Body Language

LA’s underground electronic scene has been getting a lot of attention recently with some newsworthy surprise appearances by the likes of Odd Future and Thom Yorke at venues like Low End Theory. It is with few exceptions (like Toro y Moi), however, that you hear much about is what’s developing within the East Coast’s underground electronic scene. Body Language represents one such development that you should be aware of. A frequent guest at NY clubs CassetteNYC and Percussionlab, Body Language is beginning to generate some serious buzz – and not just within the Big Apple, but upon the airwaves of college radio and your KCRW-esque local indie stations.

Body Language have actually been around since 2009, when they released their first EP, “speaks,” an intermittently funky and downtempo experience that ebbs along smoothly thanks to the excellent integration of its flowing synths and vocal harmonizing. I was first drawn to the group having heard the track “Sandwiches,” which is so chock full of sandwich-related sexual innuendos that you can’t help but divert your attention to its playful and infectious progression. Other standout tracks include “New Day” and “Work this City,” which clearly draw from existing indie-electro crossover artists but take on a decidedly original feel by capturing the late-night, seedy atmosphere of the modern metropolis.  Be on the lookout for lots more material from this talented group (comprised of Grant Wheeler and Matt Young on synths and Angelica Bess on vocals), especially considering that they’ve been landing supporting gigs for Zero 7 and School of Seven Bells. You can actually download their second EP “Social Studies” (released in January) for free off their bandcamp site. But don’t expect free downloads from these guys much longer!



…And We’re Back

If it serves as any indication of just how long it’s been since this site has been updated, I actually had to reset my wordpress password because I’d forgotten it. Like the other contributing members of this music community, as curator I too have been pretty sidetracked with life as of late (like…studying in Argentina, for instance). However, I was inspired to resurrect the blog after a couple of recent occurrences prompted me to action, namely the due recognition a friend of mine is receiving for his excellent new blog – – along with some coincidental inquires about the fate of this blog. Well…it IS still here! (Ironically, the site received thousands of hits in its months of inactivity. Why thank you, Google.)

That being said, how about turning to the business at hand: Music. And what an exciting time its been since the last post I made in May, 2010. Rather than the exhaustive process of covering all that’s happened, I’m going to focus this post on two emergent artists that I strongly feel are going to have significant breakouts in 2011: Tame Impala and Toro y Moi.

Tripped Out, Mate

Let’s start with the Aussies. Based out of Perth, Tame Impala is one of the newest members representing the neo-psychedelia movement taking place in Western Australia, along with other bands like Parades, Red Riders, and Wolf & Cub. While they’ve been fairly well known in their own country since their EP release in 2008, it was only recently with the release of Tame Impala’s debut LP “Innerspeaker” early last year that they began generating serious chatter in the US. I first stumbled upon the band while cruising around last year and was immediately drawn to the group’s vintage psychedelic sound. Listening through the tracks’ grooving, washed-out guitars and deliberately crafted synth riffs harkened mental comparisons to Cream’s Disraeli Gears. Indeed, Impala’s achievement of such a classic 60’s sound made more sense when I learned that the band recorded the album in a strictly analog studio. Now that’s doing it right. And lyrically, the band’s spacey and cryptic song-writing adds additional intrigue. There is one line in particular from the track “Solitude is Bliss” that I think helps sum up their sentiments quite nicely; “There’s a party in my head and no one is invited.” Although paradoxically, Tame Impala’s 11  track odyssey gives us listeners ample opportunity to spectate. Enjoy the vibes and be on the look out for the hype to surround this artist in the months to come. I suggest checking out the singles “It’s not meant to be” and “Lucidity” for starters.


Too Hip

Completely switching gears, I’d also like to draw attention to the emergent artist Toro y Moi. Toro y Moi is the stage name used by electronic artist Chazwick Bundick, who at just 23 years old is one of the rising stars in experimental electronic music. A South Carolinian native, Bundick draws much of his influence from his parent’s multi-ethnic Phillipino and Black heritage, especially in the extensive vinyl and tape collections they amassed while being part of the underground NY music scene in the late 70’s . Upon listening, it is transparent that Bundick has a talented ability to fuse together a rich pallet of diverse elements, making his music a bit hard to singularly define (although it has been associated by some critics to the chillwave movement of summer 2009). For me at least, the ambient nature of his music broadly sounds like a flowing mixture of Passion Pit’s pop aesthetics (at least lyrically) with the laid-back background textures of Bonobo and some of the pulsating syncopation of Flying Lotus. If that sounds intriguing, that’s because it is. Toro y Moi’s debut 2010 album Causers of This is an excellent debut effort. From the beginning of the first track, “Blessa,” Toro y Moi’s Causers of This takes on an almost dream-like quality, perrfect for some late night listens. But enough of my attempting to abstractly describe what it sounds like, you’re just going to have to experience it for yourself!



*Note: I realize many of the links below have stopped functioning; I’ll work on updating them in the next few days

Post-Rock Glory

Do you know what happens when you get a handful of angry Irish dudes together and give them guitars? Explosions. And not just Irish Car bombs – I mean explosions in your ears. Because that’s kinda what And So I Watch You From Afar sounds like. Clumped into the oh so broad category of post-rock, these four young blokes from Belfast combine to create some furious and heavy instrumental rock. Think of the reverb-soaked, crescendo model of Explosions in the Sky but then make it twice as badass and you’ve basically arrived at the formula for ASIWYFA. Lacking any vocals except for the occasional “Hey!” and “Oi!” ASIWYFA is truly about getting carried away by the band’s instrumental qualities. Led by the impeccable drumming of Chris Wee, the group thrives on grooving riffs, utilizing each for good measure and then building them up until climaxing into yet another infectious riff.

I told you they were angry!!

Well known in Europe for their intense and dazzling live performances, And So I Watch You From Afar is just starting to make a name for themselves in the states. Fresh off of SXSW, the band is beginning to promote themselves on our side of the pond with their first full length LP. The LP is self-titled, which is surprising given the unique and ridiculous song titles, my favorites being “Set guitars to kill,” “Tip of the Hat, Punch in the Face,” and “Clench fists, grit teeth…Go!” If only they wrote lyrics…this intentionally over-the-top band is like the glam rock poster boys of the post-rock genre. And that’s what makes them so fun. Check out “A little solidarity goes a long way” and “I capture castles” both are excellent tracks.



The Antlers

Ever since I first listened to the Who’s Rock Opera,  Tommy, in 8th grade, I’ve been fascinated by concept albums. The concept album, for those of you who don’t know, is an collective work in which each of the songs contribute to a unified theme or story. There are countless examples: The Wall, Ziggy Stardust, Pet Sounds, Sgt Peppers, etc, my favorites unquestionably being the narrative concept albums. Done well, the inclusion of  an interweaving story adds so much to the communicative effectiveness of the music. It was with great satisfaction then, that I recently came upon a great example of concept album technique with the Antlers’ release Hospice.

Hospice, released last year through one of my favorite labels, French Kiss Records, is a deeply poetic work. The album details the story of man encountering a depressed and abusive bone cancer patient in the Kettering Cancer Ward where he is working. As the songs progress, he ends up falling in love, and eventually watching her die while he is beside her. Needless to say, it’s an emotionally impactful album, at times wistful and beautiful while at other times full of angst.  Shifting lyrical points of view from the male protagonist to his dying love help drive the effectiveness of the narrative. Additionally the album is notable for its stylistic variation – exhibiting a range of soft ballads of sweeping guitar, folk influenced songs, and faster-paced numbers with heavy reverb. The lyrics, too, are worth reading on their own. It is readily evident that a lot of artistry went into their writing. Check out the liner notes here.

The Antlers certainly took a chance in making themselves vulnerable by crafting a very personal debut album. And because of this I think they’re off to a fantastic start. Hospice is definitely a work to listen to (all the way through please) on your own accord. While you won’t be bumping these tracks on the way to Malibu, it’s a great solitary listen.

Bottom Line:  if taken lightly, Hospice could be seen as over the top and needlessly dramatic. But I’ve found that if you allow yourself to be absorbed by the story, it is a rewarding experience.



Dub Side of the Moon

I’m usually not that fond of covers, especially if they’re of classic rock bands like Pink Floyd. But Easy Star All Star’s reggae reworking of the Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” is on the money (pardon the pun). Appropriately titled “Dub Side of the Moon” the album actually does a great job at transitioning rock to reggae while still incorporating the vibes and intricacies of the original. It’s got that chill factor but still breaks out when it needs to, providing perfect background material (I have, in fact played the album at many a kickback). My favorite covers are “Time” and “Us and Them.” The All Stars have even ensured you can sync the album with the Wizard of Oz just like the original if you really feel like tripping out. Of course, there are a few changes…such as replacing the cash register sounds at the start of “money” with bong rips. Hah. Enjoy my friends.



Bar Kokhba Sextet

First off, I would like to apologize for my lack of posts as of late. Mea Culpa. The end of Winter quarter was a bear to be sure. But alas, Spring has sprung! And with it, I have a whole bunch more music to share with you kids. So without further adieu, I bring you one of the most unique and intriguing groups I’ve run across within the jazz genre: the Bar Kokhba Sextet. (If you weren’t previously aware, I am a huge jazz junkie).

Bar Kokhba is collective of six core members from the Masada family, an innovative and dynamic music group under the guidance of radical, Avant-Garde saxophonist and composer John Zorn. Zorn, who has been one of the leading forces of experimental jazz in the past decade, specifically assembled Bar Kokhba to explore the soundscape of his Jewish heritage. To accomplish this, Zorn brought together some of New York’s finest musicians to fuse jazz with a Middle Eastern flair. And it’s awesome to say the least, a mystic and intoxicating swirl of percussion, bass, cello, guitar, and violin. Always compelling and never coming across as forced, the jazz influence challenges a stereotyped Middle East sound to reach new depths. Zorn’s label, Tzadik, even describes it as “sephardic exotica for young moderns.” Now tell me that doesn’t intrigue you.

I first discovered Bar Kokhba while listening to Pandora, and I immediately knew I had to have the album, titled “Lucifer: Book of Angels, Vol 10.” (Yes, it’s volume 10 out of 14) The only problem was, I couldn’t find it anywhere! Finally, one time at Amoeba I glimpsed the gold album cover peeking out from one of the crates underneath the main shelves. I felt like I’d found buried treasure. Anyway, the album is fantastic and arguably Kokhba’s best work. The last song, “Abdiel” actually features one of my top 3 favorite musical moments of all time. Listen to the key change right at 1:13 and you’ll see what I mean.



The Origins of Sampling: The Light and the Dark

Today I bring you two of the earliest and most influential albums in the formation of sampled music…Except these albums come back from a time before sampled music became commercialized. Like any other genre, once sampling became popular, creativity and innovation went downhill. Now contemporary artists like Kanye drop a clip of Steely Dan into a song and people think they’re virtuosos. Instead, imagine entire albums being constructed purely of vinyl samples and you will arrive upon work of the Avalanches and DJ Shadow. These groups were the true virtuosos.

At first I did not mean to complicate the post with two artists but I simply cannot mention the Avalanches without also mentioning DJ Shadow. For me, these two are like Ying and Yang. And in a way, that metaphor perfectly distinguishes their sounds – Light and Dark. Which one should we look at first? Light it is.

2000’s Since I left You is the Avalanche’s only LP. And you’ll soon find out why – it took a paramount degree of effort to put together. The story has it that one day the band’s two main members, Robbie Chater and Darren Seltmann, were cruising around a garage sale looking for old vintage instruments. In their search they came upon a stack of hundreds of vinyl records being sold at bargain prices. After discovering some really cool riffs and beats while listening to many of these no name artists from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, Robbie and Darren started looping and sampling segments of the albums into single tracks. What began as an experiment soon became an obsession and Since I Left You slowly emerged from a pile of forgotten albums. Explains Chater, “the more rejected and unwanted the record that a sample comes from, the more appealing it is”…The band estimates that the album contains over 3,500 (!!!) different samples, ranging all over the place from drum beats and vocal cuts to recordings of horse neighing. From the opening track, the album is uplifiting in its positive, danceable vibe. Its many layers combine to create a rich pallet of buoyant optimism. I agree with the band in that the album sounds almost like a type of international love story – a lighthearted flirtation with the entire medium of music. Highlights include “Since I left You,” “Close to you,” “A Different Feeling,” and “Frontier Psychiatrist.” Check out a music video of the title track below, you cant help but smile.

If the Avalanches represent the light side of sampling, DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing is its darker, more moody cousin. Released in 1996, Endroducing is actually a couple years older, and is commonly held to be the very first album to be constructed entirely from samples. Similar to the concept behind Since I left You, DJ shadow compiles recordings from all over the place (old tv shows, jazz, hip-hop, etc) except his music has a much different story to tell. Shadow’s music takes on a much more Trip-Hop like sound, emulating and building upon earlier artists like Massive Attack. The dance-ability of the Avalanches is replaced with a brooding, contemplative outlook – the type of music you would chill to at the end of the night in a downtown loft. Even the name, DJ Shadow, induces listeners to investigate the darker aspects of life. It is a much more heavy and spiritual experience than the Avalanches offer – the type of album that has a time and a place but is always rewarding. You probably won’t be putting this on your party playlist, but it definitely should occupy a coveted spot in your music collection. Highlights include “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” “Transmission 1 (and 2)”, and my personal favorite (its sooo good) “Midnight in a perfect world.” Enjoy both these fantastic albums




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