Let’s rewind in 2009. Rigning, the third album by Yagya has just been released. Yagya aka Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson is an Icelandic producer who crafts atmospheres influenced by the likes of Gas, Philip Glass, Basic Channel and Brian Eno in a sound of its own. Five years after its release it’s still is an album that I’ve played endlessly, bought on CD, Vinyl, and even played on my radio show countless of times. So what is it about Yagya that makes his music so appealing to fans of dub-techno, electronica or ambient ? Yagya concentrates on the softer side of music and avoids heavy rhythms, it’s been dubbed dub-techno, but that genre is truly too narrow minded for Yagya as his music feels almost effortless as it could’ve been composed by a classical musician, not just a knob twiddler. Sleepygirls is a testament to that in the sense that is much more driven by atmospheres then rhythms. And it’s a good thing. The beats are layered in the background, and everything about this album feels right : the right amount of reverb, of soundscapes, and an underlying voice that you can barely notice sometimes. But the best thing about the album might be its flow : when you listen to it from A to Z it feels as a whole, almost like Black dog’s Bytes or those seamless seminal albums on Warp in the 1990’s. There is harmony and an amazing balance between textures and beats in Sleepygirls. It would be an understatement to call Yagya one of the best electronic musician in today’s world. A dreamy journey from start to finish. Meanwhile, from the archives, my review of Rigning, written in 2010.
American singer, songwriter & pianist borned Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, USA. Nina was giving piano recitals after playing at her local church at an early age. Her childhood piano lessons were funded by her mother’s employer and a local fund set up by her music teacher, so impressed were they by her talent. She moved to Philadelphia aged 17, teaching piano and playing to raise the money for her studies at New York’s renowned Juilliard School Of Music. To fund her family she worked in a bar in Atlantic City where she was also required to sing and built up a devoted following. She recorded Gershwin’s “I Loves You Porgy” which became a US Top 40 hit and transported her to a bigger stage, performing at Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival.
Her repertoire went on to embrace numerous Civil Rights anthems, a movement for which she was a passionate and prominent supporter. She left the US in the 1970s, moving first to Barbados, and some other places, including Africa and the Netherlands, before eventually settling in France where she died from cancer in 2003. Nina’s voice drew heavily on other music forms. It was infused with gospel, blues, soul, jazz, R&B, and folk. And it found a wider audience late in her life when “My Baby Just Cares For Me” became an unlikely UK chart hit when it featured in a TV ad campaign. In fact her music stayed very popular with advertisers as her tracks have been used to promote a multitude of products on TV, including yoghurt (“Ain’t Got No (I Got Life)”), Diet Coke (“I Put A Spell On You”), cars (“Sinnerman”), fabric conditioner (“Feeling Good”), and perfume (“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”), et al.In recent years, spread by the success of the Verve remixed compilations Nina has been not only sampled to death but remixed a lot. This mix presents my favorites remixes of Nina Simone!
Blue Lines is generally considered the first trip hop album, although the term was not widely used before circa 1994. The album was a success in the United Kingdom, reaching #13 in the albums chart but sales were limited elsewhere. A fusion of electronic music, hip hop, dub, soul and reggae. The album established Massive Attack as one of the most innovative British bands of the 1990’s and the founder of trip hop’s Bristol Sound.
Music critic Simon Reynolds stated that the album also marked a change in electronic/dance music, “a shift toward a more interior, meditational sound. The songs on Blue Lines run at ‘spliff’ tempos — from a mellow 90 beats per minute …down to a positively torpid 67 bpm. The group also drew inspiration from concept albums in various genres by artists such as Billy Cobham (Stratus was sampled on Safe from harm), Herbie Hancock and Isaac Hayes.
The collective from Bristol have featured breakbeats, sampling, and rapping on a number of tracks, but the design of their albums have differed from traditional hip hop. Massive Attack approached the American-born hip hop movement from an underground British perspective and also incorporated live instruments into the mixes. They have also featured the vocals of Shara Nelson, Tracey Thorn, Elisabeth Fraser (From Cocteau twins) and Sinead O’connor as well as Horace Andy, along with the rapping of Tricky Kid.
Groundbreaking in every way could define the Massive attack sound and so is their use of samples. For instance, in 1998, Mezzanine marked a major departure from the jazzy and laidback sound of the first two albums (Blue Lines and Protection), invoking the dark undercurrents which had always been present in the collective’s music. The album’s textured and deep tone relies heavily on abstract and ambient sounds, as demonstrated in the song “Angel” among others.
Similar to their previous albums, the majority of the songs consists of one or more samples, ranging from Isaac Hayes to Led Zeppelin. Massive Attack sampled the song “Tribute” from Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s eponymous 1972 album, used in “Black Milk”.
Some of their most noted songs have been without choruses and have featured dramatically atmospheric dynamics, conveyed through either distorted guitar crescendos, lavish orchestral arrangements or prominent, looped/shifting basslines, underpinned by high and exacting production values, involving sometimes copious digital editing and mixing. The pace of their music has often been slower than prevalent British dance music at the time. These and other psychedelic, soundtrack-like and DJist sonic techniques, formed a much-emulated style j and to quote Robert Del Naja : ‘You know, as far we were concerned, Massive Attack music is unique…”