Today is the sixth day of Black History Month. And if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few days of this month, you’d see that I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styles that I think can guide you towards understanding the Black experience.
Through the month — and throughout the year, I hope that you’ll come to understand and appreciate the following:
Black culture is American culture
Black music is American music.
Black history is American history.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
You can’t love black art and black artists without loving black people.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.
I love The Whispers. I’ve found some way to mention them throughout my years as a music journalist. And I have at least one DJ set where the legendary R&B act comes up prominently. This shouldn’t be surprising: there’s a lot of nostalgia that comes up with them. I can remember hearing “Rock Steady” being played on the AM radio of my father’s brown 1979 Dodge Aspen with the busted air conditioning. But I mean let’s be honest, if you want to have a party — and you what everyone to dance, play The Whispers.
During Clem’s weekly video request night, someone — mostly me — winds up requesting The Whispers. And as a result, it’s a group obsession. So there’s that, too.
Alan Palomo is a Mexican-born, Denton, TX-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, electronic music artist, producer and film maker, best known for his acclaimed solo recording project Neon Indian. And with the release of four full-length albums and an EP — 2009’s Psychic Chasms, 2013’s Era Extraña, the Errata Anex EP and 2015’s Vega Intl. Night School, Palomo established a reputation for crafting a slickly produced synth pop sound that sounds indebted to Prince, Thriller, Bad and Dangerous-era Michael Jackson and the synth funk/synth R&B sounds of the late 70s and early 80s – in particular think of The WhispersHeatwaveEvelyn “Champagne” King’,Cherelle and an even lengthier list of others.
Now, it’s been some time since I’ve written about Palomo and Neon Indian and as it turns out that Palomo had spent the past couple of years working on 86’d, his first narrative short. As Palomo says in press notes, 86’d is “a love letter to New York cinema and in a way, a final recapitulation of the Night School universe. Shot on 16mm over the course of three nights, it was an ambitious undertaking for all parties involved but honestly making it was such a blast that at times felt like just that, a party. I’m eternally grateful to all the wonderful people that came together to realize this kooky project and proud to finally be able to share it with music and movie goers alike.
Directed by Palomo, written by Palomo and Kai Flanders, edited by Pete Ohs and Dustin Reid, the film stars Buddy Duress (Good Time, Heaven Knows What), Lindsay Burdge (Easy, Thirst Street, The Midnight Swim), Seaton Smith (Top Five, Mulaney), Chase Williamson (John Dies at The End), Mitzi Akaha (Lowlives, Dark Side of The Moon) and musician Alex Frankel (Holy Ghost) as well as Palomo. Set in Ed Koch-era NYC, Max takes a mouthful of mescaline and desperately tries to make it home before it kicks in. On his way, he decided to stop at an all-night deli for a quick, late night meal. After numerous order delays and full-on trip stampeding into his psyche, he is made to pay witness to the colorful cast of lower east side weirdos, visualizing their stories through his newly altered lens: A Times Square dominatrix meets up with one of her regulars to reveal an answering message left by his wife. Two punks discuss an ultimatum as one reveals his connection to a pistol found in a drug bust. A recording engineer convinces an aspiring singer to re-record a destroyed vocal take from a canonic 80s group and attempts to pass it off as the original. Visually speaking, the short reminds me quite a bit of Martin Scorcese’s After Hours as it describes a New York and New York characters that are sadly long gone.
Along with the film, Palomo wrote and recorded the short’s theme song “Heaven’s Basement,” a fittingly 80s inspired, dance floor friendly track, centered around shimmering and arpeggiated synths, a sinuous bass line, a scorching distortion pedal effect-drenched guitar solo paired with Palomo’s dreamy falsetto. Interestingly, while the new track will further cement Palomo’s reputation for crafting slickly produced, dance floor friendly synth pop, it possesses a lysergic, mind-altering air.
Comprised of Ella Thompson and Graeme Pogson, GL is a Melbourne, Australia-based electronic music production and artist duo, who with the release of 2013’s Love Hexagon EP and their full-length debut Touch developed a reputation for specializing in a sound that’s very much a contemporary take on disco, funk, boogie, soul and house music, and as a result the Australian electronic music duo quickly earned international attention from The Guardian, i-D, The FADER, V Magazine, XLR8R and others, as well as played sets at New Zealand’s St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival and Splore Festival while nationally they’ve opened for Nick Murphy fka Chet Faker and played a successful headlining national tour to support their full-length debut.
Building upon a growing national and international profile, which resulted in a busy touring schedule, the duo locked themselves away in the studio to write and record the double A-sided single “Destiny”/”Reflect,” and as the duo explain “‘Reflect’ is an extended jam we made at TFS Studio in North Fitzroy, Melbourne. We wanted to try a long form exploration piece. Listen out for the delightful keyboard solo by Harvey Sutherland! Lyrically, it’s about searching inward, when the outside gets a bit much.” Interestingly enough, the song while being decidedly introspective manages to be joyous, suggesting that searching inward can be a profound solace in a cruel world or as George Clinton once wisely sung “The kingdom of heaven is within.” Of course, sonically, the song will further cement the duo’s reputation for crafting a sound that draws so much from 80s and 90s house music and 80s synth soul that it brings to mind The Whispers “It’s A Love Thing,” “And The Beat Goes On,” and “Rock Steady,” Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Love Come Down” and Cherelle‘s “Saturday Love” as Pogson pairs a production featuring layers of shimmering and cascading synths, a sinuous bass line, tribal drumming, bursts of shimmering keys and a soaring hook with Thompson’s self-assured vocals. Simply put, it’s arguably one of the most DJ-leaning, club rocking tracks I’ve written about in several months; in fact, if I were DJ’ing, I’d make sure to fit this one into a set.
Aida is a French-born singer/songwriter who with the release of “Let’s Ride” off her soon-to-be released debut EP, My Retrospective has received attention for a neon bright, funk sound reminiscent of 80s synth funk — i.e., The Whispers “And The Beat Goes On,” “It’s A Love Thing,” and “Rock Steady,” Tuxedo’s self-titled debut, Dam-Funk, Blood Orange, Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” and others; in fact, “Let’s Ride” which features a slick, dance floor-friendly electro funk production by Fresco Klüb consisting of cascading and propulsive arpeggio synth chords, enormous, tweeter and woofer rocking beats from Fresco Klüb paired with Aida’s effortlessly soulful and coquettish vocals.
Directed by Xavier Cantin-Lemieux of La Maison Bald Man, the recently released music video consists of pitch-perfect 80s-inspired visuals that cut between Aida going to a local bodega to make a phone call, where she watches a music video featuring three bathing suit-clad dancers on a studio-designed beach, and Aida riding her scooter through a Tron-like landscape; but as the video gets to the hook, it becomes darker, suggesting that Aida is an assassin on an important mission — and she does so with a cool, detached, efficiency.
As I’ve mentioned a number of times throughout the history of this site, I’m often multitasking while working on blog posts and as a result I frequently wind up serendipitously discovering new things to write about for the site; in this case, I stumbled across a young, up-and-coming DJ and producer, DJ Mestizo‘s contemporary funk, disco and boogie mixtape Unfadable MF (Modern Funk) and make no mistake, the mixtape is a collection of funk that would make The Whispers, George Clinton, Dam-Funk and others extremely proud.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been experimenting with a monthly Spotify playlist that covers the songs I’ve reviewed over the course of the past month, along with the songs I’ve referenced. And although some songs almost always seem to be missing during the initial compilation, I think it still manages to be a fairly comprehensive look at the past month on JOVM. (Just an early world, December will be pretty interesting as there will be a monthly playlist and I will be doing a Best of List primarily through Spotify as an additional experiment. But we’re jumping ahead here.)
Over the past couple of years, the Chicago-based neo-soul and funk quintet The Main Squeeze have become something got a mainstay act on this site as I’ve written about them on a handful of occasions. The quintet originally […]
Last year, the production duo began to establish themselves as artists with the release of their debut EP I.W.S.O.M, which featured the single “Tuesday.” Building upon an already growing national profile, the duo toured extensively to support the EP — and it included a set at Firefly Music Festival. (Interestingly, the festival may have had one of the biggest and most star-studded lineups of this past year’s festival season as Intergalactix played a bill that included Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon, Snoop Dogg,The Killers, Morrissey, and several others.)
Growing up listening to a ton of synth funk back in the 80s, it isn’t surprising that a number of contemporary artists have revived that sound — both eras specialize in slick production based around sinuous bass lines, shimmering arpeggio synths, four-on-the-floor drumming (or drum programming), anthemic hooks paired with an incredible sense of memorable melody and sensual vocals. You can’t help but recognize how sexy the song is — but it’s also a certified club banger, that should make you get up out of your seat and to the dance floor.
Comprised of sibling duo, Howard and Guy Lawrence, the Reigate, Surrey, UK-based production and electronic music act Disclosure have achieved an astounding level of success in a relatively quick period of time — with the […]