Review: M. Sage “Data in the Details”

30 Sep 2014 — Dave Power

According to his Bandcamp page, Matthew Sage has only released music for the past three years and yet has amassed at least twenty releases. Most of his musical output has a similar ambient/experimental direction and it’s all breathtakingly gorgeous in different ways. Sage's music has a particularly introspective and personal feel to it, substantially consisting of found sounds, recorded violin/cello, and vocal recordings. These sounds are then heavily processed, effected and weaved in and out of each other. There are a lot of ambient and experimental noise musicians out there at the moment, and M. Sage is right there with all of them, pushing the boundaries and the buttons. He gathers the organic sounds of the world around him and molds them into something else altogether, intact, but beautifully alien in nature.

Many M. Sage releases consist of several tracks of three-to-five-minute songs, while others draw the listener further in with a couple of twenty minute tracks. The latest effort from M. Sage, Data in the Details, is the latter. The A side is the 15-minute “Heads Up Extended Edit”, while the B is his “Mover Isuzu Dub Edit”. At the opening of “Extended Edit” the static sound of something like a helicopter flown through water gives way to the sounds of drastically reverb-drenched bells, rapidly panning back and forth. The music whirs like an abandoned automobile factory with the forgotten machines left endlessly running. Underneath the heavily edited sounds, the listener can hear the clean field recordings of traffic, birds, and maybe the sound of keys jingling as a stranger walks across an empty parking garage. These sounds repeat, overlap and combine with each other until the listener can no longer remember each its origin. Data In the Details, indeed.

The B-side begins similarly to the A-side, but features a consistent rolling dub beat with the intensely warbled and processed found sounds and organic instruments echoing in the background. The same shuddering synth drones, sounds of faraway bells, birds, traffic noise and vocal samples careen back and forth into each other. The beat is interrupted a few times, allowing the background noises and wet bell tones to blend and crescendo back into the same groove throughout the track. The listener is transported to another world where the sun vibrates and the rivers rush and freeze in time all at once. Sage’s 21st release makes for quite another trip.

Data in the Details is out now on a limited run of 100 cassettes through Geographic North.

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Watch: Born In Flamez “Polymorphous” (exclusive)

30 Sep 2014 — Henning Lahmann

Despite having been recently added to Berlin Current's illustrious roster, signifying the project as pushing the boundaries of the city's current musical landscape, not too much is known about the people behind Born In Flamez. Conceptualised as 'transhuman' and making arrangements for a post-gender future, Born In Flamez' utopian vision sits comfortably among projects like The Knife, Perera Elsewhere (who is featured on the EP), or, perhaps the most striking resemblance, Planningtorock. There's tangible evidence that there is a human ultimately responsible for the sounds we hear, but the point is, of course, that it shouldn't matter: all this could have come from someone, or indeed something, else instead. It just so happens that it didn't. The current physical embodiment of Born In Flamez, that particular person hiding behind a mask, is arbitrary, so to speak. Fittingly, "Polymorphous", the title track of BIF's debut EP, was allegedly conceived in the aftermath of a DJ gig at one of the highly notorious GEGEN events at Kit Kat Club, likely the closest thing to a post-human experience Berlin has to offer. Staying pointedly coherent, the visualisation of "Polymorphous" emphatically rejects notions of determinable human nature, resorting to abstract iterations of what could have once been evocative of objects found in a human world. Something strange to come.

The Polymorphous EP is due October 13 via UnReaL Audio. Pre-order the release's physical version – a limited edition etched glass pyramid, no less – now over here. Born In Flamez will be part of Berlin Current's delegation to MUTEK.MX in Mexico City from October 23 to 25.

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FKA twigs: Against a Musical Vocabulary of Phallocentrism

29 Sep 2014 — Jennie Freeburg

As a girl, we sat along the wall under the barre and played a back scratching game in between ballet class: inscribing words, letter by letter, on a back while we simultaneously absorbed and read the letters being pressed into our own. My younger sister, grown now and still dancing, once conspiratorially confessed to me that the feeling of letters on her back and shoulders often created a line of sensation down there.

Dancers are acutely attuned to how down there is bound up with a host of sensations and processes— sinewy ligaments transmitting messages through body, mind and space. Moving is thinking is feeling is speaking.

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I dance feelings like they’re spoken

How does it feel to have me thinking about you?

The artist FKA twigs—Tahliah Barnett, her nickname bestowed by her body, “twigs” for her cracking joints—was the daughter of a dancer and grew up in Gloucestershire taking ballet and attending Catholic school. She has recently released her first full-length album to general acclaim and another few consensuses: She is mysterious. Her music is sexy. She is (alt-)R&B, whether she likes it or not.

A few matters not so agreed upon or even addressed: What does it mean for music to be about sex? To be sex as one review declared? How might that meaning be different for a woman? For a dancer?

The Internet informs us that sex is about the right rhythm. Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” And a recent study shows that music with heavy bass makes us feel powerful because we associate power with men’s deep voices. Instead of male ejaculation, twigs’ music is about sex and power in a musical and lyrical language centered on female pleasure. This vocabulary, and the very concept of female pleasure, is somewhat of a befuddlement to popular culture and its critics.

General reaction to this disorientation has been to circumscribe the music and maker within reductive genre borders and comparisons—R&B and trip-hop, Aaliyah and Björk—and when those fall short, to declare twigs herself as cultivating a sense of mystery, likely for marketing purposes. Her songs are often called contradictory and she is accused of deliberate misreadings—by those for whom trust and sex, sexual appeasement and knowing that you can count on your lover, are separate things. Conversely, female listeners likely understand those connections and cannot help but recognize in the ways that blood, ripping someone open, and sex are not contradictory or easily separated in “Two Weeks”.

Twigs (despite her mysterious ways) has spoken out on the more insidious aspects of genre labels:

When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: “I've never heard anything like this before, it's not in a genre.” And then my picture came out six months later, now she's an R&B singer.

Certainly categorization can have its utility, but genre and sub-genre designations have not only replaced substantial criticism to the detriment of general music knowledge and listening abilities, they have also been doled out and defended with a zeal that uncomfortably approaches colonial and eugenic impulses. A musician is only as good as her lineage. The talk of twigs as mysterious and sexy can sound like a thinly veiled way of calling her exotic, further reducing her to an offensive cliché instead of a distinct artist worth being judged by her art.

When twigs points out other influences that might be getting more attention if she were white and blond—church hymns, classical music and opera—and repeatedly implores us to “talk about the actual music,” The Guardian’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas describes her demeanor “as if I've asked her to take the restaurant's bins out.” Seemingly unwilling to accept that assumptions based on race are offensive and can lurk in unexpected places like convenient genre labels, he mollifies an irrational pop starlet: “In an attempt to placate her, I ask if she feels singular.” She may feel singular, but we know what sub-genre she really is.

LP1 (even the album titles—EP1, EP2, LP1—ask us to focus on the content and not the label) opens with a hymn. The melodic and harmonic intervals hark back to Gregorian chant and medieval counterpoint, but where hymns are straightforward and driving always homeward, “Preface” loops back upon itself. Choirboy vocals swirl around the cathedral dome and introduce various imposed rhythms and sounds that add to the dizziness—at times aligning with the melody, other times ever-so-slightly out of sync. The church pipe organ one would expect to accompany the hymn appears instead on the next track (and an even more traditional hymn structure and lyrics come later in the album, on the song "Closer"). It is an appropriate introduction for the sounds to follow.

“I love another, and thus I hate myself,” a line in “Preface” is from Sir Thomas Wyatt’s sonnet which describes seemingly contradictory states as not just coexisting within the poet, but also causing the other. I love another and thus I hate myself. They are not contradictory, they are inseparable.

“Preface” opens with a technique of percussive vocal staccatos that are employed elsewhere on LP1 as well as on both of the EPs. This motif technically and symbolically calls attention to the relation between rhythm and melody, between the individual notes that connect to form musical ideas. It calls to mind “Hocket” by Meredith Monk where two singers sustain the eponymous musical technique of splitting a single melody line note by note. Elsewhere, like on “Water Me” and “Weak Spot” off twigs’ first two EPs, her vocal staccatos come closer to the more computerized “ha ha ha ha” of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”. All of these works address the ways music and people come together, the connections formed, and what can come in the spaces between.

Discussion of FKA twigs’ music cannot ignore that she is writing about sex more directly, effectively and consistently than any popular music artist of the last few decades (other than Prince). Twigs would likely agree with Wilde that everything is about sex. As such, everything cannot be expressed with just words. Discussion of sexuality in her music should therefore not be reduced to only lyrical content. Rhythm, movement, melody and lyrics interact to create the overlapping arcs of desire, pain, trust, power, loss and anger that create erotic space. This is music for when the lights are out, indeed, but if we trust her, we can do it with the lights on and “it” is so much more than fucking.

Twigs brings the body into her music through rhythm, and she knows that to do so masterfully is to create much more than a beat one can dance to. Oftentimes it is the absence of such a beat that gets her message across: “Hide” is an unraveling tango of absence—of space—where the metronomic percussion becomes subsumed and slowed in the course of the song, disorienting and separating from the melodic rhythm and accompanying guitar. The beats wind down as twigs finds satisfaction elsewhere: “I found another way / To caress my day.”

The negotiation of multiple contrasting and/or ambiguous rhythms is at the heart of twigs’ work. This is the language of interplay between bodies, thoughts and one another (not just where you bump and grind it). The best composers for dance are the ones who understand this language. In a scene from the ballet Petrushka by Stravinsky the ballerina is performing a waltz; when her would-be paramour joins in, their incompatibility is apparent by his clunky insistence on dancing to a slow duple meter against her triple waltz.

Compare this to “Breathe” from EP1. The rhythms here convey not just divergence but also the struggle to regain synchronicity. Twigs protests, “All I see is the reflection of who you are not,” the melody races to try to catch the drumbeats until she comes to focus on the unconscious rhythm of breathing, “I breathe easily in your arms.” The music slows and the beat lets up for a moment as she tries to gather the rhythms together: “Just breathe / Breathe in / Just breathe / Breathe in.”

These complexities and nuances of rhythm haven’t been mined to such depths in pop music since Radiohead. Björk too uses rhythm to express emotion and states of being. Twigs’ rhythms add a distinct awareness of the body and intimate relationships that is decidedly feminine. She is knowledgeable and wary of how one’s personal rhythms can be overtaken by seemingly more powerful, deeper voices: “Your love / Made my heart go boom / So I might lose myself in you”. But she is also aware of how one can learn to incorporate those opposing forces within oneself: the expansive gesture of dance counted “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight,” and the mathematical motion of music, “one, two, three, four” (or even, “one-e-and-a-two-e-and-a…”) alongside the linguistic common meter of hymn, the iambs and anapests of speech.

One of twigs’ most powerful and stimulating (erotically, intellectually, viscerally) tracks is “Two Weeks”. The song is a major convergence of rhythmic, harmonic and emotional elements. Lyrically, twigs is at her most explicitly desirous and commanding, and yet music and lyrics together make it clear that her lover is already gone—there are no disparate rhythms to gather, the loss is clear and acute. Beyond the math and theory of rhythm and harmonies, there is something inexplicable at work. It has something to do with the particular sharp physical desire felt in times of loss and the ecstasy of a sorrow that reaches full expression.

The electronic vibrato of keyboards in “Two Weeks” gradually swell and abate (in a way that recalls the first movement of Górecki’s Symphony No. 3), but the song doesn’t wait for abatement before it ends—as twigs' songs often do—seemingly unfinished. While this has proven noteworthy in pop music, it is less remarkable in the realm of female desire.

“Kicks” directly acknowledges the inherent difference in male and female approaches to, and definitions of, pleasure. Common interpretation of the end of LP1 finds twigs alone “giving up and having a wank”. But there is so much more happening here than simply an ode to masturbation. By the close of her album, we know twigs better than to believe she needs to “take your lead” in order to learn how to get herself off. She is experimenting with more than mechanics. No longer feeling for someone else, no longer waiting, she finds her rhythm in accepting absence and asking, “What do I do when you’re not here?” Until now, sex involved another person—even just their absence. It accommodated multiple rhythms and spaces. But here, to go her “own damn way” and “get her kicks like you” is simply to touch, to define getting her kicks as just that, separate from the ambiguous unfinished stuff of life.

Twigs’ voice is often described as airy and delicate, even too pretty (apparently vocal as well as physical beauty distracts from what a woman is saying). Her range is impressive and, as is often the case with sopranos, much is lost in the compressed digital translation. To hear her live is to understand the presence and force of a controlled, impeccably pitched soprano that resonates through the concert space, down through your toes, leaving goose bumps in its wake. That’s sex. That’s power.

 

Review: Ellis Swan “I’ll Be Around”

24 Sep 2014 — Dalton Vogler

When it comes to learning more about the man behind the music, there’s not a whole lot we know regarding reclusive Chicago-based artist Ellis Swan. With the exception of a few Soundcloud plaudits and a brief feature from a local magazine, Swan has gotten pretty good at keeping his backstory from getting in the way of his music projects.

And to be fair, that’s where most of our attention should be focused. With his newest release, I’ll Be Around, Swan has constructed a beautiful, haunting album that borrows folk elements to create a uniquely “noir” sound. It’s a bedroom artist production, but only by name, as Swan’s mind-altering use of space transports you beyond an intimate setting.

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Relying primarily on a guitar and vocals, I’ll Be Around is a raw, emotional outpouring of fear and remorse, peppered with light storytelling to transition from track to track. In what could be considered the single from the album, “It Comes Tonight”, Swan’s sapped vocals and warbling delivery claw away at the listener. His fatigue becomes our fatigue, suggesting that it’s taking every ounce of strength to eke out the next verse.

On songs such as “Shooting Sparrows” or “Where the Road Ends”, his voice melds with the pervading static and gives off the impression that he’s on the verge of dissipating, as if the record will deteriorate in your ears before completion. It’s a rich, bizarrely pleasing sound that compels you to listen through, even if it aches to continue onward.

Though his self-described genre tag of “post-hillbilly” is what initially lured me into listening, the truth is that Ellis Swan’s LP is a decaying southern gothic world plucked straight from the mind of a displaced soul, a self-reflective odyssey that transports us into a long forgotten era. And it’s unlike anything else you’ll experience in music this year. 

I’ll Be Around is available for purchase here.

The Boy & Sister Alma “Lady Killer”

23 Sep 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

I introduced you guys to The Boy & Sister Alma last year. At the time, I found their EP to be hands down perfect for the atmosphere of the holiday season -- they even made a Christmas song. In hearing their new material, which bears some immaculate quality from pop heaven, I find once again that they've graciously generated sounds that speak to the season. Hailing from Helena, Montana, Lenny Eckhardt and Jennifer Murphy manage perfect pop structures and breathtaking melodies that are both cool and nostalgic, especially in the case of their new single, "Lady Killer," a part of Retro Promenade's Vox Populi 2 compilation. Adorned with lyrical cadence and some furtiveness concerning desire tucked safely away in melodic undercurrents, this track should be dealt with as if a message from the autumn that is about to hit, the falling forward, the pre-nostalgia that arrives before the actual autumn.


 

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Miracle Sweepstakes “Maker’s Script” (exclusive)

23 Sep 2014 — Henry Schiller

On “Maker’s Script”, NYC-based Miracle Sweepstakes straddle a fine line between the instrumental gobbledygook of Pere Ubu and the neurotic fortitude of a secret show in a Bushwick basement (with some of the bloodshot sci-fi of Piper at the Gates of Dawn thrown in for good measure). In spite of a heavy sonic presence, “Maker’s Script” is instrumentally austere. The weight of the track is borne mostly on one guitar part that refuses to reconcile itself to either assaultive rhythm or semi-prodigal spasms.

Around this wanders caustic drums, which reverse at one point, and bass as sharp and precise as anything on Remain in Light. There’s a palpable psych pop influence with the theremin, vibraphone, and vocals sounding like an incantation being recited in an ancient English field. A middle section of the song, where the drums go backwards, feels like a Beach Boys sample is subtly encroaching no-wave.

In the Alan Moore sense, “Maker’s Script” is a Swamp Thing of a track. Taken part by part it's easily identified by a range of psych-pop, post-punk and lo-fi influences, but taken as a whole the amalgamation is no longer recognizable as anything other than something before unheard of; so fine and delicate is this monster’s stitching. “Maker’s Script”, and it's Dr. Frankenstein, Miracle Sweepstakes, share superficial features with other well known acts (The Fall and Pere Ubu come to mind), but as a substance unto itself, it is something unique and fired with urgency.

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NFOP Recommends: Hannah Diamond at Südblock

15 Sep 2014 — Johanne Swanson

We can be thankful for our times and the categories of gender fluidizing; meaning more or meaning less, one thing is sure: those comfortable binaries of 'man' and 'woman' are being dismantled. A net label like P.C. Music in this context, with its founder and primary producer A.G. Cook and starlette Hannah Diamond proselytising all things girly, proclaiming we look good in pink and blue, isn’t just aesthetics, it’s borderline dissident. The linear range of cute to subversive is getting fucked, and we couldn’t be having a bigger party in the process. It’s so immoderate, so garish, that FACT Magazine has called them “the most divisive recent event in UK music.”

The few shows that Hannah Diamond has played have been described as “Hannah Diamond ft. The Audience, who are shouting the lyrics at her and at each other like it's the only song anyone knows.” Thanks to our friends over at Creamcake, we’ll see how our likely-more-reserved German audience responds this Saturday at Südblock as Hannah Diamond makes her Berlin debut with A.G. Cook in support. Bring your girlfriends, bring your boyfriends, and hold their hands while you yell along, oh Hannah, we’ve waited for soo-ooo-ooo long for a grrrl like you. RSVP here.

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Preview: Decibel 2014 NFOP Favorites

13 Sep 2014 — Evelyn Malinowski

Last year Kelsie and I had the pleasure of attending Seattle's beloved and rather large Decibel Festival. While the overall curation of this event was and will continue to be professionally executed, one thing that stuck out as a negative was the line-up's startling lack of female artists. This year, however, there are more than a handful female artists, as well as a wide range of acts that use electronic instruments in various ways to relay diverse messages. By presenting an expansive line-up, Decibel ends up appealling to all types of music lovers, whether techno and club music agrees with them or not, which is a deed that affectively and somewhat diplomatically assists in adjusting the North American attitude toward electronic music. Starting small and intimate, dB has turned into a crucial beacon for techno advocation and forward thinking in the States. It is put on yearly by passionate fans and strong believers in the many assets offered by this world of music and sounds.

Below is a list of NFOP-recommended artists who are playing this year. Some of them you will know, some of them might be new to you. Some we have collaborated with and reviewed, others we will be supporting, or continuing to support, in the years to come. I'll post a recap post-festival.

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Natasha Kmeto – Portland (Dropping Gems/Federal Prism)
Natasha has made several appearances on NFOP. For proudest example, she contributed a guest post last year in response to our feelings on Decibel's 2013 line-up. Apart from proving to be a reliable voice in political matters within the arts, Natasha's music is compelling, bold, successful in blurring the lines between genres, which helps blurs the lines of conventions, and, yes, it is sexy. With its hues of r-n-b, otherwise clubby grooves and understatedly fantastic beat work, there is something for everyone in her grooves. Further, her live sets are brilliant, full of energy and sweat. She works the crowd like an MC, like a DJ, like a back-up singer taking center stage for thirty minutes or more, like a professional performer. I've seen her live twice now, and I imagine the third time will be even sweatier.

Natasha's performance will be part of the commencing showcase, or Opening Gala, Sept. 24th at the EMP Sky Church. Accompanying her groove will be visual work from EFFIXX, whose aesthetic consecrates the place where all tricksters hang out, that nexus of unlikely components. In this case, its technology, mysticism and mythology.

Ana Sia – San Francisco (Frite Nite)
With Ana Sia, you can experience both some minimal techno attitude and comprehensive, animated percussion. The tracks are filtered through aberration, equipped with frequent swells and corresponding perigees, and embedded with archetypal vocal samples, Detroit style - it's nastily delicious. It's upbeat but semi-dark, breakbeat-ish, and demonstrative of Ana's playful command. Take “Imma Boss” for example, where a warehouse melody greets us with cadenced drums, which transform around more than that rave melody. Isn't it usually the opposite? Ana Sia runs appropriately with the Bay's Frite Nite crew.

Ana Sia will be playing the 24th at Neumos for the Bassdrop Presents Showcase between Seattle's WD4D and the one and only Prefuse 73.

Sassmouth - Chicago (God Particle)
Sam Kern aka Sassmouth has been behind the wheels for years upon years, actively pursuing the challenge of connecting songs as seamlessly as possible, without ever dropping the mood. Sometimes, such a task requires smaller bits and bolts, neutral ground, and suggestive, repetitive flare. As the founder of the God Particle label, which operates solely to manufacture, release, and promote simple, straightforward bits and bolts to fill and level out mixes, Kern can be considered a conduit for the house DJ continuum, a clever fan and musician who has augmented and celebrates the side of DJing that requires "filler" songs. She is also somewhat of an icon for the neverending pure, midwestern house mix, even though the mix does end. 

Sassmouth will be playing Sunday the 28th alongside Brian Lyons vs. Nordic Soul and London's T.Williams at Re-Bar.

Total Freedom – Los Angeles (Fade To Mind)
I've had two random club-drop-ins where Total Freedom was in overwhelming command of the crowd. Both times, I freaked out dancing uncontrollably, throwing away the idea that I was only going to be there for thirty minutes. Ashland Mines' authority is accomplished and maintained by frequent song-changing and a fast-but-not-too-fast tempo. Additionally, there's some kind of appetite for noise afoot in his sets as well as productions. It isn't dubstep, it isn't d-n-b throwback either: it's Total Freedom. Additionally, Mines is an active and influential collaborator, and has worked with Kelela, Gang Gang Dance, Nguzunguzu and many others.

Total Freedom will appear at the rather enthralling Optical 1: Kinesthesia Showcase on Sept. 24th at the EMP Sky Church. Basically, it's important that you make it to this session, because Arca will be performing with Live/AV from Jesse Kanda followed by more live/av from Max Cooper and The Sight Below. Optical 1 is likely to be a comprehensive experience in where noise, post-pop hip-hop, and techno mysticism all collide.

Rrose – New York (Eaux/Sandwell District)
Deliberately obfuscating and somewhat politically satirical via dark yet rich textures, Rrose is doubtlessly one of today's most innovative producers. Spiritual and avant-garde, Rrose emerges from the Sandwell District realm, a place revered for poignantly perfect techno packaged by images of skulls, dead birds, and other Halloween-all-year tokens. Despite this tone, the sounds of Rrose are extremely healing by way of their intrinsic softness, gradualism, and unapologetic repetitiousness. Parts of what is represented through this act touch on the same ethos that Nik Void of Factory Floor and Chris & Cosey evoke, however with less colors: a history of techno before techno gestated, combined with modernity's industrial weariness, all in the language of contemporary techno.

The Pitchblack Showcase at Re-Bar on the 24th will likely be one of this year's strongest events, complete with Vatican Shadow and Black Asteroid.

Cock & Swan – Seattle (Hush Hush)
Our own Kelsie Brown noted Cock & Swan's musical longevity half a year ago. Their sound can be described as indie dreamscape with soothing lyricism, as it uses just enough electronics to get to where they need to go. At times they display inclination toward old school downtempo, Lamb-like or Alpha-like structures. As part of the Hush Hush label, where Slow Year and Chants likewise reside, Cock & Swan stand out as perhaps the more organic act available on the roster; that isn't to say they don't fit harmoniously in what the overall atmosphere of Hush Hush is. I find Hush Hush a bit nostalgic for the early Leaf Label, with solemn and well-garbed artists. It's music that channels the sound of rain against the window on most days.

Cock & Swan will play the Hush Hush Showcase Friday Sept. 26th at the JBL Theater with Slow Year, Hanssen, and Kid Smpl.

Braids/Blue Hawaii – Montreal, CA (Arbutus/Full Time Hobby/Flemish Eye)
Braids and Blue Hawaii are NFOP all-stars, and their commonality, Raphaelle Standell-Preston, can be regarded as one of our favorite singers. Braids are originally Calgary and now Montreal-based production geniuses, touching on glitch, experimental, and pop. Their rather devoted international fan base speaks a volume or two to the quality and emotionality of their live performances. It's indeed fascinating to watch drummer Austin Tuffs play the piano part in the gorgeous, rainy track “Girl” on his drum pad (which he isn't doing in this video); it's stimulating to witness their detailed electronic songs deconstructed and played by physical movement. Braids are an exemplary and literal electronic music band.

Blue Hawaii is made of Standell-Preston and her dear friend Alex Cowan. Their second release “Untogether” caused quite a ruckus within the NFOP community as well as the neo-pop subculture. Its dancey, sentimental complexity, seen by the cover image of the two members embracing and disappearing as they do, reflects on the contemporary attitude toward relinquishing youth, physical distance, and confusing friendship for romance. Check out NFOP's BCR show with Alex here.

Definitely catch Braids do their spectacular thing at The Crocodile on the 24th for The Haunted Pop Showcase, which also will host Son Lux, Manatee Commune and Helado Negro. Blue Hawaii will play the Sines Of Life Showcase on the 26th at Showbox alongside El Ten Elevent, Yppah, and Vox Mod.

Andy Stott – Manchester, UK (Modern Love)
Stott is the prince of slow disco, or perhaps by now, the king. Drawing on UK bass, ambient, dub and some other kind of divine but not cheesy force, Stott's work engenders that we silently contemplate ephemeral matters, impermanence, and wet dreams about time travel as the music washes over us. Frequently coded over with striking vocals while the melodic aspects throbbingly waver in and out of clear earshot, this is the music of the death of summer as well as truths about where the big 2012 cultural shift is leading us – not to an apocalyptic place, I'd say. That's too singular of an answer.

YES YES YES YES Modern Love Showcase also with Millie & Andrea (Miles Whitaker and Stott) and Demdike Stare is at the EMP Level 3 on Friday the 25th!!

ASC – San Diego (Auxiliary/Silent Season)
Really excited to see James Clements on the line-up. I've liked his sparse, beautiful music for some years, as it can go into either aggressive jungle territory or back to childlike wondering-what-it's-like-to-fly curiosity. With plenty of indication of UK hardcore and drum-n-bass in his work, ASC also manages to bring something timeless and personal to the world of ambient pad music. It's a pastoral, overcast, chilly place, which makes one think, “Just five more minutes, then back inside for tea.” Clements' latest Truth Be Told is Bvdub-esque, meditative lamentation for something perpetually out of reach. It was released by Vancouver's Silent Season imprint, which lauds the vastness of foggy temperate rainforests and the creatures that dwell therein. As opposed to some of his older work, Clements' fresher sound is coded with genuine praise for all things beautiful and the human experience. Such declaration correlates with the growing cultural trend of using technology and digitally produced sounds to better commune with the natural world. There is so much to learn from this seeming paradox, and I'm not just saying that because it's been important to me for most of my life.

ASC is part of the Silent Season Showcase on the 26th at the JBL Theater. Be sure to not miss a DJ set by label founder Jamie McCue, Segue, nor visuals from Danthon.

Oneohtrix Point Never + Nate Boyce - New York (Warp)
DID YOU KNOW that OPN recently went on tour with Soundgarden and the Nine Inch Nails? It's true, shocking, and pretty profound. This tidbit probably settles with most of us agreeably, for OPN's music implies a type of laziness and Nintendo Peter Pan personality, who still has Soundgarden posters up in his bedroom, above the dirty clothes bin. Boyce's early 90s, glistening apartment aesthetic fits OPN's melted video game cartridge sound. Need I say more?

OPN + Boyce will be performing at Optical 3: Playful Discord alongside Kangding Ray and Atom TM's HD/AV at the EMP Sky Church. Really looking forward to this - it'll be an event that re-centers its audience about where/how the recent exhumation of interest in walking through dissonant, atonal spaces originated.

Nordic Soul – Seattle (Decibel/Studio 4//4)
Nordic Soul is Sean Horton's DJ guise. As the founder of dB, Horton commonly plays showcases, which is doubtlessly one of the ways for Horton to more fluently interact with attendees, attendants, and artists. I had the pleasure of first catching a Nordic Soul set here in Missoula, Montana during the inaugral DAT Music Conference. Horton threw down classics new and old, covered a range of styles but never with any kind of strain, confusion, or lack of vividness. There remained a certain amount of dreaminess throughout those two hours. It was wholesome, devoted, and somewhat transcendental.

Catch Nordic Soul and Bryan Lyons dualing set Sept. 28 at Flammable: Decibel Edition going down at Re-Bar alongside Sassmouth and T.Williams.

Isis Graham – Calgary, CA (Substation)
There's been more and more substantial material being broadcasted out of Alberta. Apart from Normals Welcome, an Edmonton-based label, Calgary's Substation Recordings has the goods. Isis Graham, a considerably prolific producer and remixer, gets the job done with cadenced house and easily consumable clubby grooves. As an integral part of the Girls On Decks collective, Graham can be treated as a succeeding advocate for quality techno plus gender awareness in Canada. Such a revival in Canada surely speaks to a greater North American call-to-arms for forward thinking electronic music. At it since the late 90s, Graham is a hand of perseverance and stylistic wisdom.

Go out with a bang closing night at the All Gone Pete Tong Showcase with Tensnake and Pete Tong himself Sept. 28th at Q.

Vatican Shadow – Los Angeles (Hospital Productions/Blackest Ever Black/Modern Love)
Complete with Reich referencing, black and white color scheme, and dark, hypnotic, and militant tracks, Dominick Fernow's project concurringly affliates with Blackest Ever Black as well as Modern Love, but mostly releases on his own Hospital Productions, along with work by Silent Servant, Ron Morelli, and Kevin Drumm. Since the late 90s, Fernow has been busy working to bring industrial techno and meandering, dark dance music together in unqiue ways, and so far, we're barely touching the tip of the iceberg. His latest, Death Is Unity With God, is an extensive release bearing several apposite titles for the moniker created only to comment on and convey post-Catholic apocalypse esoterica. 

Catch VS Sept. 24 for the Pitchblack Showcase at Re-Bar.