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 and witnessing the fact that the deeper we get into the holiday season, the better the quality of musical releases. ‘Nuff said … Let’s go!
RAW POETIC FT. ARCHIE SHEPP, “A MILE IN MY HEAD”
Be at where your feet at. It is the way, and vibe MC-lyricist Raw Poetic (a.k.a. Jason Moore) and frequent collaborator-producer Damu the Fudgemunk thusly present their run through one day in a pictorial fashion. The mini-epic “A Mile In My Head” features legendary saxophonist Archie Shepp, an avant-garde jazz legend (Raw Poetic is his nephew) who is skronking us in and fading us out. Those piercing and soulful runs serve as active chemical adhesives linking ‘energy music’ jazz, blues, hip-hop, samplers, and record stores with optimum Solquarian moods.
With a conversational swing in its vocal flow combined with an early Pete Rock production feel, the song moves at the pace of a walk through the neighborhood on a sunny day after getting “lined up” at the local barbershop. It can be found on Space Beyond the Solar System, Raw Poetic’s album that will be out on December 9.
“I always liked ‘A Mile in My Head’’ because it really does break down a day in the life of our metropolitan area,” says Moore in a press release, who grew up in and around the Washington DC area. “The sound provides such a backdrop that you can actually visualize the story. We’re in full hip-hop mode here.”
Pre-order the album here.
OAKLAND INTERFAITH GOSPEL CHOIR AT GAMH, DECEMBER 24TH
Get in line for the word!
The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir will present its customary two shows on Christmas Eve, continuing a long-standing, bandwidth-widening tradition for the GAMH-Slim’s family as well as the Bay Area community as a whole.
This renowned performance choir, led by the upbeat Terrance Kelly, has appeared in award-winning works by Tramaine Hawkins, MC Hammer, and Linda Ronstadt in addition to performing at the San Francisco opening of the National LGBTQ Center for the Arts. We are fortunate to have this top-notch organization, which “weaves together a family of more than 55 singers from a wide range of faiths, races, and cultures,” according to the group’s artist bio, in our midst.
This seasonal joy exceeds that of any pumpkin latte.
LORAINE JAMES, BUILDING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR ME (PHANTOM LIMB)
On Loraine James’ most recent release, a lot of wonderful and spectral things are happening.
Building Something Beautiful For Me is an eight-movement suite from the UK electronic music producer that reimagines, explores, and uplifts the work of the late avant-garde symphonist Julius Eastman. It fuses modern rhythms with ethereal 1980s touches, elements of grime, and other bass music (which she is known for.)
James writes personal-sounding hymns (which she sing-hums along to at times) and tenderhearted arrangements as a tribute to the composer she should have grown up idolizing and watching perform. Instead, Eastman passed away in 1990 from cardiac arrest and was largely unknown to the general public.
Constructed from a zip drive containing Eastman originals, Renee Levine-Packer and Mary Jane Leach’s 2015 biography Gay Guerilla, and transcribed MIDI stems, James props up the fallen composer. In this experimental branch of music, you hear these pioneering Black and queer composers, bridging musical theories across the generations. There is a certain type of gospel attained here, a marriage of ambient portals and electronic spirit. Resonance in the rhythm. Expect this release to appear on many “best of” lists, and for good reason. It’s a lowkey celebration that should have happened long ago. Sadly, for this artist who was a peer of Philip Glass and Steve Reich, it took 30-plus years for Eastman’s re-introduction. James, fortunately, understands access and presents a fallen predecessor in glorious light.
DRY CLEANING, STUMPWORK (4AD) + AT AUGUST HALL, JANUARY 21 AND 22
On the seventh track of Dry Cleaning’s sophomore album Stumpwork, “No Decent Shoes For Rain,” Florence Shaw declares “I’ve seen your arse but not your mouth/That’s normal now.”
The band, which consists of guitarist Tom Dowse, drummer Nick Buxton, bassist Lewis Maynard, and vocalist Shaw, somehow expands on the groove-narrated-by-the-introvert template. This time, Buxton called the release a “different chapter,” which is correct. Injecting some sort of XTC-meets-Cure twee into the bass and jangle of sounds accelerates their powers into a different gear that did not exist before. Growth, mang. It’s beautiful.
Turns out, their sleight-of-hand approach hasn’t grown stale, contrary to my fears. Shaw’s blessed blurt-out, “is it still okay for me to call you my disco pickle?” can sometimes even overshadow the rhythm section’s continued impact on the grooves and jams they roll out.
By God, look out for them at August Hall on January 21 and 22. You’re gonna want to hear this live.
CHANNEL TRES, ‘6AM‘ (RCA/GODMODE)
“Some people say this ain’t Black music. Well, it ain’t. It’s Black precision. And I’m as precise as they can be.”
When Channel Tres opened for Thundercat last December here at the Warfield, he worked the crowd so damn hard with dance grooves, the costumed patrons took a serious kush break between that performance and Thundie’s set.
I was up front, getting a kush-Covid contact high. That’s some shit, right? When somebody puts a dance jones so hard on folks, they gotta light up instead of cool down. But that Channel Tres… Check out new track “6AM” in anticipation of new album Real Cultural Shit dropping later the year.