Tag: experimental pop

Live Session: Bells Atlas on Audiotree Live

Now, over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite a bit about the Oakland, CA-based futuristic soul act Bells Atlas. And as you may recall, the act which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys)  have received attention for a forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and lush sound that draws from indie rock, 90s R&B, Afro pop, Afro-futurism, jazz, electro pop and experimental pop. Adding to a rapidly growing profile, the members of the Oakland-based act has opened for the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and others, as well as Bermuda Triangle, the side project of Alabama Shakes‘ Brittany Howard. Along with that, they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Released earlier this year, the acclaimed futuristic soul act’s latest EP SALT AND SOAP is inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you’re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is then to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Interestingly, during the creative process for their latest EP, the band stumbled upon a new songwriting process that incorporated the use of sampling grainy phone memo recordings of Geneva Harrison drumming as the bedrock of each song of the EP — and in turn, their full-length album The Mystic, which is slated for a March 2019 release. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent within the larger whole.

A few weeks ago the members of Bells Atlas were invited to Audiotree Live to do a live session centered around the material of the SALT AND SOAP EP including “Downpour,” a paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lush and lysergic groove-driven track that recalled Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu; “Be Brave,” a sinuous and fluidic track centered around an incredibly dexterous and percolating bass line, driving percussion and rapidly morphing tone and time changes; the incredibly sultry “NCAT,” centered around shimmering and bubbling arpeggiated synths, stuttering drumming and a rolling bass, as well as two other tracks I haven’t written about — “Overshare” and “Find Where You Rise.” Throughout the live session, the material proves to be a perfect foil for Lawson-Ndu’s vocals, which manage to express a visceral vulnerability and human need, awe, strength and resiliency within a turn of a phrase.

Interestingly, during the session the band’s Lawson-Ndu speaks about her own deep, personal experience and love of sci-fi and fantasy and how they’ve influenced her to consider those genres through the experiences of being a woman of color.

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New Video: Balthazar Returns with a Breezy and Anthemic New Single

Over the past couple of years of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about Maarten Devoldere, a Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known for being the frontman of the internationally acclaimed acts Balthazar and JOVM mainstays Warhaus. Warhaus was a bit of a sonic departure from Devoldere’s work with Balthazar, as the project’s sound was atmospheric, jazz-inspired art rock the brought to mind The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, and Leonard Cohen — all while paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.

Unsurprisingly, Warhaus’ debut We Fucked a Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawerence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover — and the album’s material thematically focused on lust, desire and the inscrutably of random encounters with a deeply personal almost confessional nature. However, Warhaus’ self-titled, sophomore album found the material thematically moving away from sin, lust and decadence and towards sincere, honest, hard-fought and harder-won love, as much of the material was inspired by Devoldere’s romantic relationship with backing vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album were also a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by  Dr. John‘s The Night Tripper period — with the material leaning even more towards jazz while hinting at voodoo rhythms.

While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a remote retreat in  Kyrgyzstan, his Balthazar songwriting partner, co-frontman and longtime friend Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. During Balthazar’s hiatus, the band’s songwriting duo found the ability to indulge their whims and follow their creative muses in different directions — while receiving boy commercial and critical success to be liberating. But it also created an undeniable urge between the two to write together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for real other’s work. 

When the members of Balthazar reconvened, they did so without any particular plan, just a desire to better their previously released work and to further the band’s story. Interestingly, the duo of Devoldere and Deprez agreed that the material should have an overall less serious, less melancholy feel, leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound — while retaining the hook driven quality that they’ve long been known for. And the end result is the band’s forthcoming full-length Fever, which is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Play It Again Sam Records. Now, as you may recall, the album’s first single, album title track “Fever” was a slinky and sultry track, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a twinkling bridge and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone. Interestingly, the single finds the band crafting swaggering and infectious pop that’s accessible, carefree, and flirty. 

Fever’s second and latest single “Entertainment” continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its remarkably upbeat and downright playful but centered around a swaggering and strutting vibe and an anthemic hook — and while sonically the song at points nods at The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” as the Jinte Deprez-led song features Afro pop-like polyrhythmic percussion, a buoyant bass line and a strutting guitar line while Devoldere contributes equally playful harmonies. As the band explains “‘Entertainment’ was written at the end of the album recordings as one of the last songs, functioning as the loose, uplifting tune, celebrating a carefree take in the entertainment business. We wrote an ambitious album but tried not to take ourselves too seriously, sure it’s an outspoken singalong chorus, but there’s a rambling playfulness to it which we love.” And much like its predecessor, the new single is a razor sharp take on how much the entertainment business manages to influence every aspect of our lives — and how so many people get into the entertainment business to get laid. And much like its predecessor, the song reveals an incredibly smart band crafting a truly unique sound and aesthetic. 

Directed by Wouter Bouvijn, the recently released video captures the band jamming in their performance — and having a helluva time doing so further emphasizing the song’s breezy and playful nature. Interestingly, the video features the band’s newest member Tijs Delbeke, who joins as a replacement for Patricia Vanneste, who left the band. 

New Video: Acclaimed Belgian Act Balthazar Releases Cinematic Visuals for Their Breeziest and Most Accessible Single to Date

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a bit about Maarten Devoldere, a Belgian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, known for being the frontman of the internationally acclaimed acts Balthazar and JOVM mainstays Warhaus. And as you may recall, Warhaus isa bit of a sonic departure from Devoldere’s work with Balthazar, as it was atmospheric jazz-leaning art rock that managed to recall  The Church, Sting’s The Dream of the Blue Turtles and Nothing Like the Sun, Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and the poetry of William Blake — all while paired with Devoldere’s urbane, decadent, novelistic lyrics.

Unsurprisingly, Warhaus’ debut We Fucked a Flame Into Being derived its title from a line in DH Lawerence’s seminal, erotic novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover — and the album’s material thematically focused on lust, desire and the inscrutably of random encounters with a deeply personal almost confessional nature. Warhaus’ self-titled, sophomore album found the material moving away from sin, lust an decadence and towards sincere, honest, hard-fought and harder-won love, as much of the material was inspired by Devoldere’s romantic relationship with backing vocalist Sylvie Kreusch. Reportedly, the recording sessions for the self-titled album was a much more spontaneous affair, heavily influenced by  Dr. John‘s The Night Tripper period — with the material leaning even more towards jazz while hinting at voodoo rhythms. 

While Devoldere was busy with Warhaus, at one point writing much of the project’s sophomore album in a retreat in  Kyrgyzstan his Balthazar songwriting partner, co-frontman and longtime friend Jinte Deprez remained in Ghent, holing himself in the studio, where he indulged his love of old-school R&B, eventually releasing a solo album as J. Bernardt. During their primary project’s hiatus, Devoldere and Deprez found the ability to indulge their whims and follow their creative muses while receiving commercial and critical success to be liberating; but it also led to the urge for the duo to write together again, propelled by a broader artistic horizon and their mutual respect for each other’s work.

Interestingly, when the members of the band reconvened, they had no particular plans, just a desire to better their previously released material and further the band’s story. As the band’s primary songwriters Both Devoldere and Deprez agreed on an overall less serious, less melancholy feel, leaning towards a looser, refreshed sound — while retaining their ability to sharp hook. The end result is Balthazar’s forthcoming album Fever, which is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through Play It Again Sam Records.  Album title track “Fever” is a slinky and sultry sunset jam, centered around a strutting bass riff, stomping percussion, a swooping string motif, a sinuous hook, a bridge featuring twinkling keys and Devoldere’s plaintive baritone. The new single finds the band crafting swaggering and infectious pop that’s accessible, carefree, and flirty while being smart and unlike anything else written or recorded by a contemporary artist. 

Directed by Athos Burez, the recently released and incredibly cinematic video stars the songwriting duo of Devoldere and Deprez driving around and goofing off in a decidedly foreign and mountainous land. Shot between declining sunset and nighttime, the video is a woozy and feverish dream — the sort that as a photographer, makes me feel envy — centered around two old pals, and their easygoing chemistry. 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Pavo Pavo Release Cinematic and Feverish Visuals for Achingly Gorgeous New Album Single

Over the past couple of years of this site’s eight-plus year history, I’ve written a bit about the Brooklyn-based indie pop act Pavo Pavo, and as you may recall the band, which derives its name from the southern constellation Pavo (Latin for “peacock”) can trace its origins back to when its founding trio Eliza Bagg (vocals, violin and synths), Oliver Hill (vocals, guitar, synths) and Ian Romer (bass) met while studying at Yale University. And since their formation back in 2015, individual members of the band have collaborated with the likes of  Here We Go Magic, John Zorn, Dave Longstreth, Porches, Olga Bell, Lucius, Roomful of Teeth and San Fermin among others while the band has received attention both from this site and elsewhere for a retro-futuristic sound that draws from 60s psych pop, synth pop, prog rock and New Age.

Since the release of the band’s critically applauded debut album Young Narrator in the Breakers, the band has gone through a series of massive lineup changes as the band has become centered around two of its founding members — Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg. Interestingly, much like Rubblebucket’s latest album, Pavo Pavo’s forthcoming (and long-awaited) sophomore album Mystery Hour is thematically and narratievly focused around the breakup of the duo’s six-year romantic relationship and the changing of their relationship; in fact, the album and its creative process began as a way for Hill and Bagg to process their breakup and what it meant both for them and the band — and in some way, it also became a feedback loop, influencing their separation and the new roles they would have in each other’s lives. And as result, the album manages to be a cinematic yet intimate mediation on relationships from different angles — but primarily on messy, incomplete endings between equally messy and incomplete people. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album’s first official single, album title track “Mystery Hour” is an incredibly tight yet swooning pop song that recalls Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles, as its driven by a gorgeous orchestral arrangement, a soaring background choir arrangement, strummed acoustic guitar, and the duo’s haunting harmonies before a celestial fadeout; but the song is an acutely bittersweet and aching lament centered around the line “I realize love is to see every side of you/but mon cheri, I’m designed to be unsatisfied.” It’s a painfully sad reminder that eventually all things end — and we’re left to figure out some way to pick up the broken pieces and move forward. 

Directed by Harrison Atkins, the video is a vibrant and gauzy fever dream full of joy, ache, longing and regret in the wild and confusingly ambivalent mix that life throws at us. As Pavo Pavo’s Oliver Hill explains of the video’s treatment: “Our new record was written after Eliza and I were separating after a six–year relationship. For the title track, we wanted to make a video that introduced us as two characters meditating on relationships from all angles, while matching the romantic melodrama of the orchestra and choir with lots of cinematic action and narrative. John, the 7–foot protagonist of the video, is an angel of love and sex, and serves as a superhuman mascot for the record – he represents the search for intimacy and connection. The human heart tattoo on his neck is the core of his power, and within the tattoo lives us, Pavo Pavo, casting spells and guiding his movements as he makes out with everyone in sight.”

Mystery Hour is slated for a January 25, 2019 release through [PIAS] Recordings. 

I’ve written quite a bit about the  Oakland, CA-based quintet Bells Atlas over the past few years, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of Derek Barber (guitar) Geneva Harrison (drums, percussion, keys) Sandra Lawson-Ndu (vocals, percussion, keys) and Doug Stuart (bass, vocals, keys) have received attention from this site and elsewhere across the blogosphere for a lush, forward-thinking, kaleidoscopic and difficult to pigeonhole sound that seamlessly incorporates elements of indie rock, R&B, Afro pop, Afrofuturism, jazz, electro pop, experimental pop and soul.  And adding to a rapidly growing profile, the Oakland-based quintet has opened for Hiatus Kaiyote, Badbadnotgood, Bilal, Meshell Ndegeocello, W. Kamau Bell, Angelique Kidjo and Bermuda Triangle, and they spent 2016 as the touring band for NPR’s Snap Judgement.

Slated for release next Friday, the act’s soon-to-be released SALT AND SOAP EP is reportedly inspired by cleansing rituals and preservation methods, with the understanding that when you;re not accustomed to releasing your most personal stories, the idea is to take a moment to prepare for a shift — for a new way of being open. Along with that, the band stumbled upon a new and very different creative and songwriting process that incorporated an unusual sampling method: the use of grainy phone recordings of the act’s drumming eventually became the bedrock for each song of the EP — and in turn, their forthcoming full-length album The Mystic. Focusing on spontaneity and sometimes even humor, the aim developed into writing music that was cinematic yet personal while highlighting each member’s individual skills and talent. And as you’ll hear on the EP’s latest single “Downpour,” the result is something that manages to be paradoxically slick yet lo-fi, lysergic yet groove-driven, lush and enveloping but while revealing a band radically reinvented its sound and approach in a way that recalls (to my ears at least)Drakkar Nowhere, Pavo Pavo and Erykah Badu simultaneously.

As the band says in a statement: “Growing up it seemed like it was important to hold so many things as secrets, some of which are at this point laughable, some still heavier.

These secrets often gave the sense that there was something wrong and unusual about me or that part of my life. They also gave the sense that if there was actually something difficult it wasn’t necessary to let anyone outside of it know.

This led to a lot of creative improvising and getting used to being a little less like myself.

Eventually I started  to ask “what would be the consequence of sharing versus the weight of holding?”

The track Downpour is about at first getting used to living in a secret, but then facing a growing unease of having to continue to tuck yourself away.”

The band will be embarking on a West Coast tour during the fall. Check the tour dates below.

Bells Atlas Tour Dates: 

9/20 Oakland – New Parish w/ Chanti Darling
10/4 Los Angeles – The Satellite
10/6 Joshua Tree, CA – Joshua Tree Music Festival
10/7 San Diego, CA
10/11 Portland, OR Holocene w/ Chanti Darling
10/14 Seattle, WA Nectar Lounge w/ JusMoni
10/16 Boise, ID Neurolux
10/20 Basalt, CO The Temporary
10/21 Denver, CO Globe
10/23 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s
10/24 Chicago, IL Hideout Inn
11/18 Palm Springs, CA Ace Hotel

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the New Orleans-based pop act People Museum, and as you may recall, the act, which is comprised of producer/trombonist  Jeremy Phipps, who grew up playing in New Orleans brass bands, marching bands and traditional jazz groups; and Claire Givens, the daughter of an operatic singer and Baptist music minister, who’s a classically trained pianist and choral teacher, who began singing in the churches of rural Northern Louisiana can trace their origins to when they met in 2016.  As the story goes, the duo were eager to start a new musical project that incorporated the feelings and vibes of their hometown but in a non-literal, sincere fashion while drawing from their own personal and professional experiences — Phipps has toured with the likes of Solange, AlunaGeorge and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, and Givens’ work continues to draw from  her classical music training.

The duo’s full-length debut I Dreamt You In Technicolor is slated for a September 28, 2018 release and album single “Eye 2 Eye,” which was centered around a regal horn line, stuttering boom bap-like beats, shimmering synths, Givens’ ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook managed to sound as though it drew influence from Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Superhuman Happiness and Hiatus Kaiyote, as it reveals a duo, who have begun to receive attention for  carefully crafted and breezy, left-field pop. “Bible Belt,” Dreamt You in Technicolor‘s latest single is an atmospheric and moody track centered around twinkling synths, a wobbling horn line, a sinuous hook and Givens’ ethereal vocals fed through distortion and effects pedals. But unlike its predecessor, the song thematically focuses on the sobering loss of innocence and belief in an organization or institution that comes from having the curtains pulled back, seeing its contradictions and hypocrisy and being disgusted. As the duo’s Claire Givens explains “Loss of innocence can come very quickly when you are given the chance to see the politics behind the curtain of an organization. That happened for me with the church, and I saw many beautiful things but also many contradictions with what people said and what they really did. ‘Bible Belt’ came from a realization that I was still so much like these religious people in power that I grew up around and criticized, and I had become just as contradictory in many aspects of my own life and needed to find a way out.”

 

 

 

 

 

Comprised of producer/trombonist Jeremy Phipps, who grew up playing in New Orleans brass bands, marching bands and traditional jazz groups; and composer/vocals Claire Givens, the daughter of an operatic singer and Baptist music minister and a classically trained pianist and choral teacher, who began singing in the churches of rural Northern Louisiana, the New Orleans-based pop act People Museum can trace their origins to when the duo met in 2016. And as the story goes, they were both eager to start a new musical project that incorporated the feelings and vibes of their hometown in a non-literal, un-ironic way while drawing from their own unique experiences — Phipps has toured with the likes of Solange, AlunaGeorge and JOVM mainstays Rubblebucket, and Givens’ work continues to draw from classical music.

“Eye 2 Eye,” the latest single off the duo’s forthcoming full-length debut I Dreamt You In Technicolor is centered around a regal horn line, stuttering boom bap-like beats, shimmering synths, Givens’ ethereal vocals and a sinuous hook — and interestingly enough, the song sounds as though it draws from Omega La La-era Rubblebucket, Superhuman Happiness and Hiatus Kaiyote, as it reveals a duo, who have begun to receive attention for  carefully crafted and breezy, left-field pop. As People Museum’s Claire Givens says about the song,  “’Eye 2 Eye’ is about a one-sided relationship where one person is transparent with their feelings, and the other person hides away, restricting their emotions. The relationship could bloom if only the other person could open up and help to create an environment for true understanding of each other.”