Album Reviews

King of Woolworths – Ming Star

UK release date: 10 September 2001


The insiduous pulse of the first track, Kentish Town, gets us underway with Ming Star, the eclectic and rather fine debut LP by Manchester’s King of Woolworths. As we discover after listening to the whole album, what starts as a pulse or a relaxing series of sound effects quite often builds in unimagined ways to a complete sonic picture.

Recent single Bakerloo is a case in point, offering a xzylophone loop tied to all manner of sound effects, then acquiring a sassy, almost loungesque, drum beat, overlaid with a Hammond harmony which gives way to an all encompassing lazy bassline. But this is not the stuff of techno nights at The End or Bagley’s. You’d expect to find this kind of thing in indie support slots, the King competing with the likes of Andy Votel rather than Paul Oakenfold. It is laid back and evocative music, proving the DJs can be good composers and not just beatmasters.

The Children’s Film Foundation shorts, made largely in the 1970s and televised on Children’s BBC throughout the 1980s, influenced the King as he attempted to create soundscapes worthy of films. Yet just as we think we’ve found his ouevre we instead get jolted to an opposite world with Stalker Song, which sounds for all the world like something by 2nd Gen‘s Wajid Yaseem with the volume turned up and the walls shaking.

Suddenly, the music fades into the background and we hear a policeman interviewing a woman who is reporting a stalker. Sound effects transform the policeman’s voice into a sinister stalker at the end, as he tells her twice “you’ve got to start documenting this or you’re gonna end up dead”. Spooky stuff – Ming Star is nothing if not varied.

Colcannon is full of big phat beats and banshee-like wails of keyboards, recalling the harder beats of electro pioneers Timeshard. To The Devil a Donut features the inimitable Christopher Lee, sampled from one of his many horror films, so give the man some points for taste too! Yet just when you think it couldn’t get any darker, Kite Hill turns up and sounds like, if only it had featured her vocals, it could have belonged to a Bjork album, with its odd beat, strings and atmospheric synth sounds.

There is no easy label which can be ascribed to King of Woolworths. “DJ” makes it sound like he just spins records – and clearly he does much more than that. This is however an artist who goes out and does what he likes, without much reference to what people think he should be doing. Give Ming Star a spin – you will like it for inventiveness, musical ability, humour and just possibly to very slowly dance to.


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More on King of Woolworths
King of Woolworths – L’Illustration Musicale
King of Woolworths – Ming Star


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