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Picks 5/12/2013

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

My old receiver was literally the bane of my existence and so I upgraded to a little $25 amp from China. Best move. Can’t wait to give the old one the Office Space treatment. I’ve been having really good record luck recently. I don’t know what it is, but I love it. TIME2MOVE on Friday was great. Despite some heavy competition (stacked house show down the street / stacked lineup at Rhonda) a lot of people showed up and we had a good ass time. Stay up, its just about summer.

Pulled from the wellsprings that are: Amoeba, Chemical-Records and Discogs.

Brandy – Brandy (Atlantic, 1994)

As I’ve said before, I’m deep in an R&B state of mind. The R&B 12″s section of the record store has been a consistent first stop for me in the last few months. This record came with a particularly amazing comeuppance of modern R&B LPs, Beyonce and Brandy, Jessie Ware and Cassie still sealed in the shrink. Still working through the stack, but this has been the instant winner right here.

Largely produced by Keith Crouch, Brandy’s first album serves as a precursor to the burgeoning neo-soul movement. More soulful than new jack swing, harder than a Babyface production, the record shares that sense of warmness that comes from real instruments and analog production. Listen to the unbelievable “I Wanna Be Down” and tell me that D’Angelo and Erykah Badu weren’t vibin. The warmth and emotion, the vocal delivery, the lyrics are all perfect. She’s able to convey so much emotion, so much conviction in a way that seems effortless. That beat just shuffling along, holding down the groove but giving plenty of space to the star. It’s a timeless track that sounds good almost twenty years later and will still sound good in another twenty.

Brandy is just unstoppable throughout the record as her vocal style is unique, passionate and so pleasant to the ear. Moving between ballads, party starters, diva jams and weirdo 90s r&b, the record is cohesive, although a little long. Of course I have a preference to the funky tracks, the groovers with that 90s swing. “Baby” (above) appears early on in the tracklist and its appeal is immediately felt. The beat is breezy and funky with Brandy absolutely killing it on the mic, sounding vibrant and powerful like a seasoned veteran delivering a hook that just wont quit. The track also serves as an excellent example of her use of overdubbed vocals. Layered vocals was a formula that Brandy used frequently and gives her vocal delivery an dynamic nature that is unparalleled, and really, can you have too much of a good thing?

The low slung “Best Friend” is another Keith Crouch win. Effortlessly sounding like two or three singers within the frame of one song, Brandy has the ability to make every simple phrase brim with melody, overflow with that golden tone of her voice. The other production team on deck is Somethin’ For the People and their blend of hip hop and soul sensibilities works almost as well as Crouch’s work. On “Sunny Day,” the vibe shines bright as a rhodes drenched shuffling instrumental makes enough noise to easily pass for a missing Q-Tip beat. The harder boombap of Somethin’s productions foreshadows the direction she would ultimately spend her career chasing.

Absolutely excellent record, I know this is going to get a lot of play this summer. “Baby” has already done an excellent job rocking a few parties. My only complaint is that like a lot of records from this time when CDs were the greater focus, it was pressed as a single LP and at 28 minutes of music on each side the record kinda sounds like shit. Oh well, that’s why they make mp3s, right?

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Girl Unit / Morri$ – Night Slugs Allstars Vol. 2 Sampler (Night Slugs, 2013)

This is something else I’ve been trying to pick up for a while. Nobody has had it for a price I like so I bit the bullet yesterday and picked it up Amoeba for $15. I’m a big fan of the Night Slugs label, those cats are really pushing forward a different style of music, borrowing from all over the place to piece together a grime/ghettohouse/trap/ballroom/whatever concoction. Their shit knocks, and although I don’t buy every release, I will gladly admit that each 12″ or LP is never anything but forward looking music. Combined with their sister Fade to Mind crew, we have the future of club music right here.

It was initially Girl Unit’s “Double Take (Part 2)”  that instilled the lust in me. “Double Take” initially appeared on his Club Rez EP from last year and it always bummed me out that the euphoric mellow part didn’t stick around long enough. I was even considering trying to piece together an edit just when I heard a long version of the track on Kingdom’s 1xtra mix. It’s a really wonderful track, but I’ve gotta say Morri$’ “White Hood” (above) takes the cake on this one. It’s like a hood symphony up in here. The accordion sample is absolutely killer, slightly menacing, but overwhelmingly catchy. The atmosphere is thick with sound, fat 808s rock against samples of marbles in a wooden box, with chimes and hazy synth tones all up in the mix. Bok Bok’s dub mix takes away the clutter and leaves for a functional rhythm track, but the winner is definitely the original.

Morri$ is in town Thursday, playing the opening party for the homies Low Limit and Sodapop’s new venture Household.

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Zomby – Dedication (4AD, 2011)

Not sure why it took me so long to pick this up, I’ve got a lot of his early stuff and I really love Where Were U in ’92. For the last few months I have literally been craving the sound of Zomby; his grimey, neon tones coupled with deep rhythmic palettes ranging from grime to funky, house to juke. After a few trips to record stores and not being able to find this record I took to the trusty fallback, Discogs.

As much as people talk about Zomby’s music, they talk about his persona more. He’s notorious for being outlandish, a shit talker and pretty self-involved. His twitter feed is absolutely hilarious. Perhaps his biggest his, “Natalia’s Song” (above) came out in controversy last year, revealing that the producer took a sample or segment of a track from another artist and didn’t credit him. Regardless, the song is beautiful, a perfectly hazy, melancholy garage track with bits of glimmering melody at every step of the way. It’s obviously an ode to the work of Burial, and although not executed with the same expertise, it still conjures the same emotional depth.

Much of the record is characterized by bright ravey synth tones, echoing both jungle and grime, but implemented in a way that manages to sound fresh. “Riding With Death” enters with some old school dubbed out subbass, then carried along by a shuffling beat and a rolling muted organ. The atmosphere is thick and the groove is insatiable. When the first tracks from this album began to leak it took everyone by surprise that most of the songs just seemed to end without any logical conclusion. But in typical Zomby fashion, he seems to have had the grander vision of a cohesive album journey in mind. Often when one track ends it’ll dive straight into another, like a raucous mix in the club or a party mix on the radio – all accentuated with gunshot samples and airhorns. It works to great effect when the rolling rave rhythm of “Lucifer” morphs into the thumping “Digital Rain“.

This album works well, it balances brooding dark atmosphere and percussion with those bright synths that creep in like lasers through the haze. My favorite track on the record, “A Devil Lay Here” moves along patiently, heavily focused on that groovey bassline and some heavily romanticized Ruff Sqwad worship. All in all a great buy. I’m amped for his new album next month.

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Kenny Dope Presents The Bucketheads – The Bomb! (Henry Street/Decks Classix, 1994)

As I had no prior knowledge of this song, maybe I internalized it when hearing it on the radio or seeing it on MTV as a kid (I honestly have no memory of either), but when I heard a 45 second clip of this on the Chemical-Records new arrivals section I did a backflip. Something about the track instilled a sense of longing and nostalgia aka I had to buy it immediately. Funny enough, that same week I found two copies of it in the Amoeba used bin for $2-4 and then I read an interview with the Black Madonna who gave it a shout out.

The Bomb” (full version) has been in my possession for over a month now and I can’t help but give the full 14+ minutes of it a listen pretty much everyday. I love how the rolling tribal rhythm peppered with raucous organ stabs sheds its tough exterior to reveal a beautifully soulful disco-house track. The horns are the definition of alluring, the chopped vocals catchy and nonsensical in the way that only Dope can do it. I really love every moment of this track. Everytime I start to mix records at home it inevitably ends up getting played. I think the Black Madonna sums up my feelings for this record pretty well: “It’s one of those records that ate the world because it was just so good.”

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Categories: 1994, 2011, 2013, diva, House, LDN, NY, video Tags: ,

Pulls. The last two months of my life seem frozen.

April 28, 2013 Leave a comment

Okay, so I guess I took a little break from the blog. Life gets in the way sometimes right? Gotta reassert myself, music first everything else second. I originally wrote this entry two months ago, but these records are too good to not talk about. Today I added the Cassie write up and added some notes to the original blurbs. Pearson Sound and Bok Bok are coming to town next week. Gonna be a rager. OH and make sure you watch the “Body Party” video. I pray to it like three times a day.

Pulled from Amoeba, All Day Records and Dat Piff.

inc. – no world (4AD, 2013)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. I was first struck when 4AD quietly released “The Place” (above) and announced a full length on the way. You know I have an inclination towards the deep and sensual, so inc sat well with me almost immediately. My subtle hype turned ecstatic when I saw them at the Boiler Room the other night, the vibe was thick with soul and the band was on point. I was really impressed by how their sound translated live, it was just as intimate and groovy, introspective, but dialogic. Winter is the time to be dormant, to explore within your own den, and I have taken this time to listen to a whole lot of slow-burning soul and r&b.

The album has a pronounced introverted character to it, and I assume that this is the reason why some of my friends don’t dig the record. There aren’t any huge hooks, lavish vocals, or club tracks; the lyrics are cryptic messages to lovers, friends, or no one in particular, and the vocals rarely rise above a hushed whisper. Instead, the grooves swell, bubbling with the assured funk of a veteran (the brothers that make up the group were avid session musicians, having worked with Pharrell, Beck, Raphael Saadiq, etc), and a music head whose got a deep love for spiritual soul music.

Although the vibe is constantly peaked at “late-night bedroom soul,” the group explores the full pantheon of sepia toned r&b taking influence from Babyface, Blood Orange, and Illangelo’s productions for the Weeknd, but still remaining completely unique. The brothers Aged are exquisite players who have a deep appreciation for the organic groove of live musicians, as heard of the lovely “Lifetime” or “Trust (Hell Below)“. Contemporary production methods are also a huge influence as well, usually drawing cues from the seductive contrast of sharp, precise drum programming and layers of atmospheric haze that nod towards Illangelo or Nicolas Jaar. The use of both live elements and “in the box” methods on tracks like “Angel” or “5 Days” are extremely rewarding, especially in how organic the blend sounds. Sometimes the mix is a little too smokey, and the vocals are somewhat buried, but I assume that considering the group, they are more focused on vibe rather than singalong lyrics. As the record ends one more time, I’m going to flip it and start all over. Totally beautiful, I can’t wait to hear some of this stuff on a big soundsystem.

4/28: It’s been two months since I first wrote this and I’m still in love with this record. It’s absolutely beautiful and has a healing quality to it – it’s the best record for when I’m hungover, sad, or just have a nasty case of the Mondays. Oh and it sounds great on a big soundsytem. Since first picking this up I haven’t been able to play a show without dropping “5 Days” or “The Place.” Record of the year? We’ll see.

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Cassie – RoackaByeBaby (Self released/Badboy, 2013)

I guess I’ve always loved Cassie. “Me & U” was all over the radio the summer I was on tour with This Flood Covers the Earth. We would be in the most backwoods/backwards ass county tucked up in the bible belt, but the pop station would keep the diva on lock. For me it was a perfect song for that moment in time. In the last year or so I’ve really fallen for r&b, quickly growing from a small portion of my record collection to stacks of Brandy, Sade and Aaliyah 12″s sitting in front of my 1200s. Like a lot of people, the unofficial Cassie “Trilogy” reignited my interest with the gorgeous woman who seems to get more buzz for being Puff Daddy’s sidepiece. Her output isn’t exactly full of hits, but when it works, it really works. Cassie’s trademark soft coo is astoundingly aesthetically pleasing, which makes up for her lack of singing talents; truly, I can listen to this girl say anything on repeat for the rest of my life. Her tone is excellent, and as I’ve stated before, vocals are usually a deterrent for me, as I prefer to view the voice as an instrument within the ensemble. Cassie excels when she is thick in the mix, tucked into a smokey late night r&b instrumental.

Cassie’s 2006 self-titled debut was one of the first records to push the modern late-night bedroom aesthetic that has become a dominating force within the genre. She capitalizes on this post Weeknd/Future style of urban pop by enlisting the right people (Mike Will, Rob Holladay) to make dark, sensual instrumentals that match her delicate vocals. I have to wonder how much control Puff had over the project, as it forms a very cohesive, focused record, and at 13 tracks it feels more like an actual album than a scattershot mixtape. Regardless, it’s very well done and quite likely to show up on some end of year lists.

“Numb” (above) is still my favorite track off the record, taking cues from Clams Casino on the production, by offering an LA sunset vibe to Cassie’s soft rap. The Rick Ross feature isn’t great, but it doesn’t detract from the overall aesthetic of the track. Weirdly enough, most of the throwaway features on the record are often paired with either a poor instrumental and/or a subpar performance from Cassie. Yet, I’m at the stage where I’ve listened to the record so many times, and have come to use it as functional, day-to-day music that the the French Montana EDM track doesn’t get skipped and I’ll even give Meek Mill the time of day.

But the highs are high; the Jeremih featuring “Sound of Love” is pure pop genius and if the world was just it’d be #1 on the radio. One of the strongest cuts is “I Love it” featuring an excellent delivery from Fabolous over a creepy, hard beat that could have easily come from Kingdom’s arsenal. Throughout the mixtape Cassie is base, her lyrics mostly written by Jeremih and focused on hypersexualized standard themes of her beautiful body and good sex. As stated before, her delivery is the real star, and alongside her smooth coo she demonstrates her ability to rap, and rap well. It’s surprising how competent an emcee she is, her flow is assured and dripping with swagger. This may be the first release that features rapping from her and I hope it’s something she continues to develop. In fact, her delivery throughout is quite strong, she’s gotten comfortable with her voice and knows how to use it. Big ups Cassie, holla at me when you get over Diddy.

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Terekke – Damn b/w Pf Pf Pass (L.I.E.S. 2011/2013)

Even though there is currently a repress out, the going rate for the OG 12″ runs about $45 on discogs. This one came to me on the excellent American Noise compilation I wrote about a while back. Terekke is a completely new name to me and he has quickly become an almost daily listen, especially with that deep Soundcloud of his. He has a sound that comes off like a chopped and screwed PPU release; exploring a real talent for small, weirdly hummable melodies and loose, playful percussion.

I first heard “Damn” Saturday afternoon, spliffed with the beautiful Long Beach breeze coming through my window and a California brew in my hand. I’ve gotta say that it may have been the most perfect introduction. This is a deep, Larry Heard aping Chicago bomber, rubbed with grain and smoked to a deep gray. This track would be fun to play in the club because it would just work, a simple bass groove keeping the energy up while those ghostly cymbals sputter.

It’s interesting to read that I had previously described “Pf Pf Pass” (above) by the way the “kick drum crumbles,” and  I feel that it was an astute observation. The kick is steady, but is hardly prominent, allowing the synth loop to drive the momentum while adding a lot of color. This one is going to be in my crate for a long time.

4/28: Yep, this record has refused to leave my crate. Both tracks really work, having tested them out in the club and at the house party. “Damn” for the win.

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Theo Parrish – Handmade (Running Back, 2012)

I saw somebody play “Black Mist” (above) recently and it totally blew my mind. It’s incredible how much of a difference hearing music on an appropriate soundsystem can really change the way you perceive music. The bass is unbelievably deep, so deep in fact, I had to adjust the tone arm on my 1200s just so the needle doesn’t skip all over the record from those lovely low frequencies. The track is fairly straight forward, there’s some mangled modular synth stuff going, and heavy lysergic funk that is a subconscious nod to the demented forefather himself, George Clinton. Parrish’s masterful rhythmic work propels the track, hihats and woodblocks primed and full of color, making this an ideal gateway track whether in a sweaty club or as a jawdropper during a backyard bbq.

On the flip, the jangly “Pop Off” struts with a stuttering gutbucket funk groove that could easily be the timer for some sort of cartoonish explosion. The relentless loopy forward momentum reminds me of the recent jazz-indebted work of Joe. “Wild Out” concludes the ep and is carried by some zombie fax machine sounds and underground explosions. It’s probably the most difficult to imagine throwing into a set, but I can see how this track would absolutely kill in a place like Panorama Bar right about 4am. Theo, you’ve done it again, my man.

4/28: BLACK MIST. THAT BASS. THAT BASS.

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Categories: 2011, 2013, boogie, detroit, diva, House, LA, NY, soul

2011 so far

September 3, 2011 Leave a comment

We’re 3/4 through the year and there’s been a hell of a lot of amazing releases this year. It really is an incredible time to be alive as far as music goes. Here are some of my favorite releases from this year so far. For the most part they’re not big name releases like Panda Bear, but they’re records that have really hit me in some way, have played a role in shaping my year in some fashion. No order, just jams.

ShlohmoBad Vibes (Friends of Friends)

Shlohmo has matured a lot as an artist and his debut full lgenth Bad Vibes is a fully developed articulation with a deep musical narrative. This is an album meant to be listened to all the way through as it flows and undulates, creating a wordless narrative of a kind of youthful innocence that undergoes its own Campbellian hero journey. Shlohmo is creating a dialogue with his listener that is intimate and emotional, as he reaches out to our senses and talking about something that is absolutely universal. His use of pretty, light tones, heavy effects of distortion on the guitar, and obscured reverbed vocals are familiar conversation points, but the oblique rhythms and airy textures require the listener to put together Shlohmo’s story. This album has been a favorite listen on early summer mornings, playing a similar role as the sea breeze that creeps in my window, energizing my body in a way only such things can.

OssieSet the Tone (Hyperdub)

This is a favorite at my house and is lately what I reach for when the dancing mood strikes. I love the simplicity of the track – essentially a simple latin shuffle paired with summery synth bass tones. Simple and beautiful. It works great in pretty much any set too, which is nice. The b-side features two great cuts too, espeically with “Moves” being a more elaborate funky house track that is sure to get you stomping. And damn, I love that video – it looks like the best day ever.

BJesus (Nature Sounds)

Simply put, B/Blu has reignited my love for hip hop. His other releases this year (Amnesia & Her Favorite Colour) are great, but it was this low-fi, straight-to-tape sounding record that really resonated with me on a level that was like the first time I heard Common’s Ressurrection or Nas’ Illmatic. This is a completely honest, humble hip hop record that looks back to the times when flow was the main focus on an album. None of these tracks are particularly engineered to make your trunk rattle or to make the dancefloor bounce, but each of the soulful beats accentuate Blu’s thoughtful narrative perfectly. The lyrics are light, playful and fun, but absolutely enrapturing with his complex word play as he drops metaphors, tongue-in-cheek jokes and triple-entendres as if it were second nature. I can’t listen to a single track off this album without a new line jumping out at me – especially love “Let me be blunt/Light up a blunt/Ask you to lunch/OH! You the brunch type?”. This may be my favorite record of the year.

Nicolas JaarSpace is the Only Noise You Can See (Circus Company)

This is one of those records that only improves upon every listen. At first listen it came off as a melodramatic late night record, but I began to understand that Jaar is immaculately creating a cinematic narrative where each song drives this strange story forward in a way that is engrossing and wondrous as a Goddard or Kirosawa film. This is a great late night record, displaying a sense of sophistication while pursuing a subtle sexy tone and gently pulsating rhythms – really the kind of record that demands a little wine, a little hash and dim lights. The hazy house and Satie/Debussy indebted instrumental compositions are thematic explorations that exceed both the confines of genre and contemporary “art music” inclinations. Fifteen, twenty years from now Space is the Only Noise You Can See will not only be considered as a milestone in Jaar’s career, but also a landmark in the evolution of “electronic music” in general.

the WeekndHouse of Balloons (Self-released)

Speaking of late night records, the Weeknd have set a new standard for bedroom R&B with House of Balloons. This record came as a huge surprise to me,  as there was just too much hype surrounding it for it to actually be good, right? But as I haven’t been able to stop listening to this record on the daily, I feel that it rightfully deserves a place in the legendary sexy r&b canon along with Al Green’s Lets Stay Together, Marvin Gaye’s I Want You and D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar. The production is hazy and oneiric, loaded with dark layers and super warm bass throbs that vaguely recall some artists such as Burial, SBTRKT or James Blake. Lyrics are clever and often humorous, resembling intoxicated delusional ramblings of sex, drugs and the type of partying that in the morning feels a lot more like a dream than reality. There are moments of reflection of this Dionysian lifestyle that really strike a chord, almost like a wink that threatens to make the whole lyrical narrative seem like a drunken fantasy. Part of the big appeal of the lyrics and whole attitude of the album is a proliferation with this trend of reality-show-as-life celebrity glamor perpetuated by people like Kanye West or Paris Hilton. Regardless, this is the type of record that stimulates, and seduces, edging toward that moment when the bass drops and then, damn, you rewind that shit just to feel the high of the musical foreplay all over again.

the Midnight Eezthe Midnight Eez EP (All City)

Supposedly this is a lost beat tape from 95/96, but the choice of samples and the beautifully warm analog feel of these instrumentals make this seem more like a contemporary homage to the golden age of jazzy, soulful hip hop beats. Not much to say about this record other than it’s absolutely great. No frills beats, just real soul.

ActressGershwin/Harrier Attack (Non Plus+)

Some real headbang house. Just turn “Gershwin” up to 11, kick back and let the rumbling bass and hypnotic synth work itself into your psyche like an spiritual incantation. This song is absolutely amazing. The heavy rhythmic drone of a band like Earth or Isis (or alternately of voodoo drumming) meshed with the bounce of house can only really be done well by a select few and Actress may be the best among them. I wish this song was ten minutes longer, really.

Mono/PolyManifestations (Brainfeeder)

Mono/Poly is doing great things for American bass music, and this record is totally essentially to all lovers of bass. He’s got the west coast funk thing going on similar to cats like Joker, but has this defiant and glorious love for overwhelming and aggressive low end that Low End Theory bass heads flock to like a crackhead to a pookie. Short, digestable and a really fun listen.

WU LYFGo Tell Fire to the Mountain (LYF)

Another record that really surprised me despite the surrounding hype. I don’t listen to a whole lot of “guitar music” anymore, but within minutes I was hooked on this record. It’s got that blissful heaviness that I was addicted to back in my hardcore days, but balanced with a genuine love of melodic singalongs akin to what Hot Water Music circa Fuel for the Hate Game were doing. This is a record put together by young musicians doing exactly what they love and it shows so well. The production on this album is absolutely phenomenal as well – it was recorded in a church which really gives the record a very big, ethereal feel. I feel a little old and nostalgic for loving this record so much, but goddamn, youthful energy is a beautiful thing.

Categories: 2011

The Nature of Sound

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

You can’t even begin to think of yourself as a record collector unless you’ve been asked by some bewildered person why you would want to buy big old-fashioned LPs. The same records they threw out and thought were junk, you or one of your digger brethren later hit the jackpot with copies of Rubber Soul, Gratitude, and Time Out at the Salvation Army. There are a group of people out there that have not, or maybe can not, hear the warmth of vinyl – the subtle thickness of sound that is simply not there on CD or MP3.

Black Dynamite soundtrack composer Adrian Younge produced this little video as a quick promo/infomercial about the Universal Audio company. UA was – and still is – key in developing equipment that created that unique and timeless warmth and light analog fuzz of all the best music from the 60s and 70s.

You do not have to be a gear-head in order to dig this video; of course the song Younge wrote for the video is great, but this short video also offers a quick insight into how recording equipment helps add another layer to how we come to love how music sounds.

Categories: 2011, video