I lean back and let this one float over me — solo piano, hovering somewhere between dissonance and enlightenment, like Scriabin in his most pensive moments (maybe “Vers La Flamme”), clawing at unconventional tonalities while keeping a few fingers in a consonant headspace we can all sink into. Portuguese composer Tiago Sousa’s 33 minutes of Samsara take us down an aural passageway through life to death to rebirth to life to death to rebirth, each milestone audible in delicate upper-register phrases or left-hand block chords or accelerating swells through emotional ivory territories. One might not expect to find such work on wax within the realm of the “drone/avant/experimental” underground, yet here Sousa sits, pressing the sustain pedal gently, breathing and sighing in pauses between rhythms. Unsurprisingly, Immune Recordings backs this beauty — which, though more stripped-down in terms of instrumentation and atmosphere, fits neatly in the catalog alongside the crystalline sonics of Minamo and Lawrence English or Pulse Emitter.
Samsara is available now on LP and CD. Put it on your turntable and it won’t be hard to imagine Sousa right there next to you. He bends over the piano, closes his eyes, and ekes out a musical vision of the afterlife (and beforelife [and life]); you roll up the blinds, recline, and see what you can see of the sky.
“Heaven’s Bells Have Called Mother Home”
I found a pretty good spot to be listening to this Adderall Canyonly track. (I mean, besides the place you’re about to hear it, which is here, down below, first, because that matters.) That spot is his website. You can just push play at the top and scroll down for a while through the museum of GIFs. But do it slow. It’s about seeing those repetitions happening, those cycles spinning around themselves in a loop of visible time. But what’s cool is that the time, despite being locked within itself, is also moving in an actual direction. And that direction is up — an appropriate trajectory, especially once the faux violins make their entrance to give this mini-suite just a little more sweetness, helping to raise this one up on downtempo high.
Yeah, play it here, and then play it again there, and then actually just let it keep playing, because this also works for Canyonly’s older songs too (which run through previous tape releases, with the likes of Under the Spire, Tranquility Tapes, and Rubber City Noise). So, potentially, you could be scrolling down like this for a very long time, but that might not be so bad, right?
And then, finally, play it back over here again and make sure you know the details: that the track above is from Between the Rays Lies Fear but also Joy, which is the 10th tape release from Jehu & Chinaman to date, available in an edition of 40.
“Red Hand Blues”
New batch of Sun Ark tapes freshing some sweet licks from Warm Climate in SUMMER SPEECH THERAPY. Led by nice-guy jammer Seth Kasselman (ex-TMTer) and backed by both steady drum beats from Caitlin Mitchell and walked-out bass lines by M. Geddes Gengras, Warm Climate get their downright groove on here with their B-side banger “Red Hand Blues.” The rhythm is steady and right there, drummed out of a space primarily explored by light-to-heavy guitar meanders, wrapping around bass lines following the lead, swaying hips everywhere. And just the sweetest vocals whipped up top for maximum cream-stache sneers.
“You warming up or dancing?”
“Take me by the waist and find out.”
“Oo, that’s that feel, muscles.”
“The name is Pat, Jackie.”
“How’d you know my name?”
“It’s on your name-tag. Caught red-handed.”
“Red Hand Blues, Pat. Let’s dance!”
SUMMER SPEECH THERAPY by Warm Climate is out now on cassette via Sun Ark Records!
Okay, guys, let’s get something out of the way here: I fucking love Steely Dan. Like a lot. Part of this is because I’m a sucker for good chords and goddammit (more like godDanIT am I right?), the Dan has a lot of them. I’m pretty much up for all things Steely Dan related until the 90s hit. See, the problem with everything that my boiz Donald and Walter wrote after the 80s is that (like many old dude soft rockers) they truly don’t believe audio production practices got better than the ultra smooth gloss of the 80s. But what would Steely Dan sound like if they didn’t ignore everything that’s happened since 1985? Well, probably something like The Stepkids’ “The Lottery.”
“The Lottery” is one insane smooth soulful jam. Unlike many other Dan disciples, The Stepkids have no desire to ironically subvert and warp the 70s/80s soft funk of their heroes. Instead, the band completely develops and modernizes this aesthetic. Sure, there’s great jazz chords and multi tracked vocal harmonies, but there are also turntable scratches, synth arpeggios, and an insanely shifting structure that might have been deemed a bit too crazy for Gaucho-era Dan. At times, the track bears some similarity to the orchestral funk of the less schizophrenic tunes from Of Montreal’s excellent Paralytic Stalks. Like Kevin Barnes and co., The Stepkids are creating a strangely modernized adaptation of harmonically rich, soulful funk.
The Stepkids’ Troubadour is out on September 10 via Stones Throw. You can stream “The Lottery” below:
Industrial cityscapes, a half-naked young lady among the caution tape, kush smoke billowing against a black backdrop — Freddie Gibbs welcomes you back to a stylized, police car strewn incarnation of Gary, Indiana with “Eastside Moonwalker.” After a string of solid gold mixtapes from 2009 to present, the man Madlib called “a new version of 2pac” drops a new
mixtape album on July 8th called ESGN, or Evil Seeds Grow Naturally (how’s that for a post-Wu-Tang backronym?). If “Moonwalker” and the glistening woodwind samples on other preview cut “Freddie Soprano” are any indicator, we’re in for the MC’s highest-fi, most fully-realized release to date — that is, until the full-length Beat Conducta collabo sees the light of day.
On the mic, Gibbs continues to astound. He squeezes syllables into irregular-sized rhyme schemes that spill out over the beat in double time, while spicing up his verses with some pro tactics: lapses into sing-song cadence, the strategic mid-bar pause, alignment of stressed syllables with bass hits. His delivery — half barked aggression, half seething intelligence — elevates his threats, boasts, insults, and bite-sized accounts of betrayal to a level of interwoven complexity most MCs could only begin to scratch at (see the “Corleone” / “mobile home” / “styrofoam” / “stones” / “chrome” passage he tears through in verse two). Unlike a sizable chunk of his previous mixtape output, the beat here (by GMF) matches Gibbs’ fury, as sputtering synth squelches share space with drill hi-hats and washes of low-end. When the arpeggio twinkles and Clams Casino-core vocal edits hit during the chorus, I’m willing to clear my mind of MadGibbs anticipation for a minute and enjoy the ride. (Note: this won’t stop me from looping “Thuggin’” and “Shame” for the whole foreseeable future.)
• Freddie Gibbs: http://www.freddiegibbs.com
Yasiin Bey & Preservation
Mos Def’s last album, 2009’s The Ecstatic, is easily his most progressive and polarizing release to date. Its worldly beatscape — populated by African drums, Arabic phrases, jazz/funk samples, and one song sung/rapped entirely in Spanish — alienated some of the only remaining remnants of his core fan base who’d stuck with him since the Black on Both Sides days, despite his repeated ventures away from the Rawkus-era backpacker boom-bap that made him famous. But it also propelled the MC/thespian back to critical-darling status, re-establishing him as one of the hippest cats in what had decidedly become the hippest borough on the planet. Unfortunately, though it peaked at #9 on the Billboard 200, it did so selling only 39,000 copies (not terrible, but also not great considering his debut went Gold) and has since faded from hip-hop’s notoriously faulty short-term memory. Even the most praiseful critics and loyal fans are too forgetful or preoccupied to readily acknowledge its significance, or so it would seem. No wonder Mos went and changed his name to Yasiin Bey. (That’s both a bad joke and a convenient transition to the next paragraph.)
With this remix project, one year in the making, Bey’s tour DJ and in-house producer Preservation revisits and reimagines the album in such a way that just might reawaken fans to its frenetic greatness. In describing his intent and process, Pres writes, “Because it was a sample-based album, I wanted to keep the remixes sample-based and for them to have the same pitch, key and tone as the originals. The original beats were non-traditional and the amount of singing made it very difficult to remix with this intention of the same energy. It’s the result of countless hours of digging through records to sample, constructing the beat, wrapping it around the vocal, adjusting the tempo, and so on.” The deep crate digging to which he refers is apparent throughout, and while the ecstatic energy of the original album is preserved, it’s also lent a slightly rougher texture, which might serve to bring back into the fold some former fans who unscrupulously disregarded the 2009 release. Even if it doesn’t, though, the project stands strong as a respectful contribution to the canon of remix-based art, something that can be said for very few modern rap “remixes.”
• Mos Def: http://twitter.com/MosDefOfficial