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.

New Video: San Francisco’s Split Screens Releases a Lysergic, Hand-Made Animated Visual for Shimmering “From The Start”

Jesse Cafiero is a San Francisco-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and animator — and the creative mastermind behind the indie pop/indie rock recording project Split Screens. With the release of his Split Screens full-length debut, 2014’s Before The Storm, Cafiero quickly established a profile for crafting widescreen pop, as the album received praise from the likes of Impose, My Old Kentucky Blog, GoldFlakePaint and others.  

Unfortunately, about a year after the album promotion campaign for Before The Storm, the San Francisco-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and animator began to experience severe burn-out. “My passion for why I started making music in the first place had started to dwindle,” Cafiero says of that time, “and while it’s never fun to put a project on an indefinite hiatus, that’s essentially what happened.”

In order to keep his creative juices flowing, Cafiero shifted his focus to making collage art and animating music videos for a number of Bay Area-based bands with some of his work being prominently featured on Vice. Unsurprisingly, his forays into visual art eventually led him back to writing music. “Approaching a new art-form really gave me the perspective and confidence I needed to fight back any self-doubt and dig deep into recording this EP,” Cafiero says of that period — and of his soon-to-be released six song EP,  Everyday Static. 

While being the long-awaited follow-up to his critically applauded Split Screens full-length debut, Everyday Static is both a reflection of the burn-out he experienced and the result of a prolonged, deeply personal personal journey as an artist and and as a person. With five years of life behind him, Everyday Static’s material is understandably more mature and focused as its imbued with an understanding and awareness of the passage of time — and of course, of one’s own mortality. Interestingly, the new EP continues Cafiero’s ongoing collaboration with producer and engineer Jeremy Black, who has worked with Langhorne Slim and JOVM mainstay Geographer, as well as Tycho’s Rory O’Connor, who contributes drums throughout the EP. 

Everyday Static’s latest single “From The Start” is a deliberately crafted, swooning bit of guitar pop that thematically and sonically nods at Wall of Sound Phil Spector-esque pop, The Smiths and Patsy Cline-era country, as the song features shimmering lap steel guitar, reverb-drenched guitars, twinkling keys, a soaring hook and Cafiero’s achingly plaintive vocals. Interestingly, the song manages to be unhurried yet an earnest and urgent expression of appreciation and devotion. 

The recently released video for “From The Start” is a fully analog video, painstakingly animated frame-by-frame with images found at library sales, Goodwill and a variety of other donation-based stores with the end result being a lysergic visual that nods at Monty Python and The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour.  “My favorite part about animating with paper collage are the limitations,” Cafiero says. “The imperfections of shooting frame-by-frame really gives the video a human touch, something that I think is missing in our current digital lives.”

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Formed back in 2014, the New York-based Anbessa Orchestra — Wayne Tucker (trumpet), Eyal Vilner (alto sax), Eden Bareket (baritone sax), Nadav Peled (guitar), Dor Heled (keys), Ran Livneh (bass) and Eran Fink (drums) — have received attention locally and elsewhere for a sound that’s heavily influenced by 60s and 70s Ethiopian funk, soul and jazz: their repertoire features interpretations and arrangements of classic material from the period that has largely influenced their sound, as well as original compositions heavily influenced by the same period.

Adding to a growing profile, the act has shared stages with Ethiopian music legends like Hailu Mergia and Hamelmal Abate — and they’ve contributed material to Beyond Addis, Vol. 2,  a compilation series dedicated to new. original music inspired by Ethiopia that also included contributions from The Daktaris and Manu Dibango. Along with that their latest album Negestat, which translates to Amharic Kings has received airplay from KCRW, WNYC and WFUV.

The New York-based septet’s latest single is the hypnotic “Tch’elema (Darkness).” Further establishing the act’s enormous and vibrant sound, the expansive composition is centered around shimmering and arpeggiated keys, a propulsive, stomping rhythm and explosive blasts of horns and some expressive and dexterous soloing. Unsurprisingly,  “Tch’elema” is arguably the funkiest track I’ve heard in a few months — and while displaying some impressive musicianship, the composition manages to capture the energy and feel of their live sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Video: Dan Sadin’s Decidedly 80s Inspired Visual for Anthemic “Sucker”

Dan Sadin is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, who has spent the past decade or so playing, writing and performing with an eclectic array of artists and bands including FRENSHIP, Holychild, MØ, Jessie Ware and Sabrina Claudio. Deeply influenced by the likes of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith among others, Sadin’s songwriting draws from life’s intimate moments — the quiet conversations and moments often had in darkened bars, bedrooms and therapy sessions.

Interestingly, Sadin’s forthcoming, self-titled debut EP finds Sadin stepping out into the limelight as a solo artist and songwriter — and for an artist, whose own work was hidden out of self-consciousness and fear of rejection, it’s a a bold unveiling of an artist, who pairs earnest lyricism with rousing and enormous hooks and a pop sensibility. Thematically, the material focuses on a familiar and fairly universal personal battle that we’ve all fought and continue to fight: that choice to conform and be accepted and liked — or standing out an individual and risking rejection and loneliness. And while acknowledging that it isn’t an easy decision to make, the material suggests that it’s better to be hated for who you really are than to be liked for who you’re not.

“Sucker,” Sadin’s latest single is an earnest track, centered by an arena rock friendly hook, layers of buzzing and distorted guitars, explosive and ebullient blasts of horn, thumping, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and Sadin’s plaintive vocals. The song manages to be heavily indebted to Springsteen and Petty in particular but while avoiding soulless and cliched homage and mimicry, as the song is rooted in hopeful yearning for something more, for a deeper connection based on lived-in personal experience and hard-fought, hard-earned wisdom.

“I’m terrible at small talk. I’m always pushing for the deeper, more serious conversations,” Sadin says in a lengthy statement. “When I’m out being social, talking about that stuff feels taboo and I think I end up coming across as awkward or disengaged. So I had become actually afraid of ‘going there’ and creating genuine relationships, actively trying to avoid that part of myself. But I’ve reached a point where that just isn’t working for me anymore.

“‘Sucker’ is an outpouring of that need for a deeper connection with the world around me and myself,” Sadin continues. “I had been feeling lost, caught up in a very surface level existence. I was overwhelmed with anxiety created by ignoring the things in life that really mattered to me, that were a part of my core, because I felt like I had to live up to cultural, communal and familial expectations. I felt like I had to be my own curator of what other people think is a ‘perfect life.’ And while I knew that living like that might be a way to receive instant gratification, it was also a way to avoid being with myself. Living in a world of curated successes and one-dimensional projections, only seeing what people what you to see or hear, I was riddled with anxiety about how I compare with someone else’s end product, As a result, I believed that this end goal, whatever it might be, should be something immediate when it really isn’t. I don’t see someone else’s journey, their deep, dark demons…but that’s the exciting part! That’s the part that I live for. That’s the part that makes us all human and connects us together. I know that we all struggle, we all feel lonely. We are all bound to this human experience by these very feelings, struggles and challenges I had been trying to pass over. And in doing so, I had buried my deepest most authentic self, more concerned with trying to be what I think others want to see than asking myself how I really feel and what I really want.

“This song is for my five-year old self who was in perfect alignment with his dreams, his feelings and who he was. It is meant to honor that part of myself that craves the real talk, the real connections – not just surface level interactions. And it’s a helpful reminder to not take myself too seriously. Life can be both fun and meaningful at the same time!”

Directed by Joachim Zunke, the recently released video for “Sucker” touches upon celebrity culture, social media obsession and a growing sense of disconnection — even when you’re in the company of others. But it’s also a stylish visual that follows Sadin through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, as he’s hounded by fans when he simply wants to be left alone for a little bit, and then as he dances through the streets of Los Angeles in a decidedly tongue-in-cheek 80s music video-like scene. 

“JoJo’s visual realization of “Sucker” has so many direct and indirect references to the song itself, but it’s never in your face or overly self-explanatory. Joachim had the idea of playing with reality vs fantasy in a loose way – ultimately the video could be taking place on a few different planes of existence and I really love how it leaves the choice up to the viewer and how they see the world. It’s also shot in a way where it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Despite touching on the theme of searching for a deeper connection, I think there’s a stronger presence of ‘dance like no one is watching you'”

With the release of their debut single, last year’s “Consumer Helpline,” the Brighton, UK-based punk act GURU — Tommy Cherrill (vocals), Kieran Hunter (guitar), Ferg Belfrage (bass), and Oli Tcherno — quickly established themselves both locally and nationally for a sound that has drawn comparisons to Shame and Fat White Family. The band also developed a reputation for fiery and chaotic live show, after touring alongside Lady Bird on a sold-out tour of the UK.

Building upon a growing profile, the band released their latest effort, the double-A side single “Don’t Talk”/LTD” “Don’t Talk,” the first single off the effort is an explosive track is centered around enormous power chords, thunderous drumming, rumbling drums, a punchily delivered hook and howled vocals — and while simultaneously drawing from ’77 era punk and post punk, the song as the band’s frontman explains “. . . is about learning. Learning from situations, learning from situations, learning from others, learning not to be like others and subsequently not making the same mistakes as those people have. It’s a cry of frustration I wish I could have made some time ago but didn’t have the words to, Though I’m not not entirely happy with the words I have now, you gotta walk before you can run, right?”

 

 

 

 

With the release of their breakthrough single “air” earlier this year, the Hackney, UK-based trio deep tan drew comparisons to early Warpaint, Wild Beasts, and Foals. Building upon their growing momentum in their native UK, the trio recently released a double a-side single “shimmer” and “constant inconsistencies” through Practise Music, the label home of rapidly rising act Squid, along with Konradsen, Osquello and others.

“shimmer” is a slick and atmospheric track centered around a sinuous and propulsive bass line, subtly twinkling synths handclap-led percussion, an infectious hook and sultry vocals – and while nodding a bit at their breakthrough single, because of its subtle use of electronics, the track sonically reminds me a bit of Kalaboogie-era Doomsquad. “constant inconsistencies” is more of a confrontational post-punk inspired song featuring a sinuous bass line leading a motorik-like groove, squiggling blasts of guitar, stuttering drumming paired with sultry vocals. Interestingly, while drawing from a more cold-wave side of post-punk, the track reminds me a bit of JOVM mainstays Ganser. Both singles reveal an emerging band that’s remarkably versatile and self-assured.

“Both tracks explore sides of people they don’t like. ‘shimmer’ is about surface-level people with malice that runs deep,” the band explains in press notes. “People who operate with cruel intentions, who mask their agenda with a pretty convincing, shiny veneer. Whereas ‘constant inconsistencies’ is about someone who isn’t there for you when you need them, whether thats for support in a serious crisis or just for a pint: It’s a commonly felt thing, everyone has had someone where they’ve thought ‘You love them, but where the fuck are they?’”

New Video: Knife Knights’ Release a Hallucinogenic Visual for “Drag Race Legend”

I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Seattle-based emcee, synth player, guitarist and producer Ishmael Butler.  Butler is known as the co-founder of two critically applauded, groundbreaking, JOVM mainstay acts — Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces. About a decade ago, Butler was preparing to publicly emerge from several years of near-complete creative silence. During the summer of 2009, Butler’s Shabazz Palaces quietly self-released a pair of EPs that quickly established the act’s unique sound and aesthetic: Butler’s hyper-literate verses full of complex inner and out rhyme schemes paired with psychedelic sonic textures and refracted rhythms.

When Butler started Shabazz Palaces, he desperately wanted the act to stand on its own strength and not on his long-held reputation. So confidentially was essential; in fact, he adopted a pseudonym for himself. As Shabazz Palaces’ profile and network rapidly expanded, Butler recognized that he needed new monikers for his various creative pursuits and collaborations that would be allow them to stand on their own. Knife Knights, was the name that he devised for his work with the then-Seattle based engineer, producer, songwriter and film composer Erik Blood, who has also been a vital and important collaborator in the Shabazz Palaces Universe. Blood and Butler can trace their collaboration and friendship back to when they were introduced to each other at a Spiritualized show in 2003 through a mutual friend, whom Butler was about to record with. As the story goes, Blood was a diehard and obsessive Digable Planets fan, and as an obsessive fan, he passed along a bootleg copy Blowout Comb for the mutual friend to have Butler sign — and Butler dutifully did so.

Over the course of the next few years, Blood and Butler would have chance encounters and sometimes during those encounters, they’d talk about possibly working together. Several years had passed but when Butler finally sent Blood a few songs to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. Blood, who’s a huge hip-hop fan has always been an obsessive music listener and fan with wildly eclectic tastes. Butler, on the  other hand, who’s a lifelong hip-hop fan, began listening to and absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes.

Several years later, when Butler finally sent Blood a few songs to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. That shouldn’t be surprising — Blood, as a huge hip-hop fan, has a always been an obsessive music listener and fan with eclectic tastes while Butler, a lifelong hip hop fan, began listening to and absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes. Interestingly, every Shabazz Palaces album has featured a Blood and Butler collaboration, a collaboration that finds the duo specifically focused on and delighting at the intersection of shoegaze, ambient electronica and hip hop, actively and restlessly pushing hip hop towards new psychedelic textures. “He [Blood] takes my ideas and clarifies and pronounces them, helps me realize them,” explains Butler in press notes. “He helps me get to the essence.”

Butler and Blood’s Knife Knights debut, last year’s 1 Time Mirage came as a result of about a decade of collaboration and the development of a very rich and dear friendship.  1 Time Mirage‘s material was recorded over the course of three different recording sessions, interrupted by Butler’s touring schedules with Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets and Blood’s recording projects. The album finds the duo and a cast of collaborators crafting a lysergic soundscape that meshes elements of soul, shoegaze, hip-hop, drum ‘n’ bass, noise and chaos. 

1 Time Mirage’s latest single is the lysergic and woozy “Drag Rage Legend.” Centered around a wobbling bass line, stuttering beats, bursts of distorted, wailing guitars and Butler’s imitable flow, the much like its immediate predecessor continues with a narcotic yet noisy vibe. (Admittedly, I wonder how the song would sound under the influence of hallucinogens.)

Directed by Joshua M. Johnson, the recently released video for “Drag Race Legend” is a psychedelic tale of wasted youth that follows a sunglasses wearing young man with a penchant for street drag racing, skipping school and getting as high as humanly possible. He proclaims himself a legend, drinks spodie (also known as jungle juice and spodie odie, depending on where in the country you’re from) and parties too much. The video is looks as though it were filmed on rainy and distorted VHS tapes, with wavering explosions of color and fuzz, as the video’s protagonist goes through his daily routine. 

Growing up in a musical home, in which both of his parents were classical musicians, a young Will Lowery wound up learning to play piano as a young boy. As Lowery got older, he became named with jazz, soul and funk. Unsurprisingly, his musical project pantology that draws from his early love of jazz, soul, funk and hip hop.

Lowry’s debut single as pantology “Never Enough” revealed an emerging artist and producer, who’s sound and approach owed a debt to Flying Lotus, Bill Evans and J. Dilla with his own unique touch. In other words, we’re talking about instrumental beatmaking that’s centered around completely original compositions. His pantology debut EP 2Q19 is slated for release next month, and the effort reportedly showcases an artist further honing his sound while delving into darker conceptual territory.

The EP’s second and latest single, the atmospheric “Descent” is centered around gently twinkling keys, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, wobbling low end paired with Sergej Avanesov‘s expressive Kamasi Washington-like saxophone playing. And while being sleek and  decidedly modern, the track manages a soulfulness and self-assuredness that belies the project’s relative newness while nodding at a nubmer of different periods in jazz history — in particular, Miles Davis‘ electronic era, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard and others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Founded back in 2014 by Jessica Louise Dye (vocals, guitar) and Jono Bernstein (drums), the New York-based JOVM mainstays High Waisted have received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound that draws from surf rock, garage rock, dream pop, Riot Grrl punk and punk rock among others and for their long-running and very popular DIY concert showcase/booze cruise High Waisted at Sea.

The band’s Bryan Pugh-produced full-length debut On Ludlow further cemented their reputation for scuzzy, party ’til you drop rock — but just under the surface, the material revealed vulnerability and ache.  Since the release of On Ludlow, the the band contributed “Firebomb,” a scuzzy, ass-kicking, power chord-driven Lita Ford and Motley Crue-like single to a split single with The Coax, toured with the likes of Hundred Hounds, Beechwood, played a handful of live shows across town and been periodically working on a bunch of new material. And they’ve done all of that while going through a series of lineup changes but one thing has remained: they’re a non-stop party machine.

Throughout their history, the JOVM mainstays have released an ongoing, psychedelic mixtape series, Acid Tapes and like the preceding three other editions, the fourth edition, which will drop on Friday finds the New York-based act covering an eclectic variety of beloved songs. Naturally, the covers reveal the band’s impressive and wide ranging tastes   with the fourth edition featuring the band’s unique take on songs by the likes of The Zombies, 10cc, Kacey Musgraves, The Troggs and others. As the band explains in press notes, the covers allow them to  “dissect songs we love, throw everything we know about them away and rebuild something entirely new.” The band’s frontwoman Jessica Louise Dye adds “It changes the gravitational pull in my creative mind, often spawning a big writing period of new High Waisted material as well.” Along with covers, there are a handful of rare, previously unreleased originals.

The fourth installment of Acid Tapes may arguably find the JOVM mainstays at their best sounding. The guitars shimmer and glisten while the band’s Jessica Louise Dye sounds at her very best, beginning with a gorgeous and Patsy Cline-like take of The Zombies,” “The Way I Feel Inside,” a Pretenders-like original, “Modern Love,” a stunningly accurate 60s and dexterous take on The Lively Ones  instrumental composition “Surf Rock,” a dream pop-like take of Kacey Musgraves’ “High Horse” that nods at Still Corners‘ gorgeous Slow Air, the slow-burning, Quiet Storm-like original “Dream Sea,” and a slow-burning, straightforward take on 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” closes out the tape’s A Side. The tape’s B side features the anthemic and alt rock meets alt country ballad “Eyes Crying,” which manages to recall Pearl Jam‘s “Dissident” to my ears, a Cars meets Phil Spector Wall of Sound-like take on Wreckless Eric‘s “Whole Wide World” before ending with a heartbreakingly gorgeous cover of Julie London‘s “Cry Me a River.” It’s a wildly eclectic grouping of songs but the mixtape reveals the JOVM mainstays’ ridiculous versatility paired with a deep emotional connection to the material.

“Our recording process has come a long way from the first cassette. Acid Tape, Vol. 1 was recorded while were on acid, all in one go, in a haunted house in Nashville. A buddy of ours threw a room mic over the chandelier and ran it through the tape deck and away we went.  Now the recording process is more deliberate, articulated and better executed.” the band explains in press notes. Vol 4 was recorded entirely in our new studio which Jono Bernstien and Stephen Nielsen built in Bed Stuy. We’re mixing digital and analog gear with vintage instruments and a little magic.”

The band is celebrating the release of  Acid Tape, Vol. 4 with a release show at Mercury Lounge with Yella Belly and Songs for Sabotage. You can check out ticket info and purchase here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/high-waisted-acid-tapes-vol-4-release-party-tickets-69052520949?aff=efbeventtix&fbclid=IwAR1c18aYR2lwka706043Xe4Wu5DGHXUerQf3xwlTVR9BVzl4Asu6z36VUC0

You can purchase the pre-release of the limited edition mixtape here: https://www.highwaisted.party/merch/acid-tape-vol-4

 

 

 

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Oslo, Norway-based singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist Arthur Kay. And as you may recall Kay has been a prominent member of his hometown’s music scene for the better part of the past decade as the frontman of of the galactic jazz act Dr. Kay and His Interstellar Tone Scientists and collaborating and touring with Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave.

Key’s self-titled solo debut EP was released earlier this month, and the EP’s material draws from several disparate and rather eclectic influences, at points channeling Thundercat, James Blake, and Sun Ra Arkestra, all while finding the Norwegian singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist boldly stepping into the spotlight.  Earlier this year, I wrote about “Holiday Pay,” a thumping, house music-based workers anthem with glistening and twinkling synths, cowbell-led percussion and infectious hook that celebrates socialism and socialist policies — in particular, that Norwegian employers are required by law to pay employees a certain percentage of the previous year’s wages to be used for the employee’s vacation time.

The EP’s second single “Higher Ground” was a slow-burning track that was one part dream pop, one part hallucinogenic dirge and one part shoegaze, as it was centered around a sparse arrangement of twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Kay’s dreamy crooning and narcoleptic drumming. And while arguably the most peaceful song off the EP, the song was fueled by a sweaty desperation.  “Lyrically, it is about the silence and calmness that comes after a big emotional and chaotic event,” Arthur Kay explained in press notes. “Those days or weeks where you feel that if you just put everything in your life on hold, to make it through the next hour without remembering or engaging in those memories, you’ll just barely make it through.”

“Say It Out Loud,” the EP’s third and latest single is a two-step-inducing bit of synth-led dance pop that’s one part Teddy Riley-era New Jack Swing and one part Larry Levan-era house music, as the track is centered around arpeggiated keys and synths, thumping beats, cowbell-led percussion, Kay’s plaintive vocals and a sinuous hook before ending with a shimmering jazz-like. And while focusing on his singular voice, the track manages to reveal Kay’s incredible versatility and dexterous musicianship.

Cousin Kula is a rising Bristol, UK-based sextet, featuring highly active members of their hometown’s progressive jazz scene. Bonding over a shared love of an eclectic range of music that includes pop, psych, prog, disco and Afrobeat, the members of Cousin Kula quickly found themselves living together. And with a rehearsal room in their basement, the band honed a sound and approach that meshed their varied influences and passions, eventually becoming one of their hometown’s hottest bands.

Slated for a November 18, 2019 release through Chiverin Records, the Bristol-based sextet’s forthcoming sophomore effort Stroodles EP follows their opening spot for Japanese rippers Bo Ningen and the announcement of a headlining UK tour to support the new EP in November. The EPs first single “Invitation” is reportedly a slight departure for the members of Cousin Kula, as the song is a shimmering bit of 80s-inspired synth funk and soul that nods at the periods titans — i.e.,  Cherelle, Mtume and others, as well as contemporaries like Tuxedo but with a jazzy edge.