Ryan Hemsworth’s “Secret Songs”

This is fucking fantastic! And a perfect illustration of what makes our particular time in history so unprecedented with respect to music, and pop culture in general really.

Earlier this year, Canadian producer/remixer/masher-upper Ryan Hemsworth announced his plans to launch Secret Songs, a Soundcloud project that would serve as an outlet for him to share music that he believes in “directly with people who want to discover something new.”

“[Secret Songs] is about two things: inclusion and discovery,” he wrote. “For those who are curious but might not have the connections to find the weirder, lesser-know artists.”

Hemsworth has curated some of the best tracks into a compilation, which swerves all over the map stylistically without once losing its pop sensibilities. And its free for the downloading!

You can grab it as well as the other secret songs here

Adrian Younge

A Composer, arranger, producer, multi-instrumentalist, law professor, film scorer, studio owner, record store and salon/barber shop proprietor, DJ, label head and avid collector of rare vinyl, certainly no one could accuse Adrian Younge of being one dimensional (or leading a boring life).

Over the past few years the LA-based renaissance man’s esteem in the hip-hop world has risen meteorically, due in no small part to his unique production style—part RZA, part Ennio Morricone and part Motown—which eschews computers entirely, in favor of classic analog gear, sort of like a rap equivalent of folks at Dap Tone Records. Younge’s music is composed of all original parts (drums, horns, strings, organs—you name it) played by his house band Venice Dawn and captured the traditional way—completely analog, from vintage preamps to mixing console to outboard processing gear to 2” analog tape. Younge then takes all of stems, chops and loops them through a sampler and arranges them into lush, multi-faceted hip-hop tracks with a distinctly “live” feel.

Younge’s talents have also led him to creating soundtrack for the neo Blacksploitation flick Black Dynamite” 

…as well as a collaboration with the legendary Delfonics.

His latest project, There is Only Now, released on his own Linear Labs imprint, sees him teaming up with Oakland legends Souls of Mischief to produce the most vital and by far flat-out dopest thing the foursome have released since their ‘90s heyday. The suite of songs takes the form of a narrative loosely based (which is to say it’s an embellishment) on actual events, where unidentified, masked men attempted to assassinate the golden-era rap crew outside a club, during the height of their popularity.

Concept albums are notoriously difficult to pull off: either the concept is half-baked or (as is more often the case) the project is choked by filler. But Younge is in a unique position, having experience in the film industry and having already produced 12 Reasons to Die (featured on DecibalCast 17) with Ghostface Killah, an acclaimed collaboration that saw the Wu Tang don in classic form spinning a gritty Mafioso narrative complete with intrigue, betrayal and murder over what baroque, cinematic production.

In addition to some seriously accomplished rapping from the Souls and Younge’s aforementioned production, There is Only Now is peppered with cameos from a slew of esteemed guests (people clambering to work with Younge) including Snoop Dog, Busta Rhymes and Ali Shaheed Mohamed, who play the parts of various characters in the story.

And the future is looking very bright. In a recent interview with the eminent Gilles Petersen Younge detailed upcoming projects, including forthcoming albums with Snoop Dog, Cee-Lo Green and A Tribe Called Quest‘s Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

FKA Twigs – “LP1″

At this point there probably isn’t a lot left to be added regarding this—it’s even been reviewed by Gawker for fuck’s sake. It is, however, a masterpiece and will most certainly make it to our end-of-list, so it feels kind of necessary to acknowlege.

The backstory behind Tahliah Debrett Barnett, the artist Formerly Known As Twigs or FKA Twigs is that she is a gymnast who apparently used to work as a backup dancer in music videos. Then in 2012 she self-released an EP, EP1, via Bandcamp. The release caught the ear of the A&R guys at Young Turks (home to Jamie xx, SBTRK and many more), who promptly signed her and released a second EP in 2013, the excellent EP2 (featured on DecibelCast Vol. 18), which was a collaborative effort with formidable Venezuelan bass experimentalist Arca. The EP and its leading single “Water Me” generated a ton of internet hype, which set the stage for a year of hype. When it did finally drop earlier this month, LP1 lived up to the hype and then some.

Stretching and contorting the pop music ethos to the edge of what seems possible, LP1 is as daring a pop record as you’re likely to find anywhere. Twigs’ ferbile vocal delivery comes wrapped in an icy veneer, which eventually melts giving way to a vulnerability as fragile as the newly fallen snow. And while her voice is definitely the distinguishing feature which binds the record together, it’s the music crafted around her, and how she interfaces with it that makes for such a rich and singular sonic experience.

Absorbing bits and pieces of various mainstream pop and much of cutting edge, underground electronic music, the studio wizards behind LP1 run these disparate elements through a complicated chain of effects processing and spit out some post-modern cubist approximation of R&B/club music—a synth-heavy juggernaut, densely atmospheric, with huge oscillating low end and multifaceted rhythms that splay outward with skittering trap-like percussion that seems to materialize and fall to pieces. The processing extends to her vocals as well, which are doubled, and pitched and twisted and warped until they become just another strange feature of the alien landscape.

Essential listening for 2014.

“Two Weeks” from LP1

“Pendulum” from LP1

“Water Me” from EP2

Twigs is also, apparently, an accomplished video director and producer. Here are some videos she’s been involved in:

Shabazz Palaces – “Les Majesty”

Sophomore albums can be tricky business, particularly when the record to be followed up on is as brazenly and uncompromisingly brilliant as Black Out (SubPop), which dropped on an unsuspecting world with the force and precision of a laser guided-missile. It was, simply put, a revelation. There was nothing at the time even remotely like it.

So the challenge in these types of situations is always: “How to meet expectations without just rotely rehashing what worked in the past?”, but pulling this off requires a deft balancing act, which all-too-frequently can’t be maintained by the heretofore celebrated act. (It doesn’t help that we, as a culture, so enjoy holding our idols aloft only to tear them down as soon as they misstep.) Fortunately for us (and also for them I guess), Shabazz Palaces avoided all that shit, by doubling down on what made them so great in the first place: their eclectic and unabashed weirdness—a wellspring that has proven remarkably deep. The Seattle-based duo went even further out on their trip and in the process created a record that while demanding becomes, upon repeated listens, a thoroughly satisfying sonic experience.

Shabazz Palaces tearing up the New Parish (Oakland CA) on July 29, 2014

Expansive and (let’s be honest) obtuse at times, Les Magestey contains most of what was great about Black Outthe mystic imagery, the Afro-futurist motifs, the startling attention to texture and detail—but as an album, is paced much differently.  The “songs” are shorter and more numerous, blending together with dream-like interludes, creating larger “movements.” The atmosphere is denser and weirder. And the beats slink along rather than smacking the listener upside the head.

I caught these guys in Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and fuck it might have been the best show I’ve seen all year. (Here’s some video courtesy of YouTube user Johnohnoh)

You can purchase Les Majesty here, and check out some of the songs below.

Shabazz Palaces – Motion Sickness from Tourist on Vimeo.

Woods – “With Light and With Love”

I believe that I can safely say all of us here at DECIBELity love this band, and yet somehow to the best of my knowledge we’ve never shown them any of it.

That changes now.

Simply put, these guys are a force of nature. Anchored by singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl’s impressive songwriting and distinctive falsetto, the Brooklyn-based outfit has been averaging about an album a year since forming in 2005–and amazingly they all have been quality. What’s more, they run their own record label, Woodsist, which is excellent and organize a music festival of the same name every year.   And, on top of all of that, they’re one of the best live bands in the game.

Seriously. I recently caught them again (for like the third time) and they were smashed it! They were vice-grip tight as they ran through a range of material from their catalog, even though the monitor engineer kept fucking up and they couldn’t hear themselves very well.

One of the great things about this band is how versatile they are: Their sound effortlessly incorporates the best aspects of pop, folk, Americana and psychedelic rock–hell they even get a little jammy from time to time.

Their latest album, With Light and With Love, released earlier this year on their own Woodsist imprint, actually took a little while to fully grow on me. Fortunately when a band has the kind of track record that these guys do, I’m going to keep listening until I until I get the full effect.

Great band. Great album. Get it here

Also, they’ll be touring in the states for the rest of this month, before leaving for an extended tour of Europe.

08-14 San Diego, CA – Casbah w/ Little Wings ***
08-16 Pioneertown, CA – Woodsist Festival Pioneertown ***
08-17 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom ***
08-19 Marfa, TX – El Cosmico
08-20 Austin, TX – Holy Mountain
08-21 Baton Rouge, LA – Spanish Moon
08-22 Chattanooga, TN – Sluggo’s

GOLD ZEBRA – GOLD ZEBRA

GOLD ZEBRA

I’ve really been enjoying this dark, synth heavy wave of music for a little while now with artists like Chromatics and Polica.  One group that hasn’t gotten enough recognition though is GOLD ZEBRA.  They are a girl/boy duo from Montreal and they released their self titled album a few months back on Visage Musique.  The album is full of synthesizer melodies, simple beats and rich spacey vocals and it kinda feels like driving down a dark desert highway with no end in sight.  It’s worth a listen if just for the next long nighttime drive you might take.

Check out some of my favorite tracks and videos below and check out their bandcamp to get the album here.

GOLD ZEBRA – Apart Again

GOLD ZEBRA – Everything Beautiful Is Transient

 

Lone – “Reality Testing”

Matt Cutler has been recording under his Lone moniker since at least 2007. In that time, he has carved something of a niche for himself, developing a style that fuses ’90s golden-era hip-hop production with fat analog techno.

Reality Testing, his latest offering, released via R&S Records earlier this summer, is the most fully realized incarnation of Lone sound.

Besides playing nicely as an album (as opposed to merely a collection of tracks) it manages a to deftly balance decorum and functionality, effortlessly jumping back and forth between glowing electro-infused boom-bap and vintage Chicago house music.

Even when he’s in full-on dance mode, the rhythms remain interesting, slightly off-kilter, syncopated with a tilted swing anchored by throbbing analog bass lines and a colorful array of synthesized melodies.

“I think there’s always been a connection with certain house and hip-hop tunes, or any electronic music for that matter. I’m always drawn to any form of electronic music that has the rawness of hip-hop production,” Lone recently told Resident Advisor.

Here are a few previews from Reality Testing.

And here is his Resident Advisor podcast showcasing the primary musical influences behind behind the album.

RA Podcast Episode 420 Lone

Tracklist 
Kenji Kawaii – Unnatural City 2
Tha Alkaholiks – Killin’ It
Mobb Deep – Temperature’s Rising
Ghetto Concept – Much Love (Instrumental)
Pete Rock feat. Method Man – Half Man, Half Amazin’
Gangstarr feat. Inspektah Deck – Above The Clouds
Klear Soul Forces – Get No Better
Hieroglyphics – You Never Knew
Lone – 2 Is 8
Boards Of Canada – Opening The Mouth
Theo Parrish – Lost Angel
Urban Beat Dance – Urban Dust
Anthony Naples – Tusk
Seven Davis Jr – Celebrations (Funkineven Edit)
Brawther – Spaceman Funk (Deep Club Mix)
Brownstone Express – Metro
Omar S – Set It Out
Jtc – South Brooks
Greg Beato – Pma

Joel Gion – “Apple Bonkers”

Joel Gion is best known as the tambourine weilding/percussionist personality for the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Although, on August 18th he will prove himself to be much more than that. Harnessing a similar ’60s psychadelic vibe Gion will emerge on his own, or as the leader rather with his debut, Apple Bonkers  via a co-release between The Reverberation Appreciation Society and The Committee To Keep Music Evil and a limited edition cassette on Burger Records

Joel on the record…”With all the BJM members now living  so spread out across the world, I found myself increasingly missing the album making process. This feeling of disconnect is what kick started me into exploring my own song writing process and turned out to be a hugely important piece of self discovery. No more time for my beloved laziness. So I made my own music with a bunch of friends in the studio coming and going and having a great time creating. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by this album.”

Co-produced by current BJM members Collin Hegna and Rob Campanella the record features a string of BJM members and ex-members along with Pete Holmstrom of The Dandy Warhols, Ryan Van Kriedt of the The Asteroid #4/Dead Skeletons and Jason “Plucky” Anchondo of the Warlocks/ Spindrift.

pre-order the record here and bundle it with the limited edition 7″ he released in May.

YES (Apple Bonkers)

Southern Boutique “s/t”

The Austin based lo/fi psych poppers, Tiger Waves have been featured several times here on DECIBELity and made an appearance on DecibelCast Vol.5 back in the spring of 2012. Unfortunately the band is no more…but out of the still smoldering ashes arise Southern Boutique. Comprised of two members of Tiger Waves they travel along the same vein, carrying the psych driven torch into a more refined, focused landscape.

As of this morning, the 18th, they’ve uploaded their brilliant self-titled debut to bandcamp (follow that link) as a free download. They seem to be label searching at the moment, although I have zero doubts they will be picked up in the immediate to near future at which time we will be celebrating a physical release.

Southern BoutiqueGrowing Old

Southern Boutique – Rabbit Trails

DecibelCast Vol.21 – “The Riddum Method”

Sometimes we forget about the rest of the world; we live in our own little universe of crazy American drama that we think is so important when, in reality, it’s mostly just ridiculous.  Then every few years, when huge sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympics happen, we realize we must take note of other countries.  In a great way we take in and take on other cultures and remember that we are not the only thing out there.  It’s quite the amazing, humbling and enlightening experience (even if it is for the sake of sports) and it’s a great reminder to keep our eyes open to the rest of the world.

DecibelCast 21 keeps this worldly theme throughout although it is mostly focused on African music. Africa is the world’s second largest and second most populous continent, and African music has influenced about every kind of music we have today, so it’s really deserving of homage. This mix takes a journey through this rich influence by blending traditional songs from artists like Fela Kuti, with popular modern-day mutations of African and world music by the likes of tUnE yArDs and ?uestlove and Major Lazer.  It was originally inspired by thinking of drum- and rhythm-heavy music (the name came before the mix), but then it morphed into this summertime dance party that goes really great with hot weather and, as it turns out, international soccer.

Get the album and tracklist below:

Download: dB-21 “The Riddum Method”

Fela Kuti & The Africa 70 – Let’s Start

Mos Dub – Summertime Running

Tani Diakite & The Afrofunkstars – Nungulunba

Jay-Z feat. Fela Kuti – American Dreamin (Nigerian Gangster Remix)

BK-One – Tema Do Canibal

Hot Chip – Atomic Bomb (William Onyeabor Cover)

Yvonne Chaka Chaka – Kwendini

Major Lazer – Sound Bang (feat. Machel Montano)

Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens – Kazet

The Very Best – Kondaine (feat Seye)

Noumoucounda Cissoko – Noumou Koradioulou

Paul Simon – I Know What I Know

tUnE-yArDs, ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo & Akua Naru – Lady

K. Frimpong & His Cubano Fiestas – Gyae Mensu

Amadou & Mariam – Dougou Badia (feat. Santigold)

Oumou Sangare – Iyo Djeli

Dilon Djindji – Sofala