Tag: Kraftwerk

New Audio: Electronic Music Pioneer Patrick Cowley’s Posthumously Released, Early Experimental and Psychedelic-Tinged Electronica

Born in Buffalo, NY, the highly influential and forward-thinking electronic music producer and artist Patrick Cowley relocated to San Francisco in 1971 to study electronic music at the City College of San Francisco. By the late 70s, Cowley’s synthesizer and production techniques landed him a gig writing and producing songs for legendary, gender-bending disco superstar Sylvester, including the sultry and propulsive, smash hit “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” 

Around the same time, Cowley managed to create his own brand of party music, known as Hi-NRG, which was also dubbed “The San Francisco Sound” and by 1981, he had released a string of 12″ singles as a solo artist, including “Menergy” and “Megatron Man.” Interestingly, 1981 was an incredibly busy year for the legendary electronic music producer and artist: he co-founded Megatone Records, which released his debut album Megatron Man. 

During that same year, Cowley as hospitalized and diagnosed with an unknown illness. which would later become known as AIDS. Recovering for a brief spell he went on to produce Sylvester’s smash hit “Do You Want to Funk” and Paul Parker’s “Right on Target,” as well as his sophomore album Mind Warp. Tragically. Cowley died two weeks after his 32nd birthday from an AIDS-related illness.  Since his death, Patrick Cowley has become one of electronic music’s most influential and forward-thinking artists and producers.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, his previously released work has seen posthumous re-issues, including a re-issue of Mind Warp a few years ago. 

With growing attention on the late electronic music pioneer’s work, a collection of previously unreleased material written between 1973-1980 was recently discovered. Dubbed Mechanical Fantasy Box, the 13 previous unreleased songs will be released in tandem with Cowley’s homoerotic journal of the same name, and the compilation is a collection of Cowley’s work from the years preceding his meteoric rise as a pioneer of Hi-NRG dance music. Interestingly, these songs were written and recorded  before drum machines and programmable, polyphonic digital synthesis with the material being highly experimental. Sonically, the material flows from funk to kraut to psychedelic, ambient electronics inspired by Tomita and Kraftwerk. 

Some songs were mixed from 4-track stems by Joe Tarantino and all of the compilation’s 13 songs have been remastered by George Horn at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. The vinyl edition comes housed in a black and white gatefold jacket Gwenaël Rattke featuring a photograph by Susan Middleton, liner notes by bandmate Maurice Tani and an 8.5×11 insert with notes. But more important, proceeds from the compilation will be donated to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation has been committed to ending the pandemic and human suffering caused by HIV sine 1982. 

Clocking in at just a smidge under 11:30, Mechanical Fantasy Box’s first single “Lumberjacks in Heat” manages to be a trippy synthesis of John Carpenter soundtracks krautrock-inspired prog rock and psychedelia as the composition is centered by layers of shimmering and fluttering bursts of synths and some propulsive and forceful drumming.   Interestingly, much like Kraftwerk’s legendary and influential work, this previously unreleased single manages to simultaneously be of its time and remarkably contemporary — as though it could have been part of the retro-futuristic wave. 

New Video: Molina Releases a Feverish and Surreal Visual for Atmsopheric and Synth Driven “Parásito”

Rebecca Maria Molina, is an emerging Chilean-Danish singer/songwriter, electronic music artist and producer, who can trace the origins of her career to when she was eight. As the story goes, the Copenhagen, Denmark-based Molina began writing her own music, inspired by the music her mother frequently played for her, including Bjork, Kate Bush and Royksopp. “I remember wanting the Basement Jaxx’ Rooty album for my birthday at the same age as I was dancing to children’s music.” Molina recalls.

When Molina was in her teens, she furthered her musical education by searching the corners of the Internet and following a trail of like-minded bands and artists, eventually becoming obsessed with the work of Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, 70s-80s new wave and punk , shoegaze and the work of Miharu Koshi and Mariah among others. Unsurprisingly, all of those disparate sounds and styles have influenced the Chilean-Danish artist’s work. 

With the release of her debut EP Corpus, Molina received attention internationally from BBC Radio 6, Beats 1 Radio, The 405, The Line of Best Fit and countless others for a songwriting approached that openly embraces experimentalism — but while sonically drawing from late 70s and early 80s synth pop. Building upon a growing profile across Scandinavia and elsewhere, Molina has released three singles “Mike” “Venus and “Hey Kids” off her highly-awaited, forthcoming sophomore EP Vanilla Shell that have not only established her as a unique voice in the alternative pop scene, but have also received attention from a number of media outlets across the globe, including Gorilla vs. Bear and Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber, who highlighted “Venus” among the best tracks of this year. 
Slated for a January 24, 2020 release, Vanilla Shell finds Molina weaving layered vocals, string and flute arrangements and fretless bass into a synthetic universe, frequently characterized by inventive and challenging song structures, catchy melodies and brooding production. “Parásito,” Vanilla Shell’s latest single is centered around layers of ethereal and achingly plaintive vocals, a chilly, motorik-like groove with warm bursts of organic instrumentation — primarily strummed, acoustic guitar, fluttering flute and wobbling fretless bass lines. Sonically, the song is an exploration of the contrasts between hard and soft and the organic and the synthetic that will draw comparisons to Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. But thematically, the song focuses on two familiar emotions — that mix of longing and absorption for another that makes it feel impossible to get as close to that person as you’d want and the desperate, intense urge for that person that makes you feel as though you were a parasite, as though you couldn’t survive without them. In other words, it suggests that love can be kind of parasitical and confusing. 

“Parásito,” is the first song of Molina’s career written and sung in Spanish and interestingly when she wrote the song, she felt a deeply inherent power and energy than in either Danish and English. “I feel Spanish amplifies my message,” Molina explains in press notes. “The drama in the language makes it easier and more natural for me to be an extrovert and emotional.” 

While being a decidedly 80s-era MTV inspired visual, the recently released video possesses a surreal and feverish air that emphasizes the song’s longing at the song’s core. 

New Video: Holy Fuck Releases a Mind-Bending and Hallucinogenic Visual for Motorik-Groove Driven “Luxe”

Toronto-based electronic act Holy Fuck — Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schultz — have developed a long-held reputation for playing by their own rules, frequently using miscellaneous instruments and non-instruments including a 35mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns to achieve electronic-sounding effects without the use of laptops, programmed backing tracks, splicing and so on. And perhaps more important, the act has never been overly concerned about chasing the limelight or any genre-based trend.

“Luxe” is the first batch of new material from the acclaimed Canadian electronic act since the release of 2017’s Bird Brains EP and interestingly, the single was born out of the quartet’s desire to revisit old and trusted methods of creating new material — primarily by experimenting live on the stage. Centered around a pulsating, minimal synth loop, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping kick drum, the expansive song, which clocks in at a little over six minutes and bears a bit of a resemblance to Tour de France-era Kraftwerk can trace its origins back to a spontaneous encore jam at Luxembourg, Belgium. As the story goes, once they had the early elements of the track worked on in the studio, they sent it to to their good friend and casual musical mentor Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, who picked the early version of “Luxe” as a standout. The Canadian quartet then invited Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to contribute vocals. Taylor not only jumped at the opportunity but went to Jack White‘s Third Man Studio in Nashville to record his vocals on White’s 1947 Voice-O-Graph.

“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore’”.

The next moment of discovery came when Graham suggested the band scrap Brian’s vocals and give it to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. When we presented Alexis with the concept our reference notes to him, based around Brian’s temporary vocals, were ‘like an old sample you’d dig up off an old folk record… and approached more like a classic house track’. He responded, ‘We could try to record the vocal in a Voice O Graph booth (an obsolete 1940s coin operated phonograph booth) if we can access one…’. As far as we’re aware, there are only two in the world – one in Liverpool (that apparently doesn’t work anymore) and the other at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville. And that is where Alexis sang ‘I’d like to scrap all of this and start over again.’ Fittingly, it was New Year’s Eve.”

Interestingly, “Luxe” also is the first official single off the acclaimed Canadian electronica act’s forthcoming, fifth album Deleter. Slated for a January 17, 2020, the material reportedly finds the band pushing their signature sound in a new direction — with it being polyrhythmic and pleasure focused, as they seamlessly mesh krautrock, deep house and motorik percussion. Thematically (and spiritually), Deleter reportedly explores what happens when humanity and technology coalesce into one big, semi-organic celebration of the joys of spontaneity, repetition and individuality.  As the band puts it, “the robots are smarter than ever, and the algorithm knows more and more what we like as individuals, but we have to remind ourselves that there is music in the margins that can go missing and that that music is more important than ever.”

Directed by Rapapawn, Óscar Raña and Cynthia Alfonso, the recently released video is a mind-bending and hallucinogenic visual featuring floating geometric shapes, and animated version of the band performing the song. 

Toronto-based electronic act Holy Fuck — Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Matt McQuaid and Matt Schultz — have developed a long-held reputation for playing by their own rules, frequently using miscellaneous instruments and non-instruments including a 35mm film synchronizer, toy keyboards and toy phaser guns to achieve electronic-sounding effects without the use of laptops, programmed backing tracks, splicing and so on. And perhaps more important, the act has never been overly concerned about chasing the limelight or any genre-based trend.
“Luxe” is the first batch of new material from the acclaimed Canadian electronic act since the release of 2017’s Bird Brains EP and interestingly, the single was born out of the quartet’s desire to revisit old and trusted methods of creating new material — primarily by experimenting live on the stage. Centered around a pulsating, minimal synth loop, shimmering and arpeggiated synths, thumping kick drum, the expansive song, which clocks in at a little over six minutes and bears a bit of a resemblance to Tour de France-era Kraftwerk can trace its origins back to a spontaneous encore jam at Luxembourg, Belgium. As the story goes, once they had the early elements of the track worked on in the studio, they sent it to to their good friend and casual musical mentor Kieran Hebden, best known as Four Tet, who picked the early version of “Luxe” as a standout. The Canadian quartet then invited Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor to contribute vocals. Taylor not only jumped at the opportunity but went to Jack White‘s Third Man Studio in Nashville to record his vocals on White’s 1947 Voice-O-Graph.

“Among more literal translations, ‘Luxe’ is the short form of Luxembourg – the city in which the nexus of the song was created,” the members of Holy Fuck explain in an extensive statement. “On this particular night, during soundcheck, we had a pulsing minimal synth loop we’d been tinkering around with. (We were listening to lots of TRAX Records stuff on that tour.) We decided that if the crowd demanded an encore we’d go for it. ‘Luxe’ was the result. Or – as it was then called on the live recorded MP3 – ‘Luxembourg Encore’. Once home from tour we took all the live demos back to the drawing board. We shared everything with our friend Kieran Hedben aka Four Tet. His always-intuitive advice was that he heard a great club track in his ‘very favorite thing here’: ‘Luxembourg Encore'”.

The next moment of discovery came when Graham suggested the band scrap Brian’s vocals and give it to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. When we presented Alexis with the concept our reference notes to him, based around Brian’s temporary vocals, were ‘like an old sample you’d dig up off an old folk record… and approached more like a classic house track’. He responded, ‘We could try to record the vocal in a Voice O Graph booth (an obsolete 1940s coin operated phonograph booth) if we can access one…’. As far as we’re aware, there are only two in the world – one in Liverpool (that apparently doesn’t work anymore) and the other at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville. And that is where Alexis sang ‘I’d like to scrap all of this and start over again.’ Fittingly, it was New Year’s Eve.”

Formed back in 2010, the acclaimed Baltimore-based dream pop act Lower Dens can trace its origins to when its primary songwriter and founding member Jana Hunter had grown tired of touring and decided to take a hiatus. For what was supposed to be their final tour as a solo artist, Hunter recruited a backing band which featured Geoff Graham, Abram Sanders and Will Adams. Finding that playing with a band was much more enjoyable to them than playing as a solo artist, helped Hunter form Lower Dens. “During that tour, I realized that it wasn’t the touring life that I hated, but more so that the kind of music I wrote as a solo artist wasn’t something I felt entirely comfortable sharing in performance setting. Lower Dens then was the eventual result of the decision to make music with the specific intention of sharing and enjoying it with others,” Hunter said at the time.

Lower Dens’ full-length debut, Twin Hand Movement was released to critical praise from the likes of Pitchfork, who compared Hunter’s vocals to those of PJ Harvey and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Dusted Magazine, who praised the album’s lyrics for being “delivered without irony, yet self-aware enough to appreciate the obviousness.” While touring to support Twin Hand Movement, the band began writing on the road — but the limitations of writing on the road forced Hunter to work through a laptop and keyboard rather than a guitar, which lead to an increasing presence of synths on what would become their sophomore album Nootropics.

After they completed their tour, the band chose to record their sophomore album at The Key Club Recording Company in Benton Harbor, MI.  Hunter cited the studio’s remote location as an imperative part of the writing and recording process. Geoff Graham added that the amount of time spent in the studio allowed them to add extra dimensions to the material to make it lusher and thicker. Largely influenced by Kraftwerk‘s Radioactivity, Fripp and Eno and David Bowie‘s production on Iggy Pop‘s The IdiotNootropics was released to critical praise from the likes of PitchforkRolling Stone and Spin

Building upon a growing profile, Lower Dens opened for Beach House and indie rock legends Yo La Tengo at the Baltimore stop of the legendary act’s  2013 Fade tour. And the following month, they released “Non Grata” on a split 7″ with Baltimore-based band Horse Lords, an effort that was released as part of the Famous Class LAMC series, which benefited VH1’s Save The Music Foundation

2015 saw the release of the band’s third album Escape from Evil, which continued a run of critically applauded albums. Since then the band has gone through a series of lineup changes — with the band now being a duo featuring its founding member and primary songwriter Jana Hunter and Nate Nelson. And during that period, the members of Lower Dens had been working on their highly-anticipated follow up to Escape from Evil, The Competition.

Slated for a September 6, 2019 release through their longtime label home Ribbon Music, and the album is reportedly a pop album with an emotionally and politically urgent concept at its core. Competition, by design is the driving force of modern capitalism and the title is Hunnter’s term for a socio-psychological phenomenon that competition generates — a kind of psychosis that accelerates and amplifies our insecurities and anxieties to the point of overload. And as a result our intimacies, our communities and even our senses of self are corroded and distorted. “The issues that have shaped my life, for better or for worse, have to do with coming from a family and a culture that totally bought into this competitive mindset.  I was wild and in a lot of pain as a kid; home life was very bleak, and pop songs were a guaranteed escape to a mental space where beauty, wonder, and love were possible. I wanted to write songs that might have the potential to do that.”

Interestingly, The Competition‘s third and latest single is the atmospheric and slow-burning synth pop “Galapagos.” Centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik-like groove, a soaring hook, four-on-the-floor drumming and Hunter’s achingly tender vocals, the song evokes an unfulfilled and plaintive longing while sonically recalling Kate Bush and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And it may arguably be one of the most cinematic-leaning songs the act has released to date.

The members of Lower Dens recently announced that they’ll be hitting the road to support their new album. They’ll be opening for Of Monsters And Men for most of the tour with the exception of a three special album releases shows in Los Angeles and Baltimore. The tour will include a September 5, 2019 stop at Radio City Music Hall. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.

 

Tour dates – all dates opening for Of Monsters And Men except where noted:
08/31/19 Baltimore, MD @ Rituals *

09/01/19 Baltimore, MD @ Rituals *

09/04/19 Washington, DC @ The Anthem

09/05/19 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

09/08/19 Boston, MA @ Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion

09/10/19 Philadelphia, PA @ Metropolitan Opera House

09/11/19 Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage

09/13/19 Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom

09/14/19 Minneapolis, MN @ Surly Brewing Festival Field

09/16/18 Denver, CO @ The Mission Ballroom

09/17/19 Ogden, UT @ Ogden Twilight

09/19/19 Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl

09/20/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room *

09/22/19 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Palladium

09/24/19 Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater

09/26/19 Seattle, WA @ WaMu Theater

09/27/19 Troutdale, OR @ McMenamins Edgefield

09/28/19 Vancouver, BC @ Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre

10/19/19 Maspeth, NY @ Pitchfork Octfest ^

11/01/19 Houston, TX @ Axelrad Beer Garden *

11/02/19 Mexico City, MX @ RadioBosque Festival ^

* Lower Dens headline show

^ without Of Monsters And Men

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Holy Ghost! Release an Intimate Behind the Scenes Visual on the Making of a Vinyl Record

I’ve written quite a bit about the New York-based electro funk/neo-disco production and artist and longtime JOVM mainstays Holy Ghost! over the years, and as you may recall, l, with the release of the their first three full-length albums — 2011’s self-titled debut, 2013’s Dynamics and 2014’s remix album Work For Hire — the duo, which is comprised of Alex Frankel and Nicholas Millhiser received attention nationally and internationally. Building upon a growing profile, the duo have remixed the work of Katy Perry, LCD Soundsystem, Moby and a lengthy list of others; made national TV appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with David Letterman; toured with the legendary New Order; and played sets at some of this country’s and the world’s biggest festivals including Coachella, Outside Lands, Primavera Sound and Bonnaroo.

Work, the duo’s first batch of new, original material in over five years reportedly finds Frankel and Millhiser attempting to revisit the freedom of expectations that was suffered through their earliest recorded output — and interestingly, the proverbial return to form partially stemmed from circumstances: the duo dismantled their basement Brooklyn studio and relocated to a small room that a few musician friends of theirs were renting about a doctor’s office (coincidentally, the same address where they mixed their full-length debut). Because of the room’s limited space, they pared their extensive gear collection down to two synths — a Yamaha CS-80 and a Mini Moog. “Not necessarily the bare necessities, but what would make for the most interesting limited palette,” says Millhiser. “David Bowiedidn’t have every fucking synthesizer on earth to make Low. He had two. And that’s one of my favorite synth records of all time.”

Slated for a Friday release through West End Records, the forthcoming album’s material will continue the duo’s long-held reputation for crafting each sound from scratch with an unapologetic, exacting precision — and it’s their analog approach to electronic music that heavily informs the songwriting, production and sound of the album. Interestingly, album single “Escape From Los Angeles” was centered by shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a motorik groove, ethereal crooning, thumping beats and a sinuous yet infectious hook — while seemingly indebted to From Here to Eternity . . . And Back-era Giorgio Moroder and Kraftwerk. Interestingly, Work‘s latest single “Do This” is another straightforward club banger that meshes early hip-hop, house music and disco in a way that recalls Sugarhill Gang, Nile Rodgers and Pet Shop Boys— thanks in part to arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a two-step inducing hook and plaintive vocals.

Directed by the duo, the recently released video for “Do This” was shot on 16mm film by Jesse Cain and follows the entire process of recording and making a vinyl album, from the recording sessions at James Murphy’s Plantain Studios, to mastering at Heba Kadry’s Brooklyn-based mastering suite, to cutting the master disk with Bob Weston in Chicago, to pressing and packaging at RTI Pressing and finally to Amoeba Records in Los Angeles. It’s a behind the scenes look at the entire process revealing the professionalism and dedication of dozens of hard-working people that’s actually inspired by the famous Sesame Street “Making Crayons” segment. Originally aired in the early 80s, the clip made a deep impression on the members of Holy Ghost! “We wanted to document the ancient and very special process of making vinyl, from recording and mixing all the way to packaging and store delivery,” Frankel explains.