Review: Hey Rube! – Can You Hear me Mutha? / Steel Tiger Records
For those of you who don’t know, a few years back, out of the ashes of perhaps one of Britains greatest labels ‘Pork Recordings’ rose Steel Tiger Records, still one of my favourite labels they have played host to some stellar releases from The Cutler, Chieftain and now this monster from Hey Rube!
A collaboration between Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder and Fila Brazillia’s Steve Cobby and recorded over a period of 4 years, you know this is gonna be proper. Now, the promo bunf says that no two songs on the album sound the same, perhaps for someone coming to this album with fresh ears that may be true but as a fan of both Cobby and Mallinders output for a long time I beg to differ. Can You Hear Me Mutha? features a combination of sounds and influences seemingly from both members singularly but coming together in a sort of sonic tag team effort, whether it be Mallinders use of heavily distorted vocals and 80s electro-boogie styled basslines or Cobbys intrinsic love of warm dubs and wafting pads, This album is straddling genres in a way that I feared had been long forgotten (with the current slew of pick n mix ipod albums). Can You Hear Me Mutha? is truly great.
Hey Rube! set the stage with the intro piece and fantastically titled ‘Rob a Bank Rob’ which kind of reminds me of an industrial Osibisa. With its tribalized, heavyweight Tom-Rolls creating a rigid framework for a mindboggling array of samples and instruments to float over. From grunts and ooohs to vibraphones and almost hawaiian sounding guitars, and all tied together with Mallinders distorted, nigh on inaudible chants ‘Rob a bank Rob’ is almost like a mind map of what’s to come.
‘Mengi Dem Disco Leggy’ seems to hark back to the more distressed boogie of mid 80’s Cabaret Voltaire with a similar feel to tracks like ‘Ghosttalk’ but with a cleaner and even stranger, more disjointed 8-bit computer game feel and featuring a fantastic subtle head nod to Chimurenga style afro pop in the form of a lovely plucking guitar theme that runs through it.
Now it seems its Cobby’s turn to step up to the plate. Track 3 ‘Scissormouth’ has a sound that seems to be a blend between Later more synth led Fila Brazillia (see ‘Motown Coppers’) and the earlier more atmospheric tracks like ‘Onc Mongaani’ but stripped of all the fanciness leaving space for some truly beautiful spacial dubbed out electronica with Mallinders, warm distorted and vocoded vocals repeating the line ‘and so passes time’.
‘Pimp Daddy’ seems to represent more of a convergence between the two, a great wonky piece of future thinking northern space-funk with Mallinder in semi rap-banter chanting “I’m Stronger than Strong” “I’m tougher than tough” “I’m smarter than smart”.
‘Kamikazee Peloton’ is a wonderfully sleazy sounding Dub-Tango inspired thing which see’s Mallinder dealing with (and this is pure supposition on my part) World politics, with the title suggesting a comparison between current world leaders and a group of suicidal cyclists, “Face-Faking, Making Nations, Great Arrangements” (seems like a safe bet to me but correct me if I’m wrong).
And then it gets dark with the aptly named ‘Shaz Tate’ (for those of you not getting that, check Sharon Tate). Now I’m not sure if Mallinders playing Manson here or not, but i’m a little scared as he repeats the line “fa-fa-fa-fa, i’m not far away” over the top of the growling bassline and sprawling drum work. Somewhere around the halfway mark the track raises itself up up to an amazing play of dark and light with fanciful Dorothy Ashby-like harps gliding beautifully over the murky undertones of the bass, drums and of course Mallinder’s psychotic whispers, I think this is my favourite track.
‘Rapture’ feels a bit like the bastard child John Carpenter and Thomas Dolby in dub and is an absolutely lush and textured combination of digital and analogue. The Album closes with the Hi Fi Holiday swing of ‘Bali Hai’ where marimbas glide over a swaggering stomp and Mallinder (backwards I think) echoing way in the distance.
The album is released today (15/10/2012), if you don’t buy it, then shame on you!