Thursday, 10 December 2015

This article is the worst article in the world, ever.

I’m a big fan of Vice, and particularly enjoy the writing of people like Clive Martin and Joel Golby, whose takes on modern life are both refreshing and amusing. However, yesterday an article appeared on Thump, Vice’s music section, written by one Angus Harrison. The piece was called “Electro-swing is the worst genre of music in the world, ever”. As you might imagine, I didn’t see eye to eye with the premise of the post.

Angus’s article is flawed in many ways – the research was cursory at best. Here’s a tip, Gus: if you are going to ridicule an act for not having an imaginative name, it is probably best not to have invented the act in the first place. There is no act called ‘Electro Swing’ that I or anyone else in the scene has heard of. However, knowing what I do of Vice, I’m prepared to accept that this may well have been written with tongue  firmly in cheek.  In fact, the whole piece lacks the sort of coherent argument that I would expect of an op:ed, which makes me think the whole thing may just be an exercise in pisstaking. However, I don’t think we can let the piece stand unchallenged, joke or not. Perhaps I’ll come across as taking it all a bit too seriously… but then, that’s my job, really. In many ways I’d like to thank Angus: he has forced me to think about why I and so many others love electro-swing, despite its unremitting silliness.

As you may have gathered, Angus doesn’t like electro-swing. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to. We are all free to listen to Coldplay, we are all free to like Coldplay. We are even (though the circumstances under which this could happen escape me) free to think that Coldplay are the “greatest dance act of alltime”.  I may be reading it wrong (and after all, I like the worst genre in the world, so don’t trust me), but by my reading of the article can be summed up with the sentence – I don’t like electro-swing because it’s all a bit vintagey and hipstery and I don’t like those things; and the fans all seem to actually enjoy themselves at gigs, whereas I like being moody and cool, and worse, my friends actually enjoy it too and now I feel left out, why can’t I join in?

Well, buddy – I’ve got good news: you can. Just leave the attitude at home.

It takes Angus a little while to get going with his article. I suspect that he secretly knew he was thin on material and needed to pad things out a bit. Having expended 700 words explaining what electro-swing is, that he hates it, and that he didn’t like the night he went to while at University, he arrives at the main point of his article: “Why,” he asks, and you can almost hear the plaintive bleat in his voice, “Why in 2015 are these bands and DJs still getting booked? Why are offshoot nights like Itchy Feet still so popular? Why, despite it clearly being the worst genre of music in the world ever—and it is, this isn't an opinion piece alright?—does it sustain a following at all?”

Interestingly, many of the questions he rhetorically asks of his electro-swing loving friends (“"Why?" you asked them, tears welling in your eyes, "Why are you doing this? You don't wear brogues! You don't throw Alice in Wonderland themed tea parties! You don't own lace gloves! These aren't your people!") offer hints to answer the larger question as to how electro-swing continues to capture the imagination all these years on.

Here’s why Gus is wrong, and electro-swing is the best genre of music in the world ever:

It’s a ridiculously friendly, non-judgemental scene

You see, one misapprehension that Angus appears to be labouring under is that you can only like electro-swing if you like vintage clothes, vintage fairs and “vintage cockrings.” Nothing could be further from the truth

Speak to anyone involved electro-swing, and ask them what they like about it, and one of the first things you’ll hear is that it is an amazingly open and friendly scene. There’s no word of a lie when I say that electro-swing brings people together in a way that no other dance music does. It seems to transcend barriers of class, age and race, and brings people together in a positive atmosphere. There’s never any aggression at an electro-swing event, and more importantly, there’s no judgement. You don’t have to have a vintage trilby or lace gloves to go to an electro-swing event, and no one is going to look you up and down and sneer at your choice of outfit. No door-keeper is going to turn you away because he doesn’t like your trainers. Nor is anyone going to sneer at you for liking the wrong DJ, or get all beard-strokey about it. On the other hand, you may well pick up a compliment or two if you’ve made a bit of an effort, and the DJ may come and have a chat with you after her set.

Classic tunes are… classics

Angus seems to have a problem with the sort of people who like electro-swing, which is, as I have suggested above, a bit of a problematic position to take. To say that you don’t like the kind of people who like electro-swing is rather like declaring your distaste for everyone. The scene is not only universally accepting, but has universal appeal. The very definition of the sound – blending classic swing (and other) sounds with contemporary electronic music - means that it appeals to fans of those two broad styles. The source material, by artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Peggy Lee, is, nearly a century after it was first recorded, still instantly recognisable and evocative. Familiarity is a powerful thing in music, and to hear something that one knows well reworked and reimagined is always interesting.

A place in the history of popular music

This, of course, says nothing about how important to the history of western popular music that original swing sound was. Without swing there would be no rock n roll, no hip hop, no dubstep, no Coldplay (sorry Angus). It is also worth noting the social significance of the swing sound. Swing was the first true dance music in popular culture. You might think that boshing a few lines of marching powder on a Saturday night is a hyper-modern thing to do, but those jazz musicians were hoovering it up like Dysons nearly a hundred years ago. The fact that we are doing the same thing all this time later, to the same tunes, is very pleasing to me – there’s a lovely completeness to it.

The social factor

Electro-swing has been described as “the music of the first great depression mixed with the technology of the second”, and it is hard to overestimate the truth in this statement. It is no coincidence that the two movements – swing and electro-swing – took place against a background of financial upheaval and hardship. Just as in times of recession the hemlines of ladies’ clothes tends to creep upwards, in tough times people seek escapist experiences to deaden the pain of existence.  The glamour of electro-swing stands in stark contrast to everything else on offer in dance music. There’s no denying that deep house, with its moody minimalism, or dubstep’s industrial, urban grittiness offer much solace to those seeking respite from the grinding reality of everyday life.

The variety within the scene

So, with such great source material, the danger of utterly destroying it by dicking about with it is ever present. There is no denying that there is some truly shitty electro-swing out there, as with any genre. The success of acts like Parov Stellar and Caravan Palace has resulted in lots of formulaic, copycat producers appearing like a rash: token vintage sample with a 4x4 house track laid underneath – electro-swing by numbers. But this is the bad end of the spectrum. Forget Gramophondzie and “We no speak Americano”. Having interviewed a wide variety of electro-swing producers and artists in the last few years, one thing I know is that they are all extraordinarily talented, with a real appreciation for the skill of the original musicians. The best of them take the rhythms and melodies of the original swing style and weave them together with a variety of different styles to create something that reinvents while respecting the original.

Swing’s position at the root of all popular music means that it is remarkably versatile in terms of what it can be blended with. The formula house+vintage sample no longer holds true, and has spawned a variety of awkwardly named sub-genres: swingnbass; dubswing, swing-hop – there’s even some reggae-swing sets out there. Before I came across electro-swing I was into both swing and dance music, but I found that attending either sort of night could get dull, listening to the same types of rhythms all night. Drum n bass is all very well, but 6 hours of it is too much for me. An electro-swing night, on the other hand, can see the bpm moving right through the gears, taking is a massive variety of styles.  Artists are also experimenting with other source materials – blues is a fertile hunting-ground, as is funk, which has given birth to its own parallel genre “Ghetto Funk”. The musicality of swing comes though into the reworkings, so you get dancable music with meaningful (well, sometimes) lyrics and melody.

For me the contrasts, the juxtapositions, are what make electro-swing so much fun. Until you’ve heard a dubstep remix of the Pink Panther theme, you just haven’t lived.

It is sexy

It really, really is. All those stockings. And the wiggly bottoms.  

It is unremittingly silly

Angus is cynical about the ‘fun’ aspect of electro-swing, and rails against the idea that it can be seen as “an antidote to “boring” or “pretentious” club music.” To an extent, he is right – there is a sense in which electro-swing stands apart from ‘trendy’ music. He rightly worries about anything that sets itself up as ‘fun’. I personally hate this time of year for all the enforced festive jollity – sod off with your egg nog and hot wine, bugger off with your Christmas music and your Christmas markets – so I completely understand. I also understand his concern about electro-swing existing in opposition to mainstream club music.  

However, we have all been in club nights with some big-name DJ geeking about with deep house, only to be met with a sea of frowning, nodding heads, no one dancing, just instagramming each other photos of the DJ and making hand-hearts. You’re not going to see this at an electro-swing night. And that is because electro-swing is, with out question, one of the more ridiculous genres to have emerged in recent years. Electro-swing is silly. Really, really silly. There’s no sense in denying it. And I think that this is where Angus has missed the point, really. He thinks its all about posing, about being ‘different’ and proving oneself cool. But the reality is the opposite. It is basically impossible to be cool and be at an electro-swing event. The two are just mutually exclusive, like Britain First and the ability to spell, or Donald Trump and reasoned debate. If you want to go and enjoy yourself at an electro-swing gig you’re going to have to leave any hopes of looking cool at the door. The music, the clothes, the way it makes you dance: it’s not going to end well.

And it is this that I think is stopping Angus from having fun with his friends. Stop worrying about whether its cool or not, old chap. It doesn’t matter. Just let those muted trumpets wash over you. Don’t fight it. It’s ok. It’s ok. Yeah. That’s it. Daddy’s got you. Just let it go. Just. Let. It. Go. There you go. So much better now.

You’ll be so much happier, and you’ll get your friends back.

But seriously, Gus, if you want to come to an electro-swing night and leave the judgement at the door, I’d be happy to take you.

 *everyone has one.

Friday, 23 October 2015

It's all about George

For most readers of this blog Caravan Palace really don’t need any introduction, but in case there’s any newbies about here’s one anyway: The French seven-piece, more so than almost any other act apart from (maybe) Parov Stelar, can claim to have laid the foundations of the Vintage Remix scene. There’s little doubt in my mind that the energy of their live performances and the unrelenting pace and drive of their first two albums created an excitement around the sound without which things may never have taken off in the way that they have.

In those early years, before the scene started gathering momentum, tracks like “Jolie Coquine”, “Suzy”, “Dragons” and “Brotherswing” (Caravan Palace – Caravan Palace, 2008), “Rock it for me “ and “Clash” (Caravan Palace – Panic, 2012) popped up in just about every electro-swing set.  But since 2012 things have been a bit quiet on the new music front.

That’s all changed now, with the release of the band’s latest offering “<I°_°I>”. By the by, if you’re wondering how to say this, you’re not alone.

We love the idea that our album title is unpronounceable but it seems people desperately need a name for <I°_°I>More...
Posted by Caravan Palace on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm not used to there being a more important George than me in the room, so I'm going to go with Robot.

Further down the page I'm going to give you my thoughts on the album but before that, here's a little Q&A with Antoine Toustou aka Mighty Mezz, the band's trombonist and knob-twiddler that I carried out over email. I would have liked to have some follow-up questions too, but sadly it was not to be.

1. You've been working on the album for a while... has it been hard work compared to previous releases?
Every Caravan Palace record is hard to make, but this is particularly true for this one. I think as time passes, our tastes and vision change, but when we all agree on a track, we know that we have something good.

2. I'm lucky enough to have heard the new album, but for those who haven't, can you say, in your own words, what they can expect from the new album?

It’s a much more current album; we refined the way that we produce tracks. At the same time, we put more ‘pop’ in it. We didn’t just systematically use Lo-fi effects on the voice to get that vintage feeling this time! And there are a lot of ‘glitched’ saxophone parts and drops.
3. This question comes from Sophie, aka DJ Tallulah Goodtimes. She asks: Were the songs on your new album written with a specific sound or concept in mind - a conscious choice - or did they come together as a result of a more organic process? Where did you draw inspiration from?
We listen to many different kinds of music, and we could not ignore some, like Future Bass and Trap. There is something incredibly powerful in these genres and that's something we look for in our music. So I think in this record you can feel this kind of inspiration.

4. The "electro-swing" sound has moved on a long way from when you first started and lots of people would cite you as pioneers of the sound. Did you ever expect it to take off in the way it has?

We didn’t expect that much, it's been 9 years since we launched Caravan Palace, and we never thought we could reach so many people in so many countries.
5. What do you think of some of the new kinds of electroswing that have emerged over the last few years - styles like swing n bass, Swing-hop and so on?
Mutations are a good thing, for it shows that the genre is alive. We don't listen that much to electro-swing, to be honest, we take our inspiration elsewhere, but it is very interesting to see how that genre has become a sort of ‘label’.

6. I saw an interview from a few years back in which you said a lot of the production in the wider electroswing world was sub-standard - do you still have that view?

Unfortunately yes, as a DJ, it’s hard for me to find some really good new Electro Swing tracks for a DJ set. I think this kind of music needs a lot of work, if you want to find something new every time. There is an easy way to make it, because swing is in essence groovy and stirring, but we know now that it almost never results in something good. That's my personal opinion though!

7. You played a few festivals in the UK this summer - I caught your set at Boomtown - did you get a chance to party at any of them, and which did you enjoy the most?

We were on tour, so it was difficult to have a real party and to enjoy festivals. But we really adored Boomtown, it’s totally crazy! There is nothing like it in France!

8. Do you prefer playing at festivals or at indoor venues - have you got a favourite gig ever?

We don’t have preferences, it depends on the crowd. If people are ready to switch on their ‘crazy spirit’ button, it’s always a pleasure to push it!
Personally, my favourite gig was in LA some years ago. We were playing in front of a pool outside (what an idea!), and they stopped the concert because people got totally crazy, and jumped into the water to dance!
9. You're touring soon: where and when can people see you?
We'll tour in the UK in December. This is our schedule:
10-11 Thônex - Genève (ch)
12-11 Le Bikini - Toulouse (fr)
13-11 Le Rocher - Bordeaux (fr)
14-11 Espace Julien - Marseille (fr)
18-11 Stereolux - Nantes (fr)
19-11 Aeronef - Lille (fr)
20-11 Olympia - Paris (fr)
24-11 Cooperative de Mai - Clermont-Ferrand (fr)
26-11 Le Radiant - Lyon (fr)
27-11 La Laiterie - Strasbourg (fr)
28-11 Le Cirque Royal - Bruxelles (be)

10-12 O2 Academy - Bristol (uk)
11-12 O2 ABC - Glasgow (uk)
12-12 The Ritz - Manchester (uk)
14-12 Concorde 2 - Brighton (uk)
15-12 The Forum - London (uk)
16-12 UEA - Norwich (uk)

29-01 Kosmonavt Club - St Petersburg (ru)
30-01 Red Club - Moscow (ru)
03-02 Gloria - Cologne (DE)
04-02 Mufftathalle - Munich (de)
06-02 Mojo - Hamburg (de)
07-02 Heimathafen - Berlin (de)
12-02 La Commmanderie - Dole (fr)
14-02 L’atelier - Luxembourg (lux)
10. This one from Syed: Are you playing in Toronto soon?
It’s not planned yet, but we could possibly come in 2016.

There's some interesting stuff in there too, some of which I'll pick up on in this review.

SO... is George gorgeous? Or is the Robot more of a tin-man?

Let's start by saying that things start with great promise. The opening track, Lone Digger opens with a clarinet sound (at least, that's what I think it is) that is almost a trademark for the band. A short time later and you're in no doubt at all that its Caravan Palace you're hearing - Zoe's whispery verses and shouty choruses, a pounding beat... all the ingredients from their previous dance floor thumpers are there.

But come track two, the first single from the album and you quickly realise that they have continued the experiments that they began with Panic all those years ago. Comics, for this is the name of the track" is simultaneously light in feel yet dark in tone. Its driven along by a pulsing, almost droning bass sound, while over the top all sorts of scribbles and squeaks and ragtimey piano create a very weird feel. It is probably my favourite track on the album. As I listen to it right now it makes me rock back and forth in my chair like a heroin addict craving a fix, it has a mesmeric quality that is hard to describe. It is also worth noting that although Comics is far slower in tempo than lots of Vintage Remix it none-the-less rocked the Boomtown crowd earlier this year.

If you're a traditionalist (if such a thing is possible or desirable in electro-swing), fear not. Hot on the heels of Comics comes Mighty a track which snaps us back to the house-led vibes we associate with Caravan Palace. Its not quite as full-on as some of the early stuff, which could be overwhelming - this is more like a track for the middle of a set, rather than a climactic explosion. Interestingly. it sounds almost more like Parov than it does Caravan Palace.

Unfortunately, after this things start to go a little... I'm not sure... maybe flat is the word? Aftermath, while undeniably gorgeous, is more suited to the... well... aftermath of a party than to the party itself.

Wonderland nearly rescues things with some farty baritone sax, insistent vocals and glitchy, lasery synths, and its dark tones could see it feature in a few Halloween sets in the next couple of weeks. Midnight, is up there too, and has a similarly spooky feel, something exacerbated by trappy beats and meandering horns. However, both of these, plus Tattoos and  Russian feel very much as though there's something missing - they just don't quite reach the peak that one hopes they will.

The next two tracks, Wonda and Human Leather Shoes For Crocodile Dandies are hard to fathom. Maybe I'm just not musical enough to appreciate them, but to my untrained ears they sound ever-so-slightly fillery.

The final track, Lay Down is actually a great track - it samples what sounds like the Golden Gate Quartet, but rather than taking that spiritual, bluesy sound , they've used guitar and vocals to create a very Spanish sound - almost like flamenco.

All in all, this album has some very fine tracks - I literally can't get Comics out of my head, but it is at times slightly disappointing. Perhaps, in this era of digital downloads, I'm expecting too much - wanting every track to be a certified banger. My suspicion, however, is that in searching for a sound that will bring them commercial success in the French charts, they have left behind something that gave the music life.

I'd also like to pick up on the comments from the interview above regarding the quality of the production on other electro-swing records. It has taken Caravan Palace 18 months to produce this album, and while I am not really knowledgeable enough  comment one way or the other on the production of this record or any other, I do wonder whether the focus on production has taken some of the life out of their music. Jazz, swing and blues were not exactly heavy on the production the first time around, and I rather like the dirtiness and home-spun nature of electroswing.

I'm also interested by the comment about not really listening to much electro-swing. I am always converned when I hear acts say this - The Correspondents said something similar a couple of years ago, around the time that they started to distance themselves from the wider Vintage Remix scene. It just makes me feel that maybe they think being an electro-swing act is not enough - that they want to throw off the tag - it backfired (in my opinion) for The Correspondents, and if that's what happened with this album, its backfired for Caravan Palace too.

Don't get me wrong - this is not a terrible album - its better than a great deal of the rest of the scene, but I do think it is somewhat thinner in sound than previous offerings. One or two tracks surpass previous releases, and Comics is interesting enough to appeal to a broad range of listeners. But its not a great album either. Its a good album. And that's not bad.

I must also say that like a lot of Vintage Remix, Caravan Palace really are best experienced live. I saw them at Boomtown with one electro-swing fan and one sceptic. When the sceptic started shouting "Fuck Yeah" every couple of minutes, I saw that we had a convert. Their performance was one of the best of the weekend, and I had a proper  boogie. I've seen them play in London before too, and they blew me away then. They rocked the open air stage at Boomtown just as hard they did whichever converted theatre it was I saw them in before. They are unmissable live, so get your tickets now, before its too late.

And finally, if I had could give the band one piece of feedback it would be this: don't be tempted to stand outside the Vintage Remix scene and just take part when you have an album to promote. We're a super-friendly bunch and we won't bite. Come and party with us, get involved with the debates on social media (and here), and above all, find out what new directions the scene is taking - you started it - come and check out the monster you birthed!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Autumn Vintage Remix EP Round-up

Today is officially the first day of Autumn, and as the hazy memories of this summer's festivals get hazier still (don't panic, my Boomtown report is imminent), the denizens of the Vintage Remix world have flooded the interwebs with new music. I'm just going to run through some of the EPs that have crossed my desk in the last few weeks. These all get the Jack the Cad Seal of Approval, which you may have seen around the place over the last few weeks. His name is Stephen.

Marcella Puppini vs RA the Rugged Man - The Greatest - out now!

First up is a wonderful release from Freshly Squeezed which brings together US rapper RA the Rugged Man and Marcella "I founded the Puppini Sisters" Puppini on a swing-hop track that for me is one of the finest I've come across. The combo works perfectly, with RA's slick but complex flow perfectly set off by Marcella's classic jazz voice to a create a Hollywood Noir feel that sucks you back in time.

That voice, I should say, when combined with those of the other Puppini Sisters, is arguably to be blamed / credited (delete according to your personal point of view) for my interest in the Vintage scene. I remember their albums blaring from the CD player before my friends and I set off to attend events like the Blitz Party, which, if you're into straight-up swing as well as Vintage Remix, is still well worth attending. It's rather nice to come full circle with Marcella dipping a toe into the Vintage Remix world - long may it continue. In fact, internet rumours I've seen suggest that there might be a fuller collaboration between these two in the pipes, so fingers crossed!

The track has been getting great support from both within the Vintage Remix world and without, with BBC 6 Music's Steve Lamaq giving it some airtime, and the likes of C@ in the H@ and Dutty Moonshine praising the track since its release last week, prompting this little exchange on Twitter:

To be honest, I find it hard to disagree - I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the scene is saturated with swing-house, and frankly, it gets boring. This release is so refreshing - like a nice cool pint - and like beer, one is never enough. Which is convenient, since the release also comes with a lovely wubby remix from Jamie Berry, which would suit a darker electro-swing set.

Jenova Collective - Head Space EP

Having caught these guys performing live a few times this summer I was really expecting big things from them, and they haven't disappointed.

Jenova Collective - Headspace (Live in Studio)
Our friends Jenova Collective return with a second video shot during their recent studio sessions. Their new EP is due out on Birmingham (UK)'s Ragtime Records very soon...
Posted by Electro Swing on Monday, August 24, 2015

The Leeds-based 7-piece are rapidly carving out a name for themselves on the festival circuit, their brand of bass-heavy Vintage Remix goes down a storm. Their live sets veer away from classic electroswing on a path that takes in drum'n'bass, dubstep and glitch-hop, all driven forward by Lily's vocals.

Jenova Collective are all about the partytimes, and this EP delivers that in spade-loads, a great follow-up to their previous EP Champagne Machine. They're about to embark of a tour of Australia for the winter, so if you're down that end of the world, make sure you catch them.

Extra Medium - Size Up EP

I first came across Extra Medium way back in 2013 when I shared a remix of Tamtam's Little Girl. Although that track has now vanished from Soundcloud, I can definitely hear his style at the fore in this 5 track offering out now on Scour Records. Any of you who have come across a Scour release before now will be familiar with Fat Harry's excellent promo blurbs. I can't say it better than him, so in the true spirit of internet plagiarism [journalism, surely? Ed.), I reproduce his words here:

He’s been busy secretly crafting this delectable EP for a long while, and we’ve been hugely excited with each progression. It’s an honour to be able to share his swing-bass with the Scourdem crew.From the opening low swung bass driven groover of 'Blues Boogie Bass', to the all original collaborative title track 'Size Up' - featuring the silky slick skills of 4x World DMC Champion @dj-mr-switch on the cuts, and the supreme sax'yness of @cab-canavaral's horn. Onward through to the house infused number 'Go Away', and rounded up with the truly splendiferously melodic piano flavoured 'Lazy Bones' - we hope this latest Artist EP has that little something for everyone, as is the strived for way of all things Scour. Be warned though, this EP is so filthy-georgeous shakermaker it will make your hair explode into a glorious technicolour afro…or your money back!*
*Just larking, but we will give you your own special technicolour afro in any hairy area of your choice.

I struggle to pick a favourite - the EP takes in so many different flavours of Vintage Remix that depending on my mood I'll give a different answer. As I type this my head is nodding to the bassy synths of Go  Away but I also have real soft spot for Lazy Bones which is just gorgeous - perfect for chilling out in the sunshine.

Donjohnston - Virtuous Circle EP

The South West's no.1 electroswinger Donjohnston is back with a veritable horde of collaborators on his latest EP, and they deliver a stonking collection of tracks.

The opening track is a lovely squelchy, glitch number with Eugene the Cat, wih Trotfox on the vocal - I can imagine it being a dancefoor filler. Then Dephicit gets in on the act, along with The After Hours Quintet, and drops a few bars on Light Fandango (isn't fandango a great word?). Those of you who have seen the Donjohnston's version of Nina Simone's Feeling Good might recognise the tones of Leo Wood on Absence Heard - I love her voice so much, and I think it's that that tips the balance in its favour, making it my favourite on the release.

This post is quite long already, so although I had intended to run down some of the compilations that have recently popped up, but I think I'll leave that for now, and keep you wanting more.

Toodle pip.

EDIT 24/9/15 -

Dirty Honkers - The Blue EP

I only came across this EP about an hour after this post went live last night and had I know about it before it would have been included without a doubt.

I caught Dirty Honkers at Boomtown and they put on such a great show - really got everyone going and such a charismatic trio. Completely bonkers. This EP is so much fun - I was dancing around the flat to the extent that my young lady thought I was drunk - praise indeed. I gather that they have some UK gigs lined up, so make sure you don't miss them.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Essay: The Art of Sampling by Chris Inglis, Musicologist

A short while ago I was bumbling around the internets and came across an extract from an academic essay on the subject of electro-swing and its evolution from old-time swing and 90s dance music. I hunted out and read the full thing, and discovered that it had been written by a Musicologist (yes, that's a thing) named Chris Inglis. Now, as regular readers will be aware, my qualifications for pronouncing on the scene are exactly none, so I thought I would get in touch with Chris to see if he was interested in helping me to bring a little actual knowledge to the blog. He very kindly agreed to share the fruits of his researches here.

Chris's post is somewhat longer than you might be used to reading on here, and its certainly a lot more intellectual than anything I ever write (it has references and a bibliography), but I strongly recommend reading to the end.

The author, looking slick
I was pleasantly surprised to be contacted the other week with a request to contribute an article to this blog. Being the only academic to be working within the field of electro swing (as far as I’m aware, and if anyone knows of any others I would genuinely love to be put into contact with them), it is a great opportunity to present my work to a much larger number of people than those who would normally read it. I’m currently working on an extended thesis with the working title of Sampling the Swing Era, specifically focussing on the practice of sampling within the genre, and what you’ll find here will form the basis of one of the chapters found within.

The key aspect of my current research involves determining the specific reasons why artists working within the genre of electro swing, and the vintage remix genre in general choose to work with vintage samples, and the distinct implications that working these samples may have. Concerning music, where many eras of the past have had their own individual style, this no longer appears to be the case. The author Simon Reynolds notes this in his book Retromania, in which he states:

“Instead of being about itself, the 2000s has been about every other previous decade happening again all at once: a simultaneity of pop time that abolishes history while nibbling away at the present’s own sense of itself as an era with a distinct identity and feel.”
[Reynolds, 2011:x]

But why specifically does the music of the past appear to be creeping back into the modern day? Through the use of sampling, a large amount of modern music can now largely be described as simply a reinterpretation of already existing music.

To begin, I’ll very briefly look at two case studies, simply to highlight the incredible importance of sampling within the genre. The first is Parov Stelar, who presents a great indication of this importance most notably through his 2013 album, The Art of Sampling. Clearly, from the very title of this release, Parov Stelar is indicating his fondness for sampling, and this is backed up with the following quote, made in reference to this particular album:

“Sampling is an instrument. You have an unimaginable treasure trove of material that you can use and transform into new things. I play the computer; that’s my instrument.”
[Füreder, 2013]

My second example comes from the band SwinGrowers, and more specifically, their 2015 album Remote. This album in fact features zero samples whatsoever; however this was presented by the record label as one of the selling points, indicating its uniqueness. As the press release states:

“What marks this out is the departure from any use of vintage samples. Instead, every track, every sound is entirely original - the influences have been fully absorbed. If there was ever any doubt that this genre had a future, then this is the rebuttal. “Remote” is nothing less than a game-changer.”
[Freshly Squeezed, 2015]

The phrase “game-changer” in this context is particularly telling.

Regarding the specific role and function that the sampling of vintage music plays within the genre of electro swing, there has been essentially no academic work conducted for this particular genre. However, a genre which has been researched quite extensively is the related genre of jazz rap, concerning artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul, which has been looked into by academics such as Tom Perchard and Justin Williams. Concerning the use of sampling in the genre of jazz rap, Williams has stated that “the fundamental element of hip-hop culture and aesthetics is the overt use of preexisting material to new ends” , and that “borrowing is hip-hop culture’s most widespread, and arguably most effective, way of celebrating itself”.

A number of different reasons behind the use of vintage influences have been presented by the authors conducting research into the genre of jazz rap. Perhaps surprisingly, the argument that seems to appear the most commonly is the suggestion that both jazz and hip-hop music have emerged from the same traditions and creative sources. For instance, a point is made by journalists Janine Adams and Havelock Nelson that “hip-hop is the jazz music of today”. Additionally, fellow journalist Danyel Smith makes the suggestion that jazz has been turned into “some elite, sophisticated music”; one of the ‘high arts’, as opposed to how it would have originally been considered, and that hip-hop is “bringing jazz back where it belongs”. Indeed, Williams lists some of the musical similarites between both genres, including their “origins as dance music, [that they] were largely the product of African American urban creativity and innovation, and [their] shared rhythmic similarities”.

However, a few authors have also suggested that this is not in fact the case, and that both hip-hop and jazz are two distinct, individual genres; therefore jazz rap’s sampling of jazz is intended to serve almost as a juxtaposition. As Tom Perchard suggests, the artists working within the genre of jazz rap are using these samples “precisely because of their distance from them”. It’s also been suggested by Williams that, as Smith suggests jazz is now considered one of the ‘high arts’ of today’s society, hip-hop’s sampling of it is perhaps an attempt to enter that same world, or as he describes, “part of hip-hop’s ongoing struggle for cultural legitimacy”.

Another suggestion for the use of vintage samples within modern music, is the concept of ‘retelling the past’. Hip-hop’s sampling of older genres has been described by author Russell Potter as “re-form[ing] the traditions it draws upon”, and Perchard describes the phenomenon that “traditions are invented and cultural memories mobilized at times of social change or trauma”, drawing parallels with hip-hop’s sampling of older generations’ music. Author Peter Burke goes on to describe how – as the saying goes, ‘history is written by the victors’ – “marginalized cultural groups have been apt to make more of that cultural memory”, and that “this reproduction of memories constructs oppositional historical narratives”. It is certainly possible to see these modern musicians using vintage music as a way of constructing an alternate history, more favourable for themselves.

Before moving specifically onto my own research, I’ll present a few more points made by Simon Reynolds. A question he poses, is whether “nostalgia [is] stopping our culture’s ability to surge forward, or are we nostalgic precisely because our culture has stopped moving forward and so we inevitably look back to more momentous and dynamic times?" Reynolds also suggests that perhaps we are now using more and more vintage samples simply for the reasons of ease and accessibility, stating that “all the sound and imagery and information that used to cost money and physical effort to obtain is available for free, just a few key and mouse clicks away”.

Therefore, within the genre of jazz rap, there are already a large number of suggestions as to why these artists may choose to work with vintage samples. With regards to electro swing, I was keen to discover whether or not these views were echoed by the practitioners of this particular style. In order to do this, I reached out to a number of artists working within the genre, and asked the following question:
“With regards to your music, what do you consider the role and function of using vintage music to be?”

The first artist to get back to me was Nick Hollywood, who says the following:

“Vintage music is a source of inspiration. That’s pretty much the only real common ground. Beyond that; in what way it inspires – either via directly sampling – or by simply providing a musical style template – is completely different from one artist to the next.”

Hollywood’s description of vintage music serving as a source of inspiration for him ties in with Reynolds’ idea that perhaps our culture has stopped moving forward. This implication that vintage music is perhaps of a higher quality than the music of today was in fact quite a common theme throughout many of the responses I received.

A DJ who takes this idea even further is Per Ebdrup of Swing Republic, who states the following:

“Very significant. Many tracks I make in this genre are sample based. The old samples give a great vibe to the tracks. In those days, only the very best musicians were allowed to record, because of the expensive technology. So the quality of the artists is high. Lyrics in 20-30ties are often quite fun which gives the music a happy and light feel.”

Ebdrup’s point that only the best musicians were allowed to record, and his suggestion that the quality of the artists is therefore high, further backs up this idea.

In some cases, there in fact almost seems to be an air of superiority with these various electro swing/vintage remix artists. To take a slight detour away from the artists who I contacted myself, this position is made no more evident than in the duo Goldfish. As Dominic Peters states of their music:

“I think our whole thing is kind of combining the analogue and digital world together. A lot of dance music’s very sterile and very bright and shiny, and we try and rub in a bit of dirt, and a bit of analogue warmth, and real instruments, and bring back the life to dance music.”
[Goldfishlive, 2012]

This suggestion of superiority is demonstrated perfectly in the music video for Goldfish’s track One Million Views:

This isn’t however to say that electro swing musicians necessarily look down upon regular EDM artists. Returning to the artists I contacted myself, Michael Rack of Dutty Moonshine says the following:

“Fun. Just straight fun. Jazz and Swing was an amazing and timeless sound, you could call it the 1st punk music of it’s day for what it went up against. Slapping vintage samples onto basslines and dance beats is a sure win.”

Rack’s fondness for “basslines and dance beats” is perfectly evident here, although it does seem that he still perhaps maintains a preference for vintage music, through his description of the reasons behind its use as “just straight fun”.

A further reason for the use of vintage samples is given by Tobias Kroschel, better known as Sound Nomaden:

“For me music is timeless, that means if you give vintage music a modern twist or put it in the right context people will feel it, even if they're born in a different generation. The great opportunity of using musical themes or samples from old decades is, that you can reach people from age of 16-80 years. It is an amazing experience to see these different generations dancing together on the same music.”

Kroschel’s suggestion that the music is “timeless”, and his reference to his love of seeing “different generations dancing together” is perhaps suggestive that he is leaning towards the ‘same tradition’ theory, in his indication that all people and ages can be reached with this style.

A similar point is made by Luca Gatti, better known as Dr. Cat, who says the following:

“I would say the role is a primary one, in that without those vintage samples the tracks would have a complete different vibe to it, I am not saying the tracks would be better I am just saying the track would not sound as categorized within the vintage remix domain. The function is of endless inspirational importance, not only re connect with the past but springs out in to the future.”

Another aspect I am investigating with my research, is whether to consider electro swing as a continuation of the original swing music, or whether to regard it as a genre in its own right, simply taking influences from the swing era. From this quote, it would appear that Gatti would take the first view, and that electro swing is what swing has now evolved into. This of course also ties in with the ‘same tradition’ theory.

So what we can ultimately conclude is that there are many different reasons for why producers may decide to use vintage samples. The fact that some of these views are complimentary, whereas others are contrasting leaves room for much more research to be conducted, but for now, I will briefly recap the various views presented so far.

For jazz rap specifically, the idea that both genres of music come from the same traditions is certainly an interesting one, and does in fact seem to translate across to electro swing. The music of the swing era evolved out of the jazz of the 1920s, just as electronic dance music evolved out of the hip-hop of the early ‘80s, so there are certainly parallels to be drawn there.

The suggestion however of a juxtaposition of styles can apply too; this point is made clearly by Simon Reynolds in Retromania when he states that “nearly all the most successful mash-ups worked by contrast and collision”. It does certainly appear to be the case with certain electro swing producers that they are making a conscious attempt to combine contrasting styles.

The idea of retelling the past is definitely an intriguing one. The suggestion by Tom Perchard that hip-hop musicians are constructing an alternate, more favourable past for themselves certainly makes sense; and when drawing the parallels we have already seen between hip-hop and jazz; and EDM and swing, this suggestion may possibly still apply.

The suggestion that our culture has stopped moving forward does initially appear questionable, however there does exist ample evidence, supplied by a number of authors to back this up. On top of this, the common suggestion found in many of the artists questioned that the quality of vintage music is higher than that of today seems to suggest that, if not our culture has stopped moving forward, then perhaps our range of influences has.

Reynolds’ other suggestion that vintage samples are being used more as a result of the ease that now exists to obtain them does indeed make sense. Whilst it is unlikely that artists are using vintage samples primarily for the reason of ease of accessibility, – they are almost certainly being used entirely for artistic purposes – the fact that it is now much easier to do this definitely helps out, and allows for a much wider use as well.

As I’ve suggested, there is perhaps a level of superiority present amongst electro swing and vintage remix artists, which would then of course translate across to the samples they choose to use. By demonstrating their knowledge and use of obscure and vastly unknown sample sources, these artists are simultaneously presenting to the world their uniqueness and merit as a musician, on top of their ability as a producer itself.

The suggestion made by Tobias Kroschel of using vintage samples as a way of bringing different generations together is certainly a very satisfying idea. From my own experience attending various electro swing events, I have witnessed many times that this is indeed the case; it is entirely common, and not at all surprising to find people of all ages enjoying the music together at these events.

Finally there is the suggestion that electro swing is the natural extension of swing music into the modern day, which of course ties in with my first point about the genres being part of the same tradition. I myself would definitely subscribe to this theory; my main argument being that jazz music has always been about experimentation, and in this sense, simply trying to repeat the styles of swing exactly how they would have sounded up to 80 years ago goes almost against the very ideals of jazz music itself.

By bringing in aspects of electronic dance music, these artists are experimenting with what can successfully be achieved within the genre; and within the style of electro swing, it would appear that they have indeed achieved success.

Burke, P. (1997). Varieties of Cultural History. Cambridge: Polity Press.

McAdams, J. & Nelson, H. (1992). ‘Hip-Hop Puts Fresh Spin on Jazz’ Billboard. 22 August 1992.
Freshly Squeezed. (2015). Catalogue. [accessed May 2015].
Füreder, M. (2013). In: Buhre, J. An interview with Parov Stelar. [accessed May 2015].
Goldfishlive. (2012). Goldfish Outdoor (Official Aftermovie). [accessed May 2015].
Perchard, T. (2011). ‘Hip Hop Samples Jazz: Dynamics of Cultural Memory and Musical Tradition in the African American 1990s’ American Music. 29 (3).
Reynolds, S. (2011). Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. London: Faber and Faber.
Smith, D. (1994). ‘Gang Starr: Jazzy Situation’ Vibe. May 1994.
Williams, J. (2013). Rhymin’ and Stealin’: Musical Borrowing in Hip-Hop. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Aye, aye, Kaptin - Jack meets the man behind BoomTown's music

As the world gears up for Glastonbury, and those of us who didn't manage to get a ticket start to feel those pangs of jealousy and #FOMO, I thought I'd try take your minds off it by reminding you that there arejust a couple of months to go until BoomTown Fair. I spoke to Kaptin is Dead, one of the men behind BoomTown and one half of Big Swing Soundsystem, to get his story and his take on the festival. Read on to find out why BoomTown knocks Glasto into a cocked hat. Glasto-goers, fear not, most of the artists mentioned here are also playing this week at Worthy Farm, though you might have to look a bit harder for them.

Jack the Cad: Afternoon Cap'n, thanks for agreeing to chat. First of all, can you let everyone who you are, in terms of Big Swing Soundsystem and BoomTown?

Kaptin is Dead: I'm the Sheriff of BoomTown, but I also get to programme most of the music at the festival. Matt The Hat and I started Big Swing Soundsystem but we've also been DJing together since 2004.

JtC: You're a pretty big deal in the festival world - how did you first get involved?

Kaptin: I knew I wanted to be involved with festivals the first time I performed at Glastonbury in 2004, I was rapping with a band called Dark Chunk and also a contemporary Dance group called Reform Dance, although I'd been to Glastonbury a few times before, that weekend changed my life. The next year Matt and I took an Inflatable Church to Bestival and through that many festival friendships were formed.

JtC: How did you first come to be involved in the Vintage Remix scene?

Kaptin: We first began as The Chaps back in 2005. We dressed up in boaters and blazers and played a mixture of Old Swing, Nu-Swing and what would later be classed as Electro Swing. We even had an extremely short lived band, playing silly swing covers. We carried that on until we ran out of Pimms and moved on to the next incarnation, which I seem to remember was a Swedish Apres Ski duo called Stefan and Jurgen. 

Big Swing Soundsystem Summer 2014 from Something Creatives on Vimeo.

Many years later Chris Tofu introduced us to the idea of Electro Swing and we realised it was just a continuation of what we'd been doing as The Chaps, so we instantly clicked with it. We started a night called In Full Swing at a club we were running called Cardiff Arts Institute, and as we didn't actually know many Electro Swing DJs back then, we booked various bands that fitted the bill and took up most of the DJing ourselves. Eventually the brewery shut us down for being too outrageous and we realised we'd have to find other places to play.

JtC: You're a proper muso - what is it about VR that grabbed you?

Kaptin: I think more than anything it was the excuse to be silly and have fun. I think both are incredibly underrated ways of being. I was raised on Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Spike Jones and his City Slickers, and I'd say both of those were instrumental in my love for Vintage Remix. Even now, although I play all sorts of music under different hats, I have the most fun playing Vintage Remix.

JtC: There's not many festivals with such a huge area dedicated to the VR sound - to what extent are you responsible for BoomTown's MayFair Avenue?

Kaptin: Well Chris Tofu and the Word's Tallest DJ are responsible for bringing Vintage Remix to the festival and they still run The Ballroom, which is our main venue in Mayfair Avenue. Even though I do the music programming there now, I still make sure I run everything by them and take on board any of their recommendations.

JtC: Vintage Remix, and in particular Electroswing, seems to be a bit of a Marmite sound, especially given the recent Eurovision travesty - why do you think it causes such differing opinions?

Kaptin: Because it's such a broad spectrum and different sides of it appeal to totally different people. I was chatting to someone on New Years Eve who kept stating that he hated Electro Swing, but then admitted he came to all of our In Full Swing nights and loved every minute of it. Plus you do have to dig through a lot of tripe to find the good stuff, but as an old vinyl digger, I quite like that.

JtC: I'm going to be picking my 'Don't miss these guys' list - which acts would you, with your intricate knowledge of the line up, recommend for readers of this blog?

Kaptin: Well I love everyone on the bill but as a lot of the French acts don't get to play here that often, with maybe the exception of Caravan Palace, I'd say definitely catch them. I went to see Deluxe (part of the Chinese Man Records family) in Bourges a couple of months back and they are one of the best live bands I've seen all year. Also a Gypsy-Swing Hip-hop band called Soviet Suprem are a lot of fun, or if you like Electro Blues then Scarecrow are not to be missed. Plus there are some great French DJs such as Bart & Baker, Grant Lazlo and Kiwistar.

JtC: For those who haven't been before, tell us why BoomTown is so different from other festivals.

Kaptin: It's actually really hard to explain for anyone who's never been. The whole concept of a pop up city seems to baffle a lot of people, especially when you start trying to explain the Post Office, the Job Centre, the Leisure Centre, the Town Hall, etc. It's definitely something you're a part of, rather than simply an observer and it's a completely different, rather twisted, but ultimately magical land indeed. It's worth reading up on the storyline that runs though the festival, I hear there's whisperings of revolution this year. Plus even if you don't like Vintage Remix, we have lots of different stages with all kinds of music. There's no focus on cool and trendy bands whatsoever, the bookings are all based on the quality of music and performance.

JtC: Finally, where can we catch BSSS and what can we expect from your performances?

Kaptin: Unfortunately I don't really get any time off during the festival so we shall be closing The Ballroom on Sunday night and going out with a bang. We shall, of course, have our partner in crime Hypeman Sage with us, but also plenty of special guests as well.

You can also catch us at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, WOMAD, Camp Bestival and Bestival.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Swingamajig review

Its now nearly four weeks since Swingamajig took over the Custard Factory in Birmingham, and its taken me nearly that long to marshal my thoughts on the event. Last year’s festival was a pretty amazing event, despite the organisers having to deal with a last minute venue change, so my expectations were pretty high. 2015, with a bigger venue and a bigger line-up, promised to be even better. I wasn’t disappointed.

Last year my girlfriend (who exists) travelled up to Birmingham with me, but didn’t feel up to staying all night, so caught the last train back to London that evening. This year I was accompanied by my Kiwi housmate Mark, while his missus and mine went off for a weekend of mud baths and massages in the Cotswolds, so I was assured of company all the way thought the night. Our plan was to party right up til the end, and then catch the first train out of Birmingham and be back in our comfy beds by 10am on Monday.

We arrived in Birmingham at about 2pm, exactly the stated start time of the festival. Having navigated our way from the station to the Custard Factory we presented ourselves at the main gate and were ushered in, not quite knowing what to expect from the new venue. We cautiously worked our way past a number of double doors and collected our reusable cups* from a pair of nice young ladies stationed at a trestle table.

Unsure of where to go, we were directed down a narrow corridor. At the end, we pushed open a door and were suddently outside again, in a sunlit courtyard dominated by a large… well, swimming pool isn’t quite the right word, but nor is pond, since it was lined with tiles. Anyway. A sunlit courtyard dominated by a body of water of indeterminate purpose was where we were, .

It is always interesting to arrive at big events like this a bit before everything kicks off in earnest, and this was no exception. Swingamajig is run by Ragtime Records and the Electric Swing Circus, and although things weren’t quite ready when we got there, everything seemed very calm. Having had our plastic cups filled with beer we returned to the watery courtyard and took a seat in the sunshine and spent a pleasant few minutes watching a man in chest-waders do something involving floating lights and gaffer tape. He looked very cold. All the while we were entertained by a brass band playing on a stage precariously placed stage over the water. While we enjoyed these entertainments I spotted Rich Shawcross (aka c@ in the h@), one of the festival’s organisers ambling around and collared him. I commented that for someone supposed to be running a festival he was remarkably relaxed. “Yeah,” he drawled. “Given last year’s last minute change of venue, this is all going pretty smoothly. Except that I need to find a DJ controller from somewhere before things kick off in the Ragtime Records Stage.” And off he went, presumably  to find the aforementioned kit.

We continued watching the band over the water  for a while but no one fell in, so we headed into the Theatre to catch some cabaret. The stage was hosted by Legs Akimbo’s The Church, who you may have come across performing weddings at festivals. Their Degenerate Southern Baptist shtick was undoubtedly the highlight of what we saw, though we very much enjoyed the two ladies in striped 1920s beachwear, whose ribbon and hoop routines were most amusing.

As entertaining as the Theatre was, we were there to see some music. We had intended to see the Temple Funk Collective, but somehow managed to miss their performance in The Cave of Curiosities, instead getting a good earful of Balkan-tinged hip-hoppers Gypsy Unit’s set. I’d heard their music before, but hadn’t seen them perform live. They really entertained a smallish but happy crowd, and a special mention has to go out to the singer Kerry, who battled past a sore throat without missing a note.

Before leaving for Birmingham I had done what any hardened festival-goer does and drawn up a plan for who I would see when. First on that list were Elle and the Pocketbelles ft. Mista Trick, who were third up on the main Swingamajig Stage.  Compared to the 2014 main stage, this was a vast (and I use the term advisedly) difference. It was a big old warehouse, not dissimilar to one of the barns on my old man’s farm, but with fewer rat droppings and a thumping great stage.

Because the stage was, as it were, in landscape format rather than portrait, there was not only much more room, but one could get far closer to the stage, which was a Good Thing. We bumped into Mista Trick dashing around the back of the room as the act before (The Anomalies) were finishing off, and he seemed properly stoked. The girls began with some of their trademark swing numbers, including a Disney medley and a totally shameless 90s medly before bringing Mista Trick to the stage and ‘amping things up a bit’. The crowd loved it, and the energy in the room was palpable.

Once the girls finished we headed over to the Ragtime Records Warehouse to catch a bit of Liverpool’s avian swingers The Chicken Brothers, who were busily scratching away when we went in. As I was leaning on a pillar to catch my breath a bit I was approached by a lady who I recognised instantly as DJ Tallulah Goodtimes, whose set I had to apologise for missing. She very graciously forgave me and said that now that her set was done and dusted she would be hitting the rum hard. Mark and I would then spend quite a lot of time with her over the rest of the night, bumping into her all over the place. After a few moments chatting she reminded us that Jenova Collective were about to play on the Swingamajig stage, so off we trooped to see them.

The moment we entered the room we bumped into Elle and the Pocketbelles, who greeted me with big hugs, which was a Good Thing. Mark also had his picture taken with them, even enlisting the help kind lady named Lynzi Rawbone when our attempts to take the pic with a phone failed. As you will see from his face, this was also a Good Thing. Lynzi is the lady behind the camera for all the pics in this post that don't have the Swingamajig watermark, and aren't the blurry mess below this sentence. Massive thanks to her for letting me use her work.

Jenova Collective were on top form, with their blend of swing, drum 'n' bass and dubstep getting the crowd properly hyped and bouncing around like peas on a drum by the time they had finished their set. I had never paid close attention to their performances before, having been focussed on dancing, but this time around I was really impressed with how tight their show is, and Lily has a fantastic voice, ably backed up by some excellent musicianship from the band. 

By this time, I was really getting into things, which was convenient as the undoubted highlight of the whole event was just around the corner - The Dutty Moonshine Big Band. If you read my preview of  you'll recall that I singled them out as the one absolutely unmissable act. Although the Dutty Moonshine boys had given the Big Band a run out a few months back, this was really the first proper festival performance that they would give, and I was very excited to see what the combination of the DM sound and a big brass band would deliver. I wasn't disappointed.

Joining Mike and Danny on stage were the drummer and 8-piece brass section from the Temple Funk Collective, plus vocalists Hypeman Sage and Maria Laveau and if you didn't think the Dutties could produce a more energy-filled show then you couldn't be more wrong. Mike is a pretty engaging frontman all by himself, but when they launched into fully orchestrated versions of tracks like 'Takin' it Back', with Sage and Maria delivering powerful rhymes, the whole thing just blew me away. Sage was particularly impressive, his energy never dropping throughout.

The whole performance was slick, full of heavy, heavy beats and more full of energy than a supernova. Against such a strong backdrop it seems somewhat disingenuous to pick out favourite moments, but there were two songs that elicited such a response from the crowd that they need a mention.

The first was a performance of an unreleased collaboration between Dutty Moonshine and The McMash Clan. As I have never seen a copy (COUGH, COUGH, MIKE), I don't actually know what the song is called, but I always think of it as the 'Yeah, yeah, Muthafucka' song). If you have heard the track McMash made with Marcella Puppini Swing Break, you'll be familiar with their sound, and when that collides with Dutty Moonshine its like a nuclear bomb going off in your ears.

The second was a brand new cover of the jungle classic Super Sharp Shooter, with which they closed their perfomance. With the help of Howla, who joined them on stage in a suit for which he deserves special commendation, they had reworked the track into 'Super Sharp Swinger', a sing-a-long anthem to end all sing-a-long anthems.

By the time Super Sharp Swinger's final bar faded away my shirt was soaked with sweat and I was happier than I have been for a very long time. It was one of the most enjoyable live sets I have witnessed, and although I was knackered I wanted it to go on and on.

We had been joined in the crowd by Kieran and Charlie from Jenova Collective, and together we went off to console ourselves in the Ragtime Records Warehouse, where Hong Kong Ping Pong were playing. There was rather more room in there than in the in the main room, so we took the chance to do a bit of people watching (I love watching fucked people dancing and having fun) and a drink, and to have a bit of a rest before heading back to the Swingamajig stage in readiness for Chinese Man's set.

This was another set that I was determined to see, having missed them at festivals and one-off gigs before now. It was, again, no disappointment. The French trip-hop crew delivered a flawless performance, working their way through all those tracks that have earned them cult status in the Vintage Remix world: Skank in the Air,  Worldwide and I've Got That Tune to name a fewMCs Taiwan and Youthstar made sure that we were all raving as hard as humanly possible, and the whole show gave the Dutties a run for their money.

By now my shirt really was too unbearably sweaty to wear, so I shed my jacket, waistcoat, shirt and tie and slipped into something drier, namely a big hoody and a t-shirt that I had brought with me for exactly this eventuality, and, feeling refreshed headed back into the night.

There comes a point in every gig review that I write when I have to confess that I can't really remember what happened next. Time, at this stage, had become somewhat fluid in my perception, and I couldn't swear to the order in which everything after this happened. I do recall arriving back in the Ragtime Records Warehouse just in time to catch Don Jonston and Leo Wood's spine-tingling live cover of 'Feeling Good', which made me feel totally unbelievable.

I also recall a phenomenal set from Smokey Joe and the Kid in the Cave of Curiosities. It was a lovely experience to be in the company of Tallulah Goodtimes and Jenova Collective's Charlie and Kieron for this set, and I especially enjoyed Tallulah's proper geek out over the live drum-pad skills that they were showing off. I really got my feet moving in there, despite the crush (Smokey Joe and the Kid really did deserve a bigger stage), and realised for the first time why they are considered the Vintage Remix DJ's DJs of choice. The care and precision of their work is unparalleled - its like they have discovered some secret formula for making massive tunes - each one was a banger of the first order.

By the end of their set, however, my grasp on reality was wavering, and my memories of the time between their set ending and Mark and I crawling onto the 06:15 train to London are very patchy. I had a nice long chat about who-knows-what with Rich 'C@ in the H@' Shawcross, bumped into Danny Wav of Dutty Moonshine and received a massive hug from Howla.

Despite setting a very high bar in 2014, this year's festival was mind-blowingly wonderful. Roll on 2016, the date of which has just been announced - 1st May - put it in your diary now.

*this is an admirable policy on the part of the organisers, who were keen to reduce the use of disposable plastic cups, but in my case it probably backfired a bit. I got a bit fed up with having to carry the empty receptacle around with me. I experimented with putting it in my pocket, but that was really annoying, so in the end I abandoned it, and stumped up the extra quid for a new cup when I wanted another drink.