Tag: Antibalas

Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”

A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.

 

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstays Here Lies Man Returns with an Anthemic and Scuzzy Take on Afrobeat-Tinged Psych Rock

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Los Angeles, CA-based act Here Lies Man over the past year or so, and as you ay recall, the act, which was founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Mann, both of whom had stints in renowned Afrobeat collective Antibalas have received attention across the blogosphere for a sound that seamlessly bridges classic, Fela Kuti-era, funky Afrobeat grooves with classic, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era, power chord-fueled rock.

You Will Know Nothing, Here Lies Man’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort is salted for a June 15, 2018 release through RidingEasy Records, and the album reportedly finds the band refining and expanding upon their sound. As the band’s co-founder Marcos Garcia explains in press notes, “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” Additionally, the band members specifically focused on writing catchier, much more anthemic material and thematically conceptualized lyrics focusing on states of being and consciousness centered around somewhat slicker production that its predecessor. As Garcia continues in press notes, “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished.”

The members of the band note that the album’s material is also centered around musical theory with interludes between songs being 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the tempo of the proceeding song. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa,” Here Lies Man’s Geoff Mann explains in press notes. “We dove deep into the texture of the music, beyond the groove and the riff. Although something might sound like one instrument, there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphone album.”

Much like its predecessor, Garcia and Mann recorded You Will Know Nothing in their Los Angeles studio on a Tascam 388 8-track recorder. Congas were later recorded by percussionists Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus. Then Garcia traveled to New York to record the interludes with former Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod. The members of the band had to balance a busy touring schedule with mixing, which took most of the creative process of the album with the band having to find the proper sonic space of each particular layer of musical detail. Interestingly, the band split mixing duties with their debut’s engineer Jeremey Page mixing drum parts. 

“Taking the Blame,” You Will Know Nothing’s third and latest single continues in a similar vein as the preceding two singles “Fighting” and “That Much Closer” as its centered around some blistering and guitar pyrotechnics, propulsive drumming and percussion — and while it effortlessly meshes psych rock, stoner rock, Afrobeat and 70s era classic rock, the song is a dense and incredibly textured piece that requires multiple, careful listens making it ambitious yet anthemic and accessible headphone friendly rock. 

New Audio: Here Lies Man Returns with a Hallucinogenic New Single

Founded by Marcos Garcia and Geoff Mann, both of whom have been members of renowned Afrobeat act Antibalas, the Los Angeles, CA-based act Here Lies Man received attention here and elsewhere for a song that seamlessly bridges classic Fela Kuti-era funky Afrobeat grooves with classic, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin-era power chord-based rock.

Building upon a growing profile, the band’s highly-anticipated sophomore effort You Will Know Nothing is slated for a June 15, 2018 release through RidingEasy Records and the band’s sophomore effort finds the band refining and expanding upon their sound, and as the band’s co-founder Marcos Garcia explains in press notes “We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs. Tony Iommi’s (Black Sabbath) innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are talking the same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi, it was the blues, for us to comes directly from Africa.” Along with that, the album reportedly finds the band writing catchier, more anthemic material with a slicker, crisper production — while lyrically, the band focuses on a more conceptualized effort, focusing on states of being and consciousness.  As Garcia continues “We wanted to go deeper with the sonic experience. Even though it sounds more hi-fi than the first record, it was important that it didn’t sound too polished.” 

Interestingly, while continuing to focus on the gritty grooves and power chords that first captured the attention of the blogosphere but while being centered around some conceptual mathematics. “There are interludes between each song that are 2/3 to 3/4 of the tempo of the previous song,” Garcia says. “The reason it breaks down to 2 over 3 or 3 over 4 is that everything in the music rhythmically corresponds to a set of mathematical algorithms known as the clave. The clave is an ancient organizing rhythmic principle developed in Africa.” As the band’s Geoff Mann says “We dove deep into the texture of the music, beyond the groove and the riff. Although something might sound like one instrument, there are subtle layers shifting through. It’s definitely a headphone album.”

However, much like the previous album, the duo of Garcia and Mann recorded You Will Know Nothing a their Los Angeles studio on a Tascam 388 8-track recorder. Congas later recorded by percussionists Richard Panta and Reinaldo DeJesus. Then Garcia traveled to New York to record the interludes with former Antibalas keyboardist Victor Axelrod. Mixing took the most time of the entire process, as they had to found the proper sonic space of each layer of musical detail with their first album engineer Jermey Page mixing the drum parts and the band tackling the remainder while balancing a busy touring schedule. 

You Will Know Nothing’s latest single is the  hallucinogenic yet anthemic “Fighting” which is centered around a blistering guitar psych rock meets Black Sabbath riff, a shout with your beer aloft in the air hook, and a bridge led by propulsive African percussion — and much like the album’s overall theme, the song evokes the sensation of a lingering, half-remembered, anxious nightmare. 

Perhaps best known for lengthy stints in the backing bands for Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, as well as the horn sections of Antibalas and The Budos Band and for collaborating with Mark Ronson, the incredibly accomplished Chicago, IL-born, New York-based trumpeter, composer, producer and vocalist Billy Aukstik began writing his own soul-inspired compositions and founded the Brooklyn-based indie soul label Dala Records. And since the label’s founding, Aukstik has produced the debut efforts of a handful of locally-based soul and soul-leaning artists including singer/songwriter, John FatumThe Rad TradsMichael HarlenPatrick Sargent and Camellia Hartman, as well as his own solo work under the moniker Billy the Kid.

Slated for an April 2, 2018 release, Aukstik’s solo debut EP Stay Strong was recorded over the course of two years between two different studios — the first being an East Village-based DIY space, where Aukstik’s only recording gear was a Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, and the second being his new, self-built Bushwick, Brooklyn-based studio Hive Mind Recording. As a result, the listener may hear a subtle yet noticeable change in texture and fidelity throughout the EP; but as Aukstik explains in press notes, “the compositions and arrangements are crafted in a way that make the transitions from song to song smooth and welcoming.” Aukstik adds that the “EP could be considered a concept record by its evolution in sound from track one through nine, as well as the underlying story that can be pieced together as each song goes by.” Unsurprisingly, the EP features contributions from members of Charles Bradley’s Extraordinaires, Antibalas and The Dap Kings — and from the EP’s first single “Oh, Emily,” Aukstik will further cement his reputation for crafting sweeping soul indebted to the late 60s and early 70s; in fact, Aukstik has long employed the use of the Maestro Rhythm King, a 1970s drum machine made popular by Sly Stone and Shuggie Otis. But more important, “Oh, Emily” is a sweetly swooning, old-fashioned love song with an elegant horn line that to my ears makes a subtle nod to The Beatles‘ “Martha, My Dear” — although about an actual human.

 

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New Video: New JOVM Mainstay Miles Francis Returns with a Tender Meditation on Love

Last week, Miles Francis, released his highly anticipated debut EP, Swimmers and as you may know, the EP finds the 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who has had stints as a member of Superhuman Happiness, and Antibalas, fronting Afrobeat/Afropop collective EMEFE, as well as collaborating with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others, stepping out on his own. 

Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as an adult, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” featured a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming and an incredibly infectious hook; but despite that, the song’s narrator seemingly finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which gave the song a tense and conflicted vibe. The EP’s second official single “Complex” featured a slowly strutting groove, undulating synths, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and a slow-burning, unexpected sultry hook — and that single will further cement the young artist’s growing reputation for crafting danceable, left field pop. 

“Deserve Your Love” is an emotionally ambivalent track — and it someway that shouldn’t be surprising as Miles Francis explains that the song “deals with the complexities and risks in a new romance. Where there’s overconfidence, there’s deep insecurity; where there’s a sweet exterior, there’s evil brewing underneath — all within one person. It’s sung from the perspective of either a self-conscious, wounded lover or an unemotional jerk.” And if there’s one rare thing in our lives that’s certain it’s the fact that love is a strange thing that can bring out both the very best of us and the very worst of us — simultaneously and without warning or comprehension. Despite the song’s emotional ambivalence, it’s a swooning and intimate song, a confession of sorts of one’s sense of worth or lack thereof in which the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter sings the songs’ lyrics with a tender falsetto before the song’s soaring hook. Throughout, he’s accompanied by gently billowing guitar chords and metronomic-like drum programming, which gives the song it’s achingly lonely vibe; but oddly enough, the song is arguably one of the more Beatles-like songs he’s released to date. 

The recently released video continues Miles Francis’ ongiong collaboration with director and filmmaker Charles Billot and as the New York-based pop artist explains, the video’s protagonist is depicted as an unemotional jerk, who has a terrible night. The threesome he enters ends unexpectedly with a slap in the face. And as he’s driving back to his place, the video switches between shots of Miles and an older man (who turns out to be Miles’ father). Perhaps the older man is an older manifestation of the young protagonist, full of his own regrets and mistakes? In any case, Miles stops suddenly when he sees a body in the middle of the road, and he gets roughed up by a gang and has his car stolen. The video ends with the protagonist stopping for an ice cream cone, and returning home seemingly unfazed over everything that’s just happened to him. 

New Video: Miles Francis Returns with Hypnotic and Sultry Visuals for New Single “Complex”

Miles Francis is a 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who may be one of the city’s most best kept and accomplished secrets; he’s best known for stints as a member of JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness, and Antibalas , as the frontman for sadly defunct, local Afrobeat/Afropop collective EMEFE, and as a working musician, he has collaborated and performed with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others. 
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’d recall that the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter released his glitchy and jerky debut single “You’re a Star,” which featured  propulsive polyrhythm and, 8 bit Nintendo-like synths wrapped around cooed vocals. And while the track finds Miles’ sound still drawing from the Afropop and Afrobeat that has been at the core of most of his work. but while nodding at Fear of Music and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.

Building upon a growing profile as a solo artist, Miles Francis debut EP Swimmers is slated for a February 2, 2018 release. Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as adults, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” featured a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming and an incredibly infectious hook; but despite that, the song’s narrator seemingly finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which give step song a tense and conflicted vibe. 

The EP’s second and latest single “Complex” features a slowly strutting grove, gently undulating synths, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and a slow-burning, unexpected sultry hook — and much like his preceding singles, “Complex” will further cement the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter’s growing reputation for crafting thoughtful, out of left field pop. 

The recently released video for “Complex” continues Miles Francis’ ongoing collaboration with director  Charles Billot features the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter submerged underwater as plumes of colored smoke gently drift over him and the water, before he slowly pulls his head above water. Interestingly, the visuals manage to be dream-like while further emphasizing the song’s sultry and hypnotic quality. 

New Video: Miles Francis Returns with Slick Visuals for His Sinuous and Funky New Single

Miles Francis is a 26 year-old, New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter, who may be one of the city’s most best kept and accomplished secrets as best known as being a member of JOVM mainstays Superhuman Happiness, Antibalas and EMEFE, and as a working musician he has collaborated and performed with an impressive array of artists including Mark Ronson, Sharon Jones, Amber Mark, Angelique Kidjo, Allen Toussaint, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Arcade Fire’s Will Butler and others. 

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of the past year or so, you’d recall that the New York-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter released his debut single “You’re a Star,” which featured mischievously complex and propulsive polyrhythm, bursts of jerky and twinkling, 8 bit Nintendo-like synths around a breezily infectious hook wrapped around hushed vocals. But interestingly, his debut single is a bit of departure from his previously released work — while clearly drawing from Afropop and Afrobeat, the song also seemed to nod at Fear of Music and Remain in Light-era Talking Heads.

Building upon a growing profile as a solo artist, Miles Francis debut EP Swimmers is slated for a February 2, 2018 release. Written in the back of our vans and various hotel rooms while on the road and then recorded in his basement studio, the material reportedly captures the mood and vibe of someone in their early to mid 20s figuring out themselves, the extremely complicated and ambivalent world they’re confronting as adults, how they fit into that world, their purpose and the meaning of their own lives. As Miles Francis explains in press notes, “These five songs captured a raw time for me, when life seemed to be coming to a head. I made an effort not to touch or edit them too much once I had recorded them. I wanted to keep that intimacy in there,” he says. Interestingly, the EP’s first official single “Take It” manages to pair a swaggering and self-assured arrangement featuring arpeggiated synths, a sinuous, funky bass line, boom bap-like drumming with one of the most infectious hooks I’ve heard so far; but ironically, the song’s narrator finds himself fighting through crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, which creates a tense, deeply conflicted vibe to the song. 

Directed by Charles Billot and shot at Brooklyn venue C’Mon Everybody, the recently released video was choreographed by Blake Krapels and features the New York-based singer/songwriter along with dancer Lukasz Zieba, whose movements evoke the song’s tense and conflicted nature — while being stunningly beautiful to look at.