Tag: Digable Planets

New Video: Knife Knights Release Hazy and Surreal Visuals for “Low Key”

Throughout the bulk of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about Ishmael Butler, , the founder of the critically applauded and groundbreaking hip-hop acts Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces. Now, as you may recall 10 years ago, Butler was preparing to publicly emerge from several years near-complete creative silence. In the summer of 2009. Butler quietly unveiled Shabazz Palaces with a pair of self-released EPs that quickly established the project’s unique sound and aesthetic — Butler’s hyper-literate verses full of complex inner and out rhyme scheme paired with psychedelic sonic textures and refracted rhythms. Initially, confidentiality was essential as Butler desperately wanted Shabazz Palaces to stand on its own strength and not on his long-held reputation, so he adopted a pseudonym for himself.

Interestingly, as Shabazz Palaces’ profile and network expanded, Butler recognized that he needed new monikers for his various creative pursuits and collaborations. Knife Knights, was the name that he devised for his work with the then-Seattle based engineer, producer, songwriter and film composer Erik Blood, who has also been a vital and important collaborator in the Shabazz Palaces web. Blood and Butler can trace their collaboration and their friendship back to when they were introduced to each other at a Spiritualized show in 2003 through a mutual friend, whom Butler was about to record with. As the story goes, Blood was a diehard and obsessive fan of Digital Planets, and naturally as all obsessive fans would likely do, he passed along a bootleg copy Blowout Comb for the mutual friend to have signed — and Butler dutifully provided.

Over the course of the next few years, they’d run into one another by chance and sometimes they’d make small talk about possibly working together. When Butler finally sent Blood a few songs to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. Around the same time, Butler, who grew up as an  ardent and passionate hip-hop student began listening to and absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes  while Blood, an ardent hip-hop fan had always been an inclusive and obsessive music listener; in fact, on every Shabazz Palaces album, Butler and Blood have specifically focused on and delighted at that artistic intersection,  pushing hip-hip into new, psychedelic territories. “He [Blood] takes my ideas and clarifies and pronounces them, helps me realize them,” explains Butler in press notes. “He helps me get to the essence.”

After a decade of collaboration together and the development of a very rich and dear friendships, Butler and Blood have written and recorded a proper full-length together as Knife Knights — 1 Time Mirage, an album that finds the duo and a cast of collaborators and friends creating and weaving a unique sound that meshes soul, shoegaze, hip-hop, bass, noise and chaos with the album representing a free space for unfettered and radical exploration. recorded in three separate sessions, interrupted by Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets tour schedules and Blood’s recording projects. The album’s latest single “Low Key” is centered around a hazy and and hallucinogenic production featuring tribal house-inspired beats and shimmering beats, over which Butler delivers his lyrics like a shamanic incantation. 

Directed by London-based enigmatic luminary Dean Blunt, the recently released video for “Low Key” is equal parts surreal, ridiculous and impenetrable, evoking a dream-like logic within itself, while being hazy and lysergic. 

Advertisements

Live Footage: Knife Knights on KEXP

If you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this site you’ve been made familiar with Ishmael Butler, the founder of the critically applauded and groundbreaking hip-hop acts Digable Planets and Shabazz Palaces. A decade ago Butler was preparing to emerge from several years of near-complete silence. In the summer of 2009, Butler unveiled Shabazz Palaces through a pair of self-released EPs that quickly established the project’s unique sound — complex and hyper literate verses paired with psychedelic sonic textures and refracted rhythms. And from the start confidentiality was essential: Butler wanted Shabazz Palaces to stand on its own strength, and not on his established reputation, so he adopted a pseudonym for himself.

As the project’s profile and network expanded, Butler recognized that he needed new monikers for his creative pursuits and collaborations; in fact, Knife Knights, was the name that he devised for his work with the then-Seattle based engineer, producer, songwriter and film composer Erik Blood, who’s also a vital and important collaborator in Butler’s Shabazz Palaces. Interestingly, Blood and Butler’s collaboration and friendship can trace its origins to when the duo were introduced at a Spiritualized show in 2003 through a mutual friend, whom Butler was about to record with. As the story goes, Blood was a diehard and obsessive fan of Digital Planets, and naturally he passed along a bootleg copy Blowout Comb for the mutual friend to have signed — and Butler dutifully provided.

Over the course of the next few years, they’d run into one another by chance and sometimes they’d make small talk about possibly working together. When Butler finally sent Blood a few sons to mix, their creative chemistry was obvious and immediate. Interestingly, Butler, who grew up a student of hip-hop began absorbing shoegaze and ambient soundscapes while Blood, an ardent hip-hop fan had always been an inclusive and obsessive music listener; in fact, on every Shabazz Palaces album, Butler and Blood have specifically focused on and delighted at that artistic intersection, constantly indoctrinating hip-hop in new sonic territories. “He [Blood] takes my ideas and clarifies and pronounces them, helps me realize them,” explains Butler in press notes. “He helps me get to the essence.”

After a decade of collaboration together and the development of a very rich and dear friendships, Butler and Blood have written and recorded a proper full-length together as Knife Knights — 1 Time Mirage, an album that finds the duo and a cast of collaborators and friends creating and weaving a unique sound that meshes soul, shoegaze, hip-hop, bass, noise and chaos wth the album representing a free space for unfettered and radical exploration. Interestingly, the album’s material was recorded in the three sessions, interrupted by Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets tour schedules and Blood’s recording projects.

Butler, Blood, and a cast of collaborators and friends were invited into Seattle’s KEXP for their live debut, where they performed material off their forthcoming album, slated for a September 14, 2018 release through Sub Pop Records. And while bearing a subtle similarity to their work together in Shabazz Palaces, Blood and Butler’s Knife Knights work manages to feel like a refinement of it while being altogether separate. Yes, they employ samplers and synths but there’s an organic and muscular heft through the use of bass and guitar. And as you’ll hear from the songs they performed during this live session are a bit of a subtle refinement of the duo’s acclaimed work with Shabazz Palaces  but while leaning closer to shoegaze — it’s lysergic but with a swaggering hip-hop vibe that can only be possible through this unique and thrillingly weird collaboration. 

Preview: SummerStage 2017

Back in 1986, the City Parks Foundation created SummerStage in the spirt of Central Park’s original purpose — to serve as a free, public resource to help culturally enrich the lives of New Yorkers through live concerts, dance performances, and other cultural events.  And the festival’s first few years revealed relatively humble beginnings as its first few years of live programming were at Central Park’s Naumberg Bandshell; however, with artists such as Sun Ra Arkestra and legendary South African vocal act Ladysmith Black Mambazo and an impressive list of others playing those first few years, Summerstage, SummerStage quickly developed a reputation for presenting one of the most diverse array of artists across a variety of cultures, genres and styles — and they’ve continued to do so throughout its 30 plus year history. Over the past handful of years, SummerStage’s organizers have expanded the festival beyond Manhattan with shows hosted in parks, bandshells and and makeshift stages across the city’s other five boroughs, and from covering the festival throughout most of the history of site, it’s a wonderful afternoon or evening with your friends and neighbors; plus, there’s nothing like catching acts that keep you in touch with your inner child.

2017’s SummerStage season will begin in earnest on June 3rd with the legendary and imitable Mavis Staples, a national fucking treasure if you ask me, with contemporary blues artist Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely Good Music to round out a night of soul, gospel and blues at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield. And the rest of the lineup for his year continues an incredible run of must-see acts. Some other highlights will include:

And of course, there are a handful of benefit shows presented by The Bowery Presents at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield to help support City Parks Foundation’s continuing efforts to present free arts programming to New Yorkers and that lineup is equally impressive.

SummerStage will also be expanding its family-friendly pre-show workshop offerings this year to include dance classes, beatboxing lessons and introductions to DJing and Latin percussion. These interactive workshops will take place prior to elect SummerStage shows throughout the summer and all ages are encouraged to come out to your local park to participate. This year, the pre-show workshops will being with a DJ lesson from Scratch DJ Academy and a beatboxing tutorial with beatboxer Exacto before Digable Planets’ Coffey Park show — and other workshops will include salsa dance lessons in St. Mary’s Park and a poetry class in Marcus Garvey Park.

For more information and schedules check out SummerStage here: http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage/

Now, if you’ve frequenting this site over the past four years or so, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring the Seattle, WA-based JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Comprised of Digable Planets‘ Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the son of Dumisani Maraire, the project continues Butler’s long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly different and for crafting material with pro-Black messages.

The duo of Butler and Maraire quietly released two albums in 2009 — their self-titled debut and Of Light, which caught the attention of renowned indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the act, and released 2011’s Black Up, an effort released to critical applause for its kaleidoscopic and hallucinogenic production paired with Butler’s witty and incredibly dexterous flow. While continuing to cement Butler’s and Mariare’s reputation for crafting incredibly weird, psychedelic hip hop, 2014’s Lese Majesty was a decided change in sonic direction with much of the material possessing an eerie cosmic glow with even heavier low end — intergalactic trap, perhaps? Along with the decided change of direction, the duo offered a bold challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists. As Butler told NPR during an interview about Lese Majesty, “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.”

Some time had passed since I had last written about Shabazz Palaces; after all, both Maraire and Butler had been busy with their own separate creative pursuits — in 2015 Maraire and a group of collaborators wrote and released material with his side project,  Chimurenga Renaissance and Butler has been on a reunion run with the members of Digable Planets, which has continued through this year with several stops in NYC. (Digable Planets played a free show at Greenpoint Brooklyn’s House of Vans earlier this month and they’ll be playing a SummerStage later this summer.)  Somehow, Butler and Maraire managed to set aside some time to write new material and record material for two albums —  Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star and Quarzarz vs. The Jealous Machines, which will see a simultaneous release on July 14, 2017 through Sub Pop Records.

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Shine A Light,” the first single off Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, and while continuing the duo’s long-running collaboration with soul outfit Thadillac, who contribute a lush, dusty, old-school soul-leaning arrangement featuring shimmering strings, a strutting bass line, warm psychedelic guitar blasts, shuffling drum beats, and a retro-futuristic-like hook consisting of distorted, vocoder-filtered vocals, the single thematically is part of a surreal yet politically-charged concept album that introduces the listener to and then tells the tale of Quazarz, a sentient being from far away, who’s sent to be an observer and musical emissary with a mission to explore and chronicle the things he sees and experiences,subtly echoing the  cult-classic film The Brother From Another Planet and Alexis De Tocqueville‘s Democracy in America; however, what our otherworldly emissary finds is a bizarre, cutthroat landscape of brutality, conformity, alternative facts, hypocrisy, greed, suffering, selfishness and death masquerading as patriotism and connectivity. And as result, Quazarz finds himself feeling increasingly horrified and out of place and within a world that is unfathomably hellish and unfair.

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines is for all intents and purposes, a spiritual and thematic twin of sorts. Produced by Butler and Sunny Levine and recorded at Seattle’s Protect and Exalt Labs: A Black Space and Dror Lord Studios in Marina Del Rey, CA and featuring guest spots from Chimuregna Renaissance’s Fly Guy Dai, Amir Yaghamai, John Carroll Kirby, Thaddillac, Morgan Henderson, The Shogun Shot, Laz, and Purple Tape Nate, the album continues with the tell of our otherworldly musical emissary Quarzarz and in his further explorations of modern life, he discovers a world in which humankind’s relationship with technology has become both co-dependent and strangely sensual, as it seduces people to be sedentary, thoughtless, uninspired to do anything to change their individual plight, let alone change the world, and having their creativity and life stolen from them. Along with a bunch of misfit cohorts, the protagonist leads a rising collective “hell no,” to the device and the guilds that proliferate them. The album’s first single “30 Clip Extension” was arguably one of the strangest songs that Butler and Maraire as the song featured a minimalist producing consisting wobbling and tumbling low end, stuttering drum programming, enormous beats and shimmering synths paired with Butler’s imitable flow alternating between surrealistic poetry and rhyming — while describing an arrogant, vain, ostentatious, drug addled rapper, who’s controlled by an unseen conspiracy of exterior and interior forces.

“Since C.A.Y.A.,” Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star‘s latest single continues on a similar vein as the preceding singles, in the sense that it’s trippy and odd as hell but with an elastic-like looseness that nods at the Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory — although just under the surface is a subtle sense of menace. Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner contributes wobbling hyper-futuristic bass lines to the sparsely minimalist production that allows Butler enough room to rhyme both about his narrator’s  legendary and surreal past and present, but in which he sees himself as a black person in a dangerous and weird world that fetishes and abhors him.  And they manage to do so while nodding at the weirdness of Beck and The Flaming Lips.

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past four years or so, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring the Seattle, WA-based JOVM mainstays Shabazz Palaces. Comprised of Digable Planets‘ Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire, the son of Dumisani Maraire, the project continues Butler’s long-held reputation for being uncompromisingly different and for crafting material with pro-Black messages.

Butler and Maraire quietly released two albums in 2009 — their self-titled debut and Of Light, which caught the attention of renowned indie label Sub Pop Records, who signed the band and released 2011’s Black Up, an effort released to critically applause across the blogosphere and major media outlets for its kaleidoscopic sound paired with Butler’s witty and incredibly dexterous flow. While continuing to cement Butler’s and Mariare’s reputation for crafting incredibly weird, psychedelic-tinged hip hop paired with Butler’s ridiculously dexterous flow,  2014’s Lese Majesty was a decided change in sonic direction with much of the material possessing an eerie cosmic glow with even heavier low end — intergalactic trap, perhaps? Along with the decided change of direction, was a bold challenge to contemporary hip-hop artists. As Butler told the folks at NPR during an interview about Lese Majesty, “This endeavor that I pursue, that we all pursue in Shabazz Palaces, make no mistake, this is an attack. We’re trying to show off and really stunt on all other rappers and let them know that this is our style, this is what we do and we’re ready to put it up against anybody else’s stuff.”

Up until recently, some time had passed since I had written about Shabazz Palaces. After all both Maraire and Butler had been busy with separate creative pursuits — in 2015, Maraire had written and released material with his side project, Chimurenga Renaissance and Butler spent last year on a reunion tour with the members of Digable Planets, a tour that has continued with some dates this year — including later this month at Brooklyn’s House of Vans. But interestingly enough, the duo of Butler and Maraire had also managed to be wildly prolific during that period writing and recording material for two albums  — Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star and Quarzarz vs. The Jealous Machines, which will see a simultaneous release on July 14, 2017 through Sub Pop Records. Now, as you may recall I wrote about “Shine A Light,” the first single off Quazarz: Born On A Gangster Star, and while continuing the duo’s long-running collaboration with soul outfit Thadillac, who contribute a lush, dusty, old-school soul-leaning arrangement featuring shimmering strings, a strutting bass line, warm psychedelic guitar blasts, shuffling drum beats, and a retro-futuristic-like hook consisting of distorted, vocoder-filtered vocals, the single thematically is part of a surreal yet politically-charged concept album that introduces the listener to and then tells the tale of Quazarz, a sentient being from far away, who’s sent to be an observer and musical emissary with a mission to explore and chronicle the things he sees and experiences,subtly echoing the  cult-classic film The Brother From Another Planet and Alexis De Tocqueville‘s Democracy in America; however, what our otherworldly emissary finds is a bizarre, cutthroat landscape of brutality, conformity, alternative facts, hypocrisy, greed, suffering, selfishness and death masquerading as patriotism and connectivity. And as result, Quazarz finds himself feeling increasingly horrified and out of place and within a world that is unfathomably hellish and unfair.

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines is for all intents and purposes, a spiritual and thematic twin of sorts. Produced by Butler and Sunny Levine and recorded at Seattle’s Protect and Exalt Labs: A Black Space and Dror Lord Studios in Marina Del Rey, CA and featuring guest spots from Chimuregna Renaissance’s Fly Guy Dai, Amir Yaghamai, John Carroll Kirby, Thaddillac, Morgan Henderson, The Shogun Shot, Laz, and Purple Tape Nate, the album continues with the tell of our otherworldly musical emissary Quarzarz and in his further explorations of modern life, he discovers a world in which humankind’s relationship with technology has become both co-dependent and strangely sensual, as it seduces people to be sedentary, thoughtless, uninspired to do anything to change their individual plight, let alone change the world, and having their creativity and life stolen from them. Along with a bunch of misfit cohorts, the protagonist lead a rising collective “hell no,” to the device and the guilds that proliferate them. The album’s first single “30 Clip Extension” is arguably the strangest song that Butler and Maraire have released as the song features a minimalist production featuring wobbling and tumbling low end, stuttering drum programming, enormous beats and shimmering synths paired with Butler flow alternating between surrealistic poetry and rhyming, describing an arrogant, vain, ostentatious, highly bored, drug-addled rapper, who’s controlled by an unseen conspiracy of exterior and interior forces — and while viciously poking fun at a contemporary hip-hop movement, the duo also manages to poke fun at our own greed and foolishness, reminding the listener that there are people actually fucking suffering, and that it’s time to put the devices down.