Author: William Ruben Helms

I'm a music blogger, critic and photographer, who has had articles and photos published in Downbeat, 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.

New Video: Paris’ Knights of Mandala Teams up with Khoe-Wa on a Trippy, Globalist Take on Dub

Paris-based quintet Knights of Mandala (KOM) is a dub music project that meshes modern jazz, French electro-dub, urban style with geek culture — particularly, comic books, manga, video games and sci-fi as a way of inspiring imagination and the possibilities of new worlds. And whether they play as a live band with instruments or with synthesizers and other electronics with their live machine set up, Knights of Mandala’s primary mission is to make listeners dance and travel through the power of their imagination.

Since their formation three years ago, the Parisian dub act have released three EPs. And like countless acts across the globe, they haven’t been able to play live shows — but 2020 has seen them writing and recording new material, including their latest single, the hypnotic and thumping “Wooden Prison.” Centered around shimmering and trance-inducing sitar playing by Khoe-Wa, skittering, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and reverb-drenched keys and effects, “Wooden Prison” effortlessly bridges East and West while pointedly calling out the modern condition: humanity is imprisoned in a world of rigid, soul-crushing routine that we must all resist and escape.

Directed by Thomas Restout, the recently released video starts parkour athlete Léo Urban doing his thing in the woods and in an urban environment — but throughout, there’s a sense that Urban is actively bringing himself and his soul back to nature.

“Wooden Prison” will appear on Knights of Mandala’s Urban Cycle mixtape, which will be released through Weta Records at the end of the year.

New Audio: Paris-born, New York-based Artist Lizzy Young Releases a Trippy Visual for “CooCoo Banana”

Originally from the Parisian suburbs, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Young spent a few years in Barcelona before eventually relocating to New York, where she’s currently based. The Paris-born, New York-based artist’s work draws from her own personal experiences while being influenced by Leonard Cohen, Louis Malle, Bette Davis, and Molly Nilsson.

Young’s full-length debut, the 10 song CooCoo Banana finds the Paris-born, New York-based artist crafting a refreshingly unique take on modern pop: sardonic humor-laced lyrics paired with lo-fi, bedroom recording — i.e, Casio keyboards and driving, dance floor friendly beats. Thematically, Coocoo Banana finds Young boldly diving into the beauty and ugliness of life. So far, Young has had her music played by BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 personalities Janice Long, Tom Ravenscroft, Jack Saunders, Cerys Matthews, and Steve Lamacq. Additionally, Tom Ravenscroft named her a Spotlight Artist and invited her to play a Selector Spotlight showcase.

CooCoo Banana’s latest single, album title track “CooCoo Banana” may remind some listeners of a narcoleptic take on Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl;” handclap-driven beats are paired with shimmering and tinny Casio synth arpeggios and Young’s self-deprecating vocals delivered with an ironic detachment. And while being a decidedly artsy take on pop, the song manages to accurately capture the mindset of a modern woman with all of her strengths and flews with a novelist’s attention to psychological realism.

Produced by GFY, the recently released video for “CooCoo Banana” is centered around a trippy and lo-fi concept: we see Young’s disembodied lips singing the song’s opening lines. We pull out of a lysergic, neon pink haze to see Young from the neck up singing the song in front of an equally neon pink background. As the song progresses, Young rubs a lotion that turns her entire face and hair into a fuzzy, electric rainbow before fading out. It’s trippy as hell.

New Audio: Perth Australia’s Mt. Mountain Releases a Hypnotic New Single

With the release of their first three albums, 2016’s Cosmos Terros, 2017’s Dust, 2018’s Golden Rise, the Perth, Australia-based psych rock quintet Mt. Mountain — Stephen Bailey (vocals, organ, flute), Thomas Cahill (drums), Glenn Palmer (guitar, synth), Brendan Shanley (bass) and Derrick Treatch (guitar) — developed and honed a sprawling, motorik-driven, minimal-as -maximal approach inspired by the likes of NEU! and CAN. And through a wildly all-consuming live show, the Aussie psych rockers have added their names to a an impressive list of contemporaries including Moon Duo, Kikagaku Moyo and Minami Deutsch while sharing stages with JOVM mainstays King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, ORB, Sleep, MONO, Thee Oh Sees, Acid Mothers Temple and the aforementioned Moon Duo.

The Aussie quintet recently signed to London-based Fuzz Club Records, who will be releasing the band’s fourth album Centre. Slated for a February 26, 2021 release, Centre continues the band’s long-held reputation for crafting material from long, improvised jams with much of the album recorded live to tape, capturing the band at their most freewheeling. Thematically, the album reportedly is centered around a dissection of faith — both spiritual and secular — and Stephen Bailey’s personal, often complicated relationship to it. “The album for me, lyrically, is mostly about my experience of religion. It explores these concepts and the rules that were told to me from childhood to adulthood and my thoughts on my own connection to them,” Bailey explains. “Similar themes arise between the tracks whether it be lyrically or structural, both a play on repetition and simplicity. ”

“Aplomb,” Centre’s hypnotic and brooding first single features an expansive, booze and hallucinogen-fueled song structure driven by rolling rhythms, a motorik groove, droning keys, a looping and shimmering guitar line paired with Bailey’s yearning vocals — and the end result is a deeply textured, painterly take on psych rock.

“‘Aplomb’ is essentially the voice that I hear in my head, reminding me to not rush and slow down, and to have the confidence to bring this into practice in everyday life,” Mt. Mountain’s Stephen Bailey explains in press notes. “We wanted there to be this clear contrast here between the tempo of the song and the lyrical content, an approach which appears throughout the album.”

New Video: Rising French Emcee DAKS Releases a Gritty Banger

DAKS is an Essonne, France-born and-based emcee, who rose to prominence through his performances in national freestyle and battle rap competitions. In 2018, the French emcee began focusing on music full time, spending his time working on material in the studio. His debut EP was produced by beatmmaker and producer Nizi and featured a prominent guest spot from Black M.

Building upon a growing profile, the rising French emcee has started to release an ongoing freestyle series Monster. “Sombre,” the second single of the series is centered around a hypnotic and hard-hitting production featuring a looped Middle Eastern-like vocal sample, tweeter and woofer rocking low end, skittering trap beats and the Essonne-born and-based emcee’s dexterous and self-assured flow. Throughout the song, DAKS rhymes about his determination and hunger to take over the French rhyme scene in a way that brings DMX to mind.

Speaking of X, the recently released video features the French emcee dressed in military fatigues in the woods — but at night, he literally burns into the titular monster, seemingly thirsting for blood and revenge.

Throughout the course of the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about Carré,  a Los Angeles-based indie electro rock act featuring:

  • Julien Boyé (drums, percussion, vocals): Boyé has had stints as a touring member of Nouvelle Vague and James Supercave. Additionally, he has a solo recording act Acoustic Resistance, in which he employs rare instruments, which he has collected from all over the world.
  • Jules de Gasperis (drums, vocals, synths, production and mixing): de Gasperis is a Paris-born, Los Angeles-based studio owner. Growing up in Paris, he sharpened his knowledge of synthesizers, looping machines and other electronics around the same time that JusticeSoulwax and Ed Banger Records exploded into the mainstream.
  • Kevin Baudouin (guitar, vocals, synth, production): Baudouin has lived in Los Angeles the longest of the trio — 10 years — and he has played with a number of psych rock acts, developing a uniquely edgy approach to guitar, influenced by Nels ClineJonny Greenwood and Marc Ribot.

Deriving their name for the French word for “playing tight” and “on point,” the Los Angeles-based trio formed last year, and as the band’s Jules de Gasperis explains in press notes, “The making of our band started with this whole idea of having two drummers perform together. It felt like a statement. We always wanted to keep people moving and tend to focus on the beats first when we write.”

The act specializes in a French electronica-inspired sound that blends aggressive, dark and chaotic elements with hypnotic drum loops while thematically, their work generally touches upon conception, abstraction and distortion of reality centered around geometric shapes and patterns, and a surrealistic outlook on our world.

The trio released their self-titled EP earlier this year, and the EP featured “Urgency,” a track centered round a bed of tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, bursts of slashing guitars and gauzy, electronic textures. And while being hypnotic and dance floor friendly, “Urgency” possessed a murky and menacing air that brought Ministry and Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails to mind.

Recently, the members of the JOVM mainstay act partnered with local act President Drone, who completely reworked “Urgency” into a minimalist yet propulsive track centered around stuttering beats, wobbling and shimmering synth arpeggios, industrial clink and clang that pushes Carré’s sound into an even more dystopian and murky direction.

New Audio: Rising Belgian-born, French-based Tour-Maubourg Releases a Hypnotic, Deep House Banger

Tour-Maubourg is a rising Belgian-born, Parisian electronic music producer. The Belgian-born, Paris-based electronic music producer has released two singles — “Ode To Love” and “Saint thé á la Menthe” — off his soon-to-be released album Paradis Artificels. slated for a December 4, 2020 release through Pont Neuf Records.

“L’Invitation au Voyage,” Paradis Artificels’ third and latest single is a hypnotic bit of deep house centered around tweeter and woofer rocking beats, rolling conga drum, shimmering synths and blasts of lyrical strings that nods at the French poet Baudelaire while being a sultry, club banger.

New Audio: Stockholm’s DOMKRAFT’s Scorching Live Version of “The Rift” Off Soon-to-Be Released Live Album

DOMKRAFT is a Stockholm-based doom metal trio that can trace their origins to when its members met and bonded over a mutual love of Spacemen 3, Monster Magnet, Sleep and Hawkwind. Drawing from those influences, the trio have crafted a sound and songwriting approach that blends towering dirges, mind-bending psychedelia and trance-inducing minimalism, embodied by the act’s first two albums, released by Magnetic Eye Records — 2016’s full-length debut, The End of Electricity and 2018’s sophomore effort, Flood.

Johnny API is a mysterious and emerging singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who has written and recorded original music on his homestead. “It’s not much, but I’ve got a little studio and no one ever tells me I’m too loud,” the mysterious singer/songwriter says in press notes. “And no-one comes looking for me.”

His latest single, “Easy” is centered around strummed acoustic guitar, Johnny API’s plaintive vocals, twangy blasts of shimmering pedal steel, and a rousingly anthemic hook that reminds me a bit of Starsailor and Husky.