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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

Picks 12/30/2012

December 30, 2012 Leave a comment

2013 just might be my year. Anything can happen right? My week was pretty good, while I was out with my folks in Phoenix I did a little record shopping which I’ll write about next week. Also came home to a stack of shit I bought at Amoeba before I left plus two packages. Records, man. Excited about the future, excited to share it with y’all.

Pulled from the internet crates of Hyperdub, FXHE, and Discogs.

Burial – Truant b/w Sleeper (Hyperdub, 2012)

I’m really glad Google led me to this particular uploading of Burial’s latest single, Truant, as in the comments section someone remarked that he’d be afraid to walk around London in the dark with this on his headphones. Just last night I was walking home a little chiefed, vibing the cool night air and digging the new Burial, falling into the dense soundscapes, immersed in the subbass, tape dust, rain sounds, and horror synths as a big guy who looked a little sketchy was passing me. A sound half gunshot, half cracking wood rang in the left channel and I jumped and looked back at the guy expecting him to be holding a smoking gun.

Burial has been somewhat active in the last year or so, this being his third single under his name, alongside two with Four Tet (also Thom Yorke on one), plus a thing with Massive Attack. This year’s Kindred was a big surprise, both because it showed Burial using trancey synths to add shades of color behind his usual thick gray fog, but also as the record was structurally challenging – the beat would drop out, and when it returned it was changed, as if the song got tired of being itself.

Burial moves forward and evolves these elements, taking the idea into two side-long tracks. When Hyperdub announced the digital release I decided to spend the $2.48 and buy it, then order the vinyl later (which I did last night). So I’ve had the record for about two weeks now and I have to say I still haven’t quite figured it out. I’ve listened to multiple times a day since then, and it still sounds new to me at every listen – I’m constantly surprised and amazed within a track’s journey. I think that this is not only the best record of the year, but also Burial’s most inspired and generally impressive work to date. Despite the non-linear, start-stop movement of the music, this is Burial at his most intimate, most human, and most accessible. This is music you turn on loud and just listen to, this is music to take you out of your head as you sit on the bus, music for the sake of being what music should be. I view the release as a more personal approach than just crafting two long, difficult tracks, but rather a discourse in the form of a mix or performance; in that, perhaps the bulk of these tracks were recorded live in the studio, or maybe the pieces were intricately built then put together like a DJ set captured on a worn C30 cassette off a pirate radio show – signal interruptions, grainy tape hiss and all.

Truant” begins slowly, wandering in gracefully through the thick gray mist that surrounds Burial’s work. The song stutters and stumbles, picks up again slightly changed each time, as if in an ongoing dream during a restless night’s sleep. A ghostly voice makes an attempt to speak and finally is able to utter the haunting line “I fell in love with you” twice, before slipping back into the darkness. At about five minutes the groove finally makes its way to the forefront and begins to stick in, the percussion gaining momentum and the gentle suggestion of swing becoming enhanced by a mesmerizing synth melody so fragile it hardly feels present at all. About 8:30 the song abruptly halts and what sounds like an alarm buzzes, waking the listener from this dream. Dropping into darker territory, the atmosphere thickens with a downpour of black rain, and in the last minute a bass melody is suggested, but quickly disappears with just the vaguest recollection of it ever being there.

“Rough Sleeper” (above) is the one, the better track on the record, but also the track that could Burial’s defining moment. For all captivating 14 minutes of the track he flexes his ability to craft unique melodies and a sense of pop in such deep, dark music. The track is heavy with vocal samples, washed in silky synth lines and carries forward a gentle groove. It’s a journey that is marvelous and rewarding, but its more than just a statement about duration of time or an experience with synesthesia; when the bells come in halfway through like sunshine in a dark room, it becomes fully apparent that Burial, like Coltrane or DJ Shadow, is pushing the boundaries of “music” in order to fully utilize  the medium as an outlet for his direct voice, vision, and soul. Maybe this isn’t Burial’s A Love Supreme, but he’s found his classic quartet and there can only be greater things to come.

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Fit featuring Gunnar Wendel – Roll Out (FXHE, 2012)

As much as I am addicted to records, I’m addicted to Omar S’ FXHE record label, and the raw otherworldy Detroit Techno institution is easily in my top 3 labels of the year (big ups LIES and Night Slugs). Whenever any new releases suddenly appear the website I send my man in the 313 an e-mail right away. 2012 has been a good year for a lot of music, but Aaron “Fit” Siegal has had a great time moving from record mogul to hit maker, teaming up with Omar S for two defining singles on FXHE in “SEX” and “Tonite” (below), plus alternate mixes of Tonite on his own imprint (this one next week). Meanwhile, Gunnar Wendel is the given name to German house weirdo Kassem Mosse, who provides beats for the productions on the 12″. Of course Omar S has a hand in every single release on the label and he’s credited for doing the mix, which does sound typically excellent.

“Enter the Fog” (above) is really the one for me, this is the sound I have come to know and love from FXHE, melodic deep techno that is a complete delight to listen to. Fit really is skilled on the keys, playing some lines that don’t sound too far from Ahmad Jamal’s work for Impulse, elegant, yet alive and filled with soul. Wendel really holds up on his end of the deal, using a really raw and crunchy drum kit with a suggestive bounce to it, but it’s the fine details like the light fingersnaps, the oscillating feedback, and the pitched down hit hats, that take this so far apart from a lot of other projects out there today. A wonderful, epic listen.

The A-side, “Roll Out” is the stomper here, opening with a twinkly melody, a crunchy kick and a sluggish hi hat. Once the bassline comes in, however, you realize there is no hope of turning back. This sounds really fucking good loud – the bass really rumbles and jacks, whereas Fit’s work on the Prophet is completely mesmerizing and quietly ecstatic, but more interestingly is how the lightweight synths just seem to float in the air as your feet are drawn to that obscene kick drum. Excellent 12″, thanks again FXHE!

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Chez Damier – Close (Substance, 1997)

How could I not love this? Jazzy, soulful, deep-slung house that makes anytime feel like late nights and burning incense. While the remixes from JT offer more functional takes, the Chez original is the one. His singing is really excellent, sounding soulful and slyly seductive in a Luther Vandross sort of way. I’m really not typically one to enjoy vocal house,  especially male vocals, but Chez really kills it here. Coming into it, the groove is impossible to avoid; the bassline slinking along, the strong kick keeping you bobbing, and the airy keys adding a soft atmosphere to the track. This is midnight music, 5:15am music – satin sheets, champagne and smoke in the air. This one is going to be in my crates for a while.

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Moodymann – Dem Young Sconies b/w The Third Track (Decks Classix, 1996, 1997, 2010)

Oh KDJ, how much I love you man. I’m so stoked that he’s playing the Lift 3rd Birthday Party next month. I was a little disappointed when I saw Moody at Rhonda earlier this year, the sound at the club was  pretty awful, although he did play a great set. I think things will be a bit better this time around.

“The Third Track” (above) is another one of my favorite Moodymann moments, and it was on a lazy stoned afternoon listening to Silent Introduction I realized that I needed to immediately acquire this soulful disco slammer. This is classic Moody here – masterfully used soul samples, clanging keys and some fuzzed out strings all lying on top of a bouncy kick. I don’t get tired of this one ever, I had a day at work recently where I played it about 10-15 times in a row.

“Dem Young Sconies” is a totally different vibe here, trading soul for funk and moving into grimy Detroit electro. The rhythm is eerie and hard jacking – it bounces, starts and stops as like a piston, as a sonar blip and high pitched synth tone waver ominously in the air. A dark track befitting a dark image of Detroit.

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Omar S Presents Aaron “Fit” Siegel ft L’Renee – Tonite (FXHE, 2012)

I slept on this one when it came out earlier this year and I really feel like I did wait too long before picking it up. This is aforementioned AOL at work here, and I really hope this unit continues to make more of their soulful timeless music. Fortunately, when Omar S is in the world, anything seems possible.

I have to start with the “Detroit Mix” (above) because really this track is just so huge, but it also plays an interesting role in the resurgence of classic house music. While most producers are busy aping Kerri Chandler, MK or (more interestingly) Dance Mania tropes, the remix stays true to the gritty machinefunk tradition of the 313. The sawtooth harmonica melody is completely out of this world, reminiscent of early Underground Resistance and Derrick May, balanced by uplifting ivories and L’Renee’s gentle coos and suggestions of what may lay in store “tonite.” It’s an interesting approach to take, and the product is really stunning. This classic sounding homage to a tradition almost thirty years old now is fresh and much needed in a time when too many records just sound the same – and trust, there’s no way you’d miss this record if you heard it in a set.

Interestingly enough, I just did a little snooping around and on the “Original Mix” of this track, Mike Banks is credited as 038, for playing Rhodes. How small the world seems to be in the D. The original mix is a laidback affair, a gently bubbling house track, equipped with an excellent Omar S bassline and an impressive delivery from L’Renee. It’s a good track, but the clear winner is the stomper on the flip.

Categories: chicago, detroit, House, soul

I Can Feel the Ice Melting

February 3, 2011 1 comment

This one goes out to Eral in Connecticut!

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The Parliaments – (I Wanna) Testify/I Can Feel the Ice Melting

Before Parliament, there was The Parliaments. George Clinton is one of the most genius musicians of all time and this is where the man got his start. A beautiful little 45 to keep you warm whether it’s a cool 60 degrees and sunny or you’re shoveling snow for the first time in your life.

(I Wanna) Testify comes at you hard and fast, a little bit of Chuck Berry guitar kicks it off, but a strong horn section and some deep Hammond B3 stabs keep it in a James Brown proto-funk groove. The chorus to this song is gold, George Clinton’s voice is unbeatable.

Speaking of unbeatable voice, Clinton flips into an odd sweet soul ballad for the b-side. This tracks plays up the Motown sound a little more, with that summery vibraphone opening hitting it like a Four Tops jam. This song is my jam, and as you can tell by the wear on the rip, whoever owned this before me really enjoyed it.

Link in the comments!

Categories: 1967, soul, US