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

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grid of souls-break science

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

What do you feel the album is attempting to say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Describe the album in just a few words.

B: An extrasensory musical excursion thru emotionally charged atmospheres

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

 

Stream Petit Biscuit’s soaring, cinematic debut album, ‘Presence’

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Rising star Petit Biscuit has proven his talents for music production are developed well beyond his years. Classically trained in the cello since the age of five, Mehdi Benjelloun burst onto the dance music scene with his monumental remix of ODESZA‘s “Memories That You Call,” drawing comparisons of his cinematic sound design with that of the Seattle-based duo. The promising young producer, hailing from France, would soon catapult himself to notoriety at the mere age of 15 with his 5-track self-titled EP, wherein the project’s leading single, “Sunset Lover,” reached an unprecedented 400 million streams worldwide.

The multi-talented musician now celebrates his 18th birthday with the release of a genre-blending debut album that is every bit as warm and inviting as it is vulnerable and exposed. Presence offers sunny, progressive chord structures and colorful, polished mixing flanked by electronic touches and a furtive vocality that both chills and arouses. From the LP’s first track, “Creation Comes Alive,” featuring SONIA, to its instrumental closing title, “The End,” which utilizes the same shimmering synth pattern, the entire work becomes an evocative story book of pain and resilience for which one can use a lens into — quite literally — viewing an emotion.

Arguably the stand out track of the LP is the cinematic production “Forever Being,” which calls upon ODESZA’s sonic landscape with it’s chiming key chords, soaring vocal chops, complex half-/double-time drum work, and nostalgic phonographic movie quotes on the front and tail ends. The LP’s most astounding fact: Petit Biscuit wrote, produced, and mixed Presence over the course of the last year, finding time between high school exams and sold-out tours across the US, Europe, and beyond.

Read more:

ODESZA’s ‘A Moment Apart’ is evocative, organic, and profoundly resilient [Album Review]

Petit Biscuit and Lido release lyrical collaboration

Petit Biscuit – Sunset Lover (Slow Hours Remix)

 

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.

 

 

ODESZA’s ‘A Moment Apart’ is evocative, organic, and profoundly resilient [Album Review]

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Tomorrow marks the exact three-year mark since ODESZA released their second LP, In Return. Today, September 8, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight have stepped out of the woodwork for their third full-length album, A Moment Apart, out on their Foreign Family Collective imprint.

The relentless touring that followed ODESZA’s sophomore LP gave way to rainy Seattle studio sessions in the winter of 2016, with finishing touches being made earlier this spring. The result is a 16-track treasure trove of indie-electronic gems that represents ODESZA’s artistic evolution and their penchant for raw experimentation.

“This newest album, I think, is a lot more about growth and progression and maturity. I don’t think we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, its really just about us pursuing our sound to the fullest,” Mills revealed in a recent interview.

Building upon their Pacific Northwest folk-inspired sound, ODESZA’s A Moment Apart plays with weighted atmospheres and shimmering synth lines while invoking familiar feelings of nostalgia, optimism and hope. “We kind of rediscovered [our] sound, in a sense, and reconnected to it,” says Knight, “It has flavors of what was, but is also something new and progressive.”

odesza-press

Photo courtesy of Avi Loud.

The album, is without a doubt, a statement that ODESZA’s dynamic range is worthy of pop mainstream attention. Only time will tell, but there are two thematic qualities as to why the LP works so seamlessly: close attention to form and genre, and a dedication to organic experimentation.

What is immediately evident off the Seattle-based duo’s humble masterpiece is its stunning ingenuity and its delicate balance between the ebullient and ethereal, from it’s dreamlike melodies and glitchy sun-kissed vocals to it’s crunchy drums with their large sweeping bass lines.

Take the album’s first couple of instrumental tracks, “A Moment Apart” and “Boy,” which ODESZA has been teasing in their live sets since early spring. The tracks stand as the instrumental launching pad for blasting off into ODESZA’s rich, corporeal sound – one which collapses both time and space dimensions – wrapping the listener into a cocoon of emotional longing for what was, what is, and what has yet to come.

As the album progresses, a clear picture is painted. A story begins to emerge in sound. Rather than making a statement of longing for summer, as with their previous Summer’s Gone LP in 2012, Mills and Knight bring listeners with them on an emotive, cyclical journey through the four seasons.

The album’s twelfth track, “Thin Floors and Tall Ceilings,” resembles the dark, rainy winters of the Pacific Northwest, while, at the same time, expressing a longing for summer, all packaged into one chilling ballad. With indecipherable synthesized vocals, which sound as if they’ve been rinsed through an old phonograph, the top lines slowly building over a powerful string section and pulsating timpani drums.

“Cuidad,” the following track, carries with it the warmth and glowing fervor of summer, with it’s more scattered tempos and upbeat appeal. The result is a playful track that is simultaneously lighthearted and fun while being both dark and daring, uplifting and, at times, melancholy.

Speaking to Dancing Astronaut on the LP’s development, Knight referred to A Moment Apart as the full embodiment of the seasons in Seattle, noting how location has an immense impact on their sound:

“Seattle is known for it’s kind of rock and folk and kind of indie scene so a lot of those elements make it into [our] music. And this album specifically is very organic and I think we were trying to hold on to more organic instrumentation and I think that is due a lot to where we come from.”

A Moment Apart is chock so full of rich narratives, and pulls from so many complimentary genres that one can easily see how they all come together into a seamless story arch. Chalk it up to Clay and Harrison’s expert understanding of form as well as their dedication to integrating live instrumentation while on tour, which includes their Northwest-bred band – complete with a crisply rehearsed drum line, a horn section, and lead guitarist and old college buddy, Sean Kusanagi, who also doubles as their filmmaker.

The album’s very organic, very introspective nature actually belies the raw energy of ODESZA’s consistently sold-out live shows. This live ethos cuts across the new album in dynamic, layered songs with raw overtones and cinematic appeal, such as the RY X-assisted track, “Corners Of The Earth,” the instrumental track “Meridian,” and the all-Spanish ballad featuring The Chamanas “Everything At Your Feet.”

Time and again, Mills and Knight have shown deep drive and humility for working with others. Indeed, the entire assemblage of work is filled with radio-ready hit collaborations with the likes of Russian pop-folk sensation, Regina Skeptor, and the reigning
“King of Soul,” Leon Bridges.

Clay and Harrison have admitted that they prefer to work with lesser known names for how they aren’t tied down to one specific sonic direction and thus more often willing to experiment with their organic soundscapes. Yet, perhaps the album’s most captivating song is the haunting Regina Skeptor ballad, “Just a Memory,” which the boys revealed, after an intimate hotel rehearsal with Skeptor, they completely stripped down the instrumentals to capture the raw energy with which she imbued the hotel room.

ODESZA and Leon Bridges Eric Tra

Leon Bridges performs with ODESZA at Bumbershoot. Photo courtesy of Eric Tra.

While it has received mixed fan reviews, the album’s fourteenth track, “Falls,” is an inspirational, uplifting ditty which fuses dream-pop ingredients with elements of world. With anthemic lyrics that are as palpable as it’s sound design, the track spotlights the smooth, soaring vocals of Sasha Sloan over a gentle horn section and the electronic duo’s signature drum work. Each added sonic layer becomes a new piece of the story that wraps the listener up into new plot lines rooted not in words and lyrics, but inside musical form itself.

A Moment Apart stands as a nostalgic and spiritually-adept magnum opus of lyrical and instrumental sound. It is a collection of tracks that are as euphoric and expressive as they are evocative and substantive. One might, therefore, go as far as to call the album a crowning achievement of ODESZA’s career, in its commitment to both musical convention and organic experimentation as well as in how it ventures to piece together spatial and temporal layers into a larger sonic storyline. Certainly, it is ODESZA’s most narrative endeavor to date. Or, in other words, it is the most nuanced, intentional, and fully-fleshed out project on their resume.

What stands out most about the album, however, is how it is overwhelmingly corporeal. A Moment Apart is, more than anything else, an immersive, embodied, all-consuming exploration of the inner self, one which begins at the ears and delves deep into the psyche, catapulting its listeners into both the happy and hard times, while tapping those universal memories to remind us we are both one and the same. The album reminds us that the human experience is as joyous as it is painful. It is both gritty and soft, both bleak and wildly colorful, cinematic and emotional, imaginative and real, raw, organic, and profoundly resilient.

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