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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Interview: Jlin

16 Mar 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Dark Energy is not for the faint of heart. While it would be possible to place the album in the context of legendary footwork producers such as RP Boo and the late DJ Rashad, it would be more accurate to say that Jlin, an up-and-coming producer from Gary, Indiana, has blown apart the foundations of footwork in order to make space for her own uniquely relentless sound. Each of the eleven tracks on Dark Energy subverts expectation at every turn, toggling back and forth between percussion-heavy urgency and equally urgent periods of spacious subtlety. Jlin’s quick transitions are both inescapable and unpredictable, making Dark Energy exemplary of the most controlled and skillful form of pure pandemonium.

Jlin’s debut album will be released on 23 March by Planet Mu. In the meantime, I sat down with the producer and together, we delved into Dark Energy.

Read the interview after the break. 

(Photo by Matthew Avignone)

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Let's start from the beginning of the album, with "Black Ballet."

That was actually the very last song that I finished. I knew that I wanted one of the songs to be ballet-related. So for two or three weeks, I was watching Black Swan, which is one of my favorite movies, but I was drawing absolutely nothing. It was actually making it worse because I wasn't getting anything. And then something told me: Alvin Ailey. Immediately I started watching a lot of Alvin Ailey Youtube videos and it was like this spark came over me.

What made you feel that spark?

There was a connection. I totally understood the movement of their bodies, rhythm-wise. It was like a conversation almost. A silent conversation. That's how "Black Ballet" came into play. At first I was nervous because I was like, "This is far out." But I was really pleased with it.

The track itself felt far out?

It felt far out to me because I had never done something like that before. It was unfamiliar to me, and so was "Erotic Heat." But "Black Ballet" was uncharted territory. You're in there but you don't know what to expect. But I didn't shy away from it and go, "Oh no, I'm not gonna put that out because that's not what people expect of me." Usually what is far out or crazy is what I'll throw out there. I'll see how far it can go.

What other tracks felt far out or uncomfortable? You mentioned "Erotic Heat."

"Infrared," for sure.

Why's that?

I had to go back and play that over and over just to make sure I was hearing it. The sounds. It was just heavy all the way around. The percussion, the synths.

I think you’re quite skillful in controlling the momentum. The whole album is high-energy but there are certain moments when you manage to create space. It gets drawn out.

Right, exactly. Impact is a tool for me. For me, impact is more important than the sound itself. I'm trying to channel the momentum and to be able to be in control of it. Sometimes there are highs, very intense, and there are lows. I wanted it to be an adrenaline rush all the way through, so that you had to go back and listen to it two or three times because it was just so much to take in at once. Sometimes I'll listen to a track of mine before I go to sleep and then I have to go and listen to another track and another – and the next I thing I know, here I am, up for two hours. Then I'll go from my stuff to Sade's to Rachelle Ferrell's. I listen to so many different genres, but there are specific people that I really take note of – not to mimic but just to respect.

Who are those people for you?

I listen to Rachelle Ferrell a lot. My mom put me on to her at a very young age. Sade too. We used to listen to all kinds of artists when I was younger because everybody liked different things in the house.

It sounds like you grew up around a lot of music.

I did, but it was all older music. It wasn't my generation, at all. I had to come into my generation on my own and through my friends. But yeah, I know a lot of jazz. Different things too. The Art of Noise, Elton John. I become like a sponge, not just for music, but for the things that I see and feel – that's where the impact is. Now it's just a matter of channeling that impact into a frequency and a vibration and a sound. Putting it into the atmosphere. I'll never grow tired of that.

What is the process, for you, of translating something you've seen into a sound?

I have to become the thing that I saw. I got that concept from a Bruce Lee saying, "Be water, my friend." When you pour water into the cup, you take the shape of the cup. It's the same process. Sometimes it can be very uncomfortable. A lot of times I have to go places in my mind that I really don't want to, but that, to me, is the realest sound. That's why a lot of times I find myself running from myself. I'm sure you've read that I create from an unhappy place. To create from a happy place just doesn't do it for me. If you create from trauma, there are so many things that can come out. Darkness and blackness – they're not bad things at all. The word 'black' has such a negative connotation and it's so not true. If that were the case, I don't believe the stars would come from darkness. People have gained most of their momentum from low spots. Blackness and darkness produce beautiful things. Like a diamond. It's a piece of coal but when you put pressure on it, what happens? 

There's something about Sun Ra that comes up for me in that reference to stars coming from darkness.

Right, exactly. It's poetic. The process itself is beautiful even though it may be hard. It's beautiful. If you've ever looked at a puddle of oil on the ground, look at all the colors inside it. What I put out splashes so many colors because every color originates from black.

There is blackness in the context of the color spectrum, but then there's also the experience of blackness, of being a person of color. Does that come into play in the album for you?

Of course. It amazes me, the negative connotation that black has. Black is the original color of original colors. And as far as being a person of color goes, I'm just one of those people who doesn't accept everything that's out in the atmosphere. I just don't. The atmosphere that we're in now – we're in trouble.

Say more about that.

Look at the state of world. We're in trouble. Look around you. I feel like I have to put it out there that it's my responsibility to put a certain vibration and frequency back into the atmosphere. There's so much love lacking. People are so accustomed to whatever being thrown into the atmosphere and they just adapt. But it shouldn't be like that all the time, because not everything you put out is a good thing.

In some ways, this is the perfect time for this album to come out.

Exactly. A lot of people are afraid. They're afraid to talk about certain things. The media can immediately shift what you've said and turn it into something else. One day you were being praised and the next day you're being hated. That's how powerful the media is. Because you may have been addressing something that's real, but if you violate a certain terrain, it's like you blackball yourself. In a way, with this album, I probably touch on a lot of subjects silently. I say it without saying it.

In my experience of the album, there's so much of black history there. Like the track, "Mansa Musa."

Absolutely. If you think this one is something, wait 'til the next one.

Oh yeah? Is there a next one?

Hah, you're the first person I've said that to. But yeah, I think it's my responsibility. That's why it's taken my whole life to get through this album. I had to go through so much. It was less about the music and more about my experiences. What I had to go through and what I had to learn, first about me as a person and then about what came before me as a person. I'm still learning.

What were some of the things you felt like you needed to learn before you were ready to produce Dark Energy?

I needed to be honest with myself. That's a hard thing to do. I'm still grasping that. A friend told me, "The truth doesn't hurt. It only hurts when you try to fight it." That's probably one of the realest statements I've heard in my life. Failing is very important. Failing is more important than your success, and I still fail. I'm in a wreck right now musically, but that's another story for another day. And being transparent publicly is hard. It takes a lot of energy because you're vulnerable and you have people who are waiting to eat you alive as soon as you step out. I went in telling myself, "Not everyone is gonna like your music." And you know what? I would be pissed if everybody did like my music. I would feel so unaccomplished.

You want that agitation.

Yeah, exactly. It would be like being in a happy state all the time. No trauma, no drama. What is that?

You spoke about how hard it is to be publicly transparent –

It is. That's the hardest part. The fun part is the creating and the producing, because you can just put your message in a bottle and send it out. But then you remember that once you send it out, it's gonna find people. Interviews are fine, but then you have to remember this interview is not just between you and the person you’re interviewing. It's about to go out into the world. It's like, "Oh, do I sound silly? I wonder if I sound stupid there." There are people just waiting for you to fail and to devour you. To say, "I don't like this. This is whack. She's not going anywhere." You have to be ready to face that. It's kind of like being thrown into the middle of a jungle full of vultures who haven't eaten in months, and here are you, fresh meat. But that kind of thing also gives me an adrenaline rush. You have to know how to use that force against itself.

You've really mastered how to channel difficult emotions –

There are those moments when it is so intense that I can't hear anything. But once I get my hearing back, that's when I create. But when I can't hear anything and I can't rationalize the sound, I don't create.

So there's this element of constructing the tracks that is very emotionally internal for you, and then there’s the fact that you don’t use samples, which means that every sound has to come from you.

Right. That goes back to sometimes having to go places you don't want to go mentally. And as far as sampling goes, I used to sample and I still know how to – I just chose to get away from it. Sampling is such a heavy thing in Chicago footwork. All the stuff on Dark Energy took time and it wasn't so much the music as having to learn myself, having to trust myself, having to forgive myself. It's more personal than it is musical.

I want to backtrack to something you said about footwork. Have you felt constrained at all by that label? You’ve mentioned that you don't like to name genres.

Yes. If I feel boxed-in or restrained, I have a tendency to react a certain way musically. Did you notice the name of one of those songs is "Abnormal Restriction"?

I was thinking of that track exactly.

That's where that feeling comes from. When I feel restrained, I lash out. I lash out in a way that you can hear in my music.

I don't know if this is appropriate to say, but I worry that people will react to Dark Energy by saying, "Look at this great new black female footwork producer" and take only that away from it.

You brought up something that I was worried about. This is predominantly male field – before we even touch the black aspect. I don't want to be known because I'm a female producer. My gender and my race have nothing to do with what I can do as a person, though melanin is very important to me. But I don't want to become a stereotype. You get seen for being the first of this or the first of that but not for your work or your craft. I should be able to stand toe-to-toe with anybody who comes before me or after me. It shouldn't matter that I'm a black woman who produces. Though, again, melanin is very important.

Have you had a lot of people talk to you about what they take away from the music?

Not a lot. Most people just give you their reactions to it. They don't go into detail about it. Certain people do. A lot of people just really like the way it comes across, the way it's presented. I’ve heard people say, “Man, I listened to this one track like six times in a row!” That makes me happy, though I'm never satisfied.

No?

I have happy moments but then those moments die very quickly. I'll make a track and be satisfied with it for one to two days max, and then I'm like, "What's after that?" I'm never satisfied. I have to keep creating. That's my heartbeat, my constant heartbeat.

Is there something you think it's important for people to know before listening to Dark Energy?

No. I never want to dictate to a person what they should feel. It's just a message in a bottle. However you take it is however you take it, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent. Who am I to tell you what you should get from the album? I feel differently about it every other day. So if I feel like that, who I am to tell you what you should feel?

Watch: Sally Dige “Hard to Please” (exclusive)

12 Mar 2015 — Henry Schiller

Danish-Canadian polymath Sally Dige makes dark, minimal synthpop that might draw comparison to the likes of Depeche Mode - Dige's vocal affect is remarkably similar to thant of Dave Gahan - if she didn't already seem to be ushering in an italo-disco revival. "Hard to Please", the title track from Dige's debut album, fuses the ghostly humanism of Dige's new wave forebears with the pointed, synthetic narrative of contemporary electronica.

Ditching the glam and gloss typically associated with synthpop, the choppy black & white video for "Hard to Please", which was directed by Laslo Antal, has the almost vandalized, hyper-candid feel of something that might appear in the corner of an art gallery. The video then cuts between shots of an outdoor birth and ambiguously gruesome scenes of Dige mauling (what looks like) hamburger meat with fork and spatula until it bleeds. The video bears some aesthetic semblance to Eraserhead (which also has bleeding food) but has the loose, zoom-crazed cinematography of later lo-fi masterpieces like Slacker.

The slightly NSFW video (mostly for blood) is worth repeated viewings (is Dige giving birth to prepackaged hamburger? is that a slice of watermelon?), which is just as well: the song will be more or less inextractable from your head once you hear it.

Hard To Please is out May 11 on Night School Records.

 

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