Thursday, May 29, 2014
Iceland is obviously known musically for Bjork (and The Sugarcubes), Sigur Ros and to a lesser degree Gus Gus but did you know there's far more than just those three artists on that tiny island? It's true. Really. In fact, there is a thriving music scene out there in the North Atlantic and the Made In Iceland series is out to serve as the Rough Guide to this incredible scene. Now up to it's seventh installment, the series has brought many artists out of the ice and into the spotlight to thaw out.
About half way through this listening to compilation and one thing is becomes obvious Iceland is way more than just the land of quirky ice princesses. Made In Iceland features eighteen artists playing everything from artpop, chilled house, electro, folk and even alt-country. Who knew that such a small island could be home to such a diverse scene? Well kiddo, it's true and although several of the artists have unpronounceable names their songs are anything but unapproachable. In fact, a vast majority of Made In Iceland VII is excellent stuff; all killer and no filler and the fact that there are multiple volumes of this series speaks to how large and successful the scene up there really is.
While Made In Iceland highlights the diversity and depth of talent in Iceland from one corner to the next it is glaringly obvious throughout this compilation that they are truly the masters of icy cool electronica. They just get it, they know how to write it, shape it, craft it and they create songs that are chilled to beaty perfection. Perhaps it's a reflection of their environment or their isolation but these guys are the masters of cool and I don't mean that in a bad way. Starwalker, Berndsen, and Asonat all make impressive appearances here and they left me wanting to hear more...or at least book a flight to Reykjavik and see all this in person.
Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires album Dereconstructed is probably the most aptly named album I've heard in a long time. From just glancing at the cover to throwing this thing on to give it a spin there isn't a song on this album that hasn't dereconstructed rock and roll down to it's barest bones, beat it with a stick, roughed it up a bit more and then attempted to piece it all back together. This record is a sonic mess that's loud, brash, sloppy, and like a subdivision of garage rock called subgarage rock.
All that being said Dereconstructed is absolutely amazing. Sounding like Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, The Sonics, a bunch of broken amplifiers, lots of fuzz, and a sketchy analogue recording device about to die this is the sound of post-grunge chaos. This thing is noisy, brazen, energetic and being torn apart at the seams but that's what makes it so good. If this thing was polished and produced it would be horrible, but sounding like it was recorded in a freeway rest stop bathroom it has this scuzzy feel to it that gives the record a sense of eminent destruction. Every song is like this; chaotic and duct taped together but at the same time they're ridiculously memorable and have huge hooks in which to capture you with. This is rock and roll the way it was meant to be played and lived.
Sometimes you CAN judge a book by it's cover and Dereconstructed is one such instance. Just look at it up there...it's a junkyard on the cover. It's like a Rock and Roll Sanford & Son and that's exactly like Dereconstructed. It's a disastrous mess that somehow makes sense to someone. I love rock and roll and Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires reminded me why.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
South African Daena Jay has traveled the planet and lived in some of the most interesting places on the planet. Durban, London, Perth, LA; been there done that wrote a song about it. Daena Jay has taken those experiences as well a stories of love and loss and put them into her Subdivision EP. This five song affair hovers the grey areas between being singer/songwritery, Florence and the Machine, and chill wave.
Electronic, dramatic, and intimate Subdvision is a beautiful little record that's as haunting as it is stirring and as lush as it is complicated. With piano, rattling percussion. lush synths and her soaring and striking voice Subdivision is an emotional and melodramatic experience. The way Daena uses her voice and lets it seep between the percussion gives her songs this minimalist feel despite the whole thing being rather overwhelming emotionally. In listening to this thing one can't help but wonder if Daena is ok...the songs aren't chipper and I wonder if all this moving around is the result of all this love and loss that permeates every lyric on Subdivision. While it makes the record texturally and emotionally intriguing, I just hope she's ok.
Potentially depressing but in the most beautiful way possible Subdivision is an impressive effort from one heck of an artist. Not the feel good hit of the summer, but one awesome EP Daena Jay will have you wanting to hug someone...anyone.
As you or may not know Brazil is pretty much becoming the center of the universe over the next four years. With the World Cup starting this month and the 2016 Olympics in Rio this South American country is taking center stage. It should really be no surprise then that there's an explosion of Brazilian music arriving on our shores and it's a welcome arrival from a country that seemingly alternates between revolution and celebration. Da Cruz, a band rooted firmly in Brazilian tradition and music, but oddly enough living in Switzerland have just released their latest album Disco E Progresso and it's a reflective, expansive sprawling two record set of lightness and darkness or revolutions and parties.
Despite being about five thousand miles away from Brazil, Da Cruz and it's frontwoman Mariana Da Cruz hasn't lost touch with her homeland and it's promise, it's struggles, or it's fun. You realize this about thirty seconds into Disco E Progresso that while they might be in a different hemisphere, musically Da Cruz are in the heart of a Rio de Janiero carnivale. Energetic, funky, and sexy Disco E Progresso is a massive effort that's influenced by disco, funk, dancehall, Kuduro, house, samba and indie rock. Da Cruz is a genre onto itself; be it urban Brazilian disco, tropihouse, or something altogether different it's a modern interpretation of the current state of the Portuguese speaking nation and it's as diverse and cosmopolitan as the country itself. Disco E Progresso is constantly in a state of motion, generating excitement and energy throughout the two records that make it up. Dark side or Light side either record is a blindingly brilliant well-traveled effort that grooves, shakes, rocks, rolls, and then chills out. It's a beautiful effort that cross pollinates genre's like a honey bee on overdrive. I love how they leave no sound or influence unturned and as a result come up with a reflection of not only themselves but of their subject matter and the country in which they live. Disco E Progresso is a gorgeous record with a bit of an edge and a bit of sexiness battling it out over the course of it's two records. Who wins is really up to personal taste but I find myself drawn to the sunnier side.
Endlessly entertaining, incredibly crafted, and intensely diverse Disco E Progresso is indeed a progressive effort. Da Cruz pushes things forward here and be it songs brimming with positivity or concern Disco E Progresso is always in a state of movement. It's an album with a frenetic pace that doesn't want to slow down and I love that about it. This is a record moving at the pace of Brazil's future, rapid and bursting with potential. As the World Cup nears and Brazil prepares to win it's fifth title (I know Spain & Germany might have a say in the matter but how can Brazil not win...) this is the perfect warm up album, come down album and just an amazing thing to listen to period. Highly recommended.
Monday, May 26, 2014
The Afro-Indian via Canada group Eccodek have just released their sixth album Singing In Tongues and it's a doozy. Featuring Malaian vocalist, Jah Youssouf this rather eclectic group takes firmly rooted Afro-pop music and injects it with a sense of globalism that crosses borders and genre's with ease. The album is a fantastic combination of chilled out grooves, deep basslines, global diversity and top notch song writing.
Singing In Tongues thrives on it's pan-global approach to creating textural sound collages that enlighten, expand, and groove. Eccodek's ability to fuse a diverse ranges of influences and sounds into something so cohesive and so memorable is truly awesome. Just listen to, "In My Tribe," for a perfect example of this; the song is a chillout masterpiece that almost sonically aligns your chakra's as it's beatastic exploration spreads out across five minutes. Chill out room or peak time dance floor, one gets the feeling that Eccodek could fill either at the drop of a hat. While not every song is as beat driven as, "In My Tribe," Eccodek still find ways to keep music from foreign lands in different languages intriguing. Clearly these Canuck's know a thing or two about writing a good song and after six albums this should really be of no surprise.
Quite honestly, if you were to look up the definition of a perfect "world" music album I'm pretty sure that Singing In Tongues would be next to it. It's a chill out album with a global heart beat and it's so expansive and adventuresome you should probably have your passport handy while listening to it. Eccodek are awesome at what they do and their longevity is proof of that. Singing In Tongues is a welcome addition to their lexicon of albums and could very well be my favorite.
The Zoologically named Okapi Sun, have released a three song EP on the lead up to their new album Techno Prisoners. This three song affair is lush, sexy, and a nice mix between chillwave, synth pop, electro, and ethereal dream pop. Quite honestly the whole thing reminds me of the Other Two (look them up kids) so much so I had to double check that neither one of the Other Two were in this band. They're not.
The three songs that make up this disappointingly short EP, all feature massive hooks, seductively cool choruses and even a bit of humor thrown in. "Judy Baby," is a fine example of this, as the first thirty seconds of the song are so campy they're priceless. It's a nice reflection of a band who can write a seductive song one sec and then crack a joke the next. They may be hip and cool but they don't take themselves that seriously and I like that. Okapi Sun have stumbled on to something here and if this EP is any clue of how Techno Prisoners turned out, we're in for something special.
Christopher Vrenios or Christos DC to his friends and fellow musicians has been surrounded by music since he was a kid. From his parents to hip hop and a deep appreciation of all things Sly & Robbie, Christos has always loved music but it was an appreciation of the tunes coming out of Kingston that pointed Christos toward his own musical direction and career. This journey and love of reggae music has taken him on the road with folks like Black Uhuru and The Itals and allowed him to develop his own personal style and sound. His second album, Long Road is almost truth in advertising about the the musical journey that Christos has been on since he was pointed in the right direction.
With a downtempo chilled reggae vibe Christos composes songs that are easy going, laid back, and unweighty. It's nice breezy stuff that's catchy and uncomplicated. With fourteen tracks the album is stuffed with enough reggae jams to make you feel as though you were in Kingston. Christos does a good job of coming off as authentically as possible without actually being from Jamaica. This is reggae on a modern tip and while it does tend to all sound alike by the fourteenth song, Long Road is still a very listenable album.
Christos' nice mix of modern vibes, traditional sounds, and dubbed out elements give the album depth and texture and give it a very non-American feel. Long Road is far more than frat boy reggae; this is as pure and true as anything you're like to hear come from the Caribbean. Nice work!
To say that Chad Vangaalen has an active imagination would be a bit of an understatement. This guy has so many creative outlets and so much work under his belt it's almost impossible to keep track of. He's in approximately 78038434 bands including two with his children. He does art, he animates, he recklessly experiments with musical instruments, and he's been described as Bob and Doug McKenzie in space. One listen to his album Shrink Dust and you'll see what we're talking about.
Imagine the Flaming Lips but weirder and fronted by a guy with Walt Disney's imagination on acid and you kind of have an idea of where Chad lives. He's the very definition of necessity leads to the mother of invention; case in point he wanted to score a science fiction movie so he decided to make one so that he could. That spirit of invention and imagination permeates every note on Shrink Dust. It's weird, atmospheric, adventuresome, experimental, and at times doesn't sound like it's from this earth. CVG (as his friends call him) throws twenty sheets to the wind and writes haunting songs that cast spells of unusual sounds, strange ambiance, and weird ideas. Shrink Dust doesn't sound the best or try to (apparently CVG has never been inside a real studio) and that's half the charm of it. In listening to Shrink Dust you can almost picture CVG playing all the instruments and tuning everything in a harrying pace in his living room while trying to keep his kids occupied. It's all very busy, strange and intriguing and while there's not a hit on this album you can't help but latch on to every note this guy churns out. Shrink Dust is a heartwarming and endearing effort because it has this peculiar innocence about it that sucks you in with curiosity. It's all very uncomplicated, free flowing, and childlike and as such is the perfect reflection of CVG. This is the soundtrack to having Peter Pan Syndrome and it's awesome.
Shrink Dust is an open window into the imagination and ruminations of CVG's life. It's a odd place to visit but you'll want to come back again and again and see what's new because every time you visit there will be something that you haven't seen before. It's the kind of record that people that are endlessly fascinated by everything will enjoy. It's music for people with brains that never stop working and I think that's why I've enjoyed it so much; it put my imagination in overdrive and left me in a bit of awe. Shrink Dust doesn't rock so much as it aimlessly wanders with a never ending sense of wonder and that's why it succeeds.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
She's funny, she's smart, she's snarky, she's British and she's absolutely brilliant. Lily Allen is back with her latest and she wants to be more famous than Sheezus. Having given music up for several years Lily Allen went on to get married, have a child, change her name, settle down...you know normal adult stuff. But as any musician will tell you it's hard to just stop making music. Once that bug is in you it's in you forever and it's obviously got a very possessive relationship with Lily as Sheezus is the result of that insatiable itch to make a tune.
Well to say Sheezus doesn't disappoint would be an understatement. Sure, Lily is older, wiser, and has been out of the industry game for a while, but it's made her hungry, edgy, and so sharp you might just start bleeding from listening. Her wit is unbeatable and it pulsates through a vast majority of the songs here. Heck, the title track alone is gold simply because of her statement of intent and how she name drops more stars than a Grammy Awards show. It's really ironic when she mentions Katy Parry because one can't help but wonder if she would even exist had some US record exec not decided to make her the "American Lily Allen."
Anyway, the album swings back and forth between snarky moments like the title track and more sweeping swoony pop songs that shows Lily at her most vulnerable and insecure. Check, "Take My Place," and "Insincerely Yours," as examples of this. Sure they're heartfelt but there's still that bit of snappiness to them that's her trademark. While, I prefer the poppier moments on the disc, it's a nice change of pace and gives you time to catch your breath and share a “quiet moment” with the album.
Sheezus is a fantastic return to form and really a nice gift that I'd never expected to receive. I mean she did "retire," after all so the fact that she's produced a clever, wry, and brilliant album is awesome. Welcome back Lily it's good to have you back!
It's been ages since Greg Dulli and his Whigs have released a record. It's been so long in fact that there's a generation out there that may not have even known that the Afghan Whigs were indeed one of Sub Pop's finest bands before Nirvana blew up. Nearly a decade and a half after their last release, Dulli got the band back together went home to SubPop and released Do The Beast. Half a surprise, half a blessed gift the album should go a long way to illuminating past generations of Afghan Whig's superiority.
Do The Beast is a mature effort that seems to easily pick up where the band left off nearly fifteen years ago. Dulli has crafted a fine set of songs here that are dramatic, edgy, rooted in all sorts of classical, swoony, and emotional influences. There are string sections, slow broody songs, out and out rockers, and hit after potential hit. Comeback album? I think not, Do The Beast is a fantastical return to form. It's as if the band never stopped and they've been recording all this time. While there's some of that characteristic old school Sub Pop stuff in this record there's so much more.
While Do The Beast is a beautiful sounding record that balances itself on a knife edge of influences there's a dark undercurrent to much of this record that's reflected in it's title. Songs of revenge, duality, violence, and death all appear on this record and it makes the imagination swirl with movie like scenes of drama. Dulli knows how to pen a lyric pretty well and this record is full of his senses and ideas running wild.
Do The Beast is not only a welcome surprise (that may or may not be the result of a live encounter with Usher!) but one heck of a record. This is an album that proves you can teach an old dog new tricks and that the Afghan Whigs still have bucket loads of songs yet to offer. Do The Beast rocks darkly and beautifully through maturity and one can't help but wonder if the adventure that this record is, is the result of all that time and creativity being stored in Dulli's brain unable to escape. Easily one of the best records of 2014 I hope this rebirth leads to even more adventures and adventurous records
South America via Vancouver band Pacifika are back with yet another album that sounds about as Canadian as an Australian. Led by native Peruvian Silvana Kane the band embraces the global community and world wide influences they represent with open arms. Amor Planeta (Love Planet) is a gorgeous trans-global exploration of sound that's firmly rooted in diversity, open mindedness, and brilliant musicianship.
Amor Planeta swerves and sways around labels like The Stig in a Ferrari. It refuses to be pegged down and integrates a whole host of sound palettes to make for a relaxing and beautiful listen. Samba, trip hop, rock and roll, jazz and a little bit of everything else finds it's way into the melting pot of influences that make this record up. What this means is that Pacifika don't stand still for very long and instead create songs that are designed around organic movement and emotions. The album almost breathes it's so alive with vibrancy and creativity. I really enjoyed how the first three songs seque from being ethereal to energetic and then subdued all with relative ease. Be it Kane's awesome vocal presence or the band's ability to craft songs that mesmerize while being diverse. It's also really cool to hear a Canadian band bounce between English and Spanish as if they were from Miami. Amor Planeta is a fun, beautiful, summery listen that's all over the shop in the best possible ways.
From Target like pop to trip hop and a few bossa nova's inbetween Pacifika have very few fears when it comes to songwriting. They Rock, they roll, they shake their hips, they crash on a couch...they are the very definition of energy. Amor Planeta proves that whether you're from the north or the south we're all Americans and we share elements of common culture no matter where our border lies.
Working at a TV station and occasionally being involved in production one uses, from time to time, generic license free background music as beds for video, commercials, etc. These library of discs are all over the map from serious to funky, dramatic to touching. There’s a wide variety of music you hear constantly that someone somewhere has concocted for use as nothing but background music. What’s kind of depressing about that is some of the stuff I’ve heard over the years is actually very good and could be played out in a club, bar, and you could easily say it was someone famous and no one would ever know it’s just stock music. Well, that’s kind of where KPM comes in.
KPM is an interesting project from Time Love Lee & Shawn Lee that in their own words was done like this…Step 1: somehow find two copies of two rare 1970’s KPM 1000 series LPs featuring only the sparse rhythm section of bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Barry Morgan, rather imaginatively titled Bass Guitar & Percussion Volumes 1 & 2 (stock music see) Step 2: Set out to faithfully bring the original recordings to their logical conclusion 40 years later by putting our dirty little overdubs all over them. So, in other words, Time Love Lee & Shawn Lee found a couple of stock, background music albums and set out to make them famous. I think, having listened to KPM Music Recorded Library, they’ve done just that. They’ve taken these snippets of sound and added so much on top of them and as a by-product created their own groovy library of stock songs. From comedic to sexy and everything in between, Time Love Lee & Shawn Lee have created a soundtrack to a fictional TV show that’s never existed. It’s imaginative, creative, and fun. It’s the sort of record that lets your mind run wild through shows like the Streets of San Francisco, Starsky & Hutch, or even something like the Rockford Files. Guitars, bass lines, horns, it’s all hear bringing to life the Bass & Percussion of Morgan & Flowers and it’s amazing.
While disappointingly short (like a true stock music CD), KPM Music Recorded Library is a fascinating look into the past and how two British music pioneers jammed together to make music for production purposes and nothing more. These guys have now been rightfully given their due and thanks to the Lee’s probably made their rock and roll dreams come true. If you work in TV (and have an ASCAP license) this little library is just about essential, if you’re a casual music fan this is a great listen and a fascinating peek into how music gets used for things outside of radio & TV. KPM Music Recorded Library is fun stuff and highly recommended.
Multifaceted musician Ani Cordero has a fondness for looking back at history and the struggle for democracy in Latin America. This passionate interest came to the forefront while studying with Dr. Juan Allende, nephew of overthrown Chilean President Salvador Allende and it led to the idea behind Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest. Funded with the help of a successful Kickstarter campaign and put together with a ridiculously amazing cast of musicians from bands as diverse as Arcade Fire, the E-Street Band, Man or Astroman, and even Lee Scratch Perry’s band Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest is a lovingly played and exceedingly talented offering.
Tapping into the struggles of the past Ani Cordero hopes to enlighten future generations of fans of the history that preceded them. Finding and embracing songs that originated in the 60's and 70's from Chile, Argentina, Columbia, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venuezuela, and even the Dominican Republic this Puerto Rican musician injects new life and new ideas into these classic songs of love and struggle. While obviously rooted in the originals, Ani’s updated versions breathe fresh blood into the traditional versions giving them an updated vibrancy. Weaving a rich musical tapestry that includes contributions from everything from accordion, trumpets, flugelhorns, Ngoni, Malian percussion and upright bass to traditional rock instruments the album is smorgasbord of sounds that are given depth and variety from the arrangements on each song. They might essentially be covers but Cordero and her musical collaborators make these songs their own as if they experienced each of these struggles and lyrics themselves.
Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest is unashamedly political but it’s painted with just beautiful strokes and played with such conviction that it never forces it's stance down your throat. While Ani Cordero’s goal here is to raise awareness about the significance of political art in social change even the most apolitical person in the world will find this hypnotizing blend of musical ingenuity entertaining. Beauty and brains…it’s a lethal combination and Ani Cordero has that and a ridiculous amount of talent and all one needs to do to see that is spend 45 minutes with Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love & Protest.
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Most of you probably already know who La Sera is without actually knowing who La Sera is. La Sera for those of you who don't know is Katy Goodman, who you may know from her former day job in The Vivian Girls. Purveyors of all things garage-like and twee, it only makes sense that some of the Vivian Girls if not all of it rubbed off on La Sera's third album. Entitled Hour of the Dawn the album leaves no doubt that Katy is guided by the divine hand of rock and roll and it points her in all the right directions.
Fizzed out, fuzzed out and filled with awesome songs Hour of the Dawn is an indie pop treat that's utterly fantastic. Katy has a keen ability to write peppy garage flavored indie pop that's as sweet as it is sour and as soft as it is edgy. Her songs are bristling with energy, punky basslines, three chord riffs, waves of distorted Mascisisms and huggable melodies. If there's one thing La Sera is...it's awesome.
Elements of surf guitar, twee pop, her old day job, Big Muff pedals, and power pop pulsate through the each of songs here. While those influences are undeniable Hour of the Dawn has a huge heart and sounds as if it's been broken a few times. Hour of the Dawn is a sweet record; the kind you want to give a hug to and the kind of record you walk away from with a crush on it. Kind of like Katy herself.
Whether it's The Vivian Girls or La Sera, Katy Goodman is one heck of a musician and all of her projects reflect that. La Sera is just the latest and greatest step in her illustrious career. This rather fine and fuzzy indie pop gem is great at the Hour of the Dawn or any time of the day.
I’m not 100% sure I know what a Wet Secret is…or if I even want to know what one is…but this five piece band formed as a result of a dare are the kind of band you do want to know. Their latest album, Free Candy, is an unpolished rock and roll gem that might be a little bit late to the rock and roll party but sometimes it’s better to be late than to never show up at all. I’m definitely pleased they finally made it and I’m pretty sure after one or two listens to Free Candy you’ll be pretty glad as well.
Sounding like a Stroksian wave of revivalism from revivalists, this grotty, snarly rock and roll band stumble their way through the songs on Free Candy as if they had a bit too much of it to begin with. Taking lots of elements from early 21st century indie and fusing it with loads of keys, horns, dirty basslines and a drunken sense of awareness The Wet Secrets are the sort of band that would make The Libertines try a little bit harder. Plodding, catchy, and a bit persistent The Wet Secrets have so many memorable choruses on Free Candy that it almost gets hard to keep track of them all (I've got a list here beside me) With harmonies you’d swear they lifted off of Kim Wilde’s, “Kids In America,” to more Killers like electro you're sucked into their vortex of scuzzy cool by about the fourth song.
I really enjoyed how the band has this under-produced retro vibe to them and how Free Candy wouldn’t sound out of place in yours or your parents record collection. 1968 or 2003…you be the judge it makes sense either way. The feel, the songs, and the way that this is all presented is all a bit subversive and doesn’t feel right in a totally feels right kind of way and it works for the band perfectly. If this were polished and produced it would fail miserably; thankfully it isn't. They might have been formed on a dare, but The Wet Secrets are far from a sloppy concoction; these guys are actually really quite good. Messy and grotty in all the best ways Free Candy is definitely worth a taste.
As the Targetization of folk music continues and any singer with a lilting voice and a bit of quirkiness about them is used to market clothing, cleaning products, cars and just about everything else it’s becoming harder to find those singers that are, you know, actually entertaining. Sub Pop thankfully has searched high and low and found the latest quality singer songwriter with a difference. Her name Lyla Foy, her album Mirrors In The Sky. The pitch? Think a bit of chillwave from a quirky and cute singer/songwriter singing under a dull grey sky in the mountains and you have an idea of where Lyla is coming from.
Mirrors In The Sky is a moody, soaring affair that takes the singer/songwriter template and chucks it out the window. Sure there’s plenty of strummy guitars and lilting melodies but the melancholic minimal beats and gloomy atmospherics make the record feel and sound completely different. Lyla Foy constructs her songs in such an intimate way that the lyrics are practically whispered and some of the sounds barely audible. Her and her band use these subtle textures and instrumentation to set the scene and mood in fine fashion. A song like, “Rumour, “ for example, barely raises its voice but it’s waltz like rhythm and ghost-like ambiance allows the song to sound detached, unobtrusive, and veiled in mystery. While her quieter acoustic moments do little for me, when Lyla and her cohorts embrace the more electronic end of things and her songs envelope us she’s clearly at her best.
Perhaps a bit like Kate Bush at times, Lyla Foy has the weird angle thing down pat. This is an artist who takes her own obscure path towards being a singer/songwriter and lets her songs march to the beat of a different drum. Because of this Mirrors In The Sky is a bit outside of the retail folk mainstream. It’s for that reason that her songs are good and why I found her Sub Pop debut worthwhile.
When one thinks of Austin, Texas one thinks of Stubbs BBQ, the Live Music Capital of the World, SXSW and things like that, one does not think of world music. It is Texas after all. But here in the midst of the Texas sunshine comes one of the most diverse and globally aware bands you’ll ever run into. Atash are a group of Texans who look to the far east for inspiration and to the music of Persia, Turkey, India and the Middle East; talk about a fish out of water. Yet, here they are smashing boundaries and musical stereotypes and in doing so creating a sound that is uniquely their own deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.
Atash’s latest album, Everything Is Music is a spiritual and mystical journey through the traditions and sounds of the Far East fused with more familiar influences including reggae, flamenco, rock, and even classical music. It’s a combination that lives up to the album’s title of Everything Is Music in fine fashion. The title, pulled from a poem by Rumi, is meant to portray music as pervading every aspect of a musician’s life and that music is the essence of our being. One listen to this record and you’ll find that this is pretty much the case. Their ability to blend cultural streams and sounds into a cohesive and accessible blend is impressive. Loaded with musical mysticism and global awareness this is an absolutely gorgeous record that while deeply rooted in traditional Middle Eastern sounds is unlike anything you’ve heard before; if Dead Can Dance were more 13th century Persia than 13th century Europe Everything Is Music could have very well been released by them.
Hypnotizing, enlightening, open minded and globally aware Atash makes you feel as though you are in the Arabian Desert in search of a market town to seek shelter in. Everything Is Music is atmospheric, creative, soul stirring, and endlessly fascinating. I found myself wrapped up and absorbed with the nine songs Atash have created here. A brilliant release it’s easy to get lost within the ancient soundworld Everything Is Music creates. Having been transported to faraway lands and on my own personal version of Lawrence of Arabia it’s hard to believe that that Atash are a bunch of Americans from Texas!
Friday, May 16, 2014
Washington D.C. producer and musical wunderkind Thomas Blondet has recently released his debut album Futureworld. Featuring a genre and influence bending multitude of sounds, Blondet creates a pan-continental global journey for the mind and ears. Having spent some time with this record and a few others it’s really got me wondering whether or not there’s something in Washington D.C. water that does something to producers up there. The amount of quality chill out that comes out of that city is simply staggering and Blondet’s Futureworld is leading the way.
Futureworld is the culmination of nearly twenty five years of experience from Blondet who, over the course of his career, has taken just about every kind of beat ever created and mixed it in with Arab, Latin, Indian, Balkan, and Caribbean influences. Easily one of the most open minded and creatively exploratory people on the planet Blondet does all this so easily that it never seems odd, out of character or bad. Futureworld’s soundworld is proof of that as it seamlessly blends Arab, Asian, and Caribbean influences into a hazy brew of infectious rhythms, chilled out beats and mind warping atmospherics. Blondet then takes all those sounds and carefully chooses vocal collaborations to layer on top of them to create even more diverse sounds. The resulting blend is like a math formula that's actually quite pleasurable.
If you want real, proper world music than Futureworld is the best example of that currently on offer. Blodet takes the listener on a journey throughout his debut and it’s a consciousness expanding chilled out trip around the world that carries the sounds and influences of the global community with it. Futureworld really is a vision of the future because it’s a statement of how small the world is becoming day by day and how music is rapidly becoming a communal and world experience to be shared by all. This is a gorgeous record that’s stunningly put together and is an impressive debut.
Euforquestra’s fourth album Fire is a funky treasure trove of tunes that weaves its way between soulful blasts of brass, far out funk and chilled out reggae vibes. Not too shabby for a band based out of Colorado…then again in light of certain laws taking affect, these guys make total sense. Regardless of location, Euforquestra are one heck of a band that melt snow with songs so hot and so darn funky that you can almost see them oozing out of your speakers.
The tunes are huge and a bit retro infused so that at times it sounds as though Fire were released in 1974 and sound tracked a variety of Super Fly movies. The stuff is as catchy as the Ebola virus and just as difficult to shake off; it’s just too much. You simply can’t forget the riffs these guys come up with and when those horns blow through it’s all over. This is the sort of record that Flea listens to for ideas and inspiration. And who can blame him? The basslines are ridiculous and the hooks are as big as the Rocky Mountains. Let there be no doubt, these guys know how to play and play they do.
Jazz, soul, funk, dub and reggae all fuse together in a harmonious blend of grooves and brass explosions that make this record a sweaty and energetic experience. When the band are allowed to take over and express themselves through those influences it’s almost like a musically religious experience. Fire is a fantastically fun and funky excursion that stops at variety of musical ports and brings the party with it. Euforquestra are energetic and incredibly talented and after four albums it’s easy to see why they’re still around…they just can’t stop playing and writing songs that move.