F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was a work so filled with ambition, yearning, and inner contradictions that it came to represent the condition of a nation itself. Yet, at its core, the slim novel tells a story about people and, more often than not, their inability to communicate and connect with one another — forever running on parallel tracks until tragedy finally twines them together. The color green (often in the form of the faded sodium lit dock of Daisy Buchanan) comes to represent longing and unrequited love in an era (the Roaring Twenties) of decadence and spiritual vacuousness. Green is Gatsby’s North Star, simultaneously pointing backward and forward through time toward some unattainable, impossibly balanced version of his own life.
Nick Waterhouse, a century later but once again in the ’20s, takes the color blue as his hue of choice on Promenade Blue. In Nick’s musical and lyrical world, blue is a refraction of his life and memories — shadowing a deep, spiritual San Francisco that fostered his musical vocabulary but has now been stamped out irrevocably; evoking the endless tours, marathon recording sessions, and highs and lows of success he’s experienced in his decade-long career; conjuring romances that were doomed, loves that lingered, and hope for future days of parity and partnership; summoning spirits of people who have gone but permeate his mind forever. That’s the world of Promenade Blue — one that is vivid and magnetic, buoyed by both light and density due to Nick’s newfound collaboration with producer Paul Butler (Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart). It’s not Gatsby’s New York in the 1920s, it’s Waterhouse’s California in the 2020s. Nick makes that crystal clear throughout the record but particularly on “Santa Ana (1986),” where he wryly sings, “Not from New York / And I never was / I’m from California.” With that, he answers all questions about place and setting…but as anyone who’s ever listened to a Waterhouse record knows: time, though clearly pegged to the dawn of this new decade, is a more malleable concept. Where he is is clear. When he is varies.
We can try as hard as we can to make sense of Promenade Blue, but in reality, context isn’t really needed because the music on the album is so damn magnificent. In no uncertain terms, it represents Waterhouse’s finest hour as a writer and bandleader — leveraging the musical partnerships he has built over many years to put something forth that is so fully realized and felt that it sparkles beatifically, reverberating with energy, heart, creativity, and vibe from start to finish. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album’s opening track, “Place Names,” perhaps the most remarkable song in the Waterhouse catalogue.
The tune is a pocket symphony, à la Spector and Wilson, with winding piano lines locking puzzle-like into a whining, weeping string arrangement courtesy of musical blood brother J.B. Flatt. A small cadre of women backing vocalists shout “Never!” and Nick replies “I never cry on cold days / I never mind a trip on the freeway / Because it’s what I know / Never really set for the big change / Learn to let things go / And say blow wind, blow.” The freeways between LA and San Francisco; the memory of spending a teenaged evening in the Vesuvio Café, which looms over the entrance of City Lights Books; the wind ripping through you on a foggy Bay Area morning, cutting into your bones; the pride one takes in his hometown; the distinct life that he has made (or that has made him) — it’s all here in “Place Names” and, honestly, if the album were to end with this one song, Waterhouse would’ve done his service to the 2020s in terms of musical creativity and vitality. Thankfully for listeners, it’s just the beginning.
The album twists and turns from the opening to the close — from swinging, sashaying jazz and blues (“Spanish Look”) to jittering, crystalline doo wop (“Very Blue”) and pure, loose, languid mood music with just a hint of Mulatu Astatke’s Ethiopian modal magic (“Promène Blue”). Most striking, perhaps, is the use of men’s voices as a backing texture, bringing an unexpected thematic unity to many of the songs. Lower-than-low gospel chants and refrains lend both energy and emotional weight to these pieces, conjuring a whole new mythic world for Nick’s compositions. This is a statement album, one to get lost in and rediscover over and over again.
In the Waterhouse catalogue, “Promenade Blue” represents rebirth and reinvigoration as well as a clarity of purpose that elevates it and may one day set it apart as something resembling a magnum opus. It’s his ‘Gatsby’ and it’s also his way of reintroducing himself to a fanbase that has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. On this record, he paints a mythic picture of his own life — lost in confusion, grating against time, overheated by false memories, being baptized by nostalgia and a vision of the future that is paradoxically both dark and apocalyptic and sparkling with promise. Sounds a lot like America in the 20s to me. Which 20s though? Which color — green or blue? Which author? Try to figure it out for yourself:
“You were smiling at me / Hanging languidly / On your car door window / Very blue / Very green / The ocean breeze / And shuffling trees / Pacific seas.”
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Looking back, Jimmy Edgar has a lot to be proud of. Over the course of the last decade-and-a- half, the Detroit native has proven both a celebrated favorite and consistent fixture of dance music in its multitudinous forms. Looking over the arc of his lengthy and diverse discography, both under his own name as well as pseudonymously, it’s hard not to see him as one of the most innovative producers and skilled sound designers to emerge this millennium, an artist whose legacy has touched untold numbers of home listeners and dance floor revelers alike.
Since first emerging onto the scene as a prodigious teen via early pseudonymous offerings for respected electronic labels like Merck, he broke out properly under his own name in 2004 as a Warp Records act. Jimmy swiftly proved a savvy figure in the IDM world by employing the homegrown sounds of electro and ghetto-tech as part of his glitchy compositions. A restless innovator, he honed his skills in the ensuing years, eventually moving to the storied German city and developing a newfound affinity for techno there.
Location often sparks inspiration. Sometimes, all it takes is a change of scenery to introduce something new in one’s creative process. For Jimmy, the move from the dance music mecca of Berlin to the sunnier climes of Los Angeles proved a turning point in an already formidable career of artistic exploration. “Berlin was a self aware bubble where I was able to be immersed into music and rhythms simplicity,” he says. Relocating stateside in LaLa Land altered his perspective once again, exposing him to a wider musical universe, including modern mainstream hip-hop and R&B that had been shadowed out while living overseas. “The more you open the doors to sounds and ideas, the more exploration you find fresh. Moving around and opening myself up to other sounds allowed me to find my sound.” He refers to the period as one of research and development. Before long, he was producing for everyone from former Danity Kane singer DAWN to erstwhile Odd Future associate Vince Staples.
Continuing on his spirited journey through the multifaceted realm of electronic music, Jimmy makes a grand return to the solo album fat with ‘CheetahBend’ for Innovative Leisure, the same label behind his most recent J-E-T-S output with Machinedrum. Recorded over the past few years in multiple cities including Atlanta, Detroit, and, of course, L.A., it draws upon his vibrant discography as much as it does the contemporary ubiquity of rap music. Coming some eight years after ‘Majenta’, his oft-explicit set of pop-wise booty anthems, the album improbably synthesizes what might seem like disparate styles together, resulting in something as cohesive as it is engrossing. “The value I bring is hybridization,” Jimmy explains of his approach. “I think about different universes of sound coming together to create an entirely new domain of knowing.”
From the opening whirr of “Crown” onwards, ‘CheetahBend’ does precisely that, unspooling fresh perspectives and glistening sound design that flaunts genre rules while respecting genre spirit. “Have A Great Now!” evokes classic West Coast boogie without dropping a beat, while “Zig Zag” gorgeously reconciles deconstructed club with the glitch work of his past. “Curves” seems to capture Berlin and L.A. in one fell swoop, creeping and bleeping towards its close with cinematic gravity.
Building upon his prior collaborative endeavors, not the least of which being the various EPs released on his own Ultramajic imprint throughout the 2010s, ‘CheetahBend’ finds Jimmy working in tandem with a veritable vanguard of forward-thinking artists towards his unique vision. “SOPHIE and I spent time together trading files, sounds and techniques, developing a new kind of version of modal synthesis,” Jimmy says, having used resonators and delays to emulate sonic environs akin to pipes, tunnels, and vibrating sheets. SOPHIE and TNGHT’s Hudson Mohawke respectively assist on the tenuous bass rattle of “Metal” and “Bent,” adding their inflections to Jimmy’s signatures.
Beyond these production partners, ‘CheetahBend’ achieves its ethos with the aid of some well- placed vocal guests. Rapper Danny Brown does irreparable microphone damage to “Get Up,” a tough love motivational set to springy synth flourishes and bass rattling. Toronto singer Rochelle Jordan, a recent J-E-T-S collaborator, imbues the lithe R&B suite “Crank” with her breathy delivery, while Atlanta trapper B La B spits streetwise singsong over a rugged and snappy beat. “I bring an energy to the room whatever I do I wanna be the best at it - ideas, direction and technique refined,” Jimmy explains.
By the time ‘CheetahBend’ wraps, it’s hard not to see how far Jimmy has come from his early days. The culmination of a catalog brimming with high points, the album rewards fans who’ve gladly stuck with him over the years, and invites a new batch of listeners to dive into his world. Above all, it remains true to his artistry. “I'm not willing to sacrifice integrity,” he asserts, reflecting on the path that got him here. “Now we create a new reality.”
Live At Pappy & Harriet's: In Person From The High Desert
A decade ago, journalists, fans, critics, and audiophiles alike were wont to compare Nick Waterhouse to his predecessors. And it was a convenient way to categorize an artist that has since proved uncategorizable—he had a voice that balanced somewhere between Van Morrison and Ray Charles, an aesthetic that caught the attention of style reporters at GQ, an ambitious production vision that stood out among the lo-fi rock and alternative bands of the zeitgeist. And he was disarmingly earnest in his own influences—citing artists like Mose Allison and Them as early inspiration. But now, coming off of his searching, intimate, self-titled album of 2019 and bringing us “Nick Waterhouse Live at Pappy & Harriet’s; In Person from the High Desert” in 2020, it’s clear that comparisons, of any kind, no longer suffice.
After self-releasing his debut single “Some Place” in 2010, Nick Waterhouse and his backing band, The Tarots, along with three back-up singers, The Naturelles, quickly caught the attention of then-nascent, Los Angeles record label Innovative Leisure. Released by Innovative Leisure in 2012, Waterhouse’s debut album, “Time’s All Gone,” was an incredibly ambitious record. Full band, three back-up vocalists, careful and intricate arrangements, a studied balance of light and dark, thoughtful decisions on everything from studio to album art: Waterhouse had vision.
While Waterhouse continued to release records at a steady clip—“Holly” in 2014, “Never Twice” in 2016, the self-titled “Nick Waterhouse” in 2019, and now “Live at Pappy & Harriet’s”—he extended his vision beyond his own act, collaborating with friends like garage-rock mystic Ty Segall and retro-futurist R&B bandleader Leon Bridges. He meticulously produced the successful debut and sophomore albums of long-time friends the Allah-Lahs, whom he met after moving from southern California to San Francisco, fortifying his musical education by selling vinyl in the Lower Haight. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it’s resonant in both his own records and his collaborations, rooted both in the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live, eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible.
Though Waterhouse’s artistic practice has remained thoughtful and deliberate, it’s also proved adaptable. As his career grew to encompass a consistent schedule of national and international touring, producing, co-writing, and working with legendary elders like Ira Raibon, Maxine Brown, and Ralph Carney, the story of Waterhouse’s musical arc can be tracked through the sounds and arrangements on each record. From the magical, youthful ambition of “Time’s All Gone” to the more reflective and existentially fraught “Nick Waterhouse”—it all tells a story.
The breadth and pace of his output is also evidence of the fact that however stylishly he may do it, Nick Waterhouse works. Hard. “Nick Waterhouse Live at Pappy & Harriet’s” came immediately after a long and intense string of European tour dates, which came immediately after a certain reckoning that most musicians encounter at some point, or several points, in their careers: a point where Nick Waterhouse, whose artistry and musicality evokes a blistering energy and drive, was questioning the whole thing—the shows, the exhaustion, the money, the will.
It turned out that the excitement and momentum that fueled the 2019 European tour answered those questions in the resounding positive. And “Live at Pappy & Harriet’s” reflects the work of an artist who has seen some things. He’s studied, he’s composed, he’s receptive, he’s loose, and he’s gotten to know his own artistic practice in a way that shows up, fiery and raw, on this live, hometown record.
Because ultimately, Nick Waterhouse is not simply in dialogue with others. He hasn’t responded to a revived appetite for neo R&B or Ronson-type pop production by altering his vision. He has remained, resoundingly, Nick Waterhouse. Whatever growth, transformations, or nuances a listener can hear are entirely his own story. Waterhouse has built his own sonic world, one whose orbit is totally unique. That sonic world is rich and complex; its language is intelligent, clever, and vulnerable; it’s at once ambitious and intimate, groovy and deeply serious.
In fact, the Waterhouse sonic world might look a lot like a glimmering desert sky at dusk, or the damp, overheated air that awaits through the doors of Pappy & Harriet’s. And now we’re invited in.
Allah Las met while working at the biggest of all the L.A. Record stores, but they became a band in an even more rare and special space—a California basement, dug out somewhere between the mountains and the beach. They began gigging shortly after their inception in and around Los Angeles in the later part of 2008. It wasn’t until three years later that they would find the proper environment to record their first single “Catamaran” / “Long Journey” which now bookends their upcoming self-titled release. These are the kind of songs that bounce between London and Los Angeles, the kind of thing that could have comefrom Mick Jagger or Arthur Lee or both at once, with crystalline guitar and slow-mo drums that recalled the way the waves take big bites of the beach at night. This is mystery music from the strange and ancient-modern California fringe, more Night Tide than Easy Rider. Allah Las are a reflection of a reflection, an echo of an echo, a band that is psychedelic not because of reverb or shredding through pedals but for the simple way their songs seem to extend to infinity.
Double Gatefold LP.Gatefold CD Digipack
BADBADNOTGOOD is a young supremely talented trio of musicians made up of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, and Alex Sowinski on drums. Since their inception at Humber College’s Music Performance program in 2011, the three have challenged the rule book on improvised instrumental music and taken jazz tradition into the future. With early champions including acclaimed BBC broadcaster Gilles Peterson and Tyler The Creator who helped fuel their discovery with a series of live jams that instantly went viral and dubbed them the “Odd Trio”, the band released their first EP BBNG in June 2011 to wide praise. The marriage of jazz virtuosity and hip hop source material offered a fresh take on the traditional “standard” applied to hip hop classics by taking on choice cuts from the golden era rap cannon and writing inspired arrangements for them instead of one-dimensional covers. The band hit a landmark by introducing original material into their composi- tions with BBNG2 in 2012. New songs like “Rotten Decay”, “Vices” or “UWM” carried on the proud heritage of musical juxtaposition by bringing together jazz, hip hop, punk, and dance music into vigorous balance. Since then, they’ve won praise from the four corners of the globe and collaborated with Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom, Pharaoh Monch and RZA among many. Their no- torious live performances have brought fans across the whole musical spectrum together, taking the band around the world from Coachella to Glastonbury. Now, the inseparable friends are prepping to release their biggest project to date III on prodigious young label Innovative Leisure, a highly-anticipated project ushering in the group’s newest explorations which are proving to be limitless.
BADBADBADNOTGOOD is the talented young quartet of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, Alex Sowinski on drums & Leland Whitty on saxophone. They formed and became inseparable friends at Humber College's Music Performance program in 2011 and have been on a critically acclaimed, rule bending musical journey ever since. BBNG took the music world by storm with their 2014 LP, III, a brash yet refined record of angular jazz improvisations, lush ballads, kraut rock, & futuristic hip-hop tinged rhythms which led to a couple years of touring the world & collaborating with some of the best and brightest artists around the globe
The boys are back with the new album IV, their most impressive and highly anticipated project yet. IV continues their forward thinking progression, sounding something like a jam session in space between Can, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, Weather Report, Arthur Russell & MF DOOM.
With tracks like "Time Moves Slow" featuring haunting vocals from Sam Herring of Future Islands, the syncopated groove of "Lavender," a collaboration with Montreal based producer Kaytranada, the rumbling fusion build of "Confessions Pt. II" featuring Colin Stetson on the bass sax, "Love" which is highlighted with smokey left field raps from Mick Jenkins & the epic chords of "Speaking Gently," IV is an exploration in post-genre virtuosity. Out Summer 2016 on Innovative Leisure Records, BBNG prove yet again that the possibilities & discovery in their musical quest are infinite.
Time's All Gone
Nick Waterhouse is the New Breed - a 25 year old R&B fanatic who combines an uncanny old-school sensibility with a charged, contemporary style. He joins the ranks of similar acts and producers of recent times - Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, Aloe Blacc et al – that are all moving forward into the past, yet all quite different. For Waterhouse, his muse is the over-modulated sound of vintage ‘50s R&B. His take on such a time-honored tradition evokes the back-alley thrill of New Orleans, Detroit and Memphis in their heyday and has resonated with fans the world over (his debut 45 sells for upwards of $300 dollars). Waterhouse combines an astute attention to detail with an honest desire to match.
Hanni El Khatib
Will The Guns Come Out
Los Angeles based Hanni El Khatib grew up in San Francisco raised on skateboarding (former creative director at HUF), punk rock, and 1950s and 60s classic Americana. Influenced by pioneers of early rock and R&B, the multi-instrumentalist and producer derives his unique sound from a menagerie of inspirations: blues, soul, garage rock, doo-wop … and the most American thing of all, car wrecks. It's malt shop music for those who drink them spiked with bourbon or in Hanni's own words "these songs were written for anyone who's ever been shot or hit by a train. Knife fight music." No word yet on whether Hanni's tested that knife fight thing at any of his shows.
Will The Guns Come Out is his debut album on the Innovative Leisure label, following two 45s: Dead Wrong & Build Destroy Rebuild.
LP is Standard Jacket, Custom Inner Sleeve & Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Claude Fontaine is an American girl with a French name who never felt like she fit in anywhere she happened to call home, and one particular year she was awash in a grey London fog that matched the fog and grey in her own too-recently broken heart. While living right off Portobello Road, she stumbled into the record store down the street. And in a flash of luck (or fate) that particular record store turned out to be Honest Jon’s, a long-lived spot for records collected from the furthest edges of the world. She’d never heard those old Studio One and Trojan and Treasure Isle reggae and rocksteady and dub records before—the same records that got the Clash covering “Police And Thieves,” and the Slits sharing a bill with Steel Pulse. And she’d never heard bossa nova and tropicalia and Brazil’s incandescent música popular brasileira, either. But instantly, she understood that it was exactly and perfectly everything she didn’t know she needed: “I wandered in one day and from the first moment I was under a spell,” she says. “I was transfixed. I’d go in there daily and have them play me every record in that store probably to the point of driving them completely mad! But I had fallen in love …”
And because she loved those records so much, she decided to make a record of her own—an album singing her own love songs (with Jane Birkin-style ye-ye elan) that was itself a love song to classic reggae and Brazilian music, and an album honoring that feeling of finding a home away from home. Ferociously inspired, she demo-ed a set of songs about heartbreak and loneliness, and drafted a wish list of musicians she’d hope would help out. At the top were guitarist Tony Chin, whose playing with Althea and Donna, King Tubby, Dennis
Brown and so many more very arguably defined a gigantic part of the classic reggae sound, and Airto Moreira, the Brazilian drummer whose work both solo and in collaboration with Miles Davis, Astrud Gilberto, Chick Corea, Annette Peacock and more make him an actual living legend. “A pipe dream” to chase them, she says, but still she tried.
But after diligent detective work and long chains of emails and voicemails, tracing between L.A. industry veterans and globetrotting photographers and the label that would put out her finished record—though she didn’t know that yet—she found them. Then she sent them her demos. Then they said yes. And when she finally met them that day in Chet Baker’s old studio (“A time warp,” she adds dreamily) or at King Size in northeast L.A. and she heard her songs the way she’d been hearing them in her head for so long, she was was overcome with emotion. “It was surreal and magical,” she says. “I cried. To watch those songs come to life… it’s why we do what we do.”
She finished her album in two potent sessions with Chin, Moreira and a murderer’s row of their connections—bassist Ronnie McQueen of Steel Pulse and Ziggy Marley drummer Rock Deadrick, Now Again Records guitarist Fabiano Do Nascimento, Sergio Mendes percussionist Gibi Dos Santos and Flora Purim bassist Andre De Santanna. (Trust that each of these people have credits on albums like you wouldn’t believe.) Side A is the reggae, five songs about love gone wrong that sound like they came out of Jamaica in the early 70s. Yes, “Love Street” sounds happy, but “it’s really just a fantasy,” says Claude. And side B wasn’t specifically designed to be the bossa or Brazilian side, but that’s how it worked out, closing with the spare and even haunting “Last Goodbye,” a song about the heartbreak of what could have been. All together, it’s a valentine to this special music that called out to her from the other side of the planet: “I hope this record will transport people,” she says. “I wanted it to feel like those lost records, like it got lost in the bottom bin of some world music store in London because that’s how I felt when I walked in to that record store. I wanted it to be its own world.”
Nick Waterhouse grew up in a coastal town near Long Beach, CA. It was a serene setting: the ocean stretching out for miles to the North and South, manicured lawns, two-story homes, long swathes of concrete highway, fast food chains and mega malls. He was there for two decades. Then, he left.
He found a home in his early 20s in San Francisco, working at record stores alongside a collective of likeminded young crate-diggers and 45 collectors. And then he started making his own records: “Time’s All Gone” in 2012, “Holly” in 2014, and “Never Twice” in 2016. These were evocative albums, steeped in a perfectionism and clarity of vision that informed every choice, from the studios to the players, the arrangements to the album art. Everything, deliberately designed and purposeful, bubbling over with power and feeling.
And as those records rolled out into the world, Waterhouse found a dedicated audience of his own as well as a bevy of influential champions and collaborators, including garage-rock mystic Ty Segall, retro-futurist R&B bandleader Leon Bridges and the LA-based quartet Allah-Las, whose first two albums he meticulously produced and played on. There is a “Waterhouse Sound” and it comes from both the man and the method — recording everything on magnetic tape, through analog equipment, and playing live (!), eyeball to eyeball, whenever possible.
Now, he’s finished his fourth album. He’s calling it “Nick Waterhouse.” And whether intentional or not, it is perhaps his most reflective — and reflexive — album, employing all of the mature production techniques learned throughout his professional career while retaining a viscous edge that allows it to land with colossal impact — more raw, heavy and overtly confrontational than anything he’s made before.
“Nick Waterhouse” was recorded at the finest working studio in Los Angeles, Electro Vox Recorders, and co-produced by Paul Butler (The Bees, Michael Kiwanuka, Devendra Banhart), the master of all things warm, rich and wooly. Nick’s songs here are personal, but personal in the way that “Please Mr. Postman,” “What’s Going On” and “Cathy’s Clown” are — intimate, direct, yet still malleable enough for listeners to suffuse their own life stories into the mix. The album is thick with talented players, including Andres Rentaria, Paula Henderson and the staggering, howling saxophone of Mando Dorame.
All of the new Waterhouse songs sound big. Brawny and muscular. The lyrics are suspicious, outraged and, at times, very vulnerable (muscle is just flesh, after all). Waterhouse uses an economy of words to deliver complex, coded messages. He offers up equal parts criticism of the time we live in and innate human flaws. He paints relationships under the cover of darkness, slashing through neo-noir fantasies that are romantic, blood-spattered and bracingly aware of the powerlessness felt among people, amid the rapid onslaught of commercialism and technological progress. And, as has become his signature, he throws in a tune written by a close friend. On this record, he covers “I Feel an Urge Coming On” in tribute to the song’s author, Nick’s own mentor and collaborator Joshie Jo Armstead, who wrote music with Ray Charles and sang as both an Ikette and Raelette in the ’60s and ’70s.
He’s four albums in, but it makes sense that this specific record is the one that takes his name. You can really here Nick on this one. Not just the band. Not just the songs. Not just the sound. HIM. You can hear his mind at work. His passion. His focus. More importantly, you can feel it.