New Video: Introducing the Dance Floor Friendly Sounds and Trippy Visuals of FORCES

FORCES is a new synth-based act, comprised of romantic couple and collaborative duo Jess and Dave. And although the project is a relatively new project, it’s centered around the 20+ year relationship and collaboration between its creative masterminds, who may be best known in their native Canada for their previous, long-term band Golden Dogs. Throughout The Golden Dogs’ run, Jess and Dave wound up collaborating with a virtual who’s who  of contemporary, Canadian indie rock, including the then-future members of Zeus, Wax Atlantic and Brave Shores, along with Taylor Knox and Stew Heyduk — while opening for the Sloan, Feist, Bloc Party, The Libertines, Kaiser Chiefs, Thurston Moore and Roky Erickson. 

In 2017, Jess and Dave went into the studio and began working on what they thought would be the next Golden Dogs album, although deep down they both admit that they kind of knew that it wasn’t. What they started working on was a decided and radical sonic departure from the driving rock sound they’ve long specialized in and were known for. In fact, they were increasingly drawn to the a number of different production styles — in particular, The Dead Pets, Liquid Liquid, New Order, The Cure’s Close to Me and Timbaland. As a result, the duo, which splits its time between Montreal and Toronto began to experiment with synths, beatmaking and funky rhythms. 

Along with that Jess increasingly stepped up as a frontperson, taking on a sultry vocal approach paired with layered, punchy female harmonies. Simultaneously, Dave began to primarily focus on guitar textures and melodies. And of course, the material was primarily based around metronomic loops and electronics instead of the drums-bass-guitar they had long relied on. The end result is their debut single as FORCES, “Stay On Me.” The self-recorded, Graham Walsh and Jose Contreras-mixed track is centered around a funky Nile Rodgers-inspired guitar riff, layers of arpeggiated synths, thumping beats, a propulsive club-rocking groove and Jess’ sultry vocals that builds up to a cathartic sense of release. 

“The key lyric in ‘Stay On Me’ — ‘everything we all focus on, we become’ — reminds us to turn away from mind games in favor of focusing on what matters most in our lives, whatever that means,” the duo says about their glittering, disco bop.

Featuring FORCES’ Jess in over-sized movie star-like sunglasses, the recently released video is full of vibrant, neon-like colors and glitchy footage timed to the propulsive beats of the song to create a visual that’s trippy and mesmerizing. Look for more from the Canadian duo as they plan to release a new single every few months with an accompanying video. 

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Over the past 18 months or so, the rapidly rising, enigmatic and mysterious Brighton, UK-based indie artist Nancy has received attention across the blogosphere from the likes of StereogumNME and DIY and airplay on BBC Radio 1 from personalities like Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and Jack Saunders and BBC Radio 6 personalities Iggy Pop, Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq.

Earlier this year, the rising Brighton-based artist re-emerged with the release of attention-grabbing single “When I’m With You (I Feel Love).” Building upon a growing profile in his native England, Nancy’s latest single is a the scuzzy power chord stomper “Clic Clac.” Clocking in at 107 seconds and centered around distorted power chords, rapid fire drumming, distorted vocals and a mosh pit friendly hook, the track finds Nancy seemingly drawing from ’77 era punk and glam rock simultaneously. “‘Clic Clac’ is an ode to anxiety, it is much quicker and shorter than anything I’ve written, it’s a head-rush,” the rising Brighton-based artist explains in press notes. “The soundtrack to my ‘quarter life crisis’…or maybe I should just call it a crisis at this point. You’re going to need to strap seatbelts to your ears, cause I’m about to take them for the ride of their life”.

 

 

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Hannah Williams and The Affirmations Release a Slow-Burning Power Ballad

I’ve written a bit about Bristol, UK-based singer/songwriter and soul artist Hannah Williams over the past couple of years. The Bristol-based JOVM mainstay can trace some of the originals of her musical career to growing up in an extremely musical household — her father was a musician and minister. And as you may recall, Williams learned how to read music before she could read words — and as as the story goes, when she was a young girl, her mother introduced her to Motown and Bill Withers, which wound up transforming her life. Interestingly, Williams’ mother quickly recognized that a young Williams had talent and encouraged her to join the church choir. 

With the release of “Work It Out,” off 2012’s full-length debut Hill of Feathers, Williams and her first backing band The Tastemakers, quickly emerged into national and international soul circles with the track receiving attention across the blogosphere and airplay on radio stations across the States, Australia and the European Union. Interestingly, at one point “Work It Out” was one of the most downloaded songs in Greece and the video has amassed over 1.5 million streams on YouTube. Building upon a growing profile, Williams played sets across the European festival circuit, including stops at Shambala Festival, Valley Fest, Wilderness Festival, Cambridge Jazz Festival and Larmer Tree Festival, as well as some of Europe’s most renowned clubs, including Hamburg, Germany‘s Mojo; Manchester, UK’s Band on the Wall; Camden, UK‘s Jazz Cafe and others with the likes of JOVM mainstays  Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, and Charles Bradley, as well as Cat Power.

Williams’ 2016 Michael Cotto-produced sophomore album Late Nights and Heartbreak was the first recorded output with her current backing band, the Bristol-based soul outfit, The Affirmations, currently comprised of James Graham (organ, piano and Wurlitzer), Adam Holgate (guitar), Adam Newton (bass), Jai Widdowson-Jones (drums), Nicholas Malcolm (trumper), Liam Treasure (trombone), Victoria Klewin (baritone saxophone) and Hannah Nicholson (backing vocals). The album continued to build upon Williams’ growing profile in soul music circles, thanks in part to the Dusty Springfield-like torch song “Tame in the Water” and the psychedelic soul-tinged edition of “Dazed and Confused.” In fact, the album was one of my personal favorites that year.  

Over the course of the following year, Hannah Williams and The Affirmations received even greater international attention, after smash hit-making producer  NO I.D. sampled the heart aching hook of  “Late Nights and Heartbreak” for Jay-Z‘s “4:44.” “It was an incredible catalyst,” Williams says in press notes, “as a change in our collective career, and getting a global audience. Suddenly, there were millions of predominantly American hip-hop fans listening to my voice, going ‘Is this from the ’60s? Is she dead?’” Unsurprisingly, as a  result of the attention they received from “4:44,” the rising soul act spent the better part of 2018 on the most extensive touring schedule of their collective careers, including stops at SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, Brooklyn Bowl, the Toronto Jazz Festival and across the European Union, where they expanded their fanbase.

With growing attention on them, the members of the rising soul act were determined to make the record of their lives. And in order to do so, they recruited Shawn Lee, an acclaimed funk/soul artist and producer to work on Williams’ third album 50 Foot Woman. Slated for release this Friday through Record Kicks Records, the album reportedly finds the members of the band accurately capturing the visceral power of their live show on wax — all while further establishing a sound that equally draws from classic soul, psych soul and funk, with a subtly modern take.

“50 Foot Woman,” the album’s title track and first single was a strutting and explosive stomp that sonically was one part Ike and Tina Turner-era classic soul and one part fed-up tell-off to haters, naysayers and others and one part Daptone Records-like soul — with a fed-up narrator, who has finally had enough with the bullshit and games. But at its core, the song is a contemporary feminist anthem of a strong woman being done wrong and who figures out a way to survive and then thrive. The album’s second and latest single “I Feel It” is a primarily a slow-burning ballad, centered around Williams’ expressive powerhouse vocals, twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, a horn section that can compete with the Dap Kings and a production that’s effortlessly old-timey without resorting to soulless mimicry or homage. But more important, Williams is superstar in the making — she can pair soulful vocals with gut-punching earnestness in a way that’s rare in this age.

Directed and filmed by BD, the recently released video for “I Feel It” is an incredibly stylized and cinematic shot visual featuring the band performing the song in a 60s-like studio space, complete with some brooding close ups of the members of the band. 

New Audio: Internationally Acclaimed Omar Souleyman Returns with a Swooning, Club Banger

Omar Souleyman is a Tell Tamer, Syria-born, Istanbul, Turkey-based Sunni Arab vocalist, whose music career started in earnest back in 1994 when he was a part-time wedding singer. His overall sound has largely been influenced by  the incredibly diverse milieu of Northeastern Syria — and as a result, Souleyman and a rotating cast of musicians and producers he has worked with since his early days have found a way to draw from and mesh the sounds and themes of the Kurdish, the Ashuris, the Turks, the Iraqis and the larger Arabic world in a way that’s familiar and novel. In fact, Souleyman is considered the region’s pioneer of dance music/wedding music. 

Amazingly Souleyman has managed to be wildly prolific, releasing well over 500 stdio and live albums with about 80% of those releases made at weddings. Those recordings are first presented to the newlywed couple and then copied and sold at local kiosks. Over the better part of the last decade, Souleyman has released four compilations 2006’s Highway to Hassake, 2009’s Dabke 2020, 2010’s Jazeera Nights, 2011’s Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts and 2011’s Leh Jani and three full-length albums to the West, 2013’s incredible Wenu Wenu, 2015’s Bahdeni Nami and 2017’s To Syria, with Love –and all of those efforts have brought the sounds and grooves of the Middle East to the West, while expanding the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist’s profile internationally. Adding to a rapidly rising international profile, Souleyman has played sets at some of the world’s biggest festivals, including Paredes de Coura, a Caribou co-curated ATP Festival, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas, Bonnaroo, Roskilde Festival, Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival, Pukkelpop Festival, Electric Picnic,  Treefort Music Festival — and oddly enough, one of the strangest House of Vans bills I’ve ever seen, in which he opened for Future Islands. And before I forget, he’s also collaborated with Bjork, contributing vocals for three remixes, which appear on an Biophilia.

Dericing its title for the Arabic word “how” or more literally “which color,” Shlon, which is slated for a November 22, 2019 release through Mad Decent/Because Music is the first batch of new material from Souleyman in a couple of years. The forthcoming album features double keyboard work from Hasan Alo, a fellow native of the Hasaka region of Northeastern Syria, who has recently been active in Dubai’s vibrant nightlife scene, a well as saz work from Azad Salih, a fellow Syrian, who currently resides in Mardin, Turkey. The album also finds the Tell Tamer-born, Istanbul-based vocalist continuing his longtime collaboration with Syrian-born, Turkish-based lyricst Moussa Al Mardood, who the wrote most of the album’s lyrics spontaneously during the recording sessions. 

Unsurprisingly, his fourth album is vintage Omar Souleyman — 6 songs which mesh the dabke and baladi music of music beloved by the Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, the Kurdish and Iraqis with thumping, synth-led techno — but at its core, the material is comprised of swooning tales of devotion, adoration and love. “Layle,” Shlon’s propulsive, club banging first single is centered around Alo’s dexterous and arpeggiated synth work, layers of tweeter and woofer rocking polyrhythmic percussion and Souleyman’s imitable vocals. And while the track instantly reminds me of the sounds of my home borough — particularly Astoria and Jackson Heights — the song is centered around some gorgeous poetry,. describing a woman’s lips as sweet as the dates of Hillah, making the song a slick synthesis of the classic and the modern. 

Johanna Cranitch is an Australian-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer and the creative mastermind behind the electro pop project White Prism. Cranitch grew up in a deeply musical home, where she was immersed in music for most, if not all of her life. Her father was a priest-in-training, who used to sing Gregorian chants around the house — and as the story goes, when Cranitch was a small child, her Hungarian-born father, a jazz pianist. gave her his blessing by openly declaring that “this one will be musical.”

Her parents encouraged her to go to the Kodaly School of Music, where she was classically trained as a vocalist and as a musician. When she was nine, Cranitch performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Opera Australia Children’s Chorus. But like most young people, she had a love of pop music – especially Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, New Order, and others.  After graduating from high school, Cranitch went on to attend the Australian Institute of Music, where she studied jazz vocals and graduating with honors.

After a stint performing in her native Australia, Cranitch relocated to New York, where she cut her teeth as an assistant recording engineer, writing and recording several hundred demos before joining The Cranberries and The CardigansNina Persson as a touring background vocalist and keyboardist. Many of those demos that she wrote and recorded during her stint as a recording engineer, wound up appearing the debut effort of her first solo recording project, Johanna and the Dusty Floor. While as a member of The Cranberries’ touring band, Cranitch spent a lot of her off-time in Iceland, which helped influenced her latest project White Prism, a project that she saw as much-needed reboot.

Several years have passed since I’ve personally written about Cranitch and as it turns out, the Aussie-born singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer relocated to Los Angeles. where she’s been primarily been working as a producer. Recently, she finally has had the time to release the music she has been working on over the past couple of years — material that continues to be heavily influenced by the aforementioned Kate Bush, Phil Collins, Cocteau Twins and Joni Mitchell among others. And while being e decidedly synth-based, her work is centered around lyrics that frequently tell stories of love and loss, triumph and failure. 

“Good Man,” is the first new batch of White Prism material in several years. Centered around a sleek and modern production featuring shimmering and arpeggiated bursts of synth, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, martial-styled drumming, Cranitch’s plaintive vocals and an infectious hook, the song manages to be carefully crafted yet rooted in the sort of vulnerability and earnestness  that comes from lived-in experience. Interestingly, “Good Man” is the first single Cranitch every really produced — and came about as a necessity: she didn’t have the budget to hire a producer, so she set about learning how to record and make sounds on her own computer. She then enlisted the assistance of producer and composer Matt Wigton to bring the material home.

“’Good Man’is about fighting for love, for what you believe in and ultimately being on the right side of history,” the Aussie-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer explains in press notes. “I wrote ‘Good Man’ after a difficult period with my then-husband. I was reflecting on our differences and right when I was writing the lyrics, the news came on that Trump had started to attack the health care bill in the courts effectively taking away transgender rights to the health care act. It felt like a very ominous sign of things to come. We were all recovering from the election still and this felt like such an assault on freedom in America.” 

New Audio: Electronic Music Pioneer Patrick Cowley’s Posthumously Released, Early Experimental and Psychedelic-Tinged Electronica

Born in Buffalo, NY, the highly influential and forward-thinking electronic music producer and artist Patrick Cowley relocated to San Francisco in 1971 to study electronic music at the City College of San Francisco. By the late 70s, Cowley’s synthesizer and production techniques landed him a gig writing and producing songs for legendary, gender-bending disco superstar Sylvester, including the sultry and propulsive, smash hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” 

Around the same time, Cowley managed to create his own brand of party music, known as Hi-NRG, which was also dubbed “The San Francisco Sound” and by 1981, he had released a string of 12″ singles as a solo artist, including “Menergy” and “Megatron Man.” Interestingly, 1981 was an incredibly busy year for the legendary electronic music producer and artist: he co-founded Megatone Records, which released his debut album Megatron Man. 

During that same year, Cowley as hospitalized and diagnosed with an unknown illness. which would later become known as AIDS. Recovering for a brief spell he went on to produce Sylvester’s smash hit “Do You Want to Funk” and Paul Parker’s “Right on Target,” as well as his sophomore album Mind Warp. Tragically. Cowley died two weeks after his 32nd birthday from an AIDS-related illness.  Since his death, Patrick Cowley has become one of electronic music’s most influential and forward-thinking artists and producers.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his previously released work has seen posthumous re-issues, including a re-issue of Mind Warp a few years ago. 

With growing attention on the late electronic music pioneer’s work, a collection of previously unreleased material written between 1973-1980 was recently discovered. Dubbed Mechanical Fantasy Box, the 13 previous unreleased songs will be released in tandem with Cowley’s homoerotic journal of the same name, and the compilation is a collection of Cowley’s work from the years preceding his meteoric rise as a pioneer of Hi-NRG dance music. Interestingly, these songs were written and recorded  before drum machines and programmable, polyphonic digital synthesis with the material being highly experimental. Sonically, the material flows from funk to kraut to psychedelic, ambient electronics inspired by Tomita and Kraftwerk. 

Some songs were mixed from 4-track stems by Joe Tarantino and all of the compilation’s 13 songs have been remastered by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. The vinyl edition comes housed in a black and white gatefold jacket Gwenaël Rattke featuring a photograph by Susan Middleton, liner notes by bandmate Maurice Tani and an 8.5×11 insert with notes. But more important, proceeds from the compilation will be donated to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has been committed to ending the pandemic and human suffering caused by HIV sine 1982. 

Clocking in at just a smidge under 11:30, Mechanical Fantasy Box’s first single “Lumberjacks in Heat” manages to be a trippy synthesis of John Carpenter soundtracks krautrock-inspired prog rock and psychedelia as the composition is centered by layers of shimmering and fluttering bursts of synths and some propulsive and forceful drumming.   Interestingly, much like Kraftwerk’s legendary and influential work, this previously unreleased single manages to simultaneously be of its time and remarkably contemporary — as though it could have been part of the retro-futuristic wave.