KAYTRANADA’s “0.001% ???” Mixtape

Canadian producer KAYTRANADA released one of our favorite records this year in the form of 99.99% (XL Recordings), a sleek hybrid of incandescent club music with razor-sharp production, featuring a formidable roster of rappers and vocalists.

And now he’s flexing his DJ skills with this gem of a mixtape he dropped on us earlier this week. It’s a sublime ride through a slew of exclusive material, remixes, edits, features, etc., that really demonstrates just how good modern dance music can be.

Stream and/or download below, and don’t forget to check out 99.99%.

Starchild & the New Romantic

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.

 

 

 

ALL MY LOVERS from Starchild & The New Romantic on Vimeo.

Abra – “Roses”

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

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.

Shlohmo feat. Jeremih – “Bo Peep (Do U Right)”

shlohmo-x-jeremih.3

If you’ll recall Jeremih made our 2012 faves list with his awesomely weird take on modern R&B—equal parts Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and R. Kelly. And last fall Shlohmo, a longtime favorite of the site, flipped the crooner’s ode to romance “Fuk U All the Time” into the kind of screw-inspired chunky R&B number he seems to be trafficking as of late.

With that in mind, it was probably only a matter of time before these two hooked up. The result is pretty much what you’d expect, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

Jeremih – “Fuck You All The Time” (Shlohmo Remix)

How to Dress Well

How to Dress Well has been on a tear as of recent, releasing a string of EPs last year (like 5 or 6) before finally dropping an album.

His music sounds like the amateur home recordings of a reclusive troubadour; yearning to connect with the rest of the world but plagued with some sort of crippling anxiety disorder, that keeps him homebound.  But with the aid of an old keyboard, a drum machine, some cheap mics, a 4 track and the Internet, he is able to write, perform, record and distribute his agoraphobic love songs from the safety of his own dwelling.

It’s weird shit. Warped atmospheric R&B — noticeably light on drums and bass — that’s
one part James Blake, one part Ariel Pink and one part something I never heard before.
The tracks are generally built around brittle, chintzy little synthesized melodies, and a thin falsetto, which is pulled taught across canvases of fuzzy, washed out ambiance.  There’s a kind of dissociative fog that permeates the whole thing, as though our lo-fi lothario were perpetually high on cough syrup.

And the questionable fidelity gives the songs a grainy, out-of-focus quality. The recording often seems intentionally shitty, like artifacts were purposely introduced into the songs as compositional element.

It’s funny, because this ain’t the type of thing I would have imagined I’d be into all that long ago. And yet I’ve discovered a blossoming love for Experimental R&B (who’d a thunk those two words would ever sit next to each other, and yet here we are).

Be sure to cop his album Love Remains

Apparently this dude was at Noise Pop this year, but I can’t imagine how this kind of bedroom experimentation would go down live.

Edit

Just came across this slammin’ DJ mix from him:

Tracklist is as follows:
01 Diddy Dirty Money: “Your Love”
02 N-Zo & DJ Invincible: “Red 5”
03 Seany Mac: “One Of Those Days”
04 Beyoncé: “Halo (HTDW Speedup)”
05 Love Nation: “Musical Foundations”
06 Travis Porter: “Bring It Back”
07 Ace Hood: “Hustle Hard (Remix)”
08 Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em: “LEMME FUCK”
09 Dipset Trance
10 Deadboy: “Way That I Luv U”
11 Panteros666: “X Lova”
12 Chris Brown: “Beautiful People”
13 DJ Ham: “Most Uplifting”
14 Dipset Trance
15 Crime Mob: “Ellenwood Area”
16 Yung Bizz: “Bubble Gum”
17 Rebel Alliance: “Sometimes”