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. In this edition, we stay high on the funk, far away from videos that go viral.
Let us get it!
ORCHESTRA GOLD AT BANDCAMP RECORD STORE AND PERFORMANCE SPACE, FRI/20
Orchestra Gold, an Oakland-based African psychedelic rock band that we mentioned in this space last October, will be performing in a show to celebrate the release of its third record Medicine in the soaring Bandcamp Record Store Space on Fri/20.
Lock in, get hip, and explore that ether. This talented ensemble sports a Daptones-gone-Afrobeat aesthetic that begs for repeated listening. Incredibly swinging tempos, excellent horn charts, and stories accentuated by hallucinogenic guitar ability are bound together by way of Mariam Diakites’ naked, transfixing vocals.
This is a band on the verge—get in and be amazed now.
SEVEN DAVIS JR, savedbythebell
The legendary San Francisco electronic music producer Seven Davis Jr. is a well-known Bay Area luminary for many reasons. But his idealized conception of the fonk comes first. (Yes, there is a difference when you spell “fonk” with an “o.”)
His recently self-released EP savedbythebell is a shuffling pastiche of drop-in jams with oddball-angled joints and bubbling confectionary romps that place the bump into gone-rogue overdrive mode.
Gear up for the bounce-house mega-bomb “wendy & lisa,” a supercut of The Purple One’s various funky moments working in concert, high off ‘ah sugary vistas.
Performed in Davis Jr’s low-sung instructional arrangements, these bass bin designs do execute the idea in an elevated style. Joy is evident. These tracks just go, with that distinctive tweaked Bay Area machinery running at high test.
Cop it here.
THE BUDOS BAND AT THE UC THEATER, TUE/17
Listen, this Daptone Records institution from Staten Island is as indestructible as Spam in a bomb shelter.
The almighty Budos Band? They swivel between chunks of funk, from project to album, ad-infinitum—better than anyone else. You could argue they have been Khruangbin-ing that Venn diagram of gladness before the Houston trio even entered the building.
Burnt Offering, Budo’s mystical 2014 album, fused Afrobeat with psychedelic brain fuzz. Imagine Can and Fela Kuti, both headstrong and loud AF, at the jam-jam. Trippy.
You can see Budo’s sweat-inducing hard horn riffage live and in person on Tue/17 at The UC Theatre in Berkeley. It’s an obvious choice. The number of fastballs the group can throw in a single night would make its late labelmates Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley camel walk—and then break down and scream in rapturous delight.
In an era dominated by computer-generated music, Budos Band is a unicorn outfit not to be dismissed.
Get tickets here.
ET FINGER, “ET FINGER” EP
ET FINGER is the talented collaboration of Bro Safari and UFO! Over the course of four tracks, these two beat-wave twisters transport listeners to boastfully strange IDM-goes-trap soundscapes by tagging up past structures of electronic music and dousing them in different sheens. Simply put, they play Jenga with the genres. Breaks and beats, dubstep, jungle—fast-moving steps that never reach for the predictable.
Lyn Collins and Rick James’ vocal cameos also appear, oddly placed outside of the typically repeated music context. The drums progress from low frequencies to 4/4 pounding, with electro, bass music, and quasar half-time drops thrown in for good measure. Rave is outta control.
Purchase it here.
MADONNA, “GAMBLER” (WARNER MUSIC GROUP)
Do you know how to recognize a Madonna classic? Play the dub instrumental and ask if Pete Rock or J Dilla would chop up the basslines and mess with the drums to repurpose it for a slicker hip-hop joint.
“Gambler,” written by Madonna (who just announced a greatest hits “celebration” world tour) and produced by John “Jellybean” Benitez for the 1985 film Vision Quest (it plays in the film’s opening), is now available for streaming 37 years after Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino gave that teen romance all the wrestler juice you could ever want in an ’80s flick.
It’s synthetic disco-pop with an unmistakable bass line, straightforward melody, and features Madonna pitching 100mph lyrics straight down the American Top 40 lane. As a result, this is the type of keyboard dance bubble gum that reintroduced The Pointer Sisters (RIP Anita Pointer) to the pop charts in the mid-’80s.
The seven-inch version, with extended dance and instrumental mixes of the high-energy track, is now available globally on streaming services and digital storefronts via Rhino and Warner Music Group.
This isn’t a “Physical Attraction” cold groove for Madge. Not even close. She’d shifted her landing spot from Larry Levan’s dance floor to America’s malls via MTV. Nonetheless, the fact that it’s classic Madonna in her winning-pop phase, gives it context. Pete Rock and J Dilla would have Ginsu-knifed the Bejesus outta this confection.
Don’t believe me? Give that instrumental remix a spin here.