Old Codes – New Chaos
2014 – artistxite / Old Codes – New Chaos
Released in 1994, “Old Codes New Chaos” was the first album of British electronic folk duo Fila Brazillia. Steve Cobby and David McSherry brought together electronica, ambient, techno, rock and funk in a way that had almost never been heard before, and as such, can be considered the grandfather’s of downtempo in Great Britain. 20 years later, we have the release of the “20th Anniversary Edition”, containing the 12 tracks from the original album and adding 4 new ones. A treasure for nostalgics looking to get back to the start of this sound. “Old Codes New Chaos” in its new anniversary production sounds quite smooth in comparison with later albums like “Maim That Tune” or “Power Clown”, but it does provide a multifaceted impression of a sound that has lost none of its power even after 20 years
Marco Fuchs, artistxite
2014 – Bill Brewster / Old Codes – New Chaos, 20th Anniversary remaster
The sniggering could be heard across the country as Hull was awarded the City of Culture mantle for 2017. But the jokers have got it all wrong. This geographically isolated outpost in East Yorkshire has been a cultural hub for decades, the place where Larkin thrived, where John Godber helped revive the Hull Truck Theatre, the home of Alan Plater. And the Spiders weren’t from Mars, they were from Hull. More recently, there have been The Red Guitars, Everything But The Girl and the Housemartins, not forgetting venues like the Adelphi (over 30 years and still going strong), The Welly Club and Spiders.
And not forgetting the matter at hand: Fila Brazillia, born out of the cottage industry that was Pork Recordings (many of whom were also from the East Riding), a label that showed what true independence could be, safely tucked away from the clutches of London’s venal influence.
The first time I ever heard Fila Brazillia was sometime in 1993. I was tuned into the then-reliable Judge Jules’ show on Kiss FM. The track caught my ear partially because it contained a sample from one of my favourite funk bands (no names, no pack drill), but also because it was so effortlessly funky, fusing the drive of early house with the thrill of hip hop’s samplemania. The tune was the aptly titled ‘Pots & Pans’ and I was an instant fan.
‘Pots & Pans’ appears on Old Codes New Chaos, Steve Cobby and David ‘Man’ McSherry’s classic debut album on Pork. Much has changed in the interim. Spurn Point, the star of the original artwork, has been half washed away, Hull City has gone from nearly bankrupt and in the Third Division to halfway up the Premiership with a new stadium, though thankfully Hull’s phone boxes are still cream.
As well as their admirable insistence of retaining both their independence and sanity (Cobby having had his fingers burnt during his stint on Big Life with Ashley & Jackson), their music, too, was a unique mix of anything and everything: junk shop funk. Old Codes is a mess of old breaks lashed over the top of house rhythms, public information speeches distended and warped, eerie Brian Eno keyboard pads, Latin percussion, while on ‘Mermaids’ they sound like Mr Fingers offering a tribute to the Robinson Crusoe Theme. You can hear everything from the Sheffield post-punk bands like Chakk and Cabaret Voltaire to My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Virgo Four to De La Soul, all forced through the East Riding mincer to make something uniquely theirs.
Subsequently, the duo has gone on to record ten albums, as well as over 70 remixes from a diverse range of artists that includes Simple Minds, Radiohead, Busta Rhymes as well as one of my favourite remixes of all time (thanks to its bowel-worrying bassline), Fluke’s ‘Tosh’. There’s also their inimitable taciturn northern humour that runs through the centre of everything they have done like the letters H.U.L.L. in a stick of rock (who else would have called their tenth album Dicks? Geddit?)
So here they are in all their amber and black finery. Twenty years on and musically undimmed. Ladies and gentlemen, Old Codes New Chaos.
1994 – Mixmag / Old Codes – New Chaos
Buried Treasure… The one that got away.
There can be little doubt that this is one of the best dance music albums ever made. Released in 1994, the debut album from Fila Brazillia was launched into a world before big beat and trip hop took hold, but after the first flush of Orb and ELF-inspired ambient. Coming after the initial chunky Leftfield-style house of the first Pork releases, but before the spliff took hold and Pork got stuck into their current down ‘n’ easy groove we now all love so well, this album is truly unique.
Those speech samples place it in an early Nineties framework and are every bit as effective as The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds’ ‘Serratia Marcescans’ mixes glittering ambient with the rambling reminiscences of a bunch of GIs fucked on acid. It’s as brilliant as it sounds. Then tracks like ‘The Light of Jesus’ and ‘Pots & Pans’ pick up the pace with some chunky grooves that would fit in well enough at any Ibiza beach-front cafe. In places this has a
lolling, hyper-cool, chill-out groove, such as on the supreme trip hop departure ‘The Sheriff’. In others it’s up and in your face. But it’s always funky and always supremely melodic… a bit like a Sasha set on valium. In other words it’s as essentially Balearic as a bottle of San Miguel outside Cafe Mambo. All the more surprising, then that the album is made by a bunch of stoners from Hull who have never been to the White Island. Any Fila Brazillia album is worth buying, but if you can manage to track this down, this alone it is worth its weight in lbizan gold.
Frank Tope, Mixmag
1994 – DJ Magazine / Old Codes – New Chaos
As there is a fear of ever buying a car that came off the production line on a Friday night then it should follow that there is a fear of buying albums that were reviewed by journalists on Sunday afternoons So don’t say I didn’t warn you but I’m doing just that now and take all Sunday afternoon advice – this albums a real corker. Produced by a band whose name has been banded around ‘trendy’ circles for a while and who have continually turned out well-crafted, solid singles. This pisses all over the wishy washiness of many people trying to create funky ambient sounds and if I was gonna compare, and I can’t help myself, picks up from where Ultramarine’s ‘ Every Man and Woman is a Star’ left off. A healthy seventy six minutes and a brilliant watercolour print on the cover – don’t wait for Christmas.
Gordon Knott, DJ Magazine
2006 Soul Seduction / Retrospective
Genres come, buzzwords go and styles fizzle and fade, but one thing that has remained constant in dance music’s perpetual shape-shifting is Fila Brazillia. ‘Retrospective’ represents the very best of a musical partnership deserving a well-overdue pat on the back for its longevity and ability to give competition the slip by remaining elusively hard to classify.
To celebrate ten albums and twelve years at the top of their game, Dave McSherry and Steve Cobby bring together material from every single album in the FB back catalogue – starting with 1994’s debut, the ambient house explorations of ‘Old Codes New Chaos’, to the tongue-in-cheek in-joking of 2004 that was ‘Dicks’ – that over the last decade have gained plaudits for fun and spanned a myriad of eye-catching artwork and mind-bending track titles.
Peers and contemporaries ranging from Groove Armada to Richard Dorfmeister, Luke Vibert to Lemon Jelly, have all given FB the thumbs up; not to mention the countless acts that have queued round the block for remix treatment Fila Brazillia-style, which in itself has produced two full-length remix projects, and magazines that have been lavishing the pair with praise year in year out. Mixmag, Straight No Chaser, NME and The Face but a handful of publications that have bowed down and witnessed the strength of Cobby & McSherry’s dalliances in freestyle techno, experimental electronica and 360° funk that have crossed the borders into deep house, drum & bass, lounge-hop and general technology tomfoolery along the way.
Such is the twosome’s talents that their music has made its mark both on small-screen blockbusters (CSI, Sex and the City) and cult cinema viewing (Dogtown, Riding Giants). FB‘s mass appeal is based not only in terms of being ideal fodder for clubbers wanting to prolong their night’s shape-throwing, but through decade-old material still sounds completely fresh, Fila’s fine wine maturity having zigzagged across the entire ambient/chill-out/whatever you wanna call it section.
Which is what ‘Retrospective’ is primarily all about – a soundtrack for those stumbling in at all hours or in need of audio massage, with curveballs thrown in to keep ears cocked; whether it be ‘Soft Music Under Stars’ with its sitar shimmer and shine, or the big freaky beats of ‘You Wont’ Let Me Rock’. And with more, brand new Fila material on the way, this is the ideal opportunity for newcomers to experience their legacy first hand, and for fans to take a step back and remember why they became followers of the Fila philosophy in the first place.
The Editor, Soul Seduction
2006 iTunes / Retrospective
Fila Brazillia never sold in the same numbers as some of their companions in the British electronica breaks scene of the ’90s, but the reason they stayed under the radar is the same reason their recordings were so good. Unlike the stadium breaks of those who went overground quickly circa 1997, Brazillia kept their music loose and free of gimmicks – in that, they were true siblings to the electronic listening music championed in the ’90s by Warp.
Retrospective 1990-2006 has 14 examples of what made Fila Brazillia so special, although the fact that is sticks to LP tracks only and fails to include anything from their first EPs makes for a good opportunity untaken. Cobby and McSherry made surprisingly little artistic progression, instead remaining true to a vision of electronically enhanced but drowsy funk that was intelligent and subtle throughout their early career. It’s remarkably easy to draw a line from “The Sheriff” (1993) to “Nutty Slack” (2004) that makes it sound as though as a few months had passed, not ten years of electronica evolution.
2004 Resident Advisor / Dicks
UK duo Fila Brazillia are producers Steve Cobby and Dave McSherry, having kept on going after collecting enough tunes after their April 2004 release “The life and Times of Phoebus Brumal” their latest release is their tenth album over as many years. French for ten Dicks coincidently has 23 track the same digits as their own 23 Records label, as well as releasing separate solo projects with Steve Cobbys “96” Solid Doctor and Dave “Man” McSherry Mandrillus Sphynx on 23 Records in 2003, the question remains, how do you release two albums in one year, squeeze recording in and run a label. With their first recording off Pork recordings in 1990 Over the past decade Fila Brazillia have built a reputation as extremely sought after remixes, with the likes of Busta Rhymes, Radiohead, Sven Vath and other reworks.
With Dicks being a less dance floor orientated as previous album “Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal” or Stylewise, this album sums up the word eclectic, taking tunes all over the place. You can tell how much fun they had making it. Sidearms And Parsnips rides along with the familiar Fila moniker with muted percussion, guitar riffs and background filtered sounds with a down tempo groove, harmonica samples and nice kit fills. Shellac has a drawn out beat backed up with a synth baseline and keyboard stabs to shades of what came of the previous album. D’Avros slides in a full interlude, meshing in electro synth chords, backed up by some bongo beats and more of the fuzz guitar. Bringing in the banjo ‘Kiss My Whippet’ bounces along with strummed campfire guitar over junked up beats. Ballon hinges on the hip hop tip with more of the abundant electric guitar riffs which run into more keyboard lightly feathering in between making for a lush tune, running with the Fila sound. The Goggle Box (Their 12″ EP release on a big pink bit of vinyl) picks up the BPM’s with electro synths stabs meshed with lounge fuelled house beats that wander around a light track with a touch of funk serving up a nice tune. Doggin starts up with the revving of engines, dropping in some lucid bass guitar with flowing synthy chords and filtered beeps and breaks, taking in turn what a Fila track is renowned for, a form of placid mayhem. Bringing the album full circle is the 23rd on track on the viscously pink CD Septentrion twist in some subtle smooth turntable effects with percussion layered in amongst tempered cymbal fills, live concert piano sounds and a double bass hailing out of a Dingee jazz club.
Number 10 from Fila Brazilia, Dicks saturates your palate with everything and anything, sometimes feeling like your eating your dinner and desert all blended up and served as a shake. Loaded up with everything from the psychedelic rock, breaks infused electro and throwing some sampled material for good measure, and don’t forget that Banjo ! Once again, Fila Brazillia throw out an eclectic album as ever which has given them their status as some very well respected, cracked up, remix bandits. At least you can find “that” pink CD when your looking for it.
Perry, Resident Advisor
The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal
2005 – Amazon / The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal
Just when you think these guys are at the top of their game musically, the amazing duo of Fila Brazillia comes out with a new group of original sounding tracks that surpass their previous releases. “The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal” sounds like nothing else FB has done, offering the listener a vast array of organic funk, breakbeat, rock, house and yeeees even…(cringing)…rap – albeit the tolerable kind. I can’t actually grasp the album concept just yet, but I’m satisfied in knowing that I have another CD from FB that I can enjoy over and over again, discovering something different each time I listen. Stand out tracks to me without a doubt are: “Romantic Adventure”, “Madame Le Fevre”, “Blowhole” and “In the Kingdom of Sound”… although each track is amazing in its own right. Highly Recommended!!!
Darrell L. Lee, Amazon
See/hear The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal
2004 – Amazon / The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal
The Fila’s are some sort of a miracle. It’s hard to comprehend where those mega-producers get their ideas from – I mean they throw their stuff at the masses as if it’s lying in their backyard. Yet every release is full of twists and turns that sound fresh and new and in a way unheard before. ‘Pheobus’ is another masterpiece…
…although it had to grow on me. At first I expected it to be a bit laid back. Well, although it’s definitely downbeat it’s not dozy a la K&D Hanging out somewhere,resting your limbs, listening to some meditative beats – forget it! This album will have you on your feet flippin’ away! Especially the first third of the album is devoted to fat drums and screaming guitars with ‘Blowhole’ being some sort of a climax. After that it goes into smoother waters…
My personal favourites are the pieces with blaring brass (namely ‘Thatched Neon’ and the ambient smasher ‘Uberboff’). ‘Madam Levefre’ is one of the funkiest pieces of music I’ve heard this year.
Anyway, a great album. Again. Buy!
Monsieur Le Fevre, Amazon
See/hear The Life and Times of Phoebus Brumal
Another Fine Mess
2004 – Resident Advisor / Another Fine Mess
Fila Brazillia’s party looks like being a messy Humberside affair, as the Hull boys’ selection for the setlist raises an eyebrow or two. It’s a refreshing change to see them given an uptempo compilation mix rather than more chill-out stuff, and goes to prove their versatility.
There’s a strongly Brazilian flavour at the start of this particular mess, and once the opening trio passes through Xavier Cugat, Bushy and Pepe Deluxe the scene is set. Grand Popo FC’s brilliantly titled ‘Men Are Not Nice Guys’ (not true of course) moves into a full-on carnival tune, Heiro’s ‘Ligeirin’, guaranteed to brighten any day. Swiftly replaced by the nagging hook of Jolly Music’s ‘Talco Uno’, via Tiefschwarz, the setlist veers again to Ewan Pearson’s quality retake of Goldfrapp’s ‘Strict Machine’.
Can’t get any more varied? Wrong! Now it’s time for Yello and Killing Joke, a great idea in practice but a bit unsettling given what’s gone before. Presumably the idea is you’ll be wrapped up in the mix and beyond caring at this point! So it’s left to 12″ Superstar, Tutto Matto and Mense Reents to close out.
A mix, then, that fully reflects the personality of its authors, and at least looks to do things a little differently, introducing a few new names and hitting the party button first shot.
Ben Hogwood, Resident Advisor
21 Brazilliant Remixes (B2)
2003 – BBC Collective (Editor’s Review) / 21 Brazilliant Remixes B2
The sound of Brazil, by way of Hull.
Life looks very different with a Fila Brazillia soundtrack. Why, even the dreary streets of their Hull hometown have been brightened by the Balearic sunshine Steve Cobby and Dave McSherry have been brewing, amidst the alchemical hubble-bubble of their studio, for over a decade.
Stalwarts of the sadly defunct Pork label, and now heading their own 23 imprint, the prolific pair have produced more original albums – eight at the last count – than anyone else in dance music. But they don’t just seal their own material with a kiss, as their second remix collection, 21 Brazilliant Remixes , reveals. Featuring reworkings of everyone from Teutonic techno titan Sven Vath to Japanese jazzsters United Future Organisation, it shows the boys also have a nice sideline in finding hidden new depths in tunes as well as making a silk purse from the odd sow’s ear.
“Well, the less you’re in love with a track, the easier it is,” muses Steve in his dulcet Yorkshire tones. “We try to keep the essence of the track rather than stamping all over it because doing remixes by numbers is creatively unfulfilling. But, having said that, we try to avoid tracks that we just aren’t feeling in the first place because that just makes extra work for yourself.”
But Collective feels it’s not just leftfield beats that would benefit from the Brazillian touch. They’ve rejigged Simple Minds and Busta Rhymes before now, and Steve once offered to write a new anthem for his beloved Hull FC after feeling that Eye Of The Tiger was getting a bit staid. So, with this in mind, we enquire what book, film and building they’d like a chance to tamper with.
“I think we’d take the soundtrack to Koyannasquatsi and lay it under Scarface,” Steve says. “And I know The Bible would be improved by having an ‘any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is coincidental and unintentional’ disclaimer at the start.” For the building, though, it’s back to the centre of their world. “The New Media Centre being built in Kingston-Upon-Hull would greatly benefit from an architectural mash-up,” he reckons. “We suggest thatched neon.” It would clearly be a much wider and weirder world if Fila Brazillia had their way.
Paul Clarke, BBC Collective
See/hear 21 Brazilliant Remixes
2003 – Resident Advisor / 21 Brazilliant Remixes B2
Not content with producing one remix album, the Hull production duo Fila Brazillia have made enough quality remixes to justify a sequel. Whereas the first included such illustrious names as Radiohead and The Orb, part two is a more underground selection of acts that have requested the Hull makeover.
Some of these are gems – on the uptempo first CD we have a dirty, funky reworking of Fluke’s ‘Tosh’, the uproarious ‘Soul Sauce’ via Cal Tjader and even some Sven Vath, the boys’ remake of ‘Fusion’. CD2 is more chilled and down tempo, with the likes of United Future Organisation, Tosca and Soulstice easing things down. There are occasional hints of scraping the barrel – Ben Christophers’ ‘Leaving My Sorrow Behind’ sounds like a remix by numbers to me, but most of the time the source material is reworked with colour, funk and no little humour. This makes for an essential collection if you’re a Fila / Pork Recordings fan, and well worth dabbling in to for an introduction to their sound.
Ben Hogwood, Resident Advisor
See/hear 21 Brazilliant Remixes
Three White Roses and a Budd
2011 – Discogs / Three White Roses and a Budd
Fila Brazillia teams up with the ambient piano of Harold Budd and the New Wave art rock of Bill Nelson on the THREE WHITE ROSES & A BUDD EP. The opening track, “No Shade, No Shadow,” has the drifting, sad quality that one would expect of Harold Budd, and as it loops over the length of the track, the other contributors overlay it with ominous electronics. “Adrift Amidst Les Odalisques” has a much dreamier feel to it, like sunlight dappling through leaves, and the Fila boys lay a gentle groove on top. Bill Nelson’s guitar comes to the fore on “The Airless Time,” like a howl of pain, with Budd’s piano following beside. “Blue Locus,” the final track, is almost a reflection of the opening track, but one that opens up into sparkles. Beguiling, and a fascination diversion for the Fila boys.
See/hear Three White Roses and a Budd
2003 – BBC Collective / Jump Leads
Bizarre though it may seem, the two blokes from Hull, otherwise known as the Pink Floyd of electronica – Fila Brazillia, have been working together for eight – yes, count ’em, eight, albums, each containing at least one track at least 15 minutes long, all track titles intent on outright confusion. This is their eighth, and latest offering, Jump Leads, which though hardly new (it’s been out for at least a year), I decided to revisit.
It’s bouncy opening, inexplicably titled, Bumblehaun, sets the tone for the rest of the album – a laid-back, though not entirely chilled-out set of tunes. For the die-hard FB fans, you might be shocked at the lack of a 15 minute indulgence, and dismayed at the use of (gasp) vocals on some of their tracks. But don’t worry – the lyrics are strange enough – ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round…’
Ahem. But pretensions aside, there’s enough here for everyone – there’s world-fusion on Mother Nature’s Spies, more familiar FB guitar-electronica melting pot stuff on the cute DNA, Latinised trumpeting on It’s A Knockout and Motown Coppers is souped up Shaft – served up electrofunk stylee, as they say in some parts. Hardly music to relax to – more music to drive to, if anything.
Just what do those weird and wonderful track titles mean? Who cares – indeed, it’s the music which speaks volumes, and it’s a fine, if more mainstream album which certainly contains more heart than the equally fine but soulless offerings from Zero 7.
Dick Witty, BBC Collective
See/hear Jump Leads
2002 – BIGBAER Urban Alternative Music / Jump Leads
Considered a pre-cursor to the downbeat and trip hop movement, Fila Brazillia have explored the relationship between organic instrumentation and electronic sensibility throughout the 90’s arriving logically at Jump Leads. As pioneers of a post-punk northern England musicality, their journey has been defined simply by their musical insight rather than genre specification. Dub rhythms, house beats, drum n’ bass syncopation, ambient chords, and funk arrangements have all found their way into Fila’s sound without falling into the clichéd territory of ‘eclecticism’.
See/hear Jump Leads
2002 – The Guardian / Jump Leads
Nearly a decade after Steve Cobby and David McSherry jacked in a putative career in acid jazz to develop Fila Brazillia’s mix of chilled ambient and loose-limbed funk, it seems the music-buying world has gradually come around to their homegrown and often plain sound. On this, their sixth self-released album, the Hull duo branch out from their usual output to include guitars, wailing blues harmonicas and even – shock! – songs. At its best, their sound is fibrous, organic and streets ahead of their compilation-album rivals. It’s both grown-up and delightfully daft, like Vangelis gone disco (that’s meant as a compliment). Motown Coppers flies the flag for wilfully off-centre funk with its drum’n’bass-meets-country-blues groove. Tracks such as ‘We Build Arks’ could have slipped through the cracks of an overly chilled-out nation of music-lovers, but they are transformed by singer Steve Edwards into the kind of AOR epics that wouldn’t shame Glen Campbell or Jimmy Webb. (FT)
See/hear Jump Leads
2002 – Daily Telegraph / Jump Leads
OVER the past 10 years Hull production duo Fila Brazillia (David McSherry and Steve Cobby) have made their name both as artists in their own right and with down-tempo dance remixes for acts such as UNKLE and Radiohead. At its best, their music is a triumph of understatement and quiet quality, at worst it can be dull as ditchwater.
Decorated with a close-up shot of a set of car jump leads, this eighth album clearly aims to dispel all notions of dreariness, mainly through the presence of singer Steve Edwards. His vocal style – Chris Rea jammimg as the sun sets on a family barbecue – lends the album a curious folky tone. The resulting sound is not unappealing, a hybrid of funk and cowpoke blues that delivers a pleasing emotional boost.
Tom Horan, Daily Telegraph
See/hear Jump Leads
2003 – BBC Collective / FB@V&A
Not really an out-and-out proper LP, this little – though I use that term very loosely – snippet from the boys from Brazillia is a recording of when they were playing at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
It seems that the Museum is rather anxious to throw off its fusty old coat to have a new, trendy, even ‘alternative’ covering – and by getting FB to be resident in their halls, they move one step closer to achieving that dream.
But enough mutton dressed as lamb, and let’s have a peek at the music. I can almost hear the crowd of die-hard Fila fans as this CD contains just two tracks (boo!), both at 25 minutes long (hooray!), but with the predictable track titles (hiss!) of Victoria and Albert. Not that the track titles denote anything separate – run the two tracks together with a crossfader and you might just think it’s all one long 50 minute track.
It’s not traditional FB sounds either. There are no beats, no bass, in fact – no rhythm section to speak of. This is pure ambient music – bloops and bleeps, with the odd sampled strain of music to bring you back to some familiar ground. However, that’s all it is – for 50 minutes.
On the plus side, however, it’s lovely, unobtrusive background music – you know it’s there, but you’re not completely aware of it. It adds to, rather than creates an atmosphere – and I’m guessing, that’s what the music was for in the first place. You would be hard-pressed to get more chilled than this.
Should you get this CD though? Perhaps only if you seek to enlarge your Fila collection, but for an introduction to their music – you’re better off with something else.
Witty Ditty, BBC Collective
2002 – BIGBAER Urban Alternative Music / Brazilification
Brazilification [Remixes 95-99] (2 CDs, 3 lps – released 2000), a double CD showcasing some of Fila Brazillia’s best remixes. Truly excellent CD, chilled out to perfection most of the time. Worth getting if only for the fabulous remixes of Radiohead and Moloko.
AllMusic / Brazilifaction
Just like Kruder & Dorfmeister’s excellent K&D Sessions, Fila Brazillia’s Brazilification is a continuous-mix set of down-tempo remixes spanning two discs, and it’s just as stellar a compilation of material, too. Though Fila Brazillia doesn’t quite have the reputation on the decks, like K&D they’d been not only one of the busiest remixing teams during the late ’90s but also one of the best. As you’d expect from the cover photo, which shows the anoraked pair larking about on a hillside, the duo knows how to have fun; they toy with their vocoders to give a hilarious canary-in-a-ring-modulator effect to the vocals of Moloko’s Roisin Murphy on their remix of “Lotus Eaters.” Though many of the best remixes come on the first disc (Radiohead’s “Climbing up the Walls,” U.N.K.L.E.’s “Berry Meditation,” the Orb’s “Toxygene”), one of Brazillia’s best moments on wax – the alternately blissful and drum-heavy rework of Lamb’s “Cottonwool” — finally appears late on the second disc. For those too busy to track down remixes, Brazilification is not only a perfect complement to the Pork Recordings pair but a worthy introduction.
John Bush – AllMusic
Another Later Night
2002 – BIGBAER Urban Alternative Music / Another Late Night
Another Late Night opens with John Barry’s hauntingly rich “Persuader’s Theme” and takes the listener deeper into mood with “Firefly” by Homelife. Next is the old skool hip hop “Hero Theme” from the Infesticons who keep it underground and interesting with lines like “post my testicles on virtual e-mail.” Prince Alla’s dub track, “Bucket Bottom” lifts the tone to upbeat & mellow rasta dance grooves. “Get A Move On” by Mr. Scruff is one track you will not forget, ever. Thirties style muted jazz trumpet combines with downtempo beats and early jazz period vocals. This track alone is reason to own Another Late Night. The orchestrated diversity includes soul icon, Marvin Gaye’s “T Plays it Cool” – percussion driven jazz funk which leads into “Regiment”, Brian Eno’s hypnotic middle-eastern master-piece, which first appeared on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the highly collectable collaboration from creative geniuses Brian Eno and David Byrne.
2001 – Toronto Star / Another Late Night
For 10 years, Cobby and fellow Fila Dave McSherry have been creating diverse, adventurous sounds. Spacious, chilled and always highly musical, their six albums for Pork Records put the tiny Hull, UK, label on the map by surprising and delighting heads and hearts around the globe. And they did this without interviews, press photos or advertising — no small feat in the pre-international ‘net-work days.
“We wanted to make the music the sole focus,” offers the amiable Cobby. “Admittedly, it was a kind of purist, almost Stalinist approach, but it’s not that we were ever wilfully reclusive. A lot of people had us down as Syd Barrett or something, but we never wanted to force our ideas down people’s throats, ’cause there’s a subtle approach to the music.
“From the outset, we wanted to do things in the studio that would surprise us, and hopefully surprise and intrigue others. If we did have a sound, as most bands do, and we’d done eight albums of it, we’d be tearing our hair out now. We still look forward to going in to the studio ’cause it’s like, ‘Oh, what kind of trickery can we get up to next?’ It’s not a wanton, experimentalist, Stockhausen art-noise terror approach; if anything, we try to bridge the gap between art and pop. It sounds so snooty, but the interest factor of art coupled with the immediacy and passion of pop creates a richer pie. We’ve always been trying to make pop for adults.” He punctuates his thoughts with a self-conscious laugh.
See, the thing is that Fila Brazillia remember that there have been many periods in history where pop music has managed to be both challenging and popular. It’s their shared sense of hope, history and humour that inspired Fila to form their own twentythree label to release album seven in 1999, and has carried them through to the creation of Jump Leads, due out early in 2002.
“We just got a little bit more proactive and came out of the bunker,” says Cobby of the decision to leave Pork and reach out a little further to audiences. Along the way, they’ve also produced more than 60 remixes for artists ranging from Radiohead and Lamb to Busta Rhymes, DJ Food, Black Uhuru and The Orb. Oh, and Cobby has engineered and produced tracks for artists like former Afghan Whig Greg Dulli’s Twilight Singers project.
“We have been called contrary,” admits Cobby, “but I don’t think we are. We’re waving the flag for variety.”
Same thing goes with Cobby and Fila’s approach to DJing. Absorb their new Another Late Night mix CD — which moves beautifully through the sounds of Marvin Gaye, Mr. Scruff, the Beta Band, Brian Eno, Kelis and others — for a taste. Like me, Cobby has little time for singularly minded DJs. “Too often it’s like, ‘We just want a load of jigsaw pieces that all fit together nicely. Give us the modular music,'” he sputters. “It’s important for us to remember those tapes we did for our friends when we were growing up, that attitude, just that beautiful variety. Real people at home have got collections with lots of different things, but DJ culture suggests that everybody should be a specialist. I just find that turgid. I want to be excited and surprised and mystified by a DJ!”
Denise Benson, Toronto Star
A Touch of Cloth
2004 – Amazon / A Touch of Cloth
Not only do I think that this is Fila Brazillia’s best album, it is also one of the best albums that I have ever heard. I don’t think there is a bad track on it and it is completely different to anything else you will listen to. It effortlessly blends electronica to other genres like folk, jazz and funk music. Like all of the best albums it takes a few listens to get the most out of it, but it is album that I still listen to regularly even though its a good 5 years old. Highly recommended.
Spenser Carey, Amazon
See/hear A Touch Of Cloth
2002 – Amazon / A Touch of Cloth
This is the first Fila album I bought, and I admit that it took a couple of listens to get into. Disco, funk, and laid-back smoker’s tunes are all here, and they’re good ones too. It is most certainly not an album for the cheesy-dance minded out there, nor is it necessarily an album for those who want to tune in and drop out (though it can serve this purpose admirably!). It’s quite difficult to come up with a “sounds like” for this one, but I would point out that there is an excellent balance between up tempo tracks, and more relaxed ones, so it won’t have you nodding off half way through!
If anyone is tempted, give it a go, and if you’re a DJ, I defy you not to use the first track at a stage when your audience needs a lift (provided they are intelligent enough to appreciate it).
In summary, I’d say this album is like warm sweet coffee accompanied by a cinnamon Danish. It makes you feel nice in your tummy!
Chris (Grangemouth), Amazon
See/hear A Touch Of Cloth
2001 – Amazon / A Touch of Cloth
Fila Brazillia have been honing their art for over 10 years, and this seventh studio album bears the mark of that experience. More uptempo than many of their previous outings, Touch of Cloth still carries that trademark quirkiness that the Hull-based funkateers have come to represent over the years. As usual with Fila albums, a definite style is difficult to ascertain, as their sounds range from funk to dub to soul to hip hop to broken beat to ambient — usually all in the same track
What makes Fila stand out is their knowledge of all kinds of music styles and their ability to weave it all into a cohesive whole.
Starting with the confident kick of “The Bugs Will Bite”, the album offers example after example of intriguing musical craftsmanship. There’s the unassailable mellow funk feel of “Airlock Homes”, the ambient expedition that is Spore, some animated optimism on the cheeky “Swann Todd” and straight-up quirk on tracks like “Ridden Pony” and the slamming “Pigsblood and Chalk”. Once again, Fila rise to the challenge of making new and original music with a recording packed with so many ideas and influences that it manages to stay fresh and lively from start to finish.
Paul Sullivan, Amazon
See/hear A Touch Of Cloth
2001 – Amazon / A Touch of Cloth
FB‘s first ‘proper band’ album, after its largely ‘electronica’ predecessors. Fantastically self-assured and original – elements of jazz, reggae, funk and synth are all blended into this whirlwind concoction. Just check out track one (The Bugs Will Bite)- Frantic beat… strange vocal bursts… what sounds like a Pat Metheny sample… then after 2mins the bass player arrives at the studio and kicks off an epic funk workout. Inventive, fun, serious, innovative, exciting and (here’s that word again) essential. Buy it. Play it. Love it. Forever.
A. Customer, Amazon
See/hear A Touch Of Cloth
2006 iTunes / Power Clown
The eclecticism and organic warmth of Fila Brazillia’s electronica continue to amaze on Power Clown, one of their finest efforts to date. Laid-back jazz-funk grooves straight out of the ’70s are the foundation of the record, but hints of Stevie Wonder-esque soul, hip-hop, bossa nova, ambient, spacey techno, house, minimalist electro, big-beat and trip-hop all pop up here and there, as do touches of ethnic percussion, acoustic guitar, saxophone solos, new age-y synth flourishes, and the occasional odd vocal sample or sound effect. What really pushes Power Clown over the top, though, is that the group maintains their focus throughout, never meandering and changing things up often enough to keep the grooves from becoming repetitive. One of the finest and most over-looked electronic-dance releases of 1998.
See/hear Power Clown
2002 BIGBAER Urban Alternative Music / Power Clown
A 1998 classic of downtempo magic! Perhaps Fila’s most endearing album release. Postmodern funk, Latino beats and the soulful ambience of 70s blaxploitation soundtracks.
See/hear Power Clown
1998 – Mixmag (Musik) / Power Clown
Another stone-cold classic of downtempo magic from the Hull mystery man. But did you expect anything less? As intricate, funky, heart-warming, soul-grabbing and downright groovy as anything on Pork so far, there’s a subtle assuredness and fizzing sleight-of-hand at play here which makes you wonder why Mr Fila hasn’t yet achieved Air-like fame. Soon to come, perhaps.
Calvin Bush, Mixmag
See/hear Power Clown
1998 – Mixmag Update / Power Clown
With Powerclown Cobby and McSherry have produced their most mature and finely tuned album to date. Their work has never been based around major hooks, but instead has always glowed brightest when taken as a rich backdrop made up of subtle and intricate colours. On first listen this is not as obvious or accessible as their past albums. The influence of house has almost totally vanished and we are left with a collection of highly detailed and highly derailed pieces where the subtle fusion of breaks, harps, guitars and funk becomes the hook itself. As ever the wacky humour is there, but there are no cheap thrills or soundtracks for pills for the small minded.
Rob Wood, Mixmag Update
See/hear Power Clown
Luck Be a Weirdo Tonight
1997 – Wired / Luck Be a Weirdo Tonight
Englishman Steve Cobby throws everything to chance, recording under more than a handful of pseudonyms for the fiercely independent and obscure Pork Recordings. Amazingly enough, his hedged bets have seemed to payoff, especially his collaboration with Dave McSherry. The East Yorkshire-based duo is known as Fila Brazillia and has spent the last five years blending every conceivable strain of modern electronic dance music into a funky health shake for those of us grown queasy with the usual fare.
Luck Be a Weirdo Tonight is Fila’s fifth full-length, marking yet another shift in its alchemical approach to music. It’s easy to keep up with the tongue-in cheek song titles (“Do the Hale-Bopp,” “Pollo de Palo”), but quite another thing to get a handle on what it is they do musically. You can’t sum Fila Brazillia up with a short phrase or half-baked genre grouping, probably because the duo’s grooves are so entirely immersive, you can’t and don’t want to deconstruct them.
Evident on this release is the pairing’s experimentation with folk, added generously to songs like the soulful “Rustic Bellyflop” and “Billygoat Groupies:’ Requisite acoustic guitar loops, re-created woodwinds, and underplayed electronics are whirled together and accented by the snap of a hip hop snare. In general, the break beats found in Luck Be a Weirdo Tonight takes on the properties of the more organic elements, giving the album a unique cadence and flavor.
Like few other neo-instrumentalists, Fila Brazillia’s fusion feels natural and relaxed: loose, inflated grooves float along like dirigibles riding on warm wafts of sustained organ, low-frequency scrabbling, and reverb-drenched solos. By shifting subtly from jazz to funk to sylvan ballad, Fila Brazillia manages to sidestep the trappings and the criticisms of “electronica” – and kick out some amazing music in the process. This Luck ain’t dumb.
Dan Sicko, Wired
See/hear Luck Be a Weirdo Tonight
Black Market Gardening
1996 – The Fly / Black Market Gardening
When I first played this album I thought to myself I don’t have to listen to this more than once to tell anybody it is sheer brilliance, although I have listened to it more than once. In fact I have listened to nothing else since I got hold of it! It’s one of those albums you absolutely melt over with delight at its beauty. It’s a little like Nightmares On Wax, as a guide to Fila Brazillia’s style, just in case you’ve never heard them before
This stuff is laid back smokin’ music done with intelligence and much thought. Not to be listened to when driving or operating heavy machinery, it is liable to send you off into a trance like state at any moment. Filling your mind with serenity and peacefulness, this album could easily replace marijuana, and at around £10 for a lifetime supply, it’s a bargain. ‘Obrigado’ is a cool basement jazz bar type of track – very mellow. ‘Snake Ranger’ is like some jazzed-up ambient track, and has me so catatonic I only realise I’m being drawn into a comatose state when the occasional complementary little riff kicks in, causing momentary alertness. This totally takes over body and soul, leaving a pleasantly stoned feeling.
‘Wigs, Bifocals and Nourishment’ is a trippy funky disco tune, but not too fast to detract from the down-tempo mood of Black Market Gardening. Wonderful. All the tracks on this album are fab, groovy, cool, funky mind-melters. They don’t so much play with your mind soften it slightly, giving you time to forget about the outside world and get wrapped up in a warm blanket of tranquillity. I could go on about this album all day, but you’ll understand that when you hear it. This is more than I ever dreamed music could be. It should be labelled ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. Try saying mellow without saying mmmm.
Stephen King, The Fly
See/hear Black Market Gardening
Andyman5 / Black Market Gardening
Black Market Gardening is Fila Brazillia at the peak of creativity. Few other bands can create such a “live feel” with so much technology. Black Market combines downtempo stone cold chillers with hustlin’ latin soul and disco and deep space vibe like few other records. ‘Blubber Plinth’ changes effortlessly from a trip hop hazer to out and out break beat stomper and tracks like ‘Xique Xique’ and ‘Onc Mongani’ roll on forever in blissful phased and reverbed crescendo’s. It all comes crashing down with the brilliantly mono-toned and thunder filled July 23rd. This crop was well tended and raised in the sunlight of high summer and nurtured to bring about one of the finest vintages of its time.
See/hear Black Market Gardening
1996 – Magic Feet / Black Market Gardening
A veritable one-man funk industry and no mistaking. Opener ‘Obrigado’ is a subtle, swaying, brief lead-In to another impeccable CD from Fila. ‘Snake Ranger’ is all cool carnival restraint. ‘Little Dipper’ contains a genuinely funny goofball vocal sample which sits perfectly with the rasping Rhodes ‘n’ flutes ‘n’ bass-drumrockln’-hi-hat-tockin’ junky funky funk. ‘Blubber Plinth’ (ace, subversive titles and all) rides in on a phat wall of analogue bass, horns parplng In all the right places then proceeds to be a platform for Mr Cobby to prove that rapid-fire jungle rhythms can be reproduced by a human drummer with the balls and skills for it (see also Red Snapper’s stlcksman Richard Thair). ‘Butter My Mask’ para-glides through the ether on great thermals of strings, restrained guitar, lush drumming and a chirpy wee melody. ‘Wigs Bifocals And Nurishment’ bounces along over a very cheerful disco string loop and will make you smile. ‘Xique Xique’ is an understated Samba hoedown in Rio via Kingston-upon-Hull, New Yorkshire. ONC Mongaani’ is a midnight magic carpet ride to far-off, mystical places and is quite, quite beautiful ‘July 23’ closes this fine LP on a quiet note. Still so good after all these albums, long live Fila Brazillia!
Andy McCall Smith, Magic Feet
See/hear Black Market Gardening
1996 – Mixmag / Mess
Fila Brazillia are back with some top funky chill-out gear to follow the wondrous Old Codes: New Chaos. And while the same – sublime blending of jazz, soul, funk and gentle acid surrounds the lazy breaks, ‘Mess’ sees them flip the script and get a little loose and, – just occasionally, a little loony riffs about beats, this album they’re bigger, phatter, chunkier than ever before. Like the way ‘Big Saddle’ cuts from one wild, funky break to another, like someone rapidly cross fading two records. Or the way the hard, slow, rock rhythm slides into the guitar and piano chords of ‘But Momma’. Or the way ‘Laying Down The Law On The Lard’ is seriously funky in a very laidback kinda way.
There’s still classic Fila styles in evidence, as they luck with formulas yet never lose their subtle musicality, ‘Soft Music Under Stars’ for instance, where lush chords, a stalking bass and a sitar play with each other while the drums climb unstoppably in. Or the Spaghetti Western overtures of ‘Hairy Insides’, And it’s well titled, because just as you’re settling in to another groove they’ll do something silly and you’re off somewhere else again. Whatever. Fila Brazillia have their own skewiff, gently stoned version of eclecticism and I for one will keep listening.
Maim That Tune
1995 – Muzik Magazine / Maim That Tune
Only a handful of people are really aware of the existence of Fila Brazilia. Only their friends know what they look like. But that’s no excuse for ignoring this album. Don’t miss out on their quirky confectionary of reprocessed audio-etchings any longer than you have to.
Going unrecognised has induced Fila to set their sights on becoming the terrorists of downtempo. Continually refusing to pander to mainstream diktat, the Brazilia boys have inoculated themselves against the music industry bullshit syndrome with some Do It Yourself vaccinations. They assault people’s musical sensibilities with a full-scale musical bastardisation. Which is the most likely the reason why they’ve been condemned to the outer reaches of their genre.
Following on from their slinky New Codes, New Chaos album, Maim That Tune finds Fila still tainting their leftfield grooves with stylistic impurities. And now they’re deepening the channels which irrigate their tempos with liquid mellotronics. Fila set the controls with an African mantra hovering on “A Zed & 2L’s”. The wah-wah house sound of “At Home In Space”, the Spaghetti Western’ influenced “Harmonicas Are Shite” and the scratch ‘n’ hop knee-jerk of “Leggy” all pass without a slack-jawed vinyl skunker in earshot.
Consistently putting their synths on the chopping block, this faceless twosome are producing lip-smacking music. Fila Brazilia are both weird and wonderful.
Veena Verdi, Muzik Magazine
See/hear Maim That Tune
1995 – 101 Mixmag / Maim That Tune
Do the Porksters ever really sleep? Despite the fact that most of the music is done by one bloke, the Hull-based label continues to pour out a more or less continuous stream of luxuriously lush ambient funk.
This second Fila long player takes off where last year’s brilliant album left off, jacking in most of the quasi-political speech samples in favour of a whole heap of soothing synth washes and loose-limbed funky basslines flip flopping their way through the album. Tight programmed drums range skittishly from loping funk to ‘A Zed & Two L’s romping world music junglism. Rather than falling for slo-mo trip hoppery, the effect is to create an updated jazz funk for techno fans, the sound of Carl Craig collaborating with Roy Ayers. Deceased American comedian Bill Hicks is even brilliantly sampled at one point.
Dancefloor friendly tunes like ‘Harmonicas Are Shite’ or the winsome ‘Slacker’, as well as providing superb evidence of the Pork school of stoner humour, house up the tempo, but contrive to avoid breakdown clichés in place of a delicate lightness of touch that sends you skipping happily, rather than punching the air in a “let’s ‘ave it” frenzy. Light-hearted musical cunning and dogged individuality on one blissful album. I’d reckon you’re fairly unlikely to find Fila Brazillia cropping up on ‘Let’s Go Bonkers At Ku Vol. 67’. Shame, innit?
Frank Tope, 101 Mixmag
See/hear Maim That Tune
1995 – Magasan Fran / Maim That Tune, The Solid Doctor How About Some Ether
Two excellent releases from one of the best contemporary labels around. Simple ideas turn into moving pieces and infectious jams as both Fila Brazillia and the Solid Doctor apply “less is more” production skills to their work. Judging by the liner notes it would appear that the same people are behind both projects. Nevertheless, a multitude of sounds infest the two releases, from Fila Brazillia’s minimalist ‘Subtle Body’ (an utterly entrancing tune made of only three chords) to the uplifting housey sound of the Solid Doctor’s ‘When I’m Deep’. Instant yet deep, easy but complex, the music is well crafted, state of the art and eclectic. The two albums also win best named songs award for this issue with tunes called ‘Pickyparkdickbods’, ‘Land of Dope & Tory’, ‘Extract of Pineal Gland’ and ‘Harmonica’s Are Shite’.
See/hear Maim That Tune
1994 – DJ Magazine / Slacker
Most jazzy hip hop-esque records consist of a couple of cheesy jazz chords and a funk bass, little real thought goes in, so they pass you by unnoticed. Pork material is always quirky and surprising, quite brilliant. Some of the bass and atmospherics on ‘Leggy’ remind of Andrew Weatherall’s dubby style, though overall it suits the acid jazz genre more. Throbbing, then funky, with extremely clever editing, and that delicate brass sample makes it. Feather in the cap stuff.
1994 – The Wire / Slacker
Slacker is a slow winding coil of harmonium synths, a barely beating pulse rate of near-death ambience, while the second B-side track, “Subtle Body”, is barely there at all, the merest, most delicate flatline tremor of piano. Austere and intimate solipsism from an underrated group.