Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Premier Guitar Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, The New York Press, New York Magazine's Vulture Blog, Ins&Outs Magazine, The Noise Beneath the Apple, Glide Magazine, The Whiskey Dregs Magazine and others.

Makaya McCraven is a Paris-born Chicago-based jazz drummer, beatmaker and producer, who has released a run of critically applauded, genre-defying and re-defining albums that includes 2017’s Highly Rare, 2018’s Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape) and 2018’s Universal Beings through Chicago-based International Anthem Records. Highly Rare caught the attention of XL Recordings‘ Richard Russell, who recruited the acclaimed Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer to re-imagine Gil Scott-Heron’s I’m New Here.  

Released earlier this year, McCraven’s We’re New Again places the original I’m New Here sessions in a new context. using samples collected from McCraven’s improvised live sessions with new wave Chicago jazz musicians and vintage samples taken from the acclaimed Paris-born, Chicago-based drummer, beatmaker and producer’s parents’ recordings.  It’s meant to reconnect Scott-Heron with his birthplace and hometown, as well as a lineage of jazz and blues that perfectly compliments the Chicago-born legendary artist’s imitable voice.

Slated for a July 31, 2020 release through his longtime label home. Universal Beings E&F Sides serves as an addendum to the critically applauded 2018 effort of the same name — but while featuring fourteen new organ beat music compositions that were cut from the original sessions and prepared and produced by McCraven as a soundtrack to a documentary on the recording of the original album. (The physical album will see a September 25, 2020 release.)

The Mark Pallman-directed Universal Beings documentary follows McCraven as he travelled to California, Chicago, London and NYC in a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and recording of his breakthrough album, taking the viewer through the story of his life, his process and the community of musicians that brought the album’s material to life.

So to build up buzz for the new album and the documentary, McCraven and International Anthem have released Universal Beings Sides E&F‘s first single, the angular and percussive “Mak Attack.” Clocking in a little under two minutes, the breakneck composition is centered around complex and rolling polyrhythm, a sinuous bass line and twinkling bursts of keys.  The composition finds the musicians managing to walk a tightrope between chaos and order, free-flowing improvisation and structured composition and as a result, it explodes with a forceful and vital energy.

 

 

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New Video: Madagascar’s LohArano Releases a Boldly African Take on Metal

Formed over five years ago, LohArano is an emerging Antananarivo, Madagascar-based trio featuring Mahalia Ravoajanahary (vocals, guitar), Michael Raveloson (bass, vocals) and Natiana Randrianasoloson (drums, vocals)  that specializes in a unique sound that meshes popular and beloved Malagasy music styles — in particular, Tsapiky  and Salegy — with metal.  The Madagascar-based trio’s sound and approach represents a a bold, new generation of young people, who respect the traditions of their elders but while roaring with the urgency of our moment. 

The Madagascar-based trio’s official debut single “Andrambavitany” is centered around a shimmering and looping guitar lines, an enormous power-chord riff-driven, mosh pit friendly hook, thunderous drumming paired with a brash and forceful delivery to create a unique sound: a boldly African take on metal — or a boldly metal take African music that roars, kicks ass and forcefully taking names, but while being defiantly pro-Black and pro-women. “Andrambavitany,” as the trio explains plays on the Malagasy word for “fallen nature of the Malagasy women.”

VThe recently released video is split between footage of young women stripping and the band kicking ass  — with the video expressing a misunderstanding the need for these young women to strip and show off to others on social media. The video points out that a very modern phenomenon among young people everywhere — that everyone is desperate to show off and be an influencer or be popular. 

New Video: Emerging Reykjavik Indie Duo BSÍ Releases a Hazy and Lysergic Visual for “Manama”

Deriving their name from what is considered one of the most miserable locations in Iceland, Reykjavik’s BSÍ Central Bus Terminal, BSÍ is an emerging Icelandic indie rock duo featuring Sigurlaug Thoransen and Julius Rothlaender. With the release of the “Tomatenplatten/Berlin”/ “Why Not? plötur/Reykjavík” 7 inch vinyl and a single on Post-dreifng’s Drullumall #2 compilation, the Icelandic duo quickly established their sound and songwriting approach: centered around a DIY ethos, the duo’s specializes in what’s known around Iceland as Krútt pönk — and from what I’ve been able to look up, is a decidedly Icelandic take on indie rock and post punk. 

Since then, the release of the “Tomatenplatten/Berlin”/ “Why Not? plötur/Reykjavík” 7 inch and their Post-dreifng’s Drullumall #2 compilation, the Reykjavik-based duo have played concerts and festivals across Iceland and Germany. Like countless bands across the world, they started the year with writing and recording new material — but interestingly, their latest single “Manama,” was initially recorded back in 2018. Regardless of when the track was recorded, it’s a jangling yet brooding bit of guitar rock that sounds indebted to 120 Minutes era MTV — but with a hazy and trippy vibe.

Directed by Venezuelan-born, Berlin-based filmmaker Adriana Berroteran, the recently released video follows the stunningly beautiful Folasade Adeseo as she wanders around the streets of Mexico City– but her Mexico City is a fittingly viewed through a lysergic and hazy dream. 

New Video: Swedish Nu-Cumbia act Cumbiasound Releases an Adorable Visual for “Cumbia Alta Vida”

Daniell Fridell is a Swedish-based multi-instrumentalist and producer with a deep background in jazz, funk, soul and Balkan music, who spent a decade residing in Denmark. Throughout his career, he has played and produced material for albums, commercials, TV and for the theater — and as a result of his various work, Fridell has managed to tour across the European Union, Africa and the States.  

His latest project, Cumbiasound finds the Swedish multi-instrumentalist crafting compositions that draw from Colombian cumbia and Peruvian chicha with elements of reggae, Balkan folk, Afrobeat, soul and jazz among others. Interestingly, the project can its origins back to 2010 when Fridell first heard cumbia. “2010 I heard Cumbia the first time while standing outside of a supermarket eating ice cream,” Fridell explains in press notes. “It was blazing hot and all of a sudden this music came out of the speakers. ‘What’s that?’ I asked and the rest is history. A true love affair.”

Cumbiasound’s debut EP Vol. 1: Instrumentales sees Fridell collaborating with longtime friend and colleague Erik Axelsson who contributes trombone and euphonium to the mix. The EP’s latest single “Cumbia Alta Vida” is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes, looping guitar and shuffling, Latin polyrhythm — and while sounding as though it were recorded sometime between 1962-1965, the song is a joyous and much-needed bit of escape. 

Speaking of escapism: the recently released video by Cesar A. Ortiz, the recently released video stars two adorable rugrats dancing to the song in their backyard and messing around with some instruments at home. We see the youngest kid, a tow-headed boy eating arepas — because of course. Life seems so much simpler in their eyes doesn’t it? 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays No Joy Follows Up-and-Coming Artist Ashley Diabo in her Home in Playful Visual for “Four”

I’ve written quite a bit about Montreal-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jasamine White-Gluz over the course of the past handful of years. Gluz is the creative mastermind of the critically applauded JOVM mainstay act No Joy.  Starting over a decade ago as a series of emailed riffs between White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd, the project has been centered around White-Gluz’s restless experimentation — and since its formation, No Joy has gone through a number of different sonic permutations with subsequent albums showcasing her penchant for delay-saturated jangle, industrial distortion and sludgey drones over disco-like beats. 

Back in 2018 White-Gluz collaborated with Spacemen’s 3 Pete Kember, (a.k.a. Sonic Boom) on a collaborative EP that saw her trading the guitars she had long been known for, for modular synths — with the effort’s material seemingly indebted to Kid A and Amnesiac-era Radiohead.

Slated for an August 21, 2020 release through Joyful Noise Recordings and Hand Drawn Dracula in Canada, the Jorge Elbrecht-produced Motherhood is White-Gluz’s first No Joy full-length album in over five years. Reportedly, the album’s finds White-Gluz returning to the project’s early, DIY recording, shoegazer roots — but while continuing to expand upon her overall sonic palette with the incorporation of elements of trip-hop, trance and nu-metal-like power chords among others. Interestingly, some of the album’s sound was inspired by the Montreal-based JOVM mainstay’s tours with genre-divergent artists: while touring with Quicksand, No Joy picked up post-hardcore fans and ambient techno fans while touring with Baths. “As long as people are open minded about music, they can hear different things,” explains White-Gluz, “Maybe because there are a lot of layers.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Birthmark,” Motherhood’s first single. Centered around atmospheric synths, propulsive boom-bap beats, muscular percussion, shimmering blasts of guitars and a soaring hook, the song was a seamless and trippy synthesis of Brit Pop, shoegaze, trip-hop and house music. “Four,” the album’s latest single continues the album’s  experimental bent a bit further: Centered around sizzling power chords, atmospheric electronics, wobbling synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and an enormous hook, “Four” manages to recall Amoral-era Violens — but while possessing a mischievous, yet boldly feminine energy. 

Directed by Jodi Heartz, the recently released video for “Four: follows Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) visual artist Ashley Diabo at her home in Kahnawake, Quebec. Diablo’s primary medium is makeup  — and her work is deeply inspired by her home, family, Pennywise and nature. She has worked with Dazed Magazine, King Kong Magazine and brands like SSENSE and trans model, actress, and activist, Hunter Schafter. Diabo’s life is seemingly that of a prototypical suburban young woman: we see her putting on the vibrantly colored make up, she wears through the video, playing with and caring for her dog and cat, goofing off and daydreaming and swimming in her pool. And she does all of this with an infectious and warm smile and a playful energy that is — well, simply put, endearing. I couldn’t help but like this young woman and I think you will too. 

As White-Gluz explains, the aim of the Heartz-directed video was “to appreciate Ashley at home, hoping to inspire all to embrace the love and inspiration of their home, the way Ashley reminds us every day. She has a special gift to make the everyday more and better and magical.”

Notelle · Bugs

Notelle is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, topliner and pop artist, who has worked with an eclectic array of DJs and producer across the globe since 2014. Her work as a songwriter and vocalist has amassed over 12 million Spotify streams — with her material appearing on a number of playlists including Spotify‘s FreshEDM, Hot New Dance, Friday Cratediggers, Heart Beats, Sad Beats, Pop Chillout, Study Break, Fresh Finds, Fresh Finds: Poptronix, Italians Do It Better, Shisha Lounge, Stepping Out, New Music Fridays and Deep Delight, as well as Apple Music‘s Pop Rising and Breaking Dance playlists. Adding to a growing profile, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter, topliner and pop artist has been covered by EDM.com and has received airplay on Sirius XM Radio.

Throughout her career, the Nashville-based artist has signed and released material on 15 different electronic music labels including Armada, Monstercat, Proximity, Lowly, Hinky, AtLast, Seeking Blue, Thrive Music, Ultra Music, Ophelia and Knight Vision (Warner Music) — while remaining fiercely independent.

After spending the past handful of years as a go-to collaborator, the Nashville-based singer/songwriter and pop artist has decided to step out into the spotlight as a solo artist: over the past year, she’s been writing material and honing her take on “dark industrial pop” while catching the attention of Nashville Scene as a Nashville Artist to Watch in 2020. Building upon the rapidly growing buzz surrounding her, her solo debut single “Power” premiered on Lightning 100‘s The 615 and her third “Out of Love” was put on the station’s regular rotation.

“Beyond The Grave” found Notelle exploring a grittier sound than her previously released material, while fearlessly eschewing standard pop song structures and defying genre conventions and this has helped the Nashville-based artist develop a reputation for crafting forward-thinking, difficult to categorize pop. Interestingly, within the first couple of weeks of the song’s release, the track landed on Spotify’s “Study Break,” “Fresh Finds” and Fresh Finds: Poptronix” lists organically.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Alive.” The Nine Inch Nails and Billie Eilish-like track continued a remarkable run of slickly produced, genre-defying, sultry pop with elements of industrial electronica, alternative pop and trip hop centered around fearlessly adventurous and ambitious songwriting based around unsettling personal experience. The Nashville-based artist’s latest single “Bugs” is a dark and seductive song centered around wobbling synths, handclap-led percussion, thumping beats, a distorted string sample, an infectious hook and Notelle’s sultry cooing — and while radio friendly, the song feels a bit like the creeping, anxious dread of a bad trip.

“I wrote ‘Bugs’ during a break up where it felt like that person was still in my body in some capacity,” Notelle says in press notes. “The impact of someone else’s choices left literal and metaphorical residue on me, and I felt dirty. I kept imagining it as a bad hallucination – like bugs. Was this person capable of hurting me more? Was the worst of it over? Or was another bomb going to be dropped on me when I felt like I was out of the woods? I wanted this song to embody that level of paranoia, you know? When you check behind doors or shower curtains when you’re alone in your house – or when you can’t tell if the noises in you hear in the silence are in your head or are real. That’s a bizarre place to be, and ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t out of my mind. In fact, they were.”

New Video: Peel Dream Magazine Releases a Trippy Anachronistic Bit of Dreamy Psych

Joe Stevens is a New York-based singer/songwriter and musician and the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed psych rock project Peel Dream Magazine. Deriving its name from the legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, one of England’s preeminent tastemakers, the band’s name is meant to evoke a certain strain of independent music. “I wanted to create an outlet for subcultural wanderers. Something you can subscribe to,” Stevens explains. 

Earlier this year, the New York-based psych pop act released their critically applauded sophomore album Agitprop Alterna, an album which draws from a wide set of post-punk, shoegaze and indie pop influences while possessing a self-assured and unique sound. Building upon the attention and momentum they’ve earned earlier this year, Peel Dream Magazine recently released the Moral Panics EP, a companion effort that features previously unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna sessions. Far from outtakes, the EP’s material are songs that can stand on their own — while functioning as a sort of corollary to their sophomore effort. 

The EP’s title is derived from Stanley Cohen’s Folk Devils and Moral Panics, a pivotal study of the media treatment of the mod movement and the political, societal and cultural fault lines that the media panic embodied. Unsurprisingly, the EP’s material continues Stevens’  and Peel Dream Magazine’s investigations into those frought and areas where art, culture and commerce meet. 

“Verfremdungseffekt,” Moral Panics’ latest single is a fuzzy, half-remembered dream centered around layers of arpeggiated and droning keys, a chugging bass line, shimmering, atmospheric guitars and ethereal vocals — with the end result being a mod-like take on psych rock that superficially sounds as though it could have been released in 1965, 1995, 2015 or — well, yesterday. 

Centered around footage of Stevens and Company performing at Chicago’sSleeping Village and Ottawa’s Cinqhole just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the video is an eerie reminder of the things we all miss and can’t have right now — shows, bars, hanging out and bullshitting with friends.