Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Roy Ayers ‎– Silver Vibrations (1983)

Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Uno Melodic Records, BBE

1.   Chicago
2.   Lots Of Love
3.   Keep On Movin'
4.   Silver Vibrations
5.   Smiling With Our Eyes
6.   D.C. City
7.   Good Good Music

Mastered By – Frank Merritt

There is a compelling emotion of goodwill that always weaves itself into the tapestry of whatever genre of music Roy Ayers chooses to create. The LA raised Vibes sovereign, who was bestowed with a set of vibraphone mallets by the foremost master of the instrument Lionel Hampton at age five, has constructed several mini-careers by pushing the edges of jazz forward since the '70s. His forming the group Ubiquity, which literally means the fact of being everywhere, allowed him to pursue all the connections that jazz has to soul, R&B, funk, and disco. Connectivity that later in the '90s would give him proper credit as being the godfather of neo-soul, house, acid-jazz and a canon that provided the building sample blocks for boom bap era, hip-hop.

Silver Vibrations, the heavily sought-after 1983 album by Ayers thought of as his last great focused project in that era which combined equal parts commercial viability and artistic complexity. Commanding upwards of three figures on Discogs, it's finally being reissued on vinyl for the first time by BBE Records. It stands as the truest chronicle, reporting where black music was at in the early Eighties and its trajectory to come.

At the top of the decade, while browsing the landscape of a post-disco America, Ayres switched up his production list into a worksheet of boogie compositions and string-laden grooves. Chicago, the global classic, that not only pre-dates the term ‘house music’ but in turn lays out the structure and foundation the music would grow from, is featured in its extended seven-minute version. With its sample-like loop formation, minor-key chord structure and kick drum. It elongates this slippery funk into something just a bit more than a catchy tune. We get Genre. Silver Vibrations-the sleek r&b dance track showcasing Ayers magical vibe skills-feels like something Dr Dre would sample or a production Dam-Funk would create. ‘DC City’, a kissing cousin of Ubiquity's original recording of The Third Eye, is a mellow summer night type dedication to Chocolate City.

While there are moments on ‘Lots of Love’ and ‘Keep On Movin’ where Ayers refuses to give up the hedonistic Seventies ghost, a HEAVY post-disco effect on this record, with that slippery boogie sound working its way into the zeitgeist, cannot be ignored. This abridged version morphed into new R&B. And Ayers maneuvered through all these musical developments like he was parking a car. Focused on staying relevant to the kids, he created a teaching manual. Thirty years in advance.
John-Paul Shiver / Drowned In Sound

Martyn ‎– Voids (2018)

Style: Dubstep, UK Garage, Drum n Bass
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Ostgut Ton

1.   Voids One
2.   Manchester
3.   Mind Rain
4.   Nya
5.   Why
6.   Try To Love You
7.   Cutting Tone
8.   World Gate
9.   Voids Two

Mastered By – Rob Thomas
Written-By, Producer – M. Deykers

Sometimes life is simply about surviving. From setbacks to tragedies, some days can be just about perseverance and steadfast endurance. For Netherlands-born DJ Martyn, another day in the studio almost ended in tragedy as, while working alone, he suffered a heart attack stemming from a known congenital heart problem. Such a seismic physical shock has, understandably, had a profound psychological effect on him, both in his outlook on life and in his approach to his work.

It probably won't come as a massive surprise, therefore, that Voids is not a lighthearted, bright and breezy listen. Rather it is reflective of an artist who has survived a life-changing trauma and, in doing so, visited the very darkest places a mind can go. It's also a reminder that to survive and indeed, thrive, is to remember what is important in life and to extirpate those wasteful, extraneous aspects that drag us down and hold us back. To cast them aside. Consign them to the void.

Glitchy opener "Voids One" acts like a little taster to what follows as Martyn cuts and splices atmospheric samples and sounds, forming them into a murky, sonic collage which he ties together with a simple melody that draws in the listener. The superb "Manchester" is a fitting tribute to British producer and DJ Marcus Intalex who passed away last year. With a techno meets post-dubstep feel, it's a song brimming with hooks and ideas. From the spoken word sample that directly addresses the passing of Intalex to the fresh, uncluttered production, it's a mesmerizing track that promises to be a staple of the club scene for years to come.

One of the key characteristics of the album is Martyn's ability to layer, intricate, dextrous percussion. On "Mind Rain" huge, dark, almost industrial synth chords are supported by a knotted web of polyrhythmic percussion. The techno meets jungle "Mya" features a taut, propulsive beat that allows Martyn to set swarming synths against each other as if locked in perpetual battle.

The almost tribal rhythms of "Why" give the track a feeling of sustained motion. Coupled with vivid, ambient swirls which are randomly interrupted by shuddering synth chords like a freight train suddenly speeding past. "Try to Love You" hypnotizes with a four-note, low piano motif before graceful piano playing gently shakes you awake. The mournful tone gives the album extra depth.

"Cutting Tone" is an enormous, dancefloor banger that mixes classic house and drum 'n' bass and finds Martyn artfully experimenting with his use of space, sounding, as it does, like it was recorded in an aircraft hanger. The steady work out of "World Gate" is another track made for big spaces. Like a boxer sparring with a punchbag, the beat reverberates through the track with tape loops that flood the senses before gently retreating. The suitably misty, haunting conclusion to the record extends the dark, moody atmospherics of the opening track but this time with added breakbeats.

Naturally, considering what has happened to Martyn there is a melancholy that courses through Voids but this is by no mean a bleak album. While at times the atmosphere is stiflingly claustrophobic, there is always a glimmer of hope, a shaft of light to lift the mood. The intense and emotionally enlightening experience that shaped the making of the album sees Martyn drawing from his own musical history, from garage and post-dubstep to trance and drum n bass to create a gritty, forward facing record. A lasting testament to survival.
Paul Carr / popMATTERS