Krill -“Distant Fist Unclenching”

This album is another of my favorite finds of 2015. And, according to the Internetz, the Boston-based trio formally called it quits about a month ago—C’est la vie. Their final record A Distant Fist Unclenching was released via Exploding in Sound Records back near the beginning of the year, but if you ask me now is the time to listen to it—as it’s got a definitively late Autumn kind of vibe. It’s more or less straight forward indie rock—early Modest Mouse-ish but executed quite well and with cryptically interesting lyrics to boot.  Although the band is no more, they’ve left a Bandcamp full of digital music, for us to enjoy.

Mild High Club

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.

Knxledge

There are a lot of guys that try to make this kind of music. Legions of MPC (er-Fruity Loops)-wielding crate diggers trying to find that perfect obscure soul sample to flip into a beat. And everyone inevitably evokes J Dilla or Madlib when describing this sort of endeavor. Press releases want you to know this is like a Jay Dee track, or that is Madlib-inspired. Music writers are probably even worse with the lazy comparisons. And the producers themselves? Well most would probably welcome being called the next Dilla or the next Beat Konductor.

So, at a certain point, one just get kind of desensitized to it all. I used to be really into “beats,” but it all got so eff-ing predictable—just a copy of a copy of a copy of someone raiding J Dilla‘s vinyl collection.

Enter the Knxledge.

Pronounced Knowledge (the ex is actually an oh), this guy has been on the scene for a while now, but this year he’s really blowing up with a slew of high profile production credits (including Kendrick Lamar’s opus To Pimp a Butterfly) and an absurdly dope long-player called Hud Dreams released via Stones Throw Records.

He’s got a ton of stuff out—srsly, a metric shit-ton of stuff—but let’s just talk about that album. It’s laid out like a mixtape with the beats (usually under 2 minutes) running into each other. There aren’t a lot of crazy production tricks or studio gimmicks here, just a really good ear for sampling and a (obviously) deep crate digger with an intuitive flare for rhythm. These tracks sound effortless, sloppy even, but in the right way if you get me? They’re busting at the seems with the DNA of obscure soul, doo wop and jazz, all chopped into swaggering boom-bap that recalls the golden days of yore.

One final point to consider, because I am going to place this in it’s rightful lineage: How many of knock off Dillas can say they signed to Stones Throw, the label that actually put out all that seminal Dilla and Madlib? Exactly.

But, why take my word for it, give it a listen yourself:

Here’s a sick video of him jamming some beats live in the basement:

And here’s the first single from the man’s R&B project titled Nx Worries.

Also, dude is putting up new beats on his Soundcloud like daily, check it out:

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito, which translates roughly to “ribbit ribbit fish” in Japanese, is something like the logical conclusion of a problem involving Hello Kitty, Beenie Man, Chrono Trigger and, uh, England.

The London-based trio, consisting of producers Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled and vocalist Sarah Midori Perry, first appeared on the DECIBELity radar last year; their tune “Flamingo” was one of the highlights of Ryan Hemsworth’s excellent Secret Songs compilation, which we posted.

Anchored by Perry’s infectious singsongy hooks, their hybridized, post-globalization style of pop music, incorporates cartoonish imagery, Internet neologisms, Nintendo-esque sound effects, dancehall riddims and elements of UK rave culture and J-Pop

KKB’s debut mixtape Intro Bonito, self-released late last year, was like nothing we had really heard before. 

And given the quality of the two singles they’ve released in 2015 (see below), we’re pretty excited to see what’s next from these guys.

And definitely check out this fire “mixtape” they dropped last week, should  be perfect for the warm weather.

Ibeyi

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.

 

milo

My first exposure to Rory Fereira, who raps as milo, came back in 2012,  when i stumbled across a bootleg mixtape of his verses over instrumentals from LA-based Anticon affiliate and DECIBELity fave Baths– aptly titled, Milo Takes Baths.

Fereira, who got his start rapping in a Wisconsin hip-hop outfit called Nom de Rap, is a college drop out, a reformed philosophy major, whose interest in the cannon of western thought permeates his post-modernist lyrics, to mingle with navel gazing observations, references to Internet culture, bad puns and other absurdities.

This distinct concoction of lyrical subject matter, combined with a somewhat monotone droll and a penchant for esoteric beats that click and pop rather than boom and bap, place him squarely in the tradition of the leftfield art hip-hop pushed by Anticon.

Feirra’s music offers us a fresh angle on the wordy nerd rap trope; he’s probably the only MC you will ever here quote the famous last line of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philisophicus “Where of one cannot speak, there of one must be silent” and then rhyme it with “but I yawned and I burped and I passed gas loudly.”

It certainly doesn’t hurt his case that his choice of production is superb. All of these tracks are abstract and heady but without over doing it i.e. crossing into avant masturbatory electronic noodling, rather they form a perfect vehicle for Fereira’s stream of conscious monologues.

His latest record A Toothpaste Suburb, released this fall on Hellfyer Club is one my picks for 2014.  A few guests pop up along the way such as fellow label mate Busdriver and Das Racist alum Kool AD, but it’s Fereira ideosyncratic affect that really carries this record.

 

 

Check out the rest here.

Here’s some of his older work which is definitely worth a listen.

And here is the the aforementioned Baths “tape”.

November Shoegazing

There’s something about this time of year just really brings out the troubled indie kid in me— the crisp air, the alarmingly short amount of daylight (it’s already dark when I get off from work), the imminent encounter with family looming large—all of it ads up to me feeling like one mopey teenage lad.

It’s probably unsurprising that given this I tend to gravitate musically toward a particular shall we say, flavor—usually something atmospheric and vaguely sorrowful, with soft jangly melodies and melancholic lyrics. So shoegaze (the derisive name for a genre of bands so adverse to performing that members would rather look at their shoes than at the crowd) is one of the ideal genres to slake my anhedonic proclivities.

Now I’m not at all an authority on this style, so it’s fortunate that I discovered these two new bands (well new to me, both have actually been around for awhile), and that they’ve both put out solid records in 2014. Neither is exactly pushing new territory, but both Nothing and Whirr execute the formula—twee whispered vocals and multifaceted guitar layering, with a heavy helping of distortion-driven feedback—pretty expertly.

NOTHING   

This Pennsylvania-based  quartet was founded by Dominic Palermo, a veteran of the Philadelphia punk and hardcore scenes, who apparently became fed up with the violence surrounding the music. He formed the band back in 2011 and after a few EPs, they signed to Relapse Records, releasing the single “Dig” which also happens to be on this year’s LP Guilty of Everything.

Stream and download the rest of the album over at the band’s Bandcamp Page 

WHIRR

Hailing from San Francisco, Whirr began its life in 2010 as Whirl, but was forced to change names after a copyright dispute with another artist. Guitarist and founding member Nick Bassett has also played with the much-vaunted San Francisco shoegaze/metal hybrid Deafheaven. They released their latest album Sway back in September via Savanna, Georgia-based imprint Graveface Records.

Grab a physical copy or the digital download over at Bandcamp.

. . .

Oh, and interestingly enough as it turns there’s a side project featuring members from both of these bands called Death of Lovers, who self-released an eponymous EP that sounds kind of like Joy Division making a shoegaze record— surprisingly good stuff really, although it’s not particularly cheerful in case wasn’t abundantly clear already.

http://deathoflovers.bandcamp.com/releases

Fartbarf

Yes, you did read the title of this post correctly—there is actually a band that calls itself Fartbarf, and we are posting about it. With such a ridiculously gimmicky nom de guerre, one could be forgiven for anticipating an equivalently gimmicky sound. A quick listen, however, dispels such notions, as this Southern California three-piece is all business.

These guys make party music, but it definitely ain’t your run-of-the-mill fair. No, their amped up take on old-school electro, complete with hardware and vocoded vocals, has some serious balls.

Aptly dubbed “electronic rock and roll,” they crank out the jams in NASA spacesuits and custom (super creepy) Neanderthal masks using only rare vintage analog synthesizers and a live drummer—an antidote to the legions of pale, laptop-wielding, plugin-happy, bedroom dwelling producers. Or, as they succinctly put it on their website: “A mere handful of ape-like orderlies resisting a touchscreen future. Give us knobs or give us death!”

After years of smashing it up and down the left coast, they finally dropped their debut full-length Dirty Power via their own Space Jumbles Music

I caught these guys live last week and they absolutely leveled the place

And here’s one more (better quality) video (that I didn’t take).

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.

Iman Omari

It’s sort of remarkable how broad R&B has again become. Not all that long ago it was as stifled and formulaic as light jazz or contemporary pop country—just a bunch of nameless R. Kelly and Destiny’s Child clones clogging up urban radio.

But the so-called “alt-R&B” movement, which has been gathering steam since at least 2011, changed all of that. Freed from the shackles of A&R men, and spurred on by the breakthroughs of James Blake, The Weeknd, How to Dress Well and others , the once stale niche has been steadily expanding and mutating (Check our DecibelCast Vol. 19 for the bass-ier side of that spectrum).

Among those at the forefront of this expansion, is 23-year-old Iman Omari, a gifted and super prolific (releasing EPs via his Bandcamp page almost monthly these days) composer, producer/remixer and vocalist. The Los Angeleno, who has ties to Kendrick Lamar and Knxledge, actually got his start writing beats with MTV Music Generator on the original Sony Playstaion.

Omari’s take on the genre is essentially hip-hop based, but he also draws on decades of West Coast music– from cool jazz of Brubek to the shamanic acid imagery of The Doors to the squelchy sythesized funk of Parliment, all the way up to the post-millennial boom-bap of the Low End Theory collective. (The way in which he crafts his beats in particular, recalls the off-kilter wonk of Flying Lotus and the Brainfeeder camp.)

Omari’s sound is heavily atmospheric, with multi-layered ambiance created from chopping and looping vocals, synths and samples. In a manner parallel to the mainstream obsession with extensive vocal processing, Omari frequently treats both his own vocals and other instruments, with a heavy amount of effects.

But rather than autotuning, the kind of effects processing he prefers is this distinct warbling kind of thing, that creates woozy, psychedelic melodies that feel bent or wavy, kind of like the way sunlight passes through water.

From the latest “tape,” Vibe Tape +++3:

“Bars w/ Cav”

“Buildin'”

 

And some older stuff:

“Addicted [flip]”  from  Vibe Tape +++(2)

Iman Omari – “Too Late ft. MoRuf”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“Take Away feat. Good Joon”  from Energy EP

“No Stress”  from (VIBE)rations LP

“First Time”  from Energy EP

Omari recently dropped a guest spot for the radio show Soulection, playing a mix of original stuff (starting at about the 1:30:00 mark) and then stick around for an interview.