In its initial “pure” form, ambient music is work that’s intentionally designed to fade into the background and become as neutral as the wallpaper or the furniture in a room. Under this definition, “true” ambient works forgo development in favor of stasis and subtle beauty.
With these definitions in mind, it’s a bit confusing at first as to why Ryan Norris a.k.a. Coupler labels his compositions as “deliberate ambient music.” While these pieces bear some signifiers of the style (synths, minimal harmonic/melodic motion, prettiness), Norris’ works are full of intriguing arrangements and process-based developments that are impossible to ignore and accept as just furniture music.
His latest album Sunless utilizes a small instrumental palette that successfully creates a surprising and consistently intriguing amount of timbres/textures with his minimal means. Even though his music bears few similarities to Norris’ other band, Lambchop, there’s a similar sense of pacing to the development of Coupler’s material. Like his Lambchop brethren, Norris knows that a minimal hook can go a long way, and this is especially apparent on the track “Sideman,” which sounds a bit like Schlammpeitziger’s Collected Simplesongs run through the delay system Terry Riley used on A Rainbow in Curved Air. The entire piece is based around an offset drum loop and a simple organ riff that almost imperceptibly develops additively, accumulating more voices and textures until it simply fades away.
While Norris may use ambient techniques to set this process in motion, the result is ultimately something that doesn’t neatly fit into any one category. Much like Lambchop, Norris is making music that mixes a number of styles without ever really sounding like any of them.
Sunless is out now via No Kings, and you can listen to “Sideman” below.
“Every Little Thing Remix (feat. Cam’ron, Irfane & Tekilatex)”
And here, ladies in gentlemen, is the first great weird collaboration of 2013. French producer Para One, best known for his production for TTC and his remixes of Daft Punk and Ellen Allien, has teamed up with fellow Francophones Irfane and Tekilate for a remix of his bubbly single “Every Little Thing,” which originally appeared on last year’s LP Passion.
But what sets this remix apart is the inclusion of Cam’ron, who’s probably been feeling a bit left out since A$AP became the de-facto buzz king of the Harlem rap scene. He certainly knows how to grab our attention by pulling off a solid bit of R&B crooning, before getting down to his usual horndog poetics “booty like a mountain.” Cloudy house seems an odd bedfellow for hip-hop, but it seems that Killa Cam’s found a new niche here, away from the now-outdated machismo of his Diplomats days. That’s not to say, however, that we wouldn’t enjoy another Come Home With Me: fingers crossed we get another “Hey Ma” soon.
Eventually, post-human life spreads the dawn of vegetative intelligence. Piles and piles of green and reusable technology keeps feeding its power-on mechanisms from sunlight, wind, dirt, etc. And plant life becomes the next reign of existence: Som Sakrifis. Fleeing one pile of electronics to the next, growth begins in tiny electrical evolutions. New forms of photosynthesises are created through post-human waste and ooze on another level — thick, purple, sometimes it’s a color indescribable to human eyes — feeds from vegetation to vegetation. Natural plant life remains relatively the same, but bio-technological life sometimes migrates and spreads viral photosynthetic properties, infecting and illuminating what once was native. Sometimes multiple types of bio-technology migrates to the natural, which festers with the culture of evolution. This festering is called “Sakrifis.” But all of these colonies and vegetative groups are only concerned with combining and webbing, networking on a massive informative scale to gain that next level. And the next level is not really the goal, but the push; the “Sakrifis” is definitely where this life force intends to continue. Through PAN, all things Som Sakrifis will begin March 7. PREPARE.
Cool Intentions is Chicago footwork made by an L.A. pop punk. As the drummer for tropical-punk-turned-post-post-punk band Abe Vigoda, Dane Chadwick might be one of the last people you’d expect to be making juke tunes. But it also kinda makes sense. This style of electronic dance music is all about the rhythm, and Chadwick clearly has experience playing lightning-fast rim shots, super speedy tom rolls, and incessant kick drumming in crazy complicated polyrhythms.
Along with all these quintessential footwork elements, Chadwick adds a sunny layer of light-heartedness to these tracks. Bright airy synths, bubbly bass lines, and vocal samples that are a bit less abrasive than many proper footwork tracks makes for a slightly watered-down juke release that is pleasantly listenable but still might break your ankles if you try to dance to it.
Cool Intentions is released by New York City label Astro Nautico, which also released Chadwick’s solo premiere as a part their mind-blowing Atlantics Vol. 2 compilation last year.
Matangi [Mix for Kenzo]
Been reading too much in Chocolate Grinder recently and feel like it’s more than the music itself? Lemme take it easy on ya with M.I.A.’s new “mixtape” Matangi. Boom-done!
• MIA: http://www.miauk.com
For Madmen Only
Cult Favorite is New York. Producer A.M. Breakups’s sound was born upstate, and despite years making noise in the NYC underground, the rust belt embedded in his sound. Brooklyn’s own Elucid is his city in rhyme form, urgent, grating, unassailable; a leviathan.
People are going to hear this album and immediately compare the duo to Death Grips and Captain Murphy, because like the former, they feature a gruff-voiced, dark-skinned MC rapping over a light-skinned producer’s unconventional beats, and like the latter they’ve sampled Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite. Both comparisons are to be expected, but neither is entirely appropriate, as this project is (1) clearly, concisely structured and (2) altogether absent of spectacle-over-substance gimmickry. Don’t catch feelings over it though. Sometimes it takes a demanding listen like For Madmen Only to expose your favorite flavors of the month for the non-threatening panderers they truly are.
What Eluicid lacks in tongue-in-cheek wordplay he more than makes up for with nuanced displays of visceral honesty. His vocals are hit with a healthy dose of reverb, delay, and other effects, but these never function as crutches or cover-up; that ominously menacing mic presence is all Elucid. Likewise, A.M. Breakups’ sound never fully descends into noise territory; instead, it remains firmly tethered to the producer’s strong sense of melody. This is a good thing. When it comes to “alternative” or “progressive” music, it’s easy to bend genres through entropic madness — much more difficult and risky to try pushing the envelope while remaining faithful to a pre-existing structure.
For Madmen Only is available today via download or limited-edition 180-gram vinyl. If I’d one complaint, it’d be that the album is too damn short, but the replay value is tremendous and the Deluxe Edition tacks on an instrumental version as well two additional tracks in the form of Elucid’s “noise experiment,” Exit Tapes. Only 300 copies though, so hurry up and buy.