Monday, 7 April 2008

NME Radar Scene Piece: Minimal Dubstep

A scene report on the Wham City-centric Baltimore scene. With added handy links below.

Futureshocking! Baltimore’s New Beat

-While LA shimmered in 2007, 2008 is the US murder capital’s time to shine-

Offering a low cost of living and ready access to cavernous warehouse spaces Baltimore has rapidly become a magnet and haven for those looking to embrace and explore their creativity from all over the US. The cities pulsing BMore club scene and established art rock sound, expounded by labels like Monitor, have collided and subsequently exploded in the shape of the nebulous collective/performance space/whatever known as Wham City.

The name came to describe the warehouses that Dan Deacon and several other bands, artists, strays and wastrels lived and performed in. While the original Wham City has now been closed due to one too many all night ‘happenings’ Dan believes, if anything, the spirit of Wham City is stronger than ever: “the conditions that bought that place about bought so many people together that whole thing will keep growing and growing. You don’t have to be from Baltimore to be part of Wham City. It is a mindset. A way of living.”

Dan’s music willfully adopts the diverse influences which make Wham City living so unique, turns them inside out and spits them all over his listeners in glorious technicolour. His hyperactive “Spiderman Of The Rings” album, released late last year, came on the heals of sweaty, intimate, high energy live performances that saw Dan set up in the midst of the crowd and actively encourage the whole room to become involved in the process of performance. At London’s Cargo he instigated a dance-off in the middle of the floor that to be seen to be believed. The music itself is a cut and paste mess of burping, bleeping electronics and breackore beats and with its couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude gloriously reflects everything Wham City is about: having fun and being whatever you want to be while you dance you ass off and roll around on the floor laughing.

The Wham City approach has led not only to a collective mindset but also a distinguishable sound known locally as Futureshock generally involving electronics, high tempos and riotous live shows with the ‘anything goes’ creed of Wham City ensuring that no two Futureshock acts sound even remotely similar.

Video Hippo’s amazingly titled Unbeast The Leash album may not be as overpoweringly ecstatic as some of it’s contemporaries but it shares a wide-eyed optimism. Ponytail sidestep the electronics obsession while maintaining a state of childish frenzy with their rackus guitar fuzz and screched female vocals. Check out their excellent Kamehameha album. Ecstatic Sunshine could certainly be in the running for most aptly named band ever. Allow their shimmering guitars and electronics lull you into a smile filled neverland on new LP Living. Perhaps the heaviest proposition in the pack, Double Dagger, play stripped down, de-tuned and immediate punk rock as vital as it is desperate on their great Ragged Rubble album.

Also well worth investigating are the freeform noise excursions of WZT Hearts, Lizz King’s plaintive strummings, the beat based antifolk of Santa Dads and the shout a long punk of Blood Baby.

Proving that being Wham City doesn’t mean being from Baltimore, Australia via New York electro-punk noiseniks The Death Set now call Wham City home while Dan Deacon’s two constant tour companions hail from out of state. Pittsburgh based Greg Gillis’s Girl Talk project infectiously takes the Baltimore cut and paste electro template to infinity and way beyond by creating whole tracks of mashed up samples. Sticking everything from The Beatles and The Verve to Public Enemy and The Pixies in the blender and chucking up the ecstatic Night Ripper album which single handedly atones for every crap early noughties mashup record ever released.

Similarly, Joe ‘White’ Williams may be from Cleveland but his forthcoming Smoke album contains all the elements that make Futureshock and the ‘Wham Sound’ so great. With a careless disregard for any particular pigeonhole in sight Williams’s slinky electronic, laptop beats are as in thrall to pure pop as the loungey nonchalance of Beck. Williams may yet prove the pick of the Wham City crop. Miss his upcoming live dates and miss becoming converted forever.

While HBO’s incredible crack dealers vs cops saga The Wire might have you thinking otherwise, Gram Parsons once sang that “the prettiest place on earth is Baltimore at night”. As of right now we are inclined to go with Gram. Long live Wham City! Long live Futureshock!


* Wham City:

* Dan Deacon:

* Girl Talk:

* White Williams:

* Video Hippos:

* Ponytail:

* Ecstatic Sunshine:

* Double Dagger:

* The Death Set:

* WZT Hearts:

* Lizz King:

* Santa Dads:

* Blood Baby:

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