Over the past year, there has been a significant change in the way people consume music. For example, Spotify added a significant number of subscribers over the past year. Patrons of the digital platform are now listening to more music on the weekend than in pre-pandemia times, and relaxing genres are rising in popularity across the board. But there’s no need to rely on corporate streaming service algorithms for your bliss. We put together a column of new music, chill and uplifting tracks, that mirrors this new inclination. We are calling it Good Things.
Before we start, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette.
The former Phillips engineer initially began working on the cassette tape in the early ‘60s. Years later, the technology became a global phenomenon. More importantly, without Ottens, who passed away recently at the age of 94, there is a strong possibility that dance music and hip-hop—read; genres from the disenfranchised—would have never reached industry-churning levels. EDM alone generated 7.2 billion dollars in total revenue a couple years ago. Let’s keep that in mind.
Hip-hop, electro, disco, boogie—genres championed first by Black and gay cultures—only got short playtimes on mainstream terrestial radio outside of the big cities. They spread by people taping songs from off the radio and and mixing them into DJ sets. They played them for friends, dubbed them for friends, and sent an enormous number of people to the record stores searching for mysterious 12-inch singles that normally would be passed over. Pause tapes, an early version of beat tapes, only came about from music lovers who would record and edit songs by taping them on the beat, from the radio to cassette.
Otten created a platform designed for the streets. Need more proof? Go ask Too $hort about his salad days selling cassettes out the trunk of his car.
Rest in Power Lou Ottens, the culture owes you one.
CARLOS NIÑO & FRIENDS — MORE ENERGY FIELDS, CURRENT (International Anthem)
“Pleasewakeupalittlefaster, please…” the lead single from Carlos Nino’s debut on Chicago imprint International Anthem has all the hope and windswept ambiance you could want, at the start of something so naturalistic in its beauty. Hitting with all the grace of a 6 a.m. sunrise set at the ocean, Niño paints a tranquil picture.
According to the press release, the album is ripe with “ambient” passages that function like open portals between moments of consonance and clarity. Coming from the label that released Jeff Parker’s masterpiece of an album last year, Suite For Max Brown, I’d take their word.
AFRIKAN SCIENCES — THE NEW DUN LANGUAGE/IN HIS CONVENIENT WAY (ESP Institute, out March 26)
I’ve been covering, following, listening, and scratching my head to Afrikan Sciences for a couple of years. He can still make you want to Camel Walk all over the USS Enterprise, with a John Woo flick playing quietly in the background.
Still sad over Daft Punk retiring? Get baptized in the extensive Bandcamp releases from this slept on Rhythm Czar. The push-pull of tempos, the cinematic nature of how he uses time signatures, and the bottom-heavy frequency that comes with unifying that techno and bass music momentum into a real earworm of a nasty bugger.
It insults my intelligence to say he’s still one of the most respected underground electronic music producers around, cause he should have BLOWN UP, Ritchie Hawtin-style, over a decade ago.
Give him a shot and decide for yourselves. Georgia Anne Muldrow, Gilles Peterson, and a gank of certified beatheads and respected producers cannot be wrong.
LORAINE JAMES — “SIMPLE STUFF” (Hyperdub)
“Simple Stuff” is a minimal-to-the-bone rhythm track that bangs to and fro with its drone-y bass tones intricate, clickety, inner-winding patterns.
It features the artist whispering words that we come to find out are lyrics in-between the click-clack business. James is like an unhinged genius, repeating a formula in the hopes of not forgetting it.
“The words for ‘Simple Stuff’ came very spontaneously but also reflects my immediate current thoughts,” James shares. Her upcoming long-player Reflection, out on Hyperdub June 4th, creates inner space with unflinching honesty. According to the artist, this project offers gentle empathy and bitter-sweet hope, pared-down and confident, leaning further into pop music.
It’s her own way of taking the listener through how a tumultuous year felt for a young, Black queer woman and her acolytes in a world that has suddenly stopped moving.
Sounds like a retro-future project designed for right now.
HIATUS KAIYOTE — “GET SUN” (FEAT. ARTHUR VEROCAI) (Brainfeeder)
Quite excited to find out Hiatus Kaiyote signed with the Brainfeeder imprint, what a win-win.
This twice-Grammy-nominated band took six years to make its album Mood Valiant. By the fall of 2018, frontwoman Nai was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother’s death from the same disease hovered over her like a dark cloud. Nai rushed back to Australia and into the hospital, where she underwent a life-saving mastectomy. As she recovered, the band turned back to their work with altered perspectives.
“When you think your life is going to be taken away from you, it makes you think about who you are,” according to Nai. Track “Get Sun” (featuring Arthur Verocai) came about from a trip the band took to Rio de Janeiro, where the famous composer had horn and string arrangements for days. They locked on, and a confident song and album emerged. This project has all the trappings of being massive for 17 different reasons.
The album is out on June 25th. It’s worth your attention.