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Picks 1/27/13

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Very interesting week for Cornejo here. I saw Jessie Ware at Amoeba on Tuesday, and I was absolutely astounded by how talented and beautiful she is. And as digger’s luck would have it, at the end of the performance they gave away three gift certificates to the store and guess who got one… Yeeep, $25 in credit to your man’s holy land. I didn’t shop for long, just picked up a few things I had been eyeballing, but asking me to spend free money in there is a dream come true. We’re less than two weeks now from the first RITUAL party, and our special guest Low Limit will be live on the Boiler Room this Tuesday! 2013 is shaping up quite nicely…

Pulled from the hallowed stacks of Amoeba and Bagatelle.

Lee Gamble – Dutch Tvashar Plumes (Pan, 2012)

This record came as a surprise to me when it popped out at the end of 2012. I guess it caught most everybody off-guard when the German experimental label PAN dropped two full lengths from the previously low profile Gamble. Despite the hype of having shown up on pretty much every blog’s best of list, this is really incredible music. I’ve never been one for a lot of experimental/noise/ambient music, as I really tend to require a rhythmic anchor, but Gamble explores unique tones and timbres with a sense of propulsion and movement that is incredibly unique. The music is accessible, engaging and fulfilling.

It’s not all synth washes and harsh bleeps, in fact there is very little of that at all. Tracks that begin hazy and lazy grow legs, jacking like pistons, ecstatic with momentum. “Nowhen Hooks” is a ray of sunlight, a house banger that clears waves of synths and retreats just as quickly with the same waves massaging the adrenaline rush of the dance. As the track ends, “Tvash Kwawar” builds up from the same source of matter and slowly grows into a delicate techno thumper. More techno in idea than sound, the track throbs with life for a moment before it dissolves. “Plos 97s” (above) more explicitly explores techno, but adheres to so little of the “rules” of the genre while maintaining a minimalistic approach to arrangement and construction. With Gamble, suggestive rhythms and the sonic template of a track is much more important than the groove or functionality of the work. The tracks that could possibly be seen as dance tracks are too short, too weird, but undoubtedly I would love to hear them on a loud soundsystem.

The more meditative, serene tracks are just as engaging; often never losing a sense of movement, despite how irregular or vague the rhythm. A track like “Black Snow” ruffles, is muted, and moves, hardly breathing for less than two minutes as samples slip in and growth seems inevitable, until it all stops. Immediately following the tease of snow, “Coma Skank (Binocconverge mix)” saunters in, still carrying a heavy sense of cinematic dread, but with move with a sense of aimlessness and confusion. A thick layer of tape dust covers the rhythmic elements, and the eerie clops and bleeps set up a very particular state of mind for the listener. Opening up the flip side, “Overund” sounds like a morose gamelan ceremony with beautiful wavering bell tones ringing in unlimited darkness.  “Kuang Shaped Prowla” is a fitting close to the album as it seems to bob gently, warmth emanating from the subtle movement of the track. It disappears quietly, sneaking out like a lover leaving in the gray stillness of morning, not daring to look back.

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Bigga Haitian – Haiti A Weh Mi From b/w The Good, Bad, and Ugly (Flames, 1989)

As a digger, it’s always nice to get home and look up something that you just bought and not be able to find a whole lot of information on the record. There’s no discogs listing for this, no tracks up on Youtube, no blog posts, just a quick mention on Wikipedia. The lack of accessible information is partially what makes collecting dancehall records so interesting, as the music seems to eerily stand alone from any particular cultural context. In reality, the scene has healthily existed in pockets from Kingston, to New York City to London, and today is still strong. However, the truly underground stuff like this has failed to have a resurgence of online interest unlike a lot of other music from this time period.

Haiti A Weh Mi From” was supposedly a huge hit for Bigga, so I was surprised not to find much about it online. This is the debut release from the deejay and his flow is full of swagger and rapid fire chatting flourished with a few vocal tricks here and there. The track is predominately a coming out party for Bigga as he chats for nearly five minutes straight over a super lightweight riddim. Bigga’s voicing shows a lot of skill and does well to carry the momentum of the track, but it’s not particularly a superb track.

On the flip, “The Good Bad & Ugly” (above) starts things off with a false start and an instant rewind. This track is everything the A-side isn’t; it’s loud, brash, dirty and full of dread – the ideal club track. It opens with some dubbed out piano stabs and 808 hats, then a cheeky nod at the Morricone theme creeps in but is immediately offset by deep waves of bass. Bigga absolutely demolishes on this track as well, he rides the groove confidently and balances the weight and propulsion of the riddim quite well. Can’t wait to play this one out.

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Nite Jewel – Good Evening (Gloriette, Secretly Canadian 2008/2012)

Finally the incredible Nite Jewel debut gets a repress! On most days I would say this is one of my favorite LA releases of the 21st century, as the record’s mixture of dust covered funk and late night pop have really made an impression on me. I first heard the record at the tail end of 2009, just after it had received a lot of hype and a subtle repress of two tracks on a single by Stones Throw. Specifically, I heard it while vagabonding around San Francisco for a week and a half, stuck in a place between moving across the country with no plan whatsoever, or having to cross burned bridges back to the life I was trying to leave. I was in love at the time like you couldn’t believe, and of course being a Cancer, this was eventually the tipping point towards my return home. I have a specific memory of sitting at the train station in Oxnard, totally fucking cold, alone and waiting for this train for hours, with all my possessions in the world (except the 1200s and two crates of records I had left behind) crammed into a traveler’s backpack. This record was on repeat on my ipod, Ramona Gonzalez’s small voice sounding more and more like the voice of a Siren dragging me back home. Aside from all the heavy emotional associations I have with this record, I can step back and say that this is still a really fresh and incredible release.

Take the fat bassline and sharp claps of “What Did He Say,” a record that has been a staple in my sets for years now. Or listen to how Gonzalez’ quiet pop grows heavy with melancholy and frustration on “Weak for Me,” and just as her voice grows larger and more forceful (but still unintelligible) the track begins to fall apart right before you.On the flip, “Artificial Intelligence” moves forward with some basic drum programming, but its the emphatic vocals and hazy synths that steal the show. But really, the track that gets me each and every time, the true bomb on here is “Let’s Go (The Two of Us Together)” (above) as it starts straight out the gate at a boogie gallop. The shakers, the synth tones, the vocal delivery – it’s all there.

The record is influenced by a vague sense of 80’s quiet storm, boogie funk, R&B and balearic pop with a punk attitude to it all – very DIY and low-fi. It came at an important time in music and it’s sad that she didn’t rise as quickly as some of her peers. I’ve recommended this album to a lot of people over the years and I think that’s one of the biggest signs of a truly good record. Pick it up, you’ll like it.

Categories: 2012, boogie, dancehall, diva, LA

Picks 1/20/13

January 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Weird week. I like the weather though.

Pulled from the digi stacks of All Day Records, Chemical-Records and Soundcloud.

V/A – American Noise Vol. 1 (L.I.E.S., 2012)

Yes, I am firmly and fully on the LIES bandwagon. There’s a lot of hype around this label coming from all corners of the internet including Pitchfork, FACT, Spin and Resident Advisor. The label’s output is far-reaching and is often given the term “outsider” house/techno or low-fi, but these descriptors hardly allow any insight into the real magic contained on the limited slabs of vinyl. Styles range from new age ambient to crunchy techno, surfer house to burnout boogie, acid house to synth explorations – yet all the music can be characterized by a sense of warmth, an analog or tape feel. No huge names sit on the roster, and that’s precisely what has made the label so impressive, they continually turn out records that are surprising. Delroy Edwards and Xosar, two of my favorite producers in 2012, have had their debut release on LIES, so the label truly carries weight with me.

This is the first CD  I’ve bought in years, probably 5+years. A lot of this stuff on the compilation is new to me, as I only have a handful of LIES records, and most of those were left off this compilation. It’s a 2-CD set, and the first disc compiles some of the more rare/desirable releases. Bookworms’ “African Rhythms” (above) is the clear gem on here, the meditative percussion moving along at its gentle bounce, nestled in soft foggy synths. It has a really wonderful Theo Parrish vibe to it, very focused and spiritual. Terekke’s “Pf Pf Pass” was a wonderful surprise on this disc as he rides along in a blunted boogie groove, heavy in thick analog dust and sloppily cut samples. The groove is really immersive, drawing you into a sunny worn VHS dreamscpae where the kick drum crumbles and the hi-hats splinter. “Asidis” also finds Terekke in extremely strong form, keeping his sunny disposition, but picking up the tempo to proper pool party vibes. These two tracks remind me of what I loved so much about Nite Jewel’s early work – it was lowfi, fun and funky.

Moving on to my two favorite LIES alumni, Delroy Edwards’ remix of Xosar’s “Tropical Cruize” is truly a gift to me from the universe. The track beautifully melds Xosar’s tendencies toward exotic melodies and romantic melancholy, with Delroy’s fridgid focus on the dancefloor. Icy and infectuous, the “Don’t talk, just listen” loop is intoxicating. Xosar’s orignal track here, “Sansovtime” under her Bonquiqui alias takes a harder approach to the Trackman Lafonte and Bonquiqui project, coming much closer to the paranoid electro funk on “Nite Jam“. What I love most about Xosar is how fresh she makes everything sound – I mean, synth flutes? Yeah it’s so good.

The compilation really does cover a wide range of music, but it’s tracked very well and truly works front-to-back as a unified album. Placing the minimal techno groove of Marcos Cabral’s “24 Hour Flight” with the dreamy analog funk of Legowelt’s “Sark Island Acid” may not necessarily seem like a logical move, but it exemplifies the grander vision of dance music that ties together the LIES family. I’m really excited to see where this label is going to be going in 2013.

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Delroy Edwards –Heart and Soul  b/w Sprk Tha Dust (L.I.E.S., 2012)

This record snuck out right after Christmas as a limited black label release and without a second of hesitation I swooped it up. I’m a big fan of Delroy’s crunchy Detroit influenced house/techno as well as his propulsive ghetto house DJ sets. Fortunately for me, he displays both affections on this 12.

“Heart and Soul” (above) was the prize at the end of his recent Juno Plus Podcast, and was something that I was really hoping would see an official release. The track is reminiscent of his 4 Club Use Only debut, and specifically the cold, downcast techno of “Love Goes On and On” with the icy synth lines and ghetto rhythms. The track is further colored by his somber voice endlessly intoning the phrase, “I gave you my heart, I gave you my soul” – which happens to be a perfect refrain for a special Christmas release, right? It is this sense of melancholy that draws me to Delroy, no matter how hard or playful the rhythms are (and on this track the claps, kick and hats are primed for destruction), a haze of frustration and bitterness shroud his music. But don’t get me wrong, this is not “emo” music at all, this is propulsive dance music with an outright human quality to it. I may have to pick up another copy of this record because I intend to play this track out as often as possible.

I was pretty freaked when I first flipped the record and dropped the needle; I was beyond lit, chillin in the semi-dark of my studio about ready to go to bed, but wanted to give the new Delroy a quick spin – then BAM BAM BAM BAMBAMBAM. The track title doesn’t lie, “Sprk tha Dust” is the musical equivalent of hitting a sherm stick. Reworking one of 2012’s better moments in mainstream rap, Delroy flips “Bandz a Make Her Dance” by pitching down Weezy’s mumblings and dropping in a thundering overdriven kick. A horrifying haze and banshee synths are an appropriate nod to Three 6 Mafia tropes, but this track is far beyond the level of a demented remix as the laggy layered vocal samples and disorienting everything about the track make for a very heady experience. Listen to this one on headphones while walking somewhere at night, I dare you.

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Kingdom – Diplo & Friends BBC 1Xtra Mix 1/06/2013 (BBC Radio 1/1Xtra, 2013)

Kingdom is my current favorite DJ. His mixes are essential listening and his Fade to Mind parties are not to be missed. The owner of the company I work for is a jazz musician, so he has a basic understanding of the music world, but he caught me off guard the other day when he asked me why anyone would ever follow a DJ, as he was looking to ascertain the artistry of being a DJ. He’s from the oldschool and when he thinks of a DJ, he’s thinking a jock who announces each track in a Top 40 countdown. I explained to him the concept of edits, exclusives, dubplates, and the artistry behind the different approaches to a mix. I’m not sure he fully understood where I was coming from, and I suppose you do have to have a certain level of immersion in this world to truly understand the qualities that make a DJ a really great one. Listening to Kingdom mix records is like watching an athlete at the top of his game, or listening to a jazz band with real chops running through a set of standards – you may know what to expect, but every experience offers a fresh take, an improvisational quality that is singular to the artist.

For the most part, Kingdom’s mix for Diplo’s show on 1Xtra is full of exclusives from the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs family and this is a large part of the reason why I am so partial to the man’s work. Beyonce remixes, lifted Little Dragon acapellas, Missy Elliot features, and Girl Unit outtakes, all become tools that he uses to not only offer an incredibly unique sonic experience, but a floor focused one. Kingdom is consistent in his vibe, and I once described his sound as similar to what my dreams are like – equal parts sexual and paranoid. The tones are dark, heavy with brooding synths and pummeling drums, covered with a haze thick from smoke, but carried by precise doses of R&B divas. One of my favorite moments is Kingdom’s edit of a Kowton remix, where he deftly drops in a sample of Mariah hitting a high note, to both an ecstatic and haunting effect. The voice is so easily recognizable as Mariah, but so out of context that it truly creates a completely new experience of the material. Girl Unit’s “Double Take Pt 2” is an excellent inclusion and really lightens up the mood, but it is singularly impressive in how Kingdom uses it as a tool to move from a pitch-black jacking vogue workout into an edit of the dreamy Mike Will produced Future/Kelly Rowland jam “Neva End.” Coming to the end, Kingdom wraps things up in proper Fade to Mind form by laying out Fatima al Qadiri’s digi-industurial-horror “Oil Well” and dropping in a strong acapella (or is it a commissioned verse?) from my favorite Three 6 Mafia member, Gangsta Boo. This whole mix is absolutely brilliant and I liken it to eating a great meal or seeing great fashion, it just makes me want to step my own game up. Big ups to Kingdom and the Fade to Mind crew, 2013 is gonna be your year.

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Burial – Burial (Hyperdub, 2006)

I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for ages now, but I had a 20% off coupon for Chemical-Records recently and I decided to take the plunge. I had never really heard this album at all, so I have had a really great time getting acquainted with the early material of one of the most important artists of the 21st century. I have a lot of respect for this man, and I’ve come to build a deep relationship with his music. This music is just so powerful, so human. It’s music that soundtracks my everyday experience; whether it’s my commute to the industrial landscape of my workplace, or the dark, dirty streets and alleys of my neighborhood, or perhaps the cold, smokey nights in my studio apartment.

I had never really heard the Burial dubstep material, and I was immediately drawn to the opening track “Wounder” with that lonely siren-synth, the menacingly still atmosphere and hard drum programming assuring its status as a classic. The back cover says the material is drawn from 2001-2006, so it’s interesting to see how some of these tracks were crafted in the very early days of dubstep, still moving in that middle ground between garage and dub. “Gutted” (above) is the standout for on the halfstep tracks, as the tell-tale Burial emotive touches really get me everytime. He also begins to show some of true artistry and dexterity that he would later master, ss exemplified in the dubby cut “Broken Home.” I’m not sure where that original sample came from or what it is supposed to say, but the realignment of sound is really wonderful.

Stepping back and viewing the span of his career is also revealing in how a cut like “Pirates” foreshadows a lot of the same tones and themes he covered in his 2012 releases, Kindred and Truant. The track features the basic bass swell and gray tones, but it experiences a shuttering start-stop in the beginning, and as seen on his two latest eps, it is a nod to the days of dusty cassette tape recorded pirate radio. I love the idea that he has followed through on this vision, a meta-narrative involving the physical sustainability of his music, coupled with all the markers of a fabled and romanticized memory of music past.

Categories: 2012, 2013, House, LA, LDN, mix

Picks 1/14/2013

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Saw Moodymann the other night for the LIFT 3rd Anniversary and I’ve gotta say it was one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. An immaculately tuned soundsystem in a small dark room thick with weed smoke and incense, and then my man KDJ drops a few Dilla tracks at about 2:30am. As he would say, “It’s like y’all in my living room right now.”

Gig Friday was poppin’. Geeman’s “Bang’t” sounded incredible in the room, and a huge sing-along to D’Angelo topped it off. Big ups to all my boys, whether on the mic or droppin beats.

Got a gig this Thursday @ MOLAA w/ Clorofila. Pretty stoked, I played with them last year but had to cut out early. This time I’ll be on the floor gettin freaky.

Pulled from the crates, bins and stacks of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Zia.

Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1975)

By now, my deep undying love for all things Donald Byrd should be apparent. Whether it’s his work as a sideman for Hank Mobley or Coltrane in the late ’50s, his work as a leader on Blue Note in the ’60s and ’70s or his almost smooth jazz/R&B in the ’80s, the man has had one of the more worthwhile careers a digger could ever hope to come across. His sound changed with the times, but the music is consistently soulful, melodic, and subtly joyful. Poring over his catalog is like charting the evolution of popular black music in the 20th century, moving from jazz to funk, to disco, to quiet storm and eventually hip hop, as experienced on Guru’s Jazzmatazz series.

This record has been on my wantlist for years, and although I see it occasionally, it always gets passed up because it tends to come with a steep price tag. My brother and I have a ritual where whenever I visit my folks in Phoenix we’ll go out and hit a record store or two. Usually I wont pick up anything because I hate to carry shit on a plane, but this time at Zia was very different. I found this record almost instantly upon walking into the store, and when I saw it priced at $6 for a VG+ copy I almost leaped. I picked it up, found a few other scores and gladly carried them all onto the plane.

The record kicks off with “Change” and it’s an immediate change from Byrd’s prior electric work, which tended to be dark, and even the Mizell produced masterpiece Stepping Into Tomorrow had a nocturnal mood to it. Places and Spaces is very much a summer record, as the Mizell’s love for samba and Caribbean music shines and adds a very sunny and exotic quality to the album. “Change” kicks off with a sense of Carnival-esque excitement, then drops into a wonderfully funky Chuck Rainey bassline with Byrd soaring over the top. The strings are perfectly arranged, elegant but not over the top. This is a real peak time bomb, love it.

Taking the mood down a bit is “Wind Parade” (above) which is a soulful, languid track, perfect for lounging on the weekend or late night on the dancefloor. The track is pleasant and warm, and is a real pleasure to listen to. Opening up the flip, “Places and Spaces” is similar, but a bit on the sweet side. This is pre-quiet storm soul, and is basically some of the best stuff from that genre. Byrd hardly makes an appearance, but I’ve grown to trust the Mizells as much asthe man with the horn.

Ultimately though, this record can be summed up with “You and Music,” a masterful soul track that balances cheesiness with an abundance of human spirit and subtle funk. Kay Haith’s sweet vocals really carry the vibe, and help balance out Byrd’s remarkably unremarkable vocal talents. Not necessarily the greatest Byrd/Mizell jam, but certainly a damn good one. So glad to be able to put this on my shelf and in my crates.

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Yellowman – Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (Greensleeves, 1983)

PA! PA! PA! I flipped when I saw this real clean copy of this classic Dancehall bomb at Zia for the mad low price of $8. Goldenage Greensleeves dancehall records often fetch a pretty price, that is if the records ever turn up in LA at all. This was the diamond in the rough of the whole reggae/world/latin section in the store, but the score was very worth it.

Yellowman was one of the baddest of his day, revolutionizing the genre by making it raunchier, and branding a now familiar thuggish flair. His flow is fast and confident, with the ability to not only ride a groove, but to carry it.  His life has been riddled with strife, but it’s a beautiful thing to hear this man do what he does best.

Zungguzu” is one of the more famous dancehall songs, and it’s been sampled/voiced by everyone from 2Pac, Toyan, Beenieman, Blackstar, Junior MAFIA and quite a few more. The track is massive, especially as the Roots Radics band is incredibly groovy, keeping the riddims simple, but full of dynamic elements. And now is as a good as time as any to mention that the record sounds unbelievable, the mix is clear and the low end is pure subbass heaven. Yellowman is a straight up G, listening to his flow it’s easy to see not only the crossover and popularity of dancehall in NY hip hop of the late 80s, but the enduring influence of his vocal intonations and flow.

Tracks range from the more rocksteady sing-song vibe of “Good, Bad and the Ugly” to the harder, forward-looking dancehall style of “Friday Night Jamboree” (above), but overall the record is cohesive and full of bombs. Everytime I listen to the record I have a new favorite song, but as of this exact second it would be “Dem Sight the Boss,” which features a great contribution from Fathead whose lazy drawl and whine is a wonderful counterpoint to Yellowman’s flow. This is a great example of a slow song that has the ability to absolutely destroy a club – the bass looming and sweeping, ghostly organ and an easy chant to follow along to. Straight up G.

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Kassav’ – Love and Ka Dance (FM/Celluloid, 1979/1980s)

This is one of the better blind (deaf?) buys I’ve had in quite some time; I’d seen it a few times in the Caribbean section at Amoeba, but the laundry list of musicians kept me at a distance as I just assumed this was some typical imperialist culture vulture crap. But no, these guys (at least on this record) are the real deal. Parisian studio musicians applying elements of disco to more traditional music of the French Antilles. I fell in love with the music of Haiti a few years ago and have since amassed a sizable collection of francophone Caribbean music.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been inundated with records for the last month or so, and even though I’ve had this one since before Christmas, I only just put it on for the first time last week. The record struck me right away, the opener “Kassav'” (above) is a no-holds barred, no frills, disco stomper. The track features all the necessary qualities of my favorite Caribbean music: hypnotic rhythms, group vocals, fat basslines, funky horns and a deep sense of trance-like euphoria. At 10+ minutes the track is a rager and fortunately for us DJs, there is a nice little instrumental break in their, which flows into some absolutely mad percussion runs that beg to be played out.

Over on the flip, the rather pop-oriented “Nouvel” does well with salsa-indebted horns and P-funk leaning synth work, but the track is just a little too tame for my taste. The title track, “Love and Ka Dance” returns to disco and is really a huge treat. The track bumps along at midtempo, but the energy is carried with an Afrobeat influence in the horn lines and in the vocals. Lovely purchase.

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Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (TDE/Aftermath, 2012)

I don’t have to say shit about this record, you’ve heard it, you’ve read about it, danced to it, smoked to it, partied to it, listened to your non-rap friends talk about how amazing it is, and maybe even got naked to it. Yeah, it is the most cohesive, self-conscious, intelligent album-length narrative released in mainstream hip hop in quite some time. Yeah, it is the best hip hop record released in a while. But to me it’s a lot more than that.

The Chronic 2001 was the first CD I bought with lunch money I had saved (and for a fat middle schooler you know that’s a huge feat); I bought it the week it came out and I hid it from my strict parents. I snuck listens while my parents were at work or asleep. Only ever being to enjoy the record at full volume while on my headphones. 2001 was the first record I loved, the first record where I pored over liner notes, knew every word, knew the damn thing in and out. And for the few short years I had a car, the CD was more often than not testing the boundaries of the Camry’s bass range. So like most people with my affliction, I’ve been waiting for the fabled Detox for years (almost 14 to be exact) and with every delay, every setback, every new rumor about the album (“Shit, dog he’s working with the LA Phil!” or “Bishop Lamont gonna be his new Eminem!”) I held out hope, fueled by the rumors and blind desire.

Understandably, Dre has a big challenge to face up to, he’s been the backbone for the careers of NWA, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, the Game, 50 Cent and more, two milestone albums under his own name, as well as lending his production and/or voice to some of the most recognizable rap songs ever. It feels like there’s been a recent swell of artists coming out in defense of the often-marginalized rap producer – spreading a modern message of “give the drummer some.” And to be frank, even if it’s a track by Mike Will Made It or Just Blaze (guys who use tags), the producers behind some of rap/R&B’s biggest hits go under-appreciated by most listeners. Dr Dre is afforded a double edged sword of fame and name recognition that few other producers have ever had the pleasure of holding. I mean, what other producer could headline Coachella?

At this point in his career, why should he release an album under his own name when he’s still got a great ear for talent? If Detox were ever to come out, regardless of it’s objective quality, all scrutiny and criticism will have been magnified by years of waiting. It’s just smarter for Dre to executive produce, crafting masterpieces for other rappers. And get it straight, Good Kid is a masterpiece. Listening to this album, it’s miles away from Lamar’s Section 80; where 80 was juvenile and pretty unlistenable all the way through, Good Kid has that intangible quality of a classic to it. It sounds good, it feels good, it’s heavy with spirit and talent – but most importantly, Dre touched it. Unlike his Black Hippie cohorts whose debut full lengths have been good, but fairly unremarkable, this album is incredibly focused and primed for maximum accessibility.  Dre may not have made every beat (or even most), but you can sure as hell bet he cleaned up a lot of the Pro-Tools sessions, making sure each kick was hard and each string sample clean, making sure Kendrick’s flow sounded exactly how it needed to be. The diligence of Dre in the studio is widely documented, often taking the role of drill Sergeant, commanding all day voicing sessions. With a weaker man at the helm, nobody would be talking about how they’re sick of hearing Kendrick in the club, radio, your friend’s car or on Pitchfork. At the end of the day, Detox may never come out, but thankfully Good Kid did.

2013 shows so far…

January 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Got a few gigs coming up…

– Jan 11th – True World Order @ Que Sera w/ Melzia Dia x NiceguyxVinny, Dez Yusuf, The Natives

– Jan 17th – En La Noche @ MOLAA w/ Cloforila (Nortec Collective)

– Feb 8th – Ritual @ Que Sera w/ Low Limit, Sodapop

 

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Categories: hip hop, House

Picks 1/6/2013

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

I feel like I’m lying when I say I’ve been busy, but I guess I have been. I still have a huge stack of records (that will grow this week, I’m sure) to get through, but I have some of the choicest material ready for y’all. To those not in the know, I’m putting together a new monthly underground dance night in Long Beach with my man David Valdez. Our first night is February 8th @ the Que Sera and I just confirmed our special guests! More info late this week…

Pulled from the bins of Amoeba, Fingerprints and Chemical-Records.

Geeeman – Bang’t (Jack For Daze/Clone, 2012)

 The term “DJ tool” just doesn’t apply for this one – this is a straight up DJ weapon. Both sides are heavy bangers in the Dance Mania style, which as I’ve said before, is a nice break from all the MK/Kerri Chandler aping going on. This record made it onto a lot of year end lists, and it reminded me that I had heard it throughout the year, and that it really was a killer. A quick scour of the internet stores resulted with no luck, but I vaguely remembered seeing a copy at Amoeba. As luck would have it, I ended up at Amoeba a few days later with my buddy Sean and sure enough there was one sealed copy hiding for me in the House section.

“Bang’t” (above) hardly needs any explanation. Simple and effective, repetitive and memorable. It’s a deep jackin track that works really well for a multiple reasons: 1) that organ riff is pretty fucking dope, hard to deny that 2) the vocal, “balls are bangin” nuff said 3) the percussion is fairly complex and always 100% primed at making your ass shake. I can not wait to play this out at the kick off party next month…

On the flip, “Fire Extinguisher” is an acid drenched stormer, a real barnburner. The track isn’t as memorable as the flip, but that’s what makes it so appealing – it’s a track that can be molded into your set as a bridge track. Again Geeeman/Gerd is absolutely masterful on the rhythms. He pays a lot of attention to detail when arranging, but also feels like he has a lot of fun doing it. For some reason, all I can think is that I’d love to hear this on a boat.

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V/A – Romeo Must Die (Blackground, 2000)

Well, yeah, you guessed it, I am currently obsessed with Aaliyah. When I think of Aaliyah I remember being 12/13 and discovering MTV and TRL – with “Try Again” being a very clear memory of that time. I didn’t really have older people around me showing me music as I was growing up so I just kinda blindly wandered out into the world. But that particular video and song are very clear, I remember how beautiful Aaliyah looked and just how intense the whole video was with all the dancing and kung fu. I wish I had bought this soundtrack when it came out, but I’m sure I appreciate it more in 2012.

I want to start with the Destiny’s Child track, “Perfect Man.” This is ALL Beyonce on here, and at 19 years old, we only catch a glimpse of the complete force she was beginning to become. Her voice is assertive and confident, riding the beat very well and playing the role of diva as if she were born for it. The beat is really interesting to follow as well, the xylophone tones are particularly memorable and this one has been getting a lot of play in my home.

On the hip hop tip, BG absolutely kills it on “Rollin’ Raw” over a funky Mannie Fresh beat. BG’s flow is syrupy and monotone, the hazy beat being the perfect match. However, looking at Timbaland & Magoo’s “At it Again” we find a much more complicated affair. The video is totally worth watching for the Aaliyah and Missy cameos, but it also magnifies the strange turn that this song takes. In my book, Timbaland is an incredible visionary, a producer unique and unparalleled, but really, homeboy’s track record isn’t exactly clean – his sense of humor doesn’t always translate well through the music. About 3 minutes into “At it Again” the track steps into halftime and the video takes a rap-rock approach. As a stand-alone beat I can definitely see Three 6 Mafia rapping over the dark crunk rhythm, but in the context of Timbaland, it’s just a headscratcher. Another example is Aaliyah’s kinda banger “Are You Feelin’ Me” which Timbaland again drops into halftime and then plays hypeman to himself with a whole bunch of “are you feeling this yo?” and “who is the best at making the beats” chants. Timbaland expected my confusion and cuts the track with the statement, “You never saw this coming.”

As of right now, “I Don’t Wanna” is easily my favorite Aaliyah track, and I’ve been playing it nonstop as I’m working on dance steps in my room. Yep. Peep the live video from TRL on Spring Break or something up top (above), Aaliyah brings so much energy from the start. I  really wish I would have been able to see her live. Over the track her cadence is absolutely incredible, she’s got a natural swing to her voice that if represented visually it would look like her thin hips swaying. “I don’t wanna be… I don’t wanna live… I don’t wanna go… Shit, I don’t wanna be alone.” A track for those cold and lonely winter nights.

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Stanton Davis’ Ghetto/Mysticism – Brighter Days (Outrageous/Cultures of Soul, 1977/2011)

Brighter Days is a mythic album in record nerd circles, it’s whispered about with great hyperbole, descriptions sound like Chick Hearn giving a play-by-play. Oh and to top it off, it’s one of Madlib’s favorite jazz records. All I could ever take away from the different blogs, interviews and conversations, was that I would like it and it was guaranteed to be funky. With mythic records like this, I prefer to just dive in and listen to the whole thing front to back like it was meant to be, so I rarely allow myself the pleasures of Youtube teasers. I’ve had this record for a few weeks now and it’s partially the reason why I’m so backlogged; this record is incredibly confounding, yet it is just as compelling. The range from epic spiritual jams like “Play Sleep” (above) to hard funk like “Things Cannot Stop Forever” is incredible, but it’s worth noting that the band was primarily a club band aimed at getting people to boogie.

To be honest, not all of the tracks on here are winners, or perhaps not all of them are as life-changing as I had hoped for. There’s a lot of cheesy vocals on here, taking on a Lonnie Liston Smith or Gary Bartz kind of vibe, best exemplified in a track like “Brighter Days/Brighter Daze.” The instrumental jam is great, but the vocals are just too damn distracting, or rather they fail to offer anymore than the music.

Unquestionably, it’s the instrumentals that do it for me, whether it’s the languid spiritual vibes of “Play Sleep” (above) or the slightly more CTI sounds of “Nida,” the group works well in a jazz setting. Taking the jazz element and adding elements of funk and fusion, tracks like “Space-a-Nova” and “Space-a-Nova Pt 2” are tracks that could work at a dance, while maintaining plenty to offer for the heads as both tracks are bizarre explorations of a samba rhythm, layered in synth fog and atmosphere. Big record overall.

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Moodymann – KDJ 16 (KDJ, 2004)

This is a somewhat mysterious record. Two untitled tracks on single sided vinyl, apparently a lost record from ’97 or ’98. In the youtube posting above the tracks are cut together when there is actually a definite pause break on the record. The first track is an incredible gospel edit, it’s fiery and funky and probably something I will play out a little too often. The second track is more typical KDJ latenight funk – hazy, heavy bass, and strangely seductive. A guitar sample creeps in towards the backhalf of the track and it’s really familiar sounding, but I can’t place it. Another of many masterful, wonderful releases from one of my favorite people making music. I’m stoked to be seeing him next week at the Lift’s 3rd Birthday party.

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Dabrye – Selections: One/Three (Ghostly, 2001)

Dabrye doesn’t get enough respect, the man has been doing his machinefunk hip hop for quite some time, and has been mining techno and other electronic influences before it was cool to do so. And really, he’s had such a tremendous influence on where avant hip hop is today that he should be so much bigger. I’ve been meaning to pick this one up for some time now and I’m really glad it fell into my hands.

The big track is “Hyped Up Plus Tax” and I guess it was used in some phone commercial. It’s a great track, with beautiful string samples and a swagger that still sounds fresh today. It’s one of those tracks that sounds so dope as an instrumental but is begging for a cat like Danny Brown to add some extra murk to it. “Smoking the Edge” steps it up just a bit and that beat is just so fucking hard. Dabrye handles the rhythm really well, breaking it down on a controller or maybe even in the box, but making it sound like he’s juggling it like a DMC champ. Boy got so much swag.

On the flip, “With a Professional” takes the tone back down and offers a bit of sunlight. It’s a very mellow track, handled very well, but still a little dirty and glitchy. For my money, “So Scientific” (above) is the one. The track is funky and hard, all done with a deep bleep influence. Dabrye handles his percussive elements really well and incorporates dense polyrhythmic structures that are wonderful to breakdown and even better to groove to. It’s a complex track that is thoroughly enjoyable for your head or feet. Another one of my favorites from the D.

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Beneath – Illusions (Keysound, 2012)

Beneath was one of my favorite producers to pop up in 2012 (along with Xosar) and this end of the year release on London’s Keysound label was highly anticipated. He has crafted a unique and well-defined sonic identity where the vibe is equal parts UK Funky, Dark Garage and old school Dubstep; a sound characterized by precise percussion, fat swelling bass, eerie atmosphere, and accentuated by pure primal functionality. I’ve been sneaking Beneath into all sorts of sets throughout 2012 and people always dance.

The record kicks off with the eerie industrial gloom of “Prangin‘” which although is a fully-functioning dance track, it has qualities that make it accessible off the dancefloor. It’s atmospheric with a cinematic quality to it, fully-functional and bass heavy, yet it works best as the soundtrack to my bus ride into work on these cold gray mornings. The sample intoning “It comes from the heart” offers a shade of light, and perhaps a view into the very human artistic expression that Beneath is looking to evoke. On the flip, “Wonz” follows suit with a few horror movie piano samples thrown in for good measure.

Illusions” is on side C, and this track is precisely the reason that made Beneath my favorite producer in 2012. While hard and funky, hes incredible at using space and silence as an instrument in of itself. He feels fully comfortable in dropping all sound for a few bars, before bringing that spartan snare back in, that tribal drum derived from a sampler preset or generic plug-in, but when isolated and placed in a thick web of black gauze, draped by fat globs of bass, and a little music box melody coming out of nowhere – all is perfect.

The big track, and the track that has had me salivating from the start is his remix of “Concrete Jungle” (above) which was by far the highlight of his incredible mixes for FACT and Boiler Room. Which, to sidetrack myself, reminds me that I absolutely love Beneath as a DJ. As in, I’ve got his FACT and Daily Street mixes on my 4GB ipod right now. Anyway, what more can I say about “Concrete Jungle” other than I can’t wait to play this out? Big release, looking forward to Beneath’s output in 2013.

Categories: 2000, 2001, 2012, detroit, diva, fusion, hip hop, House, LDN