It’s been about a year since I last published a new EP or track. For nearly half a decade I have internalized a growing love for the footwork scene, in awe of the unforgiving repetition and harshness that so many classic tracks have. They do not hesitate to delve into obsessions that I could only liken with a poetic madness. Phrases and words are transformed into bits and undecipherable arias. Snares are compressed and crushed into tight sizzles, syncopated in unpredictable ways. Footwork is truly a bridge between studio workmanship and improvisational performance, especially knowing that it’s typically produced on one beat maker and by one producer.
LOQUELA is lo-fi, but higher in production quality than my tablet-based music could ever be (with my workflows). The name is the theme, taken from a chapter in Roland Barthes’ “A Lover’s Discourse.” The beauty of a lover’s self-torment, poking at an oozing wound because of not only curiosity but because of the unspoken irrationality of reliving pain in the first place. Like a spin that could take the dancer to any of the extremes, dizzy and delirious.
You can listen to it here (or buy it!)
It’s also been about a year since I last actively used a tablet as the primary tool for making music. The switch back to a laptop with a full-featured DAW was challenging but gratifying — unlike the small apps of the tablet, the program I was using would provide me skills to use throughout other production suites. I am excited to see what will come next for my sound…
The only music I can play live is with a flute. Live performance hardware and software still feels like such an alien concept to me — I’ve been currently working on new footwork-influenced music with a great beat machine, but the beat making is throwing me. The ability to arrange songs in real-time is a goal that I’m aspiring to this year, and I will achieve it with enough practice.
Be sure to keep up with my uploads over at Soundcloud.
The EP cover.
For You: Thundercat – Drunk
So you weren’t familiar with Thundercat when we spoke about it a few days ago. That shouldn’t be entirely surprising: Stephen Bruner has mostly made his reputation working with giant alterna-mainstream hip-hop acts like Flying Lotus, and through Lotus, Kendrick Lamar. Thundercat’s great though: he has this kindly falsetto that is indie and poppy, sincere and ironic all at the same time. His debut album, Thundercat, was a great postmodern ode to the television show and a generally “IDM”-y sound that included hugely virtuosic basslines and percussions, leading up to a type of sound that a weed smoker would have been quite content with.
His second album Apocalypse seemed like a distraction from real playfulness. 2013 was a defining year for alterna-mainstream hip-hop and modern soul: Daft Punk intermeshed with Lamar, #GrammysLessWhite, and things like Tawk Tomahawk were taking over the Australian airwaves. But Thundercat comes in with a near soul-less rendition of pop, and we were sent into a largely idiosyncratic and hollow world that Twin Shadow was also attempting to carve out, but to no avail. The tracks were strong but they lacked what made Thundercat Thundercat, so it passed through the ears of Pitchfork/mainstream indie and settled into oblivion.
Drunk is hugely imaginative, and the lyrics are plain fun and funny. Rather than the reverential Thundercat, this album chases its own tail into the abyss, celebrating its complex basses and percussions just as Bruner did six years prior. It’s twenty-three tracks! Yet it’s packed with interludes and transitions that it feels as though we are met with ten largely substantive tracks that meld into a dozen other sounds through the course of each segment. I think you’d actually like some of the funk/soul/IDM stuff found throughout, even if the rest of this letter was as directionless as the album itself.
- Captain Stupido
- Walk On By (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
- Friend Zone
February 25th, 2017
The day of its release, Apple Music inputs the track Starwood Choker into my “New Music” playlist, and so I listen to it on my bike ride near Payne’s Prairie, just a little past LaChua trail and just a little before the forest on the way Hawthorne. In fact, that track is so great I listen to it all over again right when it ends. And then I like that track even more so I press the shuffle button twice to just repeat the track over and over and over.
It wasn’t until after that weekend that I go out of my way to listen to the rest of the album, but there it is in all it’s operatic and droning beauties. A “modern classical” album, my friend describes it, and I agree: the repetition of Glass or Reich are strong influences, but a grand piano is boundless with the right electronic instruments. The low rumbles of horns harken to the darkest soundtrack of “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” when African slaves are forced into a burning music machine. The transcending nature of that scene, from its sadness to its optimism that we have gone so much further is explored for almost an hour in this album.
This is an album to augment the daily drudgery into activities worth the effort. Like last year’s discovery of Andy Stott’s Too Many Voices, Bing & Ruth have rocketed themselves into first place for such a beautiful album that will add to another beautiful year. Check it yo.
- Starwood Choker ****
- As Much As Possible ***
- Scrapes ***
- Chonchos **
- The How of it Sped ****
- Is Drop ***
- Form Takes ****
- To All It ***
- Flat Line / Peak Color ***
- What Ash it Flow Up ***
For You: Visible Cloaks – Reassemblage
New Age tended to seek the natural within an age of urbanization and industrialization. The digital age was burgeoning, only a factor in the pressing of CDs and possibly an AOL homepage. The sounds were familiar: rain, pipes, hollow percussions. They depicted the ancient, or at least traditional, as a purveyor of simplicity against the collapse of home life in favor of work. That’s probably why it was so kitschy as it was capturing capitalism at its best: selling the snake oil of brief escapism.
Motion Graphics and Visible Cloaks may have aped some of New Age’s instruments, but it does not seek to exploit our fear of the new, but rather augment the phenomenon of digitalization into something as natural. Perhaps parallels are the key to integration, understanding the natural of the digital sound and subsequently adapting it to the larger repertoire of “accepted music”. It will only be so long when the next “progressive” pop artist will find ways to transform these sounds into more accessible beats and melodies.
I connected the middle of the album with the original Minecraft electronic music producer, C418, who had developed some of the most appropriate and awe-inspiring tracks in the last few years, simply for its achievement in capturing the aesthetic of Minecraft. Similarly, Minecraft has digitized the natural world but produced so much dynamism between its digital and natural components that it becomes natural for its digitality. For being so far removed from physical instruments, Visible Cloaks nonetheless discovers a similar organic-ness.
The bonus tracks give up just about all of the familiar sensibilities established by Motion Graphics last year. Relying on quiet interludes of digital vocals and stringed instruments — Imprint, Moon —, we don’t see New Age or Digital Age (whatever you want to call it), simply quite beautiful ambient tracks harkening to Philip Glass or Steve Reich. So you already recommended this album to me, but here is the lens with which I’m listening.
For You: Soft Hair – Soft Hair
Sarah recommended this one to me a few weeks ago (though I have been listening to it for at least a couple months already). It didn’t get a great score on Pitchfork (a 6.8), but I think it connects to a great song I shared with you late last summer, LA Priest’s “Oino”. The other LA Priest songs surprisingly don’t sound so much like the above track, but this album seems to encapsulate the energy and what the music publication describes as “cutesy”.
There is a fun sexuality to Soft Hair, like a drag show skirting around its premise. This teasing produces a type of nuance to its music. “Jealous Lies” and “I.V.” most embody this argument: the psyched out plucks of the guitar turn a rather standard 4/4 beat into something with drive. Then the synths, wavering and off-pitch produce a unique melancholy. Grandiose sadness maybe.
I do wonder if album covers affect their scores. They most certainly affect one’s appreciation of the music. From the “Alternative” genre tag to the “Parental Advisory” emblem on the bottom-right, the word “commercial” popped in my head before my initial press of the play button. My cynicism rampant, perhaps I am overstating my like of this album due to its surprising catchiness.
For You: Jaala – Hard Hold
I think twice I sent you “Double Dutch” in the monthly playlists I would construct. Actually, I think it was “Junior Spirit”, which actually came out as a single the year after Hard Hold came out. But the core of each track is the same: this tension and release dance of jerking motions and smooth relaxations. The single was mixed to focus on Jaala’s vocals, but the album tends to be more egalitarian in representing the qualities of the band itself.
The percussion, neo-soul or whatever, makes each track as unpredictable as the last. And yeah, I don’t think you actually ever liked Hiatus Kaiyote after all the times I played it in Seattle, but I think Jaala strikes at the same experimental-popism, but in a much more raw form. (I’ll have to recommend to you Xenia Rubinos soon enough. I probably already added that to a playlist of yours sometime.)
But listening to this album, do you feel the “nimbleness”, the flexibility where the song is an amalgamation of these small little tempo changes and flourishes that would just make that dancing body scramble to adapt to whatever changes are deemed welcome or necessary by the band? It’s a controlled chaos that never seems to take a misstep. It’s just really cool.
Also, Jaala’s voice: this weird mix of baby talk and Australianisms that stand on a tight wire between punk and 50s crooning. Her (zey?) voice gives 80% of the personality to the tracks, but I’d say the technicalities without the voice would already make the album a winner. There is a proud creepiness to Jaala, and I hope that uncomfortability settles into you just as it did me.
On Apple Music