Tag: Nick Hakim

Raymond James Mason is a Long Island, NY-born, Brooklyn-born trombonist and singer/songwriter. As the story goes, Mason picked up the trombone at a very young age, and as a teenager, he studied classical performance and jazz studies at my alma mater NYU, where he studied with Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber and Elliot Mason. Upon graduating, Mason quickly became an in-demand musician, playing across a wide variety of genres; but he’s best known for being a member of renowned local Afrobeat act Antibalas, which eventually led to him becoming a member of the Daptone Records/Dunham Records in-house band, playing with the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields and the The Expressions and many others. Additionally, Mason has performed and or recorded with the likes of Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Tame Impala, Maren Morris, Earth Wind and Fire, Mark Ronson and and more. Unsurprisingly, he very busy Mason learned from these artists while honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

Back in October 2016, Mason reached out to Daptone Records house band member, longtime friend and Dala Records founder Billy Aukstik to set up at a casual recording session. At the time, Aukstik was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped with only a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Aukstik and Mason assembled an all-star squad of local soul musicians, including Alex Chakour, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Freddy DeBoe, who has played with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones; Joe Harrison, who has played with Nick Hakim and Charles Bradley; and Morgan Price, who has played with Antibalas to record a couple of Mason’s compositions — two of which wound up becoming the A and B sides of Mason’s solo debut, “Back When”/”No Clue.”

A side single “Back When” is a strutting and swaggering bit of a soul pop centered around an arrangement of Arp Omni bass synth, fuzzy guitar lines and a steady backbeat — and while thematically the song is a universal tale of lost opportunity and what could have beens, it’s a decidedly contemporary take on the Dala Records sound, as it nods at contemporary soul, hip-hop and psych pop in a way that brings Tame Impala, Nick Hakim and others to mind. “No Clue,” the B side single is centered around fuzzy power chords and a garage rock vibe, while thematically the song focuses on a dysfunctional and confusing relationship. Both singles reveal an an up-and-coming artist, who’s actively and earnestly pushing the sonic boundaries of soul.

 

 

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Live Footage: Rafiq Bhatia Performing “Breaking English”

Rafiq Bhatia is a Hickory, NC-born, New York-based composter, guitarist and producer of East African Indian descent. Before joining Ryan Lott and Ian Chang to expand renowned indie act Son Lux from a solo recording project to a fully fleshed out band, Bhatia released two critically applauded solo efforts — 2012’s Yes It Will and Strata. As a guitarist and producer, Bhatia has worked with an impressive and diverse array of artists including Olga Bell, Sam Dew, Marcus Gilmore, Billy Hart, Heems, Helado Negro, Vijay Iyer, Glenn Kotche, Valegir Sigurðsson, Moses Sumney, David Virelles, Lorde, Sufjan Stevens and others. Adding to a growing profile, he’s recored with the chamber ensembles International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet and Alarm Will Sound, and he’s had work appear on the soundtracks for the major motion pictures The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Air, and Afflicted.  

Bhatia’s third solo album Breaking English is slated for an April 6, 2018 release through ANTI- Records, and the album reportedly finds the renowned composer, producer and guitarist, who has long been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Madlib, as well as mentors and collaborators Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, meshing avant-garde jazz with textured and sculptured electronic composition and production. Because of his experience as a first-generation son of East African-born, Indian Muslim immigrant parents, who can trace their ancestry back to India, and the influence of mentors like Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, Bhatia sees music as a way to actively shape and represent his own identity, not limited by anyone else’s prescribed perspective.  Interestingly, the album’s overall theme and its title were inspired by a 2008 trip to India that Bhatia took with his sister and parents — the first time he had ever seen the ancestral homeland. “We were driving towards the Taj Mahal, and noticed as we approached that there was an alarming number of signs advertising ‘Shooting Ranges.’ We grew increasingly curious and concerned about why these signs, which were written in English, were so prevalent — could they be targeted towards American tourists and their obsession with guns?” Bhatia recalled in press notes. “But eventually, we realized that ‘shooting’ was intended in the photographic sense. We had a good laugh about it, but then my dad turned to me quite seriously and asked ‘Eventually there will be likely more English speakers out here than there are in the West. At that point, who will get to decide what constitutes a proper use of English?’”

“’Breaking English’ is a ceremony of a song,” Bhatia continues. “Its central theme revealed itself to me in an improvised performance, fully formed, as though it had always existed. The cyclical form of the piece allows it to shed its skin and present itself anew in successive iterations, even as the core idea — or problem, or experience — stubbornly persists.”

Breaking English‘s latest single, album title track, the atmospheric and soulful “Breaking English” which features skittering drums, a sinuous bass line, blasts of bluesy guitar and a wailing chorus — and in some way, the composition nods at an incredible synthesis of the work of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, J. Dilla and Flying Lotus but with a soulful weariness and ache.

New Audio: Rafiq Bhatia’s Atmospheric and Soulful New Single

Rafiq Bhatia is a Hickory, NC-born, New York-based composter, guitarist and producer of East African Indian descent. Before joining Ryan Lott and Ian Chang to expand renowned indie act Son Lux from a solo recording project to a fully fleshed out band, Bhatia released two critically applauded solo efforts — 2012’s Yes It Will and Strata. As a guitarist and producer, Bhatia has worked with an impressive and diverse array of artists including Olga Bell, Sam Dew, Marcus Gilmore, Billy Hart, Heems, Helado Negro, Vijay Iyer, Glenn Kotche, Valegir Sigurðsson, Moses Sumney, David Virelles, Lorde, Sufjan Stevens and others. Adding to a growing profile, he’s recored with the chamber ensembles International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet and Alarm Will Sound, and he’s had work appear on the soundtracks for the major motion pictures The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Air, and Afflicted.  

Bhatia’s third solo album Breaking English is slated for an April 6, 2018 release through ANTI- Records, and the album reportedly finds the renowned composer, producer and guitarist, who has long been influenced by Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Madlib, as well as mentors and collaborators Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, meshing avant-garde jazz with textured and sculptured electronic composition and production. Because of his experience as a first-generation son of East African-born, Indian Muslim immigrant parents, who can trace their ancestry back to India, and the influence of mentors like Vijay Iyer and Billy Hart, Bhatia sees music as a way to actively shape and represent his own identity, not limited by anyone else’s prescribed perspective.  Interestingly, the album’s overall theme and its title were inspired by a 2008 trip to India that Bhatia took with his sister and parents — the first time he had ever seen the ancestral homeland. “We were driving towards the Taj Mahal, and noticed as we approached that there was an alarming number of signs advertising ‘Shooting Ranges.’ We grew increasingly curious and concerned about why these signs, which were written in English, were so prevalent — could they be targeted towards American tourists and their obsession with guns?” Bhatia recalled in press notes. “But eventually, we realized that ‘shooting’ was intended in the photographic sense. We had a good laugh about it, but then my dad turned to me quite seriously and asked ‘Eventually there will be likely more English speakers out here than there are in the West. At that point, who will get to decide what constitutes a proper use of English?'”

“’Breaking English’ is a ceremony of a song,” Bhatia continues. “Its central theme revealed itself to me in an improvised performance, fully formed, as though it had always existed. The cyclical form of the piece allows it to shed its skin and present itself anew in successive iterations, even as the core idea — or problem, or experience — stubbornly persists.”

Breaking English’s latest single, album title track, the atmospheric and soulful “Breaking English” which features skittering drums, a sinuous bass line, blasts of bluesy guitar and a wailing chorus — and in some way, the composition nods at an incredible synthesis of the work of JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim, J. Dilla and Flying Lotus but with a soulful weariness and ache.

New Audio: Honeyhoney’s Benjamin Jaffe Releases a Tender and Swooning, Indie Rock-Inspired Single

Benjamin Jaffe is a Massachusetts-born and currently New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for being one-half of renowned Americana duo honeyhoney however, years before he formed honeyhoney, with Suzanne Santo, Jaffe began his career as a solo artist, who received attention for crafting material that was honest and experimental  — and with his forthcoming full-length, solo debut Oh, Wild Ocean of Love, Jaffe returns to his solo roots while revealing a broader array of influences than with his primary gig, as the material draws from jazz and Motown-era soul among others.  Interestingly, Oh, Wild Ocean of Love’s latest single “Blooming” pairs rolling and propulsive drumming with shimmering and loping guitars with Jaffe’s aching and tender vocals and a soaring hook to evoke the swooning throes of passion, while sonically nodding at JOVM mainstay Nick Hakim but with a wild, sense of experimentalism.

New Video: Check out the “Grease” Inspired Visuals for Joseph of Mercury’s “Angel”

Earlier this summer, you may have come across a couple of posts featuring Joseph W. Salusbury, an up-and-coming Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has a number of songwriting and production credits including cowrites on Majid Jordan‘s “Something About You” and Illangelo‘s “Your Future’s Not Mine, and vocal production on Nelly Furtado and Blood Orange‘s “Hadron Collider” — and earlier this year, Salusbury stepped out from behind the production booth and the relatively anonymity of being a go-to songwriter with his solo recording project Joseph of Mercury, and three singles “Without Words,” “Young Thing” and “Find You Inside,” which quickly established the Canadian singer/songwriter and producer’s reputation for crafting melancholic, slow-burning synth pop that draws from a diverse range of influences, including David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Future Islands and Lower Dens among others, paired with his aching baritone crooning.

Salusbury’s Joseph of Mercury debut, Find You Inside was released last week, and as you may recall, to celebrate the announcement of the EP, he released a live and hauntingly spectral rendition of EP single “Without Words” featuring the up-and-coming Canadian pop artist accompanying himself with guitar. And personally, what made that rendition so compelling is that the live version pulls out the raw, aching emotion at the core of the song in a way that nods at both Roy Orbison and Nick Hakim.

“Angel,” the fourth and latest single off the Canadian pop crooner’s recently released EP finds Salusbury meshing 60s pop and classic R&B, anthemic 80s arena rock and contemporary electro pop in a way that reminiscent of both the aforementioned Nick Hakim and Roy Orbison, and of Daughn Gibson — and much like the sources that influenced the song, “Angel” is a sweet, almost old-timey love song written in a way that may of his contemporaries frankly just seem incapable of doing. As a result, the song is a swooning yet slow-burning  and contemporary torch song in which the song’s narrator confesses his love and devotion with an visceral ache.

Directed by Cannes Short Film Festival-nominated director Gemma Warren, the recently released music video for “Angel” pays homage to a famous scene from Grease in which Joseph play the part of the Teen Angel, originally played by Frankie Avalon, and as a result the video possesses a hazy, dream-like nature. 

Earlier this month, I wrote about Joseph W. Salusbury, an up-and-coming Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has a number of songwriting and production credits including cowrites on Majid Jordan‘s “Something About You” and Illangelo‘s “Your Future’s Not Mine, and vocal production on Nelly Furtado and Blood Orange‘s “Hadron Collider;” however, earlier this year, Salusbury stepped out from behind the production desk with his solo recording project Joseph of Mercury and three singles “Without Words,” “Young Thing” and “Find You Inside.” And with this three early singles, Salusbury quickly established a reputation for crafting melancholic, slow-burning synth pop that draws from a diverse range of influences, including David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Future Islands and Lower Dens among others, paired with his aching baritone crooning.

Find You Inside, Salusbury’s Joseph of Mercury debut is slated for a September 1, 2017 release, and Salusbury celebrated the release announcement with a live, spectral rendition of EP single “Without Words” featuring the up-and-coming Canadian pop artist accompanying himself with guitar, and what makes this rendition so compelling to me is that it pulls out the raw, aching emotion at the core of the song in a way that nods at both Roy Orbison and Nick Hakim.

“Angel,” the fourth and latest single off the Canadian pop crooner’s soon-to-be released EP finds Salusbury meshing 60s pop and classic R&B, anthemic 80s arena rock and contemporary electro pop in a way that reminiscent of both the aforementioned Nick Hakim and Roy Orbison, and of Daughn Gibson — and much like the sources that influenced the song, “Angel” is a sweet, almost old-timey love song written in a way that his contemporaries frankly just seem incapable of doing. As a result, the song is a swooning yet slow-burning  and contemporary torch song in which the song’s narrator confesses his love and devotion with an visceral ache.

 

 

Live Footage: Joseph of Mercury Performs a Stripped Down Rendition of Without Words at Toronto’s Union Sound Company Studios

Joseph W. Salusbury is an up-and-coming Toronto, ON-based singer/songwriter and producer, who has earned a number of songwriting and production credits including cowrites on Majid Jordan’s “Something About You” and Illangelo’s “Your Future’s Not Mine,” as well as producing the vocals on Nelly Furtado and Blood Orange’s “Hadron Collider;” however, earlier this year, Salusbury stepped out from behind the production desk with his solo recording project Joseph of Mercury and three singles “Without Words,” “Young Thing” and “Find You Inside.” And with this three early singles, Salusbury quickly established a reputation for crafting melancholic, slow-burning synth pop that draws from a diverse range of influences, including David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Future Islands and Lower Dens among others, paired with his aching baritone crooning. 

Salusbury recently announced the release of his highly-anticipated debut EP Find You Inside with a spectral rendition of “Without Words” featuring the up-and-coming Canadian pop artist accompanying himself with guitar, and what makes this rendition so compelling to me is that it pulls out the raw, aching emotion at the core of the song in a way that nods at both Roy Orbison and Nick Hakim. 

The footage was shot in a gorgeous and cinematic black and white at Toronto’s Union Sound Company Studios and captures the up-and-coming Canadian pop artist in a rare and intimate setting, capturing something simple yet profound — songwriter performing song with a heartbreaking earnestness. 

Live Footage: ATO Sessions: Nick Hakim Performs “The Want”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site for a while, you’d recall that earlier this year, the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim quietly re-emerged with the first batch of new material in some time, “Bet She Looks Like You” “Green Twins,” and “Roller Skates,” the first three singles off his recently released and highly-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins. Hakim can trace the origins of Green Twins’ material back a bit — back to when armed with the masters for his first two, critically applauded EPs, Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist, relocated from Boston, where he was then based to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, Hakim quickly went to work, spending his spare time writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder and further fleshing them out whenever possible. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound. However, with Hakim, things are done very differently; in fact, the demos are seen as more akin to building a comfortable, holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, Sarlo was tasked to clean, furnish where necessary and prepare those who entered for a profound, religious experience.

Thematically speaking the album’s material reportedly focuses on unique and particular aspects and events of his life with the bulk of the songs being based on specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts had at the time he was writing and composing. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Green Twins’ fourth and latest single “The Want” features Hakim’s tender and aching falsetto over a sparse and hauntingly eerie arrangement of shimmering and gently plucked guitar chords played through copious reverb and effect pedals, soaring organ and a gently propulsive rhythm section to evoke a plaintive, vulnerable and undeniably carnal longing for someone, when all you want in this world is the electric touch of their skin against yours, to lay around in an unkempt bed with limbs entwined all morning, kissing, touching, licking, tickling, laughing and bullshitting . . .

New Video: The Childlike and Psychedelic Visuals for Nick Hakim’s “Roller Skates”

Earlier this year, the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim quietly re-emerged with the first batch of new material in some time, “Bet She Looks Like You,” and “Green Twins,” the first two singles off his much-anticipated and long-awaited full-length debut album Green Twins, which is slated for release in a few weeks through ATO Records. Interestingly, Hakim can trace the origins of Green Twins to when armed with the masters for his first two EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist relocated from Boston, where he was based at the time to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, Hakim spent his spare time fleshing out incomplete songs and writing and recording sketches using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He then took his new demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound; however, with Hakim, things are done very differently; in fact, the demos are seen as more akin to building a comfortable, holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, Sarlo was tasked to clean, furnish where necessary and prepare those who entered for a profound, religious experience. However, thematically speaking, Green Twins’ material reportedly focuses on unique and particular aspects and events of his life with the bulk of the songs being based on specific experiences, feelings, and thoughts had at the time he was writing and composing. As a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling.

Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Now, as I wrote about “Bet She Looks lIke You,” the song further cemented Hakim’s growing profile and reputation for writing intimately confessional songwriting with a heartbreakingly visceral feel — all while being a subtle refinement and expansion of the sound that first won the attention of the blogosphere; in fact, the material retains a spectral quality, thanks to sparse arrangements that allow room for Hakim’s achingly tender falsetto but interestingly enough, the song manages to nod at Roy Orbison. Green Twins’ third and latest single “Roller Skates” continues in a similar spectral and soulful vein; however, there’s a subtle hallucinogenic-fueled psychedelia. Adding to the personal feel of the album’s material, “Roller Skates” is partially inspired by actual real life experience. “The song’s first verse is about a night when I got really stoned at my friend’s house and forgot to meet up wth my partner,” Hakim says in press notes. “It was pouring rain outside and when I realized I was late, I biked through Bed Stuy as fast as I could through the rain to find her but she was gone . . . The second verse is about patching it up, and not leaving her house for a couple of days. It’s a love song.”

Featuring childlike and psychedelic animation by Micah Buzan, the video employs an accessible and deeply empathetic concept. “I wanted to tell a simple story about lonely characters, who desire something that they can’t seem to get — be it love, a stuffed animal, or the ability to skate well,” Buzan says. “I also tried to make it kind of funny how their expectations don’t live up to reality. In the end, rollerskating unites all the characters as they join together in the roller rink. We might feel alone but we’re in this life experiment together.” Much like he visuals for “Bet She Looks Like You,” the visuals for the latest single continue a trend of Hakim pairing his material with bold, playful yet artfully done imagery,

New Video: The Surreal and Gorgeous Visuals for Nick Hakim’s “Bet She Looks Like You”

Up until relatively recently, it had been some since I had written about the Washington, DC-born, Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Nick Hakim; however, 2017 looks to be a big year for the renowned singer/songwriter as his much-anticipated full-length debut Green Twins is slated for a May 19, 2017 release through ATO Records — and if you had stumbled across this site earlier today, you’d remember that Hakim is currently on tour to build up buzz for the new material until its release.

Interestingly enough, as the story goes, Hakim can trace the origins of the material of Green Twins to when armed with the masters for his first two EPs Where Will We Go Part 1 and Where Will We Go Part 2, the DC-born singer/songwriter and guitarist relocated from Boston, where he was based at the time to Brooklyn. And as soon as he got himself settled, he spent his spare time fleshing out incomplete songs and writing and recording sketches and lyrics using his phone’s voice memo app and a four-track cassette recorder. He then took his new, demo’d material to various studios in NYC, Philadelphia and London, where he built up the material with a number of engineers, including frequent collaborator Andrew Sarlo (bass, engineering and production), who were tasked with keeping the original spirit and essence of the material intact as much as humanly possible.

As Andrew Sarlo explained in press notes about the writing and recording process for Green Twins, for many artists, a demo typically serves an extremely rough sketch of what the song could eventually become and sound; however, with the Hakim, the general sense is that the demos are much more like building a holy temple — and as a result, as a producer and engineer, he was tasked to clean, furnish and prepare entrants for a religious experience. Thematically speaking, the material on the album reportedly focuses on unique and rather particular aspects of his life with the bulk of the songs based on specific things he was thinking and feeling at the time he was writing and composing. And as a result, the album consists of a series of different self-portraits — and in a similar fashion to Vincent Van Gogh’s famed self-portraits, the album’s song captures the artist sometimes in broad strokes but frequently in subtle gradations of mood, tone and feeling. Hakim adds, “I also felt the need to push my creativity in a different way than I had on the EPs,” The record draws from influences spanning Robert Wyatt, Marvin Gaye and Shuggie Otis to My Bloody Valentine. We wanted to imagine what it would have sounded like if RZA had produced a Portishead album. We experimented with engineering techniques from Phil Spector and Al Green’s Back Up Train, drum programming from RZA and Outkast, and we were listening to a lot of The Impressions, John Lennon, Wu-Tang, Madlib and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.”

Green Twins’ first single, “Bet She Looks Like You,” will further cement Hakim’s growing reputation for deeply intimate, confessional songwriting that manages to be heartbreakingly visceral while being a subtle expansion upon the sound that first won attention as it retains a spectral quality but with a subtle, bluesy swagger reminiscent of Roy Orbison. Interestingly, the recently released video for the song follows Hakim as he walks to a studio space in what appears to be Sunset Park, near Industrial City where he takes part in a surreal play full of dream-like imagery, missed chances, miscommunication — and some popping and locking.