Falling with Tone and Cutsmith

Since the jazz era, musical genres start covert and underground, and with popularity they’re refined to mainstream acceptability, packaged into a new pop wave, and eventually fall into a retrospective or cult hall of fame. I first stood aghast at the selling-off of our adolescent anthems when I heard Leftfield’s Release the Pressure in an advert for Cheese Strings. When this happens to you, you’re officially past your sell by date!

When my daughter is in the car it’s paramount, she controls the stereo, at least it is to her. I’m indifferent, the bulk of contemporary pop irritates my senior ears, but occasionally there’s a something interesting hidden. There was one, once, don’t expect me to root through her playlist to tell you what one, pop, but with the backbeat undeniably inspired from drum n bass.

My attention was drawn to a tune this week, Falling, from Devizes’ drum n bass outfit SubRat Records via Gail Foster, who shot the video for it. Listening took me to the aforementioned moment; how drum n bass was now part of the “norm” rather than primarily an underground genre. If it has come of age and entered the realm of acceptable pop, though, there’s still room for experimentation and the fusing of styles, which is no bad thing, and precisely what Falling is. Chris, hereafter known as Tone, has set up SubRat, and Pewsey’s Cutsmith is the vocalist on this particular track.

Cutsmith is current, using hip hop to inspire his acoustic compositions, so it melds effectively. In the way David Grey produced Babylon, Suzanne Vega did with Tom’s Diner or the entire catalogue of Portishead, fusing up-to-date dance styles with acoustically driven tunes is a winner, if done correctly. If not, it’s a howler, but I’m glad to say, this one really works wonders. Falling has a sublime ambient texture and glides causally through a mass-acceptable drum n bass riff. Cutsmith’s smooth vocals complements it perfectly, breathes mood into it and gifts it with meaning; the combination, a match made in heaven.

Though this may not be an entirely ground-breaking formula, I’d like to train spotter a nod towards a lesser-known tune on A Guy Called Gerald’s revolutionary album Black Secret Technology, where through splinters of drum n bass, an unknown Finely Quaye covers Marley’s Sun is Shining. But if you’d rather me example recognised tunes of singers who launched a career from featuring on a dance tune, from Seal to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and renowned artists who regenerated theirs, like the day William Orbit got a call from the queen of pop, here’s two local artists collaborating for each other’s good, rather than one tossed a rope to the other.

I wanted to probe the mind of producer Tone, about this concept, as what he’s got here is something very marketable, as opposed to something which would only appease the drum n bass fans. I asked him if this was the intention with this tune, yet I didn’t want him getting the wrong idea; I meant this in the best possible way. Even if, Bohemian Rhapsody, for example, is timeworn and cliché, it’s popular because it’s a bloody amazing song. Pop doesn’t necessarily have to be a sell-out, cast yourself away from Stock, Aitken Waterman.

“You’re definitely right about this particular track sounding more marketable and commercial than your everyday underground D&B piece,” he expressed. “I had no intention of making it sound acceptable to the masses but I’m glad it is like that. I think more people should be able to enjoy drum and bass for all different backgrounds. I’m not really trying to make what everyone wants; I just make what I like the sound of, and quite often or not it’s easy on the ear for everyone.”

I wanted gage the story behind this belter. “When we worked on this piece,” Tone replied, “I started out making the entire track without having any intention of putting vocals on to it. I sent it over to Josh (Cutsmith) and he said he’d love to do something over it, which is when we started recording. It turned out really well even though throughout the production I didn’t think I’d be making anything that sounds like this. My roots are actually firmly with the rave scene and I absolutely love sub-heavy underground vibes.”

Is this a debut single from Sub Rat, I asked him. “This is the first free release off of our label, SubRat Records, by myself, Tone. In a hope to bring people in and start a fan-base.” So, does Tone consider himself a DJ and producer? “I’m based in Devizes and solely a producer right now. I haven’t DJ’d for a long while. I produce a lot of drum and bass, but often step into other genres like Hip-hop, dubstep, grime, modern rap and more commercial stuff etc.”

If our local music scene is blossoming, it can be limiting regarding genres, so I welcome this with open arms. To assume such genres are generally confined to a municipal environment you’d be mistaken. Prior to our chat delving into rave memories, as the typecast urban raver always excluded the rural counterparts since day dot, I tried to keep current and ask Tone if future releases will follow a similar pattern, and where he saw SubRat heading.

“Aside from my solo journey I take pride being in the background for vocalists/rappers and providing the music/instrumentals for them,” he explained, “I want to see people succeed off of my tunes!” I hope so, this is promising and like to see other local singers benefit from an electronic dance music makeover, and if so, judging by this excellent tune, through SubRat, drum n bass is the key component.


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The Lamb gets Drum n Bass

I reminisced about Devotion at Golddiggers last week on our homage to Keith Flint, don’t intend to go there again. But, (it’s a dirty big fib, you know it is…) I’ve been contemplating once, in the early nineties, inactive in my car in the carpark, when, what can only be described as “a cheesy raver,” completely unbeknown to us, steadied himself on the rolled-down driver’s window and allowed their jaw to run a marathon. He jabberingly informed he had no intentions of going back into the club, in his own words, “it’s all that jungle music, know what I mean?”

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Pop Quiz: Who can tell me what this was, and what it was for? Showing your age now whistle posseeee!

To be honest, I didn’t, it was the first time I’d heard it called by this name. Although, breakbeat had taken over acid house and techno “bleep,” the “hardcore” label was preliminarily splitting. X-L Recordings, albums like The Rebel MC’s Black Meaning Good and Ragga Twins, Reggae Owes me Money, were providing the hardcore scene with reggae-inspired beats which would assist the divide. Generally, many white youths headed for crashing pianos, hi-hat loops and sped up eighties pop samples, defined as “happy hardcore,” while the urban minority bought us a shadier, serious arrangement of sparse beats and deeper basslines, we now know as drum n bass.

 

 
At the time we considered ourselves maturing ravers, (oh, the irony!) The upcoming generation separated the two, we buried into a new wave of plodding house. Yet with one eye on the divide I appreciated the lunacy of happy hardcore, enjoyed its merry ambience, but couldn’t help feeling drum n bass held the future. It was the more creative and experimental; proved right in the space of only a few years; A Guy Called Gerald, Goldie, and LTJ Bukem were pushing its boundaries into concept albums like it was 1975 space-rock. They prepared the stage for Roni Size, and mainstream acceptance of the genre.

 
So, I had to chuckle at the premise of the blurb on the Facebook event page, where Vinyl Realm stages a drum n bass night at The Lamb, Devizes on the 23rd March with DJ’s Retrospekt, Rappo and Harry B. “We at Vinyl Realm feel there is nothing in town for young adults to do. So, to fix that we have a night dedicated to the local producers creating heavy DnB, deep House and banging Jungle music.”

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Hey, what about us middle-aged old skool ravers? I can still shake a leg yer know, still got it mate! And when I say old skool, I don’t mean like on Kiss FM when they blast a club anthem from 2006 and think they’re retrospective; we were there, at the beginning pal, stomping in the mud! We fought an oppressive government so you kids can rave!!

 
But yeah, you’re probably right, I’d only be panting disproportionately and holding onto the wall for dear life, or else chewing some kid’s ear off about how we used to do it, like Uncle Albert on a love dove. Best leave it to the younger crew. All jokes aside, I know Devizes D&B DJ Harry B has posted to Facebook in the past, attempting to gage interest into such a night.

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I fully support the notion, good on the organisers of this, they’ve hit the hammer on the head; there’s nothing of this genre in Devizes, and not a lot for young adults; fair play, I hope it goes well and spurs others to provide entertainment for this age group. Seems like it will, limited to fifty tickets, with forty showing interest on the Facebook event page, this will be an exclusive return of D&B in Devizes which you better get in quick on, if you’re a playa. A snip at a fiver, tickets are on sale now at Vinyl Realm.

 
I just hope the old pub can hold up under the pressure of devastating basslines! I put my concern to Harry. “I’m going to have a test run up there this week with the speakers,” he confirmed; storming!

 

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