One third of the British noise/dub syndicate King Midas Sound, Kiki Hitomi has struck out on her own before over the past decade, as well as working with some fairly illustrious collaborators in the world of left-field electronic music, including Ricardo Villalobos and Shackleton.
But Karma No Kusari, released at the end of the summer on the weirdly awesome web label JahTari Records (which I only discovered upon writing this post!), is her first proper full-length offering as a solo artist. Over the course of its fewer than 30 minutes run time, we are lead on a disorienting a jaunt through a funhouse of post-millennial dub, lo-fi melodies, NES bleeps and flea market bargain bin samples. Hitomi sings and rap over the hodgepodge of sounds in a combination of Japanese and heavily accented English, creating something that feels immediate as it is unique. Oh, and she designed the artwork as well.
Youtube was the only place I could find the stream, but it’ all here:
Starchild & the New Romantic is Bryndon Cook, a guitarist who has toured with acts like Blood Orange and Solange, and his recently released debut Crucial (on Ghostly International), bears the creative imprint of these artists. It also cannot be discussed without mentioning the obvious influence of Prince; Cook, like the recently departed purple one (RIP), plays all the parts on this album himself and sings. His sleazy electric guitar parts meld with classic slap bass lines, propelled forward by drum machine. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, just glitzy outer-space R&B at its finest, a collection of shimmering ballads bathed in swaths of warm synthetic ambience. Favorite tracks include “Slammin Manequin” and “Relax” and “New Romantic”.
Check it out below and grab the album over at Ghostly’s website.
Tim Hecker is a perennial favorite at DECIBELity. The Canadian artist and avant garde sound designer, who currently splits time between Montreal and Los Angeles, has always defied easy categorization— more abrasive than what generally passes for ambient music, and yet far too melodic and pretty to be classed with the noise or drone crowds. Over the course of the last decade and a half, he has consistently pushed into uncharted territories, with results that are usually equal parts beautiful and terrifying. His eighth LP Love Streams, released via 4AD finds him in peak form, marrying harmonic distortion with warped choral arrangements, heavily processed synthesizers and of course lots of noise. Stellar! “Black Phase” (taken from Love Streams)
The UK-based trio of Kevin Martin (who also makes excellent records as The Bug) and vocalists Kiki Hitomi and Roger Robison have been recording as King Midas Sound since at least 2007, releasing sleek modern dub with a distinctive edge of dystopic urban dread via several channels—most notably the highly respected Hyperdub. And as for Christian Fennesz, there probably isn’t much left to say that hasn’t already said about the Austrian guitarist, whose sublime creations of ambient/noise/avant-garde/glitch, including the 2001 landmark Endless Summer, have been challenging listeners since 1997.
Given both acts approach to creating atmosphere and space, this collaboration almost seems obvious, at least in retrospect. Fennesz and KMS play expertly toward each other’s strengths, and in a lot of ways Edition 1 sounds exactly like one might expect: digital dread with a twist of trip-hop shrouded in a fog of soft static-y electric noise. Its exquisite background music to be sure, but listen closely and you’ll find yourself submersed in a richly textured ambient experience as multi-faceted as the modern London metropolitan area which it so beautifully evokes. Stand out tracks: “On My Mind”and “Our Love”
These days, the best music (IMHO) either picks a single idea and just nails the fucking shit out of it, or, it draws upon many disparate and sometimes contradictory influences and melds them in a manner that seems so natural that you wonder why no one has yet thought to do this. The music of London-based multi-instrumentalist Bastian Keb falls neatly into the latter category, drawing on a cornucopia of influence from jazz and funk, to world music, a cappella music, boogie disco and hip-hop.
His debut Dinking in the Shadows of Zizou recently released via One-Handed Music is simply stunning debut. Keb plays all of the instruments on this record (and there are many—probably more than can be counted on two hands) and chops it all up with some deft MPC sampler skills to boot.
His multifarious compositions have grit, soul and striking originality, a combination of qualities that just seems to be in short supply these days—particularly in loop based music.
I’ve literally been listening to this record on repeat like what for the past two weeks or so. Get it here (vinyl run sold out already unfortunately) or at his Bandcamp.
I happened to catch these guys a little while back when they opened for DECIBELity fave King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and they definitely made an impression. Their musicianship was on point, and I was particularly taken by their well-polished songs —little glittering morsels of indie pop.
And after I checked out their debut LP released a few weeks later, I like them even more. As it turns out, they‘re signed to Stones Throw Records, which is one of my favorite labels of all time and, their founding member Alexander Brettin was also the guy behind Salvia Plath fka Run DMT (man this guy has some issues with intoxicants).
Anyway, the recordings of these aforementioned pop morsels are fantastic—charming, lo-fi in all the right ways, more than a little blues-y with just the perfect amount of hiss and warble. And hooks get stuck up in your head. This is perfect Indian summer music, for those of you in applicable locations.
Check out a few of the tracks below and grab the album at the Stones Throw shop.
Awful Records is, without a doubt, one of my favorite finds this year. The prolific Atlanta-based collective, which counts somewhere near a dozen heads among its ranks, has been steadily gaining momentum since sometime in 2014. And with good reason: they manage to somehow produce consistently quality rap music while maintaining their independence both creatively and financially within the Mecca of over-produced carbon-copy radio rap.
This can be at least partially chalked up to their idiosyncratic DIY approach to production, which finds obvious influence from broad palette of sounds spanning well beyond the reaches of pop music. But their real quirk comes from their cadre of oddball MCs—Father, iLoveMakonnen, Ethereal, OG Maco and Key! and the rest — who spit off-the-wall raps and hooks that are refreshingly absent of drugs and violence.
As an R&B singer and the cohort’s only female, Abra is something of an outlier within a crew of outliers—an exception to an exception. And her debut, Roses, released this summer, is accordingly unique, and likely one of 2015’s best releases.
As with the rest of the Awful clique, production is sparse and understated. The sound of modern Atlanta-style rap clearly informs the it but so do more exotic sounds like British drum & bass and Darkwave synthpop (in fact she has styled herself as “Dutchess of Darkwave”). There’s a density, an emotional weight perhaps, to this record that belies the simplicity of its structure.
The emotional heft is not from the lyrics, which trod well-worn themes in R&B—love and heart break etc.—but from the sonic character of her voice, and how well the plaintive piano melodies, scattershot 808 snares, gurgling synthesizers and cavernous basslines accompany it. It’s a cohesive artistic statement from someone whom we should be hearing much more from in the future.
Check out the rest of album here:
Here’s a non-album track featuring Awful Records boss Father
That old adage about it being better to do one thing well, holds true with music in that its pretty much always preferable to pick a simple idea and nail the fucking shit out of it than to try to “push the envelope” with a bunch of half-cooked ideas.
Tuxedo, a collaborative project from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mayer Hawthorne and hip-hop producer Jake One (who has produced for everyone from G Unit to MF Doom to Brother Ali) is definitely not breaking any new ground, but with songs that are this fun, who cares.
The duo’s eponymous debut, released last month via Stones Throw Records, is a homage to the late-‘70s/early-‘80s heyday of the West Coast funk—that same influential sound that informed a generation of G-funk ‘90s gangsta rap.
Basically it’s a smoothed out collection of electrified disco boogie, full of synthetic melodies, squiggly Funkadelic sounds and ridiculously, get-stuck-all-in-your-head hooks, that fans of Chromeo and Dam-Funk will be all over, and a soundtrack that will surely heat up some parties/dance floors as the weather gets nice.
And here we have some Christmas boogie for that ass
Also, there are a bunch of killer DJ mixes over at the Souncloud page if that is your kind of thing.
22-year-old Anthony Naples first landed on the scene a few years back igniting New York’s nigh life with the track-y euphoric bump of his sublimely simple “Mad-Disrespect” 12”—a nod to the classic American garage/house sounds of the late ’80s and early ’90s. His production had a raw, impromptu kind of feel that was a perfect antidote to a glut of clinical and over-produced dance music. And on the strength of that, his first ever track, he was picked up by the esteemed club night/ record label Mister Saturday Night.
For his debut, he’s taken somewhat of an abrupt left turn. Body Pill, released last month via Four Tet’s Text Records imprint is an understated almost meditative offering—more after hours than peak time—that barely clears the 30 minute mark. It’s obvious pretty much right away, in fact, that things are going to be different as the first song “Ris” begins with a bleary elongated wash of synthesizer and slowly builds to something resembling melancholic indie synth-pop. When the thump does drop in “Abrazo” it’s backing a much more intricately melodic framework, something that is right in line with Four Tet or Caribou-style of dance music. Naples’ melodies always tended to veer toward the etherial, but they were very much relegated to minor supporting roles, here they splay out in all directions weaving in and out of his syncopated rhythmic concoctions.
Album closer “Miles” , with its cowbell, handclaps and subdued keys, is probably the closest thing to the classic Naples sound, but the rhythm is short lived as the track fades into contemplative ambiance that drifts across the final few minutes into a bleepy disembodied synthesizer line. It’s actually kind of a strange way to end a record, but who really cares, this guy can clearly do what the fuck he wants.
Ibeyi—pronounced “ee-bey-ee”—is a Yoruban, Nigerian word that translates roughly to the concept of “sacred divinity of twins.” It is also the name that Lisa-Kaindé Diáz and Naomi Díaz have adopted for their self-titled debut album, released earlier this month on British record label XL Recordings. And what a debut it is.
These twin sisters—barely 20 years old—have managed to record an album that effortlessly weaves together the disparate strands of West African folk, Cuban jazz, soul, blues and contemporary R&B, into something greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the most striking features characterizing Ibeyi is its many apparent contradictions. Steeped in tradition and yet thoroughly modern, it is in many ways a reflection of the myriad influences that came to bear on the sister’s trans-Atlantic upbringing.
Ibeyi is out now on XL Recordings
Born in Cuba, the girls grew up mostly in Paris, though they made frequent visits to the Caribbean. Their father was the acclaimed Latin jazz percussionist Miguel “Angá” Díaz, who played with the famous Buena Vista Social Club, in Havana. His spirit is alive and embodied in their music, which relies heavily on traditional Cuban percussive instruments such as the cajón and the batá. Naomi has said in interviews that she learned many lessons from her dad, but one of the most important was a love of rhythm.
But “Ibeyi” gets the heft of its emotional impact by drawing back to a much older Cuban musical tradition—one that stretches all the way back to West Africa. The Yoruba language, in which much of the lyrics are sung, is from a culture and religion brought to the Caribbean through the slave trade in the 1700s.
Many of these songs such as “River” and “Yanira” are essentially 21st Century versions of ancient Yoruban folk songs, while songs like “Ghost” are odes to the spirits of ancestors. Both sisters sing, and both have a bluesy earthiness to their voices that suggests wisdom beyond their mere 20 years on earth. Their frequent use of call-and-response-style vocals recall the “spirituals” sung by slaves as they worked in the fields.
The sound of modern club music—both of European techno and of American hip-hop and R&B—is “Ibeyi’s” other guiding light. The songs are crafted using cutting-edge style production (complete with synthesizers and a heavy emphasis on sub bass) that would hold its weight in a club against any contemporary pop music.
Ibeyi is about opposing forces, and it is this interplay between yin and yang, mind and spirit, old world and new that makes it so remarkable.