Tag: Oakland CA

New Video: Oakland’s Orchestra Gold Returns with Funky and Forceful “Gende”

Oakland-based psych outfit Orchestra Gold is rooted in the decade plus-long collaboration between Malian-born vocalist Mariam Diakite and Oakland-based guitarist Erich Huffaker. The duo first met in Bamako, Mali back in 2006. At the time, Huffaker was very busy: he was working for a nonprofit, studying djembe and dunun (drums) and immersing himself in the city’s burgeoning music scene when he had met and befriended Diakite. The duo recognized a deep and profound musical connection, which led to Diakite relocating to the States to start a band — Orchestra Gold. 

Since then, the Oakland-based psych outfit specializes in a kaleidoscopic sound that meshes Malian folk with psych rock and elements of Afrobeat and soul: Diakite delivers heartfelt and thought-provoking lyrics in her native Bambara language over a trippy and funky soundscape featuring swinging rhythms, funky brass and scorching guitar riffs. The outfit’s goal is to transcend national and musical borders while being a healing force. 

Orchestra Gold’s third album Medicine is slated for a January 20, 2023 release. The album reportedly sees the band firmly continuing their pursuit of spreading and healing and community through music. 

Last month, I wrote about album single “Koniya (No Benefit to Envy),” a song which featured shuffling rhythms, scorching feedback and distortion-driven riffage serving as a lysergic and sinuous bed for Diakite’s expressive delivery. The end result was a song that arched upward towards the cosmos while rooted in earthly matters.

Medicine’s latest single, “Gende” begins with a lengthy and dreamy introduction featuring looping and swirling guitar textures. Around the 2:25 mark or so, the song rapidly morphs into a breakneck Fela Kuti-meets-Black Sabbath-meets-Tinariwen-like ripper, reminiscent of JOVM mainstays Here Lies Man, centered around a funky horn line, scorching riffage and looping guitar textures. Diakite’s expressive vocal and shuffling, propulsive polyrhythm glide and dance around the song’s disparate parts. The end result is a song that’s lysergic but defiantly — and boldly — African and danceable.

Diakite explained the inspiration and meaning of the song to the folks at Glide Magazine:

“’Gende’ talks about the importance of family. This song uses poetic imagery to draw analogies about how important our familiar relationships are. We need to treasure them and not exhaust them.

For example, the first image compares the father to wheat. Absent-minded interaction deteriorates the relationship just as overworking wheat turns the grain to dust. This is not to be taken literally but to encourage people to be mindful of their relationship with their parents.

The second image compares siblings to soap. When you scrub soap too hard, taking more than you need, the bar disappears unnecessarily. If you take more than you give to your siblings, you could be left without an intimate, treasured relationship.

The third image compares children to mirrors. This analogy may be different from how we think about ‘mirrors’ in the west. It implies that If you judge or critique your children too harshly, you will end up damaging your relationship. This will distance them from you, and you will end up missing the intimacy that you could have had.”

The accompanying video fittingly features some lysergic imagery that’s eventually superimposed over the band performing the song. Much like its accompanying song, the video is meant to inspire the viewer to get up from their screen and dance.

New Audio: Oakland’s Orchestra Gold Shares a Lysergic Single

Oakland-based psych outfit Orchestra Gold is rooted in the decade plus-long collaboration between Malian-born vocalist Mariam Diakite and Oakland-based guitarist Erich Huffaker. The duo first met in Bamako, Mali back in 2006. At the time, Huffaker was very busy: he was working for a nonprofit, studying djembe and dunun (drums) and immersing himself in the city’s burgeoning music scene when he had met and befriended Diakite. The duo recognized a deep and profound musical connection, which led to Diakite relocating to the States to start a band — Orchestra Gold.

Since then, the Oakland-based psych outfit specializes in a kaleidoscopic sound that meshes Malian folk with psych rock and elements of Afrobeat and soul: Diakite delivers heartfelt and thought-provoking lyrics in her native Bambara language over a trippy and funky soundscape featuring swinging rhythms, funky brass and scorching guitar riffs. The outfit’s goal is to transcend national and musical borders while being a healing force.

Orchestra Gold’s third album Medicine is slated for a January 20, 2023 release. The album reportedly sees the band firmly continuing their pursuit of spreading and healing and community through music. Medicine‘s latest single “Koniya (No Benefit to Envy)” features shuffling rhythms, scorching feedback and distortion-driven riffs serving as a lysergic and sinuous bed Diakite’s gorgeous vocal. The end result is a song that arches upward towards the cosmos while rooted in earthly matters.

New Video: The Acharis Share a Trippy Video for Brooding “False Positive”

Oakland-based shoegazer outfit The Acharis — life partners Shaun Wagner and Mila Puccini — features Bay Area music scene vets, who have played in a number of different bands over the years. Back in 2015, Wagner and Puccini decided to create something together, that was entirely theirs.

2017’s full-length debut, Lost in the Vortex saw the pair sharing vocal and songwriting duties, as well as playing every instrument on the album. The duo’s John Fryer-produced sophomore album Blue Sky/Grey Heaven finds Wagner and Puccini collaborating with a newly recruited live band crafting a much darker sound with a studio polish that stylistically ranges from fragile noise pop to fuzzed out shoeaze. The album’s material also sees the band delivering a wider spectrum of moods.

“False Positive,” Blue Sky/Grey Heaven‘s first single is a brooding and decidedly 120 Minutes MTV era-like anthem centered around fuzzy power chords, thunderous drumming, ethereal boy-girl harmonies and an alternating quiet verse, loud chorus song structure. Sonically, “False Positive” seems to recall My Bloody Valentine, early Smashing Pumpkins and In Utereo era Nirvana — with a nasty, pissed off vibe.

“I came up with this riff when I was a teenager and it’s been bouncing around in my head ever since. The inspiration came from the huge sounding guitars on the first 2 Smashing Pumpkins albums. The original title was ‘Elephant’ as a nod to the Pumpkins track ‘Rhinoceros,'” the band explains in press notes. “When It came time to write the lyrics, I was walking around just being fucking bummed and wondering what I could possibly have to say to the world that would matter. I feel like often there is pressure to reveal some great truth or intelligent insight in a 3 minute rock song, which is just kind of ridiculous. I remember Kurt Cobain talking about how ‘Pennyroyal Tea‘ was about just being hopelessly depressed. So I took inspiration from that and just wrote about how I was feeling at the time. It has that kind of slacker 90’s vibe like yeah, everything is fucked, so what? It all comes full circle in the unintelligible screaming at the end of the song “There’s an elephant in the room. A rhinoceros. A hippopotamus. It’s true” 

The accompanying video for “False Positive” sees the duo performing and wandering in a trippy Victorian house, where they encounter surreal and mind-bending decor and backdrops.

Oakland-based funk and soul outfit The Grease Traps can trace their origins back through about two decades and two previous projects: Back in 2000, Aaron Julin (keys) answered a classified ad by Kevin O’Dea (guitar), searching for players who were hip to the grooves laid down by Blue Note Records artists like Grant Green and Lou Donaldson. The duo quickly formed Groovement, an act that covered those artists, along with other jazz-funk staples. 

When Groovement’s rsax player and frontman moved, Julin and O’Dea switched gears and formed Brown Baggin’, an act that got into the harder hitting funk of The JBs, The MetersKool & The GangMickey & the Soul Generation and a lengthy list of others. They increasingly became influenced by the rare funk compilations released by Keb DargeGerald Jazzman Short and labels like HarmlessUbiquitySoul Jazz and Now-Again, as well as contemporary outfits like BreakestraThe Whitefield Brothers and the Daptone and Soul Fire crews. 

Back in 2005 while still with Brown Baggin,’ Julin and O’Dea began to get fed up juggling the schedules of seven band members, who each had their own varying professional and personal obligations. The pair put out a classified ad seeking a bassist and drummer to jam with as a quartet. The first two musicians, who answered the ad and showed up were Goopy Rossi (bass) and Dave Brick (drums). It was clear from those early jam sessions, that the quartet had a great musical and creative chemistry. 

Originally intended as a fun side project, The Grease Traps quickly became a priority as Brown Baggin broke up. Performing as an instrumental quartet for a handful of years, the band expanded their lineup with the addition of a horn section and lead vocalist The Gata. Over the years, the band has shared stages with the likes of Shuggie OtisRobert Walter, Durand Jones and The IndicationsMonophonicsNeal Francis and Jungle Fire

Now, as you might recall, the Oakland-based outfit released their full-length debut Solid Ground through Italian purveyors of funk and soul, Record Kicks. Six years in the making, Solid Ground was recorded at Kelly Finnigan‘s San Francisco-based Transistor Sound by Finnigan and Ian McDonald and at Oakland-based Fifty Filth Studio by Orgone‘s Sergio Rios, live and straight to eight-track tape on a Tascam 388 to recreate that old-school analog sound. The album’s material features guest spots from the Monophonics’ horn section, backing vocals by Bay Area-based vocalists Sally Green and Bryan Dyer, as well as strings arranged by Kansas City-based violist Alyssa Bell

Solid Ground features a mix of covers and originals. The originals draw from the band’s various influences including funk, psych soul and lowrider soul among others. Lyrically and thematically, the album’s originals see The Gata discussing the pressing issues of our moment — racism, finding hope in a world that seems pitted against you and more. The albums’ covers manage to capture the energy of the band’s live set.

In the lead up to the album’s release late last year, I wrote about album single ”Birds of Paradise,” a strutting synthesis of Muscle Shoals-like soul, The Meters and The JB’s featuring shimmering and arpeggios Rhodes, old school breakbeats, a chugging bassline, wah-wah pedaled guitar, a funky horn line and enormous hook paired with The Gata’s soulful crooning, yelps and howls. Fittingly, the song is focuses on affairs of the heart: the song’s narrator brags, struts and attempts to do anything and everything he could to prove that he’s the man for the woman he desires. 

“Roots,” Solid Ground‘s album opener and latest single is a strutting synthesis of Muscle Shoals, Isaac Hayes-like orchestral psych soul and The Payback era James Brown centered around an expansive song structure that includes the song’s underpinning guitar riff, some bluesy harmonica riffs, an alternating verse chorus verse section, featuring a rousingly anthemic hook, a trippy freak out reminiscent of The Isley Brothers‘ “Shout,” as part of the song’s lengthy outro. Lyrically, the song focus on gathering up the strength to face a hateful and brutal world that’s pitted against you at every single turn. But during the outro, the personal struggle becomes universal with the song pointing out that we need to band together and rise up against those who keep us down. Power to the people, indeed!

“‘Roots’ was the last song we recorded for the album in our studio,” The Grease Traps’ Kevin O’Dea says. “It started off with just the basic riff you hear over the verses. While the main rhythm section groove was cool on its own, we knew we wanted to build up the energy over the course of the song. I wrote some horn lines and added fuzz guitar on top which helped, but we still felt like the song needed something uptempo and driving after the darker beginning. After a false ending, we ramp up the tempo with a faster four-on-the-snare soul groove, followed by a breakdown to just guitar and drums, before building up to a feverish pitch on the outro. We decided to convert most of my original horn arrangements to strings which we felt added to the depth of this track. The Gata did a fantastic job with the lyrics, keeping it heavy on the slower verses, but imploring for change and unity during the outro. His harmonica work also lends an earthy poignancy which really suits the overall feeling we were trying to convey. This was the first and only take we did of the song, including the scratch lead vocals the Gata laid down, because the vibe was just right. Sergio Rios of Orgone created a brilliant mix, blending the many elements into one cohesive unit and making it one of the tracks we’re most proud of.”

Oakland-based funk and soul outfit The Grease Traps can trace their origins back through about two decades and two prior projects: Back in 2000, Aaron Julin (keys) answered a classified ad by Kevin O’Dea (guitar), searching for players who were hip to the grooves laid down by Blue Note Records artists like Grant Green and Lou Donaldson. The duo quickly formed Groovement, an act that covered those artists, along with others jazz-funk staples.

When their sax player and frontman moved, Julin and O’Dea switched gears and formed Brown Baggin’, an act that got into the harder hitting funk of The JBs, The Meters, Kool & The Gang, Mickey & the Soul Generation and a lengthy list of others. They increasingly became influenced by the rare funk compilations released by Keb Darge, Gerald Jazzman Short and labels like Harmless, Ubiquity, Soul Jazz and Now-Again, as well as contemporary outfits like Breakestra, The Whitefield Brothers and the Daptone and Soul Fire crews.

As the story goes, in 2005 while still with Brown Baggin,’ Julin and O’Dea began to get fed up juggling the schedules of seven band members, who each had their own varying professional and personal obligations. Julin and O’Dea put out a classified ad seeking a bassist and drummer to jam with as a quartet. The first two musicians, who answered the ad and showed up were Goopy Rossi (bass) and Dave Brick (drums). It was clear from those early jam sessions, that the quartet had a great musical and creative chemistry.

Originally intended as a fun side project, The Grease Traps quickly became a priority as Brown Baggin broke up. Performing as an instrumental quartet four a handful of years, the band expanded their lineup with the addition of a horn section and lead vocalist The Gata. Over the years, the band has shared stages with the likes of Shuggie Otis, Robert Walter, Durand Jones and The Indications, Monophonics, Neal Francis and Jungle Fire.

The band’s long-anticipated full-length debut Solid Ground is slated for a November 5, 2021 release through Italian purveyors of funk and soul, Record Kicks. Six years in the making, Solid Ground was recorded between Monophonics’ Kelly Finnigan‘s San Francisco-based Transistor Sound by Finnigan and Ian McDonald and Oakland-based Fifty Filth Studio by Orgone‘s Sergio Rios, live and straight to eight-track tape on a Tascam 388 to recreate that old-school analog sound. The album’s material features guest spots from the Monophonics’ horn section, backing vocals by Bay Area-based vocalists Sally Green and Bryan Dyer, as well as strings organized by Kansas City-based violist Alyssa Bell.

The album’s material features a mix of covers and originals. The originals draw from the Oakland-based soul outfit’s various influences including gritty funk, fuzzy psych soul, lowrider soul and funk. Lyrically and thematically, the album’s material sees The Gata openly discussing the pressing issues of our moment: racism, finding hope in a world that seems pitted against you and so on. The albums’ covers manage to capture the energy of the band’s live set.

Album single ” Birds of Paradise” is a strutting bit of Muscle Shoals, The Meters and The JB’s funk centered around shimmering and arpeggiated Rhodes, a chugging bass line, old school breakbeat-like drumming, wah wah pedaled guitar, a big horn line, and an enormous hook paired with The Gata’s soulful crooning, yelps and howls. Fittingly, the song focuses on affairs of the heart: the song’s narrator brags, struts and attempts to do anything and everything he could to prove that he’s the man for the woman he desires.


 

 

New Video: Violent Vickie Releases a Dark and Seductive Visual for Club Friendly “CIrcle Square”

Rising Los Angeles-based coldwave/darkwave/dark synth-riot act Violent Vickie — Vickie (vocals, production) and E (guitar, production) — have released material through Crunch Pod, Emerald & Doreen Recordings, Riot Grrl Berlin and LoveCraft Bar, which the act has supported with tours with Atari Teenage Riot’s Hanin Elias, The Vanishing’s Jessie Evans, Trans X, Them Are Us Too, Aimon & The Missing Persons. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based duo has played sets across the Stateside and European Festival circuits with stops at Insted Fest, Solidarity Fest, Shoutback Fest and Gay Prides and Ladyfests.

“The Wolf” was featured in a National Organization for Women film and she was interviewed for the documentary GRRL as part of the museum exhibit Alien She. And adding to a growing profile, Monster Alley was voted best album by KALX. Violent Vickie’s latest album Division was released last September through Crunch Pod.

Division’s latest single “Circle Square” is a dark, brooding, dance floor friendly bit of coldwave/goth-inspired techno centered around industrial clang and clatter, a relentless motorik groove, arpeggiated synths and Vickie’s achingly forlorn vocals ethereally floating over the murky mix. Sonically drawing from the dark techno songs that Vickie used to party to in Oakland warehouse parties, the track as the duo explains thematically and conceptually “is an exploration of the illusion of not belonging.”

Directed by Ex Corpse Art Collective’s AJ Strout, the recently released video for “Circle Square” was shot with the PhotoBooth app on Vickie’s computer during pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions. And while being made around a decidedly DIY ethos, the video employs the murky and trippy aesthetic that Strout has presented at goth clubs across Los Angeles.

New Audio: mxmtoon Releases an Atmospheric Cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”

Maia is an Oakland-born and-New York-based singer/songwriter, YouTuber, gamer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and creative mastermind behind the acclaimed solo recording project mxmtoon. The 20-something artist, who’s Chinese-American on her mother’s side and German and Scottish on her father’s side — but culturally, she grew up Chinese-American. The Oakland-born, New York-based artist became interested in music at a very young age: her brother took violin lessons and while in first grade, Maia joined him. A few years later, she began playing classical cello and trumpet.

When Maia was in fifth grade, she auditioned for her school rock band. Expecting to audition to cello, she was asked to sing Oasis’ “Wonderwall” and wound up joining as a vocalist, eventually singing Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” The following year, her father taught to play guitar. The Oakland-born, New York-based first used the name mxmtoon on her Instagram account, where she drew cartoon sketches for her followers.

While in junior high school things got interesting: she started her YouTube channel and began playing the ukulele. She wrote her first song when she was 13, eventually recording her original material in her parents’ guest bedroom, creating percussion tracks with hair straighteners and GarageBand. In 2017, she began releasing her songs on YouTube as mxmtoon. After somewhat unsuccessfully attempting to write comedy songs, she started to write sincere martial that embodied her emotions and feelings.

Although she initially released material secretly to the public, Maia was compelled to tell her friends and family after her work started to go viral. Singles like “feelings are fatal,” “Falling For U,” a collaboration with Japanese producer Peachy have amassed over 55 million and 40 million Spotify streams respectively since their release. Maia released her mxmtoon debut 2018’Ss Plum Blossom EP to critical applause from the likes of Earmilk, i-D and Hypebeast — with the EP eventually amassing over 100 million Spotify streams by the following year.

After graduating from high school, the acclaimed Oakland-born, New York-based artist took a gap year to focus on music and on touring: Her first tour, which was initially scheduled for five US shows with fellow Californian Khai Dream wound up being extended to a full-fledged tours of North America and Europe, including opening for fellowYouTuber Cavetown in the UK. Last year continued an enviable run of success for the 20 something artist: she released her full-length debut the masquerade and its follow-up dawn and dusk EP to critical applause while singles like “prom dress,” “bon river” and “fever dream” were certified Gold by the RIAA.

So far, the 20-something artist has amassed over 500 million steams and more than 4 million followers including 1.4 million on TikTok, 846,000 on YouTube, 1.2 million on Spotify and 207,00 on Twitch, where she battled Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in a live-streamed game of Among Us, which wound up being the first largest Twitch stream in its history. Interestingly, the past year has also seen Maia relocate to New York — and she made her NPR Tiny Desk debut, filming her set on the world’s largest desk.

Adding to a rather busy period, the 20-something artist and avid gamer announced her involvement in the next installment of the highly-anticipated Deck Night Games created, Square Enix published gaming series, Life Is Strange, titled Life Is Strange: True Colors. Maia will provide the singing voice for the game’s central character Alex Chen and provides musical backdrop for the game. Additionally, she contributes to the Life Is Strange soundtrack with a hauntingly cover of Radiohead’s beloved smash hit “Creep,” that replaces then guitars of the original with atmospheric electronics while retaining the song’s familiar melody. The end result is a cover that finds the 20-something artist grabbing hold of and pulling out the song’s desperate isolation, longing and self-deprecation in an eerie direction.

“Really excited to share my cover of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead!” mxmtoon says in press notes. “It’s nerve-wracking to make your own version of such an iconic and established song, but ‘Creep’ is a classic and i had so much fun being able to put my own spin on it. Hopefully other people can be inspired to make versions of their own favorite songs and put them out in the world to share as well.”

Oakland-based dream pop trio There’s Talk — Olivia Lee, Kellen Balla and Young Lee — have developed and honed a sound that balances elements of experimental electro pop and reverb-drenched shoegaze in a way that has drawn comparisons to JOVM mainstays Beach House and M83.

Thematically, the tiro’s work draws from Olivia Lee’s Chinese heritage and queer identity, while specifically touching upon family, both biological and chosen — and divine coincidence. But interestingly enough, their sophomore EP, last year’s Great Falls focuses on mourning, grief, memories and longing inspired by the loss of someone very dear to the band’s frontperson. “Grief does not cease,” Olivia Lee writes on the band’s website, “It becomes a sort of friend to hold, and a reminder that we are alive to honor, to remember, to be present, to have a future and to live it as fully as you could ever dream.”

Great Falls‘ latest single “Ascension” is a hazy and slow-burning track centered around twinkling keys, shimmering and reverb-drenched guitars, Olivia Lee’s plaintive and ethereal vocals and a soaring hook. Bearing a resemblance to Bloom and Thank Your Lucky Stars/Depression Cherry-era Beach House and SoftSpot’s Clearing, “Ascension” feels like a half-remembered yet vivid dream fueled by longing and life’s sad lack of closure in anything.

Currently based in Oakland, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lauren Hulbert has had a rather nomadic life, spending time living on both the East Coast and West Coast, as well as Thailand and Ecuador, among other places. Interestingly, Hulbert’s career has revealed an artists who has specialized in genre-defying diversity: as a child, the Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was a classically trained pianist, who competed in Bach and classical festivals. As she got older, she taught herself guitar, eventually becoming a folk/pop artist, whose work sonically features elements of folk, alternative, country rock and pop — and thematically explores the human experience, while drawing from her own experiences. As a result, Hulbert’s work is deeply personal yet accessible, and reveals an article, who has her feet planted in the classical training of her youth and the folk and pop of her adulthood, while centered around her dreamy and soulful vocals.

Superbloom, the Oakland-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s forthcoming EP is slated for an October 30, 2020 release, and some of the EP’s sound and approach was inspired by Hulbert figuratively blooming back to life: Hulbert suffered a serious foot injury while on a surfing trip in Indonesia. For the next six months, she was immobile and it was unclear if she would ever be able to walk again. Understandably, it was a very dark period for her — life as she had knew it, had seemingly ending and whatever artistic and creative momentum was quelled as a result. Fortunately, over a year later, Hulbert has healed and she credits the experience as terrifying but ultimately beneficial, as it forced her to reassess her life and align herself with what’s really important. Additionally, the experience has also made her much more grateful for her health and the opportunity to write, perform, and share her music again.

Superbloom EP’s latest single is the Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea-era PJ Harvey-like “Gone in One.” is centered around jangling guitars, propulsive and shuffling drumming, subtle Flamenco handicapping and Hulbert’s expressive vocals within an alternating quiet, loud, quiet song structure. Sonically and thematically, the song is meant to evoke the sensation of being pushed away and pulled back in a romantic relationship that’s dysfunctional and unhealthy — but while featuring a narrator, who develops the strength to run as fast as she could from it.

“This song is a vulnerable, personal account of unknowingly losing oneself in someone else, which is lonely, confusing, and scary,” Hulbert explains in press notes. “It was like being stuck in a fog not knowing how to get out, looking to others to show me the way but just becoming more lost. I was constantly running internally, but getting nowhere, until I was exhausted into total indifference and I felt like the real me had been erased. Eventually, I realized I was the only one that could really save myself, so I dug really deep and found the strength to get out, which was incredibly hard. I didn’t know when or how I’d heal, but I knew I was on the right path.”