Blackgrass - Album Review

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Blackgrass - Album Review

Release Date: 15th March 2004
Label: Catskills
Cat No: RIDCD/LP010
Distribution: Vital

Every now and then an album comes along that gathers all the best flavours from its surroundings and forces these ingredients calmly into one sharp, shiny shard of beaming light. Dance music or Electronica “what ever you wanna call it” has lost popularity to the lolloping mass of guitars and cheesy pop music over the past half decade. Lot’s is still happening in the electronic world but the elements are disparate and

Blackgrass - Album Review

have been getting washed away by the revived rock/pop tsunami. All it takes is one album to spark it up again. Black Grass have enjoyed success with there EP releases and the album has been widely anticipated. Well, it’s here now and it’s a monster. Cobbling together Hip-hop, soul, dance, reggae, Jazz & blues Black Grass have created a beautiful musical patchwork to proudly spearhead electronic music in 2004. This album puts them up there with the likes of Groove Armada & Basement Jaxx, but unlike the slightly disappointing releases from the afore mentioned artists this album hasn’t been compromised for the sake of pop music. That’s why the Blackgrass album is a gleaming masterpiece.

The Black Grass story is centred on Brighton, where Mex and Carl Faure share a flat, a studio and an outlook. But not much else. Mex hails from Fulham, via Worthing, is 32 and has a deep and abiding love for hip hop and the breaks that fuel it, to which end he's recorded the classic “Spunky Love Fun” and “Yoghurt Mudflap”, followed it with one EP, 'Well Done Big Trak' (as The Mexican), released a couple of battle records and seen his Clockwork Voodoo Freaks alter ego find favour with compilers from 'On The Floor At The Boutique' to Fat City's 'Mystic Brew' series. He was also resident at Brighton's revered hip hop throwdown, Knowledge Of Self. Carl - a Brummie by birth - is almost ten years his junior, has a background in drum'n'bass, house and nu jazz (his DJ residency was at the Brighton incarnation of Off Centre as well as highly regarded remixes for the likes of Bushy and Quantic). Despite their misgivings, they've decided to team up and see what each other had to offer. "I'm discovering the future, he's discovering the past," admits Mex.

It's not been without its difficulties (either will still change the record the minute the other nips to the bog) but together these two have made an album - self-titled, in the grand tradition of classic debuts – that embraces the best that modern music has to offer. The concept of eclecticism has been worn out by those who barely know the meaning of the word but anyone who loves hip hop, jazz, soul, chill out (if you must), reggae, house, 80s groove or UK garage will find something for themselves in this. And anyone who believes that the best music is born in nightclubs and nurtured by an open mind has just found a companion for life.

Of course, you have to do more than simply dip your brush in a few different palettes to paint a masterpiece. Mex and Carl don't just tackle a variety of sources; they do them all with style. UK hotshot Blak Twang turns in a typically explosive lyrical performance over hard hitting guitar and horns on current single ‘Easy’, while 'Reprise' melds the menacing bass sound beloved of UK garage with the live horns of The Gobstoppers. Best of all, lend an ear to the basslines of 'Control' and 'Going Home' – floorquaking 80s groove and tough rubbery twang respectively - both of which are bolstered by the awesome vocals of one Ra Khan, and ask yourself when you last heard a 'skinny white Australian' sing such soul. Of course, both Carl and Mex know that the secret of soul is not where you expect it but where you find it, a fact underlined by the runaway success of their Catskills-sponsored weekly club night, Grass Roots, which rotates guests like drum'n'bass futurists Hospital Records with hip hop archaeologist, DJ Format. "We're the only people doing that in Brighton," announces Carl, "not that we're making a big point of it - it's just the way we are."

Carl knows a thing or two about cross-fertilisation in music - he's hoping to finish his dissertation on the subject in time to cope with the demands of promoting the album. "The relations between genres and between underground and the mass-market is actually really fluid. You can't separate out music. The album that we've made is an embodiment of that idea." Black Grass, though, isn't some bone-dry academic exercise for hardcore musicologists; it's a celebration of all that is great in 'club music'. It will move your feet, soothe your spirit and stir your soul. And, at last, it's provided Carl and Mex with a record they can agree upon.

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