“Keystone Sonata Arrangement VII”

Philadelphia “massed guitar” ensemble Mahogany have been away for about six years since the release of Connectivity! in 2006. When I reviewed the last proper Stereolab full-length, Chemical Chords, I made a comment about other bands (Mahogany, to be very specific) outdoing them at their own game. Although one might be tempted to call a six-year absence resting on laurels, Mahogany’s first new song from the forthcoming Electric Prisms EP reaches farther out than anything resembling Stereolab. “Keystone Sonata Arrangement VII” does away with the submerged female vocals and replaces them with a prominent male voice (Mahogany’s Andrew Prinz perhaps?). The percussion rides what sounds like an ice bell for the duration of the piece, hitting a warm Appleseed Cast circa Low Level Owl place in my heart, while strings pan back and forth in the stereo field. Someone catch me; I think I just fainted.

• Mahogany:


Komfi [EP]

Knxwledge has been producing hip-hop beat mixes for years. Prolifically. Just last year, the Philadelphia-based producer released over 10 EPs; this year, he’s already released a full-length LP, Ovrstnd, and this, a new EP titled Komfi. It’s short, sweet, and a few days old, which means it’s about to expire. Listen quickly:

• Knxwledge:
• Knxwledge:
• Knxwledge:!/knxwledge

Sun Hammer

“Nighttime In Jefferson National Forest”

Michigan-based experimentalist Sun Hammer (a.k.a. Jay Bodley) has released a new record with Futuresequence, entitled A Dream In Blood. Bodley, who also records under the name A Sun Setting, delivers a lush ambient adventure, which really isn’t as gory as the title may imply. There is a bit of blood, but mostly the scene is quiet and safe. On “Nighttime in Jefferson National Forest,” Sun Hammer uses field recordings from the area (presumably at nighttime) and slowly adds fluffy coats of deep textured drone and piercing overtones until it is all suffocated by the light of day. You can hear the whole bloody thing on the Futuresequence site.

• Sun Hammer:
• Futuresequence:

The Makers

“Don’t Challenge Me”

I guess the whole point of electric soul is to combine “Smooth and Sexy” with robot twangs. Which The Makers do well. Don’t be put off by the first couple bars, which kinda sound like a precocious kid (or Frank Zappa) jamming on a Casio toy; once the pretty lady starts to growl, the whole thing gels and you’ll be smitten. What’s more to say? If you like soul — which you absolutely should, you heathen — this is solid stuff. Along with selections from other groovy music-makers, “Don’t Challenge Me” will be available in April on the compilation PERSONAL SPACE Electric Soul (1974-84) from Chocolate Industries. The CD even comes with a book of aerial photography by NASA astronaut Donald Pettit, which fits with the whole digital, galactic, heavenly, getting high vibe, which seems pretty intrinsic to the electric soul genre. Bow bow bow, bow-wow.

• Chocolate Industries:

Pepe Deluxé

Queen of the Wave [album trailer]

Like most music critics, I don’t get laid very often, and I am a failed, struggling, part-time musician. When an album like Queen of the Wave comes along, it castes a dark shadow over my wavering musical ambitions, like a horrifying, never-ending scene out of The Masked Canadian Roderick Piper’s award-rejected 1988 film, They Live. Suddenly, the dozen or so tween-wave tracks I made last week with a microKORG, a guitar, and a couple pedals seem painfully insignificant. The dearth of effort I put into them now seems obvious, even to me.

I am overwhelmed by the effort Pepe Deluxé went through to capture the live performances of specialized musicians from around North America, Europe, Australia, and their native Finland in order to assemble an impossible collection of arcane instruments and gear. I sometimes fail to put on clean underpants before stumbling to my laptop at noon to open Pro Tools, and these guys are recording a synthesizer made of lightning. I can barely play tween-wave and smoke heroin at the same time, and these guys are making a three-part rock opera (!) with church organs, film orchestras, and a dozen vocalists from around the world? Nuts to that. They’re raising the bar way too high for my comfort.

The concept for the album is also too intense for my preferred level of mediocrity. It’s all “Atlantis is sinking, I’m flying an anti-gravity submersible spacecraft in 10083 BC, James Bond meets Hercules meets Duran Duran with Barbarella death by chocolate tipsy husky rescue me from the waves, whatever.” Then, as if that weren’t enough, they produced a series of “album companion” booklets to explain the concept and instrumentation, packaged the album in their handmade Alan Moore-dropping-acid-in-their-eyeballs collage liner notes, and released an album trailer that looks like a Quentin Tarantino film reference. Seriously, look at that thing!

Even after all of that, I may have still been able to muster my half-lame creative inspiration until I discovered that Pepe Deluxé is donating all the profits from album sales to a charity to help clean up the Baltic Sea. Oh, and they made an iPad app. It’s all too much, man… too much, too much. I am going back to bed.

• Pepe Deluxé:
• Asthmatic Kitty:
• Catskills:

Bobby Conn

“More Than You Need”

Bobby Conn has a new album called Macaroni, a politically-charged, 10-track screed that continues one of his longstanding goals as a songwriter, performance artist, and general dude: to critique and subvert the Continuous Ca$h Flow System. Lyrically, single “More Than You Need” gently touches on this darker side, but musically it’s all happy flowers and bouncing rabbits over throwback rock progressions and cliché instrumentation, with the kind of tongue-wagging guitar solo that’s so anachronistically silly that it would seem near impossible to execute with a straight face. But that’s the thing with Mr. Conn: it’s always been hard to tell if this genius fabricator and hyperbolic prankster ever had a straight face to begin with.

Fire Records, home to Archers of Loaf, Jad Fair, Josephine Foster, Wooden Wand, and now Mission of Burma, will release Macaroni on May 1.

• Bobby Conn:
• Fire:


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.