Tag: SXSW

New Audio: Baba Ali Shares a Brooding and Uneasy Scorcher

Last year, rising Transatlantic indie duo Baba Ali — Baba Doherty (vocals) and Nik Balcin (guitar, synths) — released a series of singles through Danger Mouse‘s 30th Century Records, before releasing their full-length debut Memory Device through Memphis Industries to widespread critical acclaim, including features in the Observer and Sunday Times, heavy rotation from KEXP, KCRW and BBC 6 Music, as well as being named BBC 6 Music’s Album of the Day.

The rising duo’s double A side single “Living It Up”/”Black & Blue” act as a bribe between both old and new sonic directions, although both tracks were originally written back in 2020 — before they started working on what would become Memory Device‘s material. As it turns out, the duo put these tracks aside in order to focus on the Memory Device sessions, only to be revisited upon a newfound relevance to how their live show had evolved.

“We ended up reacting to the beginning of lockdown by writing a tonne of new songs in my basement in New Jersey,” Baba Ali’s Doherty says in press notes. “Some of the tracks ended up forming a mixtape that we put out on Bandcamp. ‘Black & Blue’ was a song from that collection of songs, and one we were really happy with at the time, so this was an interesting opportunity to open the track up again and see how our experiences since that period had changed our approach to recording.

“It is a song I am always trying to convince Nik to add to our live set, but I don’t even think he can even remember the tuning he used for it. Hopefully giving the song an official release will kind of force his hands on that one.”

Centered around buzzing synth arpeggios, skittering beats, slashing bursts of guitars, Doherty’s insouciant and dryly ironic delivery, “Black & Blue” is a brooding and slick synthesis of industrial electronica and post-punk that describes love as an experience that’s complex and confusing full of searing, blistering lows and euphoric highs, and made stranger, more dangerous in our increasingly apocalyptic age.

The “Living It Up”/”Black & Blue” double A single is the first non-Yard Act release through Zen F.C., the label run by the band’s James Smith and Ryan Needham. “We loved Baba Ali’s music from the moment we heard it. They’re joining us for our debut album tour in February,” Smith and Needham say in press notes. “When Baba sent through some new tunes he and his bandmate Nik were working on we saw an opportunity to reboot Zen F.C., and to preserve on wax and share some great music with the world. It was a no-brainer for us. We are honoured, we are buzzed to have Baba Ali as the first ever non-YA release on Zen F.C. – follow the label, there will be much more to come in the future.”

Lyric Video: Athenian Artist Theodore Shares Expansive, Shoegazer-like “Frame of Reference”

Initially schooled in piano and traditional Greek folk music, before heading to London to study Music Composition, the critically applauded Athens, Greece-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer, Theodore frequently meshes classically inspired compositions, electronic production and rock arrangements to create a cinematic sound and approach that nods at psych rock, prog rock and experimental rock. And in some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that the critically applauded Athenian artist has publicly cited Sigur RosRadioheadPink FloydManos HadjidakisVangelis PapathanasiouNils FrahmThe NationalOlafur Arnalds and Max Richter as being major influences on his work and sound. 

The Athens-based artist performed his sophomore album It Is But It’s Not at London’s Abbey Road Studio 2 and the live footage of that session amassed over two million YouTube views. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Theodore and his backing band played sets across the global festival circuit, including Reeperhbahn FestivalEurosonic NooderslagRelease Festival, New Colossus and  SXSW.

Adding to a growing profile, he also opened for Sigur Ros and DIIV, and has received praise from a number of major outlets including Clash MagazineMusic WeekTsugiFGUK, Gaffa and Szene, as well as airplay from BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne.

As a composer, Theodore has written the scores for Matina Megla’s Windo and Vladan Nikolic’s Bourek. He was also commissioned to write a new, live score for Buster Keaton’s classic silent comedy The Cameraman, which was performed by the acclaimed Greek artist and his band during a screening at the Temple of Zeus. (Seriously, how cool is that?)

Theodore’s third album, 2018’s Inner Dynamics thematically found the Greek artist looking inward to examine the dichotomies — and dualities — of his identity to seek new, creative potential. “On It Is But It’s Not, I tried to explore how the opposite elements in the universe interact, how they fight and how without the one you can’t have the other.” Theodore says, adding, “For Inner Dynamics, I was trying to express my urge to connect the conscious and subconscious part of myself so I can be creative. It’s an understanding that humans are not just one thing, and they shouldn’t try to hide certain elements of their personality because society likes to put labels of who we are. It’s the different sides of my self that makes who I am.” 

The Athens-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer’s fourth album, The Voyage is slated for a March 13, 2022 release through United We Fly. The Voyage is a concept album that takes the listener on a journey through space while examining and reflection on human evolution.

The album’s latest single “Frame of Reference” is a slow-burning and expansive song that begins with a lengthy introduction featuring atmospheric synths and slowly builds up into a massive, orchestral swelling with swirling, shoegazer-like guitars and increasingly forceful drumming. The two distinct sections are held together by Theodore’s yearning vocals.

“Frame of Reference” is inspired by a dream Theodore had in which he was looking back on how charmingly blue Earth was, as he was floating away in outer space. The song as he explains is about how the things we don’t really appreciate in our daily lives can often appear beautiful from a distant point of view.

Fittingly, “Frame Of Reference” is accompanied by a space imagery themed, official lyric video, which helps set the overall mood for the Athenian artist’s forthcoming album.

“This lyric video is a space journey. From Earth to the planets of our solar system, to distant galaxies and interstellar transitions,” Danai Nielsen, the video’s director explains in press notes. “It follows the emotion and intensity of the song, trying to communicate and engage the emotion that Theodore conveys musically into moving images. It has a strong element of nostalgia and exploration. We are moving away from the Earth, our safe base and home, without a clear destination. We are just floating in this infinitely beautiful space.”

New Video: Oliver Future Returns After 14 Year Hiatus to Release a Brooding Fever Dream

Split between Austin and Los Angeles, psych rock outfit Oliver Future — currently founding members Noah Lit (guitar, vocals), Josh Lit (vocals, keys), Sam Raver (guitar), Jesse Ingalls — was founded in Austin, back in 2002 featuring a lineup of Noah Lit, Josh Lit, Raver, Ingalls and Jordan Richardson (drums). While in Austin, the band wrote and recorded several albums before their management company relocated the band to Los Angeles in 2005.

The management company (and their stipends) disappeared quickly, and the band was stuck in Los Angeles, too broke to get back home. Luckily, they met producer and engineer Adam Lasus, who has worked with a who’s who list of contemporary indie rock acts, including recording a hit record with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, had just relocated to Los Angeles.

Lasus worked with the band on 2007’s Pax Futura, an effort that was released to widespread critical praise and received airplay on KCRW and NPR Music. The band, who were by then a fixture at Spaceland and The Echo, supported the album with several national tours, as well as stops at Austin City Limits Festival, SXSW, Sunset Junction Music Festival — and a live set on Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Just as the members of Oliver Future started working on Pax Futura‘s follow-up, a famous touring artist hired the band’s rhythm section. Ingalls and Richardson wound up touring the world and winning a Grammy while the remaining members of the band went on to write and record 2008’s In Event of Moon Disaster. Shortly, after In Event of Moon Disaster‘s release, the band broke up. Josh Lit, Noah Lit and Sam Raver returned to Austin.

Shortly after returning home, Noah Lit and Josh Lit became co-owners of popular East Austin craft beer and kolaches bakery, Batch Craft Beer and Kolaches. The successful brothers and business partners were still eager to create new music, and in 2019, they asked Jesse if he wanted to return to Austin to play what was intended to be a one-off, goodbye show at The Continental Club. The show was sold out, and although it was meant to close the book on the band, the fun of playing together was undeniable.

As the drudgery of lockdowns continues into last summer, Josh Lit, Noah Lit and Raver started regularly getting together to jam in their studio. The music instantly sounded like Oliver Future. They contacted Richardson, who remembered two of the songs they were working on before their initial breakup “Phases of the Moon” and “I Can’t Take It.” The rest of the material, which would eventually comprise their forthcoming album A Year at Home was written remotely between Austin and Los Angeles over the past year with the band sending tracks and ideas back and forth through text and email. Studio pro Jimmy Paxson played drums on the album.

The band describes the A Year at Home sessions as “the most effortless recordings they ever got to do.” The final touch was that the band recruited Adam Lasus to mix the record. Although the album is the first album from the psych rock outfit in over 14 years, the album’s material sees the band seemingly continuing where they left off.

“Phases of the Moon,” A Year at Home‘s first single is a slow-burning and brooding song, centered around glistening synth arpeggios, the Lits’ ethereal harmonies, shimmering guitars and a steady yet hypnotic groove. Sonically, “Phases of the Moon” will most likely draw comparisons to Dark Side of the Moon era Pink Floyd and Young Narrator in the Breakers era Pavo Pavo — it’s anachronistic take on retro futurism, which seems to reveal the rot, anxiety, and unease just underneath,

The recently released video for “Phases of the Moon” is an eerie yet gorgeous fever dream inspired by modern life in quarantine doldrums: evil phantasms are everywhere, so the video’s protagonist is left at home trying to hold on to the old normal, and to entertain herself — but she eventually she goes mad.

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Rousing, Feminist Anthem

With the release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, 2019’s Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early in the year, it was announced that she was going to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, much like with everyone else,the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and because of pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions, filming was delayed. During breaks in the filming schedule, she was supposed to open for a handful of dates for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed until later on this year. (More on that below.)

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening — inspired and informed by Black Lives Matter and other movements.

Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. But importantly, the album’s material will most likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases and assumptions that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism — all of which have impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she initially discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul and classic pop while occasionally hinting at the country soul of her critically applauded debut.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Stand For Myself’s first single, “Diamond Studded Shoes,” a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, country, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explained in press notes. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Interestingly, Stand For Myself’s second and latest single is the album title track “Stand For Myself.” Centered around a rousing, shout-along worthy hook, Yola’s powerhouse vocals and a clean, pop-leaning take on the Nashville sound, the song was cowritten by Yola, Dan Auerbach and Hannah Vasanth — and features The McCrary Sisters contributing backing vocals. The track manages to be a bold and proudly feminist anthem written from the perspective of a survivor, who wants to thrive and be wholly herself — at all costs. And yet much like its immediate predecessor, there’s incisive social commentary underpinning the whole affair: Essentially, the track reflects on the JOVM mainstays’ belief in the possibility of paradigm shift beyond the mental programming that creates both tokenism and bigotry.  “The song’s protagonist ‘token,’ has been shrinking themselves to fit into the narrative of another’s making, but it becomes clear that shrinking is pointless,” Yola explains. She adds “This song is about a celebration of being awake from the nightmare supremacist paradigm. Truly alive, awake and eyes finally wide open and trained on your path to self actualisation. You are thinking freely and working on undoing the mental programming that has made you live in fear. It is about standing for ourselves throughout our lives and real change coming when we challenge our thinking. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life.”

Directed by Allister Ann, the recently released video visually is indebted to Missy Elliott’s classic videos of the ’90s and ’00s but with strobe lights and a motorcycle to symbolize, the JOVM mainstay’s escape — and freedom — from those forces that have been oppressing her. And most importantly, depicting a much more nuanced definition of Black female strength — a strength thats balanced with vulnerability. r”My school years were during the 90s and 00s, and Missy Elliott’s videos were always aesthetically superior to me,” Yola says of the video. “I feel that the video is set in the antechamber to freedom. The feeling of escaping something truly oppressive and heading towards an unknown with a sense of hope and choice you haven’t felt in a long time. We all have the capacity to go through this process in our own minds, I kinda look like a superhero at times, but I’m not. I’m just a person trying to be free.”

New Video: JOVM Mainstay Yola Releases a Surreal and Hilarious Visual for Her Most Politically Charged Song to Date

With the 2019 release of her critically applauded, Dan Auerbach-produced full-length debut, last year’s  Walk Through Fire, the Bristol, UK-born, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, guitarist and JOVM mainstay Yola had a breakthrough year with a series of career-defining highlights including:

making her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall
playing a buzz-worthy, breakout performance at that year’s SXSW
opening for a list of acclaimed artists including Kacey Musgraves, Lake Street Dive and Andrew Bird on a select series of US tour dates that featured stops at Newport Folk Festival, Hollywood Bowl, Austin City Limits Festival, and Lincoln Center Out of Doors
playing a YouTube session at YouTube Space New York
making her nationally televised debut on CBS This Morning: Saturday Sessions
receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Artist, along with fellow JOVM mainstays The Black Pumas.
making her late night national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 
releasing a soulful cover of Elton John‘s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,”that not only quickly became a staple of her live sets — but caught the attention of Sir Elton John, who praised her and her cover

Understandably, last year, the JOVM mainstay had hopes to build upon the momentum of the previous year with a handful of opportunities that came her way that many artists across the world would kill for: Early last year, it was announced that she was cited to play blues and rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe in Baz Luhrmann’s musical drama Elvis alongside Austin Butler in the title role, Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Presley’s mother. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a series of monkey wrenches into her hopes and plans: Tom Hanks wound up contracting COVID-19 while filming in Australia and the rest of the shooting schedule was delayed for the better part of a year. In between filming, she was supposed to play a series of dates opening for country superstar Chris Stapleton and Grammy Award-winning acts  The Black Keys and Brandi Carlile — with one of those shows being at Madison Square Garden, which also got postponed indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.

However, Yola was able to finish her first Stateside headlining tour, a tour that included a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg, a few weeks before the world went into lockdown.  In lieu of touring, the Bristol-born, Nashville-based artist wound up making virtual stops across the domestic, late night television show circuit: She played album bonus track “I Don’t Want to Lie” on The Late Late Show with James Corden — and she played a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone‘s classic and beloved “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” filmed at The Ryman Auditorium for Late Night with Seth Meyers. 

The Bristol-born, Nashville-based JOVM mainstay used the unexpected gift of time and space to ground herself physically and mentally as she began to write the material that would eventually become her highly-anticipated sophomore album Stand For Myself. Some of the album’s material was written several years previously and inspired by deeply personal moments, like her mother’s funeral. Other songs were written during pandemic isolation, and as a result they reflect on her personal and collective moments of longing and awakening. Tracks were also cowritten with Ruby Amanfu, John Bettis, Pat McLaughlin, Natalie Hemby, Joy Oladokun, Paul Overstreet, Liz Rose, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Hannah Vasanth and Bobby Wood. The album’s material will likely make a connection with anyone who has experienced feeling as though they were an “other” while urging the listener to challenge the biases that fuel bigotry, inequality and tokenism, which have deeply impacted her personal life and career.

“It’s a collection of stories of allyship, black feminine strength through vulnerability, and loving connection from the sexual to the social. All celebrating a change in thinking and paradigm shift at their core.” Yola says in press note, adding, “It is an album not blindly positive and it does not simply plead for everyone to come together. It instead explores ways that we need to stand for ourselves throughout our lives, what limits our connection as humans and declares that real change will come when we challenge our thinking and acknowledge our true complexity.” Ultimately, the JOVM mainstay’s hope is that the album will encourage both empathy and self actualization, all while returning to where she started, to the real Yola. “I kind of got talked out of being me, and now I’m here. This is who I’ve always been in music and in life. There was a little hiatus where I got brainwashed out of my own majesty, but a bitch is back.”

Continuing her ongoing collaboration with acclaimed producer, singer/songwriter, musician and label head Dan Auerbach, the album which was recorded late last year at Easy Eye Sound is inspired by the seminal albums she discovered through her mother’s record collection, as well as the eclectic mixtapes she created while listening to British radio that featured neo soul, R&B, Brit Pop and others. Featuring a backing band that includes Nick Movshon (bass), best known for his work with Amy Winehouse and Bruno Mars alongside Aaron Frazier (drums), a rising solo artist in his own right, the album is sonically is a noticeable shift from her debut, with the album’s aesthetic meshing symphonic soul, classic pop.

“Diamond Studded Shoes,” Stand For Myself’s first single is a woozy yet seamless synthesis of densely layered Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound pop, jangling and twanging country soul, 70s singer/songwriter pop and late 60s/early 70s Motown soul centered around the JOVM mainstay’s powerhouse vocals and some of the most incisive sociopolitical commentary of her growing catalog, as it focuses on the powerful, who have beaten down and cheated folks, who are desperate to survive with their dignity intact. “This song explores the false divides created to distract us from those few who are in charge of the majority of the world’s wealth and use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic to keep it,” Yola explains. “This song calls on us to unite and turn our focus to those with a stranglehold on humanity.”

Directed by Kwaku Otchere, the recently released video for “Diamond Studded Shoes” places the JOVM mainstay into a brightly colored, surreal world in which the mundane, the fantastic, the shitty and the flat-out terrible all meet to often hilarious results. And of course, throughout Yola’s larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and decency can’t be denied.

“The video is in part inspired by The Truman Show and is about being trapped in a false construct,” Yola explains. “It is supposedly perfect, but you’re trapped in a life that wasn’t meant for you. I wanted to convey the feeling that everything you know to be true is not quite working the way it’s supposed to. The island at the end is a paradigm of mental conditioning, we are all trapped on an island of our own thinking, until we change it.”

Stand For Myself is slated for a June 30, 2021 release through Easy Eye Sound. Along with the album announcement and video, Yola announced a series of tour dates that included spots at Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals, making her one of the few to play both in the same year. She’ll be opening for Chris Stapleton on his rescheduled 2021 tour. She’ll also play a headlining show at The Ryman Auditorium next year. Of course, you can find those dates and ticket information at her website: https://www.iamyola.com.

Live Footage: Clipping. on NPR Tiny Desk at Home SXSW

I’ve managed to spill a copious amount of virtual ink covering the acclaimed covering Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. The trio — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — released two critically applauded albums as part of a planned diptych that found them interpreting a hip-hop splinter sect through their own singular lens — horrorcore, a purposefully absurdist and significant hip-hop sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. The first part of the diptych, There Existed an Addiciton to Blood was partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.

Of course, with horror films, sequels are pretty perfunctory and perhaps even obligatory. Last year’s Visions of Bodies Getting Burned manages to hew closely to the horror film sequel tradition with the JOVM mainstays retuning with an even higher body count, bloodier, more elaborate, gorier kills and as always, unrelenting monsters that just won’t ever stay dead. The 16 song album draws from an eclectic array of sources including Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson, Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Brotha Lynch Hung. Developing an abrasive, angular and downright messy take on horrorcore, centered around an industrial and goth-like aesthetic, the members of Clipping. lovingly twist familiar genre and sub-genre tropes to fit their politics and thematic concerns — in particular, those that fit our current moment: fear, the absurd, the uncanny, and the seemingly unending struggling for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonialist world.

Traditionally, NPR Music participates in SXSW — typically through curating showcases and through covering the hundreds of showcases and sets performed at the annual festival. Last year, the festival was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year, the festival reconvened as an online festival with pre-recorded livestreams. NPR programed a virtual stage of Tiny Desk (at home) concerts, filmed in various locations and full of surprises and Easter eggs, which were presented on the festival’s final day.

The JOVM mainstays took part, offering one of the most unique, surreal and innovative Tiny Desk (at home) sessions I’ve ever seen with the trio emphasizing both an in-your-face, close-up intimacy and tininess with the trio performing with extremely tiny instruments and microphones. And at some point, one of the members of the trio even drinks a tiny beer. Clipping.’s NPR Tiny Desk (at home) session features material from their last two albums, as well as 2016’s Wriggle EP and their debut mixtape, 2013’s midcity performed with even more menacing and uneasy productions that continue to display Diggs’ rapid-fire and clever wordplay — all while being disorienting.

With the release of their debut single “Island of Promise,” the Budapest-based electronic music production and artist duo  Belau — Peter Kedves and Buzas Krisztian — quickly exploded into their homeland’s scene for establishing a buoyant, summery and dance floor friendly sound that according to the band meant to evoke “cheerful places, filled with sunshine, where one can relax, unwind and find peace and harmony.” Since its release, “Island of Promise” landed at #1 on Deezer Hungary, one of the country’s largest string services, amassed over 500,000 streams, was featured in the HBO Hungary series Aranyélet, and in an international  Pepsi ad campaign shown in 33 countries.

Belau’s full-length debut, 2016’s The Odyssey won a Hungarian Grammy for Best Electronic Music Album. The duo supported the album with an intense touring schedule — 120 shows in 19 countries with stops across the international festival circuit with sets at Eurosonic, SzigetReeperbahnUntold, and SXSW. After The Odyssey, the JOVM mainstays released a series of remixes of The Odyssey tracks, which they followed up with their sophomore album, 2019’s Colourwave featured a number of singles I’ve written about, including:

  • Breath,” a sultry, dance floor friendly collaboration with Sophie Lindinger centered around glitchy beats and a sinuous yet anthemic hook
  • The Massive Attack-like “Natural Pool.”
  • Rapture,” a collaboration with Blue Foundation‘s Kirstine Stubbe Teglbjærg centered around a trip hop-inspired production featuring shimming synth arpeggios, wobbling low end and Stubbe Teglbjærg’s sultry vocals. 
  • Essence,” a collaboration with Sophie Barker that features Barker’s sultry vocals gliding over a shimmering production centered around looping, reverb-drenched guitar shimmering synths, skittering beats and an enormous hook that brought Third-era Portishead and Octo Octa to mind  – but a with a brooding air.

Although the duo haven’t been able to tour as a result of the pandemic, they’ve been busy: earlier this year, they released “Luz,” a one-off single with Sexto Sentido that was decided sonic departure for the duo: the single reminded me quite a bit of fellow JOVM mainstays Ibeyi. Interestingly, as the duo explained in press notes, “’Luz’ is kind of a bridge to our future album; it’s a bit different from our earlier releases.,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays explain. “This single is a harmonic blend of traditional Afro-Cuban folk music and modern electronica, the lyrics in yoruba and spanish. This song is a spiritual journey for us, it will be the part of Colourwave DLX album with some remixes, reimagined versions and live sessions in April.

For Colourwave DLX‘s latest single, the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recruited Ohxalá to remix album single “Breath” with Sophie Lindinger. Interestingly, the Ohxalá remix meshes dub and house music by retaining Lindinger’s sultry vocals paired with a chopped up hook, skittering beats and shimmering synths,. Interestingly enough, the remix gives the song a subtle yet completely different feel: in this case, the Oxhalá remix possesses a bracing chilliness that reminds me quite a bit of Octo Octa’s Between Both Selves.

“‘Breath’ was one of the first single from the album and also one of our favourites. We had some nostalgic feelings about that era, for example the day when we got the final master, that was the first time when we ever met with Sophie,” the Budapest-based JOVM mainstays recall. “Fun fact it was in Texas, where we played at SXSW. After the success of the song, we thought it would be great to have an alternative version, and asked Ohxalá to make a remix. We love their style because they blend traditional folk music with modern electronica, and they made a unique song which also has a new mood.”

Live Footage: The Black Angels Perform “Young Men Dead” at LEVITATION Festival

Levitation Festival (formerly known as Austin Psych Fest) can trace its beginnings to a simple idea devised by the members of  The Black Angels in the back of a tour van in 2007 — let’s invite all of our favorite bands and all of our friends for our version of a music festival. 

The inaugural Austin Psych Fest was in March 2008 and by popular demand, the festival expanded to a three day event the following year. Austin Psych Fest quickly became an international destination for psych rock fans with lineups featuring up-and-comers, cult favorites, legendary and influential acts and a headlining set from The Black Angels. Renamed Levitation in honor of Austin psych rock pioneers The 13th Floor Elevators, the festival has sparked an new, international psych rock movement while inspiring the creation of several similar events across the globe, including Levitation Festival events in Chicago, Vancouver, France and a SXSW showcase, as well as other special events in Europe and Latin America.

Late last year, Levitation Festival’s record label, The Reverberation Appreciation Society announced the launch of a new live album series, Live at LEVITATION. Comprised of material played and recorded throughout the festival’s decade-plus history, the live album series specifically captures and documents key artists in the contemporary psych rock scene. Of course, many of these moments were also important moments of Austin’s live music scene. 

The live series’ first album Kikagaku Moyo — Live at LEVITATION featured two different Kikagaku Moyo sets — their 2014 Levitation Festival set, which was one of the Japanese psych rock act’s first Stateside shows and their return to Levitation back in 2019, during a sold-out Stateside tour, which included a stop at Warsaw that year with Japanese krautrockers Minami Deutsch.

Live at LEVITATION‘s second album The Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION features the festival’s founders The Black Angels. The Black Angels live album is comprised of material recorded at Austin Psych Fest 2010, 2011 and 2012, and captures a rare glimpse of the festival’s earlier, more humble days. And of course, for Black Angels fans, like myself, the album features live version of six songs from their first two albums — Passover and Directions to See a Ghost. “Since the beginning The Black Angels were meant to be heard live,” the band’s Christian Bland explains in press notes. “This record captures the rumble of the drums and amps, and the very essence of the way it should sound. Now future generations and new listeners can now hear how these songs were meant to be heard.”

The album’s first single was a hypnotic and equally menacing version of Passover single “Manipulation” that featured a mesmerizing guest spot from Elephant Stone‘s bassist, sitarist and frontman Rishi Dihr. And building up more buzz for the album’s release day — which is tomorrow — the band released the live album’s second and latest single, a muscular and menacing version of Passover single “Young Men Dead.” The accompanying live footage captures the band and their live sound with an uncanny fidelity.

This weekend is a big weekend for the band: As I mentioned their live album, Black Angels — Live at LEVITATION is slated for a digital and vinyl release tomorrow. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past year, you’d recall that The Black Angels and MIEN frontman Alex Mass released his solo debut, a meditative and gentler take on the psych rock sound he’s developed throughout his nearly two decade career, inspired by the birth of his son Luca.

Much like countless other artists across the globe, the pandemic has put touring on hold indefinitely. So, Maas and his backing band — Bryan Richie, Jake Garcia and Rob Kidd — decamped to nearby Bastrop, TX to bring the live show that they had developed around the album’s material to the world through a live performance film, shot in the Texan city’s historic downtown.  “We shot this down in an old opera house built in 1889 and a 100 year old German tailor mercantile building in historic downtown, which is now Astro Records,” Maas says in press notes. “This session is a glimpse of what a tour on Luca would look like had we not been in a pandemic. It was a joy to get out and get back with the friends and collaborators I created this album with, and bring these songs to life. For now this is the world tour, and a look at what we’re looking forward to being able to do on stage when we are back up and rolling! Thank you to Jonas Wilson of Mr. Pink Records who asked me originally to film this in the beautiful city of Bastrop.” 

Featuring sections from Luca and three new songs, the live session shot in Bastrop, TX will stream as a Levitation Session on March 27, 2021 at 7:00PM Central.