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Friday, September 29, 2023

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Arts + CultureMusicUnder the Stars: Kaidi Tatham's 'The Only Way' funnels...

Under the Stars: Kaidi Tatham’s ‘The Only Way’ funnels broken beats through alien portals

Plus: Pharaoh Sanders, Non Plus Temps, and remembering Sinéad through 'Black Boys on Mopeds'

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.


I write a lot about Mr. Tatham, and I must admit that his new album may be less of a broken-beat masterpiece and more a collection of left-field musings. There’s even a track called “Alien@$^%” with out-of-this-world vibes. However, if you’ve made it this far, you probably don’t need to read his three-decade-resume of dominance in UK dance music from the African Diaspora. Tatham, along with Daz-I-Kue, Alex Phountzi, IG Culture, Dego, Marc Mac of 4Hero, and Mark de Clive-Lowe, are the broken-beat starting line-up. The mighty mighty Joe Muggs calls them “lifers” when it comes to making this music.

On The Only Way, Tatham explores some George Duke-type territory, with slow-funk going into hyperactive Brazilian tempos, its fusiony jazz interludes adding a bit of extra-brown hues to Tak Fujimoto cinematography. This album could be the perfect introduction to these genres without any watering-down by the producer. The LP still goes hard, but through a different portal.

For perspective, as much as I like Herbie Hancock’s “HeadHunters,” I also love “Sextant” and “Sunlight.” Tatham is taking a different path, and it’s just as worthy. Even if NPR, Pitchfork, Resident Advisor, DJ Mag, and especially The New York Times never ran another story about “Broken Beat” and West London, the starting line-up couldn’t care less. Making this music is how they breathe. This is culture, and culture will outlast platforms, trends, apps, automated rideshare companies, and even pandemics. We have the metrics.

Pick it up here.


Have you ever gone for a walk at night in the dewy fog and thought you saw something? Or, hopped on a late-night 7 Haight, 14 Mission, or 22 Fillmore bus and listened in on the parade of characters sharing their stories. Ya know, conveniently ear-hustling?

It appears that Non Plus Temps have. This East Oakland ensemble is made up of members from Naked Roommate, The World, Famous Mammals, and Preening. The group’s first, ghostly post-punk single “Saw The Car Free,” off its new EP, features basslines outlining schizoid frenzy and chanty lyrics, with an intensity that can be interpreted as impending doom or the result of dub pellets jacking your brain.

The song elicits the immediate urge to go watch Youtube clips of Taking Heads circa ’77, and Bad Brains around ’81. This band is selecting its milieu by way of “a typical living-room percussion setup comprised snare, spatula, and plinky bolt,” as stated in their Bandcamp liner notes. Awesome ‘chit, Mang.

Their debut release Desire Choir, which came out seven months ago, took listeners on a journey through punk-funk pathways laid down by the likes of ESG, A Certain Ratio, early Was Not Was, and the B-52s’ “Mesopotamia” era.

“Dark on Harmon” will be released at the end of the month, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Street Spirit, an East Bay print publication.

Pre-order the EP here.


Glenn Donaldson is on a roll, Jack. It’s one thing to keep creating these sound pieces that link the past with the present and make them powerful. But it’s a whole other skill set to make your music feel like the region you call home. Donaldson, under alias The Reds, Pinks, and Purples, creates cover art that captures the essence of San Francisco. Herein lie both the good and bad days, with a filter of Karl The Fog meets Cherry Guava weed. His track “Stoned Wanderer” is a calm and lovely song that crawls along, staring at the chemtrails in the sky.

His new release, Inner Richmond, was intended as a soundtrack for a stroll around his neighborhood in San Francisco, or as background music for whatever you feel like doing.

It’s for us, the ones who eagerly await every Donaldson release, hoping to smell those cherry blossoms once again.

Pick it up here.


Glory be, this funk is free! I’m really enjoying the trend of festivals that don’t require music enthusiasts to invest in Bitcoin to partake in good music on a beautiful August day. (Check the similarly accessible Bliss Festival at Presidio Theatre this weekend.)

SFBLK is hosting this event at no cost to attendees, and all you need to do is RSVP on the group’s website. They’ve booked Mr. Cheeks (whose hit “Lights, Camera, Action” remains evergreen), a version of Digital Underground, and the real highlight Howard Hewitt, whose R&B can move anyone who loves symphonies or hip hop ciphers. “Over and Over,” a classic from his Shalimar days, remains on many playlists with its sweet-sexy pop-funk moves.

Make this your lovely Sunday in San Francisco!

RSVP here.


It wrecked me. It’s been a long time since I played or heard this 37-minute sonnet to transcendental glory by Pharoah Sanders, who passed away in 2022. Maybe that’s why it got in me this time, as he leads an all-star roster through several connecting moments, some grooving, others skronking. It’s a PhD-level course on avant-garde jazz.

The entire album consists of just one song. Strap in. The first time I heard it, I had picked it up on vinyl either at a Black-owned record shop in the Lower Haight or Thrift Town on Mission Street, circa the mid-’90s. Back when my housemates had a hookah in the living room, records and tobacco were fired up.

Stanley Clarke, Cecil McBee, Norman Connors, Billy Hart, and a host of others were vibing in and out on this album non-stop, with Pharoah alternating between soprano, alto sax, and balafon, pushing the melody into the future or through a minefield of discord. Many questions are in the writing of this song, embedded in the structure and framework. But the ride over the continuous arrangement, which goes omnidirectional in the middle—the point at which you would get up and flip the record—pays off. The beautiful answer, one that at times portrays Pharoah as if he’s arguing with himself, resides in the album title. But the grandeur when the band returns to groove with four minutes and change works like therapy. Then the crowd applauds out, acknowledging this awkward prayer completion. An offering to the ancestors for sure—they move through this seamlessly. It proves what we all know: There will never be another Pharoah Sanders.

Kudos to Jack White for pressing up the yellow vinyl at Third Man.

Grab it here.



Margaret Thatcher on TV

Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing

It seems strange that she should be offended

The same orders are given by her

I’ve said this before now

You said I was childish and you’ll say it now

Remember what I told you

If they hated me they will hate you

England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses

It’s the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds

And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving

I don’t want him to be aware that there’s

Any such thing as grieving

Young mother down at Smithfield

5 AM, looking for food for her kids

In her arms she holds three cold babies

And the first word that they learned was “please”

These are dangerous days

To say what you feel is to dig your own grave

Remember what I told you

If you were of the world they would love you

England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses

It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds

And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving

I don’t want him to be aware that there’s

Any such thing as grieving

May you finally find some peace.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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