Home > 2012, brazil, fusion, hip hop, tropicalia > Picks 11/18/2012

Picks 11/18/2012

Not a whole lot caught my ear this week. These two picks are strong though. Stay up.

Pulled from a trip to Fingerprints.

Lukid – Lonely At the Top (Werk, 2012)

I’ll admit it, I’m fairly new to electronic music, any genre. I grew up with the close-minded American punk rock mentality that electronic music sucked. Things change, and in 2010, it was Lukid’s Chord, along with works by Fourtet, Teebs, Flying Lotus and Floating Points that were my gateway drug. Chord is a rough and raw mishmash of hip-hop by way of Dabrye, with dabs of electro and the imminent “bass music” scene. While the album featured fragile, pretty tracks like “Makes,” it was the bass heavy, thorny, filtered floor-shakers and head-nodders that prevailed. Since then, Lukid has excelled on a handful of remixes and truly found a voice across two excellent and defining singles for his own Glum record label. On Lonely At the Top, Lukid furthers his compressed tape-visions, but adds vibrant color and softer edges to both thoughtful beat productions, as well as his dance-influenced tracks.

The guy has shown a lot of growth in his music, and I can see the parallel in my own growth as a listener along with it. Where Lukid’s sound was more “aggro,” he’s now moved into a mode that is just as moody, but more centered and at peace. His sentimental downtempo songs are no longer brittle or cluttered, they now breathe and have life, as heard on “The Life of the Mind.” The atmosphere is thick and his love for shoegaze and post-rock is firmly evident, but what is most striking is that Lukid has managed to make synthesized music feel extremely emotive. The chords dip, the vocal sample coos, the atmosphere has a cloudy bounce to it – a wonderful moment that is over way too soon.

This growth is mirrored on the abstract hip hop track “Laroche,” where he builds a sweet pop melody, a summery type of beat, then brings in crunchy 808’s and skittering high hats for just a few short bars before returning back to his summery daydream. Whether a pastiche of the current taste for “trap” or perhaps a more innocent nod to the style, Lukid demonstrates a restraint that few other producers care to employ. He has moved away from his unrelenting raucous tracks, and shows that the idea of “keep them wanting more” is sometimes the best strategy.

As was the case on Chord, Lonely At the Top’s excellent cover art mirrors both the sound and vibe of the music. The foggy synth tones bleed into percussion stabs to create a soupy industrial funk. There is somewhat of a Detroit low-fi brightness to the chords as heard on “Manchester“, but met with an equal fascination for the poppy pink fog of My Bloody Valentine – as heard on the Dilla influenced “Bless My Heart.” It’s all soupy goodness that is a real delight for the ears, especially if experienced with quality headphones. However, the layers of haze do make it a little difficult to play out, as I played out the electro jam “Southpaw” the other night and it just sounded a bit too muddy.

Lukid is really moving forward and getting closer to the masterpiece that he is capable of. To date this is his strongest work yet, as well as his most complex. He may not yet be as popular or revered as Flying Lotus or Fourtet, but in due time he will be regarded as a formidable peer who explored the same rich influences and crafted his own unique take on experimental electronic music.



Various Artists – Glücklich II (Compost, 1996)

Maybe it’s the nature of DJ culture in Southern California, or perhaps the key lies in the endless time capsule crates of Fingerprints, but I often turn up great rare groove/latin compilations issued 10-15 years ago still in the shrink. I’ll pull the record, turn it over and try to decide if this going to be some culture caricature or real deal grooves. In regards to hunting “world music,” there’s a couple of easy warning signs to help you spot a whack imitator: 1) If the main artist/songwriter/producer is named something like “Steve Johnson,” it will be so lame 2) If there are elegantly dressed white people dancing on the cover, it will be lame 3) If the record label is American, it’s probably lame –  although changing, historically, most of the good reissue labels tend to be European 4) If the performer is presented as a caricature of either his/her/American culture, it’s definitely lame 5) If there is a write-up on the back by a journalist/musician/musicman, read it, this is the final step and usually the determining factor of lameness.

Glucklich II easily passed all my criteria, and really, with a subtitle of “A collection of European fusion tunes with a Brazilian flavour,” it’s hard to pass up. The banner lives up to its summation, all the tracks were performed by German based musicians, some with latinoamericano lineage, some not. Jazz fusion can very quickly cross the line into unlistenable cheese, but all the groups here take the samba/batacunda vibe seriously and keep the tracks focused and funky. I’m not too knowledgeable about the European jazz scene, so none of these names sounded familiar, but a shout out to both Gilles Peterson and Ubiquity gave the nod that these would be real tracks.

The nine songs can be characterized into being either more jazz based or more samba based, and they split fairly equally, with just the right amount of balance amongst and within the compositions. Joe Haider Trio’s “Tante Nelly” sounds like a lost Sambalanço Trio track, moody and deep while retaining an organic streetwise groove. On the flip we have the incredible “Otão E Eu” by Nicos Jaritz, a rough batacunda track that sets itself apart by deep rolling bass – I can’t wait to play this out every chance I get. It’s an absolutely killer track that is mesmerizing when played loud, as the sound of so much clanging live percussion is truly uplifting. Livening things up with a tropicalia inspired vocal jam, Ximo & Judy’s “Vou Vencer” is equal parts “tristeza” and romance, a track that lingers after it’s gone.

Surprisingly, the track that has stuck most with me is the moonlit vocal number, “Go For the Others” by Sail-Joia. At first listen, the vocal just didn’t do it for me – I thought the English ruined some of the mystery of the music, but I realize now the intended audience didn’t speak English, thus their vision captures the romance of this Tropicalia ode to the pampas. The lightly galloping rhythm and smoky arrangement recalls the cinematic psychedelic work of Marcos Valle. The vocal is haunting, emotive, and cool, but with a sense of knowing. Most interesting is the incredible soprano sax solo by Shawn Bergin, who taps into Coltrane spirituality, but with a mood that would have been at home in Mulatu’s band. A big success.

Categories: 2012, brazil, fusion, hip hop, tropicalia
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