Test/Don't Test (Columbia) Jazz is a horrible word. Really, it is.
Say 'Jazzl' to somebody, and watch their face turn sour, as their minds fill with squawking, shapeless improvising, time structures as loose as MC Hammer’s trousers, and the kind of elitist, snobbish attitude that would put Prince Phillip to shame. All too often, the appropriation of jazz to describe music is a lazy, inexcusable get-out clause, a handy synonym for: 'Well, we just went into the studio and let things flow. We wanted to experiment, y'know?’ The end product is an incoherent mess, devoid of anything approaching inspiration.
But occasionally, the description is apt. For every ten records that arrive bearing the stamp of freeform authenticity but which lope along like three-legged dogs, there is a record that does exactly what it says on the tin. This year’s straight-speaking jazz monster is Attica Blues' Test/Don’t Test. Fusing Iugubrious hip hop with laid back funk and fluttering, stuttering melodies, and smearing the whole affair in heavy, ponderous beats, Test/Don’t Test is a heavyweight slab of forward-looking jazz.
Six years on from their initial appearance on Mo' Wax, and after two years of label disputes, studio building and reorganisation, Attica Blues are back. It's been a long time coming, but according to Attica vocalist Roba, it wasn't too stressful. 'After we left Mo' Wax,’ she explains, ‘we signed to a new label, set up another studio, and then Charlie (Williams, Attica Blues resident turntablist) and Tony (Nwachukwu, keyboard player and sampleospecialist) took some time to do some remixes for people. It was just a matter of finding our feet again, and once we were in the position to start writing,
Attica Blues pass the test
recording the album was really easy.’
The Mo' Wax deal turned sour, with the label being swallowed up by a major, and with label head James Lavelle spending more and more time looking for vintage Star Wars figures and trying to define the zeitgeist with his UNKLE project's overblown Psyence Fiction, but Roba is philosophical about the way things turned out. 'I think the whole Mo' Wax experience meant we weren't afraid to experiment; that was what it was all about, and once you're given a free hand like that, you develop confidence, so that what you're doing makes sense.’ She pauses. ’At least, it did with us, anyway,’ she laughs. The album makes sense, then, but the real test for Attica Blues will be the live shows. 'I think that’s the true test of music,’ says Roba. 'If you take it live and you can make it work, then that’s what it’s all about.’ Attica Blues, then: sticking to the jazz aesthetic, and making sure that the show goes on. (Leon McDermott)
Test Don’t Test is out on Mon 14 Aug.
The NYOS take a bow
musicians from throughout Britain who have been hard at work all year waiting for this prestigious event. ’They have their usual rehearsals and concerts, but I think the Festival gives a focus to lots of orchestras,’ says Conway. ’And knowing that there are many other good musicians involved naturally gives them a sense of pride in their own outfit.’
Youngsters as young as twelve will be trying their utmost to maintain the high standards the Festival has achieved over the past 21 years, so you can banish all images of tuneless adolescents creating a discordant noise. ’We've had quite a few whose feet don't touch the ground, literally.
Festival Of British Youth Orchestras
Teenagers are renowned for many things, but their capacity for concentration isn’t one of them. Whereas most l3-18-year-olds struggle to remain focussed for a 40- minute school lesson, the dedicated young things taking part in this year’s Festival of British Youth Orchestras have to stretch their attention span across an entire concert. ’They're rarely
22 TllEUST 10-17 Aug 2000
asked to concentrate for such a long period of time in other parts of their life,’ says conductor William Conway, ’or in such a pinpoint way. But although it’s tiring, they respond with their feet; they come back every year and absolutely love it.’
Conway has worked extensively with the West of Scotland and Lothian Schools orchestras, and will be at the baton for both groups when the Festival once again takes up residence in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Joining them for the occasion will be 2000
They sit there with legs swinging,’ says Conway, ’but they learn so much in such a short space of time, and even they can’t quite believe that what's sounding like an awful din at the start of rehearsals, a week later resembles what they’ve heard on a professional recording.’ (Kelly Apter)
a Festival Of British Youth Orchestras, Mon 74 Aug—Sun 3 Sep, RSAMD, Glasgow and Central Halls, Edinburgh. See Classical listings for details of Glasgow concerts. Phone 0737 221 1927 for info on Edinburgh concerts.
Bringing you the broken grit cut from the weirder scenes inside the goldrnine of dance music, this issue: Benbecula. Benbecula is first and foremost a record label. A record label that has just released one of the finest collections of European Electronica in a long time. The Music Volume One EP (number one in a series of five) provides crucial tracks from Russia, Sweden, Spain and Scotland. As Benbecula would have it - it is vinyl implants for thinking robots.
llow did it all begin?
’We started it because we were pissed off with the major labels,’ says label founder Steven. ’I just sort of made it up in my head about a year ago, then we started getting sent stuff from all over and started making a compilation.’
Some background information please.
Benbecula are an elusive lot, so no individual information available. What we do know is that some of their previous work has been picked up and used by Lauren Garnier, no less.
So who have they promoted or hosted on their albums?
Beluga from the Outer Hebrides, Novel 23 from Moscow, Fibla from Barcelona, Mikhael Romanenko from Sweden and Edinburgh locals Bauri and Phase 6.
So who's the prospective audience? ’lt's what they call IDM — Intelligent Dance Music, so it’s basically ex- clubbers like myself.’
Any plans for the future?
’Well, if anything happens to 4x4 music in the next year we'll probably latch on to it, but I can't see it happening.’ Also look out for their first band The Magnificents.
Don't you want a little rant?
’People should petition their local FOPP or Avalanche to take the record. It can also be ordered off the website.’ (www.benbecula.com)
. Baked Goods and Benbecula will be showcasing some of their artists at The Wee Red Bar at The College of Art on Thu 77 Aug. See website for further details.
Benbecula explore new ‘moooves' in electronic music