27 year-old, Loreauville, LA-born, Austin, TX-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer JaRon Marshall may be best known for being a member of the acclaimed, JOVM mainstay act Black Pumas. As member of Black Pumas, Marshall has received songwriting and performance credits on their Album of the Year Grammy-nominated Black Pumas (Deluxe) while playing in front of count less thousands at venues, clubs and festivals across the globe.

Interestingly enough, Marshall can trace the origins of his music career to when he started playing piano at 11. Understandably, growing up in a small town, the Loreauville-born, Austin-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer couldn’t wait to get out and broaden his horizons.

As a musician and producer, Marshall describes his music as “the marriage between funk, jazz, R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop.” Along with his work with Black Pumas, he has worked with Jay Wile, Nané and Black Pumas’ Adrian Quesada.

Last year, Marshall released his first two efforts as a solo artist and producer — The Gold Tapes Vol. 1-3 and The Black Power Tape EP, which received rapturous praise from Okayplayer, who wrote that Marshall “was exploring the myriad of emotions that come with being Black in America, all against a backdrop of soothing, soulful music.”

Last week, the Loreauville-born, Austin-based songwriter, keyboardist and producer released The Prequel EP, his first experimental EP, which showcases his versatility as a beatmaker and producer with the material sonically touching upon jazz, hip-hop and soul. The EP’s material also features with Austin-based emcee Mike Melinoe, Brian Donohoe, who has worked with Snarky Puppy and Okkervil River, and Justking Jones, who has toured with Yasiin Bey (f.k.a. Mos Def), Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Talib Kweli and Theo Croker.

The EP’s latest single “Yesterday” is centered around a warm and soulful, Black on Two Sides era Mos Def production of tweeter and woofer rattling boom bap, twinkling and arpeggiated Rhodes. Austin-based emcee Mike Melinoe contributes a swaggering Nas-like flow full of dexterous inner and outer rhyme schemes to the mix, adding to the Golden era/backpack era vibes.

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New Video: Lost Horizons Teams Up with KookieLou on a Slow-burning and Gorgeous Standalone Single and Visual

The members of the acclaimed duo Lost Horizons — Cocteau Twins‘ and Bella Union Records label head Simon Raymonde (bass. guitar, keys, production) and Dif Juz’s Richie Thomas (drums, keys, guitar) — each ended a 20+ year hiatus from creating music with the release of their full-length debut together, 2017’s Ojaiá, which derived its title from the Spanish word for “hopefully” or the the idiomatic expression, “God willing.” “These days, we need hope more than ever, for a better world,” Thomas said in press notes at the time. “And this album has given me a lot of hope. To reconnect with music . . . And the hope for another Lost Horizons record!” 

Seemingly, the state of the world has gotten much worse and much more dire since the release of Ojalá. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the viciously inequitable flaws of our socioeconomic systems and our blind selfishness and greed. We’re on the brink of irrevocable climate catastrophe. Millions across the world are risking life and limb, migrating to wherever they can as a result of climate change, socioeconomic instability and civil war. But one small portion of Thomas’ hopes have been fulfilled: the duo reconvened to write and record their acclaimed sophomore album In Quiet Moments

Written and recorded during pandemic-related restrictions and lockdowns, In Quiet Moments‘ material is inspired by the sense of existential doom, fear, uncertainty and anxiety of the larger world — and deep heartache: Just as the duo were settling into the studio to craft the largely improvised, instrumental bedrock of the album’s material, Raymonde’s mother died. 

As a response, Raymonde threw himself into his work as a way to channel his grief. “The way improvisation works,” he says, “it’s just what’s going on with your body at the time, to let it out.” The duo forged ahead, crafting 16 instrumental tracks that they sent to an eclectic array of guest vocalists including Ural ThomasPenelope Isles‘ Jack Wolter, The Hempolics Nubiya Brandon, Tim SmithGemma Dunleavythe innocence mission’s Karen Peris, Horse Thief‘s Cameron Neal, Marissa NadlerPorridge Radio‘s Dana Margolin, John GrantBallet School‘s Rosie Blair, Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (as her solo recording project KookieLou) and an impressive list of others. 

When they sent the instrumental tracks to their then-prospective guest vocalists, Raymonde suggested a guided theme for their lyrics: “Death and rebirth. Of loved ones, of ideals, at an age when many artists that have inspired us are also dead, and the planet isn’t far behind. But I also said, ‘The most important part is to just do your own thing, and have fun.” Roughly half of the album’s lyrics were written during the middle of pandemic-related lockdowns but as it turns out, Raymonde in particular, saw a sliver lining: people were forced to slow down and take careful stock of themselves and their lives. Interestingly, after having heard a lyric written by Ural Thomas, Raymonde singled out on the phrase “in quiet moments,” and thought it would be a perfect album title. “It just made sense,” he says. “This moment of contemplation in life is really beautiful.” 

Although generally centered around loss and heartbreak, the album’s material is imbued with a sense of hope. And as a result, the album subtly leans in the direction of rebirth more so than death. “I think it’s more joyous than Ojalá,” Thomas says. “But both albums have a great energy about them.” That shouldn’t be surprising as both Lost Horizons albums find the duo and their various collaborators on a journey through a dizzying area of moods and voices. 

Lost Horizons’ teamed up with Penelope Isles’ Lily Wolter (a.k.a. KookieLou) on In Quiet Moments single “Heart of a Hummingbird,” a widescreen yet hazy bit of shoegaze that focuses on the confusing and often contradictory feelings that love and heartache inspire — in particular, longing, desperation, uncertainty, acceptance and denial.

Lost Horizons’ Simon Raymonde, along with Penelope Isles’ Lilly Wolter teamed up on slow-burning and gorgeous standalone single “Florida.” Centered around atmospheric synths, shimmering pedal steel, sinuous bass lines and Wolter’s ethereal cooing, “Florida” is a dreamy and introspective song featuring a narrator, who looks at herself and a romantic relationship with a very adult, unvarnished honesty.

Directed by Jack and Lily Wolter, the video for “Florida” further establishes the duo’s reputation for doing as much as possible in a DIY fashion: Featuring a mix of hand-made illustrations and animation, the video follows Lily Wolter in a paper mâché air balloon on a journey through weird and fantastical landscapes and views.

“Like most videos my brother Jack and I make, this one was most certainly trial and error,” Lily Wolter explains. “A lot of the time we find ourselves surrounded in a jungle of paints, flowers, glitter, string, lava lamps and makeshift green screens and say, ‘what have we gotten ourselves into?’ Despite the hours of drawings and the former attempts to make something that suited the trance-like, flowing, softness of the song, we got there in the end! The lyrics are about a time I spent on tour in America a few years back. We wanted to show an abstract journey overlooking all sorts of weird and wonderful views. I’ve always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon, but I reckon it would be pretty damn scary. Big thanks to our mum for assisting with the paper-mâché balloons, to our dear friend Josh for the helping hand, and to Lost Horizons for wanting me to sing on their music, I’m once again, truly honoured.”

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay LutchamaK Returns with a Slickly Produced, Trance-Inducing Banger

There are few artists I’ve written about as much over the past 20+ months than the frenetically prolific French electronic music producer and JOVM mainstay LutchamaK. During that period, LutchamaK has managed to release an increasingly eclectic array of material — through EPs, albums and standalone singles — that have seen him bouncing around effortlessly between a number of different electronic music styles, genres and sub-genres. 

2021 may be among the most prolific and productive of the JOVM mainstay’s career. He started the year with Pi, a full-length album written and recorded in at three-month inspired burst that resulted in some of the darkest and heaviest material, he has written and released to date. Then he released the Quest EP, an effort, which featured experimental yet very melodic material. A few months after that, he released Rapscallion, which featured the Radioactivity-era Kraftwerk meets 90s techno-like “James Blitz 007.” Then there was Seven Hybrids, which featured the hypnotic club banger “Moonbright,” and the  Larry Levan house music-like “Davai.” 

After a mere month hiatus, the prolific, French JOVM mainstay released his latest full-length album ThresholdThreshold, as LutchamaK explains ” . . . an invitation to a post-techno trip with strong electro dub accents.” Last week, I wrote about “Irie Vibrations,” a track featuring tweeter and woofer rattling beats, shimmering, reverb-drenched synths and spacey vocal samples to create a song that meshes elements of Lee “Scratch” Perry-like dub with club friendly trance and house.

Threshold‘s latest single “Bitrate Scale” is a brooding yet hypnotic club banger centered around glistening synths, skittering, tweeter and woofer rattling beats, a vocal sample featuring Antonin Artaud and a relentless motorik-like groove, reminiscent of Tour de France era Kraftwerk. Much like its predecessor, “Bitrate Scale” continues a run of slickly produced yet crafted bangers.

New Video: Montreal’s Reno McCarthy Releases a Feverish Visual for Slickly Produced New Bop “For A Moment”

With the release of his full-length debut, 2019’s CounterglowMontreal-based singer/songwriter and pop artist Reno McCarthy quickly received attention for his remarkably self-assured songwriting. The Montreal-based artist also received praise for his debonair stage presence — and for having a backing band that plays a groove-heavy live set.

Following the loss of his father last year, McCarthy wound up writing and recording a moving and deeply moving EP, Angels Watching Us Down, which found the Montreal-based artist crafting much more stripped down and strikingly sensitive material. Since the release of the EP, McCarthy has been busy writing and recording a string of standalone singles including the introspective yet upbeat “Sundown.”

Released earlier this year, “Sundown” was centered around an expansive song structure featuring twinkling synths, glistening guitars, McCarthy’s plaintive vocals, a soaring hook and a brooding bridge; but more importantly, the song managed to reveal an artist with an unerring ability to craft songs drawing from lived-in, personal experience: Lyrically, the song touches upon infatuation and obsession in a way that should feel familiar to anyone who has been — or felt — unrequited love/lust/desire.

McCarthy’s latest single, the Jesse Mac Cormack co-produced “For A Moment” is a slick, hook-driven confection centered around thumping beats, glistening synth arpeggios, a driving yet funky bass line, dub-like tape echo and reverb paired with the Canadian artist’s plaintive achingly plaintive vocals. While sonically recalling JOVM mainstay St. Lucia and 80s synth pop, the song lyrically deals with hesitation and decisiveness, capturing the push and pull of a complicated and uncertain romantic relationship.

“For A Moment” will appear on the Canadian artist’s soon-to-be released album, RUN UP RIVER, slated for an October 29, 2021 release.

Edited by Reno McCarthy and Charles-David Dubé, the recently released video for “For a Moment” is a frenetic fever dream that follows McCarthy brooding in an abandoned, post apocalyptic-like downtown area, driving around in a gorgeous, classic Mustang and being chased, as well as McCarthy trying to maneuver through a wild party. In some way, the video suggests that all of this may very well be in his own head.

Oakland-based funk and soul outfit The Grease Traps can trace their origins back through about two decades and two prior projects: Back in 2000, Aaron Julin (keys) answered a classified ad by Kevin O’Dea (guitar), searching for players who were hip to the grooves laid down by Blue Note Records artists like Grant Green and Lou Donaldson. The duo quickly formed Groovement, an act that covered those artists, along with others jazz-funk staples.

When their sax player and frontman moved, Julin and O’Dea switched gears and formed Brown Baggin’, an act that got into the harder hitting funk of The JBs, The Meters, Kool & The Gang, Mickey & the Soul Generation and a lengthy list of others. They increasingly became influenced by the rare funk compilations released by Keb Darge, Gerald Jazzman Short and labels like Harmless, Ubiquity, Soul Jazz and Now-Again, as well as contemporary outfits like Breakestra, The Whitefield Brothers and the Daptone and Soul Fire crews.

As the story goes, in 2005 while still with Brown Baggin,’ Julin and O’Dea began to get fed up juggling the schedules of seven band members, who each had their own varying professional and personal obligations. Julin and O’Dea put out a classified ad seeking a bassist and drummer to jam with as a quartet. The first two musicians, who answered the ad and showed up were Goopy Rossi (bass) and Dave Brick (drums). It was clear from those early jam sessions, that the quartet had a great musical and creative chemistry.

Originally intended as a fun side project, The Grease Traps quickly became a priority as Brown Baggin broke up. Performing as an instrumental quartet four a handful of years, the band expanded their lineup with the addition of a horn section and lead vocalist The Gata. Over the years, the band has shared stages with the likes of Shuggie Otis, Robert Walter, Durand Jones and The Indications, Monophonics, Neal Francis and Jungle Fire.

The band’s long-anticipated full-length debut Solid Ground is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Italian purveyors of funk and soul, Record Kicks. Six years in the making, Solid Ground was recorded between Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan‘s San Francisco-based Transistor Sound by Finnigan and Ian McDonald and Oakland-based Fifty Filth Studio by Orgone‘s Sergio Rios, live and straight to eight-track tape on a Tascam 388 to recreate that old-school analog sound. The album’s material features guest spots from the Monophonics’ horn section, backing vocals by Bay Area-based vocalists Sally Green and Bryan Dyer, as well as strings organized by Kansas City-based violist Alyssa Bell.

The album’s material features a mix of covers and originals. The originals draw from the Oakland-based soul outfit’s various influences including gritty funk, fuzzy psych soul, lowrider soul and funk. Lyrically and thematically, the album’s material sees The Gata openly discussing the pressing issues of our moment: racism, finding hope in a world that seems pitted against you and so on. The albums’ covers manage to capture the energy of the band’s live set.

Album single ” Birds of Paradise” is a strutting bit of Muscle Shoals, The Meters and The JB’s funk centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes, a chugging bass line, old school breakbeat-like drumming, wah wah pedaled guitar, a big horn line, and an enormous hook paired with The Gata’s soulful crooning, yelps and howls. Fittingly, the song focuses on affairs of the heart: the song’s narrator brags, struts and attempts to do anything and everything he could to prove that he’s the man for the woman he desires.


 

 

New Audio: Permanent Records and RidingEasy Records Release a Bluesy Ripper off Forthcoming “Brown Acid: The Thirteenth Trip” Compilation

Throughout the course of this site’s 11-plus year history,  Permanent Records’ and RidingEasy Records‘ ongoing collaborative proto-metal and pre-stoner rock compilation series from the 1960s and 1970s, Brown Acid have been regularly featured. Now, as you may recall, each individual edition of the ongoing series is centered around RidingEasy Records founder Daniel Hal’s and Permanent Records co-owner Lance Barresi’s extensive, painstaking research and curation with Hall and Barresi spending a great deal of time attempting to track down the artists behind these great yet sadly under-appreciated tunes. 

Frequently those bands haven’t written, played or recorded together in 30 or 40 years — but Barresi and Hall encourage the bands to take part in the compilation process. “All of (these songs) could’ve been hits given the right circumstances. But for one reason or another most of these songs fell flat and were forgotten,” Lance Barresi explains in press notes. “However, time has been kind in my opinion and I think these songs are as good now or better than they ever were.”

Having the original artists participate as much as humanly possible in the compilation process can give the artists and their songs a real second chance at the attention they had the misfortune of missing all of those years ago. And of course, for critics, audiophiles and fans alike, the material on the Brown Acid series will do three very important things: 

  • introduce listeners to some great, sadly under-appreciated tunes that fucking rip or will melt your face right off 
  • fill in the gaps of what was going on in and around regional, national and even international underground scenes during the 60s and 70s
  • push the boundaries of proto-metal, proto-stoner rock, metal and stoner rock in new directions. 

The 13th edition of the Brown Acid series, Brown Acid: The Thirteenth Trip is fittingly slated for an October 31, 2021 release. Continuing in the path of its 12 predecessors, The Thirteenth Trip sees Barresi and Hall somehow digging even deeper into a very deep well of material recorded throughout the 60s and 70s — and discovering tunes still rip and rip hard.

In the lead up to the album’s release later this month, I’ve written about two of its released singles:

  • Run Run,” a groovy arena rock friendly ripper, by Montreal-based outfit Max.
  • Buzzin,” a party starting-anthem centered around a funky blues riff, rollicking rhythmic changes and a chugging bass line that was technically credited as being by Gary Del Vecchio with Max — not the Montreal band.

Ralph Williams and the Wright Brothers’ “Never Again” appeared on the tenth edition of Brown Acid. The group returns to the series with “Dark Street,” the A-side of their 1972 Hour Glass Records 45. Centered around a chugging riff and thunderous drumming, the song hints at Van Halen‘s famous cover of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” about a decade before they actually did the cover. Sadly, the band soon disappeared after.