Graham Dunning “Retort”

31 Jul 2015 — Richard Greenan

Some time back Henning mused on the death of the music blog, and the rise of the micro label in its place. I'd say this is a fair assumption. A good case in point would be London's Seagrave – a steady stream of neon-tinged cassettes and the occasional 12", etched with everything from harsh noise (Cementimental) to rough-around-the-edges hip-hop instrumentals (Mute-Tiny). Cycling through these releases is a bit like tapping into a stranger's iTunes playlists, or indeed blog – except you now make a small donation, and are sent a colourful artifact in return. It's this inclusiveness and affordability that marks the transfer from 'blogosphere' to a DIY democracy of small imprints.

Seagrave's recent digital comp is a good example of this shift. An extensive collection of lolloping, transgressive electronics, hand-picked by label founder Tim Matts, Agave Res can be yours for three quid. These tunes fizz with the awkward menace of a pirate radio rip, or some discarded demo that came too hot through the mixer. Perhaps the centrepiece is Graham Dunning's "Retort" – a cut from his mad mechanical techno project. That's right, Dunning stacks records like pancakes, adorning the tower with contact mics and other gizmos – swinging like the arms of some deranged Rube Goldberg machine – to create woozy, aleatoric techno. Long live little labels.

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Cherushii “Memory of Water” (exclusive)

30 Jul 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Between her freshman release and upcoming tape, San Francisco's Chelsea Faith aka Cherushii has been busy applying her distinctive style to a variety of areas. Given that she is an active DJ and music maker, we can find plenty of self-released material on her Bandcamp, such as delightful Nobody's Fool EP and Starlight Express EP, whose feelgood watercolor artwork is provided by Faith's sister. Her one-year old remix of Fina Fisken's "Save The Day" is a strongwilled, trancey must-have, even if "trancey" steers you clear.

While it's laughably typical to describe the world of Cherushii as glitter-filled, SF to a T, rave pop, or techno textbook, these catchphrases nonetheless fit the bill, although Faith has an easy time excercizing her broader musicality. Memory of Water, for example, is a melodic journey within pop framework and solacing ambient overtones. It departs from 4-to the floor confetti and eases the listener into a sweet, warm storyline. Starting off with "I Dreamed I Saw You By The Lake," an absorbent, beatless anthem, our ears are effortlessly nestled into this album's particular mood and tuning. By the time "Pillow Palace" begins, sentiments like smiling and intrigue are submitted to. "Thin Line" features Not Not Fun all-star Maria Minerva, a real life homegirl and tour companion of Faith. It's really nice to hear Minerva within this context, and I would love to see a music video for this piece which feels like a long-lost Petshop Boys hit. Other tracks like "Ultraviolet Nights" and "Moonflower Galaxy" have their appositeness to the dancefloor, but, supplant tracks always take us back to a spacious, at-ease destination. "Everything Is In Color" is a Neverending Story, Moroder-esque statement of vibrant severity, a testament of how intensely enrapturous - and fun - space and time can be (if you think about it). That's an utterly Sagittarian quality.

Memory Of Water is highly recommended and out as soon as August 14th on 100% Silk.

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Stream: Hua Li 化力 “Za Zhong”

27 Jul 2015 — Parker Bruce

Montreal's Hua Li, who've we posted about on this site before, released a new EP, called Za Zhong, at the end of June on fellow Montrealer's Charlie Twitch's (also known as ¡FLIST!) label, Art Not Love. Za Zhong, all with production by Gloze, abounds with charisma with "Double Trouble" starting things off in a chiming, rippling, swarming, and swarthy manner that flows into "Luxury"'s dithering and teasing nature and grind. Hua Li goes from singing to rapping with palpable panache. Singer Zyhkeira makes a very impressive appearance on "How Bad" with a quick, darting vocal turn amidst the song's wafting backdrop and "Faded in the Night" is snappy and jumpy. Four wonderfully lackadaisical tracks here, all with potent grooves.

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Doug Bleek “Inner Demon”

24 Jul 2015 — Henry Schiller

The bass groove on "Inner Demon" might be the first 4-second loop of music to ever psychologically dominate my entire summer, so ceaseless is its almost perfect infectuousness. This sly dance track from New York multi-instrumentalist Doug Bleek is not without its NFOP-worthy weirdness, either: the lyrics seem to be premised around literally becoming someone's inner demon, an escalation of the forthright sexuality of Miguel that I wish we were getting more of. Bleek's knifepoint vocals hang taught against guitars that whip through the track with a glee that could only be chalked up to a degree of insanity. At 2:04 is a melody for which this track deserves to be pinned to the frontpage of the blog for the rest of the summer. At the center of "Inner Demon" is a guitar solo that channels Prince's ability to grandstand without ever feeling didactic: it's not teaching you a lesson about fun, it's just joining in. 

"Inner Demon" is an absolute blast. Smart without being too heady, and a nice (and rare) reminder that yes, you can make fun, danceable pop songs with "rock band" instruments. This, dear readers, is how you write a pop song on a guitar.


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Zeitgeber “Monad XX”

23 Jul 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Stroboscopic Artefacts' Monad series continues to hone in on itself as well as the label's specificity, its taut black and white techno aesthetic. The Monad series is adorned with sketches of geometrically interesting surrealistic desert fruits and/or oceanic creatures. They are somewhat cute though prickly and pokey, an observation which serves as insight into the style of the series. Having featured releases from Kangding Ray, Perc, Rrose, AOKI Takamasa, and label runner Lucy, the next deposition features Zeitgeber, an act comprised of the legendary Speedy J and Lucy. "Monad XX" is abstract, muddy, and replete with eccentric design. It is both crude and cartoonish. I'm not sure I hear anything in the release that gives either of the producers away, apart from Lucy's military-marching, repetitious percussive work. The first time I heard Zeitgeber, I imagined that it was a mask-on-only solo artist who keeps his real identity concealed; alas, the producers behind the project are extremely recognizable. Pity they didn't take this as an opportunity to go incognito. The music, I think, wants disguise from distinction. 

The final track on the EP, "Quantum Verse," wonders happily into a curious and echoey melodic zone. It occassionally trips over itself and stammers while we move through cool, damp air, further into even more shimmering ambience, such that is similar to a seaside sunset. It is a sensitive and brief track, one that reminds me of Lucy's "Falling," a dreamy track that wraps up the persistent Churches Schools and Guns. Lucy has a side to his music-creating self that is housey, hopeful, haunted by moments of innocence, for, why otherwsie would this sound sneak its way in as closing tracks on several of his recent releases?

Reviewing the labels' careful roster, I wonder if a female producer will land an EP on either Stroboscopic or the Monad series. Maybe none have submitted works to the label? At least it's run by someone who performs under a female name, so it's slightly bent towards some costuming as well as acknowledgment that things seem a bit chauvinistic.

The twentieth Monad release is out July 26th.

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Michael Stasis “Venus Of Soap”

03 Jul 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

The normal progression goes something like this: an artist releases several albums, enjoys praise, and then eventually makes a greatest hits compilation. Michael Stasis, a singer songwriter based in Los Angeles, will effectively alter that progression with his upcoming Arbutus Records release RIP III. Stasis has recorded a prolific catalogue of songs over the past few years, none of which have been officially released. For that reason, RIP III will serve as an overview of Stasis' work to date and, more importantly, an official introduction to his music. Stasis' first official release covers an extensive period of his career in music, reflected in the varying styles of the songs on the record. Surf rock, psychedelia, ballads, and even a healthy dose of pop make important imprints on the slated release. Today we share with you "Venus of Soap", the first single from RIP III to be released alongside the album's announcement. The track is unhurried and gentle, exploring both psychedelia and surf rock without dipping too far into either genre. It culminates in an breezy chorus where Stasis breathily repeats, with tacit sarcasm in his voice, "Laugh it off". And momentarily, it really sounds like he is laughing at something – maybe at the "Venus of Soap" that keeps slipping out of his hands and into the drain. Check out the new track below.

RIP III is out on August 7th via Arbutus Records.

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Francine Thirteen “Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una”

26 Jun 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Francine Thirteen is important. An afronaut hailing from Dallas, Francine Thirteen describes her latest work as "ritual pop." This is a smart move – not only because "ritual pop" is indeed a fitting picture of the Venusian's music, but also because of the mutual power that the two words "ritual" and "pop" lend to each other. ‘Ritual’ evokes the transformation (and conglomeration) of mundane acts into efforts-toward-the-supernatural. In that way, 'pop' acts as a storehouse of possible mundane actions from which ‘ritual’ draws. Popular music, insofar as it is widely enjoyed (by the 'populace'), must be in some way mundane and repetitive. That is pop's plainspoken charm. But of course, the pop worth surrounding yourself with works so much harder than that. It's not interesting unless it does things you don't fully understand. Introduce: ritual. Introduce: the unknown, the superhuman, forces that signal either toward the greater good or the greater vice. The Venusian seems to know this dearly. She appeals to the dissonant, the odd musical variables, the imperative narrative, and to her own high and hyper-feminine voice which is, in the best way, sonically disruptive. On her new track, "Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una," she chases the divine as though it were an ever-retreating vision, never quite attaining beatification but striving all the same. Ritual pop is still, after all, pop – still essentially earthly and therefore appealing in the way that pop music must be. Francine Thirteen’s work tickles the senses with rich tones; it is almost animal-like ('universal') in its gritty rhythms and grounded beats. And in that way, the Venusian, the demi-goddess, acts as a conduit between our present reality and some other unattainable world.

“Lady Mary, The Fire/Pars Una” will be featured on Francine Thirteen’s forthcoming EP, 4 Marys and the King.

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Blondes “Persuasion + Rein”

26 Jun 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Continuing to make music over some distance has nurtured a new approach for Sam Haar and Zach Steinman, aka Blondes. In tossing digital files back forth, a seamless fifty-minute display of comprehensive, atmospheric techno was created, one where dancefloor music of the "banging" variety is gradually as well as professionally on offer. Rein bears thoughtful amounts of prog house bass and intricate beatscaping. Shrills of UFO-synth at times sit on top of earthy glitch, and eventually a harp-like, circular melody pushes through the crowd. As its sustain level varies, tail ends of gorgeous nether-layers are suddenly perceivable, dare I say comparably so to whale tails shooting up and spraying everything before sinking back into the cool, watery depths. By the middle of the ongoing jam, we can almost visualize the shimmery alphabet of this particular group's language. If you want to learn Blondes' language, Rein is the manual for you. 

Rein, in turn, inspired the three track EP Persuasion, which seems to have sifted out all the bigger, more stomping qualities from these sessions. Each track is lengthy yet succinct, beginning with title track "Persuasion," which is mostly about a conversation between some claps and low octave acid. Entering in the middle of track is what sounds nearly identical to a more notable part of Stellar OM Source's "Elite Excel," a part that Kassem Mosse capitalizes on in his remix of the song. "Son" has a certain harmless pride to it. It is a full-blown set builder or turning-point-of-the-night anthem. "Inner Motive" is spacious, demanding, and rhythm heavy, which is delicious. Every now and again, the tides are cleared, cathartically, immediately before the accumulation begins once again, just like daily thunderstorms on a desert mesa.

Rein will be appropriately released on cassette for limited purchase on June 23rd. Persusasion is available August 7th on vinyl and digital formats. These sibling releases are brought to you by RVNG Intl.

Photo by Joyce Kim.

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