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.

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.

Vinyl Williams

Interesting factoid: Williams is apparently the grandson of John Williams (yes, that John Williams)

Easily one of my favorite discoveries of 2012, multi-instrumentalist,  vocalist, engineer and renaissance man  Vinyl Williams (real name Lionel Williams) creates the kind of music that defies easy categorization. You could label his concoction as equal parts psychedelic rock, shoegaze and krautrock (kraut-gaze? psy-shoe rock?). You’d need to mention his pop sensibility too, even if it’s as warped as Ariel Pink‘s. Listing these touch-points is sort of helpful, but they don’t really do him justice. The thing with Williams’ music is, that it’s a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts type of deal. The songs that he creates sprawl all over the place, sonically, full of multi-layered dream-like atmospherics, organic and synthetic melodies, and ethereal vocals which sit atop surprisingly propulsive, rhythmic configurations.

His excellent Lemniscape would totally have made my end of year list but for some confusion (on this blogger’s part) about its release – apparently it dropped in 2011 on European label No Pain in Pop, but didn’t make it stateside until 2012.  Williams also put out a great EP in the spring of 2012 called Ultimate World (The first track from said EP, “Teal Palm”, was featured on DecibelCast Vol. 10)

Here are a few samples from Lemniscape:

Vinyl Williams – “Stellarscope”

Vinyl Williams – “Grassy”

If you head over to Williams’ bandcamp page, you can procure the album and the EP for really cheap. Totally worth it.

Vinyl Williams “Inner Space”

Thundercat – “The Golden Age of the Apocalypse”

Oh man, this is the record of the summer as far as I’m concerned (and although most folks are probably gearing up for the fall, here in San Francisco it is officially [Indian] summer!).

Having anticipated its late August release for several months, I “thought” I knew what to expect…

Some background info for you:

Thundercat is the nom de guerre of Steve Bruner, a L.A.-based virtuoso bass player (with perfect pitch to boot).  A veteran session musician, Bruner’s talents have been sought after by everyone from Erykah Badu to the Suicidal Tendencies. He’s played with Snoop Dogg and Bootsy Collins, and most recently he’s fallen in with Flying Lotus and his ever-expanding left-field hip-hop crew Brainfeeder (He played bass on Flying Lotus’ 2010 instellar-opus Cosmogramma).  In short this dude is a monster on the bass guitar.

Still it took me several listens to “get” this record.

Normally, I don’t go in for jazz fusion, but this isn’t your typical jazz-fusion record.  It’s a stunning display of retro-futurism — melding jazz, electro and the leftfield hip-hop sound so en vogue in LA at the moment – an amazingly rich collection of smoothed out summer jams, sprawling as far and wide as the city of Los Angeles.  This is at once club music, cruising-in-the-car music, backyard cook-out music, and headphone music.

Fans of Dam-Funk’s brand of astral boogie would do well to grab this, although “Golden Age” is way further out there than anything released by Mr. Funk as of yet.

The instrumentation is the stuff of next-level: Backed by Flying Lotus who produced the album and 20-year-old composer, pianist and fellow Brainfeeder Austin Peralta, Bruner effortlessly churns out consciousness expanding melodies on an instrument typically relegated to “keeping time.”

I think the fact that this has been lighting up the blogosphere for the past few weeks says it all.  When was the last time a “jazz-fusion” record scored an 8.1 on Pitchfork?

Thundercat – “Daylight”

Thundercat – “Walkin”

Thundercat – “For Love I Come”

Flying Lotus put together a killer mix of non-album Thundercat stuff a few months ago, which you can grab here