Over the past couple of years, the world renowned soul label, Daptone Records. the label home of the late (and great) Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, has released a series of albums documenting and preserving the spirituals, gospel and church-based music from the Mississippi River Delta region — in particular, the small rural town of Como, MS located in the northern Hill Country, about 50 miles south of Memphis, TN. Historically speaking, the small Northern Mississippi, rural town has long struggled with the legacy of slavery, segregation, discrimination, agricultural decline; however, Como has simultaneously been known as a creative hotbed of sorts, as Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Napoleon Strickland, Othar Turner, Luther Perkins (best known as Johnny Cash’s guitarist), Joe Henderson and a lengthy list of others have claimed roots in Como, MS.

Now, earlier this year, you may recall that I wrote about The Walker Family Singers’ Jesus Gave Me Water,” off the familial unit’s debut effort, Panola County Spirit. Comprised of Raymond and Joella Walker, three of their four daughters, Alberta, Patricia and Delouse and their two sons Robert and Booby, the well-regarded gospel quintet not only have a long-held history of preaching and singing the gospel that goes back several generations, the patriarch of the family, Raymond at one point was so well-regarded as a vocalist, that he was once recruited by both Fred McDowell and the legendary Sam Cooke to back them on tour for what would have been a rather significant amount of money. And although seemingly apocryphal, as the story goes, Raymond Walker refused unless McDowell and Cooke gave up singing the blues and took up gospel. McDowell refused and the rest is history. . .

Daptone Records gospel music series continues with Move Upstairs, the forthcoming  effort from the Como, MS-based gospel trio The Como Mamas, slated for a May 19, 2017 release. Comprised of Ester Mae Smith and siblings Angelia Taylor and Della Daniels, the trio have been singing together in church since they were children. Much like Como’s other renowned musicians and vocalists, Della and Angelia come from a distinguished line of musicians themselves — their grandfather would frequently play music on their porch with a group of musicians that included the aforementioned Fred McDowell. In fact, the sisters remember when the famed folklorist and writer Alan Lomax, best known for his Land Where The Blues Was Born, stopped by their home in 1959 to record some of these jam sessions.  Now, interestingly enough with their appearance on The Voices of Panola County: Como Now! and their Get an Understanding, the trio quickly established themselves as an up-and-coming, powerhouse act in contemporary gospel. Interestingly enough, I actually caught the trio play their first show outside of their hometown at the legendary Apollo Theater as part of the Daptone Super Soul Revue back in 2015, an incredible showcase that featured many of the labels top names including Charles Bradley, the aforementioned Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Antibalas and others.

Naturally, taking advantage of the ladies time in New York, the folks at Daptone invited them to the House of Soul Studios to record with a backing band featuring some of the best musicians in their immense stable of musicians — including Jimmy Hill, Thomas Brenneck, Homer Steinweiss and Bosco Mann, who came together as The Glorifiers Band for the Move Upstairs session.

Album title track and first single “Move Upstairs” possesses a raw, dusty, classic blues and R&B-leaning sound — and by that think of Bo Diddley “and Muddy Waters’ Muddy Waters Folk Singer and others — that’s so incredibly period specific, that it sounds as though it were written and recorded sometime in 1947-1954 or so and was somehow surreptitiously discovered by an obsessive record collector. As as the actual song, a churning and propulsive arrangement consisting of guitar, drums and organ that’s comfortable and roomy enough for the Como Mamas using call and response vocals, to belt and shout with joy about how God’s love set them free from life’s drudgery and suffering.  And it’s a song that shuffles and struts as it does so.

Of course, unsurprisingly, much like the Walker Family Singers’ “Jesus Gave Me Water,” the Como Mamas’ makes an obvious yet forceful suggestion — that the the Blues, Rock ‘N’ Roll, R&B and hip-hop can trace their origins in some fashion to the gospels, spirituals and folk music of the Mississippi Delta while actively preserving some of America’s musical traditions.

 

 

Guy Brown is a Sydney, Australia-based producer and electronic music artist, best known as Mammals — and as Mammals, Brown has seen attention both nationally and internationally for a production style and sound that effortlessly bridges and shifts between indie rock and electro pop. In fact, if you had been frequenting this site earlier this year, you may recall his shimmering, slow-burning and spectral cover of Telepopmusik‘s “Breathe,” as part of Istanbul, Turkey-based dream pop/electro pop label Drug Boulevard‘s debut compilation, DRUG BLVD.

Adding to a growing profile, Brown’s collaboration with renowned electronic music artist and producer Goldroom “‘Til Sunrise” has received 9 million Spotify streams, has had his work playlisted in the Lost in the Woods (UK), Deep Dark Indie, Evening Chill and Boho + Chill Spotify Playlists and as a result, his own work has received over 7 million Spotify streams. Along with that Brown has opened for internationally acclaimed electro pop/electronic dance music production and artist duo PNAU during their March national tour, and he’ll be opening for fellow countrywoman, singer/songwriter Vera Blue during her national tour, before his headlining tour to support his soon-to-be released EP Chase Your Bliss later this year.

Interestingly enough, Brown has managed to achieve his early successes without having management, without being on a label, having a publisher or a publicity firm to back him. And considering that I had written about him a little while ago, receiving an email from him about his latest single, EP title track “Chase Your Bliss,” was a pleasant surprise. The new single features Brown’s tender and aching falsetto floating over a glistening and shimmering production that features layers of arpeggio synths, buzzing guitar chords, a sinuous bass line, cowbell and handclap-led percussion and a soaring hook — and while further cementing his reputation for a sound that meshes indie rock and electro pop, the single manages to sound as though it draws from In Ghost Colours and Free Your Mind-era Cut Copy and Tame Impala, as the song manages to subtly nod at psych pop.

 

 

 

Over the course of the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on the Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstay post-punk act The Harrow. Deriving their name from a name of a device used to punish and torture prisoners in the Franz Kafka short story “In the Penal Colony,” the band can trace a portion of their origins back to 2008 when its founding member Frank Deserto (bass, synths and electronics) started it as a solo recording project that expanded into a full band in 2013 when Deserto recruited Vanessa Irena (vocals, synths and programming), Barrett Hiatt (synth, programming), and Greg Fasolino (guitar) to flesh out the project’s sound. As a quartet, the Brooklyn-based act released the “Mouth to Mouth”/”Ringing the Changes” 7 inch and their full-length effort Silhouette to critical praise across the blogosphere including The Deli MagazineThe Big TakeoverImposeAltSounds as well as this site for a sound that is deeply indebted to The CureSiouxsie and the BansheesJoy Division, and others —  although with Silhouette, the material, which was mixed by friend and frequent collaborator, Automelodi’s Xavier Paradis revealed a band that had been subtly experimenting with and expanding upon their sound, as their sound took on a bit of an industrial feel, as though nodding at Depeche Mode and New Order.

  • Up until relatively recently, some time had passed since I had written about them; however, in the last few weeks, the band announced that they will be releasing a remix album Points of View, which would be comprised of remixes, re-workings and re-imaginings of the material off Silhouettes by various friends, collaborators and associates as part of a “living” album that will grow as they receive additional contributions to the album.  And fittingly, the album’s first single was Xavier Paradis’ propulsive, dance floor-friendly remix of “Kaleidoscope” in which industrial clang and clatter and tweeter and woofer rocking beats are paired with the original’s shimmering guitars and Irena’s ethereal vocals — and as a result, the remix retained the spirit and mood of the original, while being a subtle new take.

Interestingly enough, if you had been following the site since the early days, you may recall that I wrote about the Brooklyn-based synth pop duo Azur Swan. Comprised of singer/songwriter Zohra Atash, who was a touring vocalist with A Storm of Light and multi-instrumentalist and producer Joshua Strawn, who was a member of Blacklist, Vaura, Vain Warr and others, the duo’s current project can trace its origins to when Atash and Strawn ended their previous project Religious to Damn in 2012. And much like it, The Harrow it had been some time since I had written about them — that is until now, as the duo remixed The Harrow’s “Secret Language,” giving an already stark minimalist song an even moodier, retro-futuristic John Carpenter soundtrack vibe.

Initially members of Swedish melodic punk/dark pop collective Vånna Inget, Karolina Engdahl (vocals/bass) and Tommy Tift (guitar) can trace their latest musical project, the Malmo, Sweden-based post-punk quartet True Moon to a mounting frustration with what they felt was an increasingly sanitized and homogeneous Scandinavian music scene. “Karolina and I are bored with the Swedish music scene at the moment,” Tift explains in press notes. “It feels like everyone has the same blueprint, like there’s an industry rulebook now for how bands must sound. We wanted to do something different. With the last Vånna Inget (2013’s critically acclaimed, Swedish Grammy-nominated Ingen Botten) we got more and more into dark wave and new wave, so we felt we wanted to explore than more.”

“We were listening to artists such as Joy Division, Killing Joke, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and early Cure,” Tift notes. “There is a purity and honesty and integrity to that music that’s missing from the current scene. Those bands weren’t making music to be pop stars or rock stars, it is pure expression and pure art, and that’s the aesthetic we were pursuing.” Once the duo settled on the band’s overall aesthetic, they recruited  Frederik Orevad (drums) and Linus Segerstedt (guitar) to complete the band’s lineup.
The Malmo, Sweden-based quartet’s self-titled full-length debut was recorded by producer Jari Haapalainen, known for his work with Ed Harcourt and The (International) Noise Conspiracy live to analog tape at Tift’s Studio Motion with the producer and band actively aiming for a raw, unpolished feel and sound reminiscent of Martin Hannet’s legendary work with Joy Division — and in a similar fashion to those legendary recordings, the members of True Moon recorded their debut album’s material in single takes, which gives the album’s material a forceful immediacy; in fact, Engdahl completed the vocals for the album in about 90 minutes.
Slated for an April 28, 2017 release through Lovely Records, the band and their label recently released the album’s first single “Sugar,” and while sonically speaking the song — to my ears, at least — sounds like what would happen if Siouxsie and the Banshees had covered Joy Division, complete with a roaring and rousingly anthemic hook, and an undeniably forceful, almost primal and explosive “you-were-there” immediacy that sets them apart from they countrymen and from their counterparts internationally.

 

 

 

New Audio: The Trippy and Psychedelic Sounds and Visuals of The Seshen’s “Colors Collide”

Throughout the end of last year, I wrote quite a bit about San Francisco Bay Area-based electro pop/electro R&B/electro soul act The Seshen. Interestingly, the act comprised of founding members Lalin St. Juste (vocals) and Akiyoshi Ehara (bass, production) with Kasha Rockland (vocals), Mizra Kopelman (percussion) and Kumar Butler (sampler) have recede attention both across the Bay Area and elsewhere for a sound and aesthetic that draws from a diverse and eclectic array of influences including Erykah Badu, Jai Paul, James Blake, Radiohead, Broadcast, hip-hop, indie rock, electronica — with the result being a sound that managed to be simultaneously contemporary and retro-futuristic.

Now you may recall that I had written about the first two singles off the act’s sophomore full-length effort Flames and Figures — “Distant Heart,” a slickly produced, sleek and sensual, synth-based single that sounded as though it were influenced by 80s synth-based R&B and pop and “Already Gone,” a sultry and sensual track that subtly nodded at Giorgio Moroder’s legendary and incredibly sexy productions. However, the album’s third and latest single “Colors Collide” finds the Bay Area-based act pairing St. Juste’s nostalgic, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and sultry vocals with hazy mellotron, layered rhythms, a distorted and chopped up vocal sample, swirling electronics and shimmering synths to craft a sound that nods at trippy, 60s-inspired psych pop, experimental pop and prog rock thanks to a song structure that consists of several shifting and morphing sections held together by the song’s hazy vibe and a deep longing for more.

Interestingly, as the band’s St. Juste explains in press notes, “Colors Collide is about the illusory spaces that are created for us, and how we wrestle with the identities and experiences that grow out of those creations. It reflects the journey of leaving this current space for another. Perhaps in this next place, I can be free. It’s not a physical space, but rather, the place within myself that I hope to reach.”

Directed by Jesse Cafiero, the recently released music video for “Colors Collide” employs the use of classic, stop-motion animation to create a detailed yet surreal world that adds and emphasizes the song’s psychedelia-tinged take on pop

New Video: JOVM Mainstay REMI Further Cements His Growing Reputation for Thoughtful, Conscious, and Soulful Hip-Hop

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year or so, you’ve likely come across a couple of posts on Melbourne, Australia-based emcee Remi and his producer and collaborator Sensible J. And as you may recall the duo rose to national prominence with the 2014 release of their critically and commercially successful effort Raw X Infinity, an album that was named Triple J’s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, and received international attention from OkayAfrica, JUICE, laut.de, NPR‘s All Things Considered, and several others. Adding to a growing national and international profile, the young Melbourne-based artist was named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year” and he along with his producer and collaborator wound up touring nationally and across the UK and the EU with Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.

Last year saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded full-length Divas and Demons, an album that revealed a supremely talented emcee, who was an adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an earnest and soul-baring honesty. In fact, you may recall that I wrote about the album’s first three singles “For Good,” a charmingly coquettish love song in which its male and female narrators have misunderstandings, bicker and fight, cheat an drive each other insane in a youthfully dysfunctional relationship featuring Sydney, Australia-based poet, visual artist and singer/songwriter Sampa The Great rhyming and singing over a warm and soulful production by Sensible J that nodded at The Roots and Erykah Badu’s “You Got Me.” “Substance Therapy,” the album’s second single featured Remi rhyming honestly about how drinking, drugging and womanizing as an escape from himself and his depression only managed to further mire him in depression. Along with provocative, soul-baring lyrics, Sensible J’s production was meant to emphasize vacillating sense of self-loathing, elf-doubt, fear, anger, and desperate escapism of the dangerously depressed. The album’s third single “Lose Sleep” was a deeply personal song that drew from Remi’s own experiences a mixed race man in Australia and in the world — and in some way, he wanted the song to be a message to other mixed race kids about that weird feeling of feeling as though you could never quite fit in; but that his experience and story, as of those of others matters in a much larger story.
“Contact Hi/High/I” is the latest single off 2016’s Divas and Demons and the as the Melbourne-based emcee explains of his collaboration with Hiatus Kaiyote’s Silent Jay, “I wrote this joint when I was living out of home. One of my friends once told me: ‘In Australia, we have it so good, we’re afforded the liberty to stay childish for our whole lives.’ Whether drinking culture, drug culture, consumerism, etc. I kinda noticed this in myself and wanted to just write about my childish mentality, and how it was being validated by my vices.” The single features both Silent Jay and Remi singing and rhyming over a warm and soulful Sensible J production consisting of twinkling keys, congo drumming and stuttering beats. Interestingly, as a New Yorker, the song captures a familiar sentiment that has come up lately in my life, especially as I inch my way into my 40s.

The recently released music video features Remi, Sensible J and Silent Jay baking cookies, goofing off and hanging out with their homies but underneath the mischief and comic antics is a more serious commentary. In fact, there’s the sense of each of the video’s subjects playing at being adults and not quite knowing how to do it properly; but if you truly consider it: no one really quite knows what to go about being an adult, they make it up as they go along.

New Video: The Nostalgic Visuals and 60s Psych Pop-Leaning Sounds of Hour Of The Time Majesty Twelve

Comprised of primary songwriter duo Spooki Tavi (guitar, vocals) and Ashi Dala (bass, vocals), the Los Angeles, CA-based experimental pop Hour Of The Time Majesty Twelve (HOTT MT) have built a profile for their collaborative warehouse, art space Non Plus Ultra, for crafting shimmering, psychedelic-leaning pop, and for ambitious collaborations with The Flaming Lips, Ariel Pink, Erykah Badu and Ke$ha. And adding to a growing profile, the Los Angeles-based experimental pop duo have opened for the aforementioned The Flaming Lips, Bat for Lashes, and Galaxie 500.

The duo’s sophomore full-length effort AU (Alternate Universe) is slated for a May 2017 release through the duo’s Mutation Records. “At Night in China Town” features the duo pairing shimmering synths, tinny and distorted Casio-like beats, angular guitar chords with Spooki Tavi’s ethereal vocals and a soaring hook in a moody yet mischievously anachronistic song that sounds as though it simultaneously draws from 60s psych pop and bubble gum pop, shoegazer rock — and in a similar fashion to Washington D.C.’s The Galaxy Electric but with a chillier air.

The recently released music video for “At Night in China Town” features footage shot at their warehouse art space Non Plus Ultra, which was recently shut down. And much like losing a favorite bar or a favorite music venue, there’s a palpable sense of friendships being made and possibly lost, of uncertainty as to what’s next and what everyone will do now that their place is gone; but along with that a hope that there may be someplace new that will leave some indelible memory on you. As the members of HOTT MT say of their recent loss ” “All of us at Non Plus Ultra have been together for years. Our ideals brought us together, and we built a space and a business on them. Non Plus Ultra showed us that we aren’t alone in our desires. There are so many people in this town who share our values. We’ve made and lost spaces before, but this time we’ve got an incredible support system.”

Francis Novotny is an up-and-coming Gothenburg, Sweden-born, Paris, France-based singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, who grew up under the influence of his five older siblings and their eclectic record collections. As the story goes, after finishing school, Novotny moved to Paris, ostensibly to study French — but in reality, to work on music in relative peace and in new environs. Interestingly, for a brief period, Novotny felt compelled to try his hand at house music, before finding his true musical voice and sound, a sound that draws from a mix of styles including glitch-hop, R&B and electro soul while seemingly being influenced by Hudson Mohawke, Cashmere Cat and Gorillaz. And with his latest single “Hit N Run,” the Gothenburg-born, Paris-based artist reveals a imitable sound in which stuttering synths and chopped electronics, razor sharp beats and an insistent ear worm of a hook are paired  with Novotny’s ethereal yet soulful vocals singing lyrics in which the song’s narrator describes reluctance and cynicism that have hardened him a bit and made it difficult for him to open up to a new, potential romantic partner. And yet it’s an incredibly sensual song that sounds unlike anything I’ve come across in some time.

 

 

 

DGTL CTL is a rather mysterious electro pop duo whose production draws from several different styles while possessing a flair for the avant-garde to craft a truly imitable sound that manages to be radio friendly. The duo’s debut EP is slated for a May 2017 and the EP’s first single “Elephant” features a sparse production that simultaneously nods at slow-burning, Quiet Storm R&B, a chilly but efficient minimalism, breezy atmospherics and a stark industrial electronica as it pairs distorted and shuffling beats, gently swirling and undulating synths and achingly tender vocals with an infectious hook. Lyrically, the song’s narrator talks about falling for someone so deeply that they can’t quite figure out a way to express themselves –they think about the idea of talking to their object of desire and they suddenly feel like a deaf mute, and when they try to put their thoughts and feelings down on paper, it just doesn’t add up to the feelings in their head. And whenever they’re around their object of desire, the only thing they notice is that there’s the proverbial elephant in the room — their longing and desire — and yet so many things are left hopelessly unsaid. And as a result the song possesses an aching desperation and longing, making it one of the most unlikeliest, sensual songs I’ve heard this year.