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.

Live Footage: James Blake Performs “I’ll Come Too” on KRCW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

Born the son of musician James Litherland, James Blake is an acclaimed London-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, who showed an interest and aptitude in music at a very young age: he received classical piano training as a child, eventually attending Goldsmith, University of London, where he received a degree in Popular Music. While attending Goldsmith, Blake and a friends hosted a series of Bass Society music nights that featured British artists like Distance, Skream and Benga. 

Blake first received recognition for a series of EPs in 2010 — CMYK EP and Klavierwerke and his 2011 self-titled debut, all which were released to critical praise. His sophomore effort, 2013’s Overgrown won that year’s Mercury Prize and a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. 2016’s The Colour in Anything further established Blake’s unique sound and approach, which draws from electronic music, electro pop, R&B and blue-eyed soul. 

Throughout his career, Blake has managed to collaborate with a wide and eclectic variety of contemporary artists including Mount Kimbie, Bon Iver, Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce, Vince Staples, Rosalia, Jay-Z, Oneohtrix Point Never and Frank Ocean — and for his remixes under the moniker Harmonimix. His most recent album, the critically applauded Assume Form finds Blake collaborating with Travis Scott, Metro Boomin, Andre 3000, Moses Sumney, and Rosalia.

Recently, Blake was invited to perform the first-ever live session at KCRW’s brand-new Annenberg Performance Studio. The session aired on KRCW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic hosted by the station’s Musical Director, Jason Bentley.  Joined by his bandmates Rob McAndrews and Ben Assiter, Blake performed material from Assume Form, including the album’s title track, “Barefoot In The Park,” “I’ll Come Too,” and “Don’t Miss It,” as well as a live version of his song “Retrograde” and a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” “I’ll Come Too” is a slow-burning and atmospheric track centered around Blake’s ethereal and plaintive vocals, shimmering synths, stuttering beats and a soaring hook — and while   bearing an uncanny resemblance to classical music, the track finds Blake expressing an achingly passionate yearning and vulnerability. 

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New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Yumi Zouma Releases a Breezy Club Banger

Over the course of this site’s almost nine year history, I’ve spilled quite of virtual ink over the acclaimed, internationally-based synth pop act Yumi Zouma. And as you may recall, the act which is now currently comprised of Christie Simpson, Charlie Ryder and Josh Burgess initially formed in their hometown of  Christchurch, New Zealand; however, since the 2011 earthquake that devastated their hometown and the rest of the region, the members of the band have been split across different locations across the globe with members residing in New York, Paris and Christchurch.

Primarily writing and recorded by email, the band wasn’t initially meant to be a live band but they received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a breezy yet bittersweet, 80s synth pop-inspired sound centered around Christie Simpson’s ethereal and tender vocals. Since the release of their Turntable Kitchen released cover of Oasis’ 1995 full-length effort, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, the renowned synth pop act released an EP trilogy, with the last EP, the aptly titled EP III being released through their longtime label home  Cascine Records last September.

The act’s latest single “Bruise” continues the act’s long-held reputation for crafting breezy, hook-driven synth pop with an underlying bittersweet quality — but the new single may arguably be the most dance floor friendly track they’ve released to date, as it also possesses a muscular and propulsive thump. Interestingly, as the band notes the origins of their latest single were steeped in loss, as the instrumental part of the song was written after Sam Perry informed the rest of the band that he was leaving the band and moving to Serbia — but the track has become a beacon for optimism for the band. “We were all distraught until Josh said ‘Cheer me up guys — let’s write a song for Nelly Furtado. Nelly never replied but we came up with a smash.” 

In her native Portugal, the Porto-born and-based vocalist Marta Ren has been a part of the country’s music scene since the mid 1990s and she may be best known for her stint as the frontwoman of the acclaimed breakbeat outfit The Bombazines with whom she recorded and released two full-length albums — and for contributing her vocals to a number of nationally known acts. Interestingly, Ren has long been inspired by the funk and soul sounds of the 60s and over the last few years, the Porto-born and-based vocalist decided it was time to step out into the spotlight with her own soul and funk project, under her name. She eventually hooked up with her backing band The Groovelets, with whom she released her critically praised, attention-grabbing debut Stop Look Listen, an effort that received airplay from BBC Radio 6′s Craig Charles and Radio France‘s Francis Viel.

Building upon a growing international profile, Ren and her Groovelets played across Europe to support her critically acclaimed debut effort, including the Trans Musicales Festival, Sziget Festival, Eurosonic Nooderslag and Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival. Interestingly, the strutting, Emre Ramazanoglu-produced “Worth It,” is the first batch of material from the Portuguese soulstress in a couple of years — and reportedly, it’s the first taste from her highly-anticipated sophomore album, slated for an early 2020 release through Record Kicks. And while retaining elements of the classic 60s soul that first caught the attention of this site and elsewhere, Ren an The Groovelets’ latest single is a sultry, slow-burning and cinematic track that finds their sound nodding at psych-tinged soul that finds Ren taking names and kicking ass with stomping aplomb.

 

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Dire Wolves Release an Expansive and Mesmerizing New Single Paired with Trippy Visuals

Over the past two years or so, I’ve written a bit about the Bay Area-based avant-garde free rock/psych rock collective Dire Wolves, and although the act has gone through a number of lineup changes, the act which is currently comprised of founding member Jeffrey Alexander (guitar, synths), who has also had stints running Secret Eye Records and as a member of Jackie O’ Motherfucker and Black Forest Black Sea; Georgia Carbone (vocals); Brian Lucas (bass); Faun Fables’ Sheila Bosco (drums, piano); Village of Spaces’ Arjun Mendiratta (violin) and Spires that in the Sunset Rise’s Taralie Peterson (sax), the act has a long-held reputation for crafting lysergic and hypnotic music — and for being incredibly prolific, releasing over a dozen efforts since their formation back in 2008. 

Slated for a June 28, 2019 release through Beyond Beyond is Beyond Records, the Bay Area’s forthcoming album Grow Towards the Light is officially the band’s fourth full-length album, and the album marks the first, full-length effort with Carbone contributing vocals — typically with Carbone signing in her own invented language. The album as the band’s Jeffrey Alexander explains in press notes “thematically tries to express the ‘interconnectedness of all things.” 

Clocking in at a little over 10 minutes, the album’s latest single “Spacetime Rider” is a expansive and free-flowing jam centered around shimmering guitars, a motorik groove. slashing bursts of violin and Carbone’s ethereal, Nico-like wailing. And while bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Velvet Undergound, the track will further cement the JOVM mainstays reputation for mesmerizing and trippy jams with a painterly air; but along with that, the track possesses a cosmic glow — the sort of glow you’d see traveling across the spacetime continuum.

New Video: Black Mountain Takes on 8-Bit Video Games in New Visuals for “Licensed to Drive”

Stephen McBean is a Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who can trace the origins of his music career to when he became involved in the Victoria, British Columbia music scene, forming his first band Jerk Ward in 1981. In 1984, the band recorded a demo that was re-released in 2009 as Too Young to Thrash. Jerk Ward evolved into Mission of Christ (MOC), who recorded a split 7 inch in 1987 — but two years later, the band broke up and McBean relocated to Vancouver, where he started Gus, a band that released two singles, a split EP and a full-length album, 1995’s The Progressive Science Of Breeding Idiots For A Dumber Society, which lead to McBean’s first experience with extensive touring.

In 1996 McBean asked Radio Berlin’s Joshua Wells to join his new band Ex Dead Teenager. Much like his first band Jerk Ward, Ex Dead Teenager eventually morphed into Jerk With a Bomb. Signing with Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar Records. the band released three albums — 1999’s Death To False Metal, 2001’s The Old Noise and 2003’s Pyrokinesis, which featured Dream on Dreary’s Amber Webber contributing vocals.

While McBean and Wells were still writing, recording and performing as Jerk With a Bomb in 2003, McBean started to demo material that included “Black Mountain” and by the following year, the duo began working on demos under the name Black Mountain with contributions from Webber, Matt Camirand (bass) and Jeremy Schmidt (keys). Those early demos eventually led to their self-titled debut album and a split 7 inch with Destroyer that featured “Bicycle Man,” and was released by Scratch Records and Jagjaguwar Records.

Building upon a growing profile, Black Mountain toured across North America and Europe and by the following June, the band released the 12″ single “Druganuat”/”Buffalo Swan” in the US. In August 2005, the band opened for Coldplay during their Twisted Logic Tour.

2008 was a huge year for the band, their sophomore album In The Future was a finalist for the 2008 Polaris Music Prize, and the album received a Juno Award nomination for Best Alternative Album. Additionally, “Stay Free” was featured on the Spiderman 3 soundtrack.

By 2010, McBean relocated to Los Angeles, where they wrote and recorded their Randall Dunn and Dave Sardy-co-produced third album, 2011’s Wilderness Heart, an album that was long listed for that year’s Polaris Music Prize and appeared on !earshot’s Top 50 chart.

2016 saw the release of their fourth album, the aptly titled IV. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes and now features McBean along with Arjan Miranda, Rachel Fannan, Adam Bulgasem and Jermey Schmidt. Interestingly, during that same period McBean got his first proper driver’s license — and for him, it was as though he essentially became a teenager again, discovering a new sense of personal independence and freedom.

Now, as you may recall, the band’s newest album Destroyer derives its name from the discontinued, single-run 1985 Dodge Destroyer muscle car, and reportedly the album is imbued with the wild freedom and newfound agency, anxiety and fear that comes from one’s first time behind the wheel. The serpentine, slow-burning, whiskey fueled, boogie strut “Boogie Lover” was meant to evoke cruising down the Sunset Strip late at night while drawing from space rock, doom metal and stoner rock simultaneously. Interestingly, the album’s latest single “Licensed to Drive” evokes a sense of wild freedom  — of speeding down the highway with the music blaring at eardrum shattering levels while sonically drawing from krautrock, space rock, Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent, as the track is centered around a motorik pulse, shimmering synths, buzzing power chords and a razor sharp hook. Get in your car, play this one loud, man.

Directed by Zev Deans, the recently released video for “Licensed to Drive” is an extended riff on classic 8-bit video games and Mad Max, complete with leather and ax-wielding barbarians, a tricked out 1976 GMC Spirit, a guy playing trash can drums, and an enormous, mutant bat. And of course, while McBean and his buddy are playing the “Licensed to Drive” game, a cord is yanked out or something and they wind up having to watch a hilarious take on the classic Maxell Cassette tape commercial. For those of you who came of age in the 80s or grew up in the 80s, this video will bring back a lot of memories. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Ron Gallo Releases a Surreal and Feverish Video for Anthemic “Love Supreme (Work Together!)”

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve written a quite a bit about Ron Gallo, a  Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist and JOVM mainstay, whose musical career began in earnest with an eight year stint as the frontman of the Philadelphia-based indie act Toy Soldiers. Now, as you recall Gallo was in a long-term romantic relationship with a deeply trouble woman — and once that relationship ended, Gallo relocated to Nashville, where he wrote and recorded material that eventually became his acclaimed 2016 full-length debut HEAVY META. Thematically, the album touched upon a number of themes within his own life, including his own personal ideology of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, self-empowerment, domestication, dead and unhappy love, not truly knowing yourself and the things that could happen to you when you don’t, mental illness from the perspective of both sufferer and close observer, and a burning, misanthropic frustration with humanity and civilization. And yet, there was some level of optimism — that music can wake someone up and get them to change what they were doing. As Gallo said in press notes at the time, “this record comes from my frustration with humanity and myself, and from my wanting to shake us all. At my core, I’m compassionate for humanity and the sickness that we all live with, and from that comes something more constructive.”

HEAVY META’s follow-up Really Nice Guys EP was released earlier this year, and the EP was a concept EP largely inspired by the previous year in Gallo’s life in which he was busy touring and promoting his full-length debut — and the EP’s material wound up being a satirical sendup of the contemporary music industry with the EP featuring songs about rough mixes, broken into three parts — iPhone demo, live band demo and overproduced, autotuned, overproduced to death studio recording; the painfully weird inability for those within the music industry to honestly admit that someone is just an awful musician, so everyone winds up saying “well, they’re really nice guys . . . ,” the number of friends, who will ask to be put on the guestlist so that you can never actually make any money off a show, and more.

Gallo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Stardust Birthday Party is slated for an October 5, 2018 release and the material is inspired by a life-altering, seismic shift in Gallo’s life. Remember the woman who inspired much of the material on Gallo’s critically applauded debut? Well, as the story goes, she had taken a trip to South America, found a healer and miraculously got herself and her life together. Understandably, when Gallo heard the news, his interest was piqued, and he began reading and searching fora  more inward path for his own mental and spiritual development.  Earlier this year, on a whim, the Philadelphia-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter and guitarist booked a trip to California for a silent meditation retreat. Despite his initial discomfort, Gallo reportedly experienced a profound experience that quickly became the answer for his existential searching — and the thematic core of the album: how inner transformation impacts both the outside world and your perception of it.

Or, as Ron Gallo says in a lengthy written statement about the album:

“Stardust Birthday Party is about human evolution. Specifically, one human’s evolution: mine, Ron Gallo.  That’s the name my parents gave me. Hi.

At one point, I was a very lost mid-twenties person living in Philadelphia, in a relationship with someone struggling with mental health issues and crippling heroin addiction. I was asleep. I didn’t know how to handle my life. I was also writing songs for HEAVY META – my “frustrated with humanity” album. I laugh about it all now, but at the time it all felt like an absolute nightmare. It was the perfect doorway to look inside the place I’d been avoiding forever: myself.

Stardust Birthday Party is about what is happening underneath all of this life stuff. My path inward. The details of my path are pointless because everyone’s path is different. It is about me sitting with myself for the first time and confronting the big question “WHAT AM I, REALLY?” It’s about the love and compassion for all things that enters when you find out you are nothing and everything. I think at one point I wanted to change the world, but now I know I can only change myself, or rather just strip away everything that is not me to reveal the only thing that’s ever been there. And that’s what this album is about, it’s me dancing while destroying the person I thought I was, and hopefully forever.

In the liner notes of John Coltrane’s album A Love Supreme (which we pay tribute to on this album) he wrote: ‘During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music.’

That’s it.  That is the pure essence of creativity. Someone embodying what they have realized about themselves and the world that surrounds them. That is why this album exists. ”

Stardust Birthday Party’s first single “It’s All Gonna Be Okay,” was an angular ripper centered around two disparate things — the first a relishing of life’s ironies with a bemused yet accepting smile that points out that there’s a larger connection to everyone and everything; and that the only way we can actually change the world is if every individual on this planet began to take a serious and sobering look at their own fucked up shit and then do the opposite. Until then, we’re speeding our way down to hell with explosives and lit matches in the backseat.

The album’s second single “Always Elsewhere” continues in a similar vein of its predecessor, an angular and furious ripper that evokes our age of perpetual and unending fear and anxiety that has most of us running around like the White Rabbit, looking at our watches in panic and saying “There’s not enough time! There’s not enough time!” As Gallo says in press notes, “Most of the time we perceive the world, ourselves and others as ideas we have about them rather than what they really are. All our fear and anxiety stems from speculation about what COULD happen, not what is actually happening here and now. I’ve done this most of my life and still do, and the best way I’ve found is to become aware that you are not being aware or present, and suddenly you become present, that’s what this song is for — a frantic representation of modern life and our inability to live in the moment.”

“Do You Love Your Company,” Stardust Birthday Party‘s third  single was a tense and anxious New Wave and post-punk take on garage rock, centered around angular blasts of guitar, a steady backbeat and an enormous, shout-worthy hook but underneath the rousingly anthemic nature of the song is something much deeper, more urgent — the very modern anxiousness and uncertainty that comes about whenever we’re left to ourselves. As Gallo says the song is “about self-inquiry. I think a lot of people struggle with being truly alone or fear silence because it forces them to look inward, but ultimately, i think it’s one of the most important things we can do to understand ourselves and others.”

Stardust Birthday Party‘s latest single “Love Supreme (Work Together!)” is an angular, New Wave-like track that at points sounds indebted to Fear of Music and More Songs About Buildings and Food-era Talking Heads — but centered around a profound observation. As Gallo explains in press notes, “I wrote this song on GarageBand on my phone on an airplane. I was listening to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, eating my really adorable but terrible tasting airplane meal of bowtie pasta (originally the first verse was about that) and looking down at the earth from the sky where you see no separation between people or things, there is just one thing. The chorus goes ‘God loves it when we work together.’ The God I am talking about is not a specific one, but everything, the one thing that is everything, the common thread in all existence, life, whatever you want to call it. In my head this is the soundtrack to a party in the streets where there is no line between shape, color, size, gender, sexuality, beliefs, anything, none of that shit exists.  Just anyone and everyone dancing kissing hugging laughing at the absurdity that we couldn’t always see that our core we are all the same. Nice!”

Directed by Joshua Shoemaker, the recently released video for “Love Supreme (Work Together!)” is a surrealistic fever dream set in a fully realized and self-contained world and shot in one incredibly long take. “This video is a total mind fuck, and I really love the colors,” says Gallo. “The level of genius and work it took Joshua and his partner Albert to conceptualize it and build the world it takes place in from zero, and then find a way to shoot it all in one shot is beyond me. Iwas just happy to be apart of it. Shoemaker told me he was in a long bout of depression and making this video pulled him out of it and that’s really what the song is all about – making people happy and helping each other out as humans.” 

Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ian Ferguson is a high-school dropout from a one stoplight town outside of Nashville, who started his music career in earnest when he formed and broke up his high school band Kingston Springs just as they were on the verge of a success; in fact, the band had a major label deal on the table, when he decided to walk away from the band.

Interestingly, his solo career can trace its origins to when he accidentally locked himself in his mother’s basement. “I was in my basement, working on some demos,” Ferguson recalls in press notes. “I hadn’t put this idea of ‘making a record’ together in my mind just yet. And there was this faulty door at the top of the stairs that would lock itself and you had to have a key to get out, which of course I didn’t have. I’m messing around when all of the sudden I hear it shut. To this day, I’m not sure what happened. It might’ve been my dachshund Hannah or just some crazy occurrence. I was home alone at the time so I started to freak out, but eventually decided to make the best of it. I had this old HP computer from the 90’s down there and I just went to town.” The end result is Ferguson’s forthcoming solo debut, State of Gold.

Slated for a July 26, 2019 release through County Fair Records, Ferguson’s debut effort was self-engineered with the up-and-coming singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist performing all the album’s instrumentation and arrangements. With no formal training as an engineer, self-recording and self-mixing were initially challenges. ““I ended up teaching myself how to record and mix records, using some goofy computer softwares. I actually mixed the record on that old HP computer from the 90’s using a very impractical way of recording that involved burning 16 CDs for each song. It took me a long time to make the record, but after I got ripped off $1k from an audio engineer for a mix that didn’t sound right, I knew I had to take it on myself and I hope you can hear the love in the labor,” Ferguson says in press notes.

Because of his wild-eyed falsetto, use of layered vocal harmonies, greasy guitars and conversational lyricism, Ferguson’s sound has gained comparisons to the likes of Ty Segall, The Nude Party, David Bowie, Marc Bolan/T. Rex and psychedelic era Beatles — and as a result, some of his fans include a who’s who of contemporary Nashville-based acts including Alabama Shakes and JOVM mainstay Ron Gallo among others.  Of course, when you check out State of Gold‘s latest single, the shuffling psych blues “Worried Walk,” you’ll clearly understand why the comparisons to Marc Bolan are so uncannily apt, as the song sounds as though it could have been released on almost any T. Rex album. However, the song possesses just enough Southern twang to give it a mischievously deceptive anachronistic quality that belies the deliberate and loving attention to craft at its core.

“Worried Walk is a song about that feeling when you’re aware you are having an emotional and mental meltdown,” Ferguson explains in press notes. “It’s about that feeling when your mind takes off, all on its own. You try taking a walk to calm yourself down but you find yourself thinking more and more and continuing in a downward spiral.”

Ferguson will be embarking on a short tour to support his solo debut that will include an August 14, 2019 stop at Union Pool. Check out the tour dates below.

 

TOUR DATES

7/26 – Nashville, TN @ Grimey’s – Album Release in-store

8/2 –  Charlotte, NC @ River Jam https://usnwc.org/ian-ferguson/

8/14 – New York, NY @ Union Pool https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1864586

New Video: London’s Rude Audio Releases a Trippy Visual for Trance Inducing New Single “Repeat Offender”

Rude Audio is a London-based production and DJ collective primarily centered around founding and core trio Mark Ratcliff, who as a solo producer and artist, has had releases played by acclaimed DJs Andrew Weatherall, Laurent Garnier, Kris Needs, Don Letts, Graeme Park and Rob da Bank, as well as BBC Radio 6’s Nemone and Gideon Coe; Owain Lloyd, who has made a career as a mixing engineer for the likes of Paul Oakenfold, Paul Weller, Niall Horan and a lengthy lists of others; and Dave “The Rave” Brennan, formerly of The End Recordings, and Bombis Records. And although each individual member of the collective’s core has an acclaimed career in their own right, the act as a whole has developed a critically applauded sound that seamlessly meshes elements of deep house, acid house, techno and dub. Additionally, they’re known for the legendary and highly-popular underground parties, including their residency at Kentish Towns’ Flaxon Ptootch, where electronic music heavyweights like The Chemical Brothers have been invited to drop by, dig deep into their record collections and playlists and play anything they want. 

2016’s Rudest EP found the collective refining their sound — while still drawing from dub, the material increasingly leaned towards propulsive, club-banging house music. The acclaimed British electronic collective followed that effort up with 2018’s Rude Redux EP.  Continuing a prolific and productive period for the British electronic collective, their forthcoming Street Light Interference is slated for a July 15, 2019 release through Zirkus Records. Interestingly, the album’s writing sessions found Ratcliff changing things up — inspired by the old adage about getting your head together in country, Ratcliff disappeared to the middle of nowhere for a few days, where he laid down the album’s basic tracks.

Ratcliff returned to London, where he worked with Owain Lloyd to bash the basic tracks he had laid down into shape.  The duo’s mutual love of dub and left-field house and the incorporation of several shinier elements may make Street Light Interference some of the collective’s most trance-like in some time. Coincidentally, this may have been inspired by the fact that the collective’s Dave Brennan, who’s long been their voice of reason, pushing them away from their trance tendencies wasn’t around. The album also features remixes from some of the act’s favorite remixes and producers including Bedford Falls Players, Mark Cooper, Fearless Few Collective, Kitsch Kub, Valtow, Zar, and others “I had half an eye on some of the underground but outdoor summer parties proliferating in my manor when pulling together various elements on the release, although the likelihood of engaging with a blissful, sun kissed milieu in South London during July and August is less likely than engaging with a dirty rave in a damp squat, where everyone’s complaining about why we aren’t having a summer this year,” the collective’s Mark Ratcliff says in press notes. 

Street Light Interference’s first single is the propulsive yet minimalist “Repeat Offender.” Centered by layers of arpeggiated synths, reverb-drenched drum machine, recalling classic dub, and a trancey vibe, the bears an uncanny resemblance to Kraftwerk and Octo Octa — but with the bracing iciness of stepping into a cool pool on a hot summer afternoon. 

The recently released video follows a young boy, who internally may be one of the oldest young men you’ve ever seen, as he works a mundane office job at home. But everything isn’t as it seems. The boy finds a glowing orb, which initially confuses, then entrances and summons him before fading to black. Trippy indeed.