Archive for March, 2009

Remix Delphic

delphic

Have you heard the driving electronic sounds of the band Delphic? If not, add them to your list of music to check out. Their band name was enough to pique my interest. Why the Greek reference? Why ambiguous or obscure? Why did they pick it…?

Then you hear their music and the intrigue grows. At times paying homage to fellow countrymen and musical pioneers, New Order, or other greats, and at times creating an experience completely their own, Delphic is poised to make some serious noise in the musical landscape of 2009. So, it seems, say the oracles of the dancefloor.

Also, the “forward-thinking, indie-rave” sound of the “best new band in Manchester” is now yours to remix! Yep, they’ve got a Remix Wizard for you to play with, so get to it. Check out the remixes done so far and/or make your own here!

The young band is releasing their single “Counterpoint” on Belgium’s R&S label. Though fairly new to the scene, they are already opening for the likes of Bloc Party and The Streets. Not bad for a band still in their musical diapers. Check out the “Counterpoint” video, which was produced by Ewan Pearson, who will be working with the Delphic boys on their debut album.

Tools for Musicians Spotlight: Cartfly

Hey musicians, have something to sell? You know, like… an album? Enter Cartfly. Cartfly lets you set up a store widget to sell your product (jewelery, music, art etc). It is painfully simple, almost free, and you can post it in all those special places.

Capitalizing on the ubiquity of social networks, Cartfly is enabling retailers “… to establish a point of presence right inside profile pages and other sites” according to cofounder Joshua Manley. Even if you’ve got your songs on iTunes, CD Baby and wherever else, one more potential revenue stream can’t hurt, right? Slap it on your Facebook and show the world your goods! Oh, and the widget uses Flex, which gets the RIA (Rich Internet Applications) junkies all excited. Want to know more? Follow them on Twitter.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 11

For February’s music update, click here.

March has brought me some fantastic new cuts, and several blasts from the past that I hadn’t heard before, making them new to me. I will say that I downloaded The Jackson’s “Blame it On the Boogie” which is simply sublime. But through 56 new songs, including an album that won’t be released until next month, March was good for music. I’m almost sad to see it end, until I remember that once it does, I get to start all over again with April…

Dessa, False Hopes: Released in 2005, False Hopes is a 5 song EP from Dessa (@dessadarling) of Doomtree. Why write about a 2005 release as “new music?” Well, have you given this EP a listen yet? While short in length, this EP is huge on style and poignant, introspective lyrics against musically gripping backdrops. “551” looks at an addictive and damaging relationship over a dark beat laced with piano. Throughout the album, Dessa mixes her vocal talent with her rapping and slam poetry background to great effect. “Mineshaft” utilizes an urgent string backing and heavy drum beat to accentuate the sense of loss in the song. Many of the lyrics focus on a central theme of personal loss (“The list of things I used to be is longer than the list of things I am,” “I lost an octave to the Camel Lights”) and they’re delivered with such intensity that her personal experiences become visceral for the listener. “Kites” delivers an eerie underwater feeling that brings to mind the melancholy feeling I first heard on listening to Atmosphere’s “God’s Bathroom Floor.” Through just 5 solo songs and her contributions to Doomtree, Dessa rivals P.O.S. in her passion and creativity on this album, and one can only hope that her poetry, lyrics and music gain the public recognition that they deserve. Don’t Sleep On: “Mineshaft,” “551,” “Kites.”

Kero One, Early Believers: This man does it all out of his self-run label, Plug, in the Bay Area. DIY in every sense of the word, Kero One plays his own instruments, makes his own beats, writes his own lyrics, produces and mixes his own songs and then created a label to self-distribute. For the full review of his sophomore release, Early Believers, set to drop April 7th, click here. Don’t Sleep On: “This Life Ain’t Mine,” “Welcome to the Bay,” and “On and On.”

N.A.S.A., The Spirit of Apollo: The idea behind this collaboration album is bringing North American hip-hop together with South American beats and influences to create a cultural mash-up album with global appeal. And for the most part, the odd pairings of guest artists along with the sample heavy and culturally defiant music does the trick. As hip-hop laced with world music continues to gain traction on radio airwaves and popularity among listeners, it comes as no surprise that artists with a broad fan base such as Kanye West, Tom Waits and George Clinton were willing to contribute. Other international artists got in on the act too, with Santogold, Lykke Li and Seu Jorge joining the fray.

If there’s one drawback to this album, it’s that some of the songs come off as too packaged, relying more on the featured names than on the music itself. “Spacious Thoughts” featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith is interesting, but forces too much of a juxtaposition between the rapper and the singer, leaving the transition from verse to chorus feeling fractured. If you’re into heavy, crunchy dance tracks, “Whachadoin?” feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold and Nick Zinner is dense with bass and electronic flourishes, but a bit repetitive. Of course, where the songs are on, they’re on. DJ Qbert and Del tha Funkee Homosapien rip “Samba Soul,” the beat perfectly capturing Del’s sense of pace and timing, and “Gifted,” the track with Kanye, Lykke Li and Santogold has almost instant club appeal with grimy effects offset by a starry and airy video game tone sequence in the background. For the most part, N.A.S.A. plays like a who’s who of guest stars where the sum total of the music falls short of the artists involved, but on a handful of songs, the desire for North to meet South in interesting ways comes through. Don’t Sleep On: “Samba Soul” featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and DJ Qbert, “Money” featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge and Z-Trip, and “Gifted” featuring Kanye West, Lykke Li and Santogold.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: After a 2007 EP release, PoBP@H released this debut self-titled effort in February on Slumberland records. The initial offering finds the group exploring the various genres of Indie Rock, Shoegaze and Sugar Punk and the spaces between them. The band utilizes a variety of sounds to evoke different moods, not shying away from using both electric and acoustic guitars depending on the song, and descending into lo-fi static where necessary. The lyrics seem less important to the songs than the contribution the singing melody lends the tunes and the drums remain consistent throughout to lend the backbone to a group that alternates between sulking and exulting. In some places, 80’s influences sneak through, “The Tenure Itch” being a song that could have easily made the Donnie Darko soundtrack. But whether they’re soft or hard, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart remain effusive in their energy, bringing a sense of urgency and drive to every song that keeps the album moving. Don’t Sleep On: “Stay Alive,” “This Love is F*****g Right!” and “A Teenager in Love.”

Indiefeed Hip-Hop: Dirt E. Dutch from Indiefeed (@dutchman) brought out some more stellar cuts this month, but one of my favorite, Dutch’s “Welcome to the World Kayla Vivien!” is a smooth and mellow instrumental affair to celebrate the birth of his daughter that was actually put out in February. Finale’s Black Milk remixed track “One Man Show” moves with low-end bass touches and high-end electronic agility while B Real’s “Don’t You Dare Laugh” uses an interesting interpolation of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” All in all, a positive showing this month.

The next few months are looking solid for new music releases, so keep it tuned.

Grunge-Hop

It has been a while since Pearl Jam’s Ten came out, but you don’t have to look far to see the derivatives of that album in the current musical landscape. To celebrate the re-release, MTV has compiled a number of covers of the songs by current artists. As I’ve covered Doomtree and interviewed P.O.S. over here at Evolving Music, I found it only fitting to share with you this super MixMatch he did of Pearl Jam’s “Why Go.” It’s grunge, it’s hip-hop, it’s improv, it’s dope. Enjoy.

Kero One – Early Believers Review

Early Believers

When Kero One released his debut album Windmills of the Soul, he had no backing and no name recognition to speak of. The album’s success came about through his persistent work to get it heard which resulted in it becoming a hit in Japan first, a humorous twist for a Korean DIY hip-hopper born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through this success, he has managed to remain independent, starting Plug Label, releasing The Tones’ debut album and doing end-to-end production on his sophomore release Early Believers.

It is this spirit and energy that infuses Early Believers with an unfettered sense of optimism and musical joy. From the instrumentation to the lyrics, the album is unmistakably a complete work by a focused artist. The music is consistent and full, utilizing both hip-hop and jazz influences, while the lyrics are often personal and focused on a specific story. The marriage between Kero’s thoughts and his beats serve to offer an album that never feels forced or out of place. Unlike some current hip-hop albums that feel like the goal is musical shock for shock’s sake, Kero One never tries to do too much or move too far out of his range. On the opening track “Welcome to the Bay,” Kero raps about the pros and cons of the area where he grew up over an easy synth and fresh beat produced by King Most. Jacqueline Marie provides the chorus about the mentality of never leaving the bay for a piece that is heartfelt and unmistakably San Francisco.

“When the Sunshine Comes” is an easy, sunny day melody. The pace and mood of this song seem to be the best fit for Kero’s vocals, letting him sit back and rap without tempo pressure. The smooth delivery of tongue twisters is unhurried enough that it doesn’t make the listener feel stressed that the words won’t come out. This track gives way to “Keep Pushin’,” a much more up-tempo track that lyrically resembles something Kanye might have produced, with a little more pop to it. The fusion of jazz and a glitchy stop-and-go guitar/handclap back and forth brought to mind edIT’s “Crunk de Gaulle” off Certified Air Raid material. On his “I’m better off single” track, “Let’s Just Be Friends,” Kero brings a sing-along melody to the chorus (performed by Tuomo) and manages to make his desire to stay single sound happy and upbeat. The album then moves into Latin Jazz influences on “Bossa Soundcheck,” where Kero displays the keyboard and piano education he was brought up on. Sounding like it would be best heard in a dimly lit lounge atmosphere, Kero manages to make a hip-hop song that would fool non-hip-hop fans into listening and enjoying.

A solid feature of Kero One’s music is that he doesn’t sacrifice his choruses like most contemporary hip-hop and rap acts have done to get radio air-play. There’s no, “she made us drinks to drink, we drunk them, got drunk” fillers here. The choruses are integral parts of the overall whole, demonstrated again through Tuomo’s easy delivery on “Love and Happiness,” bringing to mind some of the better work done with Codany Holiday on Zion I’s latest album. This is the second King Most produced track on the album, and together they make the only two not produced by Kero himself. In “Stay on the Grind” Kero raps about the difficulties and rewards of choosing the DIY route, and just when you thought the whole album would be hip-hop, “A Song for Sabrina” shows off the instrumental prowess in a hip-hop/jazz/funk fusion track that includes Vince Czekus on bass and electric guitar.

In the most poignant and introspective track on the album, “This Life Ain’t Mine,” Kero uses an easy and straight-forward hip-hop track to back an autobiographical story about his life and entry into the hip-hop career, looking at his choices in friends and religion. The easy keys sprinkle melodies over “I Never Thought That We” as Kero looks at his unlikely and unpredictable path from his parents’ wishes to his chosen career. And, without missing a step, the album ends on a Kero One exclusive instrumental, “On and On,” which lets the album fade out in a jazzy way, reminding the listener of the progression of the album as a whole, and that it wasn’t just rap or hip-hop you were listening to.

An easy listen, Kero One’s Early Believers takes chill to the next level at every step. Gone from this album are the stereotypes that you need raps about money and women, pop-induced repetitive hooks and coarse language to produce a solid hip-hop outing. Instead, Kero relies on excellent production, live instrumentation and honest lyrics from his point of view to make an album that flows from start to finish and will most likely end the year in more than a few top ten lists. While it isn’t edgy or controversial, and some listeners will harp on a lack of perceived street credibility, Early Believers reminds us that hip-hop doesn’t need to be any of those things to be fun. Early Believers will be available from Plug Label on April 7th. Check back here for our exclusive interview with Kero One.

Zion I Remix Round-Up

Last week marked the end of the Zion I remix contest for the song off their new release The Take Over, “DJ DJ.” The contest was phenomenal, bringing out 35 quality new remixes of the track by fans and artists. At the beginning of the contest we explained the process and rules, and now it’s time for a quick glance at what some of the contributors produced.

The best part of this contest is the incredible range of sounds and styles that were brought to the re-envisioning of the track. Hiright came with a remix that brought in 808s and a drastic slow down on the tempo of the verse for his “808 Remix” while keeping the backing music uptempo. RockG went the opposite direction on his “Parents R Out of Town” remix, opting for a techno heavy delivery. Also on the electronic side of the spectrum, MixMatchMusic’s Gavroche decided on a “drumglitch” remix, subduing the source material under a pervasive layer of drum tricks. If those two don’t tend enough towards house music for you, DJ STINJ-E’s remix turns Zion I out into a serious rave sound. Inflect took the remix into serious video game sound territory, layering it with blips and beeps throughout before going heavy with the scratching.

While most of the remixes chose to slow down the tempo of the song, SliPro went the other way, upping the tempo behind an ascension of a grimy drum and synth march that sounds like a war march. Mike Ponticello stripped down the chorus over funky bass, and then built the chorus up around melodic synth parts and some haunting and airy backgrounds. Then you have the crunchy sound of the chopped up remix from Autobots.

My two favorite remixes were completely different, as one might hope from a remix contest. Hiright’s second offering is deep, relying on an eerie piano melody, descending space keys and a steady head nodding beat, even adding a dense verse of his own regarding his history with the music. This was the only use of an original verse that I heard in the remixes, which made it stand out. The NeoMob’s remix is the most club-ready in my mind, with great ascension and digitized voice samples.

To check out these remixes, you can visit the site here. And with the results not being announced until after March 25th, your votes still matter!

Tra.kz Artist Spotlight: Longwave (”Sideways Sideways Rain”)

longwave

New York born indie rock band, Longwave, was formed in 1999 by guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Steve Schiltz, guitarist Shannon Ferguson, bassist Dave Marchese and drummer Jeremy Greene. While some say their early music was influenced by shoegaze pioneers and post-punk icons, the current Longwave sound is very distinct, perhaps due to their numerous lineup changes over the years. Their most recent release, Secrets are Sinister, debued in November 2008 on Original Signal Recordings (the same label that supports the likes of Ingrid Michaelson and David Ford, whom we interviewed last year).

Longwave is now releasing a new single, “Sideways Sidesways Rain” exclusively on tra.kz! Check it out here.


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