, “11:11″ to superb effect (and there’s some Gene and The Only Ones in there too apparently) but it’s the raw honesty of the lyrics that really hit you.
“If I have kids I’ll be gutted they couldn’t meet ya
but ill show them all the pictures of us smiling in Ibiza”
It’s the personal details of promising to look after her sister, her mum clowning around in baggy jeans like Rihanna or not wanting to visit her grave that are more affecting than a perhaps more “spiritual”, or metaphorical song. There are no floating clouds, tides going out, etc just the pain from the loss of the most important person in your life and the struggle to find a way to emerge out of the other side.
Elsewhere Akira takes the music from DNA Designs classic Amiga game “Lemmings” and over the top sets about laying into the coalition, particularly their invented fuel crisis and advice to store petrol in your home. Aside from totally disagreeing with any call not to vote (although Akira doesn’t request listeners to follow) the lines about lemmings posting the Kony facebook viral video cracked me up.
“like that phony baloney Kony prank where, 20 million lemmings spread a piece of propaganda
some plum said guns’ll bring peace to Uganda… turns out he was a wanker”
Despite David Shah’s Twitter description of “Charming London-based laptop chamber pop chanteur“, the debut Melting Ice Caps LP find’s Shah letting the dust settle on his laptop more often than on the nine singles released so far (most of which are still available for free).
Shah sits alone and dressed for the British Summer in jumper and scarf on “Permissible Permutations” cover but the 11 new songs within often feature the full Ice Caps band that previewed a couple of these tracks at last years “Oxjam Walthamstow”.
For me at least the wait for a first Melting Ice Caps LP rivals the frenzied anticipation felt by many for Ridley Scott’s Aliens prequel. It’s not an analogy that holds much water, the overblown and underwritten Prometheus doesn’t inhabit the same world as Shah’s understated but finely crafted lyrics. The melancholic quality of David’s voice may sound like his heart has been freshly ripped out, but usually love or loss is the culprit, not chest bound Alien lifeforms.
Having waited so long, my first reaction was one of massive disappointment. I just didn’t like any of it and spent a day wondering if I could not mention a new release by one of my favourite and most often eulogised acts. Thankfully the album rewards repeated listening, and over the course of a week the unloved have miraculously transformed into much loved old friends and worthy additions to the Ice caps canon.
The old laptop still shows its face in places, “Ghost Writer” in particular sounds more like the Pet Shop Boys than Tennant and Lowe themselves have for a while.
“Join The Dots” was previewed last year and is one of the highlights along with “Keep Both Hands Behind The Cutting Edge“. It turns a health and safety message “Nobody wants to see your fingertips, Detached from your piano fingers” on its head with the barbed “… At least not yet“.
The Melting Ice Caps – “Keep both hands behind the cutting edge”
“I’m sending you a message you wont read, leaving you a voicemail you dont need”
Closing song “Medical Advice” returns to an older Ice Caps sound with basic drum track and piano as David expresses his sorrow that the subject “wishes he’d never met him“. With its banjo flourish it’s a quirky but lovely ending to a fine example of classic English songwriting.
The Melting Ice Caps – “Medical Advice”
Last years spoken word play “OldMe” at The Roundhouse was rapturously reviewed and was probably the best theatrical piece I saw all year (although is it strictly theatre..I’m not sure but it was incredible whatever it is). On Sat 17th June Polar is running a “Spoken Word For Theatre Masterclass” at The Roundhouse.
He’s also just posted his collaboration with Octave Mouret up at a free download on Soundcloud. You’d be a fool not to grab it while you can.
James Mathe aka Barbarossa released a new EP on June 12th (BUY HERE) which has been much love from Radio 1 and 6music (as well as me). There’s an album to follow and a new video starring Sean Harris from Prometheus thats almost ready to see the light of day (see above). Exciting times!
An old favourite “Load” is still available for Free download