We have a certain dedication here at 48hills for tracking down those beats. House, hip-hop, techno, footwork, boogie, drill, city pop, EDM, IDM, AOR, disco, drum and bass, clown-step—that last one was a joke, but you get the picture. All eras of music play here. San Francisco has always been a haven of sorts in regards to the appreciation of all types of rhythmic expression. With dance floors caught between opening up, opening down, influx … over the next couple of months, we will attempt to feed that hunger for the beats. Turn up with HEAT. (And remember, it’s fully fine to enjoy the sounds from the comfort of home.)
What does this pandemic between-time mean for San Francisco? Mainly, that we need to mask up and be smart and safe if we choose to go out and see DJs, friends, nightlife ambassadors. Maybe we opt for outdoor shows at Stern Grove, taking in Thundercat or Fitz and The Tantrums in the deep fog, rather than several nights in a dark, packed club. Or—again—even stay indoors.
Putting global health crises aside for a moment, it does seem important to note that a recent article in Billboard Magazine revealed US vinyl sales are up significantly. 19.2 million vinyl albums were sold during the first six months of 2021. That’s a rise of 108 percent from the same period last year, according to analysis group MRC Data. The figures also confirmed increased demand for vinyl over CDs.
These vinyl record figures are proof that we still buy music, support local artists, find new national artists—while staying indoors. While things seem to be trending back towards weird and unstable, remember that we do have a vaccine now, an important addition to our previous protocol of just ducking and crossing fingers. We just gotta ride this out. Stay smart.
JON CASEY—HARSH REALITY (Dome of Doom)
Pretoria, South Africa’s Jon Casey makes trap music, and other genres from the electronic music stable, that gives bass-bins the grumble-core willies. On his new Dome of Doom release Harsh Reality he’s got 13 tracks made from original drum and field recordings that lean on his own past sample pack releases, giving the project a razor-buzzsaw-of-schizoid-bump kinda texture.
Thicc wicked, to put it bluntly.
There is the horror-hell-John-Carpenter dread (yes, I used that phrase again) of the album’s track “Poison,” which refuses to let anybody live. “Nosedive” employs a drone-y alarm vapor as bass line that crip-walks like crab rangoon with tummy issues. Its voodoo ray deathmelt, which stands in for a beat, just gets under your eyeballs, then neck. It’s a bop with fantastic intimidation skills. Harsh Reality is 3-D trap music, and is out on a limited edition run of 100 High-Bias cassette tapes that come in solid black shell with one color ink printing.
Buy Harsh Reality here.
EMMA-JEAN THACKRAY—YELLOW (Movementt)
After hearing Robert Glasper’s Afro Blue album, Leeds-born British musician Emma-Jean Thackray said on MIMS Radio that she had license to do it all. Be a jazz musician or a composer for jazz orchestra, make beats, DJ, be free and crazy, and groovy as fuck. Her debut album Yellow has been getting well deserved rave reviews. It is that explosion, that fusion of architect and builder, creating beautiful chaos in the world in which it has been unleashed.
Thackray describes the project as a transcendent and human shared experience across 47 minutes that draws glowing lines between ‘70s jazz fusion and P-funk, the cosmic invocations of Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane, and the gorgeous orchestration of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. It’s a real, grown, breathing, living feat.
“I wanted the whole thing to sound like a psychedelic trip,” explains Thackray. “You put on the first track, it takes you through this intense thing for almost an hour, and then you emerge on the other side transformed.”
I have a feeling we will be seeing this album on year-end lists in December.
Buy Yellow here.
BLACK MARBLE—FAST IDOL (Sacred Bones)
It was Black Marble’s Immaterial album, a 11-song dive into synth-pop exploration released on Ghostly in 2016, that first caught my ear. I was intrigued to learn that the artist, a.k.a. Chris Stewart, plays all the instruments in the studio, and travels with a roving group of band members when touring. Head’s up, he’s coming to Great American Music Hall on November 18.
Back in the Immaterial era, Black Marble confessed that his early attempts at writing music with Garageband resulted in compliments from friends—but they were not assisted by the sounds at his digital disposal. According to those same friends, those were “kinda shitty.” Stewart began acquiring old synths that would replace the sub-par synthesizer patch he was using in Garageband, and wound up creating a bevy of songs that featured real synthesizers.
Due to clean bass lines that go low when the keyboard soars high, his arrangements can now ignite that rare unicorn of day at Dolores Park, when it’s tech-bro-free. You know the vibes; just you, two Tecates, and that smoke in the air.
Fast Idol, his upcoming album out in October, reaches back through time to connect with the forgotten bedroom kids of the analogue era, the halcyon days of icy hooks and warbly synths that were always on the edge of going out of tune. Somebody was reflecting.
Buy Fast Idol here.
HUERTA—”ECHO YOUR THOUGHTS” EP (Leizure)
California-born Steve Huerta is determined to bring tech House back, and oh my gush, it’s just as forward and quick-moving as ever. This four-tracker “Echo Your Thoughts” consists of tight bass lines, drums that crackle, and BPMs on the high end, but with no goofy. I’ve known for a minute that SF heads were done with the whole “minimal” thing.
Think it’s time to pick it back up? Start here.
MITCHUM YACOUB FEAT. DIVINA JASSO—”CUMBIA DIVINE” (All-Town Sound)
Just the right blend of cumbia and dub for the summertime. The bass and drums hit heavy on this remix, with a four-piece horn section vibrant enough to keep the dance floor moving. The debut track for Mitchum Yacoub now features the soulful vocals of Divina Jasso, who first heard the instrumental track as Mitchum’s housemate and friend. Jasso’s voice fits the song so well, it was clear that the music needed to be rearranged for her.
Buy the original track on vinyl here.