With the release of his debut effort Shivers, the Manchester, UK-based electronic music producer MindMassage quickly emerged into the national and international electronic music scenes: Shivers featured material that landed on Spotify’s USA Viral 50, Canada’s Viral 50 and R&B UK playlist. Building upon a growing profile, the rapidly rising British electronic music producer will be releasing his sophomore album Emotion later this year, and the album will reportedly further establish his ethos of opening himself to new concepts, as well position himself as a unique artist on the contemporary electronic music scene.
“Indecisive,” Emotion‘s latest single is a breezy and vibrant, pop-leaning, club anthem, centered around tweeter and woofer rocking beats, shimmering reverb-drenched synth arpeggios, soulful horn blasts and ethereal yet soulful vocal contributions from Rx and Joshua Benjamin. And while sonically managing to recall Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson and Octo Octa‘s Between Two Sides, the song is essentially an alluring and flirty, late night come on.
Beiju is an up-and-coming French-American musician, who splits her time between New York and Paris. And as you may recall, earlier this year, I wrote about the Bells Atlas and Hiatus Kaiyote-like “Lost at the Beach,” a nostalgia-tinged track that was inspired by a weekend trip to the Rockaway with friends. Her latest single “Let’s Go Home” further establishes the emerging pop artist’s unique sound and approach: much like it’s predecessor, the track features Beiju’s alluring vocals floating over a glitchy production featuring stuttering beats, wobbling low end, synth laser blasts — but interestingly enough the song is a straightforward and coquettish come hither, about meeting someone you like at a party and wanting to go back home with them.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve written a bit about Oslo, Norway-based singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist Arthur Kay. And as you may recall Kay has been a prominent member of his hometown’s music scene for the better part of the past decade as the frontman of of the galactic jazz act Dr. Kay and His Interstellar Tone Scientists and collaborating and touring with Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave.
Key’s self-titled solo debut EP was released earlier this month, and the EP’s material draws from several disparate and rather eclectic influences, at points channeling Thundercat, James Blake, and Sun Ra Arkestra, all while finding the Norwegian singer/songwriter, composer and keyboardist boldly stepping into the spotlight. Earlier this year, I wrote about “Holiday Pay,” a thumping, house music-based workers anthem with glistening and twinkling synths, cowbell-led percussion and infectious hook that celebrates socialism and socialist policies — in particular, that Norwegian employers are required by law to pay employees a certain percentage of the previous year’s wages to be used for the employee’s vacation time.
The EP’s second single “Higher Ground” was a slow-burning track that was one part dream pop, one part hallucinogenic dirge and one part shoegaze, as it was centered around a sparse arrangement of twinkling keys, atmospheric synths, Kay’s dreamy crooning and narcoleptic drumming. And while arguably the most peaceful song off the EP, the song was fueled by a sweaty desperation. “Lyrically, it is about the silence and calmness that comes after a big emotional and chaotic event,” Arthur Kay explained in press notes. “Those days or weeks where you feel that if you just put everything in your life on hold, to make it through the next hour without remembering or engaging in those memories, you’ll just barely make it through.”
“Say It Out Loud,” the EP’s third and latest single is a two-step-inducing bit of synth-led dance pop that’s one part Teddy Riley-era New Jack Swing and one part Larry Levan-era house music, as the track is centered around arpeggiated keys and synths, thumping beats, cowbell-led percussion, Kay’s plaintive vocals and a sinuous hook before ending with a shimmering jazz-like. And while focusing on his singular voice, the track manages to reveal Kay’s incredible versatility and dexterous musicianship.
Cousin Kula is a rising Bristol, UK-based sextet, featuring highly active members of their hometown’s progressive jazz scene. Bonding over a shared love of an eclectic range of music that includes pop, psych, prog, disco and Afrobeat, the members of Cousin Kula quickly found themselves living together. And with a rehearsal room in their basement, the band honed a sound and approach that meshed their varied influences and passions, eventually becoming one of their hometown’s hottest bands.
Slated for a November 18, 2019 release through Chiverin Records, the Bristol-based sextet’s forthcoming sophomore effort Stroodles EP follows their opening spot for Japanese rippers Bo Ningen and the announcement of a headlining UK tour to support the new EP in November. The EPs first single “Invitation” is reportedly a slight departure for the members of Cousin Kula, as the song is a shimmering bit of 80s-inspired synth funk and soul that nods at the periods titans — i.e., Cherelle, Mtume and others, as well as contemporaries like Tuxedo but with a jazzy edge.
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.
With the release of their debut single “Zone,” the London-based act Two Tribes — Patrick Smith (Vox, guitars), Annalisa Iembo (Vox, synths and samples), Kim Engelhardt (bass) and Alastair Batchelor (drums, programming) — began to receive attention for an enormous and euphoric sound that has been compared to Primal Scream, Jagwar Ma, W.H. Lung and Snapped Ankles among others.
Clocking in at a smidge over seven minutes, the rapidly rising British act’s second and latest single, the Oli Bayston-produced, “Videodrone” is a mesmerizing club banger, centered around arpeggiated synths, tweeter and woofer rocking beats and an anthemic hook. And while recalling Evil Heat-era Primal Scream, Kasabian‘s self-titled album and Computer World and Tour de France-era Kraftwerk, the track as the band explains “deals with how the idea a digital identity, over-stimulation from technology and the internet can perpetuate disillusion and desensitisation in the real world. For some of us, the amount of information available can be a difficult thing to process sometimes, we wanted to explore in this song that increasingly blurred line between mind and mechanism. The title takes inspiration from David Cronenberg’s 1983 film Videodrome, which carries similar themes about the cult of technology.”
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 Cardigans‘ Nina 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.”
Throughout the course of this site’s nine-plus yer history, I’ve written quit a bit about the Brooklyn-based electro pop act denitia and sene. And as you may recall, the act won the attention of the blogosphere for a unique sound that paired Brian “sene” Marc’s hyper-modern and slick production work, which effortlessly meshed elements of electro pop, hip-hop, funk. minimalist electronica, underground and avant-garde pop and neo soul with Denitia Odgie‘s soulful yet ethereal vocals.
The duo’s full-length debut his & hers was a critical and commercial success — the album landed in the Top 10 of iTunes R&B Charts, and the duo were profiled in the New York Times, for their participation in a forward-thinking Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary artist collective and living space. After the release of their debut, the duo had been busy with individual creative pursuits — Marc was a part of the cast of Netflix‘s Luke Cage, has starred alongside Emma Roberts in Nerve and a lead role in White Girl while Odigie’s solo recording project ADESUWA received attention after the release of the Air Light EP and the project’s full-length debut.
Their sophomore effort, 2016’s love and noir featured album singles “open wide,” a swooning love song centered around a seemingly chilly and subtly industrial production and “favorite” a shimmering and airy song that evoked the happy sigh of waking up next to a lover after you’ve just made love. Although it’s been a while since I’ve written about the longtime JOVM mainstays or their individual projects, Odigie has been busy writing and recording the material off her forthcoming solo album Touch of the Sky. Written as a cinematic ode to nostalgia and the alchemy of love, the album’s material was produced largely from 6am sessions from Odigie’s beachfront studio.
Touch of the Sky‘s third and latest single “Place To Be” follows the release of “Where You Go” and “Waves,” both of which received placement on Spotify’s Indie Stage playlist and Shazam‘s official The Best New Music playlist on Apple Music. Additionally, “Waves” caught attention from Refinery 29, who placed the song on their New Music To Know This Week round-up. The slow-burning “Place To Be” is centered around denitia’s tender and aching vocals, atmospheric synths, and thumping beats. Interestingly, the new track bears more of a resemblance to the cinematic and aching pop of JOVM mainstay ACES — while being inspired by the bittersweet loneliness that frequently sets in during the aftermath of a tumultuous affair.