Available on: Hessle Audio 2×12″
Kanye West pops up on my copy of J Dilla’s Donuts, quoted on an inlay slip: “Jay Dee is a drum God…his drums can’t be topped”. In a Kanye-esque hyperbolic mood, something similar could be said about Ramadanman. He’s become an astonishingly skilled beat-maker; in technical terms, he’s way above pretty much everyone currently. His latest release – another dense and fascinating double 12” pack from Hessle – foregrounds those skills, and is often a dazzling demonstration of his art. This is all about the beats. There’s one bass-line throughout the whole 6 tracks (or two at an absolute push, depending on how generous your definition of ‘bass-line’ is). A few melodies and Joy Orbison-ish vocal squiggles drift through like fog. But really, these act just as punctuation marks, ushering in a new movements and layers of rhythm.
Here, Ramadanman’s beats live, breathe, constantly evolve. There’s a multi-dimensional sense of structure and interaction; elements seem to speak to each in call and response patterns, or are pitch-shifted into little tunes that disappear almost as soon as you’ve noticed them. At times, he gives virtuoso renderings of established styles as on ‘I Beg You”s perfectly placed skips and rolls of hyper-modern 2-step or the spacious Jungle of ‘Don’t Change For Me’, a sound like sunrise streaming into a room in the height of summer. Other times, he’s off on his own, making beats that, at the same time, sound both closely aligned to Funky and nothing at all like Funky, and then attacking them with a giant road-drill (the misleadingly titled ‘No Swing’). And somewhere in between these two poles, on ‘Tumble’ he ends up at some fossil-skeleton of that’s recognisably Garage, but arrived at by gradually piecing together the digital detritus of individual blurts, buzzes and snaps until they snowball together and careen away.
There’s often a bracing austerity and sparseness to Ramadanman’s music. Here, that’s accentuated by the woody tones he uses, as well as the absence of bass. There’s also so much going on in these tracks, so much painstakingly executed work, that it’s easy to get lost in the detail. I have to almost think myself out of thinking when I hear this record; to consciously abandon all the cerebral stuff and let these supremely funky virtual drum-circles wash through me. Right now, Ramadanman is quietly becoming a master at work.