One frequent problem with the New Complexity and its pop music counterpart, math rock, is that the composers behind such works often prize virtuosity and musical complexity above all else. It’s not that difficult metrical modulations and elaborate tonal systems are in any way “bad,” but there are many instances where the difficulty and technicality of the material seem solely employed to show off the artist’s skill.
Despite working with extremely mathy musical elements, Jonathan Pfeffer has never succumbed to mere technical masturbation. Listen to the work of his former band Capillary Action, and it becomes apparent that Pfeffer is quite skilled at coaxing grooves and memorable melodies out of even the most complex structures. These abilities are on full display with Pfeffer’s new composition “Bodega” which amazingly manages to work Ferneyhough-esque rhythms into footwork-like grooves and genuinely shocks when a rap begins seven minutes into the piece. Despite these seemingly disparate elements, “Bodega” flows incredibly well and makes me think of what might happen if Zach Hill incorporated more of his math rock background into some of his Death Grips beats. There are many contemporary classical composers who are attempting to mix hip-hop/dance music elements with the technicality of formal composition but Pfeffer has set a high bar for cross-pollination success with “Bodega.” Unlike many of his peers, it’s clear that Pfeffer has absorbed and synthesized the styles that he chooses to work with, and as a result, “Bodega” manages to simultaneously groove while impressing with technicality.
Listen to “Bodega” via Pfeffer’s SoundCloud below:
• Jonathan Pfeffer www.jonathanpfeffer.com
Pete Rock & Camp Lo
80 Blocks from Tiffany’s Pt. 2
A lot of people think that Camp Lo fell off hard after their classic debut, Uptown Saturday Night. They see each subsequent release as a disappointment, a failure to recapture the magic of that initial offering. I’m of a different school of thought. To me, each Camp Lo album is a Hattori Hanzo sword, and as Michael Madsen’s Budd said in Kill Bill: Vol. 2, “If you’re gonna compare a Hanzo sword, you compare it to every other sword ever made… that wasn’t made by Hattori Hanzo.” Through this lens, each Camp Lo album post-USN is not a failure, but yet another imaginative adventure into a beautiful and exotic realm of atemporal funk and otherworldly feats of linguistic grandeur.
80 Blocks from Tiffany’s Pt. 2 is no different, except for the fact that instead of unofficial third member Ski Beatz or an ensemble of others, it features the often imitated but never duplicated Soul Brother #1 Pete Rock in the producer’s chair. And if you think about it, this soul/funk combination makes perfect sense. After all, one of the main reasons CL Smooth’s voice always sounded great over Pete Rock’s beats was that it was… well, smooth. And in terms of rap delivery, who’s smoother than Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede? The March 2011 release of the first 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s mix, comprised almost exclusively of previously released Camp Lo a cappellas and Pete Rock instrumentals, provided some idea of what this fantasy-rap team might sound like, but even that well-blended teaser tape couldn’t adequately foreshadow just how tight this project truly is.
Stream the new mixtape below, watch the 1979 documentary 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s on YouTube, spend the rest of your life combing the BX for whichever poetry-club-cum-interdimensional-portal gave our world Camp Lo, and when finally you give up your search, just be thankful that they’re still here.
Guest Mix: Mark Templeton
an extension of the eye
It’s my pleasure to present an extension of the eye, a brand new mix by Mark Templeton.
Based upon the Canadian sound artist’s recent collab exploits, an extension of the eye is a detailed and brooding piece that demonstrates an echo-riddled pallet of fumbling electro-acoustica, as well as an epilogue to his most recent album, Jealous Heart, which landed a well-earned place on our Favorite Albums of the Year (So Far).
Mr. Templeton shared the following about his intended angle:
My mix is based on acts of collaboration. It highlights some of the work by artists who have influenced me as I’ve listened to their ideas in a different context. A number of the artists featured on the mix are friends of mine (or friends of friends), so I’ve been introduced to their works over the years.
I thought this was a fitting theme because over the past year I’ve worked on a couple of large collaborative projects. They involved working with other musicians, such as Nicola Ratti, but also artists from various mediums such as photography and film. Collaboration is always difficult, but it’s necessary for growth. To place the project above oneself requires humility, something that’s difficult for any artist.
Currently, I’m working with filmmaker Kyle Armstrong on an audiovisual release entitled “EXTENSIONS” (the project is loosely tied to some of the ideas of media educator Marshal McLuhan). I’ve included three unfinished portions of my audio experiments in the mix.
For “EXTENSIONS,” Kyle and I are both taking something that already exists. We wanted to reshape and remould our sources to communicate something new. We’ve been working with sampled material, which places the emphasis on the medium, rather than the source. I like working with artists from other mediums, because I enjoy seeing how they see and hear my work… the colours, textures and shapes that they see are fascinating to me and act as an extension of my work. The same can be said about how the visual elements affect what I choose to communicate through sound.
Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.
[00:00] Tumble - “Track 03” (Tumble for Tumbling, Die Schachtel)
[00:36] Bellows - “Track 01” (Reelin’, Entr’acte)
[04:38] Jon Hassell & Brian Eno - “Rising Thermal 14 16’ N; 32 28’ E” (Fourth World, Vol 1 - Possible Musics, Virgin)
[07:20] Mark Templeton (audio) & Kyle Armstrong (visual) - “Untitled1” (Extensions, Tbd)
[07:51] Ursula Bogner - “Begleitung Fur Tuba” (Recordings 1969 - 1988, Faitiche)
[10:10] Mark Templeton & Kyle Armstrong - “Untitled2” (Extensions, Tbd)
[10:36] Giuseppe Ielasi & Andrew Pekler - “01” (Holiday for Sampler, Planam)
[13:12] Malatesta Wolfarth - “Track 06” (Mirrors, Presto!?)
[14:39] Martin Siewert/Martin Brandlmayr - “Is This Love?” (Too Beautiful to Burn, Erstwhile)
[20:31] Fenn O’berg - “Horst Ind Snail Mit Markus” (Magic & Return, Mego)
[20:45] Mark Templeton & Kyle Armstrong - “Untitled3” (Extensions, Tbd)
Attention fans of next-level club music: Lit City Trax co-proprietor J-CUSH and Fade to Mind artists Fatima Al Qadiri and NGUZUNGUZU (Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda) have formed a group called Future Brown. They’re currently working on an album with a rotating cast of MCs like Shawnna, Maluca, Ian Isiah, and Kelela, but our first taste from the group features Chicago rapper Tink on a track called “Wanna Party,” a claustrophobic, bass-heavy number with prickly percussion that accentuates their global inspirations. Or should I say global aspirations?
Check it out here:
• Future Brown: http://twitter.com/FutureBrown
• Fatima Al Qadiri: http://fatimaalqadiri.com
• NGUZUNGUZU: http://twitter.com/NGUZUNGUZU
• J-CUSH: http://twitter.com/JCushTEKLIFE
• Tink: http://www.twitter.com/official_tink
• Lit City Trax: https://twitter.com/LITCITYTRAX
ultraviolet / somethingness
Japanese bedroom savant ventla is back at it, having released two free new albums in the past week: somethingness and ultraviolet. These are the 24th and 25th installments of a planned 100 that began in July 2011, incrementally advancing ventla’s ongoing “fuck you” to the distractibility of big-mouthed woulda-beens like Sufjan Stevens. Welcome to the bleeding edge of today’s serialized pop, everybody. (“Fuck you” implicit, and dubiously inferred.)
Often associated with vaporware by sheer dint of his fantastic fansubbed last words, ventla has little to do with those sample-wholesale sounds: a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and master of analog home recording, he explores a creative process more akin to an R. Stevie Moore, a Chris Knox, or an Ariel Pink of yore.
ultraviolet is perhaps the more robust offering, but my favorite track of the crop stems from somethingness. Like many of ventla’s songs, “ushihama” borrows its name from one of the suburban train stations in his fair city Tokyo. And indeed, the quaint marimba melody, sunstroked guitar, and low drums sound like an old 16-bit master composing a podunk theme between swigs of Francis Bebey or some other Ghanain homebrew from the 70s.
• ventla: http://ventla.tumblr.com
In case you haven’t heard, Omar Souleyman’s back with a new album. It’s called Wenu Wenu and was produced by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet). Look for it October 22 on Ribbon Music. In the meantime, grab your mic and hit play on the video above. You’re about to do some karaoke, motherfucker.
• Omar Souleyman: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Omar-Souleyman/116551741600
• Four Tet: http://www.fourtet.net
• Ribbon Music: http://www.ribbonmusic.com