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Sinkane – Mars

Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab, originaire du Soudan, a vécu aux Etats-Unis. Ce multi-instrumentaliste, a su explorer différents horizons musicaux et cela se ressent dans ses titres. C’est sous le nom de Sinkane qu’il sortira ses deux albums. Mars le dernier en date est absolument génial. En l’écoutant certaines pistes sont surprenantes et pourraient être qualifiées de “martiennes”. Lady C’mon ou Making Time par exemple mixent voice coder et instrus funk, avec un rythme marqué par les percussions. Je suis définitivement sur une autre planète.

Je ne pense pas qu’avoir bon goût suffise à lier des univers divers. Il n’est pas rare que deux artistes de genres différents collaborent ensemble, sans pour autant que le résultat soit au rendez vous. Ici, Sinkane a osé une réelle prise de risque qui est pour moi réussie. Le fait de lier deux univers diamétralement opposés avec autant de succès relève du génie et d’un réel talent.

Nous retrouvons deux cultures éloignées ainsi réunies. La musique est unificatrice et ça se ressent dans cet album. Deux cultures, disjointes d’un premier point de vue, se retrouvent couplées mettant en valeur une même finalité, et ça c’est beau! Je conclue sur Warm Spell qui porte bien son nom et s’écoute facilement. C’est chaud, c’est frai, c’est doux, c’est super plaisant et ça donne envie de se réunir!

Feel your blood warm up
Fall in drunken love and stay
There just aren’t enough
Never too much of the days and the nights

Sinkane – Warm Spell

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Jungle – The Heat

Not much hay has been made over the fact that two white men are producing music under the name Jungle and mostly featuring black men in their videos and collateral. Maybe this is because the duo is still (relatively) underground, but they’ve definitely set themselves up for a media firestorm of sorts should they break through to the next level of popularity. In fact, a slew of thinkpieces could boost Jungle’s name recognition, and it’s not like there aren’t other non-PC artistic projects out there.

Let’s get out ahead of the controversy. Yes, there are obvious problems with associating the term “jungle” with people of African descent. Racism is alive and well across the world, and perpetuating that even through semantic and visual reference remains unacceptable. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening in this situation.

I’ve gone over my extreme distaste for the artistic tactic of identity hiding (it’s a play for attention, and it can’t hold up long term), and must give Jungle a slap on the wrist for using it. They go by single letters,  don’t do interviews (until they did), and play live swathed in a thick smoke screen. In Jungle’s case, they appear to have purposefully led their audience to believe that they were the two black men featured in the video for “The Heat” and in their press photos.

Their sound is firmly steeped in the culture of R&B, funk, and disco, with a psychedelic lo-fi twist, and they’re aiming for an audience still generally located in the indie rock/electro-pop/accessible electronica spheres. Most artists in that world are white, and non-whiteness becomes a selling point and interest generator (recognizing that this is not always the case, of course, and plenty of non-white acts rise to prominence based only on the quality of their artistic output).  Jungle has, without a doubt, gotten more coverage because they branded themselves as cool, tracksuited, barefoot black men, when in fact they are pale white brits who don’t look any different from the other acts in their cohort.

But is this so wrong? It’s the content producing media outlets and the consuming public that jointly decide what’s cool and what isn’t. Black music culture remains “cool,” especially in the hipsterdom populated mostly by white American, English and Western European young adults.  Jungle made a risky play to generate coverage and grow a following, and it seems to have worked.

The music is what matters most, and luckily it’s very good and a novel take on an old theme. The nu-disco revival in electronic music and crossover with R&B-style vocals offered the perfect entry point for Jungle’s brand of washed-out disco. An audience was waiting.

So why the need for the secret and arguably offensive branding? I don’t get it.

What I do get is that it’s becoming harder and harder for bands to break out of the underground, and we’ve not seen the last questionable publicity stunt or strategy. To all the artists out there: creating a stage character is fine, and it’s ok to have fun with it (see: Gaga, Lady). Just remember that if your art isn’t authentic, people will see through it.

Jungle’s art is authentic. I hope their image grows up.

Jungle – The Heat

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Le Miel du Mois by Steph Lund: Avril 2014

Before you start reading, start listening. As usual, Steph has provided us with exceptional fire and not a second should be wasted before you start playing it.
I’m just what you made God, not many I trust.
Imma go my out way God, take my fate to where ever you want.”

I think about that a lot these days, fearlessly becoming yourself that is. I try to picture my life without external influences and what it would be like. The job we have, the people we love, the places we go all play a huge part in defining who we are. Each one of those requires compromise, you have to spend your time in an office behaving in a way that agrees with the company, your lover may be different from you and you have to make compromises to be in harmony and on and on. But what if those things didn’t play a factor? Think about that for a minute, does the world you live in allow you to truly be yourself? To be yourself, to truly be yourself man, that’s where it’s at.

Avril starts off the Moss remix of Glass Animals’ Gooey Gilligan and the first lyrics says
Let me show you everything I know…”

I was on a call with the EMPT team last night and our conversation was about being open, inviting everyone to be express themselves, not just in the context of the site but who they are. I encourage that because I sincerely want to know the great people around me, I want the world to know them. I want to learn, I want to have more perspective, more places draw inspiration from, more love to know about and on and on. Show me everything you know!  There’s some futuristic Space Age hippie, rebel, uptown, world class shit going on with EMPT right now and it represents everything I am and love.

Perhaps my fascination with LMDM stems from how pedagogic it is, how well it speaks to my desire to explore and learn. Historically, I don’t fare well with know it alls, they have a very clear understanding of what life is, what love is, what the rules are, how good they are at following them and how bad you are at not understanding. I can’t walk around the marvel that is earth pretending like things aren’t malleable, like the world isn’t in constant change. Sound like a dreamer? HYFR it does. This is romantic realism, the world as it exist is always acknowledged but the limitless wonder is never out of sight or out of play.

Needless to say, open minds fascinate me and Le Miel du Mois is perhaps the epitome of an open mind. You can learn a lot about style from these tapes. If epigenetics or former lives are real then I imagine Steph or someone in her lineage being the Diana Vreeland or Anna Wintour of another time. That’s the only way to explain the constantly evolving sound, taste and masterful curatoria that is LMDM. Like all other tapes, this one is 360 degrees of stylistic expression. From the retro future 90s sounding Filthy Lover, to luxurious chill out jam Talk is Cheap, to banger Holding on to Heaven, Steph gives us everything, always showing not just what she knows but what she’s learning. That’s that Space Age hippie, rebel, uptown, world class shit. I love her for that, enjoy.

Let me show you everything we know.

Tracklist:

  1. Glass Animals – Gooey Gilligan (Moss Remix)
  2. Little Dragon – Paris
  3. Foxes – Holding Onto Heaven (Kove Remix)
  4. Mr Little Jeans – Good Mistake (Y&S $500 Mix)
  5. The Golden Pony – Filthy Lover
  6. Jamie xx – Girl
  7. Deerhunter – Helicopter
  8. Alexander – Truth
  9. Chet Faker – Talk Is Cheap
  10. Belgian Fog – Loveless Way
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New Navy – Zimbabwe (Flume Remix)  

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 2.31.38 PM

When we last heard from New Navy, the Aussies were covering Telepopmusik’s “Breath.” This time, the boys get a rework from compatriot Flume, who has blown up considerably since I first saw him with twenty other people in the basement of Cake Shop (NYC) last year.

Here, Flume exhibits a lighter touch than usual, turning “Zimbabwe” from sparkling, tight guitar pop to chilled-out comedown soundtrack material. The hazy piano droplets fade into a jazzy bass line and tom-heavy drum track, while manipulated vocals layer atop harps and claps identified with modern nu-disco.

We’ve been trending this way for a few weeks now, but I guess it’s officially the season of the summer jam. I’m not talking the “song of the summer.” That’s a total misnomer dependent on marketing budgets and complicit media. Summer jams are the ever-present soundtrack to the season, memorable not for their merits, but for the memories they accompany.

Show of hands, who remembers the song that was playing during your first kiss? In most cases, I’ll bet it was a summer jam. I imagine it was the case for my dad, all those years ago at camp, to Roy Orbison or The Beach Boys. And it will likely be the case for my grandchildren, to whatever insanoid computer music kids are into a few decades down the road. That’s really my dream as a music blogger: one of you will download this track, throw it on a party playlist, and let it serve as the backdrop for an eternal memory.

And yes, my first kiss was to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  

New Navy – Zimbabwe (Flume Remix)

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Reflex – Sunset (Club Mix)

REFLEX - SUNSET EP COVER 

I know for many of you summer may still seem far off. Beijing, Toronto and Paris are hovering in the 50s, and sweaters still abound across the northern and southern climbs. But the season has unequivocally arrived in Rio and LA, my current location. And with it, my current musical artifact fixation, the summer jam.

Ready for another?

French synth-pop duo Reflex have popped up on EMPT before, and if you liked them then, you’ll like them now. “Sunset (Club Mix)” is classic Ibiza day-party fare: simple, light beat, a pluck bass that doesn’t take over, staccato synth stabs, shimmering pads, and of course sexy Euro-tinged vocals that receive a full chop’n’sample treatment at the drop.

The band tags all of their tracks as “seadisco.” They’ve apparently coined this subgenre, as I couldn’t find any other references on the entire internetz! EMPT regulars know of my constant crusade against sub-genre proliferation, and I’m going to have to bring the hammer down here, though gently. If seadisco means music with a disco beat that works well at beach parties, I at least get where they’re coming from. But then, isn’t that just about all disco or electro-pop? Reflex gets credit for coining a phrase and pushing it, because it remains true that bands need some sort of differentiator or aspect to which fans can cling to separate them from the pack. As much as I like Reflex, it’s undeniable that there are a ton of bands that sound similar (La Roux and Yelle lead this particular pack). 

Ludmila Cassar’s vocals are the real deal though. Good production is easier to come by than a talented vocalist, and she combines all the pieces you look for: consistent delivery (as in, she has a voice and sticks to it across all tracks), recognition that this isn’t the place for deep lyricism, and sex appeal. Nothing wrong with having a gorgeous French woman fronting your band.

If you dig the Club Mix, check out the original track (it’s much more dance-floor oriented). Scratch that, check out ALL of Reflex’s remixes and original work. The songs all sound similar, but different enough that the similarity is a good thing. Dive into the short video below for an EP preview and an awesome snapshot of Reflex’s Asia tour. SPOILER: it includes an infinity pool on the 40th floor of a skyscraper. Enjoy.

Reflex – Sunset (Club Mix)

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Idriss Chebak & Yoann Feynman – Fallin’

I’m so fascinated by the obsession we seem to have with escaping from wherever we are. When I first heard this song, I was not only taken by its slow build and beautiful melodies, but by the amount of songs I’ve heard with this title. “Fallin’” to me is ever present and consistently something that I think about. I’m not sure why, but I’m even more fascinated by the club culture that breeds chaos in a controlled setting. Yes, I’m talking about orchestrated chaos. But I’ve talked about that idea far too much — what I’m interested in is the desire to fall out of sync with the present. To escape the moment. I’m completely taken by the cliche that we sometimes give the idea of remaining present and how it’s almost cool to escape; to fall into another world. We see this every single day: our constant living for the weekend mentality, our overworked brains, our need to obliterate our bodies with alcohol and drug consumption.

I thought about this especially tonight as I attended a show by myself, and found myself judging the people in front of me for being completely drunk. I don’t typically judge people for their drinking behaviors, but what I was more fascinated by was how throughout the entirety of the show, each person had managed to buy at least one drink for another person — nobody had bought their own drinks all night. It was kind of beautiful, but then it got me thinking: is it our mission to get everybody on the same level as us, in a situation like that? If that’s the case, alcohol does seem like the easiest way to get there.

This isn’t to say that I don’t take part in my fair share of escapism. We all do, I think, because it’s part of our nature. Because we understand the banalities of everyday life and sometimes, that makes us sad. But why not embrace that sadness for a moment and let it get into your soul — not your brain. Let it fuel you.

This isn’t about discouraging you from traveling to other lands. It’s not an attempt to dampen your exploring heart. It’s about embracing whatever it is you decide and allowing yourself to stand still in whatever transition you make. If you choose to fall, let it be at your own discretion. And if you need a song to listen to while falling, let it be this one.

Idris Chebak & Yoann Feynman – Fallin’

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Haim – My Song 5

I’ll be up, going through crazy shit I did for you
In my mind, in my head, seeing all the words unsaid

After all the words are said, when everything dies down — the calm after the storm — what are we left with? Our thoughts are just left to fester. We’ve all been there, sitting, replaying in our minds what could have been said; the perfect composition is too often belated. Regardless, the best thing to do after a bad situation is to be proactive. Perhaps write a badass song about it! That’s what the Haim sisters did, and the outcome is glorious. The lyrics of “My Song 5″ suggest heartbreak over lies and mistrust, and when sung, offer a strong, retaliative message of independence.

“My Song 5″ is an enigmatic outlier amongst the array of energetic tracks on Haim’s “Days Are Gone”. I’m immediately entrapped by the sharp, somber beats, strong female vocals, and yet there’s something else. Maybe it’s the deep tuba that’s really got me absorbed. The trio work extremely well togheter, especially on stage. What really sparked my devotion to their music was seeing them live. Twice wasn’t enough; both performances merely left me yearning for more. I was left speechless and shaking my head in disbelief of their talent. If you have the chance to see them, for goodness sake, take it!! These sisters are doing something right. With influences by Fleetwood Mac, Motown, and 90′s R&B, their unique sound will have you hooked.

I’ve been lied to.
So what’s the truth?

I’m going to tell you the truth.. Haim is a band you won’t regret making time for. They’re on tour now, so go get your ticket! Bring a friend or go alone, but you’ll probably be so engrossed in their essence it’ll feel like only you four in the room.

Haim – My Song 5

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The Who – Sparks

Tommy Effect: noun  (with reference to psychoacoustics) the phenomenon whereby a single and/or multiple sounds within a complex moment or system can have immense effects which remain ubiquitous for the remainder of a lifetime.

The conversation you have with someone about the moment they fell in love with music is passionate. It feels like one of the easiest ways to get personal with someone. There are seldom stories of, “Yeah, I don’t really know. I guess I just always liked them.” Often a conversation had in a foggy room or crowded bar or end of a second date.

Mine, mine was perfect. I remember listening to Elvis Presley on a tape sitting in back of my family’s steel grey minivan on a trip across the country when we moved to America. I listened to it until it broke in my yellow Sony Walkman. I listened to it front and back, a few hundred times or until the black tape started to unravel. It was the only music I cared to know at first. I am sure it was not my mum’s intention when she threw her tape back to me that she would never again see it again, or that it would have such repercussions on me. I loved his voice. I was 8 and that is when I remember first experiencing the Tommy Effect.

Recently, I had a conversation with my boss in London who was talking about how he wanted to start collecting vinyl. For one reason or another, he craved it in his life. He was telling me about his first records he had as a kid and he lit up. Recalling the moment he fell in love with music. “The best relationship you have in your life.” It was like you could see the dusky old room he was clearly back to in his mind littered with classic records strewn about and a fervent boy rushing to put on one after the other eagerly awaiting the next track to fall in love with.

The Tommy Effect, may be a term I created just then, but recognise that everyone reading this or interested in this site has felt it. The literal reference is to Almost Famous. The moment when William gets his sister’s record collection and puts on The Who‘s album, Tommy, and finds a note in it. That’s when you hear that strumming guitar coming in, approximately 20 seconds before you get goose bumps from your reaction to the music. That scene is so personal and accurate, it makes that character instantly become you or your best friend. It’s like watching the perfect first kiss, the perfect beginning to the best relationship we can ever have.

To experience this effect once more, I will quote one of the best music movies of our time and leave you with this.

“Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future.” –Penny Lane

The Who – Sparks

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Kid Francescoli – I Don’t Know How


Certaines rencontres se distinguent des autres. Je me souviens de cette matinée avec Ashley autour d’un café et de french toast à parler musique avec autant d’enthousiasme. Si ma mémoire est bonne, la première chose qu’elle m’ait faite découvrir était Marijuana de Chrome Sparks, et à chaque fois que je l’écoute, mes souvenirs retournent à New York.

Afin de remercier Ashley et toute l’équipe de me donner aujourd’hui l’opportunité de participer à l’aventure EMPT, j’ai choisi un morceau du nouvel album de Kid Francescoli : With Julia. Ce marseillais ayant collaboré avec Julia Minkin, New Yorkaise, est pour moi une façon symbolique de lier la France à New York pour mon premier article.

Cet opus est synonyme de rencontre et d’échange, derrière chaque morceau se retrouve la complicité des deux artistes. Surpris par Blow Up il y a un an par sa trame, son rythme mais aussi son clip, l’album est une parfaite suite à cette introduction. Agréable à écouter, les pistes s’enchainent, pleines de paresse et de romance s’accordant facilement aux beaux jours que nous promet le mois de mai, le retour de l’été!

Le titre « I don’t know how » m’accompagne dans l’écriture de ce post, une grande première pour moi. Essayer de ne pas tomber dans le cliché n’est finalement pas tâche facile mais je me laisse guider par ces intrus mêlant folk pop et electro et l’agréable voix de cette Julia. Cet album va indéniablement me suivre durant les prochains mois estivaux par son envie de raconter une histoire, comme celles qui s’écrivent chaque été. Le mois de juillet et d’août sont toujours différents et singuliers d’une année à l’autre. Ils sont l’aboutissement d’une année de travail, remplis de festivités et de retrouvailles ; la pression retombe et c’est tout à fait ce à quoi m’amène l’écoute de cet album, avec la pointe de nostalgie d’une année écoulée. Il sonne parfois comme une fin, parfois comme un début, une transition parfaite.

Kid Francescoli – I Don’t Know How

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Jagwar Ma – Come Save Me

Some days it seems like the world is going to shit. I think people have always felt this way, but damn. Power plays for “strategic” locations (see: Crimea, Senkaku), unceasing government sponsored murder, institutionalized racism (as bad as it gets in the USA, it’s worse oversees)…not to mention the 5th IPCC report detailing the true scope and threat of global climate change.

These crises don’t feel as immediate as when my father’s grade school teacher said goodbye to her class during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But, in some ways, they are more onerous and frightening than ever, a constant presence on screens reminding you that all is not well in the globalized world we share.

All global citizens should feel pressure to “make the world a better place.” Whether that’s through donating international aid money, advocating for local issues, or helping out a friend in need, the action is what counts.

In times like these, the most valuable services can seem trivial and trifling. What’s another song from another band when compared to the death rattle of yet another rhinoceros, cruelly slaughtered so some guy thousands of miles away can feel better about his hard on?

Art is a saving grace. No matter the destruction or extinction, artistic production will prevail as a beacon of individualism and emotion. Isn’t history just a long stream of artistic accomplishments, reminding us that no matter how bad it got, we, humans, always prevailed, and with a glimmer in our eyes to boot.

Jagwar Ma’s “Come Save Me” (the band’s first ever song) is that resilient glimmer embodied: The lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, the instrumentation is repetitive, but it expresses unbounded emotion in a moment when the audience needs it. “I don’t want a love like this,” sings Gabriel Winterfield, “come and save me.” No, Jagwar, you save us. Save us with your collaborative mentality (the band met through an open music and art collective that called itself a “band with no members”) and your sweet summer croonage.

It’s too simple to avert our eyes from the tragic. But if we come to understand that the tragic is an eternal partner to the comic, perhaps we can find some solace aboard our tiny bobbing boats that balance atop the crashing breakers of time. 

Jagwar Ma – Come Save Me

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