Thursday, 15 August 2019

Anna of the North - Playing Games

ODD OKODDO - Okitwoye

Typically, I refrain from extensively reposting a band’s self-commentary. It seems lazy. Plus, I want to re-interpret the music, to elucidate, to critically examine – for my own benefit if not for anyone else’s. I have to make an exception here, because ODD OKODDO explains their unique origin better than I possibly could:'

“ODD OKODDO is a Kenyan/German duo formed by Olith Ratego and Sven Kacirek. This vinyl single marks their first outing, announcing the album "Auma" which will be ripe and ready in autumn 2019. 

Olith Ratego performs his immaculate vocals in the musical style called "dodo", which originates from the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, high in pitch and soulfully expressive. He himself refers to his music as "dodo blues". As a skilled luthier, Olith Ratego designs and builds his string instruments himself, first of all the five-stringed Okodo which lends its name to the project. 

Sven Kacirek is a multi-instrumentalist commuting between Germany and Kenya for many years now. He plays the marimba, percussions and piano, next to producing this project. He has closely collaborated with various international musicians, among them Nils Frahm, Shabaka Hutchings, F.S. Blumm and Marc Ribot.”

I am struck by the ambitious and convincing marriage of Ratego and Kacirek’s musical traditions. Ratego’s emphatic vocals take center stage from the beginning; you get the impression that the vocals came first. The electronic landscape seems to have been written expressly for and built up around Ratego’s singing, rather than superimposed on top like some McMansion roof. This sensitivity speaks to Karicek’s experience producing for and collaborating with international artists coming out of a range of traditions.

You start the track in a slow-paced, more balladic section, and you end up in a much faster, clubbier place - you also switch time signatures, moving from 3 beats to 4. You find yourself dancing at some point, and you don't know when or how it happened. That this feels perfectly natural, that it is at no point jarring, is in itself a major accomplishment. Several elements guarantee continuity in the track, including the marimba texture which is just perfect and helps gulf the divide, and (of course) the vocal part, which speeds up but which (again) seems to be in charge, guiding and leading the movement without being subsumed by it.

It’s an exciting debut from the duo; they are doing something brand-new and it really, really works.                                                                                                   

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Gabber Modus Operandi - Hey Nafsu

Several weeks back, a grainy cellphone video of a staged fight that seemed like it had come straight out of a martial arts film appeared on my Instagram timeline. After watching the exaggerated and comic stunts for a few seconds, I checked if there was any sound only to be greeted by the screams and dissonant feedback of a punk show. This was my first exposure to Gabber Modus Operandi, an Indonesian duo from Bali who, in addition to making fantastic dance music, also catalog media from various Indonesian subcultures on their Instagram. 

Their own music is unique and eclectic. It draws on each member’s roots in local punk/noise scenes, their love for Chicago footwork, and their investigations into traditional Indonesian styles of music, like dangdut. I loved their track on the SVBKVLT compilation Cache 01, and I’m very excited for their soon-to-be released album, HOXXXYA, but today I wanted to share an older piece: “Hey Nafsu” off 2018’s Puxxximaxxx. The vocal chant of children is met with thundering drums, but what really gets me is the sub-bass. It’s rhythmically offset in a way that feels like an stray shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. Take a listen.

Contributed by K. M. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Jenny Hval - High Alice

Last month I posted commentary on "Ashes to Ashes", the first single from Jenny Hval's upcoming album, The Practice of Love. In her latest single, "High Alice", Hval continues to wade into gentler pop territory, and she continues to explore 90's-nostalgia-inducing sound design. A soft synth reverberates throughout the track as Hval wispily recounts an Alice in Wonderland inspired tale. A looped Massive Attack type beat glues together the various strands.

Hval attaches special significance to this song for setting the tone of the album:

“For a while, this song felt like my entire album. I had no idea what the rest of it would be, just a feeling like this song and the title, the two words ‘High Alice,’ would get me there. My guiding stars at the time were Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star and Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide in Me.’ Maybe High Alice is the narrator of this album. I don’t know how I wrote it, it was automatic. But I found it really funny that I mentioned the sea three times. High Alice goes to all the places I have taught myself to avoid, like the four Big Themes: Love, death, life, the ocean. The ocean. The ocean.”

Audrey - Time

This track grabs you from the very first bar: with a fat ultra-funky bass line, and with punchy, even kick drum/snare jabs, as a nonchalant Audrey hums up and down the scale like she's sampling each note to see how it tastes.

And that's just the first 10 seconds. Then Audrey delivers a silky, soulful vocal performance that would make any compos mentis listener with a shred of soul close their eyes and bob their head along. 

The video, shot by Grammy-nominated Director Emma Westenberg, ushers you through an uncanny psychedelic LA, where time is malleable and the hazy horizon flits from fuchsia to orange to green. 

It is no surprise Arista Records wanted her on their roster. This is Audrey's first single under the label, and I am looking out for the next.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Antwood - Club Dread

The second track of Antwood’s fourth release on UK-based label Planet Mu begins with a vocal sample that stutters along over top of deep kicks and trappy stabs. On the higher end of the frequency spectrum, rollicking clicks and hits sprinkle themselves in among the atmosphere. Yet before long, a dark wave of noise collapses the beat in a slow and resigned exhale. When the track eventually regenerates, we move deeper into the club with harder kicks and a more driving rhythm, but as soon as we find our groove, we’re pulled back into ambient desolation as muffled booms anticipate silence. As we near the three minute mark, dread gives way once more to the clubby maximalism at the heart of the track. 

It’s this narrative movement that underlies the musical pleasure in “Club Dread.” And it’s this focus on story that sets Antwood (Tristan Douglas) apart from computer musicians who pursue sonic complexity to the point of gratuity. Quotes from Douglas that relate the conceptual underpinnings of his latest album abound online, but each track doesn’t need that foundation to stand. Give “Club Dread” a listen and be prepared to dive further into the world of Delphi.

Contributed by K. M.

Grandpa Was a Lion - L.A.

Grandpa Was a Lion is a great name for a band. It’s also the moniker of singer-songwriter Justin D’Onofrio, who lives in Connecticut and plays around Connecticut and New York.

He recently released a track called "L.A." via bandcamp and soundcloud. Unapologetically lo-fi and unpolished, this is a sweet, mournful acoustic song that will touch you - and how many songs can you truthfully say that about? This is well worth a few solitary minutes of your time.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Flèche Love - Festa Tocandira

Hands up if you missed the debut album from Flèche Love. ^^ When you first learn about Flèche Love (real name Amina Cadelli), it is impossible to be indifferent to the confounding songwriter. She is a Swiss woman of Algerian descent who sings in English and Spanish. She describes her singing as both “angry” and “crystalline”. The press release for her first album Naga Pt.1 (released in March) calls her “half witch 2.0, half Shaman woman”. Themes on said album include mathematician Gödel and an Amazonian male initiation ritual called the “Festa de Tocandira”, which entails boys proving their manhood by thrusting their hands into gloves full of biting ants.

The genre? Let's call it avant-garde R&B-tinged electro soul. Let's.

With such a distinctive and incomparable persona, I don’t expect this will be our last exposure to Flèche Love. More commentary from me is unlikely to help matters, so I recommend you watch this bewitching video.

Catching Flies - She Goes Out Of Focus

Catching Flies first came on the radar in 2012, the year his first two EPs were released. Since then he has received a steady stream of positive press for a steady stream of impressive singles. It’s only last month that he released his debut album Silver Lining. His reasoning behind the long wait is wholesome:

“It's taken me a while because I didn't want to speak until I had something to say. I wanted to make something positive, hopeful and colourful...The world isn't in the best place at the moment, and the last thing it needs is another dark and moody electronic record. I wanted ‘Silver Linings’ to be a scrapbook of the last three years. It’s definitely eclectic, and it’s supposed to be.”

Silver Linings is certainly a positive and optimistic contribution to this year’s electronic releases. Full of light, airy synths, hip-hop and house-inspired beats, enticing soul samples, this is an album that obviously took time. Perhaps because of that, it is an album that is unified in purpose but that puts together songs you may not expect to see on the same release – "Yû", "New Gods", and "She Goes Out Of Focus", are three very different tracks. The album is probably best conceptualized in the way Catching Flies describes it: as a series of diary entries.

This album will appeal to fans of artists like Bibio and Jon Hopkins and Bonobo (whom Catching Flies has toured with extensively). My favorite among the tracks is “She Goes Out Of Focus”; it ebbs and flows, rises and falls, at just the right moments; it is expertly paced; it has an  idyllic, atmospheric energy that calls to mind the best of chillwave and will appeal to fans of Teen Daze and Brothertiger.

Manu Delago - Zeitgeber

 Manu Delago is a seasoned percussionist and composer, probably best known as the pioneering master of the hang (a tuned, hand-played percussive instrument that looks like two cymbals squashed together - if you haven’t heard the instrument, it’s quite beautiful). You may have seen him featured on Bjork and Aoushka Shankar albums. In the meantime, he has produced a steady output of work under his own name. Delago has a penchant for prominently featuring underutilized instruments, and he is not afraid to compose for non-traditional ensembles, as a glance at the ensemble for his upcoming album Circadian reveals:

Manu Delago – handpan, drums & percussion
Christoph Pepe Auer – clarinets & baritone sax
Alois Eberl – trombone & accordion
Georg Gratzer – flute
Bernie Mallinger – violin
Clemens Sainitzer – cello
Clemens Rofner – bass

In the past - particularly on Silver Kobalt and Metromonk - he has been unafraid to build warm electronic soundscapes with layered synths. Here he flips this mindset, seeking instead "to create an electronic-inspired album in an acoustic form." He explains in the press release, “I wanted to incorporate elements of the electronic music that influences me; I use clarinets and accordion-like warm analogue synthesizers and added strings and trombone to give it an orchestral but yet very intimate character."

Circadian is an ambitious concept album, structured around our sleep rhythms. Delago seeks to emulate the structure of circadian rhythms in the compositions, leading us on a journey through the night as we progress through the album. Intentionally or not, Delago follows in the footsteps of Max Richter, whose 2015 Sleep is informed by nocturnal neuroscience. Will Delago's album match Richter's masterpiece? ... idk, but look

I’m a sucker for fast clip bass-hat-snare kit drumming with asymmetric accents. I find this hard syncopation very cool – think Deantoni Parks. Throw staccato horn blasts on top, and I'm right there with you. I’m also a fan of epic, cinematic strings. Basically, this track was made for my tastes. You wouldn't be at all surprised if this turned up during the climax scene of an episode of Sherlock. And I like Sherlock.