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.
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”
Let’s get it!
SALAMI ROSE JOE LOUIS, AKOUSMATIKOUS (BRAINFEEDER)
Salami Rose Joe Louis was created with a keen mind and a funky abstract entity by Lindsay Olsen, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from the Bay Area. It’s a project that occasionally takes a couple of listens to get the gist. Constructed with inspiration from the writings of Octavia E. Butler, a groundbreaking Black woman who contributed much-needed depth to the world of science fiction, it’s at-times … not light.
Shuggie Otis, Herbie Hancock, and Captain Beefheart—all stated influences of the work—produced music, similar to Butlers’ writings, that simmers for a bit, moving through well-crafted arrangements before making itself recognizable. The song “Propaganda,” a collaboration with Brijean from her upcoming Akousmatikous (say it Ah-coooz-mat-e-koi) album is simply moving.
It goes. Sparse vocals, intense bass patterns, and a message alert with a light blinking indicator riding just above the two-minute mark fuels up this heater.
Preorder Akousmatikous here.
UNLEARN & MP SHAW, SECRET LISTENER
On first listen, this San Francisco-based duo appears to be just another group dipping its creative index finger into the ambient milieu. It’s possible that they are. I believe Matthew “MP” Shaw and Unlearn (aka James Key), both formerly of the Seattle music scene, took their debut album Secret Listener into those cool, soundbath environs for obvious reasons. The project seems like a reprieve from a pandemic reality that kicked the entire world in the ass. Be that as it may, there are numerous paths that flow through this odd-so-good debut.
Downtempo tracks, analog grooves looking for their own deep shag rug, and proof of an acute ear tuned to our collective anxiety—this atmosphere comes at you in a variety of chill modes. Track “Dream Edit” exists in a fusion mindstate that snatches girth from Yaz’s production techniques, that new-wave-got-the-blues shirk to not-quite-movement dancefloor temperature (but it’s considering jumping in.)
“Deleted Scenes,” another standout, features clipped beats and chime-like melodies elongated throughout a soundscape comprised of major chord optimism zigzagging about the planetary scuttlebutt of asteroids. Its combination of ASMR murmured speech, city noise, static, hum of studio electrical outlets, and tape hiss bears no effect on the intensity. It just provides a hazy commotion that dampens its way into evergreen soundscapes. In the hands of a different duo, this could equal chaos.
And, yes, you could go down the boring “Eno” comparison route—but that would just be a continuation of the same argument that’s been blathered about for 50-some-odd years.
Guess what? I like Eno too. But let’s clear room for Gen Z ambient tinkers. Secret Listener is simply a way for your ears to breathe.
Pick it up here.
YAYA BEY, “EXODUS THE NORTH STAR” EP (BIG DADA)
This year at Outside Lands, you can ignore all that mushmouf nonsense. Google sox? Let them stay home, in the trash bin. Young adults? Chirren? Muppets who seem to keep losing their civvies? Listen, on this weekend filled with good music, positive vibes, and those delicious duck burritos with a side of spicy poke nachos? Hyper yum for the win.
And you know what? My pull-up situation is already sorted. When Yaya Bey performs her set, strolling into the lover’s-rock-adjacent “on the pisces moon” joint off her new EP “Exodus the North Star”? When that guitar flicks intro begins, it’s “Red Stripe, gwan den” time.
We’ve been feeling Bey since last summer’s Remember Your Northstar. That fusion of jazz, neo-soul, rap, and reggae? On point. Way legit. But on this slow grind, all-smiles, easy rocking moment, she demonstrates a talent for speaking multiple truths, whether it’s about a protest in Ferguson, Missouri or affairs of the heart.
We’ll be seeing you and her, deep in Golden Gate Park, this August.
Purchase her new “Exodus The North Star” EP here.
SAY SHE SHE, “REELING” (KARMA CHIEF RECORDS)
They just don’t make message records like this anymore.
Say She She’s most audacious statement in the fight against dystopia is “Reeling.” It’s written as a call to arms from Mother Earth for a populace due to rise up in opposition to the disastrous forces of unbridled capitalism that are causing our seas and skies to struggle.
But can we speak on the groove … Cool as a vintage thrift store clothing find, funky like that questionable last sip of orange juice you pulled from an expired carton. This female-led, discodelic soul band’s name is a silent nod to Nile Rodgers, Say She She (C’est chi-chi!: It’s Chic!”) According to a press release it takes the seriousness of background vocalists charts to heart while trotting out grooves—not retreads—with ease and proper savoir-faire.
Purchase the seven-inch here.