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. Check out The Joy of Violent Movement Shop: https://www.joyofviolentmovement.com/shop Support on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/TheJoyofViolentMovement

Live Footage: Clipping. on NPR Tiny Desk at Home SXSW

I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. The trio — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — released two critically applauded albums as part of a planned diptych that found them interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant hip-hop sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. The first part of the diptych, There Existed an Addiciton to Blood was partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

Of course, with horror films, sequels are pretty perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. Last year’s Visions of Bodies Getting Burned manages to hew closely to the horror film sequel tradition with the JOVM mainstays retuning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing an abrasive, angular and downright messy take on horrorcore, centered around an industrial and goth-like aesthetic, the members of Clipping. lovingly twist familiar genre and sub-genre tropes to fit their politics and thematic concerns — in particular, those that fit our current moment: fear, the absurd, the uncanny, and the seemingly unending struggling for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

Traditionally, NPR Music participates in SXSW — typically through curating showcases and through covering the hundreds of showcases and sets performed at the annual festival. Last year, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the festival reconvened as an online festival with pre-recorded livestreams. NPR programed a virtual stage of Tiny Desk (at home) concerts, filmed in various locations and full of surprises and Easter eggs, which were presented on the festival’s final day.

The JOVM mainstays took part, offering one of the most unique, surreal and innovative Tiny Desk (at home) sessions I’ve ever seen with the trio emphasizing both an in-your-face, close-up intimacy and tininess with the trio performing with extremely tiny instruments and microphones. And at some point, one of the members of the trio even drinks a tiny beer. Clipping.’s NPR Tiny Desk (at home) session features material from their last two albums, as well as 2016’s Wriggle EP and their debut mixtape, 2013’s midcity performed with even more menacing and uneasy productions that continue to display Diggs’ rapid-fire and clever wordplay — all while being disorienting.

Deriving their name from a French expression that gently mocks sappy lovers, the Paris-based indie rock duo Fleur bleu.e — Delphine and Vladimir — features two accomplished musicians, who have been performing and writing music since they were both children: Vladimir was a guitarist in French garage rock band Brats, an act that recorded and released a Yarol Popouard-produced album that was supported with touring across France with BB Brunes. Delphine began playing cello in classical orchestras before learning guitar and playing at alternative festivals across Paris with her first band Le Studio Jaune.

When the duo met in 2019, they bonded over a mutual love of The Smiths, Beach House, Françoise Hardy and Elli et Jacno among others, and a desire to craft music that was emotionally ambiguous while being fueled by their teenage myths. Seemingly influenced by dramas and nightmares, their artistic vision is to go beyond the prism of the gender binary and call upon the listener to express their fragility, celebrating one’s inner world and the beauty in imperfections.

They released their critically applauded single “Horizon” late last year and building upon a buzz worthy profile in their native France, the duo released their Ben Etter-produced second single earlier this month. Centered around shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, propulsive yet simple backbeat and Delphine’s gorgeous vocals, the song sonically — to my ears, at least — brings Bloom-era Beach House to mind while being an emotionally ambiguous feminist manifesto.

Live Footage: Orions Belte Performs “Lotus” at Mulakamben Norway

Norwegian-born musicians Øyind Blomstrøm (guitar) and Chris Holm (bass) have spent the bulk of their careers making a living a touring musicians, and as a result, they’ve frequently been on the road As the story goes, when Blømstrøm and Holm’s paths crossed for what seemed like the umpteenth time, they bonded over a desire to create instrumental music — and they decided to start a band together. They recruited Holm’s Bergen scene pal Kim Åge Furuhaug to join the band and to complete Orions Belte lineup. 

With the release of 2018’s Mint, the Norwegian trio quickly established a reputation for crating a genre-defying, style-mashing sound that draws from 70s Nigerian rock, postcards from French Riviera, Formula One traces at Monza and 1971’s “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. It’s follow-up, 2019’s Slim EPfeatured inventive reworkings of songs they love by artist’s they love — including Ghostface Killah‘s “Cherchez La Ghost,” Milton Nascimento‘s Tudo O Que Você Podia Ser” and an original cut that pays homage to Norwegian beat group The Pussycats and the Mac Miller. 

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of last year, the acclaimed Norwegian trio managed to be productive: they released 600m, another EP of experimental instrumental music that derived its title from the name of an elevator in Tokyo that can transport 40 people at a time a maximum speed of 600 meters per minute, and found the trio continuing to push the boundaries of instrumental music as far as they could. 

Continuing upon that momentum, Orions Belte’s sophomore album Villa Amorini is slated for a Friday release through Jansen Records. The album derives its name from a popular Bergen nightclub, which was the place in town where everything happened — and where you needed to be a part of it. Originally opened in the ’80s as a fine dining spot, the business eventually evolved into an extravagant nightclub where you’d see artists and DJs in loud t-shirts and oversized sunglasses. Sonically, the album is reportedly a mix of the sounds the trio likes, including underground pop, psych and world music, while continuing their reputation for their unique ability to pull in listeners of diverse genres and styles in a fashion that’s simultaneously calm and chaotic. And with that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that the album’s material manages to set up a particular scene: the energy of a busy downtown sidewalk with the instrumentation being intricately layered to draw you in and leave you wondering where it will lead. According to the trio, the album is a “homage to an era of loud music, club nights, ugly shirts and long afterparties.” 

Much like album single “Mouth,” ‘Lotus” is a laid-back, hotel lounge-like bop centered around a strutting groove, shimmering guitar, a sinuous bass line and hip-hop inspired drumming. Sonically “Lotus” is a slick synthesis of dusty J. Dilla-like samples, funk and neo soul in a way that feels familiar yet alien.

The band released live footage of themselves performing the song in the gorgeous environs of Mulakamben, Norway.


Founded in 2014 by Fez, Morocco-born, New York-based master musician Maâlem Hassan Ben Jaafer (sintir, vocals), the New York-based Grammy Award-nominated act Innov Gnawa, which currently features core members Casablanca, Morocco-born, New York-based Amino Belyamani (chorus, qraqeb, piano) and Salé, Morocco-born, New York-based Ahmed Jeriouda (chorus, qraqeb, cajon) and a cast of collaborators, specialize in Gnawa, the ritual trance music of Morocco.

Frequently refereed to as the Moroccan Blues or the Sufi blues, Gnawa is rooted in centuries of history with the musical genre and dance being traced to the mixing of rhythms and polytheistic spiritual beliefs of West Africa — primarily from what is now known as Mali and Mauritania — with Islam and Morocco’s indigenous culture. Lyrically, Gnawa songs are prayers and invocations to saints and spirits for liberation, peace and freedom from worldly suffering and so on. Geaturing unique instruments that are often handmade, including the lute-like sintir, he three-stringed African bass, the guembri, metal castanet-like qarqaba, which are used to pound out clattering and hypnotic rhythms, symbolically meant to represent the clinking and clanking of the slaves’ chains and shackles paired with call and response vocals, Gnawa possesses a hypnotic power that has won over audiences and musicians from all over the globe, including Jimi HendrixPaul Bowles and Randy Weston. And in the band’s native Morocco, the genre is revered as a treasured, indigenous soul music, much like the blues and country are to Americans. 

Produced by Daptone Records‘ founder and self-professed Gnawa enthusiast Gabriel Roth, the acclaimed Brooklyn-based act’s forthcoming album Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. Deriving its name for a Moroccan term for “night,” Lila is traditional ceremony in which the group dedicates an evening of cleansing and healing through music that was recorded in an epic five hour, one-take session. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about album single “Chorfa.” Clocking in at 13:51, “Chorfa” was centered around an expansive arrangement featuring the double bass-like guembri, the hypnotic polyrhythm of the qarqaba and call and response vocals led by the collective’s Ben Jafaar. The song finds the members of the acclaimed act tapping into a deeply spiritual and universal longing for freedom, clarity, peace and healing that feels — and of course sounds — older than time. “El Ghaba” continues in a similar vein as its immediate predecessor: the double bass-like guembri paired with the hypnotic clicking and clacking of the qarqaba and melodic call and response delivered vocals before ending in an explosive flourish. “Ask a forest dweller about primordial darkness and they will say it is beginning and end, mysterious and all-knowing, dreadful and welcoming, powerful yet invisible,” the band’s Amino Belyamani says of the song.

Lila is slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Daptone Records. 

New Video: Yelle Serves Up Looks in Sultry and Campy Visual for “Noir”

Acclaimed French electro pop act Yelle — Julie “Yelle” Budet (vocals) and Jean-François “GrandMarnier” Perrier (production, percussion) can trace their collaboration back to around 2000 when Budet and Perrier first met and became friends. But the duo didn’t start working on music together until 2005. Initially formed under the name YEL, an acronym for the phrase “You Enjoy Life,” the duo learned of a Belgian band with the same name, and were forced to change their name, eventually feminizing their original name to “Yelle.”

The duo quickly received attention when they posted a song they originally titled “Short Dick Cuizi,” which originally was a written as a mock diss track that referred to Cuiziner of acclaimed French hip-hop act TTC. The song eventually became “Je veux te voir,” which charted at #4 in their native France, and as a result of the buzz surrounding them, they caught the attention of Source Etc Records, who then signed the act. Interestingly, around the same time that the duo had started working on their full-length Perrier met the band’s now-former third member Destable, who at the time was working full-time as a journalist. As the story went, Baudet and Perrier were desperate for a touring keyboardist to flesh out their live sound, and they somehow managed to rope Destable into joining the band.

2007’s full-length debut Pop Up was released to widespread critical acclaim and was a commercial success as a result of “A cause des garçons,” which landed at #11 on the French Singles Chart and “Parle a ma main,” a collaboration with Fatal Bazooka that landed at number 1. Building upon a growing international profile, Baudet, Perrier and Destable spent a three year period between 2006-2009 touring to support Pop Up — with the band being named as MTV‘s Artist of the Week during the last week of March, 2008.

After taking a few months off, the members of Yelle returned to the studio to began work on their sophomore album, and by February 2010 they started their own label Recreation Center, headed by Perrier. Yelle’s sophomore album, 2011’s Safari Disco Club found the act focusing on harmonies, melodies and Budet’s vocals, and was released to generally positive reviews — including  The Independent, who wrote that the album was “essential for anyone, who appreciates dancefloor-friendly European synth pop.” The album caught the attention of Katy Perry, who invited the act to open for her during the British leg of her  California Dreams tour. After they completed that tour, they went on a European tour and went on a Stateside tour that fall. 

The French electro pop act’s third album, 2014’s Completement fou was co-produced by Dr. Luke and a team of producers that included Kojak, AC, Billboard Mat, Oliver, Cirkut, Mike and Madmax. Dr. Luke learned about Yelle through their remix of Katy Perry’s “Hot n Cold” — and after catching them live, he signed them to his label. The album was supported by extensive international touring, which included their third stop at Coachella, an extremely rare feat for a Francophone act, as well as tours across Europe, South American and China.

The acclaimed French act’s fourth album  L’Ère du Verseau (The Age of Aquarius) was released last September — and much like countless acts across the globe, Baudet and Perrier were gearing up for extensive touring to support the album, and to celebrate their 15th year together. In lieu of touring, the band released incredible visuals for album singles “Je t’aime encore” and “Vue d’en Face,” a breezy yet melancholy track centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, finger snaps, stuttering beats and Budet’s ethereal and achingly plaintive vocals.

L’Ere du Verseau’s latest single “Noir” is a dance floor friendly bop centered around thumping beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, funky bass line and Baudet’s sassy delivery. Interestingly, the song is meant to inspire the listener to strut like they’re on the catwalk, serving fools looks — hard.

Directed by Giant, the recently released video for “Noir” is a campy and fierce as fuck take on haute couture that features beautiful people serving up looks with fierceness while looking like behind the scenes footage of a photo shoot.

Lyric Video: Stereonoon Releases a Neo Soul and Jazz-Tinged Take on Trip Hop

Stereonoon is an Italian neo-soul/jazz and R&B inspired collective formed during pandemic-related lockdowns that features core creative duo Verona-born vocalist Anna Polinari and cinemavolt’s creative mastermind Max Tozzi paired with a rotating cast of talented Italian players. Late last year, the act released a straightforward yet vibey cover of Joe Jackson‘s classic “Steppin’ Out,” centered around a sinuous bass line and Polinari’s sultry vocals.

The act’s debut EP Yeah. And Stuff was released late last month and features guest spots from a number of internationally acclaimed musicians including Snarky Puppy’s Mark Lettieri (guitar), Matteo Pontegavelli (trumpet) and Francesco Dondi (tenor saxophone). The EP’s latest single “Inconvenient” is a neo-soul and jazz-tinged take on trip hop centered around twinkling piano, a sinuous bass line, stuttering drumming, an expressive, jazz-inspired guitar solo and Polinari’s sultry vocals. Lyrically, the song is an unflinchingly honest view of a vulnerable narrator examining herself and her longing to be someplace she feels she belongs.

After stints in bands like Kite Flying Society, Saving Twilight, The Weak Ends and The Wonderers throughout the early 2000s, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Geannie Friedman initially founded Semihelix in Austin, back in 2012 as a solo recording project in which she used drum beats, keyboards for bass lines while accompanying her vocals with guitar. After several lineup changes, the band eventually settled on their current lineup: Friedman (vocals, guitar), Valdemar Barrrera (drums) and Kevin Martin (bass).

Influenced by My Bloody Valentine, The Kinks, Black Tambourine, Sebadoh, The Pixies and Sonic Youth, the Austin-based act have established and cemented a sound that’s one part dream pop, one part 90s psych fuzz and delay with melodic yet loud sounds. The trio’s latest single “New Destination” finds the band crafting a song that to my ears, sounds indebted to New Zealand jangle pop, Katy Goodman’s work with La Sera and acts like Seapony, complete with an infectious and rousingly anthemic hook. But just underneath the sunny vibes, the song tells a tale of a narrator discovering the resilience she’ll need for the slings and arrows of the rest of her life.

“The catalyst behind the idea for this song came from a place where I felt ostracized and bullied in my hometown,” Semihelix’s Geannie Friedman explains. “I wrote about how moving and starting new would help to heal from many experiences of feeling like an outsider.
 
“Also, having been in relationships with others that weren’t healthy, it was a time for me to learn how to be happy on my own without being dependent on a relationship for happiness. Although I wrote this song over a decade ago when I was in my 20s, it’s a song that I relate to for many stages in my life, where I’m leaving behind and shedding the old, and renewing into someone stronger and resilient.”

 

New Audio: J. Period Teams Up with Dave Chappelle, Black Thought, and Tiffany Gouché on a Soulful Banger

jJ. Period is a Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ best known for working with the likes of Q-Tip, John Legend, Nas, Big Daddy Kane, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, The Isley Brothers and Mary J. Blige on official mixtapes — and for developing an “audio-biography” style that incorporates interviews with these artists into his “Best Of” complications. He has also made original productions and remixes for film trailers for American Gangster and Street Kings. In late 2008, the Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ became the first DJ/producer ever commissioned by Activision to score and producer an entire video game soundtrack for Tony Hawk’s Motion for Nintendo DS. And before I forget, he worked on The Hamilton Mixtape — while serving as Music Supervisor for the Brooklyn Nets.

The Los Angeles-born, Brooklyn-based producer and DJ’s debut album Story to Tell is a trail-blazing musical journey in three acts — with the first installment, Chapter One slated for an April 30, 2021 release through Truelements Music/RBC Records. Narrated by Dave Chappelle, Story To Tell (Chapter One) is a collaborative endeavor that blurs the lines between song and story; between hip-hop, R&B, jazz, reggae and salsa. Collaborating with an All-Star cast of Grammy-winning writers and musicians, Story To Tell reportedly will create a vibrant world of connections — between artists, songs, stories, genres, cultures and generations in the acclaimed production’s genre and convention defying style.

Story To Tell (Chapter One)’s first single “All In Your Head” plays with the classic audio storybook format with Dave Chapelle serving as a mischievous tour guide, explaining the set up to the proceedings, quickly followed by a slick yet soulful production centered around tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap beats, glitchy vocal samples and shimmering Rhodes serving as a warm bed for an inspiring manifesto to overcoming self-doubt and being fearless featuring Tiffany Gouché’s silky crooning and Black Thought spitting red hot bars. Sonically speaking, “All In Your Head” effortlessly blurs the lines between neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop in a crowd-pleasing fashion.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Kælan Mikla Release a Breathtaking Visual for Brooding “Sólstöður”

2018 was a breakthrough year for the Reykjavik-based post-punk/industrial trio Kælan Mikla: The trio —  Sólveig Matthildur,  Margrét Rósa, and Laufey Soffía — were championed by the The Cure’s Robert Smith, who handpicked the band to open for them on several festival stops in the UK and the US. They also played a set at the Roadburn Festival and they toured with King Dude — before the release of their third album Nótt eftir nott. 

The album featured three singles that I had written about at the time:

“Nornalagið,” a chilly, dance floor friendly track, centered around a motorik groove that managed to evoke a brewing storm rolling across enormous skies.
“Næturblóm,” which to my ears found the trio channeling Siouxsie and the Banshees and the classic 4AD Records sound simultaneously.
“Hvernig kemst ég upp,” a brooding and industrial-leaning track that to my years would draw comparisons to early Depeche Mode and New Order.

The trio supported the album with a lengthy Stateside tour that included an a Reykjavik Calling showcase at Brooklyn Brewery with Icelandic metal act Sólstafir. Since then, the trio have been busy writing and recording material for their Barði Jóhannsson-produced fourth album, which is slated for release through Artoffact Records this fall.

“Sólstöður,” is the first bit of new material from the Icelandic trio in three years — and offers fans a taste of what to expect of the fourth album. “Sólstöður,” is a brooding and cinematic track, featuring droning and shimmering synths, nightmarish screams in the background and an ethereal and gorgeous vocal melody. Sonically speaking, the track evokes the soundtrack of horror films — those centered around witches and demons slinking out in the night for rituals involving some sort of brutal human sacrifice. “’Sólstöður’ is an ode to the darkest night of the year, when witches summon winter spirits in the frozen vastness of Icelandic landscapes,” the members of the Icelandic trio explain in press notes. “The song represents the strength of unity, Kælan Mikla in its truest form, fueled by the power of harsh and raw nature.”

Directed by Pola Maria, the breathtakingly beautiful visual for “Sólstöður” features the trio as black-clad witch-types brandishing swords, challis and other objects while seemingly performing obscure rituals among the majestic landscapes and brooding skies of their homeland. Naturally, many of these rituals seem to tie into the longest night of the year.

New Video: Montreal-based Duo Jitensha Release a Playful Visual for Breezy Yet Existential New Single

Deriving their name from the Japanese word for bicycle, the rising Montreal-based husband-wife indie rock/indie pop duo Jitensha — multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Erin Rose Hubbard and David Martinez — can trace their the origins of their romantic relationship and their creative collaboration to how the duo initially met: avid bicyclists, who were both studying Japanese at the time.  “Jitensha just really seemed to fit us and since then has served as our life motto … the direction you choose, and the energy you put in, determines where you end up,” the duo explain in press notes.”

The Montreal-based duo’s latest single “Sojourn” seemingly draws thematic influence from a famous Albert Einstein quote: “Each of us is here for a brief sojourn for what purpose, he knows not, though he sometimes senses it.” Centered around shimmering guitars, atmospheric synths, propulsive drumming, an infectious and summery groove and the duo’s dueling boy-girl harmonizing, “Sojourn” is deceptively infectious and breezy song that is part dream pop, part indie pop, part indie rock. The hook-driven song finds the duo lyrically asking the existential questions that have given many of us anxiety and countless sleepless nights: Why are we here? What’s the purpose of this? What gives any of this meaning? What if the universe is indifferent to us? What happens to us after we die? The song’s hook “Hey ça va bien aller” (It’s going to be okay) is a partially ironic and partially earnest play on the sunny slogan used in Montreal during the pandemic.

As the rising Montreal-based duo explain, the song is inspired by the tragic deaths of a newlywed couple that Hubbard and Martinez had been friends with: “Friends of ours, a newly wedded couple, died in a motorcycle accident. They had been so young and so in love, full of smiles, laughter and gumption. They both lived life to the fullest and we thought the best way to honour and remember them is to try and do the same.” The duo add “”This single is the beginning of a new sound for Jitensha. We are delving further into the contemplative, and into the misty space between optimism and realism, where things are often darker but can be clearer.”

Directed by Richard and Stephanie Bastarache, the recently released video for “Sojourn” features the married duo wearing all white playing with contrast, shadows and color, honing in on the juxtaposition between the song’s breezy arrangement and existential-leaning lyrics. Towards the end of the video, the duo have on bright, vibrantly colored clothing, which may suggest that things will wind up being okay.

The Montreal-based duo will be releasing new singles throughout the rest of the year, and are hoping to release an album sometime later on.