Medasin’s debut album is innovative, warm, and pleasing to the ear

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Medasin’s debut album is innovative, warm, and pleasing to the earMedasin Press Irene E1533913276981

Grant Nelson, aka Medasin, is changing the scope of electronic music. After a flavorful edit of Portugal The Man‘s 2017 hit “Feel It Still,” Nelson was in high demand, earning official remix opportunities for Khalid, Post Malone, Martin Garrix, and more. In early 2018, he sold out eight of 10 shows on his first official headline tour, garnering enough positive traction to further develop his craft. Now, Nelson’s finally chosen to deliver Medasin’s most innovative work yet, gifting the world with his official debut album: Irene.

Back in January, Nelson released a full EP mix entitled “IRENE,” which, in his own words, were “16 original songs I’ve worked on over the past two years.” It was sort of a “pre-EP EP,” giving fans a little taste of what he had in store. However, listeners can expect some completely new content from the Dallas-based producer, as these nine tracks appear to be from an unknown arsenal. The album is versatile, in that it’s not only the perfect end-of-summer soundtrack, but also a great way to escape to some tropical paradise for a bit, collectively fusing Caribbean-influenced sounds with warm, electro goodness.

Steel drums are mixed with jazz-inspired tempos on “Ramen,” the album’s second track, setting the tone for a genre-blending journey. Jazz rhythms are also applied on “Slinky Man,” which utilizes light percussion and electronics, serving as a base for intriguing vocal samples. Other highlights include a smooth R&B track, “Tired,” featuring Sophie Meiers, and “Work For You” featuring Kaz Moon, which goes a bit harder with short staccato’d synths on the drop. On “Home,” listeners will recognize beloved synth melodies that can be traced back to hit remixes such as “Feel It Still.”

To complement his debut album, Medasin will head on phase two of his North American “Irene” tour, making his first stop in Canada on Sept. 27. Tour dates and tickets can be found here.

The Glitch Mob exude respect for the process in their third studio album, ‘See Without Eyes’ [Interview + Album Review]

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When The Glitch Mob take a break from the visible public eye, longtime fans of Boreta, edIT, and Ooah know something masterful is in the works. After all, if there’s anything this LA-based powerhouse trio is known for, it’s a penchant for profundity and a fondness for not rushing the artistic process.

“For us, music is more about the process than the final piece of work,” they told us in a conversation leading up to the release of their third full-length studio album. 

At the same time, almost four years has passed since the release of their sophomore LP, Love Death Immortality, which debuted at #13 on the Billboard 200 album chart and No. 1 on the iTunes electronic chart. As opposed to the highly experimental nature of their debut Drink the Sea LP, LDI exuded a newfound sense of direction with the introduction of storylines and a complex array of heavily layered tracks. Fans are, needless to say, squeamish to hear how those sonic storylines have evolved.

Rest easy, young apostles, for today, May 4, marks the official release of The Glitch Mob’s third album in eight years, titled See Without Eyes, via their independent imprint, Glass Air Records. 

“See Without Eyes has elements of our first two albums, but explores new territory,” says Boreta. “We aimed to have it be a full body listening [experience] as well as have impact live. The album is a piece of us combined with all of the lives of the people who have brought it to life. We hope people connect with the music and feel something their own way, like the comfort looking at the stars.”

It is this sense of profound connection to the supernatural process of creation that The Glitch Mob has been infusing into their musical stamp for over a decade — since their early days of experimenting with sounds at Burning Man. Certainly, as die hard burners, and artists who owe their career start to life on the playa, the three have encoded the spiritual and communal energy of Black Rock City into the very fibers of their being.

“Playing some of our first shows at Burning Man definitely honed our creative DNA. It’s all about taking people on a journey and that has stuck with us. We didn’t know anything about the music industry at the time; we were experimenting with sound. We’ve kept the sense of experimentation.”

A love for experimentation, of pure joy and playfulness, and a simultaneous appreciation for evolution, to an almost philosophical degree, continue to be important themes for the guys in their musical output. Perhaps that is why their music is so hard to pin down stylistically; for it is anything but generic. Their portfolio is mystical, perplexing, and always deeply satisfying. Listeners often walk away with as many questions about their lives, the lives of others, and the universal force fueling it all, as they do filled with immense gratitude for the experience.


“This album is about the mystery of being human. Music can express truths far above above and beyond where words falter and cease.”


This is the kind of raw, undefined energy The Glitch Mob strives to reignite in their music and live shows, one that is elusive beyond of the timelessness of sound — and it’s safe to say, they want it that way.

With inspirations ranging from Aphex Twin to Jay-Z to British Eastern philosopher Alan Watts, and spiritual teacher Ram Dass in between, it’s no wonder the style and attitude of a Glitch Mob track is so elusory and mysteriously divine.

See Without Eyes is an album that’s rather difficult to critique, perhaps because it is such a layered, fully-embodied listening experience. There are, however, two thematic qualities as to why the LP works as seamlessly as it does. Almost like a light and dark energy fueling the other, experimentation and evolution are two prominent forces driving See Without Eyes.


“That’s the powerful thing about music: it’s different for everyone and doesn’t mean one thing in particular. You might hear dark and someone else hears light.”


The album’s leading track, “Enter Formless,” offers the first gateway into The Glitch Mob’s world of amorphous, experimental sounds. Complete with vocals from Sacramento-based female electronic duo Rituals of Mine, the lyrics —”Tell me how you feel it” — quite literally instruct the listener to forget about form, genre, and the like, and simply open their bodies and minds to the sonic experience. Yet, at the same time, the song is anything but formless — boasting rich melodies, a dedication to structure, and clear direction guided by classical horns and their signature electro-stabbing synths.

From this starting point, the album gradually progresses to tell a larger story, with each track building on the last so as to ease listeners deeper into their world. It is a world where light and dark energies are constantly competing with each other and, at the same time, complementary to one another. “Disintegrate Slowly” is one piece that exemplifies this notion, taking listeners on jolting ride into experimental tones and broken beats. Cinematic horns and percussive elements set a foreboding mood as the trio takes unpredictable twists and turns before dropping abruptly into the more melodic track, “Keep On Breathing.”

One thing is certain at the album’s midpoint: See Without Eyes is not just a collection of individual tracks, but a comprehensive masterpiece that demands to be experienced as a greater whole. Bouncing back and forth between experimental, non-lyrical tracks like “Come Closer,” “Interbeing,” and “The Way Is Out” and more melodic, gut-wrenching collaborative ballads — such as in the previously released “How Could This Be Wrong (ft. Tula), “Take Me With You (ft. Arama),” and “I Could Be Anything” (ft. Elohim).


“This album is a result of a deep dive. It’s a love note to the art form of music and the way it connects us. It’s a result of us experimenting, having fun, and collaborating with some incredible artists.”


See Without Eyes is brimming with unique collaborations, which speaks to The Glitch Mob’s yearning to work with artists who organically fuel their sound. Not only does the album enlist some of the music industry’s most exceptional underground artists — from rising electronic talent Elohim, Arama, Ambre, and two tracks with Isreali singer/songwriter Tula — but the group has sought out a few meteoric young bass talents in REZZ and Illenium as well.

“These connections all happened organically,” says The Glitch Mob. “We’re all mutual fans of each other’  music, which is how our best collaborations happen. Mindshare.”

As the album begins to descend, after cascading between the eery and yet hopeful tones of “Go Light,” The Glitch Mob harken back to the emotional with a harmonic and hypnotizing ballad in the Ambre-assisted track, “How Do I Get To Invisible.” After entrancing hums on the lead in, Ambre’s vocals take center stage on the track with stand out lyrics —”All of my flaws make me out to perfection” — overlaid by an experimental landscape choked full of arpeggiated chords and beguiling instrumentation.

The album also boasts an innovative, avante-garde visual component created by the trio’s visual arts designer, David Wexler, also known as Strangeloop, who has also worked on visuals for Pharrell, Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and more. The group says they gave Strangeloop See Without Eyes to build his reactions in visual form whilst listening to the album. His visuals will be featured as music videos for all 11 tracks, which link together to paint a larger picture for the album, as well as a unique VR machine for people to experience during The Glitch Mob’s tour through setups in the lobbies at their shows.

As three friends who got their start in the burgeoning Los Angeles bass-driven beat scene, The Glitch Mob has gone from young starry-eyed neophytes, who were just learning their way around the decks at Burning Man, to international rockstars equipped with a DIY sensibility and a deep respect for artistic process.

“The process between us is quite fluid at this point as its been so long. It’s a musical conversation that’s based on trust, surrender, and discipline. In fact, it’s more about the process than the final result. We challenge ourselves, dive deep, and express.”

Still heavily steeped in their signature synthesizers and saturated bass lines, See Without Eyes represents an appreciation for where the three musicians have been and where they are going. Where that is, even Boreta, eDIT, and Oaah may not be able to say. But with landmark festivals like Lightning In A Bottle, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, and Shambhala on their list of headlining summer appearances, not to mention a massive global tour where they will unveil The Blade 2.0, The Glitch Mob is certainly going places.

The Glitch Mob perform on their Blade set-up at Austin City Limits, 2014. Photo courtesy of Ralph Arvesen.

 

Whether or not fans can expect another Burning Man set in the near future, the guys leave that question playfully open-ended. They merely extend gratitude for the people who created a pop-up community which gave them the space to hone their experimental sound: “Thank you, Larry, for making the world a weirder place.”

‘Places We Don’t Know’ is an ethereal introduction to the scope of Kasbo’s sound [Album Review]

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Kasbo

Released via Foreign Family Collective/Counter Records, Kasbo’s debut album Places We Don’t Know is a sonic bildungsroman.

“Conceptually the album is about romanticizing a naïve worldview,” the Swedish producer said of the LP. “That [naiveté] and ignorance is something to be cherished. There’s something really beautiful about the perfect worldview you have as a kid, that the world is harmless, beautiful, and good. The more you learn and experience though, the more you realize everything isn’t perfect. So the less you know, the more beautiful it is, it’s the things we haven’t done, the places we don’t know, that have this unquestionable beauty. It’s this world I’m trying to mirror with my album, the one that stays in your imagination.”

Kasbo’s aspiration to first capture, and then encapsulate a whimsical, puerile innocence of mind and disposition via sound is conceptually regressive in its harkening back to a simpler perspective, untainted by worldly awareness. The wide-eyed, evergreen youth of Places We Don’t Know blinks back at listeners through “Stay With Me” and “Bleed It Out.” “They talk, but I keep dreamin’/And I don’t get what to resist,” vocalist Nea sings on “Bleed It Out.”

Places We Don’t Know denotes duly a clear vision of construction, and an irony: the debut album that embraces the innocuous bliss of the unknown and the inexperienced, is itself emblematic of Kasbo’s own progression. The nostalgic release seeks repose in a state of childlike naiveté while surging forth as an emblem of Kasbo’s growth and experiences. In the trajectory classic of a bildungsroman, Kasbo comes of age as an artist through the release of Places We Don’t Know. 

“Musically I knew I wanted to do a sonic representation of the concept, blending worldly sounds with small bedroom type samples and soundscapes,” Kasbo stated of the album’s constructional basis. “I really loved the idea of those two polarizing things being the two main factors that would lay the ground for the album.”

Kasbo’s predilection for lush soundscapes that mellifluously and unhurriedly develop in tandem with a serene vocal part figures in “About You” and “Bara Du,” among other track listings.

Places We Don’t Know gained momentum through the release of the album’s first single, the Tender assisted “Aldrig Mer.” Future bass found its own place on the tracklist via the second single,  “Your Tempo.” “Find” and “Over You,” the final singles that offered a sample of the sound of Places We Don’t Know prompted the it  to gain further traction prior to its March 23 arrival.

A release unfettered by the consciousness that comes with age, Places We Don’t Know is a heart-strirring, vernal gaze backwards in time.

Exclusive Q&A: Break Science on how Brooklyn influenced their sound, working with Pretty Lights, and their newest LP, ‘Grid of Souls’

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grid of souls-break science

Raised in the cultural hotbed of New York City, Break Science‘s Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee have long brought their city’s rich musical history in jazz, funk, and soul directly into their catalog. As two essential members of Pretty Lights Live, Deitch (also of Lettuce) comes armed with his thunderous breakbeat style on the drums, while Lee brings a seasoned trip-hop/dub aesthetic on keyboards and laptop. As Break Science, the Denver-based electronic duo combine their respective styles into a perfectly interwoven sonic treatise of thought-provoking, highly-textured, bass-pumping songs.

The C3-represented artists do not release new projects often, given their busy schedules with touring and their other acts. So when they do, it’s an easy bet that the project is fresh and soulful, expertly polished, and, above all else, extremely danceable. Break Science’s debut EP, Further Than Our Eyes Can See, for instance, included verses from some of today’s most conscious vocalists — including Brooklyn’s Talib Kweli and Jahdan Blakkamoore, Sierra Leone’s Bajah, and India’s Falu. Now in the midst of their 5-date US tour, the electro-soul duo is releasing their first LP in almost five years, Grid of Souls. The eclectic 10-track album showcases their diverse sonic range and deeply rooted beliefs in interconnectedness and consciousness in such a way that is bound to make a mark on the modern musical landscape.

Kicking off the album with powerful vocals of Raquel Rodriguez on the synth-driven “Cruise Control,” Break Science fuse generations of New York’s rich musical legacy with their own deep-rooted connection to hip-hop heritage. Other highlights include “Guiding Light,” where the duo puts their heavier bass and trap vibes on full display, along with a more rhythmic offering on “Light Shine Down,” a track tinged by influences from 80s electronica and synthwave sounds.

Deitch and Lee took time out of their busy touring schedule to answer a few questions with Dancing Astronaut on Grid of Souls, speaking to the album’s underlying messages and driving stylistic components, along with their time in Pretty Lights, how working with Derek Vincent Smith has influenced their own individual sounds, and their US tour with the groundbreaking lighting talents of Lazer Shark.

 


It’s been five years since your last LP release. Why have you waited so long?

B: Shit it’s been 5 years? I thought it was only 4.. I guess we were waiting till we we had something good to say. Well we got a few things we wanna talk about now and we plan on releasing more music this year.

A: To get it right! To get all the fine tuning, mixing, mastering takes time, especially with our touring schedules. Glad we waited until it was right!

What do you feel the album is attempting to say?

A: The album is a musically psychedelic trip into interconnectivity that is undeniably danceable and also can make one think.

B: Understanding the beauty in the diversity of life and seeing the unbreakable wires which bond us all together.

Stylistically, the LP is a beautiful blend of melodic and glitchy synth-laden funk, soul, and jazz. How do you feel your musical styles have evolved since your Seven Bridges LP in 2013 and what does Grid of Souls bring to the table that’s fresh and new?

B: We like bringing different styles together to create something new, but also like to stay anchored in the music that we came from. We continue to push this concept on this record.

A: The technology has evolved, our musical minds have evolved, our lives and musical styles/tastes as well. Borahm and I have met in the middle with our musical influences and styles to create a unique piece of art that will hopefully stand the test of time.

Tell us about working with Lazer Shark on the new music video. Will he be joining you guys on tour?

B: Its always incredible to work with our friend Lazer Shark. He has already joined us for some dates this year with more on the horizon. He never ceases to inspire us and furthers his extension of expression with his video for our single.

A: As one of the most profound, creative and risk taking lighting and content designers in the modern era, Lazer Shark has taken our visual game to the next level with his video for “Cruise Control” and our live show.

Both of you are essential members of Pretty Lights, and it seems the album’s major theme embodies some of the beliefs that run deep in the PLF: interconnectedness, consciousness raising, new age spiritualism. How has that influenced the new LP? In subtle or overt ways?

B: D is a long time friend and collaborator and we all work together because there’s a likemindedness there, which shows in many ways.

A: As we move closer to a collective consciousness as a species, every piece of art that directs people’s energies in that direction is extremely needed and necessary. We are inspired by artists of all genres and mediums from Alex Grey to Kamasi Washington that have deeply spiritual vibes embedded in their art.

Describe the album in just a few words.

B: An extrasensory musical excursion thru emotionally charged atmospheres

A: A journey into the future of electronic/analog music that can lift the spirit, move your body and spark one’s mind. 

 

Ganja White Night explore the dynamic depths of low end bass in seventh LP, ‘The Origins’ [Interview + Album Review]

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ganja white night the origins 500x500

Who exactly is Mr Wobble?

It’s question that has been on the minds of many since Ganja White Night released a series of music videos late last year. One that has answers partly in the release of their newest and most ambitious album to date, dubbed The Origins, out now on their own imprint SubCarbon Records

“We created SubCarbon when we started making music because it was the only way we could be released. Big labels weren’t interested in our sounds.” 

 February 2018 saw Benjamin Bayeul and Charlie Dodson’s seventh LP since they extensively explored their riddim-inspired sound almost 12 years ago. “We’ve tried to release an album every year since we started in 2010,” said the two Brussels-based producers. They wanted to do everything but rush The Origins album, which the pair had been working on since the fall of 2016, so as to avoid making the twelve track compilation more than just a shallow “collection of easy-to-mix tracks.” 

Photo courtesy of Ganja White Night

The Origins LP is anything but shallow. The album takes a deep dive in many ways.

First, it’s a dive into re-examining their own roots; a new exploration of the hypnotic, immersive sounds that incapsulated fans many years ago. Cinematic intros, playful experimentation, and otherworldly sounds mark the album’s landscape. In a lot of ways, The Origins is an intoxicating ethnic journey with a careful sense of adventure — a psychedelic trip into the worlds of dub, riddim, and low-end bass, more broadly.

Speaking to the evolution of their signature wobble sound, the duo elaborated on how it took them a good amount of time to manifest their ideas into reality: “You can really feel a difference when you listen to our old albums. Sound techniques evolve and the new material sounds more refined. We always had these ideas in our heads, but it’s crazy to see how ideas develop over time into actual sounds.”

 

Second, the album signals a nod to the roots of Mr Wobble, an animated vigilante superhero character designed by long-time collaborator and illustrator Ebo. Mr Wobble has played a role in their work since they released “Wobble Master” and “LFO Requiem.” At the outset of the new LP, he is joined by a whole new cast of characters whereby fans are given a glimpse into the very origins of how their super powers came to be.

“Mr Wobble isn’t the only guy who has the power. In different civilizations, the people receive this power, and what we see in the [Origins] video is how, in this period, of this era, at least, Mr Wobble is using it this way. We still don’t know where this power comes from, or how he’s be chosen, maybe it was an accident, we don’t know.”

 

Finally, the album pulls on the nostalgic allure of ancient ethnocentric sounds. Inspired by composers like Hans Zimmer, Ganja White Night has a way for constructing cinematic bass compositions that incorporate reggae, dubstep, hip-hop, and drum ‘n’ bass, with influences from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. “We have some inspirations that never change,” they say. “We’ve always been fans of ethnic sounds and ethnic voices, long intros, harmonies.”

GWN approaches collaborations in the same artistic spirit. Teaming up with Caspa, in particular, on the album’s second track, “Unique,” the three producers capture the very unique essence upon which their collective visions for bass music resonates — back before the days of violent, head banging “bro-step.” Cinematic, fun, mischievous, and stripped down to the bare bone essentials of bass, the track flips fluidly between it’s melodic breaks and stabbing synths for a hypnotic anthem that is sure to capture fans’ eardrums on the dance floor.

Ganja White Night on their “Mr Wobble Is Back” tour stop, 8/5/16. Photo cred: Brew City Bass

From cosmic introductions to intense party jams and downtempo grooves, the twelve tracks come together to tell a more complete story around Mr Wobble, the superhero who creates music from ancient mythology and uses it to awaken citizens dwelling in the modern world he inhabits. Regarding to expansion of Mr Wobble’s world, Bayeul and Dodson are still exploring the many avenues the vigilante hero may take:

“There is still a lot of mystery, and we don’t want to say too much because we have a lot of projects that we want to go deeper into, we want to do more music videos and comic books. There’s just so many ways to go deeper into the story, there’s a lot of doors open now. We just introduced a lot of characters, so there’s a lot of new avenues to explore.”

The Origins arrives just as Ganja White Night gets ready to embark on their album-accompanying “The Origins Tour.” The duo will travel to 20 US cities featuring strong support from CaspaOpiuoDownlink, along with label mates DirtMonkey and Subtronics. They plan to begin each concert stop with a special B2B DJ set from the SubCarbon roster, before transitioning into the tour openers, and ending with a GWN performance that will feature live instrumentation, editing, remixing, and improvisation much like a band playing all original material.

Lane 8’s ‘Little By Little’ is a spectacular aural odyssey grounded in its exploration of the human condition

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The great paradox of the modern day is that despite numerous means of instantaneous communication, true and genuine connection is at premium higher than any point in history. Unsurprisingly, contemporary art wrestles with this, notably in Black Mirror‘s recent examination of dating apps and culture from the episode “Hang The DJ,” where the driving tension results from couples being matched up and immediately given a countdown until their inevitable split and disconnect.

Acutely aware of this strain stemming from disconnection is the melodic house maestro Daniel Goldstein, better known as Lane 8. In an effort to establish deeper contact with fans, Goldstein launched his This Never Happened series of events, which required attendees to abandon their phones and experience his mellifluous concoctions while entirely present, free from the distraction of technology.

In a discussion with DA from 2016, Goldstein delved into how important the introduction of his imprint and This Never Happened show concept was for his work:

Towards the end of last year I did a big album tour and played a ton of shows in a row and there were a few where, you know, you would look out playing ‘Diamonds’ or ‘Hot As You Want’ and just see a sea of phones recording the moment and nobody really just actually being there and experiencing it. I remember just seeing that and talking to my wife and saying, these people are not experiencing live music at all – everything is just a spectacle and I feel like that’s kind of something that’s just plaguing everything…”

Encouragingly, Lane 8 will tour his new album under the This Never Happened banner, out now via his imprint of the same name. Dubbed Little By Little, the LP flourishes in its embrace of the past, present, and future brand of his deep and melodic house music.

Lane 8

After the announcement of Little By Little, Goldstein unveiled the first single “No Captain,” featuring the distinct tones of POLIÇA‘s Channy Leaneagh. An intriguing vanguard, Goldstein embarked on a uniquely reflective journey of melodic house and evocative electronica, inspiring instrumental club ballads, and late-night memories along the way.

If standout vocal stylings are to be this album’s defining feature, then Little By Little is Goldstein’s magnum opus of stylistically evolved and meticulously-crafted curation. The producer welcomed several new vocals talents onto the LP, in the form of Australian talent Fractures on both “Clarify” and “Hold On” and the British singer-songwriter J.F. July on “Coming Back To You.” The strength of each vocalist is evident in the lift they give the record, in general, and each track, specifically. Like Lane 8’s earlier work, Little By Little is crafted with the mastery that fans have come to love amongst his catalog: a marriage of introspective and instrumental club tracks.

Each track on Little By Little presents a unique aural journey. Like Lane 8’s 2015 album Rise, Little By Little finds its poise in a form of lyrics that are equally wistful and thoughtful, driving melodies, and a meandering energy. Considering the driving forces behind “Hot As You Want,” featuring Solomon Grey, “Undercover’s” feature of Ghostly International founder Matthew Dear, or even “The One’s” highlight of Patrick Baker, it’s only right Little By Little sees that Lane 8’s use of male vocalists continues.

While each track on Little By Little touches on human connections in some capacity, Goldstein’s best captures the record’s ethos with “Skin & Bones.” “Are we seeking something more than this?” beckons vocalist Patrick Baker. The vocalist offers contemplation in his lyrics, speaking with an air of poignancy on the struggle to forge such meaningful bonds with others.

When Goldstein’s been asked to articulate the inherent meaning of his music in a number of interviews, he’s expressed, like many musicians, that his music is a cathartic medium for his listeners and that he ultimately hopes that they extract their own meanings from it. Surely, each of his tracks reflect intimate moments of his own life; that said, what he outputs is more than likely to move its listener in an entirely different way.

Little By Little is an especially bold release to kick off the new year, given the current climate that is currently straying away from albums in general. In providing such an extensive and sentimental expression of himself, Lane 8 proves that these bodies of work still serve an important purpose in the musical sphere.  This isn’t to say that artists don’t pour their heart and soul into singles or EPs. However, when artists build a labor of love over the course of several years, listeners know that they’re putting everything on the line  and challenging themselves on the immensely exposing path that is penning an LP.

“In a way, I think that’s what this album is all about — taking the time to appreciate each small step in a larger journey,” Goldstein’s expressed of the new record, and little by little, his work is allowing that journey to be all the more enjoyable for many.

Tickets for Lane 8’s Little By Little album tour are available here.

All Photos Courtesy of Lane 8

N.E.R.D’s self-titled fifth studio album is a chaotic affair rooted in social commentary

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No_one Ever Really Dies: even the acronym by which American funk rock supergroup N.E.R.D — Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley — were founded upon suggests a non-traditional marriage between chic nonchalance and latent sentimentalism. Consider the collective sense of fervid urgency that is currently igniting the veins of millions of disenfranchised American and global citizens, inject a lethal dose of vogue funk and bottle it up in vivacious, supercool packaging: this more or less captures the sonic universe defined on N.E.R.D’s self titled, fifth studio album.

People began taking note of signs posted around Los Angeles and featured at Tyler the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival that read “No One Ever Really Dies” in late October, 2017. A few days later, the N.E.R.D proceeded to release No_one Ever Really Dies’ lead single “Lemon” before debuting the full LP a few days later at ComplexCon. It marks the first release for the famed group since 2010’s Nothing.

Since their inception, N.E.R.D has been raveled in collective confusion — not undue to their own struggles in defining their own artistic focus. The group’s first album, In Search Of, was originally produced digitally, but was pulled from the shelves of record stores worldwide and re-recorded utilizing live instrumentation from the rock band known as Spymob. Its re-release was met with ubiquitous disapproval from critics, giving way to another two albums plagued by their supposed failure to define a singular style.

Perhaps N.E.R.D’s first three albums were simply misunderstood by the masses, or maybe they served as quasi “trial and error” sessions in which the group refined their own characteristic style. One thing is certain: the outfit’s production M.O has always strayed from the traditional linear structure. Each of N.E.R.D’s five studio albums see them taking increasingly audacious risks, and No_one Ever Really Dies looks to be their most rewarding effort yet.

It kicks off with the exuberant frenzy that is “Lemon,” featuring one of contemporary pop music’s most exalted figures: Rihanna. The 29-year-old global superstar bops from verse to verse with palpable swagger, as if she’s playing pop-scotch on the red carpet.

“Lemon’s” sample of a man yelling “wait a minute” is former United States Senator, Arlen Specter, at a 2009 Pennsylvania town hall meeting while “shout out to them people” and “mad ethnic right now” are both phrases sampled from a viral twitter video originally posted by a rapper by the name of Retch. As the record bounces between verses, it usurps the listener with its dazzling flow. Before long, the project’s focus begins to take root.

Much like adjacent industry colleagues Gorillaz, N.E.R.D’s propensity to showcase a plethora of contemporary styles runs the risk of seeming misconstrued, pulling away from the album’s central focus; some would argue that such overbearing features can make such a project seem disjointed, but it pays off on No_one Ever Really Dies. Rather than cloud the group’s artistic intuition, each embellishment serves an integral purpose in building the stylistic framework by which listeners will contextualize the album.

High profile vignettes from artists like Future, Wale, Gucci Mane, M.I.A, and Frank Ocean imbue the album with a sense of urgency and are an relevant statement about the current musical zeitgeist heading into 2018.

“Voilà,” featuring Gucci Mane and Wale, carries the momentum onward.  Since being released from prison in 2016, Radric Davis — better known by Gucci Mane — has turned a 180. “They think I’m a magician” sings Davis, alluding to the fact that the general public is undoubtedly shocked at his life changes over the last two years, and that many people doubted him along the way. The Atlanta rapper revealed in an interview with TIME that, during his stint in prison, sobriety and exercise helped him lose 90 pounds and get his life back together.

Gucci Mane’s raspy verses are not typically associated with the sparkling funk-verve that characterizes N.E.R.D, but his lyrics add a serene sense of tranquility to the track: “I might pull up on a skateboard with me and P. Hoes gon’ still pay me attention” he raps. Gucci Mane’s fabled status in trap music history is a welcome blessing on “Voilà.”

Pharell picks up the pace immediately afterward with “1000.” Turning a corner, he chants the intro, “Kinetic energy a thousand times higher!” As the drums halt to half speed, morphing into a tribal rythmn, Future belts his verse, “Rick Owens boots, I’m walkin’ on a few thousand” sings the Atlanta trap superstar. “1000” is an honest, yet ostentatious glimpse into the life of some of hip hop’s wealthiest superstars: complete with designer boots, Ferragamo belts, and models in the bed.

Pivoting from the gaudy introspection on “1000,” N.E.R.D moves into outward social commentary at breakneck speed with “Don’t Don’t Do It!” The track, which features the father of modern hip hop, Kendrick Lamar, is a statement detailing the discriminatory behavior of law enforcement and, on a larger scale, society as a whole.

“Pac-man wanna prosecute you. Raise your hand up, and they’ll shoot ya’. Face off, face off.” spits Kendrick Lamar, the beat carrying his conscious rhymes a mile a minute, “Adolf Hitler. Grandkids slayed off. N****s, same rules, same chalk. Different decade, same law.” Lamar’s verse is more than simply an apt statement confronting the malevolent behavior of systemic racism — it’s a warning call. “Soon or later sides gon’ switch. You know Johnny got that itch,” raps Lamar, “How many more of us gotta see the coroner? Slain by the same badge, stop, wait, brake, fast!”

N.E.R.D’s ability to pivot from effervescent dance jams to socially-conscious funk ballads at headlong speeds — all the while utilizing atmospheric transitions and carbonated beat change ups — is mesmerizing. No_one Ever Really Dies seems to weave into one theme and out of another before the listener can make the conscious realization that the song’s structure had changed. The album’s biggest success is its mellifluous ability to shape shift and keep listeners engaged the whole way through. Listeners find themselves knee deep into a pop tsunami for one moment, and are catapulted into an incendiary diatribe on today’s current political situation the next.

“It’s crazy out here and right now, what we’re discovering is the truth only matters when it sounds cool. And when it doesn’t sound cool, people just choose to not fucking believe it,” explained Pharell during the album’s listening session. “So, that’s how they’re gonna use their minds. We need to use our minds a little bit stronger.”

Nearing the end of the album, N.E.R.D orchestrate a symphonic finish — complete with features from such fabled artists as Andre 3000 and, to a lesser extent, Ed Sheeran. “Rollinem 7’s” lyrics stream from the Outkast co-founder’s mouth in effortless fashion.

The combination of M.I.A and Kendrick Lamar on “Kites” is a further testament to N.E.R.D’s versatility and their ability to mold to fit any of the featuring artists’styles.”I’m letting off kites over barriers” sings M.I.A, the Sri Lankan avant pop legend alludes to the absurdity of nation’s having borders. Her ultimate goal, like other artists’ on the LP, is to make music that transcends the unavailing barriers that serve only to divide us as a human race.

Consistent with M.I.A’s verse, N.E.R.D’s newest album is a virtuosic, funk driven house party rooted in social and political commentary. Rather than serve as purely an escape, No_One Ever Really Dies acts as an atmospheric groove that exists entirely within the gloomy corners of the current political period. N.E.R.D is back to inspire change in provocative fashion, and their fifth project is a chaotic affair deeply rooted in the ongoing narrative of social progress.

 

 

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Gabriel & Dresden make impassioned return on emotive new work ‘The Only Road’ [Album Review]

This post was originally published on this site

There’s much to be said for musical groups who know when it’s time to call it quits. A level of respect, integrity, transparency, and a heightened sense of curational awareness is put on display when artists makes this move. In 2008, progressive trance mavens Gabriel & Dresden came to this difficult decision themselves. The duo had just finished a tour, and so it was with an extended five-hour set, and a closing one-hour set in March of 2008 that they parted ways. Rather than milking the fame and rousing recognition they had so endearingly achieved, they respectfully choose to separate. Naturally, the two then pursued solo projects, only to reunite at an intended one-off show in 2010.

In November of 2016, the revered act began charting out their most impassioned return, with the announcement that they hoped to release a full-length studio album — their first in 11 years. They began acting on a trajectory that required immense behind-the-scenes planning and looked to their longtime friends, fans, and colleagues in the venture to new material. They started a Kickstarter in order to fund this project as well, which saw an an outpouring of monetary support that exceeded their goal of $30,000 by near three times the amount. Such success surely points to an insatiable desire for new material from the moving pair.

The Only Road is an apt name for Gabriel & Dresden’s return. The 12-track venture is very much a testament to their artistic odyssey and meanders through the abandoned avenues of their work. With more than 10 years since their self-titled debut album in 2006, the team have made an impassioned return, one in which they make a multitude of sharp turns through the peregrination of their previous productions. They culminate a calculated progression of progressive house, trance, and downtempo, in an astounding and archetypally ironic, effortless fashion.

When G&D announced the new work, “This Love Kills Me” led the way. While the album en masse delves deep into the stylistic outpouring of the duo, “This Love Kills Me” serves as an illuminated epic; enthusiastically pointing to their prosperity and promising future. If its title doesn’t already serve as some indication, “This Love Kills Me” imbues infectious dance melodies into its sonic atmosphere, yet is met with an introspective intonation of Sub Teal that easily renders tears on the dance floor.

In featuring Sub Teal, born Britt O’Neal, so prominently on the record — The Only Road boasts four tracks of the record with her — G&D charted an immensely premeditated release. O’Neal’s vocals are paired with the dance-leaning, progressive house tracks on the record. Tunes like “White Walls,” or “Only Road,” in particular, point to the outfit’s appealing foundations.

Contrastingly, they also enlist the brooding vocals of Jan Burton. In a highly-anticipated return to their work with Burton, the three seamlessly weave together the different styles of emotive dance. Very much akin to their previous work with Burton — like “Dangerous Power” in 2005, or “Enemy” a year later — G&D make a highly contentious decision in enlisting Buton on the melodically-downtempo new works of “Underwater,” “You,” and “Waiting For Winter.” By juxtaposing the brooding compositions of Burton, they infuse a tantalizing array of trance into The Only Road that’s essential in the record’s achievement of its emotive affect.

Years in the making, The Only Road is a compelling collection of Gabriel & Dresden’s dexterity. It’s a highly contentious body of work that dates back to the sonic heyday of one of dance music’s most diligent virtuosos. The new album’s a simultaneous solidifier of authenticity in the dance world, an element the world needs now more than ever, and a road that G&D has needed to re-embrace equally, if not more.

 

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Markus Schulz as Dakota explores the path to enlightenment in new album ‘The Nine Skies’ [Album Review]

This post was originally published on this site

Markus Schulz and Dakota may be one in the same, but sonically they could not be more different. A euphoric and optimistic trance producer, Schulz revealed his Dakota alias when he struggled to find an outlet for his darker side amidst the trance and commercially relevant Schulz releases. Where Schulz fans thrived on fast paced chords and enamoring vocals, Dakota’s releases projected ominous undertones with a more progressive feel.

‘Dakota’ was born in 2009 with the release of Thoughts Become Things on Armada Music. The alias garnered an enthusiastic following and turned out to be the musical counterbalance Schulz was looking for. The German-American’s paradoxical career has led to six albums as Schulz and now three as Dakota with his newest album release titled The Nine Skies.

The Nine Skies is out now under his Dakota alias, and it is the inverse of Schulz’s feel-good hits embodied by his last album (as Schulz) Watch the World. This is his first return to Dakota since 2011, and it explores all of the darker feelings and thoughts Schulz’s smiling face belies when performing for expectant faces looking to hear upbeat hits and at his energetic shows.

“I always say the Markus Schulz stuff is a reflection of my fans. I write music about my fans for my fans, but the Dakota stuff is what I am writing for me. I kind of block myself out from everything and just go and write about what is inside of me and what I am feeling.”

Dakota’s writing for himself makes it apparent to the listener that he is, simply put, a complicated man whose striving to turn inner darkness into light. Dakota spoke with Dancing Astronaut about his inspiration for the album, which stems from the pain and confusion he has internalized in response to the state of our current global affairs. The Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 is one moment the producer notes that really sticks out to him as a moment where he really re-evaluated his outlook on the world. This, in addition to his recent fascination with Reiki, came together as the catalyst for the album and the live show.  

The compilation depicts suffering, growth, and the journey to enlightenment through different phases. Its journey is explored by eighteen distinct songs, and it takes only a brief listen of The Nine Skies before it becomes abundantly clear that this is not an album that was thrown together to achieve a few radio hits. Tracks range from two to seven minutes long, and each one has an incredibly unique sound. The one thing linking all of these songs together is how intricate the productions are. While each track is deserving of its own story and description, that is what the live show sets out to achieve. A few highlights are detailed.  

“Bravo On The Go” is the perfect example of Dakota in the midst of the darkness phase. It has commanding chords that propel the darkness forwards with mystical vibes interlaced throughout.

His interpretation of “Cafe Del Mar” opens to 90 seconds of trance chords that smoothly give way into orchestral undertones. Suddenly, high pitched synths break through the calm, leading to a pulsing bassline and a deeper vibe that rebuilds into the high pitched synth breaks. It can easily be broken into three thematics, which Schulz masterfully combines into a whole, and is indeed a refreshing take on the original anthem.

“Changes” is more reflective of the Schulz style versus Dakota. Catchy vocals serves as the entry point for the track, but techy trance synths make this incredibly energetic track the perfect feel good song to induce total euphoria.

“Follow Me” is less trance more electro with throwback 90s electronica chords that are upbeat and accompanied by breathy vocals. This is the ultimate club track, and has the capacity to energize any room.

Mota Mota” is one of those tracks that trance fans hear a lot of at shows and festivals, and for good reason. The mysterious thematic and commanding chords are engineered for a live performance.

While the album came out on December 8th, Schulz unveiled the entire project in May of 2017 at Dreamstate San Francisco. He originally planned on keeping the project to nine performances so as to keep it special, but after performing The Nine Skies live and seeing the incredible crowd reactions, he notes that he may want to continue to share the experience. Fans will have to wait and see if the tour is extended into 2018. 

 

 

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Miguel steps one foot outside the bedroom in ‘War & Leisure’

This post was originally published on this site

Erotic-funk singer/songwriter, Miguel‘s fourth studio album, War & Leisure, is likely his most conscious, inventive body of work to date. Miguel is most widely known for his massive R&B ballad “Adorn,” which won him a Grammy in 2013. The track was released on his 2012 Kaleidoscope Dream, the LP that signified Miguel’s leap towards a more overtly psychedelic variation of his Pop/R&B production style.

In addition to his emblematic crooning of celestial bedroom sagas, we hear Miguel fighting to remain positive amid the tempestuous political climate in War & Leisure — title befitting. The album sees these two tones merge most discernibly in “Banana Clip,” wherein underneath the overtly phallic overtures, Miguel references the looming prospect of nuclear war with North Korea: “M16 on my lap / We hear missiles in the sky.”

Miguel also takes moments, specifically in the funkadelic, “Told You So,” to channel one his most salient influences, Prince, with lush, throbbing vocals and enrapturing eroticism. The production itself affords War & Leisure an air of wavy psychedelia, brought on by abundant reverb within both vocals and instrumentals, breathy dissonance, and distortion pedals galore — most evident in “Criminal,” featuring Rick Ross.

 

 

 

 

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