Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sneaky sideblog post

Check out my hastily-written highlights for 2009 over at Popwreckoning

Another agreeable article

Ok, so I might be cheating by simply pointing to articles written by other people here. But if someone else has nicely articulated what I've been thinking then why should I make the effort to re-write it myself? This article is from a Canadian weekly called the Eye (or Eye Weekly?) and goes into the phenomenon of too much music -- something that I've been pondering about recently too. Was I better off when the only music I could really focus on was what I could afford? When I was forced to make choices rather just download anything I was interested in? Most of the music I get now barely gets listened to, and it is hard to keep up with all the latest it bands, before the next ones come along. Something has changed. The author also touches upon the lack of a culture to attach on to when everything is so fragmented and all you know about a band is... nothing really. Music becomes background noise. I've also been getting into buying vinyl records of albums I really like, and those become the songs and records I really listen to. Not sure how things will evolve from here, though I recently read another article about the next decade in music which basically focused on streaming as the next big thing -- we won't even own music any more, we'll just listen to our self selected radio-like streams -- sounds a bit crap if you ask me. But that was written by some tech nerd so who knows.

Too much music?

PS I will not miss big stadium acts

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Return of Massive Attack

I posted a new Portishead track a few weeks ago and now it's time to post the next single from Massive Attack featuring Hope Sandoval formerly of Mazzy Star. Portishead and Massive Attack basically invented "trip hop" music with their debut albums back in the early nineties. Until recently, Portishead stayed true to their low tempo, spy music sound, whereas Massive Attack always innovated and changed their sound with every album, using guest vocalists, and morphing into a live band with their third album, Mezzanine.

After that, things went decidedly downhill. So much so that Massive Attack's last album, 2003's 100th Window, was released by 3D by himself and was, well...not that great. Thankfully, Daddy G's back for LP5 and judging by this track, and the list of collaborators for the new album (Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Martina Topley-Bird, and others), it should be a good one. Heligoland should be out around February 8/9 2010. This track's called Paradise Circus:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holistic goodness

Here's my review of Holistic's album Technicolor

Can the retro sound from popular TV shows and pop music of the 60s’ fuse with hip-hop? A range of artists have tried to answer that question and this is what the group Holistic has done with their latest album Technicolor.

Holistic is comprised of three young men who originally hail from Indiana, but have been based in NYC for several years. The Iron Sheik, Iz Inferno, and Rad Nice are all emcees, and the Iron Sheik and Iz Inferno double up as the producers of the group.

The three members each bring something unique to the emceeing table: Iz Inferno has a deep, addictive, voice; Rad Nice has catchiness and thump; while the Iron Sheik gives listeners lots of rhythm. Their verses cover a seemingly bizarre range of subjects, from watching NBC in the morning to the trauma of police brutality -- Holistic aren't afraid to rap about what they see around them.
Many songs on the album feature sounds reminiscent of the 60s’ era, hence the retro-sounding title Technicolor. In theory, one may think that sounds reflective of the Woodstock generation would not mesh well with hip hop rhythms and rhymes, but I found that Holistic make it work, and it works well.

Check out “NBC” for example, which appears early on in the album. The song features an intriguing loop that seems straight out of a classic TV show. With low, rolling bass, the boys of Holistic enter the tune with their verses, and show how hip hop can evolve by using the unlikeliest of sources from the past.

Another example from the album is “D’Accord”, where Holistic display their fondness for the French language. Here, the main layer of the song could be right in place on an album that’s over 40 years old. The group display a flair for coming up with a revitalizing sound for a hip hop track.

“Supercool” is another top track, and is their latest single (check out the link below for the stylish video, directed by Rad Nice.) The song is more conventional in its production than the other tracks with vintage elements, but still provides plenty of head-bopping and can be put on repeat.

The song from Technicolor that truly showcases the emcee skills of the trio is “Summertime Sky”. Listening to Holistic’s voices, heavy rhythms, and lyrics, on top of a relaxed beat, makes you think of, well, summertime. In my opinion, “Summertime Sky” deserves lots of airplay.

Holistic have an experimental style of hip hop, and don’t limit themselves to targeting Muslim-only audiences or topics, which is a refreshing change from some other Muslim acts. Give them a listen and you will also be hooked - and might find yourself repeating, “The world looks mighty good to me, I start my days with NBC! Whatever it is, I think I see, I think I see!”

Go here to see Holistic’s website.

Check out their latest single "Supercool" which has a pretty groovy video.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simian Mobile Disco

I hear this song all over the radio in the UK. The first time I heard it the reviewers trashed it, but since then I've only heard good things about it. It's a typical uplifting trance/house/whateveryouwannacallit number. It should get you in the mood to party though, which is almost never a bad thing. If you like what you hear below, make sure you check out their MySpace page.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soap Kills

I first heard of the band Soap Kills a few months ago when I got word of Y.A.S., which comprises of Yasmine Hamdan, the former singer of Soap Kills, and Mirwais, the famed electronic producer who produced Madonna's Music album.

I have been reading Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk which is an account of Lebanon's 15-year civil war. The band Soap Kills pops in my mind frequently because the band's name was meant to not let the Lebanese forget about the war, despite reconstruction's attempts to wash away the memories of war.

Here's an excerpt from this very insightful and intriguing interview that is about Y.A.S., which gives details on the origins of the now-defunct Soap Kills. The following is what got me very interested in the band:

"Zeid and Yasmine wrote a song together called Soap Kills, which was meant, at the time, as a scathing commentary on the reconstruction of Beirut after the civil war.

“With all the war being wiped clean,” recalls Zeid, “we thought, wow, it’s shiny and it’s awful.” More than just a song, they also thought Soap Kills would be a good name for a band. And so, one of the legendary stories of the Beiruti underground began.

For nearly a decade, Soap Kills was held up as the next big thing. It was a band that blended old-school Arabic music with trip-hop and downbeat techno, a band that served as an unprecedented artistic hothouse for live experimentation and studio innovation, a band that was always on the verge of a major record deal but never quite made it happen."

So far, I haven't been able to get my hands on many songs by Soap Kills, but here are a couple that I'm very fond of.

I like this one because it fuses classical Arabic singing with some good ol' drum and bass!

This song is cool and definitely threw me off with its reggae tones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Portishead

It looks like we might only have to wait until next year for a new Portishead album. That's a extra speedy turn around for Portishead, who spent three years making their second album, and made us wait a whole ten years for the aptly titled "Third" which came out in 2008. A new track has been donated to Amnesty International which you'll find below.

I don't want to spoil the song for you before you take a listen so just check it out. Sounds like familiar territory for Beth Gibbons et al and she doesn't look too happy in the video which is normal for this lot. I'd be interested to know what you think she's singing about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Agreeable Article on the Last Decade in Pop Music

Thought I'd share this, especially since it's from the Guardian, my main source for music news. The writer's saying pretty much what I would like to say if I were a better writer -- there are a lot of micro-scenes in music now that are perfectly happy to be micro-scenes, which is all well and good unless you're an obsessive like me who wants to hear everything that's good. What he says about the lack of musical progress during the decade is something I hadn't really thought about, but it makes total sense, especially when contrasted with other decades. There's been a lot of rehashing but nothing really really new that's captured the public's attention -- not sure if I see that changing in the future? If people have easy access to their preferred micro-scenes, and are happy with that, then what need is there for a big mainstream change? Another article on the site also mentioned how easy it is now to access old music, which ends up competing with our attention too. Add DVD box sets, Youtube, DVR's, free newspapers, blogs, etc etc, and it's enough to make you miss FM radio and four TV channels as your only access to pop culture! Or is that just me?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

who's afraid?

Here we go, a minimalist contribution from me. Don't know much about this track or artist, but I do rather like it, and the vid isn't bad either. Reppin' the adopted hometown:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Viva la house! via: Deep Dish

Sorry for the hiatus folks, us Ashrafs have been doing a fair bit of travelling, not together of course otherwise we'd hurt each other.

I figured its time for me to do another 'Viva la house!' post. Of course, any househeads who come across this blog will have heard of Deep Dish, a very famed Iranian-American duo based out of Washington D.C. They did used to have a record shop called Yoshitoshi in Georgetown which I went to once a few years ago, and was very geeked to see.

Here is one of my favourite tracks, their remix of "Rise" by Gabrielle. I used to play this in the car in high school and would drive more slowly on purpose so that I could enjoy the full 9 minutes. This song is I think, really beautiful. I love all the channels and valleys, the build-ups and break-downs, that the song navigates.
(Edit - the link disappeared, am working on finding another one!)

This here is "The Future of the Future" from their 1998 album Junk Science which I highly, highly recommend. This song is also very well-crafted in my opinion.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


A few weeks ago I went to an event at the American Indian Community House, which is a really nice educational space in Lower Manhattan. Members of Audiopharmacy were present and played a few low-key tunes. Let's just say, I was impressed.
The band is actually a sort of collective, and are from the Bay area. Here's their bio:

"For those who don't know, the group started back in '94. Teao and Zygoat made music under the name II Sense (two sense). In '97, they combined with Defiance and Laxman to form Kaotic Souls, one of the only experimental and conscious hip hop acts in San Jose, Ca. The group eventually grew to the supa huge size of about 30 members... all spirtually connected artists. Finally in 2002, they created the name Audiopharmacy Prescriptions. Now, Kaotic Souls is broken down to subgroups, all of which are in the Audiopharmacy family. Audiopharmacy Prescriptions then became the San Francisco indi label which supports and signs unknown kin met along the path of consciousness and community. respect people's planets."

I think its great that they have their own label.

Check them out for yourself, here's "Honward" from their latest album U Forgot About Us.

Find more of their songs on their myspace. I especially like "Jah I Way" - a lot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The XX at DC9

We saw current It band the XX at DC9 the other night for a sold out show. First time I've been to DC9 (which is tiny) and it's been so packed, but that wasn't surprising given the amount of hype the XX have been getting. Happily it didn't look like a bunch of hipsters, though plenty of people took pictures and iphones were on hand. I felt quite clever for buying tickets early, and we spotted one of the singers being very nondescript beforehand. Though some of their songs are a little too low-key, for the most part the XX's sparse dancey sound is cool and I like the beats, the very low bass notes, and the fact that they use drum machines instead of boring Apple laptops. Me and Lubna were quite excited about seeing our favourite possibly-Muslim musician, Baria Qureshi, who plays bass and keyboards for the band. Make that played because, sadly, she officially left the band about a week ago, which we didn't know til she didn't get on stage. Typical! We were excited to see a cool brown person and give her some support, but it wasn't to be.

We missed most of the opener, Jon Hopkins, and regretted it cos the one track we heard was great--sounded like the Aphex Twin, and he was playing his stuff live on some sort of music box. The XX had to walk through the crowd to get to the little stage in the corner, before starting off with "Intro", which had me thinking that maybe they'd play their whole record, in order. They did still play pretty much every song they've recorded, but that's what I expected given they've only got one album out and I don't think people really do B-sides any more. The songs actually seemed to be at a slower tempo when played live, which was a bit off-putting. But after a couple of tracks in the changes sounded cool; the songs came out very dubby, with an early dance vibe, more bass, and guitars that sounded like they were coming from underwater.

For the concert their beats were tapped out live rather than being pre-programmed, and the beats boy Jamie Smith got down on actual drums as well -- he def seemed to be doing the most work. He's filling in most now that the XX are a three-piece instead of a four, cos as well as beats he was adding in bass notes and keyboard live too -- what a hard-working young man! The other members also hit a few knobs at the back here and there, but Qureshi's absence was still felt as the overall sound wasn't as full, despite the effort. As the bass got heavier and the effects more prominent I started thinking that maybe they'd go all out ravey at the end, or go all dub-step on us, but that didn't happen. It's a shame more bands don't take chances when playing live, cos if you can't have fun then, when can you? Personally I'd like to see more live shows end in loopy techno with more cool covers thrown in (the XX performed covers that can be found on the interweb already: Womack and Womack's "Teardrops" and the other one by Kyla).

On the way home we pondered how far a band like the XX might go. Sadly, I don't think they'll go very far at all, at least not in terms of maintaining the buzz in the long-term. The emphasis these days seems to always be on the next big thing, and there are so many bands, all of them putting out great first albums to loads of hype. After the first rush of buzz, the first record, the first tour, it seems hard to stay important as there's some other, newer, band with a cool sound to hype instead. Things seem to become old news very quickly and I'd be surprised if bands like the XX, Vampire Weekend, or the Very Best have long careers. I think it's more likely that members will keep doing different projects with different people and stay musical that way, or just fade away. It's quite hard to keep up with everything that's supposed to be good nowadays as there's almost no such thing as obscurity any more -- the XX may never have a top ten single, but in their own way they're massive and can't be missed. Having said all that, at least their hype is worth it, and even if it all doesn't last long I'm sure they're having a lot of fun. I just hope they took their A-levels as a back-up plan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Big Jay-Zed

Jay-Z. What can you say about Jay-Z that hasn't been said before. Not a whole lot I would reckon - you can probably find what I'm about to write already written some place before. I've had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Jay-Z and rap music in general. I have my moments where I might buy a record or listen to a track repeatedly. This happened in 1998 when I bought Jay-Z's single, "Hard Knock Life." It's usually just a passing fad though, and then I go back to listening to Oasis or Blur, or something more white.

But back to Jay-Z. You can't help but admire this guy man. I saw him on Later with Jools Holland last week and he was absolutely phenomenal. Later's a live weekly TV show in the UK with musical acts. Check out Jay-Z performing "Empire State of Mind" below. I know it sounds cheesy, but Jay-Z's passion and love for his art is staring you in the face as you watch this clip. I'm not gonna fall in love with rap music overnight, but watching Jay-Z on Jools has definitely given me a deeper appreciation for his music. Nice one son.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Massive Attack - Man Next Door

Listen to this track by Massive Attack, one of my fave groups of all time. The albums Blue Lines, Protection, and Mezzanine are not to be under-appreciated. What I love so much about the group is how versatile their sound is.

Let the sound envelope you when you listen to this. And listen to the lyrics - do you interpret them literally or metaphorically? I take the metaphor - I think the "man next door" could actually be me or you, instead.

Anyway I'm sure a lot of music geeks have heard of Massive Attack, but the masses aren't very familiar with them.

This is another version of the song with the same singer Horace Andy (and others)


Friday, October 30, 2009

Sneaky side-blog plug

Check out me lastest review for Popwreckoning -- I went to see the Icelandic band Múm for them last Friday:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Atlantic Conveyor - We Are

I'm sick of looking at craigslist listings for furniture. Time for music.

I've really been feeling this track the last few days. I love how the bassline drives the whole tune. Check it out for some real funk and groove.

This is Atlantic Conveyor's Myspace.
Check out their website for more tunes.

Looks like they are doing a bunch of shows in London - London folks, check them out!

Here is the tune, "We Are"


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oh, I say, you look so super!

Just read in the Guardian that Liam Maher, lead singer of Flowered Up, has died. Can't say I know much about the band but I do love the epic track "Weekender" -- 13 minutes long, captivating throughout, and one of those songs that might make you question your lifestyle. You can hear it at their Myspace page (they were trying for a comeback). More info on the band here, and a vid should be below.

Flowered Up - Weekender from

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Electric Dreams while handbrake skidding

I was listening to a Mike Skinner podcast the other day and suddenly had a mid-80's flashback. Was it? Could it be? Yes! He'd put on an extended version of "Together in Electric Dreams" by Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder! The last time I heard that song was in my cousin's car in Harlow, probably shortly before/after getting a hard slap on the thigh while in the passenger seat on the way to Muslim sunday school. For a few weeks there we'd hear it every time he gave us a lift, and something about the sadness of the song stood out even back then when I was but a wee fat lad dreading the mullana's cane. The cousin (actually cousin's cousin, an angry and terrifying teenager when I was under ten) had it on cassette and we probably heard it in his mum's VW polo with a cool cassette case carrier thing sliding around on the passenger floor (I always wanted one of those). I'm sticking in a link to the song as I only ever heard it, never saw the video until earlier today. You can see a vid of the extended version here -- check out Phil Oakey's hair! He didn't look like that in the Human League. It was nice to hear this song again and be reminded of those Epping-Harlow trips; in my mind Feraz is in the back seat, the weather is nice, and it's after sunday school, so there's no caning to be afraid of. Good times!

[Just a note: I'm pretty sure this was the first Human League-related song I ever heard, and I never did get round to seeing 'Electric Dreams' the film.]

[Note two: Imeem was being weird so I changed to a Youtube link:]

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Viva la house! via: Basement Jaxx

Here's a secret:
I love house music.

Ok that's not really a secret. But its rare to find fans of house music these days unfortunately. All too often house gets dissed - people think its about popping pills and glowsticks. Well, its not, trust me. I don't do those things.

But I won't be pretentious and pretend I'm an expert on house music, because I'm not. I'm just a really big fan, and I want you to hear what I love - maybe you'll get the itch too for house.

So this will probably be the first in a series of posts I will do about house music. Up first is Basement Jaxx, a group with a very long and famed history, who also have had a lot of crossover success. I'm really into their old stuff on their Remedy and Rooty albums - check them out if you want to hear some truly funky house with incredibly unique beats, and of course, lots and lots of good old bass. I find it hard to believe that Remedy was released 10 years ago! I remember sitting in my room and playing those tunes nonstop.

Here is "Samba Magic", one of the Jaxx's earliest tracks, before they released Remedy. I hope this track dispels the stereotypes the house haters have about house.

"Fly Life" is one of the Jaxx's biggest and earliest releases. Does my head in every time. MASSIVE TUNE

This is "Romeo" , the first single from their second album Rooty - I think this song is going to always be one of my favourites.

Put the volume up and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Discovered: Harmonic 313

Alright, well, I might be a bit behind here but I came across Harmonic 313 recently thanks to all the hoopla surrounding the Warp20 release (which I'm sure is excellent). The name intrigued me as 313 is the area code for Detroit, but apparently that's not where the name comes from. Instead Harmonic 313 is the alias for one Mark Pritchard, one of a few aliases. He's based out of Sydney and does some nice bleepy 8-bitty dubsteppy stuff which I am likin'. There are some mixes up on the web that are readily available (see links below) but I recommend picking up the album When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence as it's quite excellent and is an actual album, meaning you can hear it evolve as it plays -- very nice. Oh, and 313 is apparently the frequency produced by planets turning on their axes, so there you go.

There's a mix here.
And another one here.
And here's the myspace page for Mark Pritchard.
Oh, and check out the Harmonic 313 homepage, which is fun and if you win the word game you can get a free track!

Think Doctor Who...

Not bothered about the video but I'm digging this track from Muse's new album:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cubic Zirconia - F*ck Work - Dam Funk remix

This is what I'm presenting for my first post here. I discovered this funky little track a few weeks ago. As we're in the midst of a deep recession and people are looking for work (some have just given up) - I think this song is appropriate for the times:



(photo credit)

Welcome to anyone who happens to find this new music blog (or if you were forced to read it...)

We are three siblings with the last name of Ashraf.

This is our blog about music.

Read our posts and tell us what you think.

Who are we? Well -

Hena likes to create things with cameras and stories. She currently lives in the land of Brooklyn, after stints at the University of Michigan and London's East End. Hena's musical education began at the age of 11 and has been non-stop ever since. She likes to disappear into her headphones.

Fahad is a possibly misanthropic non-profit health-care provider with a life-long love of pop music in most of it's forms. He is inspired by John Peel and Joe Strummer, and proceeds to do very little with it. Fahad spent time as a college DJ with turns at the decks during frat parties and weddings; was a Muxtaper before it expired; and a blogger to blag free concert tickets.

Originally a massive Queen fan after Freddie Mercury's death, Feraz then got into Britpop after sneeking peeks at his brother's copies of the NME. Now in London, he anticipates to discover loads of new tunes after growing up on mid-90s British indie music.