REVIEW: Tinariwen - Emmaar

Tinariwen are the face of gritty desert blues. Human, nomadic, lacquered with a relentless and hypnotic rhythm, the Malian group have carved an enduring critical and commercial niche from the blossoming wilderness of their homeland and the guitar style of Jimi Hendrix, whom they cite as an influence.

For those who don't know, the band were soldiers in Algeria/Libya (I won't pretend to know the details). As guitar slinging desert warriors fighting for their homeland though, they are pretty much musical mana for anyone with a belief that music means, and must mean, something. A political, social outlet. Whatever. That music has communicative powers  is what Tinariwen are all about. Watch the short 15-minute for their last album Tassili (it's the first result for Tinariwen on youtube) and the emotional pining of their beat dances unflinchingly to the fore.  

Emmaar, their sixth album, is the first not recorded in the sahara, but the States. But don't be worried. It retains all the self-possession of its predecessors and doesn't concede to fancy effects.

Like most of the tracks on this and other albums (which, I'm not gonna lie, all sound pretty similar) Imidiwan Ahi Sigdim is a brave, stomping slow-burner. Things get a little more unusual on Tahalamot where we get a more sombre vocal and guitar style, but otherwise this is business as usual. Standout track Chaghaybou thrives on chants and flickering licks.




Just when you thought they'd done everything, here's Pharrell with 'the world's first 24 hour music video'. It is truly that, an interactive video of 24 real-time hours of everyday people dancing in everyday places...and Pharrell.

Go to to view.



I want to get this blog back on the air, so here goes. Mount Kimbie's Crooks and Lovers is one of my favorite albums of the last few years. It's unusual, intelligent, minimal, vibrant and rhythmical without ever addressing its target: the listener. It tinkers, plods - much like an XX album, and all the while wraps you up in melancholy beats without you even knowing it.

'Made to Stray', from the new album Cold Spring Fault Less Youth, is a marked departure. The beat is rigid, skitty, small, rather than 'big'. Nevertheless, it is marvellous, and again, unusual. 

Cold Spring Fault Less Youth is out on 28th May.



Star Slinger has released another hot beat called 'Take This Up', a disjointed bevvy of little highly strung beats in a vein similar to his first digital-only LP Volume 1, except with a more mainstream dance feel than Volume 1's quasi-spaced out charms. Download it free below.

(I say 'another'. They don't come nearly often enough!)


Potentially a review to come. Out tomorrow on Columbia Records. Lucy is playing in-stores in London this week before embarking on a UK tour.



Now, amazingly Madlib’s Freddie Gibbs’ n Co’s ‘Shame’ has stayed with me throughout this time of hiatus. I have only just recently uploaded it to my mp3 player and it has unleashed a whole new wave on endless playing. I don’t know what it is about that song, but play count may well be in the 300-400 now. It STILL never gets old.

Anyway, yes – in addition to Disclosure, I should have mentioned a band that are still really dear to my heart, if, in part, due to their obscurity and wackiness, but also incredibleness and impossible to define sense of effortless pop: that is Philco Fiction. I will not be around when they play Rough Trade East for the release (FINALLY FINALLY) of Take It Personal, which came out last month, but seriously go and see this band. The guys have been knocking around town since last year with this album (got meself two signed LPs innit, see below J) and they just seem to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Some press has been floating about, if you check the Google.

ELSEWHERE, the fun shall continue with this song: ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ by AlunaGeorge. Now I thought about posting when this duo hit with their debut You Know You Like It EP on TriAngle records (formerly How to Dress Well, Clams Casino, Holy Other- go check it out), but just didn’t quite feel that the sterile pop polish worked for me so thought against it (such are the exceptional perfectionist tendencies we (read: I) have on this blog). But anyway – firstly, the artwork for that EP was the nads. See here. IMHO, anything that simple and breathy somehow, irrationally, but very rationally, signals something worth paying attention to. And secondly, and more importantly, ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ is simply a massive step forward. I have already heard this being played on the radio and was pleased to see that an act so clearly suited to the mainstream crossover of dance, R&B and pop that is so popular right now and finally making strides.

Here is the video. AlunaGeorge are an amalgamation of their two names George Reid and Aluna Francis by the way, just to clear that up. Touring the UK in November.  


Thank you loyal readers for keeping this blog on the air. You have been reading and I have been a bad, bad blogger.

There has been SO much great new music out there. I won’t even BEGIN to tell you how the new XX album amazed me, or how Wild Nothing are currently infusing 80s urban wilderness into my discontented lungs. But my, the indie sun has shone mightily on all things in the alternative blogosphere. I would like to point out a particular success since this blog has been away – the band/London duo called Disclosure, who this blog featured way back in June 2011 (Oh yes, waaay back people. You heard it here first aite?) Well they have skkkyrocketed of late, out of oblivion and in to mass homes, on to radio and towards an excellent set that recently completed an Bestival, loosely coinciding with the release/leaking on ‘Latch’, which can be found here. There will be more to come. I just can’t figure out what to write about next. Hmmm….



In the background of Jai Paul’s website for‘Jasmine’ is a repeated and unexplained picture of a Mercedes Benz and a random dude smiling. Arranged in the headache-inducing style of Microsoft’s tile background option, it brings to mind a very bad graphics student’s attempt at a collage, or a teenager’s quickly thrown together Myspace page.

According to XL, Jai has a DIY ethic. Like the band website that seems deliberately shit and brings to mind nostalgia for the internet’s blocky early design era, Jai’s taste in an unwavering self-effacing public image chimes with the fact that offsetting music against an incongruous and shambolic aesthetic is distinguishing. This is especially when most around you are trying to do crisp, clear and easy to comprehend.

Jai Paul is far from that though. He is an iconoclast. ‘Taking a break’ or so it would seem after self-produced ‘BTSTU(Edit)’, he reclaimed the critical limelight with ease after five years out with only track, and formerly only one track to his name. Now ladies and gents, we have ‘Jasmine’. The song was on Pitchfork and other leading music blogs almost immediately after it was posted to Soundcloud and was invariably lavished with praise.

Despite being released by XL (Adele, The XX, Willis Earl Beal), ‘Jasmine’ has the interesting qualification ‘(demo)’. To me this is interesting because a demo that’s brill, as opposed to a single that’s brill, makes you think the ‘real thing’ will be even better. Except because the ‘demo’ is actually the ‘real thing’ / the version that’s being released in stores near you, this is clearly not a demo at all! ‘Demo’ both excuses ‘Jasmine’s vague crackly production and smartly suggests that this clearly brilliant record is not Jai in full flow, but half-formed, casual demo…ism. This might be the thinking anyway.

Also, when you hear ‘Jasmine’s cassette-like muffling, you’ll swear you’ve ‘discovered’ Jai, even if you do notice it’s already clocked 700,000 odd plays on Soundcloud. It has that demo quality; that personal touch that ‘BTSTU (Edit)’ had. Where the latter went "Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me" in its disturbingly gentle opening, this pulses with a skittery funk beat whose distant production sounds like it was recorded in a church confessions booth.  

Jai is enigmatic. At only 21 odd when XL signed him, ‘BTSTU (Edit)’ was I believe his only available track online, which makes you wonder what XL knew about him that we didn’t (or don’t), particularly given that he seems to be a songwriter/producer first of all. Yet Stereogum have called him ‘possibly visionary’; in an interview with XL owner Richard Russell about XL's success, Russell said ‘Jai is a wizard.’ The BBC even cast him in their Sound of 2011 poll for 2011's most promising artist or band, such was the furore surrounding Jai’s exceptionally good but small output. That year, RockFeedback’s feature on Jai (complete with his provisional driving licence photo) just concluded “There’s not much we can do with Jai Paul nowapart from to carrying on listening to the pop genius of ‘BTSTU.” That’s then.

The story of Jai Paul is certainly intriguing so far. Whatever happens next though, ‘Jasmine’, I’m sure you’ll agree, is indeed superb, worthy of the praise lavished upon it. If ‘BTSTU (Edit)’ struck music’s beating heart once, ‘Jasmine’ can do so again.

Pre-order 'Jasmine' on limited vinyl here.



Right, so- simply, this is the best song I’ve heard this summer. It’s making me so happy. The sample- The Manhattans’ 1973 ‘Wish That You Were Mine’ combines with Freddie Gibbs’ rapping to make this an epic track from Madgibbs’ Shame EP (that being the second collaboration between workaholic machine producer Madlib and Freddie Gibbs). The first was Thuggin’ and can be found here.

For those who don’t know, Madlib’s behind some of the rawest soul slash mashup hip hop shit to grace physical formats since J Dilla. Part of Jaylib with the late J Dilla and a prolific producer, you should check out Madlib Medicine Show which runs to over a dozen volumes of beats, spits, spats and crazy if you don’t already know him.  

Meanwhile, BJ The Chicago Kid sings beautifully on ‘Shame’. Smashed together with Gibbs’ majorly explicit, uncompromising rapping, he punctures that machismo one night stand posturing and turns it into something tender, smooth and sexy. After 40 listens, I can confirm that the BJ The Chicago Kid’s hook may have been sent from god.     



One of the things about doing this music blog is I listen to so much music I love that I feel compelled to write about it and share the word. However, often, I don’t actually have the time to write because I’m so busy listening. Consequently, the more I need the blog, the less time I have for it- a most frustrating irony.  

This is exacerbated by my ever constant music shopping, on early evening finishes at work and on weekends. Whether online or via haunts in London’s East and West, music shopping has become a prong of my music obsession in itself.

So this is the story of how my music shopping story began. Really this is appropriate for Record Store Day, but let’s ignore that because this post didn’t come together in my head until now. Shopping in shops for physical formats had an impact on me as a 23 year old man who grew up with the digitisation transition. For me, it would be a shame to see the extinction of the CD, but especially vinyl. This is not supposed to persuade you of the merits of physical record shops either way. You just read it if you like, and go about your business…

38 Notting Hill Gate, W11 - The flagship store
At 14, I was introduced to the London chain of retro/vintage clothing, music and bric-a-brac shops known as the Music and Video Exchange. For those who don’t know, primarily based around the upper class Notting Hill area of London, and with affiliate stores in Berwick Street (Soho), Camden and Birmingham (I have never been to this one), MVE, or the Record and Tape Exchange, as it was known, offers arguably the most interesting, unexpected and deliberately low key second-hand music shopping experience in London.

Its key feature is what first drew my attention. At 14 and running low on pocket money, I sought alternatives to expensive entertainment retailers. Even small discounts increased my leverage in the entertainment world. (You can imagine what I was like when Ebay arrived.) So on asking my brother keenly why it was that all of his vinyl- I had a mature range of twelve choice CDs at the time, mainly garage, aye- had these price grids on them, he confirmed my suspicion that MVE had a policy of knocking down prices until someone buys the item. "This is my sort of place", I thought. "By its very nature there will be bargains. I just hope they have that Oasis whatsit I love so much."

Music stores are the clear pillar of MVE’s vintage cultural offering. Although I did not know this when I asked the question, as London’s most serious and arguably well-respected second-hand music institution, MVE is a magnet for vinyl and CDs from all over the world, from every genre, of every quality, rotating relentlessly, unbendingly, as customers plunder its stock, leave a hell of a lot of Bread vinyl, and wait for the staff to slip in some new treats- hopefully- before your next visit.

At school, I notified the posse I was planning a visit. It hadn’t occurred to me to look on the net, so when we all rocked up one Sunday afternoon, it all came as a surprise. As I wandered the main floor that day, quietly pleased that I recognised some of the titles, the prices were at first a disappointment. This was ok, but no cigar.

Art Tatum, Fleetwood Mac...R Kelly
A sign however pointed to basement. My friends and I descended a flight of stairs and what greeted me at the bottom was a moment I can honestly say I still remember vividly. Rows upon rows of rock/pop CDs lined the wall, spines facing outward, with prices knocked down on each item pound by pound, to occasionally superb prices. Oasis’ What’s The Story Morning Glory (I think I was surprised they had this, such was my charming open-mindedness): £6, £5 right down to £2. In Virgin Megastore, this was no doubt at least a tenner. Beatles back catalogue? £4 for Abbey Road – a thank you- and £5 for Rubber Soul. No doubt such prices could be found elsewhere in second-hand retailers around, but with the concept of near-limitless browsable and affordable albums at my fingertips and the prospect of sudden discoveries and impulsive purchases suddenly revealed to me, the bargain CD floor filled me with excitement.       

Now as you can imagine, the sort of environment I describe can take a lot out of shop assistants and customers alike; row upon row of tediously monitored stock. As any music shop assistant will tell you, myself briefly included, cataloguing is a pain, but this place is that in over-drive. Due only to its immense success and dogged pricing/margin structure, the atmosphere is dominated by the ethics of a very specific but loyal part of its clientele- the die-hard anorak (often seen, majestically, in the English woodland countryside in the Fall), a product of years of plunder and discovery, with over-flowing knowledge (and sometimes unfortunately fewer social facets), now with a single-minded pursuit for purchases, that will allow him to rest easy (and it is invariably a ‘him’), until the next single-minded pursuit for purchases. While I hope frankly I don’t become one, serious minded affectionados rule the roost at MVE. This is arguably its second most well known characteristic, after its pricing.  A noticeable smell hangs in the air of most of its shops, of dirty, dusty vinyl racks and men’s unwashed trousers. Trendy Rough Trade East this is not.

Next door, Soul and Dance
The same prevalence of eclectic characters among the shop’s customers is also present among staff. There are some musico titans in here. I don’t know who they are ‘cos I’m too afraid to speak to them (I’ll come on to that), but they are a matrix of music knowledge you can be sure.

The downside this all brings though is a dose of music snobbery; an arrogance and hot headedness among its tireless staff. Customer service here is in a league of its own. Don’t try and talk about music, your music taste is invariably shit; don’t walk in laughing or talking too loudly with your friends (preferably you won’t have any friends); don’t try and clarify an answer or ask another question, and lastly, don’t request something such as, say, a carrier bag for your purchase, or something in one of the cabinets, because passive aggressiveness will invariably follow. When I walked in once and asked if I could get a combined discount on two records, I was met with a gruff ‘No’, from the man who has, although he might not know it, been serving me at that counter for nearly 10 years. “There is absolutely no negotiation on the price. The price is the price and that’s it” Ok fine. But why? “To avoid any confusion”. That was the end of that mystifying encounter. Once, I asked if they ever had in any Beatles Anthology on vinyl. ‘No’, was the response. "There wasn’t much call for vinyl in the 90s." End of conversation.

This aspect of the stores, which is unfortunate if you view extreme record buyers’ fetishisation as a slight case of ‘wood for the trees’ as I do, has even courted official recognition. Time Out in 2007 awarded its Most Unhelpful Shop Staff award (across all retail sectors, bear in mind) to the Music and Video Exchange. Its comment, in full, read as follows:

The movie ‘High Fidelity’ won praise for Jack Black’s accurate portrayal of an obnoxious record store employee making customers jump through hoops to justify their own purchases. MVE makes this look like silver service on the Orient Express; staff here seem to delight in making the simple act of buying a record a baffling trial akin to crossing the Bridge of Death in ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, with Anne Robinson asking the questions. It’s easy to understand their need to express their superiority – prospective employees have to pass a written music test before they’re considered for employment – but surely this attitude can’t be good for business.”

There you have it. As a result, I fully believe there are MVE shoppers out there who have frequented it for decades and are dedicated even emotionally to it, but have never received so much as a ‘hello’ from the staff. In an ironic sort of way, the fact that it continues to survive with such brazenly shit customer service is testament to the powerful enigmatic depths of its stock. If you want that post-punk 7” import that only you give care for, but don’t want to pay Ebay prices, then MVE is the only place it’s worth going to in search of it. And when you find it, there is no doubt you will be jumping for joy, as I sometimes do, and rush over to that counter.

Overall, my decision that day was pretty big. Two weeks or so later my friends and I went again, and then every fortnight or so for the next three years. I now go every week if I can, and rather than merely the bargain rock and pop CD section catching my eye, I am drawn across the shop like a skilled craftsman tending to his weathered tool-kit: from bargain vinyl, to the £1 CD section, to rare 7”, the soul store, and spoken word records upstairs. I have not yet mustered enough fortitude for the ‘soul basement’, which is where records go to die). It is very sad, however, that the classical music store has now shut down. I hope it is not a sign of things to come.

So, so ends my dedication to Notting Hill- my favourite place. I am aware people who are similarly fond of the MVE may have some comments about it, so please do post them below or message me on twitter @grapevinesound if you feel like sharing.

All pictures courtesy of the internet except pricing stickers.