Scaramanga Silk is an enigma. He’s simultaneously a man who wishes to remain unknown, whilst holding the world record for the slowest Techno track (beating Daft Punk to the prize) and wanting to invent a word that will go into the Oxford English Dictionary. If you decide to take the trip (and it is a trip) into the universe this producer is creating the asking price can be high. An early 12″ vinyl single with his name on it sold for a cool £500 on eBay. He might not be quite as shifty and impossible to track down as an act like Boards Of Canada, but give him enough time and room to roam and he will be. You are entering Aphex Twin territory and walking the streets that Burial once roamed. For now though, Scaramanga Silk is making you an offer, and this offer has a name;
The cover, designed by Konx-Om-Pax (Planet Mu), looks like something Francis Bacon would have created, had he been born sometime during the final decades of the last millennium. It’s quite a good visual representation of the brilliant, twisted and futuristic sonic landscapes that this album will begin to paint inside your head whenever you decide to listen to it, and you should listen to it – lots. In the course of preparing for this review I’ve probably listened to Designer Scribble about seven or eight times, and each time I’ve heard it I have formed a different opinion of it. It’s such an unusual shape shifter of a thing that it seems to float around the room like smoke circles, or squares, or triangles. Wait, is that even smoke? It looks solid. Now the room has gone. What the Hell is happening? Where am I?
In the one and only interview that I could track down, the producer states “The way you put albums together needs to be different these days. So, you’ve got to come in and hit people straight away with something.”. The something that Scaramanga Silk chooses to hit us with first is called “Barakatuk”. The name is Turkish in origin, and translates, roughly, as “She Bangs To The Beat Of My Drum”. Frankly, from a DJ’s perspective, if you drop this cut in a club the whole place will be banging to the beat. It comes crashing in like some kind of tribal marching band, before the subs start to rattle the foundations of the building it’s being played in. Little touches of Latin percussion begin to be sprinkled in here and there, giving the track a little sexual healing. The beat dances around enough so that it’s never dull, there’s always a little bit of subtle magic at play. Some slight of hand. In my opinion “Barakatuk” is the second best track on the album, and it’s one Hell of an album. So, buckle up.
The album takes a dip into “Macrynimyze”, and when the MASSIVE bass line rumbles in just before the minute mark, you suddenly realise that THIS is the album that has been playing at every decent house party you’ve been to, ever. The FEELS. A little synth line comes in that’s every bit as good as anything that the mighty Sun Electric came up with on their classic “Via Nostra” (and that is HIGH praise. I’m a massive Sun Electric fan). By the time the track is riding towards it’s conclusion, it becomes hard to tell if the man Scaramanga has passed out and been replaced by Richard D. James or not – this is FIRE.
“Alonely” stumbles into the room after this, about ten minutes late and stinking of weed. “Alonely” has a mad story to tell us that we’re not going to believe. You see, Massive Attack have just moved into one of those glass and stainless steel apartments overlooking The River Thames, and they don’t do anything in it, apart from listen to “Alonely” and gaze out the window. “Alonely” was only able to escape and tell us his mad story because Massive Attack all went for a piss at the same time, or Tricky showed up in the kitchen, or something. “Alonely” doesn’t know the facts, he can’t remember. “Alonely” wants to know if we have any snacks?
Within a few minutes “Alonely” is passed out on your couch, and he’s having a nice dream. His dream is called “Return To The One”, and it features an early club mix of a KLF song from the future. He can almost hear the
“Eter-naaal” sample drifting in and out of this late night soundscape. He’s right there, in the back of Ford Timelord, being driven over Tower Bridge by Rockman Rock and Kingboy D. The year is 2023, and everything is cool. Very cool. “Alonely” likes the future. Everything is going to be alright.
“Life In The Faslow Lane” is an ode to living in London in the here and now. However, sonically, this is the sound of the Scottish underground, from Glasgow artists like Rustie, through to nights like Wonky Wallpaper in Edinburgh. This track is the track that is warping minds and turning dance floors into neon jigsaw puzzles in the land where Mars bars are deep fried. By the end of “Life In The Faslow Lane” you will also be deep fried.
Suitably spun out, “Blind Truth” comes in to have a little chat with you. You have never met “Blind Truth” before, but since “Blind Truth” has brought you over a cold one, you decide to open your ears. You then hear “We are all the same. We are all in complete darkness.”. You nod in agreement. The cold one is nice after all. You have made a new friend at a good time, because the BEST song on the album is about to drop!
“Speak Without Tongues [With Low Poet]” is a TOTAL MONSTER of a track. It would be a standout tune on a Boiler Room set by Dave Clarke or Ben Klock if it was given the chance. This is the sound of the worlds finest DJ’s playing on the biggest sound systems on the planet. The bass line, the distortion, oh my! There’s some classic late 1980’s stuff going on here as well. I’d say it’s the record that would be made if Laurent Garnier, Caberet Voltaire and 808 State spent a Saturday in a studio together. If you are a DJ then I really can’t recommend this track highly enough. Wherever you’re playing, this is going to deliver the goods. It’s an absolute stormer. Just remember who told you though, as you now owe me a drink someday.
The “Designer Scribble” album concludes with “The Voyage Beyond Andromeda Suite”. This was inspired by Goldie and The Prodigy. (Part 1) “Soaring Above” is dark. Really dark. It’s the song that plays in your head when you’re walking alone at night, convinced that you’re being followed. This track will offer you no comfort, and no place to hide. So, don’t bother looking for either. (Part 2) “They Have Taken Control” is the kind of thing you would hear at an illegal Rave in a disused quarry at 4am – not that I would know anything about that kind of thing, officer. (Part 3) “Day Of A New Dawn [With B-Fink]” closes the album in a way that even Orbital would be proud of. It loops, twists, flickers and dances through the smoke and strobe lights in the all-life Rave that anyone who has ever truly loved Dance music holds a never ending Access All Areas pass for. It concludes like some strange death and rebirth experience. All it’s missing is a church bell tolling in the distance at the end, but you can solve that by playing this loudly near a church sometime between now and The End.
In conclusion, this is an album worth owning. It seems to grow in stature somehow with each new play. Stick this on at an after party and all will be well. Scaramanga Silk is a producer that plays hard. He tries to break the machines down and get them to speak a new language. He makes genres collide to create “Heritage Hybrids”, and on “Designer Scribble” that wild experimentation has REALLY worked. Providing he can keep this up he has a VERY bright future ahead of him. Get on it. Buy the ticket, take the ride!
“Designer Scribble” is available here;
Micro Spiral Store: http://microspiral.com/shop/
If you’d like to try before you buy, you can have a listen here;
Album review by Stephen Clarke 1980