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

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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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Kaskade fans top ‘nice list’ as Kaskade releases full-length holiday album, ‘Kaskade Christmas’ [Stream]

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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.

 

 

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Emancipator taps into his scopious musical roots on the exemplary ‘Baralku’ [Album Review]

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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.

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Baralku is 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.

Baralku is available to purchase here.

 

 

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The Bloody Beetroots ruminate on the sustenance of EDM, challenge the industry with ‘The Great Electronic Swindle’ [Interview + Album Review]

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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 Beetroots moniker. 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.

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“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 Lollapalooza Perry 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.

 

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“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. 

 

Featured Images courtesy of The Bloody Beetroots

 

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Nic Fanciulli delivers dynamically expanse, emotive debut LP, ‘My Heart’ [Interview + Album Review]

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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 
 
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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 GorillazDamon 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. ”

 

 

Featured Image courtesy of Nic Fanciulli

 

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Purple Disco Machine presents debut album ‘Soulmatic,’ talks timelessness of disco [Interview + Album Review]

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Disco remains at the forefront of dance music four decades after its genesis, thanks in part to the genius and innovation of Dresden-born artist Purple Disco Machine (PDM). With his debut album Soulmatic, Purple Disco Machine — also known as Tino Piontek — challenges the notion that the aforementioned genre was laid to rest with the bell bottoms and tie dye of yesteryear.

“To me, disco is such a fantastic musical style [in] that it transcends nostalgia. A genre which has musicality and musicianship at its heart should be celebrated, and I think, like many others, that those values are still relevant in today’s electronic scene” 

Soulmatic celebrates disco’s timelessness by blurring boundaries of genre, interpolating classic disco with funk and deep house elements in classic PDM form. This kaleidoscopic aspect of his new project both appeals to dance music fans from all corners, and allows the artist to stay true to his disco roots while keeping a foot in modern times.

On Soulmatic, I tried to make it so that every track touches upon some aspect of the ‘Disco’ genre. From the classic stylings of the 1970’s & 80’s, through Soul, Boogie, Funk into classic House, Filter Disco and Nu Disco,” he explains.

Crucial to the pervasiveness of disco in today’s dance culture is the art of sampling, and Soulmatic‘s first single “Body Funk” is no exception. The track nods to disco legend Sylvester by sampling the drums and bass-line of his hit “Do You Wanna Funk” and combining them with vocal samples from Hot Streak’s “Body Funk” over a classic Moroder-esque Italo-disco beat.

Purple Disco Machine comments,“‘Body Funk’ has been a key track for me since I first recorded it back in early 2017. I play it every set and it is a proper crowd anthem every time. It is crazy to know that it has spread across many different types of DJs, from Black Madonna to Dimitri Vegas who both play it!”

Soulmatic‘s second single “Devil In Me” is equally as unifying as “Body Funk” in that it showcases a melting pot of decades subgenres and tastes. On “Devil In Me,” PDM reimagines his own 2013 hit “My House” with a new vocal top line, and the result is a euphoric nod to dance music of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Not only does “Devil In Me” thrive on a late night Ibiza dance floor, but its sensual vocal courtesy of Joe Killington introduces the track to a wider audience. Killington’s beckoning voice gives a modern flair to the track’s classic disco roots, laying nicely over the original sample from William Bell’s “Private Number.”

The producer shares, “I always felt that the sample in ‘My House’ was so strong [and] that the record could go a lot further than just the club. To do that, it would need a vocal top line. So when it got signed the record company hooked it up. I think it really works, and now I have two different yet complementary records in my catalog.”

“Devil In Me” is representative of Soulmatic at large, using Joe Killington’s intoxicating vocals to transform a classic soul groove into a modern club anthem. Immediately after “Devil In Me,” Soulmatic‘s fifth track “Pray For Me” calls on contemporary R&B talent CeeLo Green to bring PDM’s Daft Punk-esque beat from a soulful loop into a late night heater.

In the form of vocoded vocals and keyboard notes, Daft Punk flavors also pop up on the album’s opener “Music In You” featuring Lorenz Rhode. Additionally,  Piontek pays homage to earlier musical eras on “Memphis Jam” by enlisting New York‘s Golden Age of rap icon Kool Keith for a luxurious overlapping of off kilter rap and soulful grooves.

From whichever decade, genre or taste he draws, Purple Disco Machine succeeds in shifting happiness and togetherness back into dance culture’s center focus with Soulmatic. His debut album upholds the integrity of traditional disco while reaching a mainstream dance audience, cementing it as one of today’s most innovative releases.

 

 

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Slow Magic asserts clear artistic vision and transcends place in third studio album, ‘Float’ [Interview + Album Review]

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Music lovers around the world are familiar with the legendary Colorado venue Red Rocks. Artists dream of playing the world-class outdoor venue for sometimes their entire careers.

Slow Magic is one of the lucky ones chosen to share his music there as an opening act for ODESZA, and he vivdly recalls the myriad of emotions coursing through him as he stepped up to the stage amidst a sold-out crowd.

“I was actually just telling myself throughout the set, ‘This is really scary, and crazy, don’t mess up,’” he announced in a conversation a few days ago.

The clean, crisp elevation air chilled the audience’s skin, as the Mile High sun set over the Rockies. That’s when Slow Magic stole the show last May with his energetic showmanship and impeccable production skills, balancing live and electronic instrumentation.

“It was an incredible experience,” continues the enigmatic producer, “and after the show it kind of all sunk in.”

 

It wasn’t always this way. Before the young musician was playing Red Rocks, Slow Magic was still learning his instruments of choice back in 2011.

“On my third [ever] show, my laptop completely fried just before my set so I handed an iPod with all my tracks to the sound guy and borrowed a drum from my friends who were also playing that night. I had played drums for a really long time but never connected the dots until that moment. I played the drum in the center of the crowd for the whole set and by the end my hands were a bit bloody.”

Armed with his instruments of choice — a computer, a MIDI keyboard, and a couple of drums — Slow Magic has become known for his unmistakable sound and his imaginative, animalistic persona. “Music by your imaginary friend,” reads his Twitter bio.

His image, a tribal-inspired live ethos, has become synonymous with his sonic identity, with its ethereal mix of distorted vocals, swirling synths, and light jazz.

Yet, it has been three years since the release of his sophomore project, How To Run Away, which the producer says was focused around themes of escapism, and of disconnecting from a sense of place.

October 4 marked another milestone in Slow Magic’s career as he releases his third studio album, Float, on the Sony-distributed imprint Downtown Records. And, while he’s far past the point in his career of having to explain why he chooses to stay hidden beneath the neon zebra mask, the 13-track LP lays out his innate, authentic sound while asserting a clear artistic vision for where he’s been (and where he’s going).

“Its also an album about Love, in a happy and a realistic sense, even sometimes in a dark sense.”

Work for Float  began during Slow Magic’s time in Iceland. Referring to the album’s major underlying message, Slow Magic points a similar theme of his last album: “To me its about escapism, wanting to float away. Not exactly to disconnect but to float above.” Yet, on Float, Slow Magic refers to his newly-minted vision of ‘escapism’ in the transcendental sense. It is about transcending physical place, rather than a need to disconnect from it.

Once the instrumentals began to take shape, Slow Magic turned to vocalists Peter Silberman (from The Antlers), Kate Boy, Tropics, Toulouse, and MNDR to add more layers to Float.

Speaking to his vocalists, which he alluded to as a completely new challenge, Slow Magic lightly quips about his collaborators never having met him in person.

“Funny enough I realized that I never was in the same room with any of the collaborators, which is fitting as no one knows who I am anyway.”

One artist Slow Magic lamented on not being able to work with in person was MNDR, who’s laid down vocals for the likes of Feed Me and Flume. “MNDR is amazing, and her vocals have a lot of depth to them. The song really came together naturally, and I think it’s because her vocals were so strong from the start.” Standing as the album’s fourth track, “Shivers” spotlights MNDR’s Grammy-winning vocals, with it’s airy, narcotic allure, pulling them together into a distinctly chill track with distorted synths and Slow’s signature budding drum work.

When one thinks to Slow Magic’s theme of escapism, and how it resonates across multiple albums, it speaks volumes to the spaces with which Slow Magic lives and inhabits. Elaborating on the Float‘s theme further, Slow Magic mentions how “its also an album about Love, in a happy and a realistic sense, even sometimes in a dark sense.”

He elaborates, “It’s kind of a balance on the whole album between happy and sad or dark emotions.”

One track he cites at the center of this thematic is the Peter Silberman-assisted ballad, “Belong 2 Me.” The album’s centerpiece track is haunting and mysterious, yet relaxed and unrestrained, speaking to the yin-and-yang duality in which Slow Magic calls attention to. “Love is something powerful and sometimes uncontrollable,” he finally reveals.

Looking to the future, Slow Magic says he would love to see himself working with a distinctly eminent type of artist – from DNTEL and Ben Gibbard to Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros, and Yung Lean.

As for the extremely well-rounded vocal talent on Float, Slow Magic seems drawn to certain type of vocal quality — airy and atmospheric, bright and elegant — for which the producer says adds to the particular kind of aesthetic he’s working to create.

slow magic

“Since it [Float] was my first time working with vocalists for features, I approached it very carefully. I think the challenge is to bring a lot of people in on the project but still to keep it cohesive sonically, and I think it ended up working very well. All of the vocalists compliment a each other in some ways.”

From the sprawling warmth of “Light,” featuring Tropics, to the 80s indie-pop throwback style of “Mind,” featuring Kate Boy, Slow Magic’s thoughtfulness to vocals really shines. There is a keen balance between his erratic, raw sounds and what each vocalist brings to the track.

Take, for instance, Kate Boy’s energetic pop-sensible style that calls on the “shoegaze” style of late 80s/early 90s British indie-rock. One almost feels as if they’re center stage in an angsty John Hughes teen movie. For “Mind,” Slow Magic wanted to take a step back from the original sound of his debut album, Triangle, while still doing something new.

Perhaps what makes the entire Float LP come together so coherently are the album’s instrumental tracks. The album’s first couple of instrumental tracks — “Valhalla,” “Skeleton Pink,” and the previously released “Drums” — string together the entire first half of the album so seamlessly that the tracks begin to take on a quality of their vocally mastered counterparts.

Yet, the album’s twelfth track, “Midnight Sun,” may just be the standout instrumental track of the album. Equipped with quirky synths, changing tempos, and a fun and elegant song structure, the track is light-hearted and laid-back. Its the type of piece one would find themselves chilling out to in a hammock down by the creek or gearing up for a night of partying with the friends.

One cannot speak about the musicality of Slow Magic’s third studio album, Float, without speaking about his visceral live production. The experience is so authentic and imaginative, so ethereal and raw, that one is transported to another time and space. Perhaps that is the kind of full circle experience of his cross-dimensional appeal. To listen to the Float LP in full is to be certain of an eventuality that one will see the songs performed live somehow, someday soon.

As an artist, though, the break-out producer says he’s always looking for new ways to grow his live production set-up. “The more I think of expanding the more and more i feel like I can do with the simple set up and the more I want to challenge myself.”

Watching Slow Magic on stage, as he balances the many moving parts of multiple instruments, is as intimidating to think about doing as it is an impressive sight to behold. “I am working on a ton of new things for my upcoming tour though, things I can’t say at the moment. So I’m always thinking of ways I can make the show a better experience.”

“I tried to stay away from listening to current electronic type music while I was working on this record.”

Above all, Float is transcendental, creative, and other-worldly. It is at times soothing and melodic, while, at others, staccato and upbeat. What stands out most about the album, however, is how it stands in complete opposition to itself. Like the yin-and-yang, the album reminds us of the duality of the human experience. It is both light and dark, gritty and soft, imaginative and real, both deeply conflicted and profoundly enlightened – and, ultimately, Slow Magic’s message is about learning to love ourselves in all those spaces.

Slow Magic will embark on a world tour in support of Float this fall. Stream the full Float LP below.

 

 

Four Tet’s ‘New Energy’ is a texturized, transcendent work of renewal [ALBUM REVIEW]

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Four Tet‘s  routinely provides a sound alternative in an ever-expanding landscape of sonic saturation

If the United Kingdom were to crown a Prime Minister to rule over its cutting-edge dance culture, the prolific producer, whose real name is Kieran Hebden, would undoubtedly be at the forefront of deserving acts. His lifelong body of work is a continuously-furthered effervescent endeavor and yet his humility matches his incredible skill.

Four Tet’s output can only be placed in one genre as of late: therapeutic.

As an artist, Hebden channels a lifetime of influences, with an experimental grandeur echoed by few. Whether it be jazz, techno, psychedelia, or traditional Indian dance music that Hebden pulls in, his repertoire occupies a niche that is both uplifting and desolate, full of both darkness and light. His melodies are woven together as if their respective elements were concocted only to be synthesized by way of his imagination. Asked to articulate his work in an interview, Hebden tells The Guardian“I want to be able to look back when I’m an old man and have these records tell a story,” Hebden tells The Guardian, when asked to articulate his work in an interview.

Fortunately, Hebden’s synthesis of both the ephemeral and more permanent is plentiful.

FourTet_WIDE

 

Hebden’s focus has been on the latter of the aforementioned as of late. He began to self-release his albums back in 2012 after a decade on Domino Records. In a rare interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, he expounded upon this decision:

“I had a child and time became very precious to me. I needed to eliminate the things that weren’t efficient: marketing stuff, interviews, strategy, promotion. I didn’t want to worry about that anymore. I just wanted to create the best possible stuff I could for the most hardcore and devoted fans. I could achieve so much on Twitter and social media that all that energy going to getting on the racks at Barnes & Noble was so trivial.”

He’s since delivered on his coyly set aforementioned goal with the release of his ninth studio album, New Energy. Its entire rollout is also by way of his own doing—marketing via socials, limited interviews, etc.

Though Hebden’s already teased out four of the fourteen tracks, New Energy’s serpentine instrumentation is a circuitous avoidance of sonic similarity, meditative and intricately-devised. Its tracks exude a panoptic enigma that is regenerated upon each new listen.

New Energy is a transcendent piece for Four Tet, as if the title hadn’t already served as some pre-indication. Albeit, the tracks themselves do not stray far from the Hebden that ascended the reigns of experimental dance music in the early 2000’s. It is with their implemented instrumentation, the record’s downtempo focus, and limited employment of minimal techno, rather, that the work differs from previous releases. But, that is also where New Energy shines.

On “Planet,” a seven-minute track released prior to the record, Four Tet echoes the cultural sentiments long intertwined with his music.

“Ba Teaches Yoga,” a track off the epochal Beautiful Rewind LP—which Hebden wrote after the passing of his grandmother— comes to mind when listening to the new “Planet.” “Planet” serves as the cultural forefront on New Energy, albeit in a newfound deliverance.  It’s important to weigh in the placement of “Planet” as the final track of New Energy as well. One may posit that its use as an epilogue serves as a farewell to the culturally-lamented works and rather a homage to the cultural influence on his work.

This is not to say Hebden’s choice of an instrumental, downtempo focus on New Energy is a dismissal of his previous cultural sonic narrative. Perhaps a cultural-leaning deliverance was just what was exuded at a moment in his life. This has always been the way Four Tet’s created music and grown as an artist, after all, expounding upon what it is that he loves. In doing so, others may relish in a feeling or find an element that they too love.

Near the album’s end is the track “Daughter,” a number that intertwines a vast number of influences Hebden draws on. “Daughter” broods in its vocals, only to be met with an exquisite, delicate piano track underneath. The number is likely an outreach of Hebden’s desire to create long-lasting, momentous pieces. After all, there’s a child’s voice at the end. It’s likely a track that honors an element in his life that he is deeply fond of— his own kin.

New Energy is indeed Four Tet’s way of expounding on all of the elements of life he so deeply enjoys, created in the hopes that the listener may find new elements or cultures they themselves are fond of, too.

New Energy is out now via BMG.

 

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AC Slater obstructs the norm in debut album ‘Outsiders’ [ALBUM REVIEW]

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The premier innovator of the revolutionary party brand Night Bass Aaron Clevenger — otherwise known as AC Slater — defines his creative integrity in the form of his debut album, Outsiders. Hailed as ‘the king of heavy bass house in America,’ the artist has grown his creative brand from the ground up, rising above the ranks and succeeding in constructing a genre-driven movement.

After getting his start partying and DJing in the late ’90s, AC Slater would soon find himself joining the Brooklyn-based label Trouble & Bass in 2008 to release his remix of “Turn the Music Up,” a track that would introduce his stylistic severity. Today, after years of building one of the most globally respected dance music institutions, Clevenger seeks to further break through the fold in the highly-anticipated release of his first full-length record. 

Ac Slater

 

AC Slater’s meteoric rise, however, did not rely on appealing to the masses, but instead of the overhaul of the mainstream allure of electronic music. The Night Bass brand started off as a monthly party series where the avant-garde beatmaker could play out his own deep, bass-centric rhythms as well as bring in similarly fresh talent from across the globe. Fast-forward a year later, the trailblazing collective took to the road in 2015, introducing his hypnotic, bass-fueled brewery of experimental music to all corners of the country.

Within that framework, AC Slater’s progressive status was in full effect, and he extended the party series into a full-blown record label that would go on to procure releases from the likes of Jack Beats, Sindin, Shift K3yWax Motif, and more.

Devisive, yet unconfined, the vanguard was determined on setting himself outside the realm of normalcy, seeking out a vision that integrates creative self-direction with communal rebellion.

“I follow my instincts. Everything coming out on Night Bass is signed literally because it’s something I would play out, or something I really believe in. I just want to do cool things with cool people: that’s the ethos behind Night Bass. Visually I just want it to be very recognizable, and the events and DJ bookings simply just have to make sense for our sound.”

Night Bass

As for his debut album, Outsiders stands as a resounding encapsulation of AC Slater’s built up accreditation in the dance music realm. All of Clevenger’s characteristic tonalities in the 11-track record are present— the bone-rattling bass, the sweat-inducing UK garage tempos, and the infectious accessibility — all wrapped up into one vastly-accomplished project. Adding to the piece’s thematic element, Outsiders also features a roster of respectable talent that fall along a wide spectrum of pioneering tastemakers.

“There’s a range of people who inspired me like Sinden and Herve up to newer artists who are carving their own lane like Rome Fortune. Everyone on there is super talented and I think each could even be labeled as “outsiders” themselves, and I mean that in the best and most positive way.”

When asked which track out of the album embodies the message behind the record best, AC Slater finds that “Misfits” encapsulates the message behind the project the most. “The instrumental is hype, bubbly and sneaky sounding. If the beat sounds right and the bass feels nice, you know we’re gonna go all night” just capture how I feel about music: I try not to get caught up in the hype, just do what I enjoy and not what is popular or trendy. That’s what the album is all about.”

“I’ve always felt like an outsider when it comes to the music industry, even one as small as the rave scene once was before the EDM phenomenon. It’s my first album so I really wanted to capture my personal experience within that context.”

AC Slater does exactly that in Outsiders, weaving in his personal development into each song with perfect finesse. The record is filled to the brim with the producer’s most fundamental and expressive work. Starting off the album, “Ring the Alarm” reigns in a confident and assertive demeanor, fortifying the LP’s domineering edge. “Dealer” highlights the producer’s musical versatility, calling upon the resilient lyricism of Rome Fortune alongside hints of Tchami‘s future bass flair. Appealing to his more grungy side, “Taking Off” with Shoffy features gorgeous UK Garage elements, while his track “Dope Slinger” stands out as an unapologetic party anthem, filled with booty-bouncing bass lines and riotous fervor.

It goes without saying, every aspect of Outsiders is held up by the smallest detail. “As far as the album art, I wanted to capture an image of a group of younger kids that are outsiders, who have been drawn to each other to build their own family. I wanted it to have an underground feel. […] They’re outsiders, they’re literally outside of the box on the album art,” stated Clevenger on the more visual aspects of the LP.

Outsiders is a testament to self-revival; an autobiography of Aaron Clevenger’s urge to break boundaries and bring people together through a new force of music. AC Slater’s debut record celebrates the vision of non-conformity, the unsettled elite, the blazing individuals who seek out the bigger and louder personas in life. As for the artist himself, the avid producer hasn’t lost his touch, providing us with his most cohesive bass house catalog that can be appreciated by those who readily choose to position themselves outside the norm.

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Illenium transcends genres; touches listeners to their core with sophomore album ‘Awake’ [ALBUM REVIEW]

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It has been eight long months of releases and teasers, but as of midnight EST on September 21, the wait for Illenium‘s sophomore album is finally over. Nick Miller, the man behind the productions, is undoubtedly known as one of the more prolific producers of our era, thanks to his consistent output and meteoric rise. While Miller has carved out the future bass genre and helped define its sound, this LP proves he has the ability to transcend genres and appeal to a wide variety of fan bases. This is no small feat that is becoming an increasingly difficult road to navigate as a producer in a day and age, where electronic music fan bases are becoming more fragmented as the industry continues to commercialized.

Awake will only further his prominence as a producer with its 13-tracks ranging from feel good music to intense bass laced drops. Miller even dabbles within the indie electronic genre, showcasing his ability to diversify his oeuvre while still maintaining his signature style.

Illenium-press photo

There is no stronger start to an album than “Needed You” featuring Dia Frampton. The song, which is opens to flowing vocals that melt into an incredible bass drop, resonates in the listener’s mind far past the song’s close. The track combines Illenium’s mastery of mystical elements and sounds as well as powerful bass juxtaposed with unique vocals. Should there be one song selected to describe the tone for the entire album, “Needed You” could certainly vie for this position.

Five singles from the album have been released this year including the second track “Crawl Outta Love,” whose subtle intro with Annika Wells’ vocals and piano deceivingly put the listener at ease. The track hits listeners in their core with its heightened tempo and all-consuming drop. “Fractures,” “Feel Good” — co-produced with Gryffin — “Sound of Walking Away” and most recently “Leaving” make up the rest of the tracks from Awake that were previously released. Representative of Illenium’s talent and engaged fanbase, these five tracks combined have already amassed nearly 83 million streams combined on Spotify alone.

The third track, “No Time Like Now,” although short, is where we see Illenium begin to swerve from his established style into a more indie electronic sound, with guitar forming the backbone of the song. It is a good segue into the fourth track “Free Fall,” which delves back into the resonating bass intercut with melodic vocals.

“Where’d U Go” showcases a collaboration between Miller and his roommate Said the Sky, otherwise known as Trevor Christensen. The upbeat track immediately draws the listener in with a catchy beat that falls almost immediately into an intense drop. As the track continues, vocal layers of a children’s choir lightens the track before submerging the listener back into the hard drop that would resonate with dubstep, future bass, and progressive fans alike. “Where’d U Go” is one of the more upbeat tracks of the album, so those looking for a workout anthem or night out tune should look no further.

Illenium Said the Sky

Illenium stars to venture into more commercial territory with the second half of the album, although this is far from sellout as the tracks still maintaining a distinct edge. “Lost” with Emilie Brandt veers into a progressive house vibe, with the catchy vocals carrying the track. As with all of Miller’s version of “commercial” music, “Lost” is still far different than anything one would hear on the radio.

“Taking Me Higher” wouldn’t be out of place on Passion Pit record. The track is an interesting juxtaposition of sounds, synths, and styles that melts into a perfect tune for a relaxing afternoon.

Prized vocalist MAX — who has recently collaborated with Rain Man, 3LAU, as well as Flux Pavilion — is featured on Awake‘s penultimate entry, titled “Beautiful Creatures.” Guitar once again is used as the foundation for this track and paves the way for MAX’s vocals to be the centerpiece of the song. It can only be described as melodic with a hint of mystical, and is likely to be a radio hit.

Illenium finishes the album on “Let You Go,” a collaboration with Ember Island. An orchestra compliments the vocals on this downtempo affair, and serves as a beautiful, fitting ending for a beautiful album.

While many call albums an outdated form of releasing music, we can only be thankful that Illenium ignores this and decided to create a masterful full-length in Awake. The producer has left another imprint that further solidifies his prominence in the electronic music community. It is no secret that Miller is a breath of fresh air within a genre that is receiving increased skepticism for turning pop, to say nothing of stale, and, indeed, his music has the unique ability to be played on a radio without compromising its integrity.

 

 

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