Félicia Atkinson
Visions / Voices [album premiere]

Take a piece of string, thread it through an entirely metal object (maybe a coat hanger or a wire shelf from your oven), wrap each end around your fingers, bend over forward, and, with the object hanging freely, put your fingers in your ears and gently tap the object against a hard surface.

Félicia Atkinson is a conversationalist in a world of sometimes sealed artistic enclaves. She avoids the critical staring contest, that prolonged game of theoretical wink murder, where Bourdieu’s gaze meets “the critical gaze” meets the “male gaze” meets the “artistic gaze” meets the “symbolic capital” of some other unnerving gaze. Or was that just a blink?

With all the impressions that Visions / Voices might leave on you — disorientation, joy, diverging moments of memory, escape — the one that struck me most was a feeling of creative cataclysm. The need to create. This is an album that holds a reminder deep within its core of how joyful making music and art can be, not in some deep structural quest for a eugenics of sound, but in the rewarding work of the “experimental” as a process, rather than a delineated generic other.

Although the aforementioned “Big B” might say that “a work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded,” he misses the power of broken codes, of residual artistic content, of blurred disciplinary boundaries, of transgressions that engage rather than exclude, of mistakes and duff notes. This is where Félicia Atkinson shines.

For an attention to sonic detail like hers shouldn’t mean an assumption of exclusivity. Visions / Voices is inclusive yet challenging, coherent yet discursive.

But wait! There is one thing that’s exclusive about it for now; you can listen to the whole album below for the first time. Eight tracks from three years, tessellated into a stunning whole.

No strings needed for now.

Visions / Voices is out March 29 on Umor Rex.

• Félicia Atkinson: http://feliciaatkinson.be
• Umor Rex: http://www.umor-rex.org

Danny Brown

“Kush Coma”

Danny Brown’s one of the few rappers who can take a song called “Kush Coma” and make it a total blast, despite the goofy title. With his squawky punchlines and stoner swagger, Brown’s being compared more and more to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, a third of whose name was the inspiration for Brown’s forthcoming album, Old, which hits shelves this summer. Despite the undercooked, faux-reggae hook, “Kush Coma” is an impressive, genre-blending track, a collision of spooky Umberto-style synths and hollow 808s. Skywalkr, Brown’s Bruiser Brigade brother (try saying that three times fast), lends the production an impressionistic touch, giving Brown plenty of space to freak out. The album version apparently features A$AP Rocky.

• Danny Brown: http://itsbruiserbrigade.tumblr.com
• Fool’s Gold: http://www.foolsgoldrecs.com

Ben Vida & Greg Davis

Working Models

An Imagined Glimpse Into A Reunion of Ben Vida or Greg Davis’s Extended Family

The banquet hall overflows: uncles clink beers together a little too loudly, the elderly come together in the corner for some conversation at the right pace, kids hide under tables and spring out to attack cousins with forks and spoons fully loaded. An aunt approaches our hero. “What is it that you do these days? They tried to explain it to me but it went a little over my head.” Our hero hesitates. One half of him wants to lay it all out on the table: “Well Aunt Sarah, I’ve been focusing on uniting systems of modular synthesis and Max/MSP-based sound manipulation to record dynamic sessions of spontaneous composition. I’ve been collaborating closely with another musician to create dense sound environments that cycle through passages of abstracted rhythms, melodies, pulses, and sequences. Our goal is to challenge and provoke our listeners while still engaging them with each moment of our output.” But he takes the less complicated way out: “I’m a legendary warlock. I make electricity do my bidding. People love me and fear me in equal measure.” Aunt Sarah lifts her eyes from her cell phone. “Oooh, that’s nice, dear.”

If you’re still unfamiliar with the work of Greg Davis and/or Ben Vida at this point, you’ve got a lot of extremely rewarding catching up to do. Lucky for you, the two of them made an LP together called Working Models, which, to put it lightly, is a solid place to start. Check out the entire A Side right here:

Order one of only 250 vinyl copies of Working Models from Los Discos Enfantasmes, and feast your eyes on the goddamn beautiful die-cut sleeve and clear wax that’ll end up in your hands in you act fast. Inspired by the work of these two champions, take up modular synthesis and Max/MSP yourself. Never look back. When your relatives ask you what you’ve been doing with your life, just say “magic.”

• Greg Davis: http://www.autumnrecords.net
• Ben Vida: http://benvida.blogspot.com
• Los Discos Enfantasmes: http://losdiscosenfantasmes.com


“Darker Outside”

Chasms sounds like The xx if The xx was a group of burly, muscular men and a girl instead of two skinny goths and a girl. Technically the group is just a duo, but the analogy works. Their music is dripping with thick bass and washes of reverb, the kind of mix that is just glorious to listen to. Full of substance, kind of like molasses. Visual work is handled by artist Diane Le Lay, who creates a visual memory through old archival footage “originally shot by Le Lay’s grandmother in the 1950s.”

The opening of “Darker Outside” stays percussion heavy, with a mechanical, industrial tinge. Entering the chorus, though, the melancholy vocals crack a sort of barrier between the sensation felt by watching a video and the sensation of listening to a song, both existing separately, until it becomes just one sensation. A barrage of decaying, emulsified footage that increases in its intensity until the mind begins to throw shapes — imagined — into what it is experiencing, and skulls, dancing pictures of death appear. The children in the original footage were full of wonder, joy, and life. Here they are fearful and alone.

• Chasms: http://chasmssf.bandcamp.com
• Diane Le Lay: http://vimeo.com/dlelay

Black Milk

“Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst”

Three years after dropping the Album of the Year, Black Milk is putting the finishing touches on a new record, due out this summer. Ever the overachiever, the Detroit producer/MC has presented us with two singles for the price of one: “Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst.” In many ways, it’s similar to another ambitious rap narrative — Kendrick Lamar’s “Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinter’s Daughter.” Both tell stories of street violence, and situate their sudden, climactic climaxes within the harsh realism of day-to-day city life. Black Milk takes us from the safe, sanctified gospel of Church on Sunday to the cold, sulky streets on a Monday morning. Vice and virtue, love and hate — the lines separating these traditionally static pairs are blurred, all before a warm, varied sample set that serves as a testament to Black Milk’s obsession for soul.

• Black Milk: http://blackmilk.biz


“86 Remix” [ft. AZ and Altrina Renee]

It looks like Raekwon’s Lost Jewelry EP somehow slipped through the Chocolate Grinder’s cracks. Those who checked it, though, might remember the original version of the aptly titled woolie “86.” The above remix doesn’t do much to the original except add on a fantastic verse from the criminally underrated AZ, who, come to think of it, has already done a fair share of classic culinary collabos going all the way back to 1996’s “Doe or Die Remix.” I for one wouldn’t mind seeing these two veterans team up for a full album.

• Rakwon: http://twitter.com/Raekwon
• AZ: http://twitter.com/quietAZmoney


CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.