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 Caspa, Opiuo, Downlink, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The auditory equivalent of a winter wonderland, Kaskade’s seasonal album, Kaskade Christmas promises anything but a ‘silent night.’
Out today, the full-length Christmas production arrives in time for the holiday, offering listeners Kaskade flavored reworks of a variety of Christmas classics, ranging from “Santa Baby” to “Holy Night.” The 13-track album additionally includes several original Kaskade tracks, like “Cold December” and “It’s Beginning to Snow.” “To add my imprint to classic songs is fun for me, and my die-hard fans will be familiar with the ways I make them my own. Some of the songs are huge departures from the original style, while others stick within the main framework,” Kaskade notes of the album’s revisionist effort.
Released via Kaskade’s own Arkade label, Kaskade Christmas features an array of female vocalists, some of which will indeed be familiar to Kaskade’s following. Ilsey from “Disarm You” makes an appearance, as does Kaskade’s former house group, Late Night Alumni.
The ambitious initiative is an exposé of Kaskade’s sonic creativity, the producer placing his own touch on seasonal staples. “I’ve always loved Christmas music. I grew up singing it with my family at Church which was the gateway to my High School Varsity Choir. This Choir would travel all over Chicago and even landed in NYC to perform a concert series of holiday classics” Kaskade writes in a recent journal post on his website.
A nod to the effort’s centrality in Kaskade’s early and present life, the entry continues “All these years later, I’ve been able to put my own collection of holiday music together and am really excited to have it out this season. This is my Christmas album. I love the challenge of taking music that I have grown up with and producing it in a way that is new and modern.”
When it comes to Kaskade fans, gift giving has been made easy this year.
Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… that Doug Appling will need to retreat indoors to adhere to a pattern that has long defined the perennial producer since he debuted his Emancipator moniker eleven years ago. This pattern of silent introspection is one that has, in turn, allotted an intimate offering of landscapist, waning, sonic multitudes.
Like a bear emerging from hibernation, Appling too awakens; batting his eyes, hungry, and ready to exude his reserved energy. For each time Emancipator resurfaces, he releases not just a full-length record — undoubtedly a gift — but a situated anomaly in electronic music. The very existence of a musical act like Appling is an oddity in itself, as he emits a transient hybrid of jazz, electronica, bossa nova, chillwave, and downtempo hip-hop.
Listeners are offered more than a simple glimpse into the psyche of Appling and his relationship to music, nature, creatures, and the seasons in his work; in fact, he gives them access to something far more profound.
Unlike his contemporaries who too attain ethereal elegance, Emancipator exudes tempos and fills rooms with a panache that has the veracity to bring his listeners to tears. He sheds a layer for his listeners, whether it be in the palpable nature of his music, or in his gorgeously employed violin. It’s likely he does so in hopes that his listeners will too.
Few artists manifest parallelable beauty or nail the longevity of a song like his work does. Undoubtedly, it would be difficult to observe or create in the spirit of the world as eloquently as Appling. His music serves as a reminder that there’s more to life than meets the eye, and that life’s grand mystique is all a part of the blissful process.
Each new Emancipator release serves as a communicable feast for listeners to join him in devouring, and after a long few winters of hibernation from the prodigious talent, a new release would be nearly impossible to resist indulging in. Luckily, he’s come forth with a new work, the full-length LP Baralku, which he will be touring extensively come early 2018.
Baralkuis distinct, and yet, it’s expectedly eloquent in thematic scope and the employment of Emancipator’s refined style. It’s also an aptly named work.
Named for an astral spirit island in the Milky Way where departed souls build fires to let their loved ones know they arrived safely in the afterlife, Appling exudes this blissful aura of beauty in the emotive embers left dwindling on the record.
“Music takes me to places, and each song is a spirit island on which its soul lives infinitely. To release a song is both a death and a birth at the same time.”
He continued, “The sounds contained in each song have reached the end of their life process. The once shapeshifting collage of expression has been crystallized into a final form, no longer kinetic. Yet it exists in a state of permanent potential energy, waiting to be accessed in the form of music, just as the memory of a departed soul will always have the power to move us.”
Regardless of whether his music has directly hit on the concept by way of its names, its vehement quality has long emitted the sonic virtues of rebirth, renewal, and total desolation — all at once.
“First Snow,” a track on his debut album Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… is itself an encapsulation of this aforementioned multitude. Of course, it’s a celebration of the new season, of innocence, but like the album’s name, “First Snow” also emotively reminds us that with a first snow’s beauty also comes death — of vegetation, of the season, and of warmth.
While his music is filled with stark multitudes like the above, it’s largely through enveloping sonic warmth that its impact strikes. Emancipator’s music drapes over his listeners, like a cozy blanket or a warm fire on a cold night.
On Baralku, he adheres to his archetypally poised encapsulation.
The album sets off on the impassioned epic “Baralku,” electronically-tinged in its commencement, the tune transforms into a speechless-rendering violin ballad. Appling sets the tone for the remaining thirteen tracks to follow with “Baralku,” an enormous feat he handled with precision. “Baralku” also hints that the culmination of tunes to follow will shine in their marvelously meticulous production. Additionally, he imbues a sense of sonic suspension, for in the track’s beginning, it would seem as if a violin would never be integrated, and yet, the instrument proceeds to serve as the track’s central force.
But such is the beauty of Emancipator’s work.
In the eleven years since the inception of his idiosyncratic amalgamation of styles, Appling’s generated steadily escalating buzz. On the strength of four previous albums — Soon It Will Be Cold Enough… (2006), Safe In The Steep Cliffs (2010), Dusk to Dawn (2013), and Seven Seas (2015) —plus several remixes and EPs, Appling has now achieved his most artistically integrated piece of work. Each work over the years has poured over his styles in a tastefully experimental fashion, but Baralku exudes a euphonious sap, oozing throughout the work in a multitude of facets.
Wherein the fusion of hip-hop is pronounced on the record — in numbers like “Abracadabra” or “Udon” — the record also capitalizes on experimentality and nuanced flow.
“Baralku” even withstands impeccably effervescent transitions. From the aptly named situational awakening of “Bat Country,” sonically reminiscent to waking in a field upon getting swarmed by bats, disoriented, and finally overjoyed in one’s own safety — to the open, waning quality of the jazz-tinged “Pancakes,” to the seemingly odd, but effortless marriage of the organ and banjo on “Rappahannock,” Emancipator elongates his established decorum.
Emancipator has situated Baralku as an unexpectedly autobiographical journey to the island of Baralku. Between his mastery of structure and improvisation,Appling reaches a multifarious destination — where the soul lives on in eternity, aware of life’s multitudes, embracing and reflecting on them wholeheartedly in the astral afterlife.
The Sex Pistols are undeniably one of the greatest punk rock bands in history, as their influence on both contemporary music and pop culture is inarguably ubiquitous.
While punk counterculture seeped into nearly every cultural crevice of the United Kingdom in the late sixties, it had yet to ooze into the streets of the United States for some time. Of course today, punk rock is a seemingly omnipresent cultural phenomenon in the US’s rock culture. This is not to say the counterculture was non-existent in the US before bands like the Sex Pistols’ sonic shipment overseas, but rather, full-blown anarchy vis-à-vis music was simply offset.
Certainly, as any punk pundit knows, it wasn’t just the music that catapulted bands like the Sex Pistols to the top of the industry or allotted for punk music to see the light of day. Rather, it was the movement’s ethos, specifically punk’s raw propensity for authenticity, its attacks on social conformity, and actions like the Sex Pistol’s continually neglected deference to the Crown.
Formed in London in 1975, the band initially lasted just two and a half years until 1978. They produced four singles and one studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, during that time. Following this breakup, three band members went on to record songs for their manager Martin McLaren’s film version of the Sex Pistols’ story called The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, which depicts the journey of a band that went from fighting systems of oppression to one who had traded a pursual of “cash for chaos.”
It is with the Sex Pistols’ unfortunate demise — and opening up of a counterculture to the public eye that musical composer Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo found inspiration for his latest album under his Bloody Beetrootsmoniker. In it, he has cultivated an effervescent punk endeavor over the last decade that is explored deeper with each individual release.
Surely, it is with The Great Rock N’ Roll Swindle in context, that Rifo contextualizes the modern space electronic dance music resides in, too.
“I am absolutely defeated at defining any aspect of the EDM cauldron – at the moment, electronic music seems to be rather reductive and poor. EDM has become a useless and empty acronym. It deserves a deeper cultural structure and it is time to start working on it.”
Rifo has expressed a belief publically that punk died in 1977. This was the year the Sex Pistols attained mainstream popularity, and thus lost their edge in the process.
Rifo challenges EDM The Great Electronic Swindle (TGES),an industry he very much believes has lost its edge, too — much like the Sex Pistols sought to do during their time as an institution.
Rifo himself embodies much of what the early Sex Pistols encapsulated, with his boundary-less lifestyle and a long list of musical achievements, and it is through The Great Electronic Swindle that he asserts his demeanor.
Rifo may argue punk died in 1977, but for an artist to refuse to adhere to a genre by way of their outpouring, and to have managed to collaborate with legendary acts like The Cool Kids, Peter Frampton, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and not to mention The Beatles’ Sir Paul Mc Cartney along the way, he’s about as punk as they come.
“I believe we’ve been experiencing parallelism at the same time: much of the electronic music we hear has become flat and those who often occupy the stage are just ‘figures’ and no longer ‘artist’,” Rifo asserted. From my point of view, I saw the emergence of electronic music from a very strong underground scene where there was a lot of real stuff and way less money than today. Knowing that the artists who are on the stage NOW are not the authors of the piece they are ‘playing’ – I think it’s a big scam.” Presently, as his music evolves to a higher sonically communicative niche, language — in all its gravity and fluidity — plays a pivotal role in the Beetroots’ furthered deliverance.
“The album is my way of alerting people about this scam, about these people who are not artistically legitimate. It has often happened to me, especially during the years of the SBCR project, to know about DJs and producers and to congratulate them on their respective hits and to hear that the piece in question wasn’t produced by them or even written by them. ”
Certainly, the fluidity of the Italian-born artist’s own outpouring hasn’t stopped him from connecting with audiences worldwide over the years. Almost immediately after he unleashed The Bloody Beetroots in late 2006, Rifo’s vision was amplified. Inspired by a lifelong love of comics and punk rock, the visceral kick of the Beetroots’ sonic outpouring has been featured prominently in pop culture.
The Bloody Beetroots discography features a dizzying array of successful EPs and two full-length albums: 2009’s Romborama and 2013’s Hide. Indeed, clubs, theaters, and festivals around the world have willingly laid host to The Bloody Beetroots’ incendiary live show. Between Coachella and Lollapalooza to Governor’s Ball and more, The Bloody Beetroots’ lively dance-punk has enthralled millions.
But Rifo’s tantalizing vision extends far beyond the sonic space. Rifo strives to engage his listeners; rather than veering towards singularity, or struggling to find the balance that pleases his audience on a multitude of fronts, his work is challenging—both intellectually and emotionally. TGES serves as an epitome of his means.
Fans are ensured the induced-introspection and extrospection is respectively cyclical. In turn, this degree of expectation, from both his listeners and himself, has enabled Rifo to work closely with a myriad of artists on his latest album.
“I had not planned to have so many singers on TGES but the story I wanted to tell required a broad range of nuances…above all, empathy. So I turned to friends who introduced me to friends with whom we developed this fantastic adventure called TGES. Each and every one of them tells a piece of my life story of the last four years, it was a long and arduous experience that made me grow a little more,” Rifo explained.
Frontman for the alternative rock band Jane’s Addiction and the creator of LollapaloozaPerry Farrel is just one of the standout acts that join Rifo on the album. Certainly, fundamentals of melody, harmony, and classical music theory are present on the resulted collaboration “Pirates, Punk, & Politics.” These elements were internalized for Rifo at a young age in his classical training and on TGES, they’re incessantly tapped into.
“As an artist I need to see the music as my primary element of expression, which takes time and can not be artificially reproduced,” he states.
Doubling down on the extensive body of work and pulling in an opposite sonic direction are two tracks from the Swedish songstress Greta Svabo Bech, known best for her deadmau5 collaboration “Raise Your Weapon.” Bech joins The Bloody Beetroots on two tracks, “Invisible” and “The Great Run.”
Ultimately, Rifo sought out artists he felt would create a challenging body of work. Henceforth, Rifo incorporated his collaborators’ ideas into the work, too. Often on the new record the working and re-working of numbers has become one with managing a sole vision.
“My Name Is Thunder,” released as a double-single with Rifo and Australian rockers Jet prior to the record, serves as a prime example — after all, there are two versions of the track.
“I knew this song needed a certain rock tone… a tone like Nic Cester of Jet had. We thought instead of someone ‘like Nic Cester,’ how about we get the real Nic Cester! Thinking he would be in Australia, it was fate that he lived just a couple hours away from me in Italy. I found him,” says Rifo. “We worked together, ate together, drank together and created something very powerful together. Around this time the Jet guys started talking and thinking about getting back together when Nic shared this with his bandmates, the idea came up to have all of Jet involved. Because of our different influences, we had different ideas on the mixing and from that, we came up with two versions.”
Of course, this expansive, genre-crossing creative body of work requires immense amounts of work, but such is Rifo’s M.O.
“You have to take the time to create something consistently relevant,” he stresses.
In an era of seemingly mind-numbing and instantly-gratifying tunes, dumbed down pop culture, and situational fleeting relevancy of hot subgenres, Rifo strives on The Great Electric Swindle to create a true counterculture — much in the spirit of the Sex Pistols, who inspired him.
TGES is thus a thoughtful investment of musical pieces, scraped and re-scraped, even lacking concise direction at times. It’s a record that gives way to a palpable culmination of energy, and it lends way to where things can be taken with a widespread re-integration of the underground.
“I want to open a little window onto the meaning of freedom, and what art and music should be in a society,” concludes Rifo.
“I’m convinced that a new, completely rational counterculture is emerging and it will rethink all the choices of artistic growth out of every music business rule. TGES will hopefully be an example for other artists who will make the choice of bringing back quality to electronic music. The more we are – the more we will take control!” he continues.
The Great Electronic Swindle doubles down as a celebratory round for the tenth year of The Bloody Beetroots and it is with Rifo’s continuously effervescent attitude that he delivers his most expansive, challenging music to date. And yet, candidly unsurprising, Rifo hints that this is only the latest chapter in a story that has just begun. “Anything is possible!” he ensures.
It’s incredibly exciting, and yet, surprising almost that UK house maestro Nic Fanciulli is just now releasing his debut record — especially after playing such a pivotal role in the UK underground scene over the years. Fans of the virtuoso are ensured that it is with his prolific touring life and keen propensity for considerate curation that the phrase, “ Good things come to those who wait,” is quite applicable.
Surely, in an increasingly instantly-gratified, widespread age of musical connection that is oftentimes driven by the release of EPs and singles, a full-length album is hardly ever expected from those who frequent the circuits.
Fanciulli is one such act. After all, the artist has been busy cutting his teeth into the underground circuit for some time now. One may expect that the artist would not have the time to write and record an extended, cohesive body of work.
However, it is with his undeviating modus operandi and a refusal to remain sonically stagnant that allotted the creation of his first-ever LP, My Heart. It is also with his personal experiences in contextualization and a cultivated understanding of the impacts of dance music — both inwardly and outwardly — that Fanciulli shines on such an undertaking.
“This project actually started around ten years ago in 2007, right after I was nominated for a Grammy. I was surrounded by so many talented artists that I felt I really wanted to push myself and produce an album.” – Nic Fanciulli
On My Heart, Fanciulli delves into new experimental waters. The house don succeeds in an exploratory venture by way of a pleasantly employed variety of sonic landscapes, explored moods, and equivocal emotions over the course of 16 tracks. Through this, he presents an amalgamation of club-ready tracks and more downtempo numbers for the at-home listener.
My Heart, if the name hadn’t already served as a prior indication for its respective listener, comes from a considerably personal place.
“The music and touring aspect of my life was amazing but I didn’t feel I could channel the positivity I felt there into anything substantial at the time. The idea behind making an album was always to create something strong and meaningful, I wanted to make something that sounded as good at the afterparty as it does in the car, something that becomes relevant to every situation you listened in.”
Several thought-provoking numbers particularly stand out among an album filled with a blend of influences. One such tune, “Little L,” featuring Eagles & Butterflies, is a sound employment of all that Fanciulli set out to explore in his record.
Released prior to the full album, “Little L” offers a glimpse into the deeply emotive psyche of Fanciulli.
“The project name, MY HEART, came about when I realized I couldn’t switch off, or do this project part time – I had to totally immerse myself in it, and give my heart to it in order to finish it in a way I was proud of…”
Collaborations have certainly been a recurrent theme throughout Fanciulli’s career. He also teams up with the esteemed Guy Gerber on “The Perfect Crime.” The number, in turn, exudes immense melancholy and euphoria.
It’s clear from the deliverance that the collaborations were all really organic. However, perhaps, the best testament to organic collaborations on the piece is Fanciulli’s piece with Gorillaz‘ Damon Albarn.
He humbly describes the experience: “The craziest collab was having Damon Albarn on the vocals for ‘Saying.’ I had just finished a remix for the Gorillaz, and they really liked it; the next day I went into the studio and thought ‘I’m going to make a record for him and see if he likes it’. Luckily his management called, said he loved it, and within a week it was finished! It’s surreal for me; this is a guy who I used to listen to when I was doing my exams at school, I must have been a fan for 20+ years.”
Indeed, My Heart is an illustrious presentation of guest collaborators, delving into the waters of Fanciulli’s highly polished production skills and opening up fans to the newfound lush sonic beaconing of his soul.
“The album is called My Heart because I put my heart into it, Fanciulli asserts. “It’s a reflection of everyone I’ve ever met, everywhere I’ve ever been, and I hope everyone that listens can find something that resonates with their heart in the music. ”