Harry Love has been spinning and making beats in the UK for as long as a lot of heads in their twenties can remember, even as a singular person he is still considered by some as a musical institution in his own right. In terms of being a DJ he was a resident at the legendary Kung Fu nights in London, spun as the DJ for the Clipse and a regular face at, what used to be London’s hip hop mecca, Deal Real Records.
On the production front it’s no exaggeration to call him the UK’s DJ Premier, not in terms of style but the fact that’s he’s worked with everyone and his standards of production are always of the highest order. There is a significant likelihood that your favourite beats that have originated from the British Isles have come from the The Pharmacy (the name of his studio). He’s produced for Blak Twang (U Know), Jehst (Staircase To Stage, Alcoholic Author), Kyza (Lights Out, Harsh Reality), Klashnekoff (It’s Murda), Mystro, Verb T as well as Pace Won of The Outsidaz and that is by no means an exhaustive list. In summary the kid from north-west London has paid his dues many times over. Although respected in the UK rap scene, he also recently got some serious props from the most unlikeliest of sources… a certain Swedish furniture store. Ikea, as part of their ‘Make Room For Your Life’ campaign, turned up at Harry Love’s in-house studio and turned the organised chaos of records, keyboards, turntables, computer equipment and endless cables into what can only be described as a functional art installation (scroll to the bottom for the video of the transformation).
On to the matter of his latest release Homework Volume 1: Birthday Beats; as the name suggests it’s the first in a series of instrumental releases and hit the web on his birthday on October 21st. The ten instrumentals that make up the EP are all top-notch as expected and frankly it was overdue for his die-hard fans. Don’t Stop (Brrrap!) starts off the album and is a complete departure from the style of his back catalogue, starting with an electronic sounding beat synth melody with a well composed hi-hat loop and a thumping bassline it’s not far off what you would expect a big American rap star to be spitting over. The latter half the track is a complete contrast to the former, it switches to a funky jazz piano melody with a thumping boom bap drum loop and a beautifully cut up vocal sample from Rakim‘s My Melody.
Schemes is sure to be a breaker’s anthem with what seems to be the addition of the unique northern accented voice of Tommy Evans off the Silent Mobius classic that Harry Love also produced. Done It Again pumps a low-frequency bass line that thumps so hard that any sound system at carnival would struggle to handle alongside perfectly arranged hand claps and shakers that have a bit of a J Dilla sound to them (fact of the day: Dilla sampled a Harry Love instrumental). Soul Jazz is perfectly titled because the only way to describe it would be soulful jazz, in fact it would be criminal if someone actually had a verse over it. The melody comes from what sounds like a combination of a xylophone and piano keys complimented with a very subtle bass and prominent morris bells. You literally could loop the track all day if you so desired, a perfectly accompaniment to a lazy sunday.
Old Spice, although conjuring memories of a topless man on a horse on a beach, musically speaking is much more like the Harry Love sound you might recognise. Begins with an orchestral introduction that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a moment of tension within a black and white second world war film, the crackles on the sample only add to that tension. Twenty seconds in the ridiculously simple drums and hi-hats fall into the background and allow the strings and brass instruments to steal the show. In contrast to Soul Jazz for example, Old Spice has a state of tension throughout.
Oooh utilises a simple vocal sample harmony as its foundation and everything else revolve around it. Funky strings, hand claps and subtle piano keys come together to really mellow you out but just like Don’t Stop (Brrrap!) the beat switches to a completely different sound in the last third. Sounding much grittier a with a harsh snare, keys and hi-hats that remind us of a very New York type of sound.
Tradition can be rather disorientating if you have a surround sound setup or good headphones, the synth sounds move between right and left channels in a way that is very immersive. The drums are textbook boom bap but in terms of the rest of the instruments and samples in there, they’re a mystery because the beat is so complex. Not necessarily in a negative way but it can be difficult to pick apart.
Onwards closes Homework Volume 1 and it seems to be a case of saving the best ’til last. A slower tempo than the rest of the instrumentals, Onwards again comes across as another beat that would only be ruined if it was layered with vocals and frankly is too short at a minute and a half because you could loop it in the background for a few hours before it would start to get tedious. The violin is strings run throughout really holding together the subtle kick drum and what sounds like a hint of metal shakers. Every four bars the beat breaks down with the strings fading out and the hi-hats coming to the fore with three hits.
All in all a varied assortment of beats covering slightly experimental electronic sounds, more modern hip hop sounding instrumentals as well as sounds that are just out of the golden age handbook of perfectly picked sample and a well-arranged drum loop. To be fair that short conclusion doesn’t really do the whole project justice and on the whole demonstrates Harry Love’s versatility that he may not have been able to demonstrate when making beats for others to rap over. The download is a bargain at £3.00 and if you are not numerically challenged you should realise that equates to only 30 pence per instrumental. Grab the whole thing from Harry Love’s Bandcamp page and support quality independent music. If you like what you hear stay locked for the forthcoming second volume in the series, release date should be announced in the near future.