At it’s best, dance music has championed the misfits, and been a home for the one-of-a-kinds. When this happens, a club can become a safe haven and temple for anyone willing to embrace others as they embrace themselves. But what happens when it isn’t the outside world that can’t contain an idea, but the club itself? The answer, it seems, is Bob Moses. Originally honed in New York’s effervescent music world, the now LA-based duo were warehouse warriors with a destiny that sets them apart from every indie rock act and dance DJ in rotation. The brainchild of an Ultra Records trance savant and a rock band bassist, Bob Moses has aspirations beyond every pre-made path; the weepy indie scene needs more kick drum, and the fist pumping dance hoards need to be subject to more songwriting with soul. It’s from this thrilling, precarious position that the duo deliver their second full-length studio effort, Battle Lines.
The album begins with a bang, as the towering vocal harmonies of “Heaven Only Knows” leads to a thundering four-to-the-floor romp. Despite grungy guitar work woven throughout the track, the song has an undeniable royalty to it that belies the track’s tellingly conflicted lyrics. As the LP flows forward, it’s clear the group is presenting their unique tastes, and nothing else. It’s a lucky thing; the compositions range from the shimmering cool of album’s title track to the rattling thrum of “The Only Thing We Know.” It doesn’t take long to realize this latest incarnation of Bob Moses has shed another layer of dance floor disco. In its place is an extra pour of smoke and fuzz that brings the duo deeper into indie rock territory than ever before — at least in terms of texture and instrumentation.
Beneath the surface is a group feeling freed to try on every song structure and arrangement inspiration that grasps their interest. The record’s final complexion reveals a lot about what the studio sessions were probably like. Guitar lines and echoing piano power Oasis-esque sensibilities on “Selling Me Sympathy,” while “Nothing But You” drenches Maroon 5 pop stylings in saturation and warmth. Dig deeper, and there are those uniquely effortless dance roots that put the group’s scene-straddling abilities in the spotlight. “Listen to Me” and “Enough to Believe” are atmospheric deep house in indie rock clothing, and “Heaven Only Knows” possesses a gritty stomp that would sound right at home on a more recent Justice record. In less capable hands, the collection of ideas would border on chaos. Ever the masters at toeing the genre line, Bob Moses cover the entire project in two bulletproof ingredients – sonic cohesion, and a supreme confidence and command of musical elements that come from the natural maturation of an artistic journey. The various inspirations push and pull the listener back and forth, but the space Bob Moses’s music lives in remains the same. The feat is duplicated in rich, bittersweet, and conflicted lyrics. They speak of loss, doubt, remorse and ultimately resolution — consider, “Back Down” begins with the phrase “Caught in the tide of our own divide.” If Battle Lines represents a group with a foot in multiple worlds, Bob Moses should hopefully aim to ride that tide right into whatever fascinating canvas of expression they draw up next.
MGMT is charting an ominously morbid, gothic return with their latest track, the aptly-named “When You Die.”
Confronting the concept of death, vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden sings, “You die / and words don’t do anything.” Continuing, “It’s permanently night / and I won’t feel anything.”
A buoyant melody and driving synth aid in the exuberance of a most blissful multitude on the new track. It’s both enveloping and enthralling, all while the video’s protagonist flys through a blissful void of seemingly meaningless activities, and a sea of space when he passes.
“When You Die” is akin to the very ethos of the synth-pop stars. VanWyngarden lashes out on the track, “Go fuck yourself / You heard me right / Don’t call me nice, again,” all while simultaneously encapsulating the introspective lyrics and dazzling dexterity of group that seems to be charting a momentous return.
Little Dark Age is due out in February of 2018 and will serve as a follow-up to the band’s self-titled LP of 2013. While its release date and tracklist have yet to be announced, they’ve been performing new tracks from the record while on tour, and have an array of festivals they’re set to appear at.
21-year-old Mura Masa has built up a staggering, incredibly impressive production catalog in a very brief time span.
Having finally returned off the debut of his self-titled album, out earlier this year, the British artist expectedly stuns in a catchy new collaboration. Taking on a production from indie rock’s favorite trio, HAIM, the producer breathes new life into their production ‘Walking Away.”
Masa opens his eclectic repertoire with the moving production opus. The resulting tune is a pleasing, electronica-washed rework taking the meaning of indie to entirely new heights. He’s flipped the track into a uniquely bright, melodious rework that’s surely unmissable and impossible to walk away from in all senses of the word.
For the week preceding the release of his album, Kids In Love, Kygo has dropped one track off the LP per day. Set to bow on November 3rd, the tracks released so far have covered a wide range of sounds and genres.
The last track before Kids In Love is released is “I See You” featuring Billy Raffoul, a production that continues the trend of diversity the album is set to debut. “I See You” can only be described as indie rock with its mellow guitar and slow tempo centered around Raffoul’s unique vocals.
The Norwegian producer also announced an accompanying world tour with the album release that is set to kick off in Helsinki, Finland in February of 2018. Pre-sale tickets for his tour are available here with the password “love.”
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.
“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.