Thursday, October 29, 2020
Arts + Culture Music Tracks: 5 quick hits of musical relief

Tracks: 5 quick hits of musical relief

Generous doses of Rhodes piano, gentle rock nodders, electronic intrigue, and a local underground supergroup tune us in.


Sometimes an album, long-player, or full-download is just a skosh too much for the moment. Folks, look. We got masks to put on, Air Quality Indexes to consult, sorting out which establishments are opening, closing, adding a parklet or drive-in movie theater. One tune at a time, please. Getting just a taste, can lead to a wanting a full dose. When, and if, things settle down. So here we go with “Tracks.” Our way of providing the continuous onslaught of way above par music being released every day, even on Sundays. We’re gonna give up those new beats, making our days just a bit brighter, as we put one foot in front of the other. And slap a mask on our mug. 

KAMM, “BUCKLE DOWN” (CIRCUS COMPANY) When the KAMM band, loosely organized in San Francisco and then solidified in Berlin, decides to combine like an all-star Zoltan, be ready for jokes on the outside and serious left-field musical endeavors on the inside. Dave Aju, Alland Byallo, Kenneth Scott, and Mark Smith aka Locksmith can get heady in their individual dancefloor producer roles. Together, they bring a unique vibe.

KAMM’s lead single “Buckle Down” from forthcoming album Cookie Policies (see what I mean ’bout the jokes) is blowing unpredictably free jazz frequencies pitched down into trip-banger funk. It feels like a tune from author Paul Beatty’s 2008 hip break-out novel Slumberland. Mysteriously off, but still way on.

Structure and groove are given a bit more illumination from Byallo’s trumpet solo.  Where their debut LP, Kick Drunk Love, for Marcel Vogel’s aptly-titled Intimate Friends label, worked inside those slower Haight Mo-Wax trips, four years later, the weight of life has allowed the quartet to present heartbreak and maturity with the ego guard removed. Don’t get it twisted, these ‘dudes’ in the presser refer to their name as the Kinetic Abyss of the Micro Micro, Kill All Mediocre Music, or Kindly Ask My Mother…..But this time around, we all need the jokes, for comfort. Get it here.


Originally appearing on rRoxymore’s critically acclaimed 2019 album Face to Phase, Forward Flamingo gets several re-rubs here expanding the disco communique into polyrhythmic heights, minimal dub extremes, and atonal experiments. On the original cut of “Forward Flamingo,” presented once again as the first track on this EP, rRoxymore illustrates perfectly her reputation as an artist seamlessly able to move between the functions of the dancefloor and the esoteric nature of her production style. Initially broadly inspired by the work and texture of Arthur Russell, the track lands in the arms of a roster of producers and friends with utterly contrasting but always idiosyncratic approaches. Get it here.

God only knew a Rhodes piano would save all of our lives this year. While the aptly titled “Hambone Cappuccino” draws a circle around all the forms of Black muisc that built the predominantly WHITE 7.2 billion dollar EDM industry—house, jazz, disco, funk, techno and the beige areas between that certain folk have not found a way to pimp a nickel out of just yet—it sounds like home on label Wuddaji. There is this orb of Donny Hathaway keyboard work that provides a safe-haven. Like Theo shouting “C’mon, I gotcha.” Get it here.


West London duo Babeheaven, the project of lifelong friends Nancy Anderson and Jamie Travis, does the work of two creatives who are united on a similar outlook on life and great taste in art, luckily for us. “Craziest Things” is a windswept combo of indie, electronic, and soul, delivered with transparency.

“As a person of color and a plus-size woman, I’ve never felt that comfortable with myself as a performer,” explains Andersen.”When we first started making music, it just hadn’t crossed my mind that I’d have to be someone who took up that kind of space, so over lockdown I’ve had a lot more time to think about how I want to be perceived on stage.” Get it here.

Here’s where it started. The initial demos that eventually became Neal Francis’ debut album Changes. That début solo record from 2019, layed down eight songs, in a keep-it-moving 37 minutes, at the intersection where alehouse rock ‘n’ roll meets New Orleans percussive R&B. Tuff, vivid arrangements, with his trademark nasally toned swag made the record a hit amongst all the tastemakers such as KEXP, KCRW, NPR, BBC RADIO….. As he prepares for his sophomore LP, we get to peek into the initial sketches at the onset of his career as a singer and songwriter. These are the type of demos you WANT to hear. Get it here.

“There has been a long history of music speaking on the troubles of society, wielded as an instrument of change or simply reflecting on the ills of the day. Sometimes things are so overwhelming that it is used as an escape or distraction. 2020 has been a year beyond measure in these modern times, immense loss and changes to life as we know it, it has been hard to maintain a sense of enthusiasm. Dipping in and out of cynicism and a positive outlook has become a challenge but as it is my main form of expression I refuse to dull the light within. Fighting through the exhaustion of witnessing African American men and women killed in the street like dogs, this generation’s movement has taken up the cause but not without its own controversy and an incendiary response by what can only be described as an evil empire controlled by madmen. I wrote this album in response to the days we’re living in. I don’t know what lays ahead in the immediate future but the phases eventually sync and the beat goes on” -Afrikan Sciences. Get it here.

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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