It’s Under The Stars, babe, a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes and thinking outside the margins.
Let our whimsy be your guide.
Get wet …
SEBA & PARADOX, “IT058 – VOLT” EP (ILIAN TAPE)
Criminal is what it is, to hear these UK-based drum scientist veterans working tirelessly in bass crunch mode, sharing their decades of wisdom with the younglings. On their debut with Ilian Tape, a German imprint run by the Zenker Brothers, we are treated to something special. A two-track release fueled by the amen break, rolling into futuristic soundscapes. Drum and bass enthusiasts who enjoy the dark grumblers will appreciate how Dev Pandya aka Paradox continues to extract new ideas from the timeless samples of JB’s “Funky Drummer” and Bob James’ “Take Me To The Mardi Gras,” incorporating them into something diabolically bass-heavy. Track “Volt” chops breaks with precision, inserting low-end frequencies that pack a powerful dance floor punch. It could wake sleeping elephant seals snoring beneath the Great Barrier Reef. By the way, if you ever have the chance to see Paradox live?
Run it, Son. Theirs is a visually interactive edutainment experience that will keep you nodding your head for days.
Grab it up here.
DJ YUKA YU AT CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, THU/19
One of the best ways to experience the feeling of being under the stars without staying out until the Muni Owl buses start running is to attend the Nightlife program at the Academy of Science in Golden Gate Park. It provides the sweet opportunity to hang out with Claude the albino alligator, the coolest reptile in the city who chooses to hold court between the Richmond and Sunset districts due to his preference for certain weather patterns.
Additionally, the Nightlife program serves as an introductory platform to sample DJs in the city, playing early sets for once. Yuka Yu, who was born in Taiwan and started DJing in London’s Camden Town, trained at the London Sound Academy and says that became a DJ to connect people through music.
She’s also the founder of the artist exchange program Nu Tekno (女樂), which has had residencies at Asiento, the Endup, Lion’s Den, and Mars Bar in San Francisco. Find out if Yuka Yu is your next favorite DJ on Thursday while exploring the nocturnal side of the Academy, including its nearly 60,000 live animals, outdoor bars, and soothing lighting. Venture into the latest aquarium exhibit “Venom” to encounter critters and learn about the power of venom to both harm and heal. Overall, sounds like a perfect night, eh?
Grab your tickets here.
MARGO CILKER, VALLEY OF HEART’S DELIGHT
OG country & Western songwriters have a knack for turning bars and phrases into gold without even breaking a sweat. Don’t believe me? Check out this stanza from Margo Cilker’s 2021 single “Barbed Wire (Belly Crawl)” that will leave you in disbelief at how effortlessly some writers can convey so much. Bars are bars, no matter what type of music you listen to.
There’s a farmer we know
Steps into the tavern
Where the bright lights ease the mind
The band gets an encore,
The farmer a stiff pour
And we’re all getting closer this time
Yeah we’re all getting closer this time
This type of shrug emoji storytelling skills are evident throughout Margo Cilker’s new breakthrough record Valley of Heart’s Delight. The album is just as plain-spoken and beautiful as the artist herself. Unfortunately, I missed Cilker’s performance at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. However, with recent mentions from Bandcamp Daily and Rolling Stone, I am confident she will be back in the Bay Area soon. Her heartfelt songs about her hometown Santa Clara are sure to break your heart.
Scoop up her new record before it sells out here.
ANA FRANGO ELÉTRICO, ME CHAMA DE GATO QUE EU SOU SUA (MR BONGO)
So, it was the magical groove and distinct album covers that put Marcos Valle on my music map. During the 1970s, he moved to the US, tired of living under Brazil’s repressive military dictatorship, and collaborated with musicians like Leon Ware in Chicago and Los Angeles. Upon returning to Brazil in the 1980s, he explored the musical influences he had uncovered in the US, particularly from the boogie, soul, and funk genres. Hearing those sun-kissed versions of ’80s Black radio fare put through this different prism keeps my ear open for more.
Ana Frango Elétrico continues in Valle’s tradition of Brazilian boogie music, but with contemporary modifications on their album Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua / Call Me They That I’m Yours. Equipped with striking ballads and steadfast thumpers that would fit on the modern boogie dancefloor, Me Chama De Gato Que Eu Sou Sua is worth picking up and adding to your collection, next to the no-shirt wearing brilliance of Mr. Valle.
Grab it here.
OHIO PLAYERS, PLEASURE (WESTBOUND RECORDS)
Before Billboard and fly-over states got familiar with Skin Tight, Honey and Gold, it was the Ohio Players’ landmark 1973 LP Pleasure that turned the coasts ears to what these brothers were doing. The album hit like a funky soundtrack for a blaxploitation film, one of many ways to hear this communique of Black excellence. It combined library music meets blues eccentricities, jazzy prog sequences, and straight-to-the-dome funk like never before.
Pleasure deserves to be taken in as a whole. It rode the edges of the FM terrestrial radio dial, mainly due to the fact these musicians could play anything. Ballads, funk romps, English boggy fusion trips, and, of course, their classic and influential “Funky Worm,” which became sampling paydirt for N.W.A., Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Redman, De La Soul, Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, Beastie Boys, DMX, and countless others.
According to Complex, the song is, “one of the foundational sample sources of West Coast hip-hop, typifying the G-Funk sound popularized in the early ’90s.” Hey, that’s cool as a glass of cucumber water. But taken as a whole Pleasure displays freedom through music and comedic sketches by a collection of artists showcasing verve and flexibility by way of fun get-downs and joyful arrangements.
Think Badbadnotgood, but a Black version that’s far better. Fighting for civil rights, dealing with racism, and being robbed through bad copyright laws … that’s Ohio Players.
Get the picture?
Formed in Dayton, Ohio in the 1960s, the group initially supported the O’Jays before releasing a series of its own influential funk-soul albums for Westbound Records. Releases Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy were led by Walter “Junie” Morrison, who later joined Parliament-Funkadelic and went on to champion and collaborate with the modern funk pioneer DāM-FunK.
Pick up a remastered copy of this classic here.
CYPRESS HILL AT FOX THEATER, OCTOBER 27
There are certain acts that create a real buzz anytime they perform in The Bay. Erykah Badu, Metallica, the late MF Doom, and even the Grateful Dead back in the day (from what I’ve heard) are on this list. The Bay shows love to acts who give their all in performances.
And then there is Cypress Hill. Jesus … They absolutely rock the stage … tear shit down … and I mean that in the most positive way. They put on a show that exudes elevated chi, giving everything they have—it’s that kind of vibe.
They’re coming to town to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Black Sunday, the album that made them folk heroes. This was back when they were getting banned from MTV for smoking weed on camera, and involving themselves in numerous rap-rock collaborations with Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth on the Judgment Night soundtrack. Their core hip hop fans were won over by their often-overlooked (by some) 1991 self-titled debut album that still holds up (it slaps like mud flaps.) But it was Black Sunday track “Insane in the Brain” that became a crossover hit. The song peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 16 on the Dance Club Songs chart, and No. 1 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart. “Insane in the Brain” also earned the group their first Grammy nomination. Black Sunday ending up going triple platinum in the US, and sold approximately 3.26 million copies.
With 2023 marking the 50-year anniversary of hip hop, it’s important to acknowledge that Cypress Hill were way ahead of the curve, just by being themselves. Advocating for cannabis, being some of the few Latinx faces in hip hop at that time, and incorporating various types of music and ideas into their unique style, they influenced many—but remained the only ones to perfect their kind of sound.
They are true originals and still amazing, so go celebrate them at the Fox Theater.