Tag: Detroit MI

Throwback: Black History Month: Death

Today is February 21, 2021. It’s the 21at day of Black History Month. And as I’ve mentioned throughout this series, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles — with the hopes that it’ll be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

etroit-based garage rock/punk rock act Death have one of the most interesting backstories I’ve come across in this site’s 10-plus year history, and it’s worth retelling: Formed by The Hackney Brothers — Bobby (bass, vocals), David (guitar) and Dannis (drums) — in 1971, the band began as an R&B and funk band. But the sibling trio’s lives were transformed after they caught The Who and Alice Cooper in concert. As the story goes, David, the youngest of the sibling trio pushed for a hard rock-like song unbeknownst to them managed to presage punk and post-punk by several years, Of course, a change in sonic direction necessitated a change in band name — to Death, As Bobby Hackney explained in 2010, David’s concept was spinning death from the negative to the positive. “It was a hard sell.”

In 1975, The Hackney Brothers recorded a handful of songs written by David and Bobby at Detroit’s United Sound Studios with engineer Jim Vitti. According to The Hackney Family, Clive Davis funded those recording sessions — but while doing so, repeatedly implored that the band change their name to something much more commercially palatable. The Hackneys refused. Davis pulled his financial support and as a result, the band was left with seven recorded songs instead of the planned for 12. By the following year, the band released an extremely limited release of 500 copies of the “Politicians In My Eyes”/”Keep On Knocking” single, followed by their full-length debut to little fanfare.

By 1977, The Hackneys ended Death and relocated to Burlington, VT where they released two albums of gospel rock as The 4 Movement in the late 70s and early 80s. In 1982, David returned to Detroit while Bobby and Dannis remained, eventually forming the reggae band Lambsbread. Sadly in 2000, David Hackney died of lung cancer. But reportedly before he died, David Hackney told his older siblings that although they were misunderstood and forgotten in their heyday, history would prove them and their work as Death as truly revolutionary and important — even if it was after his own death. In a serendipitous spin of fortune that seems too good to be true, several years after David’s death, Bobby’s sons stumbled upon the original Death masters hidden away in their parents’ attic. Bobby’s sons were so impressed and innpisred bay what they had heard, that they began covering Death’s material during their own sets — and that helped bring attention to their father’s and uncles’ work together.

Drag City Records, re-released Death’s original recordings in 2009, 35 years after its initial recording and release.The band’s sound which effortlessly meshed elements of reggae, garage rock, porto-punk and metal manages to presage the punk movement by three years — all while being an important musical bridge between Parliament Funkadelic and Bob Marley and Bad Brains, Fishbone, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz, TV on the Radio, Prince and countless others.

Sine the re-release of their demos and full-length debut, the current Death lineup — surviving brothers Bobby (bass, vocals) and Dannis (drums) with Bobbie Duncan (guitar) — have gone on a number of national tours, including making stops across the national festival circuit, winning over new fans with their groundbreaking sound, while further cementing their rightful place in music history.

Punk rock is Black y’all. And being Black is punk as fuck.

New Video: Los Angeles’ Sleep Still Releases an Enchanting Visual for Slow-burning “The Panoramic”

Los Angeles based dream pop act Sleep Still, led by Mariam McCarthy (vocals, keys) and Scotty Whelan (vocals, guitar) and featuring Kelly Ehrenberg (bass), Chris Kellogg (guitar) and Jeff Darcy (drums, production) can trace their origins to the two separate paths its leaders began before they met:

McCarthy led Detroit-based Silent Violet, an act that shared bills with Yo La Tengo and Bittersweet, contributed three songs to the Rosie O’Donnell-produced film America. received praise from NPR and landed a spot on the West LA Digital Mixtape.
Whelan was a member of alternative rock act Haste The Day, an act that toured nationally along some of the genre’s top artists while working a day job as a music therapist.

McCarthy and Whelan met in 2017, bonding over a mutual love of Explosions in the Sky, Slowdive, The Cure, The War on Drugs and other acts. The duo started writing and recording material under Sleep Still. “With the fast-paced nature of modern culture, we rarely have a moment to breathe, reflect or recharge,'” Sleep Still’s Mariam McCarthy explains. “With Scotty being a music therapist, I was fascinated by this concept. So rest became a central theme for us.”

McCarthy recruited the Detroit’s Kelly Ehrenberg to join while Whelan recruited Chris Kellogg and Jeff Darcy to complete the band’s lineup. Playing around Los Angeles, the members of Sleep Still quickly developed a natural chemistry.

The Los Angeles-based dream pop quintet’s latest single “The Panoramic” originally played over the end credits off Amazon Prime’s The Protestants, a film for which McCarthy was interviewed on-screen. “The Panoramic” is a slow-burning and cinematic track centered around a lush arrangement of shimmering synths, reverb washed guitars, dramatic drumming that sounds as though it were inspired by Slowdive, paired with McCarthy’s vocals, which are imbued with an aching vulnerability and strength. But at its core, the song is a contented sigh of a narrator, who has achieved a brief but necessary moment of stillness and connectedness.

“I took a short trip to Palm Springs [CA] and stayed at a hotel where the view was so panoramic, I felt swallowed by it,” McCarthy recalls. “I was holding my baby daughter on my hip, and I felt so at rest. All of my muscles relaxed. I wrote the song and brought it to Scotty. It’s about feeling honest and at ease. It’s also about understanding what we can handle and what we can’t handle, being okay with it, and knowing you need someone beside you in those moments.” McCarthy adds, “It’s ok to take time to drop everything. It’s ok to not need validation on social media. It’s ok to not feel like you have to accomplish some ambitious goal. You can take a minute to rest and be okay with whatever’s happening in the present.”

Directed by JWH, the recently released visual, features dancer and choreographer Xin Ying, who came up with enchanting and expressionistic moves to accompany the song. And much like the song, Ying’s movements are fluid, delicate, graceful and haunting.

Lyric Video: French Electro Pop Duo Ninety’s Story Returns with an Atmospheric, R&B Inspired Single

Tracing their origins back to when its members — Guillaume Adamo and Florian Deyz — met in grade school, the Nice, France-based indie pop duo Ninety’s Story have developed a warm, sophisticated and sensual music inspired by the French Riviera and the likes of Phoenix, Daft Punk and Air. The duo released their debut single “KIKUKYU” and their debut EP through Kitsuné Musique in 2017. Adding to a growing profile, the Nice-based duo have opened for Archive, Morcheeba, Pale Waves and Puggy among others.

Additionally, the duo wrote the music for Citroën C4 Aircross ad campaign that aired in China —  with the band representing the company at the Paris and Hangzhou Motor Shows. Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site, you may recall that I wrote about the rising French duo’s acoustic rendition of the breezy yet anthemic “APO.” The French electronic duo return with the sultry R&B-influenced “Home.” Centered around skittering trap and boom bap beats, atmospheric synths, expressive and bluesy bursts of guitar, fuzzy bass synth, plaintive vocals, a soaring hook and an enormous drop “Home” may remind some listeners of JOVM mainstays Beacon, as well as Montreal’s Seoul and Detroit-based JOVM mainstays Gosh Pith. “The song was composed, produced and recorded in Brussels during the quarantine period,” the rising French duo explain. “Everything was quiet outside and put us into a very inspiring [sic] mood, different than usual.”

Directed by Victor Rahman, the recently released, cinematically shot lyric video features the rising French duo rocking out to the song during a gorgeous purple-red sunset. “For the video, we drove across Belgium and just stop [sic] in a  spot were [sic] the sunset and the sea were beautiful. We just put the music [on] very loud and enjoyed the vibe in front of the camera,” the duo says. 

Live Footage: Royce da 5’9″ Performs “Thou Shall” and “Overcomer” on Vevo’s Ctrl

Born Ryan Daniel Montgomery, Royce da 5’9″ is a Detroit, MI-born and-based emcee, best known for his longtime association with Eminem, with whom he’s one half of duo, Bad Meets Evil, a critically applauded solo career, primarily collaborating with Carlos “6 July” Broady and DJ Premier, as well as ghostwriting for the likes of Diddy and Dr. Dre. He’s also a member of Slaughterhouse, an All-Star hip-hop act that also features Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz and Crooked I, and one half of PRhyme with the legendary (and aforementioned) DJ Premier.

As the story goes, Royce da 5’9″ signed his first deal with Tommy Boy Records, who offered him $1 million while Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment offered him $250,000 and unlimited beats, a decision that he described as one of his biggest regrets in a 2016 Complex interview. After Tommy Boy Records closed, the Detroit-based emcee signed a deal with Columbia and Game Recordings, with whom he began recording an album then titled Rock City, a title which referred to Detroit being the former (and best known) home of Motown Records. When the album wound up being heavily bootlegged, the Detroit-based emcee left that label for Koch to re-record the album, eventually releasing it 2002 as Rock City (Version 2.0). And although the album didn’t sell well, the DJ Premier-produced single “Boom” helped Royce achieve some underground recognition and lead to the two working more closely with PRhyme.

Their 2014 debut album together featured both artists going out of their comfort zones, and expanding upon their familiar sounds; in fact, Premier enlisted the compositional skills of Adrian Younge, whose work he sampled throughout the album’s production while Royce da 5’9″ traded bars with the likes of MF Doom and Little Brother‘s Phonte on the initial release, and with The Roots‘ Black Thought, Joey Bada$$ and Logic on the deluxe edition released the following year. 2014 also saw Royce da 5’9″ team up with Eminem on the posse cut “Detroit vs. Everybody.” 

Since then, the Detroit-based emcee released 2016’s solo album Layers, 2018’s Book of Ryan, which featured another ongoing collaboration with Eminem “Caterpillar,” that year’s second PRhyme album Phyme 2 and a guest spot of Eminem’s surprise release Kamikaze. 2020 continues a recent period of incredible prolificacy with the release of his eighth album, the 22 track The Allegory, which features guest spots from Westside Gunn, YBN Cordae, Benny the Butcher, and a boatload of others. 

Vevo’s Ctrl series highlights the work of hard-hitting, cutting-edge artists making an impact in today’s music scene with a focus on both emerging and established artists. The artists Vevo’s Ctrl series features are artists that the video platform believes demand attention, and the series is a way of shining a deserving spotlight on those artists. Recently, Vevo’s Ctrl invited the acclaimed Detroit-based emcee to their Brooklyn studios to perform two tracks off the album — “Overcomer” and “Thou Shall.” “Thou Shall” is centered around an eerie, RZA-like production: stuttering beats, a sinuous bass line and a looping string sample and eerie atmospherics while Royce da 5’9″ of bold and swaggering pronouncement of being doper than anyone else out there, full of pop cultural references with Kid Vishis slamming the door on anyone who may challenge them. “Overcomer” is centered around a looped and seemingly ancient soul sample and thumping beats while Royce da 5’9″ rhymes about blessings, the wisdom he’s earned, sociopolitical observations and more.

The performances that Vevo’s Ctrl captured are swaggering, passionate within an intimate yet minimalist setting.  

New Video: Watch Detroit’s ADULT. Smash a Room in Frustration in New Visual for Tense and Claustrophobic “Total Total Damage”

Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have developed a sprawling catalog of material that obscures and blurs defined genres and styles, while drawing from industrial electronic, house music, punk rock and visual art with releases through Mute Records, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man Records and a list of other labels throughout their two plus decades together. 

Slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Dais Records, the acclaimed Detroit-based electronic duo’s forthcoming album Perception is/as/of Deception was conceived, written and recorded in a temporary black hole they created: the duo painted their windowless basement entirely black, with the sole intention of sensory deprivation so that they could question their perceptions and witness the resulting ramifications. And as result, the album’s material may be the most introspective and punk-leaning they’ve written to date: the frustration and apprehension that has long been at the center of their work are heightened — but interestingly enough, the material was written with a much more head-on approach, making it forceful and strident.

Last month, I wrote about Perception is/as/of Deception‘s second single, the club banging “Have I Stated at the End.” Centered around a classic electronic body music production featuring industrial clang and clatter, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering synth arpeggios, an enormous hook and a repetitive mantra that questions the fragility and temporality of life “Total Total Damage,” the album’s third and latest single is a tense and claustrophobia-inducing track centered around industrial clang and clatter, layers of synth arpeggios and Kuperus’ howled vocals. Thematically, the song is a dystopian anthem that focuses on the slow and painful collapse of our society and systems and the growing uncertainty and uneasiness we all feel but while expressing the desperate cabin fever. 

While in social isolation, the members of ADULT. decided to build a room-like set indie their house for the Miller and Kuperus-filmed and edited visual for “Total Total Damage,” which features the duo losing their minds and destroying their room with a sledgehammer.  “We’re hoping that the video speaks to a lot of people, because everyone’s feeling cabin fever and wanting to get out, get back to ‘normal’ life,” the Detroit-based duo say in press notes. 

New Audio: Acclaimed Detroit Duo Adult. Releases an Anxious and Uneasy Club Banger

Over the course of their 23 year history together, Detroit-based multimedia and electronic music production and artist duo ADULT. — the husband and wife team of Adam Lee Miller and Nicola Kuperus — have developed a sprawling catalog of material that obscures and blurs defined genres and styles, while drawing from industrial electronic, house music, punk rock and visual art with releases through Mute Records, Ghostly International, Thrill Jockey, Third Man Records and a list of other labels. 

Slated for an April 10, 2020 release through Dais Records, the acclaimed Detroit-based electronic duo’s forthcoming album Perception is/as/of Deception was conceived, written and recorded in a temporary black hole they created: the duo painted their windowless basement entirely black, with the sole intention of sensory deprivation so that they could question their perceptions and witness the resulting ramifications. And as result, the album’s material may be the most introspective and punk-leaning they’ve written to date: the frustration and apprehension that has long been at the center of their work are heightened — but interestingly enough, the material was written with a much more head-on approach, making it forceful and strident. 

“Have I Started at the End,” Perception is/as/of Deception’s second and latest single is a club banger, centered around a classic electronic body music production featuring industrial clang and clatter, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, layers of shimmering synth arpeggios, an enormous hook and a repetitive mantra that questions the fragility and temporality  of life while expressing frustration and unease. Unsurprisingly, the song evokes the unease and uncertainty of our time. 

Over the past handful of months, I’ve written a bit about the emerging and mysterious French electronic music artist and producer LutchamaK. The French artist and producer grew up as an voracious music fan and listener, who listened to — and loved — an eclectic array of music, including hip-hop, dub, classical, rock, techno and others. LutchmaK’s work is deeply influenced by techno but with a devotion to lifelong eclecticism: his first two EPs, which he managed to create during lunch breaks at his job, featured material that seamlessly synthesized techno, house and EDM among others.

LutchamaK is gearing up to release his full-length debut Invisible Realm and the album’s first single “Tribute 2 Mad Mike” continues in a similar retro-futuristic vein as “Later On.” Centered around a minimalist-leaning production, the track features shimmering synth arpeggios, tweeter and woofer rocking beats, vocodered vocals and an enormous hook, “Tribute 2 Mad Mike” brings Computer World and Tour de France-era Kraftwerk, JOVM mainstay Boys Noize, ’90s house music and techno to mind. Simply put, it’s a thumping club banger.

“I wanted to make it as danceable as possible,” LutchamaK wrote to me in an email. “It’s a salute to Mad Mike, one of the founders of Detroit’s Underground Resistance. I tried to get a ’90s techno vibe, hoping the result won’t be seen as plagiarism.”

 

 

Detroit, MI-based hip-hop act Clear Soul Forces — E-Fav, L.A.Z., Noveliss, and producer/emcee Ilajide — can trace their origins to a 2009 all-nighter at a Detroit recording studio. As the story goes, the four emcees scraped the money to record material individually. Coincidentally, Royce Da 5’9″ was finishing work on his album Street Hop in the studio room next door, and naturally the four emcees leapt at the chance to spit a few rhymes and get pointers. The quartet then spent the next nine hours in an epic cypher in which they traded bars back and forth, while the impressed Detroit-based legend intently listened. When they finally finished, Royce Da 5’9″ suggested that the four emcees should team up and be a group.

Since their formation, the act has spent the better part of the past decade developing and maintaining a reputation for lyrically and sonically drawing from 70s spoken word artists and boom-bap era hip-hop as a group and with each emcee’s individual creative projects. Sadly, the act’s forthcoming fifth album ForcesWithUs, which is slated for a March 13, 2020 release through Fat Beats Records will be their final album together.

Interestingly, Forces With You‘s first single, the Ilajide-produced “Chip$” is centered around a glitchy yet soulful J. Dilla-esque production: hard-hitting, head-nodding and shuffling beats, shimmering melodic keys and a razor-sharp hook. And while the track is an upbeat and celebratory banger, there’s a palpable sense of purpose and passion throughout that suggests that this track — and in turn, the album — isn’t a victory lap, nor a farewell tour in which the members wave farewell and get flowers from adoring fans; but rather, it sees the act “not going quietly into the night,” as the old poem says. And although Clear Soul Forces are coming to an end, the track subtly signals a bright new future for its in individual members.