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De Lux x Do You Need A Release?

After writing, performing, recording, and producing three albums themselves, De Lux have traded their typically hermetic recording process at their Burbank studio for a more collaborative experience. The result is their most dynamic record yet, titled Do You Need A Release? Founding members Sean Guerin and Isaac Franco invited their live band to record to tape at Jonny Bell’s Jazzcat Studio in Long Beach, CA. While De Lux has always been able to write immediately danceable and quirky pop songs with a strong dose of wit, these recordings get the sonic boost they deserve to match the quality and camaraderie of their intense and acclaimed live performances. 
On De Lux’s first two albums the duo tackled the innocence of youth and generational anxiety. More Disco Songs About Love flipped the switch to create an ambitious party record not about youthful musings and insecurity, but reflection and gratitude for the things and people they love. This go-around Sean and Isaac are still funny and profound and their sound remains easy to groove to, but the band is more influenced by the fun 80’s new wave of the Tom Tom Club and the experimentation and imagery of The Clash’s “Sandinista!” than cerebral DFA era disco.
Do You Need A Release? Is De Lux at their poppiest, their prettiest, danciest, but also their most abrasive. The record is built on an uncomfortable bed of tension which when released is immediately satisfying in unpredictable and surprising ways. The verses often pummel you with aggressive beats and grooves only to blossom into open, encouraging, and even angelic refrains. Or the other way around, like in “New Summers”, where the choruses don’t resolve and the drums are a never ending build up that disorients you—reminding you that summer will never be the same again. Similarly on the title track, a relentless glitch of a guitar chord repeats over a drum beat that sounds like it’s trying to break into your house. The band finally breaks the tension with a simple mantra: “Open, open you’re ready now.” These ebbs and flows are embedded in their new approach to songwriting which owes itself to another new variable: a Yamaha P2 upright piano made of walnut. 
 
De Lux’s sound has been built on iconic synths such as the Juno and Dx 7 and while those instruments are still trademarks of their identity, Sean wanted a place to sit without plugging in to write songs he could construct more organically. Playing the piano allowed him to create more emotive performances, playing with the give and take of the piano keys which lead to the new album’s organized mess of often beautiful but dissonant song structures. On the album’s opener, “They Call This Love”, it sounds like the band is announcing a special bulletin report for the upcoming apocalypse. Arpeggiated synths weave through beautiful vocal harmonies behind Sean’s urgent warning to beware of controlling lovers and then drops into an almost EDM like jam only to end with a gentle piano chord progression. Like a glimmering rainbow after a raging storm. 
The piano also reveals Sean at his most vulnerable: there are two shockingly pretty ballady tunes on the LP that feature Sean’s unique style of piano playing and his strange sense of melody and bizarre lyrical subject matter. “Morning Misses Me” is a song as seemingly silly as waking up too late, but it puts goose pimples on your goose pimples, making your eyes wet with its honesty and clarity. It’s a track about trying your hardest to be someone different, but ultimately deciding to accept who you are and always have been. It ends with a question mark of a chord just like the title of the album. 
 
Sean says that the record is filled with questions and not answers, but each riddle is its own answer as pseudo philosophical as that can sound… His lyrics are at once filled with uncertainty and affirmation. The irony is that the grooves are as solid as they’ve ever been and the band is pushing themselves harder than they ever have. Striving to make something danceable and beautiful and important. De Lux matters because they make music to dance to and be inspired by—they exist to ask us the questions we’re often too afraid to move our bodies to. That may sound hyperbolic but their ambitions are not an exaggeration. 
JIMMY EDGAR x SLIP N SLIDE

“Detroit experimentalist and texture king Jimmy Edgar is the kind of producer that opens a doorway in your mind” - BILLBOARD

“evokes a thrilling future of club music without borders”  - PITCHFORK

“One of electronic music's most diverse producers” MIXMAG     

Announced alongside not one, but two blistering new tracks “SLIP N SLIDE” and “STATIC (FT BANSHEE)”, Jimmy Edgar’s upcoming album LIQUIDS HEAVEN (out on November 11) is a psychedelic canvas of future R&B, euphoric bass, mutant tear-the-club-up rap, foundation-splintering noise, and gossamer soul. On a surface level, it is a starburst of avant-garde fusion, collecting a diverse cast of eccentric geniuses and re-configuring them into an anthology of nü musique concrete. But as with all his work, there is a deeper and subversive intent. Edgar unleashes two mind-melting, genre-bending tracks into the ether, blending funky electronic motifs, futuristic soul, and techno to sublime effect. 

Signed to Warp Records as a teenage electronic music prodigy, Edgar has recorded for the world’s most respected imprints (Warp, K7, Hotflush and his own New Reality Now). Raised in Detroit, with stints in Berlin, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York, his list of close collaborators includes Hudson Mohawke, Danny Brown, SOPHIE, DAWN, Mykki Blanco, Vince Staples, and Machinedrum (as one half of their duo J-E-T-S). LIQUIDS HEAVEN’s early gestation spawned from Edgar’s explorations of “material” in the digital world, and is part of his broader ambition to change belief and intention in the digital realm – a pseudo-invisible way to summon novel realities by infusing his ultra-sleek aesthetic into transformative conceptual art. LIQUIDS HEAVEN is the ultimate culmination of the idea of “phases of matter.”

LIQUIDS HEAVEN is not merely a technicolor dream of ethereal abstractions, however. It bangs as hard as anything to ever bump from a subwoofer. But for all the high energy propulsion, there is a counter-balance of melancholic beauty, and in a career of fascinating left-turns, it would be more surprising if LIQUIDS HEAVEN wasn’t surprising. The genius of it is that for all its cerebral intent, it remains replete with raw and visceral emotion. Out of sadness comes courage. Water, liquid, and light evaporate, become transparent, disappear peacefully. Nothing less than the sound and look of liquid are transmuted into powerful new sculptures – which are best experienced at a high volume on the far side of the sky.

Read more at CLASH, LINE OF BEST FIT & XLR8R.

Arjuna Oakes & Serebii x Flavour

New Zealand's Arjuna Oakes and Serebii, a.k.a. Callum Mower, previously announced their Final Days EP, out October 14, with the first single "Tired Faces". The duo returns with "Flavour", a soulful tune grounded by an infectious piano melody and vocals by Oakes.

Read more about the group on Fifteen Questions.

Tim Hill x Calico

Listening to Tim Hill’s new album, Giant—a rugged, tasteful batch of cowboy tunes and Americana ballads that feel forged out of the embers of a desert campfire—you might assume that he’s been working on a ranch his whole life. You’d be half right: Hill is indeed a rancher, working in the Orange County, California, area of Silverado, but he’s actually a relative novice when it comes to tasks like tending to horses and driving a tractor. He only just got the job since the pandemic started, inspired on something of a whim: “I always kind of thought I could work on a ranch,” Hill says. “So I just looked around for some jobs and they had an opening.”

Hill is based in Whittier, California, where he was born and raised, and music has always been his guiding force. The son of a music teacher, Hill grew up playing various instruments in a formal manner, but eventually carved a niche for himself in local punk bands, before finding himself as an in-demand touring musician for artists like Nick Waterhouse and the Allah-Las. When the Las—one of Los Angeles’s most beloved psych-rock bands—decided to start Calico Discos, their record label, they knew just the guy for its inaugural release: Hill’s solo debut, a 7-inch for the 2018 song “Paris, Texas,” introduced him as an alt-country act to be reckoned with—and his full-length debut, 2019’s Payador, was an underground hit, with copies of the sold-out first run having gone for as much as $100 on Discogs. 

Payador was “a simple and honest attempt at a first record,” according to Hill, which was done entirely at home on a four-track. When the project was finished, the fact was made quite cosmically clear: “It couldn’t have been more than a few seconds after the last take, the last overdub, the last cassette, that smoke began to billow from behind the four-track recorder,” Hill explains. So for his sophomore album, he decided that maybe it was time to upgrade the approach a little bit. Taking a drive down the 605 to Long Beach, Hill set up shop at Jonny Bell’s Jazzcats Studio, where he played all of the instruments himself, with the exception of two outside players—one for pedal steel and one for violin. 

The result is a record steeped in affection for artists like Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and Neil Young, but reimagined through the lens of the modern cultural melting pot that Hill lives in. (“I feel like I'm always trying to just rewrite [Young’s] “Out on the Weekend” in some way or another,” says Hill, “just because I like that feel so much.”) The choice of covers on the album speaks multitudes: Giant features a heartbreaking take on Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall,” a festive, authentic take on José López Alavez’s “Canción Mixteca” (which was notably covered by Ry Cooder and Harry Dean Stanton in Paris, Texas), and two impressive takes on part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “French Suites,” referred to by Hill as “French Sweet,” naturally. “My dad only listened to classical growing up,” Hill explains, “so it didn’t really mean anything to me then. But now I love it. I can listen to, like, Glenn Gould all day.”

But Hill’s original songs are the sturdy pickup-truck engine of Giant—songs like “Calico,” a dreamy ride into the center of the sun, and the opener, “The Clock’s Never Wrong,” a waltz that would get even the drunkest person at the bar to stand up and start dancing along: “I miss the good ole time when girls used to ask what car you drive,” Hill croons in that latter song, “and leave you with a hole in your heart.” On “Candlestick,” he takes his graceful chords and melody and applies them to a poem written by his friend, the artist Ry Welch. “It was just one of those things where I didn’t have to move any word around,” Hill notes. “I didn’t have to cut anything out. It just fit perfectly in that music.”

Of course, there’s also Giant’s title track, an operatic piano piece that presents a brief, episodic tale of the culture clash that occurs in so many forms in the U.S. these days. The song was inspired by the 1956 George Stevens film of the same name (itself adapted from Edna Ferber’s 1952 novel); Hill was enamored by the movie, and by James Dean’s performance in particular, in which he plays a ranch hand in Texas in the 1920s. “I really identify with that character now,” Hill explains. 

Giant was the last movie Dean filmed before he died, and Hill has inherited a fitting ethos for what he’s trying to do with his album named after it—and with his whole career: “Like the string quartet on the deck of the Titanic,” he says, “I’d like to play something beautiful before the ship goes down.”

Giant is out on February 10th, 2023 through Innovative Leisure/Calico Discos.  Pre-order a copy here.

Read more about the project on Raven Sings The Blues.

Jonah Yano x always/the speed of sound!

Hiroshima-born, Montreal-based singer-songwriter Jonah Yano announces his forthcoming second album portrait of a dog on January 27th, 2023. Following a highly acclaimed 2020 which included the release of the debut LP souvenir, and collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, Yano quietly released a cover of Jessica Pratt’s "This Time Around" and took some time away from releasing music to write and record his forthcoming album. Yano was recently announced as the opening act for the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Clairo for the last leg of her North American and the entirety of her European tour dates.

Along with the announcement, Yano is also sharing the first offering from the new album in the form of a double single. The first, "always," features simple songwriting, a solid groove, and an excellent piano solo, and "the speed of sound!," a personal favorite of Yano’s, is at the confluence of his love of folk and jazz music. The visual for "always" is a study of the wide-ranging tides in Five Islands, Nova Scotia, where Yano wanders The Bay of Fundy to reveal a sprawling bed of red clay at low tide. Speaking on the song and video, Yano says:

“'always' is a song that appeals to one-half of my sensibilities in music. All the piano on the record was played by my friend Felix Fox. I wrote this song for my younger brother Azusa who, at the time and just like myself, was going through some matters of the heart. Directed by Nik Arthur & David May, the video is essentially 6.5 hours of me walking in super slow motion so it looks like I’m walking regular speed while the environment changes around me.”

portrait of a dog is a 12-track exploration of themes present throughout most of Yano’s catalog – identity as a part of the Japanese-Canadian diaspora, contemplation of different family dynamics, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships. It’s a clear departure from Yano’s previous recordings – having established a clear sonic identity throughout the album’s 12 tracks to tell a clear and succinct collection of stories guided by clear and intentional instrumentals. The LP is produced entirely in collaboration with BADBADNOTGOOD and features guest work from Slauson Malone, Sea Oleena, with string arrangements by Eliza Niemi, Leland Whitty, and Yano himself.

Read more about it on Hypebeast and Exclaim!