“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: http://www.chocolateindustries.com
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.
“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.
“Identikit” / “Cut a Hole” [live]
Radiohead launched their 2012 tour last night in LeBron’s neck of the woods (no, not Cleveland). They played two new songs. Check out “Identikit” above, “Cut a Hole” below, and other amazing content to your left and right. There are some fantastic ads, too. (You are a target market, etc.)
“Cut a Hole”:
• Radiohead: http://radiohead.com
Did they call the Renaissance “The Renaissance” during the Renaissance? I am referring mostly to the one that started in like the 14th century or whatever, but there is also that Harlem Renaissance that happened. I think maybe they knew that one was a Renaissance. But it’s hard to tell; I mean, maybe we are in the midst of one right now — at least musically? I mean, shit sure is changing. Half the world is scared that music is dying because music on the radio sucks, when in reality it is bigger and stronger than ever, thanks largely to this wonderful thing the internet, in which we are sitting at this very moment. Case in point: super-productive producer Ohbliv has just released the B side to his work entitled New Black Renaissance, and whether he means it or not, I am now convinced that we are knee deep in hot steamy Renaissance — and it is indeed black. In fact, Ohbliv released eight albums last year, including one last month, so this guy may singlehandedly start and finish the entire revolution.
On “Awaken2theNuu,” sliced soul vocals serve as an intro to one of the tastiest bass lines I’ve tasted in a while, which charges a team of lagging synth cymbals and a rock-hard kick drum. You can listen to and purchase the whole thing on the dude’s bandcamp.
• Ohbliv: http://0hbliv.tumblr.com