Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Jack's Top Tracks - March 27 2013 - the best electroswing on the web

Fear not, readers! I am alive and well. I apologise for the lateness of this week's installment of Jack's Top Tracks. Been a bit preoccupied with a lot of other stuff, but I am back and ready to fill your ears with some lovely electroswing goodness.


Bakini - Company B-Boy (Starring the Andrews Sisters)

In the absence of any scantily clad young ladies I bring you visual delights of a different time. This was originally released back in 2003, but a chappy named Grant Bernard (what a great name), an electroswing DJ from Toronto who also goes by  The Great Grantsby, has made this very fine video for it. He has also made a few videos for Skeewiff. Subscribe to his YouTube channel here.


The After Hours Quintet - Red Dust (Swing n Bass Reprise)

In their own words the After Hours Quintet are 'all beardy blokes', so have only provided a Soundcloud clip rather than a video. The 5 piece are the house band at Speakeasy Leeds and, it turns out, live on the same road as the Jenova Collective, who I featured last week. This is a new tune from them, and I rather like it.


DJ Yoda - Cheesecake (Louis Armstrong)

DJ Yoda might be the most famous turntablist DJ in the world. I certainly can't do him justice in this short space. I had his How to cut and Paste Volumes 1-3 when I was at school. Here is a track sampling Louis Armstrong singing about cheesecake. Like that pudding, this tune is simple yet satisfying.


I Monster - The Blue Wrath

For some reason I feel like ending on a cheery note this week, and this track just popped into my head a few moments ago. I used to listen to it at work and it always made me feel quite chipper. I think it has something to do with the way that it ends - a bit like an old cockney pub song. Enjoy!

So, that's your lot for this week. I will be heading out to SwingStep @ Ginglik on Friday night. Jamie Berry is DJing and there are a few live acts on so it should be a good one. If you are going, come and say 'what ho'.

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Photo Diary: The Swing Dig' with Elle and the Pocket Belles

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited along to see the delectable Elle and the Pocket Belles performing at "The Swing Dig", supported by DJ Fred Balkayou. Elle and the girls performed with their Big Band, and put on a typically polished performance. 

The venue, The Nursery, is in a railway arch near Southwark and was packed to bursting. The place is a sort of multi-purpose space and the whole event had a pleasingly home-made feel to it. In place of a cloakroom there was a clothes rail, while in the absence of an entry stamp the chap on the door drew a unicorn on the back of my hand. 

It was particularly nice to bump into DJ Shefitza, the lady behind SwingStep, an electro-swing night  in Shepherd's Bush.

Below are a few of the pictures from the event, some taken by me, and others by Neil Gordon, to whom I am very grateful. (NB - Neil's are the ones that look professional)

News: Get fit with electro-swing DJ Tallulah Goodtimes

There is, I am told, something called 'getting fit'. I have heard about this, and apparently it involves lots of sweat and Lycra, and frankly the whole thing sounds ghastly. One particular kind of 'exercise' that has been in vogue recently is 'Zumba', which from my research on You Tube, I gather to be a cross between aerobics and generic Latin dancing. There is great deal of arse-wiggling and hip-thrusting; the whole thing looks very undignified.

Happily there is a far more civilized alternative. Sophie Tott, aka DJ Tallulah Goodtimes, is a trained fitness instructor with a passion for electro-swing. It was only a matter of time before the two parts of her life coincided. Her innovation is 'SwingMeFit'. The concept is similar to that of Zumba, but instead of pseudo-latin beats Sophie treats the people who come to her class to the finest electro-swing tunes she can get her hands on.

Sophie (aka Tallulah Goodtimes) leads a class at Hazelstock Festival 2012
To find out more I spoke to one of the participants in Sophie's classes. Hana, Managing Director of a marketing company, has been attending SwingMeFit classes for around three months. A keen jogger (I don't pretend to know what this means), she was looking for an indoor alternative for the winter months. On the recommendation of a friend she gave the classes a go and has only missed a couple of classes since then.

“It is different and fun,” she tells me. “The music and the people are really uplifting. You can turn up in a foul mood, after a rubbish day at the office and 10 minutes in you feel 100 times better. The moves are quite straight forward, it is great cardio exercise and brilliant for toning. We laugh a lot too. I look forward to it all week.”

She enjoys the classes so much that she too has been spreading the word. At least two of her friends have come to a class on her recommendation, including someone who traveled all the way to Suffolk (which is where Sophie is based).

As well as helping Hana to keep in shape, the classes have introduced her to the joys of electro-swing. Although she had not heard the style before she is now downloading her favourite tunes at home. Sadly it doesn't look like she will be seen on a dance floor near you any time soon: “I'm trying to be good – get fit, lose some weight. If I went to a gig I'd HAVE to drink beer and get chips on the way home,” she says. “Old habits die hard!”

One thing is for sure, however. Swing Me Fit is a great success for Hana. “It has pizzazz in abundance, its non-judgmental and has a real feel-good factor,” she says.

As I have intimated above, I am something of a stranger to exercise, but if the sweat that poured off me at Parov Stellar's gig last year is any indication, SwingMeFit must be very effective. I understand that things like jogging and going to the gym can be something of a chore – the answer? Swingin' beats, of course.

If you want to find out about Sophie's classes, you can do so by visiting her website. At present the classes only take place in Suffolk, but it can only be a matter of time before other parts of the country catch on.

Opinion: Why swing dancers shouldn't hate electro-swing

As a part of my ongoing project to move this website forward and explore new ground, below is the first in a what I am thinking of as an 'irregular series of long-form articles'. It is slightly longer than you might be used to reading on the internet, but I think your 21st century attention-spans will just about to be able to stay with me to the end. Do let me know if you enjoyed the piece, or if you hated it. Do you agree with what I say or am I talking through my (extremely elegant) hat?

Back in November an American fellow called Morgan Day published a blog post about electro-swing on his site The piece was called Why Swing Dancers Love and Hate Electro Swing. Morgan is a keen swing dancer in the traditional ‘Lindy Hop’ sense , and while he does have some good things to say about electro-swing, he also displays a lack of understanding about the nature of modern dance music, the purpose of electro-swing and a certain ignorance (not his fault) of the different sub-genres. As something of an evangelist for the genre, I feel it is my duty to write a rebuttal of Mr. Day’s piece.

Mr. Day’s first gripe is that “Most of it is actually kind of boring”. He goes on to write that “so many songs keep the same monotonous house beat throughout the entire song, with just some horn or vocal samples thrown in.” This is one of the most common fallacies levelled at electro-swing. Anyone who says this is mistaken – they are not listening to electro-swing. What they are listening to is called ‘House’.

Electro-swing in its current manifestation originated in continental Europe (France and Austria). In those countries house and techno dominate the dance music scene, so by default these were the first styles to make an impact. However, sub-genres such as swing-hop and swing ‘n’ bass quickly began to emerge, especially once the genre made its way across the English Channel and reached UK ears. Here in the UK the vintage scene has been growing for more than a decade (The Chap magazine, one of the driving forces, celebrated its 10th birthday in 2009, and Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer had been making ‘Chap-Hop’ for several years by the then).

Since then the diversity has increased markedly to include swing-step, ghetto swing and a host of other forms. In actual fact the shared roots of swing and hip-hop (and all subsequent hip-hop spin-offs like breakbeat, drum ‘n’ bass etc.) make them far better bedfellows than swing and house ever will be.

I fear that Mr. Day doesn't know that much about dance music (EDM, as the Yankees call it). If he did know a little more some of his other criticisms of electro-swing would fall by the wayside. He complains about “60-minute non-stop mixes” and asks “You know its OK to have breaks between songs, right?”

Wrong, Morgan, my old mucker. Those mixes are just that – mixes. They are used by DJs to showcase their skills to promoters who might book them, and to give people a chance to see what that DJ’s live sets are like. It is important to understand that a DJ set is an entity in itself – entire and whole and perfect, so to speak - like a film. To ask where the track breaks are is like asking why there is not 5 seconds of black between shots in a movie. A DJ set has a structure: a beginning, a middle and an end. Wikipedia (the fount of all wisdom) tells us “Night club attendees began to enjoy the abilities of DJs in how well they could keep the crowd dancing and the groove going.” It hardly takes a genius-level intellect to see that a few seconds of silence would severely disrupt the groove.

In an article for the dance music website Luis-Manuel Garcia has written a fascinating piece on the nature of the relationship between dance music and time. In that article he points out that in actual fact 60 minutes is quite a short set for a dance music DJ, and that “…with only an hour to work with DJs simply couldn't shape their sets into long arcs or undulating sine-waves of affect; instead, they felt pressured to deploy all of their most heavy-hitting, dance floor-filling, “killer” tracks all at once, without a break. Every DJ played as if it were peak-hour and, after a few of these in a row, the crowd was likely to get exhausted.”

An understanding of the way dance music works (and, dare I say it, a realisation that aint just plain ol’ swing any more) would help Mr. Day to avoid these mistakes and to enjoy electro-swing more. I don’t know which DJs he has been listening to, but if they were any good they will have had the build-drop/sine-wave structure that is described above. It is this super-structure (along with the increase in sub-genres) that provides the changes in tempo that he craves.

Another of Morgan’s gripes is that the dancing doesn't look that great. In so saying he is making the mistake of assuming that he is at a swing night. Of course, he is at an electro-swing night. The whole purpose of electro-swing is to transpose elements of swing to a modern dance music setting. NOT to move a swing class or social dance into a night club.

He also says that he finds that the music lacks the “breaks, stops and hits” that dancers (by which he means ‘swing dancers’, ‘Lindy Hoppers’ etc.) like to use to build their dance around. Again, he is approaching this from the wrong direction. To my ear, which is perhaps more attuned to the nuances of dance music, there are lots of little musical phrases that allow for fun dancing. Perhaps they are not in the places that Mr. Day would expect them to be, but they are there, I can assure him. In my opinion there are few who construct sets better than DJ Dodgy-Style, so here is one of his extremely fine mixes to illustrate my point.

The piece that Morgan has written is not deliberately unfair, I am just not quite sure what his point is. If it is ‘electro-swing is not swing, so I don’t like it as much’ then he is, of course, entitled to that view. I would suggest, however, that this is a strange stand to take. Electro-swing is intended to enhance, renew and reinvigorate swing - it is a celebration of the music. It is far more accessible to those for whom partner dancing might be intimidating, and, despite the synths, wobbles and big beats, most electro-swing nights stay true to the original ethos of the music – unpretentious, indiscriminate fun. What electro-swing is not intended for is for swing dancers to build routines around (at least, not often). Some of it may be suitable for Lindy, some may not. When it isn't head to the bar, go for a ciggy, or just lose yourself in the music and dance like no one is looking. Like this guy.

Mr. Day closes his article by acknowledging the role that electro-swing can play in introducing new people to the vintage sound, He expresses the hope that electro-swing continues to grow in popularity, and that the artists “continue to hone their craft with inspiration from jazz”. “Only time will tell,” he writes, “whether this style of music will remain with a niche audience or reach pop status.” My view is that the style is already here to stay, and that there is a wealth of great music that I think he would like – I can even make some recommendations for him, if he fancies.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Jack's Top Tracks - March 18 2013 - the best electroswing on the web

Another Monday. Already. I know. Hateful, what? If, like me, you need some swinging beats to help you through the rest of the week then you have come to the right place. As advertised, I have spent hours sifting through the whole of the interwebs to bring you the finest electro-swing on the planet. Tally Ho!


Broken Hearts DJs - Count Those Freaks

These ladies are well known to listeners of Jazz FM thanks to their show 'Peppermint Candy'. Their website describes them as 'turntable goddesses', which seems fair. They are Amber and Nisha, and though I am buggered if I know which is which, both of them appear to be a perfect fit for what seems to have become something of a shrine to sexy swing ladies. (It is very hard to avoid innuendos about swingers sometimes.) These ladies will be taking their show on the road this summer as they team up with White Mink at the Love Supreme Jazz Festival.


Dutty Moonshine - Ed Keene - Lindy Hop (Dutty Moonshine remix)

These guys are going from strength to strength - they are currently on tour witjh Defunk, are launching a new night in Oxford called 'Dutty Moonshine and friends', have recently announced a number of impressive festival performances, and to cap it all off have just made a remix of the Frohlocker classic 'Hipbrass'. The track below is slightly older, as the free download one is only a snippet on Soundcloud. Nonetheless, this d'n'b remix of Ed Keene's 'Lindy Hop' should get your feet moving while you wait for the download to complete (get the free track here)..


The Jenova Collective - Lady Gaga vs. Caro Emerald - Bad Romance (Jenova Collective Remix)

Ra Ra Ooh La La.

Ahem. Sorry about that. I just love how silly electro-swing can get. This might be a tad too poppy for my usual tastes, but nonetheless I include it here as it is undeniably fun.


Rory Hoy vs. Kitten and the Hip - Who's Gonna Pay for That?

Rory Hoy, independent producer of house, big beat and what have you, who, coincidentally also won that remix competition for Swing Republic's Crazy In Love last year, has teamed up with Ash and Scarlett from Kitten and the Hip to make this big bad banger. Horns, wobbles, bass... lovely stuff. Who's gonna pay for it? You will, if you've any sense.


Kid Kasino - Swingin' on Nuthin'

To round things off this week here comes some smooth yet growly ghetto swing from the legendary Kid Kasino. One of the things I like most about his work is the respect he shows for the tunes he samples. I get the feeling that he is a real swing/jazz/blues fan, which is why his remixes are so effective. He doesn't impose his style on the original , but manages to coax and persuade the sound so that it becomes his own. A great way to end the round up.

Whoops, there it is. Another week's worth of nutritious electroswing goodies for you. Directions for use: Take one aurally after meals. If symptoms persist, repeat dosage until a) feeling better or b) dead. If symptoms persist after this, you are a vampire and nothing we can do will help.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Jack's Top Tracks - March 11 2013 - the best electroswing on the web

Phew, what a day. First morning at a new job, so I have been ever so slightly stressed out today. Perhaps your Monday was tough too? If so, here is this week's selection of tasty electro-swing goodness to help you relax. If you don't need help relaxing (you lucky blighter), just enjoy the music. That's an order.


Elle and the Pocket Belles

That's right - this week you get 5 lovelies to listen to and gawp at. You there! Stop drooling.
I have selected this video for you this week because I was at a great night on Friday at which these girls were headlining. Performing with their Big Band they always put on a great show. A special nod to Li'l Kimberley, who tells me she is the cute one of the group. I, however, suspect that this is a front to lull unsuspecting and totally respectable gentlemen like myself into indiscretions and louche behaviour. You can keep up to date with their activities via their home page, Facebook or Twitter.


Kiril Dzajkovski - Jungle Shadow - Live at Exit 08

You thought I had gone soft didn't you? Well, this will put your mind at ease. This crazy little video is from a few years back - I came across it when researching an academic piece on the Balkan Beat scene last week. It sounds ever such a lot like Pendulum bought a trumpet. Get your listening apparatus around these five minutes of brassy Balkan bonkers-ness and I guarantee you happiness will result.


Pique-aboo - Spanky

Stockings! Bottoms! Spanking! Swing! I think I died and went to heaven. Pique-aboo are a Cape Town-based duo consisting of  Talya (vocals) and Helena (drums) - just came across these girls last week, but didn't have space for them in the selection, so here they are this week. What do you think of the song?


donJohnson and Leo Wood - I need swing (ft. Myles, Declan and Nicko B)

Who likes bass? Do you like bass? I like bass, so I like this. donJohnson, one of the guys behind the legendary Cabaret Voltaire (Exeter and Bournmouth), has made this wubby, dubsteppy, bluesy number and it quite simply rocks.


Defunk - I Put A Spell On You (ft. Sam Klass & Vindaloo)

I think Mr. Defunk must have put a spell on me. When was the last time he wasn't included in the selection? How is it that he keeps producing such stonking tracks? This one makes me feel like James Bond. Actually, I am far more suave, not to mention disreputable (I mean really, how come he still hasn't done the dirty with Moneypenny?) Have a listen - I defy you not to pump your fists with the bassy, choppy synths.

So that's it for another week. It has been really hard to choose between tracks this week, and there is a whole load of great music around at the moment. Keep your eyes on the Facebook and Twitter feeds the latest updates. As always if you are a DJ, producer or a band, do send me your latest tunes and you never know, I may just plug them here for you. Everyone else, do please share your thoughts on this week's selection this week. What did you like? What didn't you like? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Jack's Top Tracks - March 04 2013 - the best electroswing on the web

My word doesn't Monday come around quickly? And you know what Monday means. That's right, five more stompin', swingin' tunes for you to wiggle your bottom to as you cook your supper. Aren't you lucky?


Alice Francis - St James Ballroom

I like to start each of these round-ups with a video, so that you have something nice to look at on a Monday. It has to be said that Ms. Francis here is very nice to look at. More importantly, she makes some great electroswing. Hailing from Germany, this young lady and her band are extremely popular on the continent but are rarely seen here in the UK. I have chosen to include her in this week's selection - first, as she will be shortly releasing a single with the legendaty Grant Lazlo, and secondly because she will be supporting Caravan Palace at the Shepherds Bush Empire in May. Find out more about her and check out more of her music on her website.


Jamie Berry - Frankie Valli vs. De Contrabande - Eyes off You (Jamie Berry Mashup)

I had wanted to include this one in last week's selection, and was hoping I might be able to share the full track with you. Jamie kindly sent me the full version but I am too technologically incompetent to work out how to share it with you. Any road, I think this might be the funniest build and drop I have heard for ages. Enjoy.


Smokey Joe and the Kid - Trippin' (feat. Puppetmasterz)

The French swing-hoppers Smokey Joe and the Kid are releasing an EP in March. It will be called 'Nasty Tricks', and if their previous efforts and this bass-laden track is anything to go by it should be a banger!


DJ Twister - Ray Charles - Hit the Road Jack (DJ Twister edit)

I am seriously thinking about making this a kind of theme tune for the blog. The interweb is awash with remixes of this track, and most of them make me want to chew my own ears off, but this is an exception. Twister is a Polish DJ who describes himself as a Vinyl Cat on his Soundcloud profile. Sadly, his website is in Polish, and I can't make sense of it. Let's allow the track to do the talking, what?


Defunk - Retro Baby EP

This wee video was released a little while ago to promote the Canadian bass monster's EP release. It is a little mix of the tracks featured on the EP and gives a pretty good idea of the kind of retro-infused glitch-dubstep-wompathons that have made him a respected figure in the electro-swing scene. I include his work here as has just arrived in the UK for a tour. Get down to Barrio East in Shoreditch on Thursday 7th March to see him play out alongside Dutty Moonshine.

So, that's it for seven more days - hopefully that should satisfy your need for fresh swingin' beats. As always, if you think there is a tune I should include in the next edition of Jack's Top Tracks, get in touch via Facebook or Twitter.



Friday, 1 March 2013

Video - Electric Empire Escapade

I promised you a video, didn't I? Well, after much fiddling and many hours of editing, here it is. I hope you enjoy this little audio/visual montage of the evening that I and the rest of the Jack the Cad team had at Electric Empire Escapade. It was a fantastic night, with some banging performances and a great crowd - highlights for me were Dutty Moonshine's set upstairs in Madame Electrifie's Discotech, and catching The Killer Dillers with their live Sax - what a great addition to a DJ set that is. Anyway, here it is!

The whole thing was shot on mobile phones and edited using Windows Live Movie Maker, so I apologise for the shaky camerawork. I am sure it leaves a great deal to be desired, so if anyone has any comments about the technical/stylistic aspects please do pass them on!

It may interest you to know that the Electric Empire crew are back at their original home The Amersham Arms, tomorrow night (Saturday 2/3/13) with DJ sets from the mighty Slamboree, the king of vintage mash-up DJ Dodgy-Style and regular guest J-Twy, plus a performance from Kitten and the Hip.

You can also catch Dutty Moonshine next Thursday (7/3/13) alongside Canadian Ghetto Funk monster Defunk at a new night called 'Shake Ya Bootleg' at Shoreditch's Barrio East.

Finally, I would like to say 'sorry' to the guys who were standing behind me while I filmed The Correspondents' opening number - I hope you enjoyed the rest of the show without me blocking your view!

Don't forget that I will be posting another Jack's top Tracks on Monday, and some more exciting and interesting content over the next few weeks and months.


Jack and the team