Tag: reworkings/reimagining

Ghent, Belgium-based electronic duo Charlotte Adigéry and Bolis Pupul exploded into the national and international scenes with the release of 2019’s critically applauded David and Stephen Dewaele-produced Zandoli EP, which featured Paténipat” and “High Lights,” tracks that received airplay on UK Radio and were playlisted by  BBC Radio 6

Adigéry and Pupul’s official full-length debut as a duo, Topical Dancer was released earlier this year through Soulwax‘s own label DEEWEE. Co-written and co-produced by Soulwax and the acclaimed duo, Topical Dancer is deeply rooted in two things: The duo’s perspectives as Belgians with immigrant backgrounds with Adigéry proudly claiming Guadeloupean and French-Martinique ancestry — and the wide-ranging conversations the duo have had touching upon cultural appropriation, misogyny, racism, social media vanity, post-colonialism. 

While being a snapshot of their thoughts and observations of pop culture in the early 2020s, the album also further cements their sound and approach: They manage to craft thoughtful songs that bang hard but are centered around their idiosyncratic, off-kilter take on familiar genres take off familiar genres and styles. “We like to fuck things up a bit,” Pupul laughs. “We cringe when we feel like we’re making something that already exists, so we’re always looking for things to combine to make it sound not like a pop song, not like an R&B song, not a techno song. We’re always putting different worlds together. Charlotte and I get bored when things get too predictable.”  

And as result, Topical Dancer’s 13 songs are fueled by a restless desire to not be boxed in — and to escape narrow perceptions of who they are and what they can be. “One thing that always comes up,” Bolis Pupul says, “is that people perceive me as the producer, and Charlotte as just a singer. Or that being a Black artist means you should be making ‘urban’ music. Those kinds of boxes don’t feel good to us.” But they manage to do all of this with a satirical bent; for the duo it’s emancipation through humor. “I don’t want to feel this heaviness on me,” Charlotte Adigéry says. “These aren’t my crosses to bear. Topical Dancer is my way of freeing myself of these issues. And of having fun.”

In the lead up to the album’s release, I wrote about four of Topical Dancer‘s singles:

  • Thank You,” a sardonic, club banger featuring skittering beats, buzzing synth arpeggios and Adigéry’s deadpan delivery destroying mansplainers and unwanted, unsolicited and straight up dumb opinions and advice from outsiders. 
  • Blenda,” a club banger, centered around African-inspired polyrhythm, wobbling bass synths, skittering beats and Adigéry’s deadpan. Informed by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, “Blenda” focuses on colonialism and post colonialism through Adigéry’s experience as Black immigrant in an extremely white place. 
  • HAHA,” a track built around a chopped up sample of Adigéry making herself laughed paired with twinkling synths, skittering beats and a relentless motorik groove that feels improvised and unfinished yet somehow simultaneously polished. 
  • Ceci n’est pas un cliché,” a slick dancer floor friendly bop centered around a strutting bass line, finger snaps, skittering beats and glistening synth arpeggios paired with Adigéry cool delivery of clichéd pop lyrics in a series of non-sequiturs that’s surreal yet displays a weird sense of logic.

The song’s title is a winking nods to one of the most copied sentences in art history, originally by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. “This song is an accumulation of all the cliché lyrics so often used in pop music. It came about when we were touring and heard a song on the radio opening with ‘I was walking down the street’ which made us strongly cringe,” the duo’s Charlotte Adigéry says. “But the thing is, cringing is a shared passion of Bolis and I. So we passionately made a song out of it called ‘Ceci n’est pas un cliché’. Even more passionately we performed ourselves into a video about all the clichés we see in the magic world of musical genres. The musician in all its glory, capturing momentum and delivering a top notch performance, gazing into the light that’s called inspiration. And so for once and for all, please leave Magritte alone…!”

The acclaimed Belgian duo shared Soulwax’s remix/reworking of “Ceci n’est pas un cliché” simply titled “Cliché.” Soulwax delivers a euphoric the on the Adigéry and Pupul original, pushing up the tempo and energy in a club banger centered around tweeter and woofer rattling four-on-the-floor paired with dense layers of oscillating synths and chopped up samples of Adigéry’s vocals. Much like the original, it’s surreal yet wildly accessible.

Lyric Video: JOVM Mainstays Ibeyi Teams up with BERWYN on a Swaggering and Impassioned Re-Imagining of Black Flag Anthem

Deriving their name from the Yoruba word for twins ibeji, the acclaimed French-Cuban, London-based twin sibling duo and JOVM mainstays Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) — Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz — can trace the origins of their music career to growing up in a deeply musical home: their father, Anga Diaz, was best known for his work as a member of the intentionally acclaimed Buena Vista Social Club and for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo. Anga died when the twins turned 11.

After their father’s death, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi began studying Yoruba folk songs and the cajon, an Afro-Caribbean drum that the twins’ father played throughout most of his career. Interestingly, although Yoruba is primarily spoken in Nigeria and Benin, the African language has been spoken in some form in Cuba since the 1700s, when the slave trade brought Africans en masse to the Caribbean. So when the twins started studying their late father’s musical and culture heritage, they had a deeper understanding of their father and of their ancestral history.

Ibeyi’s 2015 self-titled debut was released to widespread, international critical applause. Thematically, the album dealt with the weight of the past — in particular, their father’s life and death, their relationship with each other, their origins and their connection with their roots. Sonically, the album saw the Diaz Sisters quickly establishing a unique sound with elements of electro pop, hip-hop, jazz, the blues and Yoruba folk music.

The French-Cuban JOVM mainstays’ sophomore album 2017’s Ash saw them writing songs firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history — but while arguably being among the most visceral, politically charged material of their catalog to date, with the album’s material thematically touching upon race, gender and sexual identity. 

Slated for a May 6, 2022 release through XL RecordingsSpell 31, Ibeyi’s third album derives its title from “Spell 31” in The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, which interestingly enough became the premise of the album’s first single “Made of Gold,” a lushly textured song featuring atmospheric synths, buzzing bass synths, skittering tweeter and woofer rattling beats, the twins’ gorgeous and dreamy harmonizing and a guest spot from Gambian-British emcee Pa Salieu.

When the twins returned to the studio to write and record new material, they had felt a sense of chaos, informed by the chaotic state of the world surrounding them. As they got to work, they set out to invoke the age-old teachings of their ancestors to remobilize the power of their birth-given destiny as Ibeyi. 

The album reportedly sees the twins on a path to restoration in pursuit of true harmony, healing and magic — all of which, we desperately need right now. The JOVM mainstays commissioned activist and storyteller Janaya Future Khan to write an essay for them, after meeting the activist and storyteller. Khan explains “Ibeyi’s Spell 31 is their boldest offering yet, an antidote to apathy in a divided world.” They explain further, “Spell 31 casts with conviction, transmuting nihilism into sangoma, binaries into endless dualites, moral austerity into abundance. A subversive and halcyonic manifesto from queens of a sovereign land, Ibeyi occupies the liminal, the space between life and death, past and present, right and wrong, and calls for the interior revelations that create the systemic revolutions we long for.”

Continuing their successful collaboration with their long-time producer Richard Russell, Spell 31‘s 10 songs were written, produced and recorded by the duo and features appearances from Jorja SmithBERYWN, the twins’ father and mother, and the aforementioned Pa Salieu. The album also features a reimagining of Black Flag‘s “Rise Above.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about album track “Sister 2 Sister.” Centered around a hyper-modern production featuring wobbling bass synths, skittering beats, glistening synths and the twins’ uncanny and gorgeous harmonizing, “Sister 2 Sister” is inspired by their Afro-Latin roots and their sisterhood: The song sees the twins recalling a fond memory of singing along to Shakira in the mirror. But they also talk of the knowledge that despite the times they might be at odds with other, they know they can always depend on and rely on each other.

Spell 31‘s latest single sees the JOVM mainstays re-imaging Black Flag‘s 1981 anthem “Rise Above” that features a guest spot from London-based artist BERWYN. Having never heard the song before, Lisa-Kainde and Naomi were presented the song’s lyrics by their producer Richard Russell. They quickly got to work, looping an old sample of their father drums, improvising a completely new sonic take for a song originally written back in the 80s, that still resonate now.

Centered around stuttering, reverb-drenched beats, buzzing bass synths, the Diaz Sisters soulful and impassioned delivery, the Ibeyi take on “Rise Above” still calls out the rich and powerful, who control us — and young people’s desire to stand up and make a new, fairer world. BERWYN delivers a fiery guest verse in which he says “if the revolution is now, I’m the first to join in the fight!” The collaboration between the JOVM mainstays and BERWYN manages to make a vital connection between punk rock, hip-hop and Black Lives Matter — reminding the listener that the struggles of punks in the 80s are the pretty much the same as BLM today.

“We read the lyrics and we immediately felt their relevance to how we felt about the world in its current state,” Lisa-Kainde Diaz explain sin press notes. “We got to work on the melody and had the full song done in 5 minutes. Jorja Smith heard the track and told us we had to get BERWYN on the song. We had him by the studio to listen to the full album. I left to make tea, upon returning to the studio BERWYN had already written his verse for “Rise Above,” before he had even finished listening to the album. We knew we had something special, what a gift!”

Live Footage: Luke James with Nu Deco Ensemble, Samoht and Sensei Bueno Perform a Gorgeous Re-Imagining of “shine on”

Luke James (born Luke James Boyd) is a New Orleans-born singer/songwriter and actor, whose musical career started in earnest as a background vocalist for Tyrese, along with a classmate Quentin Spears. While with Tyrese, James and Spears met acclaimed production outfit The Underdogs, who worked with and mentored the duo, who performed, wrote and recorded as Luke & Q.

Through his connection with The Underdogs, the legendary Clive Davis signed James to J Records, where he wrote material for Chris Brown, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber. But by 2011, he released his debut mixtape, #Luke, which featured the critically acclaimed single “I Want You.” “I Want You” eventually earned James a Best R&B Performance Grammy nomination. He followed that up with his sophomore mixtape 2012’s Whispers in the Dark and his 2014 self-titled, full-length debut.

Since the release of his full-length debut, James released “Drip,” which was later remixed by A$AP Ferg and his critically applauded, breakthrough sophomore album, last year’s to feel love/d. The album which featured guest spots from BJ The Chicago Kid, Ro James, Big K.R.I.T., Kirk Franklin and Samoht, and production by Danja, Cobaine Ivory, Guitarboy, and Sir Dylan received a Best R&B Album Grammy nomination. The album helped James earn his third Grammy nomination while being the only independent release album in the category to land a nomination.

As an actor, James played Johnny Gill in BET’s 2017 TV biopic The New Edition Story. He has appeared in the Regina Hall and Will Packer film Little. He played Noah Brooks in FOX’s Star and he’s appeared in HBO’s smash hit series Insecure, as well as BET’s The Bobby Brown Story. Last year, he was in the third season of Showtime’s The Chi.

The multiple Grammy nominee will star in the Broadway play, Thoughts of a Colored Man, which will open at The John Golden Theatre on October 31, 2021 and run through March 2022. The limited engagement will be the first new play to open on Broadway in almost two years, as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns. The play explores a single day in Brooklyn with seven Black men discovering the extraordinary together through a blend of spoken word, slam poetry, rhythm and humor.

Adding to a busy year, James teamed up with Sam Hyken, Jacomo Bairos and their Miami-based 30 member orchestra Nu Deco Ensemble on A Live Sensation, a live re-imagining of his Grammy nominated sophomore album to feel love/d.

Slated for release on Friday, A Live Sensation was recorded at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and was originally broadcast exclusively on BET as a benefit concert for the NAACP’s Backing the B.A.R. Initiative, with donations and funds going towards Black-owned bars and restaurants hurt as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns.

A Live Sensation will feature nine tracks from the live performance, which sees James blend his soulful vocals with Nu Deco Ensemble’s orchestral sound. The album features guest spots from Sensei Bueno and Samoht.

“‘A Live Sensation’ is a raw orchestral expression inspired by the verb: love. It is a live recorded offering to the world, taken from a film inspired by love,” Luke James says of the new album. Nu Deco Ensemble co-founder and conductor, and collaborator Jacomo Bairos adds “It feels cosmically aligned to once again collaborate with our friend – the sensational and truly creative Luke James. We all recognized his unbelievable talent as well his generous and collaborative spirit when we first met years ago, so to have him return to collaborate on a project that highlights his unique vision through his GRAMMY nominated album on such a dynamic and creative project simply means the world to us. We are blessed to share this moment together, bringing more beautiful and meaningful music experiences to such a wide audience.” 

A Live Sensation‘s latest single is a re-imagining of to fee love/d‘s “shine on,” that pairs James’, Samoht’s and Sensei Bueno’s soulful and achingly vulnerable vocals with a breathtakingly gorgeous arrangement of soaring strings, shimmering guitar and twinkling Rhodes. The end result is a song that sounds enormous yet deeply intimate, while yearning heavenward with a rare, but profound sincerity.

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Yumi Zouma Releases a Stylish Visual for Glistening Pop Rework of “My Palms Are Your Reference To Hold Your Heart”

Throughout the course of this site’s ten-plus-year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the acclaimed synth pop act Yumi Zouma. Last year, the JOVM mainstays fiend Polyvinyl Record Co, who released their critically applauded, self-produced, third album Truth or Consequences earlier this year, an album that thematically focuses on distance — both real and metaphorical; romantic and platonic heartbreak, disillusionment and feeling (and being) out of reach.

For the overwhelming majority of the acts I’ve covered throughout this site’s history, touring is often the most important part of the promotional campaign for their new release. Frequently, before the tour, the band/artist/collective in question will begin to figure out how to re-contextualize both brand new and older material for a live setting, imagining how a crowd will react to what they’ll play in their live set. Of course, much like countless acts across the world, Yumi Zouma’s hopes to tour and play the material off Truth or Consequences to their devoted fans was canceled as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns.

Slated for an October 28, 2020 release, Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions) is the JOVM mainstay act’s response to the lost opportunity to re-contextualize and explore the boundaries of the original album’s material through live fan engagement. Truth or Consequences (Alternate Versions)’ latest single is a reworked version of “My Palms Are Your Reference To Hold Your Heart.” Centered around glistening synth arpeggios, Christie Simpson’s ethereal yet plaintive vocals, a sinuous bass line, shimmering guitars, propulsive polyrhythm, the reworked version retains the song’s strutting hook but manages to give the song a tropical disco like air — all while retaining the original’s achingly wistful air.

Directed by the band, the recently released and incredibly stylish visual for “My Palms Are Reference to Hold Your Heart” features live footage of the individual members of the band playing the song, projected on the wall behind the band’s Christie Simpson, further evoking the sense of isolation from our friends and loved ones — and the other very human experiences we can’t have right now.

“This version of the song we affectionately shorten to ‘Palms’ started with just a few chords that I’d tried out underneath the vocal melody – I felt a little stuck with what to do next, but I sent the minimal scraps I had along to Charlie anyway, so he could give it a crack,” Yumi Zouma’s Christie Simpson explains in press notes. “When it came back the mood was completely transformed – into this sparkly, ABBA-esque dark disco feel that it has now. This video came about much in the same way, starting as an idea from Josh to shoot a live performance against projections of the rest of the band when we couldn’t all be together – and transforming into this James-Turrell inspired installation in an infinity-walled space, with programmed lights and a makeup artist and a black suit. Both ended up more slick, more fun, more flashy – and in (what felt like) the blink of an eye. So we hope you enjoy, and dance in your bedroom, and take a little moment of spontaneous silliness in a world that is undoubtedly weighing pretty heavy on us all right now.”

Michelle Blanchard is a Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and alt pop artist, whose recording project Madyx draws from P!nk, Katy Perry, The DistillersBrody Dalle and Melissa Etheridge — although Blanchard has received attention for pairing earnest and socially relevant lyrics with crowd pleasing, infectious production. Adding to a growing profile, her debut EP was recorded with Grammy nominated producer Brian Howes, who has worked with Daughtry, Simple Plan and Hedley among others. Her latest single is a bold cover/re-imagining of Modern English‘s iconic “I Melt With You,” turning the familiar song into a contemporary singer/songwriter guitar pop – and although the melody and the tempo have been slowed down, Blanchard cover manages to reveal a subtly different take, while retaining it’s essence.

 

 

New Video: The Gorgeous and Brooding Visuals for BETS Shoegazer Rework of The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun”

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the last two months or so, you’d recall that the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter BETS came to attention last year with the release of her critical applauded debut, Days Hours Night. Building upon the buzz of her debut, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and her producer were set to write and record new, original material when the duo discovered that they shared a mutual love of Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled breakout debut effort. Reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS and her producer decided to put the sophomore effort of original material on hold to work on a Violent Femmes cover album in which she reimagines the familiar and beloved material.

In fact, as you’ll hear on BETS’ slow-burning, shoegazer rework of “Blister in the Sun” guitars are fed through layers of distortion, fuzz and feedback paired with gentle drumming and BETS’ dreamily distracted vocals, while pulling apart the song’s melody and chorus to the point of it being dimly recognizable and giving her version an ethereal moodiness.

Directed by Valerie Sute, the recently released video for BETS’ gauzy and dreamy rendition of “Blister in the Sun” begins with some glorious footage of New York City before following a young woman wandering through the desert brush — both by car and by foot with a brooding moodiness.

Brooklyn based singer/songwriter BETS came to attention earlier this year with the release of her critically applauded debut effort Days Hours Night. Interestingly, building upon the buzz of her debut, the Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter and her producer were set to write and record new material when the duo discovered that they shared a mutual love of Violent Femmes 1983 self-titled breakout debut effort. Reportedly, within a few minutes, BETS and her producer decided to put the sophomore effort of original material on hold to work on a Violent Femmes cover album in which she reimagines the familiar and beloved material.

In fact, as you’ll hear on BETS’ slow-burning, shoegazer rework of “Blister in the Sun” guitars are fed through layers of distortion, fuzz and feedback paired with gentle drumming and BETS’ dreamily distracted vocals, while pulling apart the song’s melody and chorus to the point of it being dimly recognizable and giving her version an ethereal moodiness.