Category Archives: News

Mangrove Meets Ganjaman 72 in 5-Track Digital Dub

The original dubbed-out skweee legend Mangrove comes up big with this excellent release featuring 5 tracks and their dub counterparts, including one killer cut from the Skweee Inna Dancehall compilation. This is a crucial album to be studied closely.

Get it at Juno Download.

Nation of Skweee Monthly Production Challenge

We know about the weekly track production challenge, but the Nation of Skweee moves slower than that. Our version is a monthly challenge that fits our glacial pace just fine (barely) and has resulted in some interesting offerings in the past 2 months. This soundcloud set has compiled them all for your listening pleasure. Stay tuned for tracks based on the inspiring nature of melons and the healing properties of alcohol.

Radio Skotvoid – Ikea Crimejazz Vol 2

Check this thoroughly funky release from Boston-based 8-bit and skweee pusher Radio Skotvoid. Feel the heart and soul coursing through both tracks as the Skot does his thing on this aptly named release. Out now on his label RSVP Tapes, which put out the excellent Aces compilation tape last month.

Aces Compilation (RSVP Tapes)

Tape compilations are getting hotter in the extended skweee community, and this one doesn’t spare the heat. An interesting mix of minimal synth jams and forward thinking bass tunes, Aces is a wild ride through strange styles that come together under a tightly controlled 160/80 tempo guideline. This comp features a few veteran skweee masters alongside some new names that made a serious impact. Our very own Smoked Meat Fax Machine appears with a synth-laden r&b slow jam.

Fade Runner – Starwatcher EP Out Now on Tiburoni

Fade Runner - Starwatcher

Fans of the icy synth funk sound of skweee are in for a treat with this latest name-your-price digital release from the beloved Tiburoni records out of Paris. With the Starwatcher EP’s 8 tracks of masterfully crafted melodic funk, Montreal producer Fade Runner enters the sparse and rugged landscape of skweee as a promising contributor to the style. Angular yet infectious rhythms, tight crunchy bass and bright interlocking melodies course throughout this album, from the bubbling opener “Repeat” to the frosted new-jack swing of “Ploup.”  This is a sound we at Ancient Robot live for. We’re glad to see it thriving in our very own city.

Smoked Meat Fax Machine – Implacable

The inscrutable dark synth wizard Smoked Meat Fax Machine appears on a recent compilation entitled “Relief for Oklahoma,” whose purpose (other than offering a great series of tracks) is exactly as its title suggests: raising money for Oklahoma tornado victims. The SMFM track in question, “Implacable,” rolls out tense pads over stuttering beats suspended in space as it twists around a maze of hypnotic melodies. It sits among a strong showing of productions compiled by New Jersey’s own DJ Scratchin, a versatile young dance music maker with a keen ear for style and a firm grasp of structure. Listen and throw some cash at it.

Smoked’s Best Releases of 2012

Fitzroy North – AM Pear / White Paint (Tiburoni)

Moresounds – Breath Control EP (Cosmic Bridge)

Mr Oizo – Stade 3 (Self Released)

Yöt – Bitch Bender (Raha & Tunteet)

Lakritze – FCKN BRLN (Saturate!)

ARP 101 x Elliott Yorke – Fluro Black (Donky Pitch)

Duke Slammer – Spandex / VHS Distress (Bonus Round)

Motëm – Psychos (Gebbz Steelo)

Daphni – Jiaolong (Jiaolong)

Randy Barracuda – Random Works of Randy Barracuda Vol. II (Losonofono)

Smoked Meat’s Interdimensional Funk Report 2012 Q3

I don’t have time to dally on this post. Thanks to my new intelligent telephone I can now report my findings while in the field, and I am currently caught in a rather nasty spatial shearing storm off the 764th layer of the Plane of Infinite Scissors. The standard dimensions of physical objects around me are being stretched and sliced at an alarming rate, but fortunately my ship is well shielded and has kickass Wi-Fi.

Firstly, I’d like to share with you a most interesting find I came across while navigating the Inner Plane of Thoughts About Julienned Items, which is a universe entirely made up of everyday objects chopped into thin strips through the power of one’s thoughts. One can access this area by simply consuming a large quantity of fries / chips and then attempting to play Liberace’s Bumble Boogie backwards on the piano. It is one of the rare planes that does not require a sophisticated interdimensional vessel to access. Within this dimension the following appeared to me:

Motëm -  Emotional Outlaw

The next stop on my recent journey was a typically dark and cold dimension, rife with perils ranging from ethereal pyroclasms to ravenous wolf-shaped golems constructed out of coloured light. Time was severely dilated in this zone, which incidentally had no known name so I dubbed it the Realm of Syzygous Diffraction (from the peculiar behaviour of light beams in its space -a phenomenon I will have to study more in depth at a later date). After some uneventful experiments, I happened to release a cartridge of aged ambergris into the void. This caused a most interesting sonic manifestation, captured below:

Satisfied with my findings in this inhospitable plane, I hastened to unfurl the dimensional sails on the Gloryhallastoopid and set course for the uncharted Brane of Liquid Lattices, within which is contained the Demiplane of Soup. This was a rather pleasant place rich in all manner of breathable atmospheric broth, from thin aromatic stews to heavily creamed potages. The ship’s sonic traps managed to collect the following signatures, compiled for your perusal:

As the creaminess of the soupy atmosphere increased in density, the surrounding space eventually crystallized into discrete bowls of soup, then slowly transmogrified into frozen creamy desserts not unlike sundaes. Drizzles of fruity, candy-like liquid began to appear out of nothing, coating everything in a sweet multicoloured veneer. It dawned on me at that moment that we had entered the fabled Quasi-elemental Plane of Syrup, which yielded a bountiful aural harvest:

Following a most unusual vein of syrupy tincture that I likened to elderberry extract mixed with the fumes of a burnt orchid, I happened quite by chance on a splintered pocket dimension tenuously linked to the Great Plane of Feral Titans and Titanesses. Curious about this small offshoot of that legendary universe, I ventured squarely into its nexus to discover a delightful zone of layered mousse trees and tiny horses made of lightning. All the while, this was playing throughout the space:

Finally, in order to avoid getting sucked into the Great Plane itself, I had to engage the dimensional excision drive and punch a hole straight out of the pocket plane and into the Wheel of Astral Crosswinds, which spat me out dangerously close to the heart of the Plane of Infinite Scissors. While I managed to escape its pull unscathed, the long range vibrational collectors pieced together this transmission, which is most interesting:

Until next quarter!

An Ethnomusicologist Goes to a Riff Raff Show

This past weekend in Toronto I was lucky enough to experience what I believe to be a truly rare event of heavy cultural significance in current popular music. I went to a Riff Raff show.

As I stepped into Wrongbar on Queen Street West, I was immediately seized by the jarring yet amusing feeling that I had just walked into a physical manifestation of the Internet, or perhaps more specifically, Tumblr. Home made meme-emblazoned t-shirts, colourful hoodies, fake gold chains and unkempt beards dominated the landscape as the crowd of young, mostly male fans of the modern rap jongleur known as Riff Raff (a.k.a. Jody Highroller) slowly filled the space. This cadre of fans was not a surprise to me, given Riff’s status as the current crown prince of the strange, absurdist fusion of bay-area hyphy and southern rap sometimes derisively lumped under the generic label “Tumblr-core” (the reigning king of which I’d say is Lil B).

While the subcultural gang of Internet jokers was to be expected, the sociological plot thickened as I appreciated the second ingredient in this crowd fusion: the bros, or brozephs as I like to call them. In contrast to the gentle, joking awkwardness of the geeky rap denizens (mostly male but some female), the male bro contingent espoused a typical loud confidence, whether their particular style was more reminiscent of a 311 concert or a casual boardwalk stroll in deck shoes. The bros were either in the classic bro-gang or flanked by their tightly clad female counterparts (brozephinas) who often looked as if they had been dragged out, only looking forward to figuring out if they thought Riff Raff was indeed hot or not.

I’d say the answer is yes.

Finally, I’ll add a third contingent to this mix: the cultural observers. I’d put myself and the friend who accompanied me in this catch-all category. These would be people who don’t quite fit into any of the aforementioned groups, and who I suspect grasp the phenomenon of Riff Raff as the puzzling mix of earnestness and irony that I believe he really is. At the very least, these are people who were simply curious as to what this whole movement was all about, while maintaining some level of detachment.

I will say that I am a real fan of Riff Raff. I think he’s really good at what he does and I genuinely wanted to see him live. Beyond that, the cultural implication of his artistry is simply too good to not talk about in detail. While the composition of the crowd initially underlined my suspicions about the richness of the Riff Raff phenomenon, its behaviour as the show went on further supported my thesis:

Riff Raff is bringing people together in a genuine way and creating meaningful real-time events where subcultural barriers are tested by earnest displays of emotion.

Before the man himself took to the stage, I overheard telling snippets of conversations over the requisite trap tracks provided by DJ Patrick McGuire. People were excited, buzzing about Riff Raff sightings and speculating about the performance. The humour of adult males acting like they were teenage girls at an early Beatles show was not lost on me:

“I just saw Riff Raff backstage! He was wearing the craziest pink ski jacket!”

As the neon outlaw took to the stage backed by the Tumblr version of a “posse” (including a girl who looked like Barbie meets the Bride of Frankenstein in a GWAR t-shirt), the crowd erupted in frantic hollering amidst feverish struggles to capture every moment on their smartphones. Most of them knew every word to every song, and yelled and sang along to Riff Raff and to each other. In contrast to the myriad of boring, confusing and annoying live rap performances I have witnessed in my lifetime, I will say that this one was full of energy, highly entertaining and well executed from start to finish. Riff commanded attention in his own way, on his own terms. He took the audience on a journey with him through the songs that he wanted to showcase at the show, both old and new. To my delight, this also included an intermission featuring Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams.

Throughout the show, I was constantly amazed by the earnest display of emotion from all groups, bro and nerd alike. By the end of the performance, as Riff Raff unveiled a heartfelt upcoming release dripping with emotion, my thesis crystallized and my hypothesis was confirmed: through his art and persona, Riff Raff is somehow making sense of some past trauma, or at least trying to understand his place in current American culture as a male of a certain age (I think he’s close to 30), from a certain place (Texas) and a certain musico-cultural heritage (rap, r&b, 1980s pop). Most significant in his struggle of self-discovery played out on the Youtube stage is the exploration and engagement of genuine emotions, something so often lacking in rap music unless it is married with a dramatically over-inflated self-narrative (think Tupac or Eminem).

American culture has been obsessed with the archetype of the outlaw since the dawn of its existence. From George Washington to cowboys to Clint Eastwood, the concept of the fiercely independent rebel who makes his own way against the establishment using sometimes unsavoury methods is irresistible in this culture. Hip hop music, drawing from the grit of soul, funk and even reggae (think Jimmy Cliff in The Harder they Come) is a distillation of this obsession with the outlaw, whether righteous or evil. Pimps, thugs and drug dealers are simply the street reflection of the harsh capitalism framed by monstrously oppressive institutions that form the basis of society. In the earlier days of rap, the violent outlaw character was in style, giving way to the more cultural outlaw of the so-called golden age of hip hop with its Afrocentrism and consciously applied lyrics. Since then, both archetypes have intertwined to produce most of the hip hop that is commonly consumed around the world.

I submit that Riff Raff, much like Lil B, represents the emergence of a new type of cultural character: the emotional outlaw. Throughout his absurd twisting of Internet memes, brand names, rap cliches and past pop culture references, Riff Raff is piecing together a framework that engages the audience to listen more closely, to try and figure out what is really going on. Sure, you can enjoy it all at face value: the neon shades, the braids, the tattoos and the southern rap beats are all compelling in their own classic macho-swagger way. Or, you can dismiss it as ironic, whether you are intrigued by it or not. Everything from his appearance to his absurd insertion of virtual nonsense lyrics into common rap expressions is as much a turn off for true school zealots as it is enticing for cynical cultural trolls.

What I believe is really going on is hinted at by Riff Raff’s more emotional offerings, such as the borderline country tune Time, and the upcoming release he showcased as the closing song of the Toronto show. This is what he really wants us to pay attention to while he dazzles us with the neon, the swagger and the fashion designer references. In essence, Riff Raff wants to express that he feels genuine feelings, and would like us to share in this experience. According to the reactions I encountered at the Wrongbar show, he just might be on to something. In that forum, the crude labels of “nerd” and “bro” melted away for brief moments as everyone who believed in the Riff Raff movement let themselves be swept up in the genuine connection created by that event.

Whether it was the cheeky Tumblr jockey that gained some level of self-confidence or the straight-up boozy brozeph/ina that got in touch with his/her sensitive side and reflected on life, everyone experienced something a bit different than your average music show that night. Hopefully, the rise of the emotional outlaw that refers to himself as the “Rap Game Bon Jovi” is a sign that people might just be starting to shake off the haze of consumption-fueled self-doubt that has racked our culture for decades. With the help of artists like Riff Raff, as we smash everything that’s been plaguing us and invest in cultural products that touch a nerve and unite us, we might just be able to piece things back together and make sense of it all.


Where to Buy Iron Logic on Vinyl

MONTREAL: Atom Heart, Phonopolis, Aux 33 Tours, L’Oblique

TORONTO: Soundscapes

REST OF CANADA: Ancient Robot Shop

USA: Insound

EUROPE: HipHopVinyl

REST OF UNIVERSE: Ancient Robot Shop