Category: Electro Pop

Perhaps best known as a member of heralded electronic act Sandwell District and the head of underground electronic music label Jealous God, Juan Mendez is an renowned Los Angeles-based electronic music producer, DJ and art director, known for aggressively pushing techno’s sound and aesthetic forward at least twice in his career, with his solo recording project Silent Servant; in fact, Mendez’s solo debut Negative Fascination is largely considered a game-changing modern classic.

Slated for a December 7, 2018 release through Hospital Productions, Mendez’s Silent Servant forthcoming sophomore effort Shadows of Death and Desire reportedly finds Mendez’s sound evolving towards a much more raw, aggressive and abrasive sound; in fact, album single “Damage” walks a careful tightrope between the chilly atmospherics of John Carpenter soundtracks and the tense, harrowing, industrial clang and clatter of Blanck Mass, as the track is centered around layers of arpeggiated synths and thumping beats, but while being dance floor friendly.

 

 

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New Audio: Alpines Chilly Yet Urgent Call to Action on the Environment

Comprised of Bob Matthews (guitar, production) and Catherine Pockson (vocals, piano), the London-based electro pop duo Alpines formed in 2010 and since their formation they’ve quickly built up a national and international profile as they opened for the likes of  The Naked and The Famous, Emeli Sande and Florence and the Machine — eventually signing to a major label. Once their stint within the major label system ended, instead of being overwhelmed by a sense of bitter resignation, they self-released their first two, critically applauded full-length albums 2014’s Oasis and 2016’s Another River. 

The duo’s soon-to-be-released third, full-length album Full Bloom is slated for a November 16, 2018 release through Untrue Records and the album reportedly channels some of the duo’s core influences — in particular, Prince, Aaliyah, Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Kelela, 90s rave culture and Massive Attack; while lyrically the material touches upon growth, change, ecology, the every day challenges of love, acceptance and hardship. And as a result, the material finds the duo examining the inner and outer complexities of modern life, and our insecurities and vulnerabilities in a a profound mature fashion. Initially, the material was built around a basic piano idea, that they expanded upon within their Kingston-Upon-Thames studio. As the duo says, “There are tracks that lean more towards Catherine’s love of classic singer-songwriters and soul music, and others that are inspired by left-field producers and rap.”  Additionally, the material draw from Netflix’s The OA, the work of architect Rachel Whiteread, contemporary fashion and art, as well. 

The chilly yet soulful, “Full Bloom” is the album’s latest single, and the album title track is centered around Pockson’s soulful, pop belter vocals and a 90s soul meets house music-like production consisting of subtle yet lush layers of arpeggiated synths, twinkling keys, a classic house music breakbeat and a rousingly anthemic hook. And as a result, the song sonically brings Snap!’s “Rhythm Is A Dancer,” Black Box’s “Everybody Everybody” and Soul 2 Soul’s “Get A Life” among others. Lyrically, the song focuses on the fact that while things may seem difficult, that right now is the time to get it together, and save the Earth because time is a-wasiting; if we don’t, we’re all done for.  “The title is in reference to the beauty of the natural world which is so fragile,” Alpine’s Catherine Pockson explains in press notes, “as well as a nod to what we feel we have achieved musically,” after several years of graft and struggle. The song is inspired by a recently UN Climate Change report that said we have maybe a good decade or so before we irrevocably alter the environment — for the worse. “The song is about the climate crisis, our love of the earth, and how time is really running out,” states Catherine Pockson, “The refrain ‘everything has to change” is both a plea for definitive action, and a wake-up call to those who have yet to accept the reality. If we don’t completely change our way of life within the next few years, the damage to the natural world will be irreversible – some of it already is.”

Daniel Isaiah is a Montreal, Quebec, Canada-based singer/songwriter and filmmaker, known for award-winning short films under his full-name Daniel Schachter. The Canadian multimedia artist’s forthcoming album Only One Left is slated for a November 28, 2018 release, and interestingly, the album was written, deeply influenced and book-ended by the saddest and happiest moments of the artist’s life — his mother’s death and his wedding.  Unsurprisingly, the album thematically is centered around the inevitable beginnings and endings of life. Additionally, during that period, Schachter spent nine months traveling across Turkey, Greece, Israel, Italy, the UK, France and The Netherlands with his Nord synthesizer in tow, writing throughout his travels. As Schachter says in press notes, “I recorded in a big house in Istanbul, a tiny hotel room in Amsterdam, and an even tinier bathroom in Tel Aviv (to mute the birds in the backyard).”  Schachter adds that Only One Left is “rooted in my native Montreal, but also in the countries where I went wandering — an outsider looking in. The music itself signals a new phase in my work — still committed to the old craft of songwriting but experimenting with synthesizers and computer to carve out a sound that is my own.”

Schachter returned to Montreal and recruited his friends Brad Barr, Joe Grass and Joshua Teal to play on the album as his backing band — and his friend and frequent collaborator Matthew Lederman to mix the recording sessions. The album’s first single, album opening track “Javelin Fade” is a moody and atmospheric track centered around a sparse arrangement of shimmering electronics, twinkling keys, gently padded drumming  and ethereal vocals — and sonically, to my ears, the song manages to recall Tales of Us-era Goldfrapp and Portishead; however, lyrically, as Schachter notes, the song at points references to the sirens of Greek mythology and to the bomb warning sirens, as the narrator floats over the Earth as the sole witness of nuclear armageddon. Indirectly, the song gently buzzes with the anxiety over the seemingly impending end of the world as we know it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of longtime friends Pat Mahoney, best known as a co-founding member of LCD Soundsystem, and an accomplished drummer, DJ and producer; and electronic music producer Dennis McNany, best known as Jay Dee, Museum of Love is a side project that began over the duo’s shared love of music and museums, a similar sensibility and a shared vocabulary for interpreting their surroundings — with McNany writing most of the music and Mahoney most of the words.Interestingly, “Marching Orders” is the first bit of new material from the duo since the release of their full-length debut in 2014, and as the duo says in press notes of their new single, “Obviously a labor of love. We worked whenever we could for the past three years, 2 weeks on 6 months off, between Pat’s busy tour schedule with LCD and Dennis’ working on film scores and new Jee Day releases.
We had a bunch of unfinished material from the 1st record and were working on new material whenever we could. We worked in home studios; we built our our own recording studio in Dumbo to write and track new material; and, when we were kicked out of that, we snuck into DFA studios as the building was about to be gutted and finished an album’s worth of new material with all the limited time and resources we had. This single is the first product of all our efforts.”

Thematically, the single focuses on moving and moving forward, “an exercise in slapping ourselves in the face, taking stock of this moment we’re in and then out of. To explore the elephantine sadness that plagues us as we find ourselves complicit in our extinction,” the duo says in press notes. “Why do we love? Who do we love? For what do we fight? When faced with displacement, how do you keep moving and whistling on your way?” Sonically, the song is a heady (and perhaps neurotic) and percussive take on house music that recalls Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and others — and as a result, the song is centered around an infectious groove that suggests to the listener, “Welp, while everything is burning, might as well dance, dance, dance and forget it for a little while.”

New Audio: Tame Impala and Theophilus London Team Up on Two Synth Funk Bangers

Led by singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind Kevin Parker, the Melbourne, Australia-based psych pop act Tame Impala received international attention with the release of their first two albums, 2011’s Innerspeaker and 2012’s Lonerism. Interestingly, 2015’s Currents was centered around some of the most emotionally direct material he had written to date while expanding upon the sound that first caught attention with the material sonically drawing from synth pop, prog rock, R&B and psych pop to create a nuanced, textured and difficult to pigeonhole sound. 

Theophilus London is a Trinidad and Tobago-born, Brooklyn-based emcee, singer/songwriter and producer, who first emerged into the national and international scene with his 2011 debut EP Lovers Holiday, which found the Brooklyn-based emcee/singer/songwriter and producer collaborating with TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Tegan and Sara’s Sara Quin, Glasser and Solange Knowles and his full-length debut 2011’s Timez are Weird These Days. Both of those early efforts quickly established London’s crowd-pleasing, genre-mashing sound and approach, which draws from soul, pop, post-punk, electro-pop, electro R&B, hip-hop and R&B — and that shouldn’t be surprising as London has publicly cited Michael Jackson, Prince, Kraftwerk and The Smiths as influences on his work.  2013’s sophomore effort VIBES found London collaborating with Jesse Boykins III and Kanye West, who was the album’s executive producer — and from album single “Tribe,” the album’s material further cemented London’s reputation for club-banging, synth pop-influenced hip-hop. 

So in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that both genre-defying artists have collaborated together in a project informally dubbed Theo Impala, which has already released two singles — the first single, the swaggering “Whiplash” is a thorough and seamless amalgamation of their sound and approach, as it features London spitting fiery bars over layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats and Parker’s ethereal backing vocals singing a sugary pop-meets-soul melody. In some way, the song recalls 80s hip-hop, 80s synth soul, Crime Cutz-era Holy Ghost! and Dam-Funk among others. The second track is a cover Steve Monite’s Nigerian boogie hit “Only You” and while their cover is somewhat straightforward, it manages to possess a contemporary production sheen that gives the song a retro-futuristic thump. 

Black Bear Whisper is the collaborative dark, electro pop project of Danish singer/songwriter and producer Kat Boelskov, who has released music that has been largely ignored in her homeland but has found some popularity among the Mexican gay community; and the London-born Iranian producer Unfamed, who has collaborated in a number of projects, including this one, which has already seen praise from Allmusic, Uncut and The Quietus among others — also, Unfamed also spent 18 years studying the Iranian santur, a 72 stringed dulcimer, played with small wooden hammers, developing a reputation for being one of the best santur-players outside of Iran.

Interestingly, the duo have never met in person but they can trace the origins of their long-distance collaboration to a chance meeting on the Internet. Although their collaboration is currently based primarily in email and music files, the duo quickly realized that the material they had begun working on centered around extremely dark themes with lyrics that specifically focused on anger, euphoria, jealousy, deception, desire and other forbidden emotions and thoughts. Sonically speaking, the duo’s work is defiantly difficult to categorize as it pairs modern electronic production with santur, adding an ancient vibe to the proceedings.

The duo’s latest single, the Garbage meets glittering disco-like “1000 Eyes” features a funky disco-inspired bass line, four-on-the-floor drumming, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, blasts of shimmering santur chords — and while dance floor friendly, the song thematically focuses on selfishness, self-obsession, blind, spiteful rage at everything and everyone. As the duo’s Kat Boelskov says in press notes, “I’m self-obsessed, and I’m angry. All I ever see is me, and no-one else ever meets my expectations. Every good act I do is for myself only. If I’m nice to you, it’s only another tactic, another play. I try above all else to be in control, to not give you a chance to gain equality. When I fear that you may be my equal, I desperately try to hold you down, by whatever means.” Of course, what makes the song so disturbing is that it’s rooted in a profound and deeply cynical truth about human nature — people can be selfish, delusional, greedy, stupid assholes. We see it every single day in the Trump Administration and elsewhere.

 

 

New Video: Austin’s Pastel Ghost Releases Brooding Visuals for “3NDL3SS”

With the release of her critically applauded full-length debut ABYSS, the Oakland, CA-born, Austin, TX-based electronic music producer and artist Pastel Ghost quickly received attention for an ethereal, genre-defying sound that meshes elements of dream pop, post-punk, EDM and electronica. Building upon a growing profile with the electro pop scene, the Oakland-born, Austin-based electronic music producer and electronic music producer’s sophomore album Ethereality was released earlier this month through  Cleopatra Records — and as you may recall, last month I wrote about album single “Mercury,” a gauzy, shoegazer-like take on club music with a cinematic bent. “3NDL3SS,” Ethereality’s latest single is a brooding and chilly track centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping tweeter and woofer rocking beats, Pastel Ghost’s ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook which give the song a swooning and urgent quality. As Pastel Ghost explained to self-titled “‘3NDL3SS’ is about those initial feelings of falling in love—wanting to live in that feeling forever and never wanting it to end, while also being scared that that person could disappear at any moment.”

Directed by Anise Mariko, the recently released video for “3NDL3SS,” features Pastel Ghost broodingly wandering around a neon-lit city, which further emphasizes the brooding nature of the song. 

New Video: MUNYA Release Dreamy Visuals for “Hotel Delmano”

Josie Bolvin is a Quebec-based, classically trained pianist and opera vocalist, as well as an electronic pop producer, singer/songwriter and artist, best known as MUNYA — and as the story goes Bolvin had only written one song when she was asked to perform at last year’s Pop Montreal. Ironically, at the time, Bolvin had never intended to pursue music full-time but after playing at the festival, she quickly realized that what she was meant to do — be a musician. So Bolvin quit her day job, moved in with her sister and turned their kitchen into a home recording studio where she wrote every day. These recordings would eventually become part of an EP trilogy — with each EP comprised of three songs — named after a significant place in Bolvin’s life. Her self-released debut North Hatley derives its name from one of Bolvin’s favorite little villages in Quebec and her second EP Delmano, which was released earlier this month through Fat Possum Records derives its name from Williamsburg Brooklyn’s Hotel Delmano.

Delmano‘s first single ”Hotel Delmano” is a breezy and mischievous, synth-based tale of melancholy surrealism, centered by Bolvin’s ethereal vocals singing completely in her native French. Interestingly, the song is largely inspired by a dream Bolvin had that was inspired by the video for Vendredi sur Mer‘s “La Femme à la Peau Bleue.” As Bolvin says in press notes, “I watched it so many times that she entered my dreams once we were having a drink at Hotel Delmano. The song is about that dream.”  Sonically, the song sounds as though it should be a part of the soundtrack of a Michel Gondry film in which its sad protagonist gets thrown into a whimsical and colorful world while recalling La Femme, Polo & Pan, and others.

The recently released video premiered over at Highsnobiety, and as Bolvin told the folks there, “The song ‘Hotel Delmano’ came to me in a dream. So when it was time to make the video, I wanted it to have the same feeling—an ambiguous collection of images, whose meaning is derived by the connection of the time and place. We shot this in my hometown, visiting the most ‘trivial’ and ‘unremarkable’ places that I’ve known my whole life but now feel like a dream.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Beacon Return with a Cinematic and Surreal Visual for “On Ice”

Over the years I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based electronic music duo and JOVM mainstays Beacon, and as you recall, the duo, which is comprised of Thomas Mullarney III (vocals) and Jacob Gusset (production) have received attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere for a sound and a generally minimalist production approach that subtly draws from R&B, house music and electro pop paired with Mullarney’s aching and tender falsetto. A couple of years had passed since I had written about the but recently the duo quietly returned with the somber “Losing My Mind,” a bold and decided sonic departure centered around a sparse arrangement of piano, a brief burst of synths and Mullarney’s aching and mournful falsetto. As the duo’s Jacob Gusset explained in press notes, the song was originally written on piano but eventually swelled into a full-bodied arrangement before reverting back to its original shell. “I came back from a trip and Tom had a new edit that was completely stripped back. Sometimes, it just takes those infinite iterations to finally crack the code.”  By stripping down their sound to its most essential — Mullarney’s vocals and a simple arrangement, it reveals the vulnerability that’s always been at the core of their material with Mullarney singing longingly of desiring stability — whether romantic or spiritually, and of the comfort of knowing that a loved one would remain by your side in the darkest and most desperate of times. 

Interestingly, “Losing My Mind” turned out to be the first single from the duo’s third full-length album, Gravity Pairs, slated for a November 2, 2018 release through their longtime label home, Ghostly International.  As the story goes, after recording a couple of EPs, their first two full-length albums and going on several tours to support their recorded efforts, Mullarney and Gossett returned home, knowing that the new material they would soon write wound find the duo going off into a completely different direction. Together, they embarked on open-ended writing sessions, adopting a more linear style of songwriting instead of the loop and texture-driven method they had long used. The demos they wrote were essentially built around piano chords and guitar phrases with vocal melodies, which they edited in a number of iterations that found them looking through each from a multitude of angles and directions. Naturally, some songs expanded and others they pared back. Like the bending of light through a prism, the abstract, deeply patient, almost painterly creative process, eventually found the material they wound up writing outlined in a space in which seemingly separate colors — minimalist ballads, elaborate pop spirituals and driving dance tunes — can coexist at different speeds, spreading out like a spectrum. With each iteration, the duo also found themselves expanding upon how they can be present the material within a live setting. They could play the material in a straightforward fashion — or they could play the same material in a different fashion that added or subtracted color and shading, depending on the circumstances, their moods and their desires.

“All matter is created by dividing gravity into pairs,” the 20th Century scientific mystic Walter Russell once wrote. His “new world thought” writings and musically-informed schematic drawings were idiosyncratic, and were incredibly fringe for their time. As Beacon’s Mullarney details a bit further in press notes, “’Gravity Pairs’ is how Walter Russell describes the rhythmic order of the universe. I kept reading ‘pairs’ as both a noun and verb; simultaneously the elemental units of Russell’s balanced universe and the process that brings us together.”

“Be My Organ,” Gravity Pairs’ second single was centered around a foggy yet up-tempo production centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths four-on-the-floor beats, Mullarney’s tender falsetto and an alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure that gives the song a simultaneously undulating and swooning feel, and while finding the JOVM mainstays pushing their songwriting and sound in a unique and new direction, much like its predecessor there’s an underlying vulnerable and aching yearning. “On Ice,” the soon-to-released album’s third and latest single finds shimmering synth notes arpeggiating along a motorik beat as Mullarney repeats in his imitable falsetto fed through effects — mostly echo and delay as the song builds up from slow-burning simmer to a strobe light-like coda. Much like its predecessors, the song is a subtle yet trippy expansion and retooling of their sound.

Directed by the band’s Jacob Gossett and Danny Scales, the cinematically shot, recently released video is centered around hauntingly surreal and symbolic visuals. As the duo’s Jacob Gossett explained to BrooklynVegan: 

“There is some blend of sensual sleekness and eerie atmosphere that makes ‘On Ice’ a special track for us. Attempting to capture this visually led us into some interesting technical territory.

In one form or another, water was part of every setup. We built a rain machine for the main performance shots, and got ahold of an underwater rig that allowed us to utilize the camera in some really unique ways. Some of our favorite moments are the drone shots where you see the full view of this neon lit pool, and as the camera pulls up it’s just sea of black surrounding it. Time distortion and reversals also play a major role in creating a sense of the uncanny. Tom was tasked with the not so easy job of learning the song in reverse. This allowed us to drop in these moments where we could sync his vocals and have the rain moving upward. It’s a subtle but effective technique.”