Category: reworkings/reimagining

The late bluesman Roscoe Chenier was born in the tiny town of Notleyville, LA. And although his sharecropper family were extremely poor, Chenier grew up within a deeply musical family. Although he was related to zydeco legend Clifton Chewier and bluesman Morris “Big” Chenier, his father, Arthur “Bud” Chenier, a cajun accordionist, who was frequently accompanied by his first cousin, fiddler John Stevens (the father of Duke Stevens) was the Roscoe Chenier’s bigger influence; in fact, Bud Chenier and John Stevens were best known for playing at popular weekend house parties, where Roscoe would soak up the music.

In 1958, Roscoe Chenier was invited to join one of the region’s hottest traveling bands in the region — CD and the Blue Runners, which featured Lonesome Sundown on lead guitar and three of the Gradnier brothers on harmonica, drums and bass. Chenier played with CD and the Blue Runners until 1970, finding enough work to survive as a bluesman despite the popularity of the British Invasion acts of the 1960s. However, as tastes changed, Chenier like a lot of the great old bluesman discovered, it was difficult to eke out a living — especially when some gigs paid maybe $6 per man per night. And throughout the better part of the 70s, Chenier began a succession of jobs as a truck driver while picking up the occasional hired gun gig, playing in the backing bands of Good Rockin’ Thomas, Good Rockin’ Bob, his old bandmate Lonesome Sundown, Clarence Randle and Duke Stevens.

By 1980, Chenier was leading his own band and through a combination of reputation, luck and skill, he was able to recruit a number of talented musicians while desperately trying to remain as financial independent as possible, which by the late 90s became increasingly difficult. And yet, Chenier and his band managed to play several of Europe’s most prestigious festivals including Blues Estafette (in 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2001), North Sea Jazz Festival, toured across Europe several times and released a few albums before his death in February 2013 including 1998’s Roscoe Style and 2006’s Waiting For My Tomorrow. Roscoe Chenier’s last record, featured a haunting and folksy, acapella rendition of the old gospel standby “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” that immediately brings the early Delta Blues to mind — in particular, Son House, Lightnin’ Hopkins, early Muddy Waters and the like.

Interestingly, ElectroBluesSociety, a Dutch blues act, comprised of Japser Mortier (drums, bass) and Jan Mittendorp (guitar, production), who worked with Roscoe Grenier on several releases and several European tours decided to pay tribute to their late friend by adding a spectral and moody arrangement Chenier’s vocal that’s appropriately bluesy yet subtly modern, while retaining the timeless vibe of the original vocal take.

 

 

Born Adrian Nicholas Matthews Thaws in Bristol, UK and currently based in Berlin, Germany, the British-born, German-based emcee, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Tricky is arguably one of the most influential and important artists in trip hop — both as a member of the genre’s pioneering act Massive Attack and as a solo artist, who has also collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Terry Hall, Bjork, Gravediggaz, Grace Jones, Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, PJ Harvey, and others. And whether with Massive Attack or as a solo artist, throughout his career, Tricky has had a long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly difficult to pigeonhole and for being remarkably iconoclastic as his work and aesthetic has drawn from both American and British hip-hop, rock, dub, reggae, punk rock and ambient electronica and blurred lines between each genre and style.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past two years or so, you may recall that I’ve written about Tricky and one of his musical projects — Skilled Mechanics, a project that derived its name “from a documentary about espionage,” as the renowned trip hop pioneer explained in press notes, and started almost as soon as he relocated to Berlin. In a conventional sense, when a renowned solo artist forms a band, it’s frequently considered a sign that the solo artist in question is sick of the spotlight and is desperate to fade into something much larger than themselves; however, oddly enough for Tricky, his motivations were the exact opposite. As Tricky notes, over the years, he’s received quite a bit of criticism for what fans, critics, producers and others have perceived as frustrating habit of playing second fiddle to a variety of collaborators. “People have been asking me for years, ‘Will you ever take charge vocally? Will you ever lead as the singer on one of your albums?’  On Adrian Thaws, my last album, I came to the forefront vocally. I was more in your face on three of the tracks but I wanted to build even further towards a catalogue of songs where I didn’t rely on a girl singer. But I realised it would be hard to do under the name Tricky because people would always associate that name with me using a female singer. I haven’t been alone at the front of the stage on my own since before I released my first album Maxinquaye 20 years ago. I needed to change. It is good to change and to keep on pushing yourself,” Tricky explained in press notes.

His idea was that Skilled Mechanics would be a rather loose collaborative project that would allow him to work with a variety of musicians and artists while pushing his imitable vocals to the forefront as much as possible. And interestingly enough, the project’s earliest collaborators included DJ Milo, who is not only one of Tricky’s oldest friends but also the first person the Bristol-born, Berlin-based artist ever recorded with, as well as his introduction to The Wild Bunch sound system, which eventually evolved into Massive Attack. The other early collaborator on the project is Luke Harris, who is the drummer in Tricky’s backing band — but as a vocalist. As the story goes, Harris’ vocal talents were discovered by complete accident: Harris was covering for Tricky’s regular vocalist Francesca Belmonte during a quick bathroom break during soundcheck. Tricky was so impressed by Harris that he asked him to take part in his next musical project. The trip hop pioneer and his band recorded a full-length album, Tricky Presents: Skilled Mechanics and while the album featured collaborations with with Oh Land, Ann Dao, Ivy 艾菲, Francesca Belmonte, Renata Platon, and Xdare, as well as a murky and ominous lullaby-like re-working of Porno for Pyros’ “Porpoise Head,” “Diving Away.”

Unsurprisingly, Tricky has continued to work on solo material, including the recent release of a new single “The Only Way” to critical acclaim earlier this year. Interestingly, the track managed to be a subtle change of sonic direction as Tricky pairs his vocals with a lush, 50s and 60s cabaret crooner production featuring strummed guitar, twinkling piano and a stunningly  gorgeous string arrangement — all of which give the track a cinematic sweep while subtly nodding at the work of Edith Piaf. Recently, Tricky released a new mix — a stripped down mix of the song that pairs his vocals with a murky and ambient production featuring droning and twinkling keys and ominously swirling electronics that emphasizes the loneliness and ache at the core of the song. The mix came about by accident”  Tricky explains  “I was working on something else, playing around on the keyboard, and when I heard the 3 chords I was playing I knew instantly it was a special vibe but it didn’t work with what I was working on at the time.  So rather than finish the track I was trying to do, I carried on with this track and did vox of ‘The Only Way’ on top  —  it was just meant to be.”

Hymns To The Night, the attention-grabbing full-length debut from post-punk duo Lea Porcelain was written and recorded over a two year period in Berlin, Germany‘s famed Funkhaus, a broadcast house created under Soviet supervision that now houses one of the world’s biggest recording studios. Interestingly enough, while the duo describes their sound as being “atmospheric, cinematic and melancholic,” the material on their debut reportedly finds the band subtly bending and playing with genre boundaries; however, album single “Warsaw Street” manages to be a decidedly post-punk single, nodding at Turn On The Bright Lights and Antics-era Interpol.

Recently, the acclaimed British DJ, producer and owner of Hotflush Recordings Paul Rose, best known as Scuba remixed the song adding thumping beats, clave and layers of undulating synths and a dance floor-friendly motorik-like groove and although he retains some of the original’s atmospheric vibe, the remix manages to focus primarily on mood and groove, creating an altogether new song with a completely different feel.

 

 

 

New Video: Introducing the Spectral Sounds and Intimate Visuals for Lola Kirke’s “Not Used”

Lola Kirke is a British-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician and actress, best know for starring roles in Mistress America and Mozart in the Jungle, as well as a supporting role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl; but along with that, she’s also the daughter of drummer Simon Kirke, best known for stints in Bad Company and Free and Lorraine Kirke, the owner of Geminola, a vintage boutique known for supplying outfits for Sex and the City. As a singer/songwriter, her self-titled debut EP features four, plaintive songs that Kirke has personally dubbed Cosmic American. 

The self-titled EP’s latest single “Not Used” is about learning to live with a lover’s absence and as a result, the single possesses a visceral longing and ache paired with a spectral yet old-timey, honky tonk-like arrangement . But at its core, is the acceptance of the lingering ghosts of one’s past and the awkward attempt to move forward with one’s life to the best of their abilities.  And interestingly enough, the recently released music video was directed by and stars Lola Kirke’s sister, who spends the entire length of the song vigorously exercising in her small apartment — and as Jemina Kirke explains about the video treatment “Those transitional, soul-level-change moments we experience are never dramatic. Epiphanies don’t really happen. They’re a myth. Real transformation is boring and uncomfortable, like working out on your birthday when you have no plans. Change slips in unnoticed while you’re busy trudging through something pretty unremarkable.” 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site around the end of last year and during the first few months of this year, you may recall that I had written quite a bit about the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter BETS. Initially, she came to attention last year with the release of her debut effort Days Hours Night to critical applause. And as the story goes, building upon the buzz of her debt, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and her producer/co-writer/collaborator were set to write and record her sophomore album of original material, when the duo discovered that they shared a mutual love of Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled breakout debut effort. Reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS and her producer decided to put the album of originals on hold to work on a Violent Femmes cover album, in which she and her backing band re-imagine and re-work the familiar and beloved material, turning anxious and angular pop-leaning folk into slow-burning and hazy shoegaze.

 

Just before setting out to finish writing and recording her much-anticipated sophomore album of originals, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter went into the studio to record one last Violent Femmes cover, a cover of “Sleepwalkin'” — this time further cementing her growing reputation for crafting hazy and moody shoegaze with slinky and coquettish seductiveness at its core.

New Video: Upcoming Scottish Indie Act Releases a Gorgeous and Atmospheric Cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Over You”

Comprised of Mairi Fenella Whittle (vocals) and Jack Boyce (guitar, piano), the Glasgow, Scotland-based indie rock/indie pop duo Fenella can trace their origins to when they were both studying and discovered a mutual love for Elektra Records’ mid-late 1960s releases, which included the work of Nico, The Doors, Love, Tim Buckley, as well as The Velvet Underground, Neil Young’s doom trilogy and jazz. After working and building upon Whittle’s song ideas, the duo made their live debut last year, and with some sporadic shows across their hometown, began to see growing local attention; in fact, the duo played at Glasgow’s King Tuts Wah Wah Hut for the venue’s New Year’s Revolution Festival earlier this year.

Signed to new indie label, Little Tiger Records, run by Riverside Music Business students, under the aegis of lecturer and Creeping Bent Records’ Douglas MacIntyre, the young duo have released a number of singles, including their latest single, an eerily atmospheric and haunting gorgeous, Scott Walker-esque/Mazzy Star-esque cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Over You,” that features Whittle’s aching, torch burning vocals paired with a simple and sparse arrangement of strummed guitar and piano.

Directed by Neil Mckenzie, the video employs a relatively simple concept — a close up of Whittle, as she’s staring directly into the camera, and at us with a pensive yet feral longing and eyes glassy from tears. At one point, we see her wipe tears from her eyes, and it further emphasizes the heartbreak at the core of the song.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this over the past few years, you’ve come across several posts featuring JOVM mainstay artist Rhythm Scholar, who has developed a reputation for being both incredibly prolific and for a series of genre-mashing remixes stuffed to the gills with both obscure and recognizable samples that are reminiscent of  Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys and Girl Talk. He’s also developed reputation for releasing a series of more straightforward and traditional-leaning remixes, including a breezy and jazzy remix of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?” consisting of cascading organs, strummed guitar, double bass, warm blasts of funky horn and swirling electronics and a breezy, lounge funk/lounge jazz leaning remix of Tribe’s “Bonita Applebum.” 

Rhythm Scholar returns with a remix of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s 1991 smash-hit “Summertime” and while retaining Will Smith‘s cool delivery and the song’s overall nostalgia-tinged Roy Ayers-like vibe the remix adds bits and snippets of samples from Kool and The Gang, Dexter Wansel, James Brown, Dave Grusin, The Eagles and a few other hidden gems, including some soulfully meandering keys and boom-bap beats.

 

 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the bulk of its almost 7 year history, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet Super Hi-Fi. Led by its founding member, composer and bassist Ezra Gale and featuring Rick Parker (trombone), Alex Asher (trombone), Jon Lipscomb (guitar) and Madhu Siddappa, the Brooklyn-based trombone-led dub quintet can trace their origins back when the then-San Francisco-based Gale relocated to Brooklyn. Upon his arrival to the East Coast, Gale had been collaborating with Quoc Pham in Sound Liberation Front when he Gale was asked to get a band together for their then-month Afro-Dub Sessions Party in Williamsburg. And much like the Dig Deeper Soul Party and DJ Turmix’s Boogaloo Party, the Afro-Dub Sessions Party would feature some of dub’s top-tier producers and DJs including Victor RicePrince PoloSubatomic Sound System, the Beverley Road All-Stars and others spinning tunes — and then collaborating with a live band, fronted by Gale.

Initially, when Super Hi-Fi was founded, the intent was to translate some of the improvisatory mixing process of dub music to the live show; however with a short period of time, Gale and company had begun writing their own original material, most of which wound up comprising their critically applauded 2012 full-length debut Dub to the Bone. Building upon a growing profile, the band toured with national touring acts including JOVM mainstays RubblebucketBeats Antique and John Brown’s Body, and then followed that with the release of Yule Analog, Vol 1. and Yule Analog, Vol. 2. 

With the release of Super Hi-Fi Plays Nirvana last year, the Brooklyn-based dub quintet continued to push the boundaries of reggae and dub by paying tribute to Nirvana. And the band did so while creating their own take on the iconic Seattle-based trio’s material with renowned dub producers, Sao Paulo, Brazil‘s Victor Rice; Venice, Italy‘s Doctor Sub; and Brooklyn’s Prince Polo — all of whom are frequent collaborators with the band — assisting to further bend and morph the band’s sound in trippy and psychedelic ways, which help take familiar and oft-played material into a bold, new territory while retaining fundamental elements of the original material.

Record Store Day  (April 22, 2017)  will see the release of the “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch and accompanying digital EP. The A side of the 7 inch finds Super Hi-Fi tackling The Beatles “I’m Only Sleeping,” and much like their take on Nirvana, Super Hi-Fi’s cooly strutting rendition of the beloved Beatles tune, finds the band retaining the original’s melody while effortlessly meshing elements of psychedelia, reverb full, groove  and bass-heavy dub and the wild-improvisation of free jazz, all within the passage of a few bars. A number of reggae bands have taken on the Beatles — in fact, there was  a lengthy 3 or 4 disc compilation featuring South American and Latin American reggae bands covering the Beatles; but no one sounds quite like them and no one completely reworks material into something so alien yet familiar either. The B side is a a wild and slow-burning take on The Police‘s “Hole In My Life” that begins with a furious, feedback and noisy, Jimi Hendrix-like opening that distorts the original’s opening. And while retaining the original’s melody, the band finds a groove and expands upon it in a spacious arrangement that allow the musicians to freely riff upon the melody in what may arguably be the most jazz-leaning bit of dub they’ve released to date, before ending with a coda that mischievously nods at The Beatles’ “Fixing A Hole,” which interestingly enough manages to be in a similar key.

The “I’m Only Sleeping”/”Hole In My Life” 7 inch will further cement the Brooklyn-based quintet’s reputation for a unique sound — and for tackling familiar and beloved material and boldly coming up with a wildly creative, imaginative reworks and reimaginings.

 

Over the course of the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts on the Brooklyn-based JOVM mainstay post-punk act The Harrow. Deriving their name from a name of a device used to punish and torture prisoners in the Franz Kafka short story “In the Penal Colony,” the band can trace a portion of their origins back to 2008 when its founding member Frank Deserto (bass, synths and electronics) started it as a solo recording project that expanded into a full band in 2013 when Deserto recruited Vanessa Irena (vocals, synths and programming), Barrett Hiatt (synth, programming), and Greg Fasolino (guitar) to flesh out the project’s sound. As a quartet, the Brooklyn-based act released the “Mouth to Mouth”/”Ringing the Changes” 7 inch and their full-length effort Silhouettes to critical praise across the blogosphere including The Deli MagazineThe Big TakeoverImposeAltSounds as well as this site for a sound that is deeply indebted to The CureSiouxsie and the BansheesJoy Division, and others —  although with Silhouette, the material, which was mixed by friend and frequent collaborator, Automelodi’s Xavier Paradis revealed a band that had been subtly experimenting with and expanding upon their sound, as their sound took on a bit of an industrial feel, as though nodding at Depeche Mode and New Order.

Up until relatively recently, some time had passed since I had written about them; however, in the last few weeks, the band announced that they will be releasing a remix album Points of View, which would be comprised of remixes, re-workings and re-imaginings of the material off Silhouettes by various friends, collaborators and associates as part of a “living” album that will grow as they receive additional contributions to the album.  And fittingly, the album’s first single was Xavier Paradis’ propulsive, dance floor-friendly remix of “Kaleidoscope” in which industrial clang and clatter and tweeter and woofer rocking beats are paired with the original’s shimmering guitars and Irena’s ethereal vocals — and as a result, the remix retained the spirit and mood of the original, while being a subtle new take.

Interestingly enough, if you had been following the site since the early days, you may recall that I wrote about the Brooklyn-based synth pop duo Azar Swan. Comprised of singer/songwriter Zohra Atash, who was a touring vocalist with A Storm of Light and multi-instrumentalist and producer Joshua Strawn, who was a member of Blacklist, Vaura, Vain Warr and others, the duo’s current project can trace its origins to when Atash and Strawn ended their previous project Religious to Damn in 2012. And much like it, The Harrow it had been some time since I had written about them — that is until now, as the duo remixed The Harrow’s “Secret Language,” giving an already stark minimalist song an even moodier, retro-futuristic John Carpenter soundtrack vibe.

Nubiyan Twist is a London, UK-based collective founded by Tom Excell (production, guitar) and featuring Nubiya Brandon (vocals), Pilo Adami (percussion, vocals), Finn Booth (drums), Luke Wynter (bass), Oli Cadman (keys), Joe Henwood (baritone sax, live dubs), Denis Scully (tenor sax), Nick Richards (alto sax) and Jonny Esner (trumpet)  who have won attention across the UK and the EU for a sound that draws from the members backgrounds in jazz, reggae, dub, soul, Afrobeat, Latin music — and for a live set that embraces the use of electronics, alongside jazz-inspired improvisation. In fact their debut album received praise from the likes of major media outfits like the IndependentMojo, Songlines Magazine, and Blues ‘n’ Soul and the album received airplay on the radio programs of David Rodigan, Craig Charles, Trevor Nelson, and Huey Morgan. And adding to a growing profile, the band has opened for the likes of De La Soul, Hot 8 Brass Band, Quantic and Robert Glasper.

The British collective’s latest single is a bold, funky, sensual reworking of Super Cat’s 1982 classic dancehall track Dance Inna New York that employs portions of the original’s verses, along with the hook with new lyrics written by the band’s frotnwoman Nubiya Brandon paired with the backing band playing a percussive, Latin-tinged, Afrobeat-inspired arrangement featuring a bold brass section, twinkling keys and a shuffling and swaggering riddim. And interestingly enough, while the London-based act’s reworking pushes a beloved song into the 21st century, perhaps introducing new fans to one of dancehall’s legends, it also manages to bridge the sounds of African Diaspora in a seamless and intelligent manner.