Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Luke Vibert as Amen Andrews and the Cultural Impact of the Amen Break

I love music. Everything it about it. I like to listen, think, feel, discover and research music in all it's many forms. I'm also incredibly interested in the development, origins and influences of not only bands but sounds, scenes and genres themselves. I came across a documentary through a friend some time ago which was made by a chap called Nate Harrison in 2004. The video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip. That clip was a 6 second drum break taken from the B-side of a single released in 1969 by a funk band called The Winstons. That 6 seconds of drums changed the course of music forever and spawned a whole new sound, scene and genre which persists to this day. Once established it quickly developed, mutated, multiplied and eventually moved into the collective audio unconsciousness such was the power of the innovation that was applied to it.

Nate's documentary says far more about this break's impact on music and culture than I can and is therefore required viewing. I firmly believe that documentaries like these should be added to the National Curriculum and show in schools as part of music lessons, such is their cultural importance.

In 2005, Nate also created a fascinating documentary about the impact of the Roland TB-303 bassline generator on modern music and culture which, like his previous work is indispensable. 

Cornish electronics wrangler Luke Vibert released a series of five vinyl only EP's on the Rephlex imprint in 2003 under the name of Amen Andrews. The name being a rather amusing mashup of the Amen break and late British TV personality Eamonn Andrews who adorns each of the covers. The tracks contained on these 12"s were all fantastic examples of what could be done with the humble Amen break. Sliced, diced and pasted back together in ridiculous combinations with all of Vibert's influences running riot - no boundaries, sometimes at insane BPM's. It's all here really; ultra thick bass drops, screwed up junglist samples, sickly easy listening strings, ambient textures, early rave synths… and course, that 6 second drum break from 1969. There have been many, many fine examples of the use of the Amen break over the years but as an introduction to one of it's most innovative practitioners, the Amen Andrews series is essential listening.

Want to hear more? Seek out Vibert's two albums under the Plug moniker ('Drum 'n' Bass for Papa' and 'Back on Time') which collect together a plethora of previously issued, vinyl only tracks recorded a few years after the Amen Andrews series. The Amen break is still present but, two years down the line, Vibert clearly has many more ideas of how to develop it's sound, structure and versatility within his own eclectic framework of influences.

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