Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases and a number of other adjacent items. Please enjoy!
SPELLLING — THE TURNING WHEEL (Sacred Bones)
It took a pandemic for the Oakland artist Chrystia Cabral, who records under the moniker SPELLLING, to self-produce her most extravagant project to date. The Turning Wheel is fleshed out by an ensemble of 31 collaborating musicians that utilizes a limitless assortment of vivid acoustic sounds. The release was delayed by almost a year. But maybe that was OK that crinkle gave way to a more affable rendering of such a heavier-than-air creation.
The 12-song double LP is split into two halves; “Above” and “Below.” Baroque textures dominate the former section, and macabre-like gothic tones fill out the latter.
SPELLLING triumphantly manufactures a celestially twisted, Fellini-risque pop masterpiece, arriving fully stocked with all the amusement park house of haunted mirrors melodies to which to quiver.
Track “Boys at School” is marked by a tension that hides in plain sight, just under the wandering bassoon leads and horror film squelching guitar charts. But it’s still Cabral’s spellbinding vocals that advance the project through all the caves, hills, and valleys in which SPELLLING fearlessly works her spells. Welding soul, pop, psych, goth, and ambient into an all-consuming velvet meditation, she provides a shining example of how Black music can be done 10,000 different ways.
NITE JEWEL — “THIS TIME”
Los Angeles-based Ramona Gonzalez, a Berkeley and Oakland native who records under the moniker Nite Jewel, will release her album No Sun, later this summer. Her first LP in four years was recorded in the aftermath of the dissolution of her 12-year marriage. In 2018, she found herself drifting from friend’s couch to friend’s couch while studying for her PhD in musicology at UCLA. The album is shaped by her studies of women’s musical lament which, in ancient Greece, saw female voices expressing communal and personal grief. Across eight tracks, Gonzalez considers what it means to be a professional mourner.
Alongside the announcement, Gonzalez has shared the vulnerable lead single, “This Time,” which is inspired by Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The electronic guitar acts as a “direct ode” to the legendary artist.
A press statement tells us that through spacious and steady production, Gonzalez evokes a “deep loneliness.” The album’s instrumentation oscillates from sparse synths to dizzying experimental soundscapes and, while the album can be interpreted as electronic dance music for an era of death or mourning, it is also a “fervent celebration of life.”
In the past Nite Jewel has produced dance-floor-fit, moody synth-pop creations and slow jams that prefer experimental presentation. Her appearance on the podcast Heat Rocks allowed the artist to share why she’s so obsessed with the seminal Kraftwerk album Computer World.
While most of the time her music is earnestly interested in defying specific categorization, it crushes with its infectious “hooks fer days” winning formula.
30/70 — TASTES LIKE FREEDOM (Rhythm Section International)
When 30/70, the Melbourne based collective, chooses to do it, chances are it’s done very well.
Their surprise single “Tastes Like Freedom” is a nine-minute steady builder comprised of disco, jazzy moods, skitter-step pastel funk, and muggy bliss that is oh-so-ready to create that humid slice of mayhem on soundsystems returning from 15-month seclusion.
According to vocalist Allysha Joy, “’Tastes Like Freedom’ is about openly, freely, and proudly expressing your desire and your sexuality. To be perfectly myself, to feel held and safe, yet limitless in body and mind, and to feel even more in love when I am accepting and accepted, that tastes like freedom. She tastes like freedom.”
Over the last few years, 30/70 have become a supergroup, with Allysha Joy, Ziggy Zeitgeist, Josh Kelly, and Matthew Hayes all soaring as solo artists and band leaders. With support from Gilles Peterson, Carista, Jamz Supernova, Jamie Cullum, Tom Ravenscroft, Alex Nut, Children of Zeus & Mary Anne-Hobbs, it’s a collective to be reckoned with at every turn. Be on the lookout for a remix package on the way.
THEO PARRISH — SMILE (Sound Signature)
Two very significant Theo Parrish EPs will be available on vinyl rekkids by way of a new pressing from his Sound Signature imprint. Smile, a double pack release, includes selections off a 1997 12-inch by the same name, as well as the entirety of 2001’s Dreamers’s Blue / Lost Angel.
Smile follows the release of a Theo Parrish, Maurissa Rose, and The Unit 12-inch called “Special Versions,” which featured an alternate version of the Theo and Maurissa Rose vocal house cut “This Is For You” and a cover of Skye’s “Ain’t No Need” by Parrish’s band, The Unit.
Sound Signature will release Smile in mid-July. Reserve it here.
DJS VINNIE ESPARZA AND AWARE — DUSTY DIAMONDS
Speaking of opening the dancefloors back up, there is no harder-working, more knowledgeable, less bullshit DJ in the city as Mr. Vinnie Esparza. The 20-plus year vet soars while selecting, mixing, educating, uplifting—and just getting asses to shake all nite to authentic music. He is the avatar for that Mndsgn sample “the right song at the right time,” and has been known to even entertain other DJs, at times administering informal tutorials.
I’ve personally watched [hothead local DJ talent] who I won’t name, enter a DJ Vinnie Esparza gig, listen to the gospel, watch the dance floor swing and then leave quicker than air from an instantly-deflated balloon.
Vinnie Esparza is a real one, and cot damn, SF is lucky to have him. Check his “Dusty Diamonds” mix with DJ Aware for proof of life. Stream here.
Mr Esparza and DJ Aware will be holding down every first Thursday at The MakeOut Room from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Go support on Thursday July 1. It’s free, fool.