Watch: IAN “If You’re Cryin”

30 Mar 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

For the Boston/LA-based fuzz rock trio IAN, this past year has been nothing short of action-packed. They went on three tours, played SXSW, released a self-titled cassette on Boston’s Bufu Records, and relocated to LA. To commemorate their journey to where they are now, they released a video for “If You’re Cryin”, a mixture of intimate footage from their live shows and beguiling scenes of being goofy over the last year. The track, a heart-felt upbeat pop gem about the inevitability of taking on the pain of the person you love, is a perfect showcase of IAN’s ability to craft impassioned and sincere pop music that still maintains a certain lightness. Even though the video celebrates the full year the band has been together, IAN’s future is more promising than their past is charming: they’ll be doing a few more shows in LA before they return to Boston to record an album and tour some more. If the year ahead turns out to be anything like the last one, you’ll definitely be hearing more about them soon.

IAN’s self-titled EP is available for streaming on bandcamp.

Read more →

Interview: Hama

27 Mar 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Throughout our conversation, Hama referred to his synthesizer as a piano. This is telling. The Niamey-based musician insists that his music is, all in all, traditional Nigerien music – despite the futuristic quality that the vibrant synth tones and processed drum-kits lend to Hama’s latest album, Torodi. It’s perhaps this play on the ancient-future that has brought Hama such critical acclaim across The Republic of Niger and the countries that surround it; however, Hama’s music was virtually unheard of in the United States until Sahelsounds, a record label founded by ethnomusicologist Christopher Kirkley, which features the music of 50+ musicians whose music Kirkley came across during his travels in West Africa.

About the futurism of Hama’s Torodi, Kirley says, “I would say it's futuristic in the sense of the innovation, being the first person to do this – programming the traditional rhythms on the drum machine. I don't think he's necessarily composing with that in mind – the songs are really folk guitar songs that he has worked out versions of on the piano.” Hama’s thoughts are similar. He calls his compositions “modifications” on music he has heard and collected over the years, including traditional music, but ranging from contemporary American pop music to Detroit techno.

In many senses, my coming to hear the album at all was a matter of serendipity. “Sahelsounds became a record label by chance,” says Kirkley. “I had lived in West Africa for two years and was back home in Portland. I had a blog, but no intention to turn it into a label. I met the folks at Mississippi Records who suggested releasing a record. After time it's turned into a label, somewhat reluctantly. There's a demand for the music, people in West Africa can get exposure, get paid, and I can finance trips back to West Africa and have a part in releasing what I think is important and overlooked music.”

When I first called Hama, he expressed being quite happy that I’d taken interest in Torodi. I, on the other hand, was surprised to find that no one had yet interviewed him about it. The compositions, to my ear, are significant insofar as they provide a point-of-reference for modern American Afrofuturism. Though I may be alone in drawing such comparisons, when I tune into Hama, I can’t help but hear the synth drums in the intro to Kelela’s track “Cut 4 Me” or certain elements of FlyLo’s “Turkey Dog Coma.” Or even, reaching in a slightly different direction, Phil Cohran’s “The Dogon” from the 2010 album, African Skies.

Hama and I spoke in a mix of French and English, each of us struggling to overcome the language barrier. (As a result, I’ve translated the parts of our conversation that occurred in French into English.) In many ways, it is a conversation I am still processing. I wonder, in particular, whether music can do the work of Afrofuturism without doing so deliberately. I wonder whether it is misguided to hear the future in something that insists that it is, in fact, traditional. Nonetheless, Torodi is an important release for its innovation, regardless of whether that innovation seats itself in the past or in the future.

Read the interview after the break. 

Read more →

When did you meet Christopher Kirkley?

It was around the month of November in 2014. Christopher asked me if I wanted to go on tour and I said no problem, because I’ve been playing music for a long time, since 1986. I was very young when I started composing. I’ve used mostly the piano, the synthesizer. I play the guitar a little, but I play the piano much more. I program everything on it. After creating the beat, I add the melody. But I don’t compose on paper because when I started playing music, it was just in my house. I didn’t have a teacher. So the music is very traditional; it’s not modern.

That’s interesting. It has a futurist quality –

Futurist? No. My music is 100% traditional.

And has it changed over time?

Yes, very much. When I first started playing music, I never thought it would reach the United States. And I have a lot more albums than Torodi, which are much better.

More albums?

I made Torodi a long time ago, around 2002. Since then, I’ve produced ten more albums. But Torodi is the album that everyone likes the most.

Why do you think that is?

Well, my music is for everyone. It’s reached Algeria, Libya, Mali – everywhere. In a sense, everyone hears the music but they don’t see me. They don’t know me as a person. They don’t know who Hama is.

Who is Hama?

I am Hama. I mean, for example, I have a friend in the States, who lives in Iowa. In 1992, he was here in Niamey. I learned a bit of English while he was here and I spent a lot of time with him. After six months, once he finished his work here, he went back to the United States. One day, I called him and asked him if he knew that I play the piano. He didn’t believe it. So I sent him my music and he said, “Wow, why didn’t you tell me this before?” So we’ll see what happens in the future. I hope my music goes far. I know how to compose all kinds of things – techno, rap, zouk, traditional. I have it all in my head.

Zouk? Do you have zouk in Niger?

You know about zouk?

Yes, I’m Haitian, so I’m familiar with Haitian zouk, but I don’t know anything about Nigerien zouk.

Oh, no. I use Haitian zouk. I make selections. Modifications.

So when you compose, you’re combining various genres –

No, not at all. I’m not combining; I’m modifying. For example, I might take a melody from Haitian zouk and then turn that into a completely traditional Nigerien song. I can do the same with techno and hip-hop, by changing the speeds of things.

All that on the piano?

There’s the piano, but also the computer. I make the melodies on the piano, but I use the computer to build the beats. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved European and American music. That’s where I pick up my melodies.

Did you come from a musical family?

No, I’m the only musician in my family. My little brother started making music when I did. He’s since stopped, but I continued.

Why did he stop?

He died.

Oh wow, I’m sorry.

It’s okay. It happens. One day, you might call asking for Hama and someone will say, “Hama’s dead.” It’s just like that. That’s life. My mother has died, my little brother died, my father has died. So now it’s just me and my two little sisters, who I live with here in Niamey.

Have you found a lot of support in Niamey?

My music is popular here, yes.

You said before that the music has changed over time –

Yes, the music is different, very different from Torodi, but I’m still using the same piano. Since I don’t have the piano in front of me, I can’t really show you the difference. I can’t play the piano with my mouth. I’m actually working on an album right now, but people have been making good music for a long time, for years, and hoping that it will change something. But we don’t know what will happen in life, what fate is reserved for each person.

 

The Next Peak Series (Twin Peaks Tribute Compilation)

26 Mar 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Retro Promenade has really carved out a special name for itself. As a compilation label fixated on late 80s pop archetypes and the synthiest of synths, it does indeed seem promenade and parade around unabashedly, trumpeting this love.

We've covered them here before because of their affiliation with The Boy & Sister Alma; this series, however, is very special for probably all of us. Introducing the Next Peak series, a multivolume compilation of retro pop bands both covering and reinventing Badalamenti's original and captivating score for Twin Peaks – and it's just in time for the 25th anniversary! I remember several years ago when I listened to the soundtrack over and over: I was in love or something spooky like that, where it felt really good to soak in a foggy bath of evocative tunes like that. Take a listen to volume three below, and be sure to especially enjoy The Boy & Sister Alma's slightly comical "One Eye, One Arm, One Man." Also check out the totally awesome posters and t-shirts for purchase.

Read more →

Ela Orleans “The Sky and the Ghost”

26 Mar 2015 — Richard Greenan

Our favourite alt-pop lady returns, with the first glimpse of her very exciting new record. Ela Orleans doesn't seem to be constrained by the same ideas of pop music or what's 'cool' that most of us labour under. Her vision is widescreen, and style elastic, encapsulating noirish piano solos, lo-fi keyboard malfunctions and opera. But "The Sky and the Ghost" is perhaps her best produced, most positive music so far. Like all her output, there is a bewitching torsion here: a ghostly choir pepped up by rambunctious breaks, maudlin lyrics skewered by spritely synths. All underpinned by deceptively expert songwriting and that captivating, unplaceable voice, of course. It is, in her own words, a movie for the ears.

Ela's Upper Hell LP is out soon on Howie B Recordings.

Read more →

Interview: Nuearth Kitchen

24 Mar 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Split between Seattle and Los Angeles, Nuearth Kitchen appeals to a special type of joviality. Jeremy Grant and Cody Morrison combine their acutely complementary tastes to inform a discography that inspires harmless wildness, urban flare, and a well-rounded thirst for rhythm. As their seedling label Nuearth Conservatory prepares for blossoming, NEK is likewise gearing up for further ripening with the third solo release from Jon McMillion, polished off with remixes from Orson Wells and Fred P.

Submitting to the housey yet devoutly underground charms of NEK, I got in touch with Cody and Jeremy to try and understand where they are coming from a little better. Here's how it went.

Read more →

You are forthright about being split between Seattle and Los Angeles. Were you guys ever in the same place?

Cody: Yes, when the label was started we were both in Seattle. Jeremy had a job opportunity in Los Angeles a couple years ago so we've been doing the long distance thing since. We can certainly make it work while living in separate cities, but we're both looking forward to running the label while living in the same city again.

Jeremy: Yes, we've lived within only a couple of miles of each other for most of the time we've known each other. We're both originally Seattle dudes. Living in Los Angeles has only been a thing of the past couple years, and we've been able to make things work quite fluidly since.

Do your respective locations, or a combination thereof, inform the label's aesthetic at all?

Cody: Great question. Sorry for being too broad or vague, but I feel like our aesthetic is informed by everything around us. So yes, I would say our locations do inform our aesthetic. We travel quite a bit as well, so our travels, and most importantly the experiences of the artists we feature, factor most prominently into our aesthetic.

Jeremy: There's a good amount of that to a certain extent, but both of us get exposed to a lot beyond the cities we live in, so most of the decisions we get to make are a culmination of more than that.

What more can you expose about the NEK style?

Cody: We're intrigued by interesting music and sound and the way that those can open themselves up to you differently depending on the environment where you're listening.

Jeremy: The whole gist is just to provide a versatile selection of upbeat and left-field dance music.

Funk and world music can be sensed in some of these releases. What are your earliest influences, and do they include George Clinton at all?

Cody: I was a product of the '70s, so my folks were really into groups like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steely Dan, Santana, Black Sabbath, Traffic, JJ Cale, The Cars, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, etc...When I was old enough to start buying music on my own I got infatuated with what I was seeing on shows like Yo! MTV Raps, Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes on MTV. I was raised in a very rural part of Washington State, so most of those sounds and that culture was brand new to me. I was hooked instantly. Buying Straight Out of Compton without a parental guardian at the local record store was a crowning achievement in my middle school years. Once I got deeper into hip hop, it was natural for me to explore where all the samples came from...and that's certainly where George Clinton, P-Funk, James Brown, and many other funky artists come in.

Jeremy: Not George Clinton specifically. There's no aim to go after a particular sound. It's more what cool sounds are being made by artists we respect and like working with end up being the foundation of the label catalog.

What contemporary labels and artists excite you?

Cody: There are so many labels and artists that excite me right now it's hard to answer that. I go through phases where I'll be infatuated with certain genres and listen to nothing but that. For dance music, I recently went through a big NYC house and techno kick and I've been really loving what Joey Anderson, Levon Vincent, DJ Qu, Jus-Ed, and Anthony Parasole continue to put out. Those cats are so consistent and they're great in the studio as producers or DJ'ing at the club, which isn't easy. This isn't a recent development but I really dig the stuff coming out of the Comeme label, especially people like Christian S, DJs Pareja, and Lena Williikens. Also really feeling the Mood Hut crew up in Vancouver lately as well. We also have a sister label to Nuearth Kitchen called Nuearth Conservatory that focuses on Balearic and New Age-ish type stuff. We've gotten some material from Tommy Awards that we're going to be putting out later this year that is stellar. Really excited about that one.

Jeremy: Aficionado, Honest Jons, Into the Light, Emotional Response/Rescue, Deek, the Test Pressing podcasts, Music From Memory, Anthony Naples, Migos, Rae Sremmurd, Ruffmercy, and Trilogy Tapes for the art direction, et al.

Glad you brought up Nuearth Conservatory. Can you tell me more about the imprint? Why do you guys feel that Balearic and ambient material needs to be released on a sibling label, in other words categorized differently?

Cody: We wanted both of the entities to be unique to each other and the type of music represented on each label. Even though there are certainly songs on Nuearth Kitchen that contain some ambient or at least non-dance music, I think it's nice for each label to have its own focus.

Jeremy: Nuearth Conservatory is simply another vehicle, one where the music vibrates at a different frequency. NEK has one message, and NEC, the other. They're both planets in the same universe, but I think it's much more effective to allow people to experience the differing music on different platforms, rather than putting it all in the same place.

Do you ever host NEK showcases?

Cody: We hosted a NEK showcase a few years ago, and I'm open to doing it again if the stars align. I am very active as a promoter here in Seattle and we've hosted many artists that have contributed to NEK over the years (DJ Sprinkles, Fred-P, Juju & Jordash, Jon McMillion) and we'll continue to do so, but we're long overdue for another proper label night.

Jeremy: We used to do things like this, but it's a lot more fun and interesting to be able to throw shows that aren't tied to any specific theme or musical end.

What do your own personal artistries look like?

Cody: I haven't gone down the production rabbit hole yet, so I'm just continuing to play records with my friends. I'm opening for Joey Anderson and Oliver Hafenbauer while they're here in Seattle in April, so I'm excited about that.

Jeremy: I'm a graphic designer (I wouldn't say an artist), and with that world comes an immense amount of exploration and experimentation. I'm ingesting and creating stuff all the time. I collect music and DJ quite a bit, but not out in public anymore. I make a lot of mixtapes for all sorts of projects that end up being housed online, like the Origin Peoples project I do with my friend Shawn.

What's the future of NEK looking like?

Cody: It's hard for me to say what the future looks like for us. We've never really discussed goals or big picture plans. As long as the releases are sustainable while still being interesting, I'm content. We both have day jobs, so the label is nice creative escape for us that we'd like to keep rolling for a while.

Jeremy: No particular agenda. A few more releases are coming out this summer on NEK's sister label Nuearth Conservatory, but after that we're just taking things as they come.

 

Watch: To You Mom “Charming Karma” (exclusive)

23 Mar 2015 — Andrew Darley

It may seem somewhat bizarre that the academic International Conference on Cartography and GIS Mapping resulted in the formation of musical act. Luca Lorenzi and Massimiano Santoni met at the academic conference in Italy and found themselves bonding over their love of electronic music. Under the name To You Mom, the pair create a brand of pop built on digital productions, propulsive percussion and Lorenzi’s gentle vocals. We Are Lions, as the title suggests, is a proud declaration of their arrival and sound. To accompany their new single, "Charming Karma", the duo have made a visual focusing on a couple’s communication through sign language, as they try to solve their differences. The dramatic chorus of the song and the monochrome palette are absorbing and draws the viewer into its interpretation.

We Are Lions is out now on Italy's Ghost Records.

Read more →

Yowler “The Offer”

17 Mar 2015 — Johanne Swanson

Writing a song is making a pattern and fitting it together in a greater pattern. Making an album is piecing those songs together, pattern by pattern, until circular consonance. The releases that resonate with us the greatest are those that skillfully echo this human experience of pattern-making: revisiting trauma and creating symbols that return to reveal some sort of hope or despair. The Offer by Yowler, the solo project of All Dogs frontwoman and Saintseneca member Maryn Jones, is one of these records. It is dizzying misery with ‘water’, a motif echoed in each track, overflowing. How is it still that we aim for linear growth when it’s so obviously circular? Put this on repeat.

The Offer by Yowler is out now. Order it here from Double Double Whammy.

Read more →

NFOP Presents: You Dont Really Know Me with Phoebe Kiddo

16 Mar 2015 — Henning Lahmann

NFOP is happy to present a new music event series at Kreuzberg's Monarch, YOU DONT REALLY KNOW ME, which will kick off on Wednesday with a DJ set by our favourite Phoebe Kiddo. Read more about the night's concept below:

Berlin is rich with local electronic music producers and DJs. Privately though not all of them are exclusively listening to electronic music or the kind of music they make themselves. So what else is inspiring them?

Once a month Monarch Berlin invites a producer, artist or DJ to play music he/she would usually not play in a club: music that informs the roots of their styles, obscure songs they love, guilty pleasures, analogue or digital, danceable or not.

Phoebe Kiddo, RBMA alumn and sound art graduate with a penchant for odd rhythmic intentions, will inaugurate YOU DON'T REALLY KNOW ME this week. Positioned somewhere between her rave and club heritage, eerie atmospherics and rhythmic anomalies, Kiddo's MBF project maintains a uniquely delicate perspective on modern club music.

Things start at 9pm. Get more infos on the event's Facebook page.

Read more →