Rewind: Damir Ivic on “Criminal Justice”

Posted: October 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Features | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

In discussion with Damir Ivic on “Criminal Justice” by D*Note (1995).

D*Note was quite an active project. What made you choose this album out of their varied back catalogue?

Varied, and not always excellent. “Babel”, Matt’s first effort as an album, was excellent, but still naive in some sounds. Breakbeats, for instance – they were quite standard and not so creative, original and classy as they are on “Criminal Justice”, and generally speaking the arrangements were quite keen to the jazzy hip-hop flavour of that era. Later, only some parts of “Fuchsia Dog” matched the unbelievable quality of the first two albums. The rest of the D*Note catalogue is… I wouldn’t say disappointing but… yes, maybe I’m sayin’ it!

On his Myspace page, D*Note’s mastermind Matt Wienevski describes his music as a “cross between Ravel, Miles Davis and Photek”. However high this self-explanation aims, would you agree to some extent?

It’s 100% correct, I think. Plus, there’s room for Michael Nyman. If “Birth Of Cool” was carrying interferences made by Photek and Nyman (and maybe Ravel, ok), we’d have had “Criminal Justice” decades ago. Hey, I perfectly realize that these words sound TOO big. But please, listen to the album…

“Criminal Justice” incorporates a lot of different musical styles. How would you define its inspirations? Do you think the music is artistically on par with them?

“Criminal Justice” is one of those very, very rare circumstances where the music is on par with the inspirations. Load and loads of people have annoyed us with cheesy jazzy chords placed on top of pre-set hip hop beats (Simon Harris, anyone…?) pretending they’re serving us the finest combination of jazz and hip hop. Loads and loads of producers have placed string arrangements, thinking that’s by itself putting them on Bacharach’s level. I know that, I deal with that every day reviewing albums.

D*Note and the label Dorado were active in the aftermath of the hype surrounding Acid Jazz, where producers and DJs fused modern club styles with Rare Groove and Jazz. Do you think that was an idea overdue?

Acid Jazz was a marvellous idea killed by two things: the fact that the term became – sorry for the word – “trendy”, and the fact that producers were concentrating on the sounds and not on the attitude. But the spirit is still alive: I firmly believe that, for instance, what the Sonar Kollektiv dudes do is exactly what Acid Jazz was and is meant to be. I have to specify: to me Acid Jazz was always what Gilles meant for it (music that is, in a way, progressive and classy at the same time), I never followed Eddie Piller’s path (just a matter of good old soul-funk nostalgia).

In contrast to other producers of the according UK scene, D*Note did not hesitate to use fast paced breakbeats as well as downbeat moods that hinted at the later “Trip Hop” styles. Are these the moods and rhythms that go best with Jazz leanings?

Rhythm complexity is the core of Jazz music. And the downbeat patterns that Matt used on that album, well, they’re sooooo complex. Love it.

Was the resulting stylistic melting pot a genre of its own, or do you see it as being a chonological stage in the further development of the original music influences?

I think this album is the first step of a journey that has never been made and understood in the Acid Jazz scene (the musicians plus the audience). Not surprisingly: the music was daring. That’s the point, daring. And daring music is what we miss the most since the 70’s, with few notable exceptions.

Are there any other artists working in this field of music that you think are comparable in terms of artistic quality?

When it’s about daring, Goldie (or those who were helping him in the studio…) made great things with his first album and, partially, even with the second. I know that Goldie is part of the drum’n’bass arena, G’s and bling bling’s and whatever, but still he was putting many intellectual references in his music, just as Matt did. Considering the Acid Jazz Scene of the 90’s, Young Disciples (ever heard of the side project The Subterraneans?) and K-Creative were great. And even Mark Brydon released great stuff on Acid Jazz Records (as Cloud 9, if I remember correctly) before meeting Roisin and getting into pop music (yes, often it was smart and clever, but all in all it was pop).

As far as I tell from acts like Jestofunk and several covering compilations from the label Irma, the Jazz/Rare Groove-influenced side of club music was quite popular in Italy. Can you confirm that? Was there a vibrant scene to take up the UK proceedings or did it even have its own history?

No, my friend. It was a niche. Better said: it worked from time to time, but local DJ’s were playing Jestofunk’s tracks without realising what was it all about. It was or “let’s put a house track with some sax” (bad option) or “let’s listen to some acid jazz” said by people who didn’t have a clue about what acid music, jazz music and dance culture are (imagine what?, this was the good option…).

It seems a lot of music associated with the Nu Jazz/Broken Beats scene that seemed to just use Jazz and other styles in some kind of “light” version to conceal a lack of ideas and for a credibility status otherwise out of reach. Was that the main reason for the demise of this sound in former years?

Jazz is a really complicated music. You have to be a trained musician, but mostly you have to be a trained and a little bit obsessive human being. Things that many people would love to be without the pain of running the long and painful process to actually get there. Musicians and audiences of the dance scene are, let’s face it, first into hedonism, not into culture.

It seems a lot of the protagonists of this sound have later abandoned the stylistic diversity of their early releases for more functional club music like House. Do you think more musically orientated club music is about to come back anytime soon? If so, how will it sound like?

You have to pay the bills, man. And you have to pay the rent. House music (or minimal techno, now) pays. The “more musically oriented club music”, quite sure about it, will always be a minority. And not even too loud, as a minority. Too well behaved to scream; too well behaved to offer friends pills, spliffs and lines of coke and therefore become hugely popular and rewarding.

Sounds Like Me 10/09

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