Sunday, August 23, 2009
Rudenko - Everybody (Fingaprint Remix)

Fingaprint and the other producers in the Invasion Records crew (O.B., who together with Fingaprint forms Magic Touch, and Tadow Productions) are considered pioneers in funky, the first producers to take it dark, to take it ravey, to take it dancehall. Fingaprint's "The Takeover", with its MC Creed lick and pounding syncopated groove, is that "seminal" announcement of the new thing in the same way that More Fire Crew's "Oi" was - though curiously I don't find myself returning to it so often, perhaps because I heard and fell in love with Fuzzy Logik's similar "Twiss" first. The big one for me was Fingaprint's slamming remix of Skepta's "The Rolex Sweep", which seemed just so much harder and more muscular than any actual grime I heard last year - indicative of the odd sense of gender flux that funky represents.

Some of Fingaprint's more recent productions have sounded rather electro-housey, which I'm somewhat skeptical about as a direction for the scene, but I'm keeping an open mind. On his remix of Rudenko's "Everybody" any such resemblance is more to do with the disaffected vocal than Fingaprint's music, but still the track reveals some lessons learned: with its concentration of mid-range detail the better electro-house is (or was) characterised by a quasi-Orbital love of warp and weft, each synth line or arpeggio interlacing with the others, the tracks rising and falling in intensity as elements are added, subtracted and added again. The delectably produced "Everybody" , translates this taste for interlocking into a feast of overlaid drums: I count at least five different patterns, usually running simultaneously, each simply exquisite sounding. Funky was already an additive style in this fashion (see Seany B's "Stompa" from last year for a great and very easy-to-follow example), but the "Everybody" remix turns this approach into an artform; the interplay between the drums and the vocals is a wonder to behold.

Simon R dismissed this trend last year with the elegant epithet "percussion is the last refuge of scoundrels" (or something to that effect). It has a nice ring, but it's misleading in two senses: firstly, in that the percussion-overlay approach is only one of many in funky - an equal number of funky tunes are as spare in their construction as grime tunes - and secondly, in that as applied to funky it relies on a logic of equivalence that simply doesn't hold true. The additive tendency in funky cannot be reduced to the stereotypical depiction of polite house with live percussion on top simply because the purpose, function and effect of the percussion-overload are entirely different.

One of my favourite albums of the last few years is the More Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats compilation (if you understandably thought you would only need one funk carioca compilation in your life, I should note here that this one is far superior to its predecessor in my opinion). At the time what excited me about it was the way in which it seemed much closer to rave music (alongside the usual suspects - miami bass etc.) than to much of the populist rhythmic music of the past decade plus. It's not the similarity to rave itself that was exciting, but rather the way in which the music built grooves of sometimes mindboggling complexity and syncopated energy out of often very simple individual components combined together, while still sounding vital and jocular. This stands in stark contrast to the post-Timbaland consensus that characterises pretty much everything else: usually single loops obsessively constructed to do the most damage possible all by themselves. The point here is not that one way is better than the other, but that both options are on the table: at a time when "we" think we understand what makes all this great music just so great, that sudden sharp jab is necessary.

UK funky shares funk carioca's disinterest in (even impatience for) others' insistence on futurism, so it's not surprising that it also unconsciously resembles funk in its rhythmic approach at times (though let's be clear: it equally draws from the post-Timbaland heritage, via grime primarily; most of the time it falls somewhere in the middle). There's a certain... slickness to "Everybody" that obscures the unwitting relationship (more sympathetically: accomplishment), but nonetheless as the tune fires up to its most dense, most overblown peaks I feel that same little thrill, that same sense that here, thank God, is a music unafraid of the inherent corniness ("scoundrelness"?) of maximalism, of thinking about how rhythmic pretension might destroy the most ruthlessly unpretentious of dancefloors. But for grinches, here's a more respectable point of comparison for this track: the perfect midpoint between A Guy Called Gerald circa "Voodoo Ray" and A Guy Called Gerald circa Black Secret Technology.








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