In the past, Mapache recording sessions have been pretty laid-back affairs, with friends coming and going, the sessions starting and stopping at the band’s discretion—as relaxed a process as the immaculately sunny vibes that their four albums would suggest. But on their dynamic and ambitious fifth album of cosmic-folk, Swinging Stars, Sam Blasucci and Clay Finch decided to take a trip and hunker down somewhere particularly special.
“It’s a pretty impactful place,” Finch says of the Panoramic House, the artist retreat where SwingingStars was recorded. “It’s kind of dramatic. It’s a castle-y building on a hill, way up overlooking the Bay.”
Located in Stinson Beach in Marin County, California, the Panoramic House has recently hosted acts like My Morning Jacket, the War on Drugs, and Cate Le Bon, and was the ideal combination of scenic beauty and self-imposed confinement to allow Mapache to settle in for their most cohesive album yet. “That environment yields itself to a higher level of focus because everybody’s together for a week,” says Finch, explaining that the band stayed there during the process, sharing every bit of their time and energy on a shared vision. “We were all captive. No one could escape,” he laughs.
Swinging Stars, an album of calm, second-nature swagger, is the natural result of a band that’s existed in one form or another for its founders’ entire adult lives. Finch and Blasucci first met as students at La Cañada High School, just north of Los Angeles, where they both had a guitar class: “There wasn’t much supervision or anything,” remembers Blasucci. “It was really nice. And we got to just play guitars together.”
The two stayed friends through their college years—Finch went to Chico State and Blasucci spent two years as a missionary in Mexico—and eventually they ended up back in L.A., spending their days playing guitar together once again, just like old times. Working with producer/engineer Dan Horne (Cass McCombs, Allah-Lahs), they recorded four albums —2017’s Mapache, 2020’s From Liberty Street, 2021’s 3, and 2022’s Roscoe’s Dream. Often trading solos, and occasionally switching from English to Spanish, Finch and Blasucci are perfectly in sync together.
But the duo have also been developing their own personal voices in recent years as well—partially the result of the two of them living in separate cities for the first time in years. (Blasucci now lives in Ojai, and Finch in Malibu.) As Finch explains, that means the “meat and potatoes” of the songs were cooked up more on their own than they had been in the past. “What a Summer,” a slow-burn that sounds something like Bob Weir fronting Crazy Horse, is unmistakably Finch, for instance; “French Kiss,” with its Toussaint swing and Parsons shine, is Blasucci all the way. “Swinging Stars was probably the first Mapache record where each of us really leaned into our personal, distinct styles,” Blasucci explains.
Still, many of the songs on Swinging Stars are the result of a significant amount of group work on the road, sharpening and refining them, getting them just so before hitting the studio with their trusted collaborator Horne, who produced the set. Swinging Stars is also notable for its introduction of drummer Steve Didelot as a formal member of the band, with him playing on every track, and contributing an original song as well—“Reflecting Everything,” a cowboy-chord ballad sparkling with Finch and Blasucci’s guitars, and with Horne’s impeccable slide guitar.
There are also two special features: one from the Allah-Lahs’ Spencer Dunham, who plays bass on “French Kiss,” and another from David Rawlings, who graciously took the call to play acoustic guitar on the album’s finale, “Where’d You Go,” recording his part remotely. “He’s someone who Sam and I look up to in a pretty serious way,” Finch says. “So it was cool to have him.”
Mapache is so easygoing that their vibe belies their prolificness at times. Swinging Stars is their fourth album in as many years, and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Blasucci chalks it up partly to the fact that, when you have two principal songwriters in a band, “the songs come in quickly and they stack up quickly.” It helps, too, that they’re just in the right place to be making music. “We’re just trying to make hay while the sun shines,” as Finch puts it. “None of us have any babies or anything and we’re all pretty committed to playing as much music as we can. And really focused on making something beautiful.”
tds bem Global
Infectious like a pandemic, music follows the path of least resistance, oblivious to national or natural borders: tds bem Global = all too Global. dadá Joãozinho’s debut solo album careens across musical universes like a psychedelic fever-dream in 13 distinct, yet porous movements shoplifting from dub reggae, hip hop, punk, and samba, while inventing a few future styles in the process.
João Rocha moved from Niterói (the city across the bay from Rio de Janeiro) to São Paulo in 2020 with his bandmates from ROSABEGE, the artistic collective he formed with a few hometown friends in 2017. With promotion plans paralyzed by the pandemic, he looked inward, retreating into his alter ego dadá Joãzinho, the “dadá” an homage to a special creature and “zinho” meaning “little.” This provocative persona allowed Rocha to “be open to possibilities, other ways of singing, other sources of courage.”
Moving to the biggest city in South America at the age of 23 during a phase of intense isolation and toxic politics, dadá lost interest in the beautiful and naive Zona Sul (Rio’s southern neighborhood’s famous for inventing the bossa nova) influences channeled by his earlier group ROSABEGE. His newmusic “needed to feel more intense,” in contrast to the lighter sounds from previous releases. The “Brazilian Utopia” of seventies Música Popular Brasileira “didn’t make sense anymore.” This project needed to reflect the darkness. Bad Brains and Bob Marley at Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio kinda dark, Gilberto Gil and Jards Macalé exiled in rainy London during Brazil’s oppressive military dictatorship dark.
Resisting the darkness, dadá yearned to feel alive, for music that stimulated his body to “move differently.” Playing nearly all the instruments: electric and acoustic guitar, organ, electronic production, drum programming and “other things,” tds bem Global is definitely a solo album, but he made it inspired by and in collaboration with countless musical friends. “I wanted to get people together around the music.”
Unfolding like a genre-agnostic mixtape, the album is front-loaded with irresistible and effortless rhythms, funky, off-kilter and jagged like “Ô Lulu” which rides a dubby acoustic groove peppered by organ stabs, hand drums and glancing guitar ballistics, like if Arthur Russell and Lee Perry co-owned a recording studio.
“Cuidado! (feat. Alceu, Bebé)” introduces dadá’s hip hop chops as the analog synth and drum machine track weaves like a commuter in São Paulo during rush hour - catching every green light, sidestepping sidewalk potholes with a glide in their stride. Hip hop, latin and baile funk flavors jockey like illegal drag racers across the city streets.
Layered with stacked vocals, imposing horn stabs, organic and inorganic beats “VEJA (feat. JOCA)” would be heartbreaking if it weren’t so powerful, like Milton Nascimento in the zone. Dadá chases the darkness into the psychedelic dungeon of “Minha Droga,” a synopated mantra that disintegrates as it unspools.
Spent from the emotionally exhausting four-song sprint that starts the album, “Outro Momento,” is areverb-laden reprieve from the rhythm nation, sounding like a lost Money Mark bossa nova ditty. “Pai e Mae” is the most obviously Brazilian song on the album, a sweet experimental samba worthy of Tom Zé.
“Desire for freedom was the north star of this record,” dadá insists. He explains that he needed to “feel free about artistic decisions - that I didn’t have to play the instruments in a certain way to sound good, I didn’t have to sing in a certain way to sound good, and I didn’t have to write in a certain way to make sense and reach people’s feelings.”
Birthed amidst a vibrant artistic community fragmented and dislocated through the pandemic, tds bem Global is a message in the bottle blasting from a street-party sub-woofer encouraging others to make their art. “This is just for inspiration as I hear my friends are inspired by it, inspired to take their own paths and take risks on their music or art. This is what I wanted.”
It was somewhere in remote Alaska that Michael Gold—who records and performs pop–infused psych-rock as Mirror Tree—began to realize that he was officially on the road less traveled. “I was flying around between all these native villages and all these little, muddy gravel air strips in a single-engine Cessna, in and out of snowstorms, and landing on ice-covered runways,” says Gold, who worked for several years as a pilot in the Last Frontier, and currently is based out of Los Angeles, and flies a 737 for a major airline. “Being a musician to me always felt like the path of least resistance a little bit, you know? And when I touched down in a place like Bethel, Alaska, I felt very firmly off of the path of least resistance.”
Until Gold decided to fly away from the world he knew, music was always right there in front of him. Gold’s mother, Sharon Robinson, is a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter who collaborated extensively with the late Leonard Cohen, co-writing some of his classics like “Everybody Knows.” Robinson was close friends with Cohen, and Cohen was Gold’s godfather: “He was definitely a big part of my world growing up, for sure,” Gold explains.
Raised in L.A., Gold was formally trained in classical and jazz piano, and the wonders and possibilities of music seeped into him. He continued pursuing music in college, studying jazz piano at nearby CalArts, where he lived in a barn in the remote town of Val Verde, which was at one point known as the “Black Palm Springs.” Around this time, he joined the indie-disco band Poolside as a keyboardist/vocalist, bouncing around the world on tour with them, as well co-writing songs like the disco-rock-fusion epic “Feel Alright.” (18 million streams on Spotify and counting.)
But the call of the wild never stopped pulling Gold—driven in large part by adventures he would go on as a kid with his dad to places like the Mojave Desert. And, after getting his pilot’s license, he decided to trust his instincts (and some good advice from a fellow pilot) by heading to Alaska. “I basically just bought a plane ticket, and knocked on all of [the local airline services’] doors with my resume in hand,” he laughs. For the first time in years, Gold wasn’t thinking like a musician anymore, and went back to enjoying some of his favorite bands—like Stereolab and Broadcast—solely as a listener. “It just kind of changed the way I heard music,” he explains. “I wasn’t analyzing it for the purpose of learning, for the purpose of becoming a better musician anymore. I was just kind of feeling it.”
But he couldn’t stay away from making music for long. After coming back to L.A., Gold began writing and recording again, and soon teamed up with former Poolside bandmate Filip Nikolic to develop his sound—something like a mishmash of Supertramp and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. When the two were honing in on the vibe they were going for, tapping into Spaghetti Western soundtracks and Tropicália, they realized they would ideally need a Farfisa organ, which Gold conveniently happened to have in storage—but hadn’t ever used before, and wasn’t sure would even work. Sure enough, though, “We plugged it in and it fired right up,” Gold marvels. “And that just became the backbone sound of that whole album.”
With Gold serving as the main writing and performing force of Mirror Tree, and Nikolic producing the set, while co-writing and performing on some tracks as well, Mirror Tree took flight. Gold would demo out songs and at his home studio, and then bring them to Nikolic’s studio, where they would work together to create grooves worthy of ELO for the chillwave generation. Songs like “300 Miles” and the title track “Mirror Tree” take the vintage Farfisa reverb and twist it into something modern, infused with a non-Western sensibility and a simultaneous Western accessibility. On rippers like “See It Through” and “Echoes Competing,” Gold combines his virtuosic keyboard abilities with earworm choruses and subtle poetics: “Cigarette thrown in the wind,” he sings in his falsetto on the latter track. “Mirror shows the glow / Driving on alone.”
As the project went on, the image of the Mirror Tree stuck with Gold—a metaphor for the way that light and life bounces off of people and things around us. Soon he realized that it was the appropriate title for the album and the band at large—and served as an ethos for everything that brought him to where he is today: “I’m not a super spiritual person, but whenever someone dies, I really get a lot of comfort that they are just kind of being constantly reflected on everyone,” he says. “Their presence—you get to keep it through the people that they affected.”
Off My Stars
Sam Blasucci is best known as one half of Mapache, a Southern California roots-rock duo just as instantly recognizable for their elegant, intertwined guitar parts as they are for their devoted, Nudie-Suit wearing fanbase. But when Blasucci was writing the songs that would become his debut solo record, OffMyStars, he found himself less focused on the guitar and more gravitated toward a different instrument: piano.
The mother of Clay Finch, his Mapache bandmate, was getting rid of one, and so Blasucci took the piano, carefully transporting it to his home in Ojai, California, with the help of a few strong friends, including Farmer Dave Scher of Beachwood Sparks (and a Mapache collaborator). “Farmer Dave wasn’t even wearing shoes,” Blasucci remembers, laughing. Once the piano was safely in there, he became deeply attached, playing on it multiple hours a day: “It’s changed the way I think about music, having all the keys laid out in front of me,” he explains. “Having that sort of changed everything.”
Also inspired by his recent time riding out the pandemic in New Orleans, where the clubs may have closed but the music never stopped, Blasucci used that piano to start writing one of the most inspired batches of songs of his career thus far. New gems like “Turn Yourself Around” and “Sha La La” were developing with a Southern swing and classic songbook sparkle, and when assessing the growing stack of music he was working on, Blasucci realized that there was something about these tunes that wasn’t quite suited for a Mapache record.
Infused with an honest, personal perspective about settling into adult life—about developing as a person and a partner and a family member—these songs were straight from the heart, a clear window, recently Windexed, into the life of one of the most talented members of the L.A.-area underground rock scene. Using just as much inspiration from the music of Ronnie Wood and Sade as the films of Ingmar Bergman and the writing of Brian Doyle, Blasucci started to see a vision of songs that are all “fully autobiographical.”
Blasucci reached out to songwriter and producer Johnny Payne, and the two decamped to Dan Horne’s Lone Palm Studio, the home/studio where Mapache has in the past both recorded and abided in. Blasucci’s direction to Payne—acting as producer and as multi-instrumentalist, performing on everything from shaker to “guitar pancake”—was simple: no pretense, no affect, no Mr. Cool. This approach is most evident through covers on the record—like a stripped-down, achingly beautiful version of Dido’s ubiquitous “Thank You,” or a New Orleans-porch-worthy version of the Cranberries’ classic “Linger.” “There was nothing ironic or gimmicky about wanting to do those,” notes Blasucci. “I just really, really love those songs.”
Also covered on OffMyStars is a raw take on Jimmy Fontana’s timeless ballad “Il Mondo,” sung in its original Italian by Blasucci, who belts it in a performance that ends with him giving it all he has, his voice cracking as he reaches the song’s epic finale. “Il Mondo” is a song that Blasucci particularly wanted to do as a means to get more in touch with his Italian roots—and this wouldn’t be the only way he’d tap into family on the album.
On “Proud of You Dad,” Blasucci dug into his archives for a song that’s he had for some time, originally having written and recorded it just for his father, David Blasucci, a musician who was at one time a touring member in the band Toto, and who has performed and acted in Christopher Guest movies like A Mighty Wind. “If I ever told you this while we were in the same room / I know you would cover your ears and run,” Sam sings over a rustic, campfire acoustic progression. As Sam explains, David was a crucial influence on his taste: “A lot of the underlying styles that influenced the rest of the songs on the record definitely come from what he introduced me to,” Sam says.
But Sam is his own man now, writing the new chapters of his own life with an aw-shucks tone that belies his prolific workload. Even through the pandemic—and even with the ongoing backlogs at pressing plants—Blasucci has still managed to put out beloved Mapache records in each of the last three years, and he and the band have no plans to slow down anytime soon. “I’m definitely the type of artist that is constantly creating,” Sam says, matter of fact. “And I can’t seem to really stop.”.
Iguana Death Cult
After the pandemic hit, and the people of the world suddenly grew wary and suspicious of one another, Iguana Death Cult, one of Europe’s most exciting rock exports, became more than just a band to its members—it became therapy. “I think for the first ten times we went to jam,” says guitarist/vocalist Tobias Opschoor, speaking about the process of making the new album Echo Palace, “we just drank wine and talked about it, and just kept on talking for hours—and then were like, ‘OK, I have to go because I have to work tomorrow.’”
Taking place at frontman Jeroen Reek’s apartment in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, these gatherings slowly shifted from talking about this surreal chapter of their lives—the days of quiet streets and cramped buildings—to making music about it. “I was living in a really crappy, leaky, ready-for-demolition apartment,” explains Reek, “with just one heat source—like a really old-school, gas stove kind of thing.” Working on cold nights, they had to gather around that heater together—a cozy approach that ultimately got their creative flow going, fast.
Armed with the talents of Justin Boer on bass and Arjen van Opstal on drums, and tapping the keys work Jimmy de Kok for the first time on album, the band took their trademark melodic garage-rock style and expanded it out to make it vibier and looser, with each member contributing ideas to develop the sound palette in full. “We all get into this sort of blender and then everybody gives a little bit of a flavor to it,” says Opschoor.
The sounds they started to make tapped into the band’s acerbic bite established on their first two LPs, 2017’s The First Stirrings of Hideous Insect Life and 2019’s Nude Casino—albums that sometimes felt like Parquet Courts colliding with Super Furry Animals. (Paste described Nude Casino as evoking “the colorful mischief of nights out where even a humdrum accountant can feel like a Clint Eastwood desperado.”) Their explosive performances of these records turned them into a cult live act among psych fans, who have thrashed to the band everywhere from Amsterdam to Austin. (It was during a particularly bananas set at SXSW that the band won over Innovative Leisure.) But working on this new album, huddled together as the world split apart, everything began to flutter like Remain in Light.
Echo Palace may be the Iguana Death Cult music that’s most overtly about the strange cause and effect of groupthink, but the theme has been lurking there since the very beginning, when the band was first formed by childhood friends Reek and Opschoor over ten years ago. The name of Iguana Death Cult is a partial nod to Reek’s fascination with cults in general—and the “Iguana” part is a nod to Iggy Pop, whose first band was the Iguanas. Watching the pandemic paranoia and conspiracy theories steeping across their country, Reek wrote lyrics reflecting the scene in front of him: “Purple, veiny soccer mommies,” he sings in a deep, foreboding voice on the song “Echo Palace,” “Sharpening their guillotines.” It’s a cut so infectious that it betrays the density of its lyrics, which were adapted from a poem Reek wrote about the repercussions of “shutting yourself off from everyone outside of your own ideology.”
When it came time to record the full set, the band headed to PAF Studio in Rotterdam, and then had the self-produced album subsequently mixed by Joo-Joo Ashworth (Sasami, Dummy) at Studio 22 in Los Angeles and mastered by Dave Cooley (Tame Impala, Yves Tumor). As the instruments swirl and trade solos on “I Just a Want House,” a funky millennial nihilist anthem, you can practically hear the growth of a group that’s been pushing itself further and further with every tour and every Belgian-stove fuelled jam session. The album is a big swing, stretching Iguana Death Cult beyond its garage rock origins and taking them to a new realm. It’s the type of project that warranted having legendary Dutch saxophonist Benjamin Herman stop by to add to the squall on tracks like “Oh No” and “Sensory Overload,” heady thrashers that morph into calculated freakouts; that warranted Reek and Opschoor knowing when screaming their guts out on tracks like “Pushermen,” and Boer and van Opstal knowing when to bring the rhythm section to a jazzy simmer on tracks like “Paper Straws.” =
The end result of Echo Palace is an appropriately worldly album from a group breaking past the confines of its home country. That’s not to say that Iguana Death Cult aren’t proudly Dutch; the group takes from the trademark hard work ethic of their Rotterdam base and applies it to their approach with music. But it’s 2022, and we’re less defined by our borders than ever before. “When we play in other countries, for me that gives the same amount of pleasure—or even more—than when we play in the Netherlands,” says Opschoor.
“We’re not just little countries anymore, everything is global,” adds Reek, speaking about society at large—but he might as well be speaking about Iguana Death Cult itself. “We’re turning into a global thing.”
The title of the sixth album from Californian singer-songwriter Nick Waterhouse is more than just the name of one of its tracks. The Fooler is both a clue and a red herring. The Fooler is the observed and the observer, narrator and subject, truth and lie. The Fooler is the shadow and reflection of a city the artist knows sufficiently well to wander with his eyes closed, and a place which very possibly never even existed. The Fooler is not so much an unreliable narrator as a constantly shifting perspective.
The Fooler is the new album by Nick Waterhouse, and it’s a lot. Recorded by Mark Neill (Black Keys; Los Straightjackets; Dave Cobb) in Valdosta, Georgia, it’s a song-cycle of sorts, the arc of the album telling a tale of a city and its denizens. “Many of the stories come from a feeling of plasticity,” says Waterhouse. “What is memory? What is time? What is love between two human beings like in this imaginary city? A phase shift occurred writing this record. I had a breakthrough in how to tell stories in songs, like an epiphany. I started realising how I could bend time in a lot of the things that weave through the record. I have a perspective as a narrator now, instead of being the occupant of the songs.”
Waterhouse released his debut album, Time’s All Gone, in 2012. His last record, Promenade Blue, came out in 2021. In his music you will hear echoes of things you might think you know, or believe you remember, filtered through the lens of a unique artistic perspective. You will hear rhythm and blues, garage rock, radio soul and wee-small-hours balladry – but reconfigured, made new. In Waterhouse’s music, the time is both now and then. The past is the present is the future. The sound is classic yet unclassifiable.
The Fooler was produced by Neill in his Soil of the South studio in Valdosta, Georgia. A former room in a ballet school, Soil of the South is in the great tradition of American studios such as Chess and Sun. “Not the place that looks like a spaceship, more like the place that looks like a dentist office in 1965,” says Waterhouse. They tracked the album fast near the end of 2021. A further handful of days for overdubs and mixing early in 2022 and it was finished. “Making this record was like going to see the kung fu master on the mountain,” says Waterhouse. “You can probably draw a through line from my first record to this one, but this is something else entirely. The sonic landscape Mark designed is so much further into space, with reverb and depth.”
The result is a record that offers up new riches and fresh perspectives with every spin. From the hidden corners of ‘Hide & Seek’ and the roadhouse soul of ‘Play To Win’ to the primitive, attitudinal, chugging two-chord thrill of ‘Late In The Garden’, it builds inexorably to the drama of the title track and pulsing roll-and-rock of the final pay off, ‘Unreal, Immaterial’. Play it once and it sounds immediately like a collection of great songs. Play it again – and you will – and it feels like a novel or film slowly unveiling its secrets, kaleidoscopic in its narrative complexity. “Especially during this record, I started just becoming what Allen Ginsberg called a pure breath,” says the artist. “I was becoming pure breath with my ideas.”
“Music is soft power, it’s a form of diplomacy, it’s a way to unite.” For RarelyAlways a sense of purpose is rarely far from the surface. That’s been true in everything he’s done, as a musician across a huge range of scenes and sounds, as a writer, as an entrepreneur and youth worker – but now, with his debut solo album Work on the horizon, it’s really coming into focus. He may have “always been a shapeshifter” as he puts it, and Work be full of a dazzling array of sounds, but at the same time he has always retained a creative and ethical core to all he does. And as he steps up to take the microphone, on stage as much as in the studio, that is coming to the fore. With his already deep and broad musical and life experience, he’s in a unique position to offer something entirely new to UK music – and you’d better believe he has something to say.
From the youngest age, RarelyAlways knew that music had functions beyond just entertainment. London born to a West African family, he was raised by his single father who was a drummer, playing mainly gospel. As well as this showing him the ecstatic communal experience of hours-long services, he got to learn the power of playing for playing’s sake: his dad would regularly hire practice spaces for the pair of them to “beat the hell out of the drums” for an afternoon.
Musically he absorbed everything around him as a kid. Motown, reggae and Afrobeat from his family; Gorillaz, The Streets, Estelle and grime from his peers; and a personal fascination with the function of music in films that started young “and got me open minded, got me into orchestra stuff.” Though it was a different sort of film music that set him on the path he’s on now: the classic sounds in School of Rock. "Not going to lie, that film got me playing bass," he says, "and it set my tastes: I'm an old head." Led Zeppelin and Bob James led him into old funk like Brothers Johnson – and he gravitated to modern acts with that classic feel, notably Black Keys and Gnarls Barkley.
His talents took him to The Brit School, and thence to the South London gig circuit. He played trip hop and heavy rock, and found himself in the orbit of artists like King Krule, Henry Wu and the Tomorrow’s Warriors jazz collective. Very quickly he got a sense of interconnectivity and the opportunities that present when you’re open to other voices. “I learned there’s good people everywhere, not everyone of course but enough that you can find who’s worth listening to, who’s worth having as your running mate.”
But that constant openness to new ideas and new culture was always counterbalanced by a strong sense of self - shored up further by his work helping at-risk youth. “You've got to have that inner self that you can never let burn out. I think you've got to call to a place that is together and use that as an anchor. It's not possible to help other people become stronger or better if you're not trying to become stronger or better. They're going to believe you if you're authentic, so you've got to call from a place that's firm and upright and happy, it's the only way.”
With each successive RarelyAlways release that’s become more and more evident. A solo EP and one with Black Keys collaborator Hanni El Khatib, as well as collaborative tracks with the likes of Shabaka Hutchings, showed a fully developed rapping and singing voice. The tone was often dark, often mysterious, but crucially was able to roam freely outside the prescribed structures of hip hop, jazz or anything else, becoming conversational or abstract as the song’s message demanded it. And with the latest tracks, that personality is being futther revealed: “It’s about taking off the armour. It's about not being scared to show my vulnerabilities. A lot of tracks are quite soft, quite innocent and really not what you might expect.”
That emergence is built around increased confidence in standing centre stage. “I play every chance I get,” he says, “and in the studio, I’m always thinking of that too. The most important thing is I have to be able to project it on stage or I don't see the point.” But it’s also about confidence in his place within the wider network. As he says in Work’s title track “I’m directing this, new show, new cast.” There are some established names that show RarelyAlways as plugged into the endlessly fertile UK underground, but just as importantly he’s nurturing “new monsters” – young instrumental talent from jazz and beyond – making this album truly a communal creation. But make no mistake: it is also the arrival of a truly singular voice, one which is fast becoming an unmistakeable presence in UK music.
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 hisfull-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.”
portrait of a dog
JonahYanois the Hiroshima born, Montreal based singer-songwriter, whose journey into music began with recording music using his cellphone in 2016. Having played piano and guitar as a child, it wasn’t untilYanomoved from Vancouver to Toronto in 2016 that he began putting his songs online, catching the eyes of Toronto’s thriving local music scene. Spending the next couple of years obsessively songwriting and practicing vocals, and learning technical skills, he collaborated with Toronto duo MONEYPHONE on the 2018 song “On Lock” which became an underground success. Shortly after,Yanoreleased his first solo single “Rolex, the Ocean'' with producer Joseph L'etranger. Once he began writing his full EP, he was introduced to frequent collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD, who are featured on the EP’s title track, “nervous”. Following the “nervous” EP,Yanoand BADBADNOTGOOD released a highly praised cover of the Majestic’s “Key to Love (Is Understanding)” along with another well received collaborative track with BADBADNOTGOOD titled “Goodbye Blue”. In July of 2020Yanoreleased his debut LP titled “souvenir” which features production from Monsune, Jacques Greene, frequent collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD, and lastly his father, Tatsuya Muraoka, whoYanoreconciles and reconnects with in the music video or the album’s final track “shoes”.Yano’s work has garnered praise in major music publications like The Fader, Billboard, Complex, and Exclaim and the attention of the late Virgil Abloh, Gilles Peterson, and Benji B along with millions of streams on Spotify and Apple Music.
Following a highly acclaimed 2020 which included the release of the debut LP souvenir, collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, a double feature on COLORS, and industry praise from The Fader, Billboard, High Snobiety, NME, KCRW and Exclaim,Yanoquietly released a cover of Jessica Pratt’s “This Time Around” and took some time away from releasing music to write and record his forthcoming LP, set to release in January of 2023, titled “Portrait of a Dog”.Yanowas recently announced as the opening act for the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Clairo for the last leg of her North American and entirety of her EU/UK tour dates.
Yano’s sophomore LP, Portrait of a Dog, set to release in January of 2023 on Innovative Leisure, is a 12 track exploration of themes present throughout most ofYano’s catalogue – identity as a part of the Japanese-Canadian diaspora, contemplation of different family dynamics, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships. Portrait of a Dog is a clear departure fromYano’s previous recordings – having established a clear sonic identity throughout the LP’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, andYanohimself.
Some of the greatest artists in the 20th century have beenmulti-instrumentalists – cue Prince, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Todd Rundgren and Paul McCartney. That expansive understanding of composition, technique and sound changes how artists approach musicians has inspired LelandWhitty’s approach on his new recordAnyhow. BADBADNOTGOOD’s LelandWhittyhas also worked with artists including Charlotte Day Wilson, Kali Uchis, Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Earl Sweatshirt, and Kaytranada.
Whitty’s current solo project is a departure from the improvisation focused collaborative band that has made his name. Anyhow began in 2020 afterWhittyhad finished working on several film score projects including Disappearance at Clifton Hill (Albert Shin) and Learn to Swim (Thyrone Tommy). That focus on narrative fed into his own work, which combined elements of cinematic composition with jazz and rock like he has created in the past.
His latest album AnyhowfeaturesWhittyon guitar, synthesizer, woodwinds,production, composition and strings. Narrative is built into each ofWhitty’s tracks in some way. Rather than a specific story, he drew from photographic or cinematic sources. The aim was for theproductionand arrangement to imply the kind of structural narrative found in jazz improvisation.Whitty’s compositions emerged from voice notes and short loops, for example guitar riffs that he would feed into Ableton and flesh out into larger arrangements.
In his perpetual quest to discover new ways of perceiving the real, the French artist Yves Klein once declared that he wrote his name on the “far side of the sky.” In the six decades since, the shock of the original has gradually become a distant ideal. Tedious nostalgia and microwave immediacy have become commonplace. Shattering boundaries becomes more difficult when anything goes and nearly everything has been done.
But if a narrative through line exists throughout Jimmy Edgar’s work, it’s his gift at deconstructing convention, whether through sound design, fine art, or live performance. In an era increasingly bereft of surprise, the Detroit-bred iconoclast’s career has been refreshingly unpredictable; he’s an escape artist capable of wriggling out of any predictable trap or rote cliché, a fearless seeker eternally leaping into the void.
His latest release for Innovative Leisure, LIQUIDS HEAVEN, 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 of his work, there is a deeper and subversive intent.
The record’s early gestation spawned from Jimmy’s explorations of “material” in the digital world. Despite their apparent intangibility, he realized that they do possess a certain physicality, in some sense. If the experiments in materiality conducted by Klein and other 20 th Century conceptual artists began by placing everyday objects in galleries, the new millennium calls for the next advancement. The album is part of Jimmy’s 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.” Asking “what would liquid desire?”, Jimmy conceived the sculpture on the album cover. Depicting a surgical medicine cabinet with rubber tubes inside, the image simulates a heaven that liquid could enjoy and love – a fluid playground. The sound is its own mesomorphic fluorescent magma, all-powerful, holding the shape of its containers, infinitely evolving. Sculpture by invisible electronic air pressure.
Do not mistakenly believe, however, that LIQUIDS HEAVEN is merely a technicolor dream of ethereal abstractions. It bangs as hard as anything to ever bump from a subwoofer. Over a polychromatic blast of crunk, 10KCaash and Zelooperz bounce on “Everybody” like a rap rave inside a 31 st century space station. “Bite That 2” finds Trinidad James spitting flames over booty-shaking, wall-crumbling bass. On “Ya,” 645AR chirps over a metallic chassis of booming industrial funk.
But for all the high energy propulsion, there is a counter-balance of melancholic beauty. The album’s opener, “Euphoria” features a Liz Y2K vocal that levitates with plaintive longing. The Milk-aided “Dreams 1000000” sounds like the chimerical soundtrack to a manga utopia that needs to be imagined. Milk also appears on the finale, “Never Leave,” which captures a bittersweet sadness, the wistful emotion of the tide slipping away.
It would be more surprising if LIQUIDS HEAVEN wasn’t surprising. Jimmy’s career has been a series of fascinating left-turns. Signed to Warp Records as a teenage electronic music prodigy, his body of work needs a scholarly bibliography to properly assess. He’s recorded for the world’s most respected imprints (Warp, K7, Hotflush, Innovative Leisure and his own New Reality Now). Raised in Detroit, there have been stints soaking up inspiration in Berlin, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York. His list of close collaborators includes the most innovative musicians of the millennium, including Hudson Mohawke, Danny Brown, SOPHIE, DAWN, Mykki Blanco, Vince Staples, and several full projects with Machinedrum as J-E-T-S.
Most recently, he has become a prolific and celebrated artist in the digital art space, which has become an integral part of his canon. With the goal of expanding the possibilities of conceptual art, Jimmy has used digital and internet native files to create single pixel magenta artwork. Screenshots are likened to paint strokes, meme images are re-contextualized. Dyson vacuum cleaners are hermetically sealed in plexiglass.
Jimmy is currently exhibiting a solo show of his digital works at Los Angeles’ Vellum gallery. Another upcoming project features 100 digital images where he deconstructed a surgical operating room and photographed the parts in a studio on a non-glare acrylic floor. This radical approach has been applied to his new live show too – which is a conceptual performance where Edgar isn’t physically present. Instead, Maija Knapp, an experimental dancer performs in front of his abstract visual animations.
The genius of LIQUIDS HEAVEN 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.
Do You Need A Release?
After writing, performing, recording, and producing three albums themselves, DeLux 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 DeLux 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 DeLux’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 DeLux 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.
DeLux’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… Hislyricsare 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.DeLux 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. With no pun intended, Do You Need A Release? comes out this September 23rd via Innovative Leisure.
Dendrons hit the road before they even knew exactly where they were headed. On New Year’s Day 2018, Dane Jarvie and Zak Sprenger first convened in Chicago to start a new project, recording a demo at home by the seat of their pants, and almost immediately after, began to play shows. “I would just email as many people as possible,” says Jarvie. “I’m like, ‘Can we open this?’ It didn’t matter if it was in Dallas or New Orleans or Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was like, let’s go.”
With a band name chosen by flipping through books in the library (“Dendron” is Greek for “tree”) and a sound and lineup in healthy evolution as they bounced around North America, Dendrons were finding who they were in front of a live audience. Over the course of 2018 and 2019, they were developing a propulsive, acerbic rock style both reminiscent of midwestern peers like Deeper and Dehd and reaching beyond to develop an unmistakable aura all their own. They put out their debut, 2020’s Dendrons, and were packing their bags for a full European tour before it had to be abruptly canceled when borders closed and venues shut down around the world. Suddenly, a band that cut their teeth on the road had to get comfortable staying at home.
“It was out of necessity,” says Jarvie, who started brainstorming ideas for a new album back at his family’s home in Phoenix, Arizona, just after the pandemic took hold. When he returned to Chicago a few months later, the full band of Jarvie (vocals/guitar/synth), Sprenger (synth/guitar), Matt Kase (bass/synth/vocals), John MacEachen (guitar/samples), Nick Togliatti (drums), and Stef Roti (drums) formed a bubble to get together and work out what would prove to be their highly ambitious and meticulously crafted second album,5-3-8. “It was just like, well, we can’t tour, we can’t do anything,” Jarvie remembers. “So we might as well just stick together and really create something.”
Meeting three or four times a week, and ultimately rehearsing almost 40 song ideas, Dendrons began to methodically whittle down the batch to a set of songs that weaved through one another intricately, with lyrical and musical motifs dancing around a swirling rock arrangement. Taken on their own, tracks like “Vain Repeating” and “Octaves Only” tap into the manic energy and wit of bands like Wire and Stereolab—but in the context of the album’s full vision, they come together to paint an album informed by post-truth spectacle, and a desire for optimism in the face of isolation.
The lyrics paint those emotions with subtlety, having been put together partially through a cut-up method, grabbing words and phrases from places such as CNN and CSPAN. “That was a real intention with this record was to try different techniques in terms of how words are coming together—stringing together sentences through collage,” Jarvie explains. On “New Outlook 1,” he sings in his direct, almost Stephen Malkmus-like style: “Soon we’ll be stooped over laughing / Watching ourselves high on a vision.”
When it came time to record5-3-8—the title being a reference to the lyrical refrain that appears at a few points of the album of “Fifths, thirds, octaves only”— Dendrons decamped to Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, and did additional recording at Highland Recording Studio in Phoenix, Arizona,producingthe album with Tony Brant and Sonny DiPerri. A far cry away from where they started as two friends doing everything themselves, from the recording to the booking to even the graphic design, the band is now an eagerly collaborative project. And they’re already thinking about what’s to come.
“You’re always gonna leave a record feeling like there is something more to be said,” Jarvie says. “I don’t believe in a magnum opus. Art is contextual, and exists for the specific time and circumstance it was created in. Every record is a conversation with the last.”
Halfway to Eighty
Tijuana Panther's latest album "Halfway To Eighty"
Roscoe is a road dog. The 14-year-old Boston Terrier has been there for the whole ride of Mapache, Clay Finch and Sam Blasucci’s band, which has grown from being the casual project of two longtime buds to one of the most formidable cosmic-folk acts around. “Roscoe’s been through a lot of shit,” says Blasucci, the dog’s formal owner. “He’s been all around the country, come on tour a little bit.” With some bemused pride, Finch points out that, for a few years, he and Blasucci bunked together in a room in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles that was just big enough to fit two twin beds. “It was the two of us and the dog,” he laughs.
Naturally, Roscoe has found himself the subject of a good handful of Mapache songs in the past—and on Roscoe’sDream, the band’s upcoming third LP of originals, he takes center stage. (That’s him in quilt form on the album cover.)
Maria Chiara Argirò
Maria Chiara Argirò (pronounced ma-REE-ah key-AH-rah r-gee-ROW) has been quietly weaving her way around the UK jazz, classical and electronic worlds since she moved to London from Rome 11 years ago. A pianist from the age of nine and a key player in the capital’s multi-national jazz scene, she’s lent her skills to indie band These New Puritans, lush jazz troupe Kinkajous and, more recently, collaborations with Jamie Leeming – their 2020 album Flow was nominated for one of the albums of the year in the Jazz Revelations Awards and was the Guardian’s jazz album of the month – and beat-driven duo Moonfish.
But with her new album, Forest City, she finds a glistening thread between these movements: it marks her out as an exciting rising electronic artist, where jazz meets Kelly Lee Owens, Jon Hopkins and Radiohead. It’s a concept record, about the “duality of nature and city”, and where organic sounds and textures seem to flow above the urban sprawl.
Maria had finished writing the album before the first lockdown of 2020 but the enforced isolation helped to give the music a sense of urgency, a longing to be immersed in the natural world and the buzz of the city at the same time. The songs always start as something she can play acoustically, that would work without the bells and whistles, and then she layers the atmosphere around them. “The music needs to stand on its own, a melody has to be strong,” she says.
But though the album has dark undertones, it’s not all doom and gloom: in her earthy metropolis, a certain optimism glows through. “It’s about being conscious of the world we live in and how careful we need to be,” Maria explains. “At the end of the day, there is hope”.
Opening track ‘Home’ sets up the shadowy textural claustrophobia of the city, its melancholic piano evoking raindrops on crowded pavement; then the album evolves into a mesmeric journey spanning downbeat trip-hop, all skittering drums and warped trumpet (‘Forest City’), dream-like, folkier songwriting (‘Greenarp’, which was named after the arpeggios she created on her beloved Organelle synth), galvanising dance floor heaters (the warm, house-inflected ‘Bonsai’), shoegazey alt-pop, punctured by poignant brass solos (‘Blossom’) and beguiling jazztronica that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Jamie XX set (‘Clouds’).
The musician’s biggest influence growing up was her mother, a dance teacher, whose passion for ballet and contemporary dance inspired Maria to start piano lessons when she was a child. But by her early teens she’d discovered jazz “and that became an obsession,” she says. She started listening to the likes of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, then expanded out to Seventies prog (Pink Floyd) and folk (Nick Drake) – sounds which were at odds with the strict classical world. “I wanted to be a rebel,” she says.
When she was starting out in Rome, Maria continues, she was one of the very few women in jazz she could think of. “All my life I’ve been surrounded by men,” she says. “But when you’re 15, you don’t really think about being the only woman. Now I see many more women in jazz and electronic music but back then, it wasn’t the case at all.” She moved to London over a decade ago to immerse herself in the music scene; in Italy, she says, “jazz is still seen as the older generation’s music. I wanted to find my own path.”
In London, she studied at the London Centre of Contemporary Music and then took a jazz degree at Middlesex University. The day after her last exam was the day she went on tour with experimental post-punk group These New Puritans. “Then I was locked in a rehearsal space with the guys, it was crazy.” She says the group has hugely informed her own approach to music. “They’re not too worried about being commercial,” she says, “and they mix genres freely.”
A show in Los Angeles, when These New Puritans opened for Björk, was a particular highlight – the Icelandic musician is another major influence on Maria. “It’s her artistry that inspires me,” she explains, “how she’s always pushing boundaries, thinking about the details and working with strong collaborators.” Like Björk, she also has a penchant for exploring non-western instruments and she studied djembé, playing in bands led by Senegalese percussionists like Sena M’Baye and Ady Thioune.
Maria has released a few solo records before but Forest City feels like the turning of a page. The past 18 months provided the respite that she needed to hone her own sound, as she liberated herself from the structures of jazz on her laptop and adding dense thickets of electronic texture and beats. She recorded and self-produced the album between her bedroom and her studio with the precious help of her longtime collaborators and electronic producers, In a Sleeping Mood and mixing engineer Alex Killpartrick. And, crucially, she is singing for the first time, too – her airy, otherworldly vocals on ‘Blossom’ and ‘Clouds’ especially resemble Emiliana Torrini or a singer in a smoky, late-night club, alone under the spotlight on the stage.
Being in lockdown, says Maria, gave her the freedom she needed to explore her voice. “I thought, ‘I’m going to do exactly what I want to do, without boundaries,” she says. With that sort of limitless outlook, who knows what she’ll do next.
Producer and multi-instrumentalist BenMarc, who’s emerged as a key figure of London’s cutting edge jazz scene, has just announced his debut full length, a follow up to last September’s widely acclaimed Breathe Suite EP (heralded by NPR, Pitchfork, The Wire, The Guardian, and more). Glass Effect is an assured and accomplished 13-track realization of a singular vision that unifies a multitudinous profusion of influences (free-jazz, broken beat, hip-hop, electronica and beyond) into a sublime whole, underscoring the evolution of his quest for a distinctive sound: lambent, low-key, and yet dizzyingly intricate.
It’s a rare talent that can link Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, Afrofuturists Sun Ra Arkestra, and grime legend Dizzee Rascal, but Marc has long blurred musical worlds and criss-crossed boundaries. One of the reasons that he started writing Glass Effect, says Marc, was going to nightclubs in Ibiza and experiencing the heady sun-dappled euphoria of a summery dancefloor, as well as the beat-driven production of artists like Four Tet, Bonobo, Machinedrum, DJ Shadow, and Madlib.
BADBADNOTGOOD's new album Talk Memoryis theband's first album with XL Recordings in partnership with Innovative Leisure. The album features musical contributions from Arthur Verocai, Karriem Riggins, Terrace Martin, Laraaji and acclaimed harpist Brandee Younger.
Talk Memory is a heartfelt expression of joy for the music and community the band inhabits. Focused on collaboration and the magic of improvised live performance.
Artwork & packaging designed by Virgil Abloh's studio Alaska-Alaska™
LP is Standard Jacket + Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Maston released his debut album, Shadows, in 2013, and moved from his native Los Angeles to Amsterdam for a several year stint sitting in with Dutch musician Jacco Gardner’s band. It was during this period that Maston wrote and recorded his second album Tulips (2017). Influenced by European film and library music, the largely instrumental Tulips was released to critical acclaim, garnering comparisons to Ennio Morricone, Sven Libaek, & Piero Umiliani. The record was accompanied by several 16mm films directed by Maston, and the LP’s limited private press release on his own Phonoscope label has become highly sought after among crate diggers and collectors alike.
Following Tulips, he began producing and mixing records for other artists, including his collaboration with Pedrum Siadatian (Allah-Las) as PAINT, whose first two LP’s were produced and recorded by Frank. In April 2021 Maston released his third album, Panorama, on the legendary library music label KPM, bringing his soundtrack influences full circle and firmly cementing himself as a contemporary composer.
LP is Standard Jacket w/ Download Card, Printed Inner Sleeve & Foldout Poster.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Consider the power of the vibe. After all, the power of positive vibes transcends simple categorization or a Sopranos meme. A good vibe is a cool breeze and ice cream on a sweltering afternoon. It is the athlete whose sixth sense and unselfishness makes everyone on the court play better. It is those Bob Ross videos where with a gentle voice and a few quick brush strokes, the painter conjures arcadian beauty. Good vibes are something that the modern world desperately needs. Graciously, such benevolent energy can be found on ‘LionelBoy’, the Innovative Leisure self-titled debut LP fromLionelBoy, the Oahu-bred singer-songwriter.
In the case ofLionelBoy, the native Hawaiian sense of the Mahalo spirit is inextricable from the art. And like the word “Mahalo,” there is a deeper meaning to the music beyond superficial translation. Mahalo literally translates to “thank you,” but it’s an entire approach to life: it encompasses the value of thankfulness, appreciation, and gratitude. While those might easily interpret it as indifference and apathy, it is a product of profound connectivity and three-dimensional perspective. Few things are more difficult than making a work of art appear effortless. The airy, jazz-cracked, electronic pop ofLionelBoybelies a wistful romanticism, a careful observational streak, and a meditative fixation on life and death.
A famous John Keats quote holds that you shouldn’t write poems unless the words come naturally as leaves falling from a tree. In a slightly different sense, you can use this notion to trace the trajectory ofLionel’s career. For most of his life, the apostle of chill bornLionelDeguzman was a skater kid. The pursuit taught him the value of individuality -- in the sense that there are myriad ways to ride a skateboard and you find your own way by figuring out your own natural style -- a singularity that sets you apart from everyone else who can do a backside 180. It’s this attitude with whichLionelapproaches music. Even then, this evolution had a streak of serendipity.
In the summer of 2018,Lionelfirst entered a studio in Long Beach with two close friends (he’d moved to the West Coast port city several years prior). The recording session started by shouting obscenities into the microphone. But inspiration slowly took root and theLionelBoyvision began to manifest. That same year,Lionelbegan working with the celebrated producer Jonny Bell on an unrelated project. The strength of the artistic kinship eventually led him to produce theLionel’s first single, “Are You Happy Yet,” and the Who Is Dovey? EP, released on Innovative Leisure.
Flash forward, a few years later, and the creative union has led to ‘LionelBoy’, an electric synthesis ofLionel’s sounds -- which FADER previously hailed as “slacker pop” (alternate ascription: “liquor store pop.”). It’s a warm and mellow album built to keep you company on long drives. IfLionel’s artist DNA stems from a classic singer-songwriter tradition, it’s been subtly transposed with the influences of the rappers, beatmakers, and R&B singers that dominate his listening habits. “Kam Highway” sounds like a breathless moonlit torch ballad laced with a touch of inspiration derived from Boi-1da’s kicks on “Mob Ties.” With “Tides,”LionelBoyupdates Jack Johnson and Ben Harper for a generation in dire need of expansive and endearing mood music. “Mango Michelada” reimagines the synth sounds often used by Frank Ocean to create a song that comes off as refreshing and tropically chill as its namesake.
Despite being recorded during the pandemic,Lioneland Bell somehow managed to create an antidote for the anxiety. They’d visit each other several times a week, slowly fleshing out the demos thatLionelrecorded at home, aided by a squadron of highly gifted virtuosos (Fred Garbutt, synthesizers; Bell, Nic Gonzales, Andrew Pham and Sam Wilkes, bass; Brett Kramer, drums; Sarah Hinesly, keys, and Andres Renteria on percussion). ‘LionelBoy’ is soulful and easy-going, both introspective and laissez faire. Extremely mellow but never soft-headed.
For a moment fraught with stress and chaos, this album is a relaxed exhale of joy. Yet it refuses delusion. These are real-life circumstances that play out with thought and concern. After all, there is a subtlety to the art of the vibe.LionelBoyisn’t just playing a series of chords to create a serene mood. It’s at the essence of his being. Something that can’t be forced or faked. A timeless cool apart from momentary trends, eternal as the tides rolling in and out.
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 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:
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.”
Everything changed for Alex Maas in 2018. That was the year his first child was born—a happy and healthy baby boy—sending The Black Angels’ vocalist and multi-instrumentalist into a flurry of emotions he hadn’t felt before. There was the joy, of course, and the sheer awe that comes with creating new life. But to a lesser degree, there was also the fear: What world is his son going to grow up into, exactly? And how can Maas protect him from the dangers within it? “The world is definitely messed up,” says Maas, a Texas native who’s lived in Austin for decades. “But there’s a lot of good in it too, and that’s why the whole world isn’t on fire—parts of it are. I do believe that there’s more good than evil.”
Maas and his wife named their son Luca, which means “bringer of light,” and when it came time for Maas to title his debut solo album, he knew there was only one choice. A swirl of meditative thoughts about the cosmic interplay of the universe, Luca is an album informally dedicated to its creator’s son, and directly inspired by the humbling reveries that were brought out by him.
It’s also just a powerful work of gentle psychedelia, and a notable sonic departure from the heavy, pulse-raising sound that Maas has become renowned for. For more than 15 years, The Black Angels have served as one of rock’s preeminent purveyors of blissful walls of fuzz and intensity. They’ve also served as ringleaders of a larger psych-rock scene, particularly through their Levitation music festival, which inspires a pilgrimage of kindred spirits from around the world to the Austin area year after year.
But Luca scratches a new itch for Maas. “It’s a whole different part of my brain,” Maas says of the album, which finds him putting aside his Jesus and Mary Chain LPs and instead looking for inspiration in acts varying from The Everly Brothers to Portishead. Opener “Slip Into” delivers extraterrestrial themes over a funky beat and an eerie synth line, while “American Conquest” is a trance-inducing journey that focuses on issues much closer to home, like the horrific shootings ravaging the country in recent years. “The City” is a woozy campfire song reckoning with the larger cycle of human violence, and “Been Struggling” is a dreamy waltz that takes a winking look at memory and fate. Songs like “Special” and “500 Dreams” are lullabies for Luca inspired by thoughts about all of this and more. “I wanted to go someplace musically that I’ve never gone before,” Maas considers. “Wu-Tang meets Leonard Cohen.”
The project was a long time coming: Some of the songs date back almost a decade, when the idea of a solo album was still just a star in the sky—before the time was right. But once Maas realized that this was something he needed to do, he started putting it together piece by piece over the course of a couple years, enlisting an all-star list of collaborators to record at Spaceflight Studios in Austin: Luca was co-produced with Maas by Jack White’s front of house engineer Brett Orrison, and features contributions from Widespread Panic drummer Duane Trucks, The Sword bassist Bryan Ritchie (on mellotron and bass), Jack White keys player Quincy McCrary (on strings and piano), vocalist Jazz Mills, Eels drummer Derek Brown, Golden Dawn Arkestra drummer Robb Kidd, and The Black Angels’ own Christian Bland and Jake Garcia. Former Black Angels member Nate Ryan also plays on the album.
The music quickly became even more than just the sum of its parts: “Once I started playing with other people,” Maas says, “I realized that these songs were much bigger than I had anticipated.”
Being released into a world that only seems to be getting scarier, Luca is a balm for the weary, partially because it doesn’t shy away from confronting tough subjects. But like Maas says, it’s not all bad. Not even close. And there will be a way forward, one way or another. “We’re all navigating weird waters right now,” Maas says. “I’m trying to just go wherever the flow of the water is going.”
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.
LP is Standard Jacket, Printed Inner Sleeve, & Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
Cassette is Standard J Card.
Meet Jonah Yano, the Toronto based singer, songwriter, whose journey into music began with recording music using his cellphone in 2016. Having played piano and guitar as a child, it wasn’t until Yano moved from Vancouver to Toronto in 2016 that he began putting his songs online, catching the eyes of Toronto’s thriving local music scene. Spending the next couple of years obsessively songwriting and practicing vocals, and learning technical skills, he collaborated with Toronto duo MONEYPHONE on the 2018 song “On Lock” which became an underground success. Shortly after, Yano released his first solo single “Rolex, the Ocean'' with producer Joseph L'etranger. Once he began writing his full EP, he was introduced to frequent collaborators BADBADNOTGOOD, who are featured on the EP’s title track, “nervous.” Yano’s work has garnered praise in major music publications like The Fader, Billboard, Complex, and Exclaim and the attention of Virgil Abloh and Gilles Peterson along with millions of streams on Spotify and Apple Music. Most recently, Yano released a highly praised cover of the Majestic’s “Key to Love (Is Understanding)” also with BADBADNOTGOOD, finding himself in the natural position of writing the feature length album, 2020’s souvenir.
Following a highly acclaimed 2019 which included the release of an EP nervous, collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD, MONEYPHONE, and Nono; industry praise from The Fader, Billboard, High Snobiety, NME, KCRW and Exclaim — it’s not a stretch to say Jonah Yano’s highly anticipated debut feature album souvenir took a lifetime to make.
Yano’s souvenir, mixes his soulful, genre blurring vocals with searing, personal lyrics. With collaborations from talents like BADBADNOTGOOD, Monsune and Jacques Greene, souvenir touches on themes of family separation, healing, and reconciling with the past.
With each track delving into Yano’s personal history, the album tells the story of his parents separation and absence of his father from his life through the perspective of each of his family members. Following the separation of his parents in 1998 in Hiroshima and subsequent move to Vancouver, Yano spent years with very little connection to his father beyond occasional calls and birthday presents.
Having not seen each other in 15 years, Yano visited his father in Nagato in the fall of 2019 with the goal of making sense of their complicated relationship through music. Both being avid musicians, Yano then incorporated some of his father’s earlier recordings into his own, while making peace with their past. The result — the album’s final track, “shoes,” featuring his father Tatsuya Muraoka and written by him about a pair of shoes he purchased for Yano as a child. Most of the track was recorded live at some point in the 1990’s in Hiroshima, with Yano’s own vocals filling gaps between his father’s vocals.
Recording the album in Tokyo’s Red Bull studios, a log cabin in Nagato, Toronto’s Studio 69, and his own home — the intensely personal album incorporates Yano’s unique sound with a deeply relatable concept, making it the natural follow-up to an already impressive catalogue.
Hanni El Khatib
LP is Standard Jacket, Printed Inner Sleeve, & Download Card.
CD is 4 Panel Digipack.
In the life of any interesting artist, there is the perpetual war between the simplicity of public perception and the complexities of reality. Consider Hanni El Khatib, a definitive purveyor of visceral, blues-wracked, punk-spiked, soul-warped, knife fight rock n’ roll over the last decade. You may be familiar with him through any one of his four acclaimed solo albums on Innovative Leisure, his work with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, or as one of the rare polymaths able to artfully blend serrated guitars and hardcore rap on collaborations with GZA and Freddie Gibbs. And while these are all real things that could accurately yield a sketch of the multi-dimensional Los Angeles-based artist, they amount to little more than a black and white pencil sketch.
More compelling is the Hanni El Khatib of terrestrial existence, who is less susceptible to being pigeonholed by shrewd branding or capsule biography. There is the Hanni El Khatib who existed before he was a professional musician. This was the rap and punk-revering San Francisco skate rat, who grew up digging in the crates for samples to flip on his bedroom MPC -- who would eventually become the creative director for the venerable streetwear label HUF. There is the second chapter in which El Khatib moved to LA to pursue music full-time and almost immediately found himself embraced by KCRW and on tour with Florence and the Machine. Music supervisors synced his music in Audi commercials that played at the Super Bowl. The LA Times said that El Khatib's voice is like “woodsmoke or bourbon, acrid yet sweet, as timeless as jeans and a T-shirt… versatile enough to make a classic sound fresh again.” While across the pond, The Guardian claimed that El Khatib was like “if Joe Strummer came back as an angry young Filipino-Palestinian American.”
From 2010 until 2017, there was the usual cycle that consumes most working 21st musicians: make an album, and tour it for the next 18 months. Return home, rinse and repeat. And with it came the predictable pitfalls that ensnare too many artists whose professional obligations require high-octane performances before 1,000 or more strangers every night. It is a dream until that one night when it isn’t any longer, and despite his gratitude for his fans and station in life, El Khatib found himself wracked by depression and anxiety. What had once been joyous creative outlet felt like a job. In the wake of the release of 2017’s Savage Times, it became readily apparent that if El Khatib didn’t make drastic changes to his lifestyle, there might not be a life to speak of. So he quit drinking, stopped touring, and took an indefinite hiatus from the studio.
With music temporarily out of the picture, El Khatib returned to one of his first loves: design. Partnering with his longtime friend and former employer Keith Hufnagel of HUF, El Khatib founded Metropolitan, a popular skateboard brand that recently did a collaborative run with Adidas. But eventually, the desire to create songs slowly returned. It helped that El Khatib purposely downsized his living arrangements, moving out of a spacious house with a well-appointed studio in Beachwood Canyon into a smaller dwelling with a bedroom lab that mirrored the cramped confines of how El Khatib first began making music as a teenager.
What would eventually become El Khatib’s fifth studio album, the virtuosic but characteristically raw Flightbegan as spontaneous experimentation. Over the last several years, El Khatib had become close friends with Leon Michels, best known as the mastermind of the soul controllers, the El Michels Affair, but who has also quietly racked up producer credits for the likes of pop juggernauts like Lana Del Rey, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Eminem -- as well as frequently working in sessions with Grammy-winning super-producer Mark Ronson.
At first, their jams were intended as riffs and breaks for other producers to sample, but quickly, El Khatib decided to say fuck the middleman. Why create samples, when they could create the entire beat themselves? The process unfolded casually and organically. El Khatib took a few trips to Michels’ studio in upstate New York, and when Michels would come to LA to produce the new Chicano Batman record or to work with Ronson, he’d steal away an afternoon to help create Flight.
The finished result is a rollicking sampledelic opus that recalls the beautiful chaos that the Dust Brothers created on Paul’s Boutique and Odelay. Or maybe the euphoric bricolage of the Avalanches’ Since I Left You crossed with the aggrieved darkness of the early Prodigy. Of course, it’s all filtered through the singular style that El Khatib has developed over the previous ten years. Take a song like “Room,” the first finished song on the album. Built off a scuzzy drum break and hypnotic pianos, the pair of El Khatib and Michels recorded it live to tape, then sampled it through outboard gear into the computer a la Portishead. Then they put it in Ableton, chopped the hell out of it, re-edited it and stitched back together into a collage. It’s the type of thing that Dilla and Madlib would’ve created if they had come up on The Cramps.
The creative process was governed by whatever helped them move through the compositions quickly. If they got stuck, they’d delete it. Because El Khatib wasn’t concerned with the need to perform the songs live, it unlocked a new level. So rather than blistering guitar attacks, you might hear two drum samples, a live flute, and a weird fucked up tape loop that could never be played live. It’s creativity for its own sake, the only type that’s really important. A song like “Dumb” plays out like post-modern minimalist doo-wop written for a Spaghetti Western reboot that needed a new Morricone score. “Alive” is a levitative groove with a narcotic jazz piano riff built atop a bruised but euphoric vocal that asks, slightly dumbfounded, “I can’t believe I survived.” And yes, “Stressy” has a ghostride the whip reference because you can take the artist out of the Bay but…
The irony, of course, is that for a record that sounds like little else El Khatib has ever done, it’s the most complete embodiment of who he is as an artist. It’s a record both dense and intricate yet direct and spontaneous. It is garage rock, it is hip-hop, it is soul, it is blues, it is psychedelic, but more than anything, it’s a brilliant Hanni El Khatib record -- one that taps into the adolescent spirit of creation that first stirred him to make songs in the first place. Here he is on his fifth album, back for the first time.
The Buttertones new album Jazzhound.
LP is Foldout Poster Insert + Download Card.
Before settling in to make Jazzhound, their most extravagant, ambitious, and fully realized album to date, theButtertones had to face the hounds of real life. Prior to a headlining summer tour in support of 2018’s Midnight in a Moonless Dream, a fiery blast of an album capturing the band at their purest distillation, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Modesto ‘Cobi’ Cobiån had a sudden and serious medical scare involving his eye, requiring emergency surgery. He lost half his vision (it will hopefully return with a future operation), and the tour had to be cancelled. Music took a backseat for the time being.
“It gave us some perspective on our health,” says bassist Sean Redman, “and the fact that we have to look after ourselves and one another first, or else the music just can’t happen.” Cobiån, Redman, and vocalist/guitarist Richard Araiza have been playing together for seven years now, having first come together for a self-titled debut in 2013; along with London Guzman on sax and keys, they’ve come to establish themselves as one of L.A.’s tightest groups, conquering stages from Coachella to Tropicalia. When one of their own had a scare, they rallied around him—and used the experience to come together stronger than ever for the record they were getting ready to make.
“He says it adds charm to his character,” jokes Araiza, who led theButtertones back into writing mode, taking the reset moment to really focus on the approach and style of the record. The material he was working on took the band forward into a heavier sound—and it also brought them back to the spark of their first album. “It allowed us to go back to the roots and the spirit we had when we started,” Redman considers. “We are kind of a new band, in a lot of ways, is what it feels like.”
Continuing their partnership with producer Jonny Bell of Crystal Antlers, who produced Moonless Dream as well as 2017’s Gravedigging, theButtertones waited until they were good and ready before hitting thelegendary Electro-Vox Studios in Hollywood, where they arrived knowing exactly what they wanted to lay to tape. Armed with an arsenal of the most propulsive music they’ve written yet, the band recorded the album mostly live—an ideal method for capturing their cult-status live show, which carries on the torch of acts like the Walkmen and the Fleshtones. “We’d do a few takes,” says Araiza, “and then it was, ‘Alright, we got all the main instruments done, now let’s record on the vibraphone that was used on Pet Sounds,’ you know?”
But Jazzhound is completely new territory for the group, too, with Araiza, who calls this album “probably thedarkest one” he’s written lyrically, pushing his Ian Curtis-via-Bobby Darin baritone to new depths, particularly on scorchers like “Phantom Eyes” and “Bebop.” It’s also the first album with Cobiån acting—and thriving—in his new role as a full-time guitarist (the drum parts were written by him and played by session musician Paul Doyle), and the first since the departure of guitarist Dakota Boettcher as well.
“We really worked our asses off on this one,” says Araiza, proudly, already talking about how he can’t wait to do it all again and make another record soon—after they tour the world, that is, making up for the lost dates last summer, and then some. “It feels like we’re still climbing.”
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.
Worship The Sun
Gatefold Jacket. Custom Printed Inner Sleeve.
Allah-Las met while working at Amoeba Music, a key destination for music lovers in Los Angeles. While this experience helped shape their sensibility, their sound was forged in an underground basement where they came together as a band. They began gigging in Los Angeles in 2008, refining their live performance, and finally released their first 7” single Catamaran / Long Journey in 2011. In 2012, they began their relationship with Innovative Leisure, releasing their first self-titled album, Allah-Las, anchored by their second single Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) / Sacred Sands. The release was met with critical acclaim and the band toured extensively in the States and abroad before going back into the studio to record their follow-up.
Allah-Las' second album, Worship The Sun, expands on the sound established by their maiden effort, honing their fusion of West Coast garage rock and roll, Latin percussion and electric folk. As richly textured and timeless as a Southern California beach break, the songs are evocative of Los Angeles’ storied past. Beatniks, artists, surfers, nomads. Remnants of a bygone Sunset Strip. Golden tans and cosmic sunsets. One can feel the warmth of the sun, but the band deftly avoids the kitsch so often indulged by lovers of these things. Hints of Byrds, Love, Felt, and those who follow are threaded into the tapestry.
LA’s seminal Ferus Gallery – the home of Wallace Berman, Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston – is paid homage in an eponymous instrumental, broadening the scope beyond mere sea, surf, and sand. The lyrics reveal a new maturity; reflections of a band that has grown together through experiences on the road and in the studio. Worship The Sun is at once the perfect soundtrack for the greatest surf film never made and for a golden hour drive through Topanga Canyon. Yet, while grounded in the Southern California experience, the appeal of the album is not limited by locale. It is a teenage symphony to the sun, for all those who know its grace.
Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band
12" x 12" Full Cover Sticker LP. Digipack with clear tray CD.
It all started over a year ago with the caption “MINDBLOWING PSYCHE- DELIA FROM THAILAND”—the Youtube video that accompanied this head- line on the Dangerous Minds Blog was exactly that. Here was a group of Thai musicians being filmed parading through a remote village hundreds of miles away from Bangkok playing some of the heaviest Psych known to mankind out of a crazy homemade soundsystem. Who were these men and how on earth was this not some unearthed archived footage from the ‘60s or ‘70s?! The Youtube clip quickly made its rounds amongst music enthusiasts leaving many in the Western hemisphere to question who this group of contemporary Thai villagers (loosely named Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band) was.
Six months after that first encounter with Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band, a Los Angeles music producer named Josh Marcy used Facebook and some un- likely interpreters at his local Thai restaurant to get in contact with the band and inquire whether they’d be interested in having him travel to their town to record their music for a global audience. At first the band was naturally suspicious, but through subsequent interactions the group’s leader and namesake Khun Narin (also known simply as “Rin”) warmed to the idea of having Marcy come visit. And so began the journey of uncovering who these mysterious men from an obscure blog post actually were.
Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band’s membership is always in rotation and spans several generations, from high school kids to men well into their 60s. A standard engagement has the band setting up at the hosting household during the morn- ing rituals, playing several low-key sets from the comfort of plastic lawn chairs occasionally working in a cover version of a foreign classic (The Cranberries ‘Zombie’ is a recent favorite) while the beer and whiskey flow freely. After a mid-day banquet, they start up the generator and lead a parade through the com- munity to the local temple, picking up more and more partiers along the way.
The music they play is called phin prayuk. The first word refers to the lead instrument, a 3-stringed lute known as the phin. Beer, the phin player, uses a string of Boss effects pedals, including a phaser, distortion and digital delay to get his sound. He also builds his own instruments, installing Fender pickups into hand-carved hardwood bodies, with elaborate mythical serpents adorning the headstock. The band takes pride in their custom PA system, as well as an imposing tower of 8 loudspeaker horns atop a huge bass cabinet. To capture the essence of the group and their sound, Marcy recorded th em in their natural environment by doing a proper field recording, literally in a field outside the city of Lom Sak, in the valley of mountains that form a rough border between Thai- land’s North and Northeast. The result was 40 minutes of hypnotizing psyche- delia filled with heavy drum breaks that sounds like something RZA would sample for a Quentin Tarantino film.
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
Head In The Dirt
Head In The Dirt, produced by Dan Auerbach, is the second album by Hanni El Khatib, where he takes a lucky 11 songs and makes the entire history of rebel music something all his own. He's got cut-to-the-bone Rhythm 'n' Blues and over-cranked Stooges-style stompers. He's got bottomless Black Sabbath riff-outs and Dub-a-delic garageland rockers that call up the spirits of the Clash and the Equals both. By the end of Head In The Dirt, you'll realize that El Khatib actually made something out of everything.
Hanni El Khatib
CD Packaging is a 4-Panel Digipack.
LP Packaging is a Tip-On Jacket w/ Digital Download Card & Poster Insert.
On his 2011 debut Will The Guns Come Out, Hanni El Khatib tried something he’d never tried before—making a bedroom-style recording of his then stripped-to-the-skeleton guitar-and-drums rock ‘n’ roll mostly for the sheer joy of making it. For his ferocious 2013 follow-up Head In The Dirt, he tried something new again, showing up at producer Dan Auerbach’s analog-dreamland Nashville studio with nothing but the clothes on his back and an open mind.
But after Head In The Dirt’s release and almost a year of relentless touring, Hanni knew he needed to go past ‘unpredictable’ all the way to ‘unprecedented.’ He needed isolation, time and the chance to experiment. So after 30 days locked in hand-picked L.A. studio the Lair, the result is the albumMoonlight (Jan 20, 2015 Release Date)—the rarest and most welcome kind of album, made at that perfect point in life where confidence, experience, and technique unite to help an artist do anything they want.
That’s why it starts with a song that sounds like a Mobb Deep beat under a Suicide-style synth drone and ends with an ESG-meets-LCD Soundsystem gone italo-disco song about life and death. That’s why it collides crushing crate-digger drumbeats that’d be right at home on a Can LP or an Eddie Bo 45 with bleeding distorto guitar, bent and broken barroom piano and hallucinatory analog flourishes. (In fact, some smart producer is going to sample the drums from this album and complete the circle of life.) And that’s also why Moonlight feels like the album he’s always wanted to make: “What would it sound like if RZA got in the studio with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits?” he asks. “I don’t know! That was my approach on everything.”
To make Moonlight, he needed the right engineer and the right place to record, the kind of place where they’d understand when he’d ask for ’62 Slingerland drumkit and obsolete fuzz pedals. And he found it in the Lair and engineer Sonny DiPerri, whose pinpoint instincts and unassuming personality camouflaged an all-star resume including stints with Trent Reznor to Avey Tare (Animal Collective) to Giorgio Moroder.
So on April 1st of 2014, Hanni sat down with his live drummer Ron Marinelli and a selection of heavy friends to translate his best ideas to tape. As the album developed, Hanni found himself playing almost everything, switching from guitar to bass to synth to Mellotron—sometimes several times during the course of a song—and even sampling and re-editing Marinelli’s beats.
It’s a personal album in the most primal sense, put together in any way that worked. Iggy Pop and David Bowie did this kind of thing on The Idiot, the Wu-Tang Clan did it on 36 Chambers and The Clash did it three times over on Sandinista. And now it’s Hanni’s turn, across 11 new lightning-struck songs, each written and recorded in its own flash of inspiration. It sounds like an album made by an endless list of collaborators, but really Moonlight was more like the first do-it-almost-all-yourself music Hanni ever made, except after six years recording and touring, he’d learned to do so much more.
“My approach is still the same,” he explains. “Do things you’ve never done before. Challenge yourself. Be free and be creative. The same thing holds true for everything I’ve ever done, whether painting or design or skateboarding or whatever. Do it for the right reasons—exploring yourself. That’s what it’s about.”