Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins. Less talk, more music. Up first, our Bandcamp Friday picks:
BUSCRATES, INTERNAL DIALOGUE (BASTARD JAZZ)
Orlando Marshall, aka Buscrates, blew up the spot with his heater of a record from 2020, Blasting Off. With those automatic hooks, locked-in grooves, and synths designed to make you glide into some boogie dancefloor bizness, it hit between the eyes and the thighs. Buscrates has been producing music for 15 years, and releasing various projects on physical formats since 2009.
“Internal Dialogue,” a clever bit of pragmatic funk from the Pittsburgh-based multi-instrumentalist, sees this veteran change up the pitch, vibe, and engagement rate. The track gradually builds until something emerges. Beware—like my man Admiral Ackbar says, “It’s a trap!” The mellow-but-still-powerful song demonstrates how deft the powers of a Moog can be in the right hands.
Go holla atcha boy Buscrates here.
STR4TA, STR4TASFEAR (BROWNSWOOD RECORDINGS)
On November 11, STR4TA, a.k.a. Gilles Peterson and Jean-Paul Maunick, will release their sophomore album STR4TASFEAR on Peterson’s own Brownswood Recordings imprint. This time around promises to be a deeper dive into the Brit-funk world, with special guests that include the multi-talented neo-soul Godfather Omar, Valerie Etienne, and the free-spirited musical polymath Emma-Jean Thackray. The third single from the album “Turn Me Around” feels oh-so-(early)-Level 42, gently whetting our palettes for what promises to be a standout release to end the year.
Pre-order your copy here.
PEEL DREAM MAGAZINE, PAD (SLUMBERLAND/TOUGH LOVE)
Joseph Stevens, an LA-based musician, has stumbled upon something so lithe and deftly presented that it will send Os Mutante heads into a lighthearted-type fervor. Stevens describes Pad, his third album as Peel Dream Magazine out on October 7, as “a conceptual work about losing oneself when all they have is themselves.” On it, ’70s-era drum machines and synthesizers link up with baroque pop, folk, and eccentric breezeway library music.
Lyrics tell a bedtime story in which Stevens’ bandmates kick him out of the musical group, leaving him to misadventures like joining a cult and such, with vibraphone and chamber strings providing mellow cloak-and-dagger vistas. Pad is a twisted ride through offbeat fantasy that maintains an adventurous soundboard of corduroy structures.
SF MUSIC DAY AT THE WAR MEMORIAL, OCTOBER 9
InterMusic’s 15th SF Music Day is a free, in-person, day-long music marathon that celebrates the past, present, and future of Bay Area sounds. On Sunday, October 9, it shall make its autumnal return to the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on Van Ness Avenue. The last edition was in March, but given how deeply the return of live music has impacted our lives this year, it seems like kismet that Music Day would return in the same calendar year.
The event will feature over 25 local groups, 100+ artists, and a wide range of musical styles ranging from classical to global music, new music to modern jazz. It will run for seven hours continuously, with artists performing on four stages throughout the day. Attendees will freely move from one performance to the next within the same building, and enjoy a diverse range of musical presentations. Alam Khan and Arjun K. Verma with Del Sol Quartet and Nilan Chaudhuri, Bertamo Trio, Empyrea, Ensemble ARI, Ensemble for these Times, Erik Jekabson Sextet, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol & Her Sextet, Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival, Vitamin Em, and many more will perform.
More info here.
HONEY & THE BEES, LOVE (REAL GONE MUSIC)
Love, which clocks in at a brisk 29 minutes, plays on all the virtues of passion coming and going, with better-than-the-Supremes girl group power. It also clocks in with an all-star backing band composed of Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, and Bobby Martin that won’t let you forget how downright massive the Philly soul sound could be at its peak power in the 1970s. When Jean Davis, Gwen Oliver, and Cassandra Wooten auditioned for Arctic label founder Jimmy Bishop, they were known as The Yum-Yums. Bishop renamed them Honey and the Bees and added lead vocalist Nadine Felder to the lineup.
Nothing here feels saccharine. It’s polished gold, with a sisterly interjection from the outfit. These songs are meant for slow cruising with a strong air freshener, plush interiors, and deep contemplation on deck. Come for the elegant reading of the Royalettes hit “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle,” but stay for “Do You Understand” to fully grasp why this phase of soul will never be replicated.
Those flugelhorns, strings moving with skin-tight conviction, and descriptive bells ringing—your ears will explain why vinyl junkies are willing to pay nearly 500 euros for a copy of this lost treasure.
Get the reissue here.
YOKO ONO & PLASTIC ONO SUPER BAND, LET’S HAVE A DREAM: 1974 ONE STEP FESTIVAL SPECIAL EDITION (SUPER FUJI DISCS)
This is, without a doubt, an adventure. I’ve always kept a lazy eye out for specific Plastic Ono band records because rumor has it that some of those joints swing. We get a better idea from this newly-released live recording of Yoko Ono & Plastic Ono Super Band on the last day of Japan’s first major rock festival, “One Step Festival,” which was held in Koriyama, Fukushima on August 10, 1974.
To begin, the band lineup was as follows: Michael Brecker (sax), Randy Brecker (trumpet), and Steve Gadd (drums)—these guys are all over ’70s rock, fusion, and jazz records. I had no idea they worked with Yoko.
The band cooks with Don Grolnick (keys), Steve Khan (guitar), Rick Marotta (drums), and Andy Muson (bass). It’s a good representation of the middle funky ground jazz performers maneuvered in order to eat. Yoko exists on her own planet. It’s fascinating to hear her perform a specific style of blues, rock, or funk. It’s a model similar to Nico’s that sometimes works, and then becomes art.
What cannot be missed is Yoko’s stance on gender issues, clearly stated here and well worth the price of this live recording. Wild times for sure.