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Music

Oliver – Light Years Away

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My music taste lately has been skewing old. Lot’s of New Orleans blues, 60’s live rock recordings, and of course Cambodian surf rock from the Vietnam era. Friends and family, who constantly ask me for new music, have been disappointed of late when I weakly shrug.

So thank goodness for my favorite radio DJs spinning late night on KCRW. Friday nights with Travis Holcombe are a crash course in the newest bangers from across electronic genres, and after attending an intimate Chris Smither concert, I needed a dose of upbeat happy.

Mr. Holcombe obliged. I’d heard of Oliver before, but hadn’t delved into the duo’s discography. They are leading electro away from nu-disco and into a post-nu-disco era (only half facetious…) I compare them to Fake Blood, but able to reach the pop sound that he never did (or never wanted to), and group them with producers like Breakbot and Aeroplane. However, their latest EP, “Light Years Away,” throws in a hefty dose of Gestaffelstein for good measure, bringing a much-needed grit to the often sugary nu-disco formula.

And who can say no to a diva vocal disco bridge?!

“Light Years Away,” the song, is an all-timer at first listen. It is tonally dark, while maintaining an uplifting twinkle in its eye. The grimy snap bass tears a wormhole in the space time continuum, the sparkling diva break exposes us to the ecstatic gamma rays within. Both a militant, industrial shredder and a funky shoulderroller, this track will undoubtably worm its way into your rotation, and boom over dance floors around the world this holiday season.

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Music

Crystal Fighters – Champion Sound

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Transitioning from summer into fall is a slow time of the year. The days get shorter, darkness arrives before you know it. Hours tick by, half a blur but half a stairway with no end in sight.

Music’s role in life changes with the season. It plays a supporting role during the summer, but is quickly cast as a co-lead when the slowdown hits. Stow away that song ADD, and release the full album listen-throughs and endless mood playlists. Not to mention the high quality of KCRWs Eclectic 24 music feed. Talk about curation!

I’ve been going HAM on Spotify, turning over new stones, finding salamanders and getting those gems in rotation. Who would have thought that someday Burl Ives would share a playlist with Aphex Twin (quick note: if you haven’t listened to “Syro” yet…absolutely one of the best albums of any genre this year). One of my juiciest finds has been the debut album from Crystal Fighters, “Star of Love,” released by the London outfit in 2010. Not only is the music highly innovative and entrancing, but the band has one of the most fascinating back stories I’ve come across in some time.

Formed in 2008, the band is a musical project based on and named for an unfinished opera written by one of the members’ certifiably insane grandfather. After finding the opera randomly which cleaning out the ancient house, located in the Basque region of Spain, the band dedicated their intellectual and musical energies towards creating an album centered on the opera’s insights and traditional Basque music. I forgive you if you didn’t draw that exact conclusion from listening to their music, but there is no denying that the resulting sound is original and new (also now is a good time to drop a pic of this band…they are beautiful.)

Mixing traditional Basque instruments – including a beautiful pipe whistle – with manic, housey synths isn’t easy to do. Vocals at times mimic traditional chanting, always fluid and rapidly delivered.Their new album, Cave Rave continues the mission, but feels overwrought and sugary to me. Not to say it isn’t worth a listen! The story doesn’t get any more normal, but I’ll leave that to curious readers.

As we approach the harvest season, what do we never do? That’s right, drink “harvest” featured beers from your favorite secretly-corporate-owned “craft” brewer. What do we do? Dive into the stacks, get reacquainted with old friends and reflect on another year end approaching and a troubled world laid bare. Pained by a death across the world and one just next door, it can be hard to see many moments of light in the smoggy sky. Rally, my friends! You have enough, you do enough, you are enough. Be you to the ever present soundtrack.

BONUS VIDEO

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Music

Alaska in Winter – Berlin

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Calling Alaska in Winter, the musical project fronted by Brandon Bethancourt, elusive would be selling it short. I probably found “Berlin” when it bubbled to the top of early Hype Machine for a day. And though Bethancourt’s debut album, “Dance Party in the Balkans,” is a brilliant mélange of pop sensibility, anguish and bloggy-electo, the band seemingly dropped off the earth after 2008.

They didn’t, not really. Aside from a dissipated sophomore effort that same year, the rest of their releases have been either extremely limited issue or sold only in nu-vintage format ie. micro-cassette. I guess theirs an argument to be made that releasing your music in such an inaccessible format maintains a level of credibility and alliance to your true fans…oh wait, no there isn’t.

Music press has a strange obsession with forgotten acts or rare recordings. I get it, especially in the case of total unknown geniuses who recorded in third world countries decades ago. The rock music of pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, for instance, or the genius William Onyeabor, who was recording funk fusion in the vein Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem circa 1970s Nigeria. In other cases, (I’m thinking of Pitchfork’s recent love affair with Lewis) the narrative centers entirely on the fact that “you haven’t heard of this guy” rather than “this music will change your life.”

You’d hope that the press would take their (our?) soapbox seriously. I’d guess that any of you who’ve read this far are actually interested in what writers have to say about music, and that you can see through bullshit. Have I written some bullshit posts? Sure, and I honestly regret that. But when you’re writing for Pitchfork, you just can’t. I get that the corporations need their clicks and shares, and that writers need to pay the bills, but journalistic integrity does still mean something to many who ply the trade. If I were paid for these posts, there would be no bullshit, ever.

But artists don’t share that responsibility. Though there is no argument I can make in favor of restrictive releases, I say do art your way. If Alaska in Winter doesn’t want me to hear their music, so be it. At least I’ve got Berlin and the entire first album (which you should really listen to, it’s great autumn/winter music). And now you do too.

Alaska in Winter – Berlin

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Music

Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa

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Trance music isn’t just for ravers. The past two decades have seen that term attached to a specific type of electronic music, but you can’t deny that other types of music serve the same purpose. I recently saw Omar Souleyman perform, and damn, the entire crowd was undeniably in a trance – eyes rolling back, arms waving wildly, feet flying – the whole shebang.

The concept of “the trance” goes way back. Ancient shamanic figures assumed such states, as did the famed Oracle at Delphi, to predict the future or commune with spirits. Warriors, including the Viking Berserkers, threw themselves into a blind frenzy in which they could feel no pain and see nothing but rage. Each and every one of us drifts into daydreams, losing touch with the present moment and settling into the unconscious.

Music was born with humanity. The earliest thumping beat inspired movement. A few million years later, we aren’t so different. Sonic repetition and tonal consistency still bring us out of our shells and into a freer state. Consider vedic chanting: the voices of one or many, looping rhythmic and sonorous. After a while, you cease to hear yourself or the others, and the concept of time that controls our lives fades to unimportance. After a time, you wake up, without ever sleeping.

One of my favorite types of trance music is Afrobeat, popularized by Fela Kuti but practiced by many others, including the Cameroonian Manu Dibango. “Soul Makossa” feels over before starting, even though it runs over six minutes. The key to trance, I think, is a steady beat paired with an uncommon treble (in this case, the group chanting and plucky horns). The electronic version offers the 4×4 beat with synthesized sounds that our brains force into a natural order. The Afrobeat strain, however, offers a more human element, a wild desire that brings sweat to the brow of any listener.

Embrace that humanity, join your primate ancestors, and step into the trance.

Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa 

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Music

Kaytranada – Leave Me Alone ft. Shay Lia

Foggy city from Bernal Heights

He’s been hot for a minute already, but if you haven’t yet booked your ticket on the overnight bus to the netherworld that is the Kaytranada bandwagon, step right up. It isn’t that the songs are downers – in fact, they all feature an inignorable positivity – but rather that they are down. They don’t take you soaring through the clouds, blasting towards the stars in blinding flashed of energy; they slither you through the settled fog, close to the wet, living earth. The bass is organic, the samples (his music is heavily sample centric) soulful. It’s as if an ancient griot stumbled across RZA’s EPS16+.

One thing Kaytranada is not, at least in my eyes, is an EDM artist. EDM has come to connote a specific type of electronic music, and in many ways has become a super-subgenre that no one applies correctly. I’m not saying I know what it is, but this isn’t it. In interviews, Kaytranada cites Flying Lotus as a contemporary influence, and you can really hear it: the jazzy undertones, unsyncopated drums and late-nite vocals. If he’d been performing in the 30’s, Kevin would have been one cool cat.

And not only because of his music. This guy is clearly very cool and original. Born in Haiti and raised in Montreal, he had this to say about living in Canada: “I usually chill around at the part or I’ll just go to bars because I don’t really go to clubs. The bars play the best music. I see finer girls in there. Clubs aren’t that cool but bars are awesome.” And this to say on “trap music”: “I think it’s kinda corny…all of that kind of cliché trap stuff is so annoying. But, I ain’t gonna lie, I was hot on that shit before, but now it’s turned out to be corny.” (both quotes from an interview with Noisey)

Voice of a generation? I’m kidding, but seriously, who doesn’t agree with both of those statements.

“Leave Me Alone” is a fair representation of his music. It is both dense and spatial, allowing the listener to breath but not catch a breath. As we transition into the autumn, it’s songs like this that begin to take hold, leading us away from the sunny skies and into a contemplative realm.

 

Kaytranada – Leave Me Alone ft. Shay Lia

 

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Music

Freestylers – Signs ft. Tenor Fly and Spanner Banner

Hunter Thompson on the beach

The wonders of the Internet mean you’re reading this even though I’m far away, deep in the woods with no connection. It’s about fucking time. I really wish someone would have told me as a kid that vacation isn’t a right.

There’s a difference between a vacation and a trip. On a trip, you’re waking up early and going hard all day – hiking, sightseeing, eating food that may or may not make you sick as a dog. On a vacation, you’re sleeping in, kicking back and hopefully sipping a mixed drink at 2pm.

Trips usually make the best memories, and are definitely my personal preference. But right now, I’m on vacation, chowing on lobster and picking blueberries and not thinking about work or traffic or blogging.

I hope you all get a chance to get away this summer, because we all need a break from the usual (hence this Freestylers song, an unusual choice for EMPT but an instant chilla classic)

Ahhhhhh.

Freestylers – Signs ft. Tenor Fly and Spanner Banner

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Music Writing

Flying Lotus – Parisian Goldfish

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Having your feet set squarely on the ground is underrated.  After schooling ends, our toes lift, hover, preparing for the rapid zig zags and about faces that are inherent in the lives of twenty-somethings (and thirty-somethings lets be real). The flexibility is imperative; it takes time to figure out who you are and what you don’t want to do. The percentage of people whose first job is their career is miniscule.

After while, though, the earth looks mighty attractive. To have some security in knowing what’s next and let out the breath of anticipation. Constantly hopping from paid job to freelance to internship to unpaid blogging every week takes a psychic toll. It starts to seem that everyone else is settled into a salaried gig at Google or some New York financial titan.

There are days when steadiness is all I want. Next year, this time, I’ll still be right here.

But then I snap out of it. Ours is the zero-gravity generation, feet off the ground but floating higher than our predecessors could have imagined. Some pundits paint us as lazy or entitled, when we’re really just turning flips in the space station as they look on with envy from behind their white picket fences, infested with termites and crumbling under broken pension systems after all these years.

With the world pried open like a succulent oyster, wriggling slowly in a bath of salt water, what else to do but consume it and savor the slight discomfort that comes with a taste that lasts a lifetime. Fly for 14 hours, Skype your mom like you were down the street. Or jump into the startup game, throwing financial security to the wind for a chance at originality and responsibility so rarely afforded the associates and coordinators of the capitalist structure.

The earth isn’t going anywhere. Don’t force an early anchorage. Join me and the EMPT family as we orbit the solar system, mindful of the future but living in the moment, searching for meaning in every day experience and making sure to breathe it all in.

 

Flying Lotus – Parisian Goldfish

Categories
Music

La Femme – Sur La Planche

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Vive l’été!

Quand je suis sur la planche, tout est bon.

Et quand nous sommes sur la planche ensemble, alors…c’est comme nous sommes le monde, et rien d’autre existe.

La Femme – Sur La Planche

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Music

Gotye – Puzzle With A Piece Missing

I am excited to celebrate breaking 30,000 words for Et Musique Pour Tous with an exceedingly lazy post. You see, I’m caught with my proverbial pants down tonight, far from home with someone I love, at least half a bottle of Bourgogne and seven Drake’s Bay oysters settled comfortably in my belly.

Writing for this blog is truly a pleasure, but there are days where I’m like, oh shit, I have to write a post. Because, as Jalen Rose (and the O’Jays, and Jimmy Cliff) says, gotta give the people what they want. I’ve been writing for EMPT for almost exactly a year, approximately 80 single spaced pages in size 11 Cambria. Imagine if I’d devoted the hours to learning ukelele…

If I had, I’d be sitting alone or with a small group, tinkling out simple chords. Instead, I am honored to share music for all. Some people play, some sing. I write.

My love for Gotye is well established, especially for his first album, “Like Drawing Blood.” “Puzzle With  A Piece Missing” is a true masterpiece, winding the through smoky hallways behind a creepy carnival tent. I could get meta per usual, but I’ll leave it at that. Though it may be apocryphal, the oysters and fine wine serve as my cupid’s arrow tonight.

Much love to the fans, exit stage left.

Gotye – Puzzle With A Piece Missing

Categories
Music Writing

Flying Lotus – Parisian Goldfish

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Another brushfire belches acrid smoke
into our lungs.
The city stained with ash,
gray as the sky.

Last time fourteen young men were swept up
in the blaze and killed in an instant.
The town held a candle light vigil.
Oxygen, in the end.

Red sun setting, mirrored in flames
that creep up, floor by glass-paneled floor.
From the top of the hill, the city burns,
before night’s coolness fades all to silhouette.

Poignant films are planned,
imbued with misplaced resonance
that no one is looking for.
Based on a true story.

These are the facts, or, most of the facts.
The rest we enhanced for entertainments sake.
What really happened, guess we’ll never know.
Just appreciate the artistry.

From pulp to press to printout,
curling waves of bleached wood
cut fresh from the soil
some miles away.

Clouds hang mixed with residue,
a roiling mass, a vortex turning.
In the eye of the storm a woman dances.
Doesn’t she know?

Careless how quick we forget
after the darkness has passed.

Infinite sky, space;
Hurtling out into blackness expanding
and disappearing over the event horizon,
lit by flares of gas and dust.//

Flying Lotus – Parisian Goldfish