London clothing store Oki-Ni branch out into the record business with a project by Howie B, sometime producer for Tricky, Bjork and U2 amongst others, and Fabric programmer Craig Richards. There are four tracks here, split across four 7" vinyls, each with illustrations by Richards and poems by Howie B on its sleeve.
On the whole, the tracks are raw and unfinished electronic pieces that arrest you with their strangeness. There are many references here, including low-BPM Trojan Soundsystem dub and Warp-style techno, but there is no unifying sound to the boxset - each track seems designed to stand on its own.
'I Can Play' is all about the electro/hip-hop bounce, conjuring up images of B-Boys getting ready for battle. Think Cybotron minus the machines, with added Weatherall guitar stabs. It has a nice groove, too. Howie B's poem on the sleeve references 'life and lessons learnt', which combined with the retro sound of the track, make you think this is a throwback to Craig and Howie's youth.
'Constipation' sounds exactly like you think it would. Built on repetitive grunts that sound like they were recorded in the adjoining toilet cubicle at an Autechre gig, it's a simple bass and a metallic wheel noise that moves in a morbid direction. This one has a throwaway feel.
'Shiner' is downtempo and druggy, a dreadzone bassline repeated under a paranoid groan. With its slow nang and perpetual hum, its ket den music for squat professionals, which is not really my bag. In the UK, a 'shiner' is a woman who gives blowjobs - maybe that is what this guy is groaning about?
'Doorway' is more expressive. Build on sad and sombre samples, you'll like this track if you're a fan of early Warp. The poem on the sleeve is about "a short Cockney with a big Jewish cock" and the drawing is of a wheelchair. Hmm. Make of that what you will.
Overall I enjoyed the illustrations and poems quite a bit; they're kind of cutely inept. As for the music, 'I Can Play' grooves cleanly and concisely, and 'Doorway' is a smoky freakout. The other two...not so much. This is definitely not dance music, but it's a unique artifact that might make a nice present for a smart art and music lover. Readers of The Wire take note.
Tracklist: Craig Richards & Howie B - A Short RunA Doorway
D I Can Play