Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins, giving up the good-good house-meets-broken beat mix by DJ Moxie and (with her self-proclaimed “soulful sexy smooth sh*t”) Ash Lauryn. We want to remind you to buy those tickets for the upcoming Fast Times presents ~ School of Rock movie at The Balboa with live music by Mae Powell and Maggie Gently. Doors at 7 pm, music at 8 pm, and the movie at 9:30 pm. Got it? OK. Let’s go!
EMISSIVE, CITY OF ROOMS (TELEPHONE EXPLOSION RECORDS)
Evan Vincent, the Toronto electronic music producer who records under the moniker Emissive is making a lion’s share of that city’s poignant electronic music to date. “Love Perception” from last year’s Wave Science EP, on the Pacific Rhythm imprint, was the right type of wonky bump to keep your head snapping all night long.
City of Rooms, his album for Telephone Explosion Records, digitally released last year but now making its debut on vinyl, expands on the musician and artist’s range by working out both ambient ideas and hectic soundscapes, letting them run for six to seven minutes. Opener “Quartz Register” is a relentless sunburst, simmering “Natural Springs,” patiently unfurls an acid riff, and the tree-trunk chugging “Sunset Yellow” pitches bombastic drums against muggy synth washes.
Even the standout “Clorphyll,” with conga-type drums, a perfectly placed whistle, and chill room atmospherics complies with the previous tracks, weaving this patchwork creation, extending his stock much farther than a mere dance floor. But just before we go, the closer “Constellation of Friends” fortifies a bump and hustle pedigree. Just in case we forgot.
Get thee to Toronto, my friends, Emissive is on to something exceptional. Pick up the vinyl here.
BLACK STAR, NO FEAR OF TIME (LUMINARY)
Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli have announced that their sophomore album No Fear of Time will be an exclusive on the podcast platform Luminary. Slated to appear on May 3, the release marks Black Star’s first album in over two decades. Before the date, the duo will release new episodes of their Midnight Miracle podcast, along with a No Fear of Time album preview.
With Madlib producing, giving this project that extra extra the hip-hop community has waited 24 years for, it arrives with a concentrated legion of fans just ready to consume it all.
PAUL MORLEY, FROM MANCHESTER WITH LOVE (FABER BOOKS USA)
Is anyone here a fan of the comedic/tragic eye-popping 2002 film 24 Hour Party People?
The British biographical movie, directed by Michael Winterbottom, tells the tale of Manchester’s famed export to the world: Factory Records. Releasing Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, and Happy Mondays albums and then opening Hacienda, a precocious, forward-thinking nightclub in the same city, made label honcho Tony Wilson, a true hustler of culture, a fascinating study. That entrepreneurial spirit saw him command global influence, at all costs.
New book From Manchester with Love: The Life and Opinions of Tony Wilson, written by Paul Morley, a respected music scribe, producer, and manager who created his own fanzine in late ’70s Manchester, paints a 600-plus page detailed picture of Wilson, the successful and complicated man. It’s a telling portrait built for any music lover, record nerd, or folklore buff. Purchase here.
SZAJNA, STEPPING HILL EP (DANCE REGULAR)
Speaking of Manchester, Szajna (pronounced Shy-Na), is a DJ and music producer, hailing from said city, who’s been a part of the Broken Beat revival (named checked by scene scout DJ Moxie), so much so that his arrangements got that nod of authenticity from Broken Beat Gawd, IG Culture.
His Stepping Hill EP is the right combo of rugged bruk joints and smooth as sunset beat patterns that forecast a new generation of Broken Beat artists are not chasing trends or fads.
They’re here to make you sweat. Purchase it here.
ON LOOP, VARIOUS ARTISTS 001 (ON LOOP)
Speaking of Moxie, aka Alice Moxom: Her On Loop imprint—the extension of her NTS radio show and globe-trotting club night—returns in 2022 with that heat, still intact. Oakland’s Space Ghost opens up the new label comp with good feeling street soul of the melodic type.
“Used To It” lands in that “haven’t I heard this before?” bin of reminiscing. Following that up, the ever-inventive Eris Drew delivers with “Heartbeat,” transforming deep-moving organs and elbow-shaking tambourines, reminiscent of your local soul 45s night, into a summertime 4/4 kick—by far one of the rarest bird tracks to arrive this year. That’s what the Drew, do. Cop a listen or just purchase it here to believe.
OCEANATOR AT AUGUST HALL, MAY 24
Oceanator, the project from Brooklyn-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Elise Okusami, reminds me so much of that ’90s grunge feel. No, that ”lumberjack thrift store look” is not going mainstream again. Just the sensation of, you know, the apocalypse.
Shot through this prism of loud reeling guitars that pierces the senses with joyful… well not joyful, more like, ack…release. Getting that doom off your chest can lower blood pressure.
Nothing’s Ever Fine, the album Okusami will be featuring at August Hall in May, co-produced with Bartees Strange, works inward and outward over 11 songs. From the opening doom waterfall of triumph “Morning” to one of the best pop, sped up punk, joints I’ve heard in a minute. “The Last Summer” slays with whiplash hooks and snapshot lyrics: riding around with your best friends/doing the same thing every weekend/so this is what it’s really like to feel alive/playing CDs on the stereo/flipping through stations on the radio/another Saturday night and we’re doing all right.
ZELMA STONE AT BRICK AND MORTAR MUSIC HALL, MAY 5
As spring methodically eeks out its pace toward summer, that February-March combo of indie music festivals fell right back into a groove like there was no pause. Forget inflation or a spike in gas prices, bands have to be seen in order to make up for lost live music opportunities.
It’s paramount to share that in-person unique spirit with the world.
Chloe Zelma Studebaker, the frontperson of San Francisco indie band Zelma Stone, makes a return in performing within the home zip code, coming off great reception performing at SXSW in Austin this year and a wonderful placement at Treefort Music fest in Idaho. Their upcoming May 5 performance will see the band return from the road, a bit more seasoned, ready to bask in the hometown glow. If you missed the Amado’s show in early April, Zelma Stone will be opening in support of Barrie at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. Purchase tickets here.
LYRICIST LOUNGE 30: KRS-ONE, RAKIM, BIG DADDY KANE & DJ JAZZY JEFF AT PARAMOUNT THEATRE OAKLAND, JUNE 25
What began as a regular gathering of some of New York’s best underground MCs at various locations around New York City has grown into one of hip-hop’s most recognized platforms, showcasing newcomers and veterans alike on national concert tours, albums, documentaries, and the popular MTV sketch comedy series “The Lyricist Lounge Show.”
With a line-up that represents the foundational aspects of The Culture, and keep in mind we kept losing legends by the year, if you have not seen KRS, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and DJ Jazzy Jeff, do not miss this historic moment. Grab tickets here.