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Saturday, July 20, 2024

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Arts + CultureMusicUnder the Stars: The sultry vintage hi-fi world of...

Under the Stars: The sultry vintage hi-fi world of ‘Audio Erotica’

Plus: Sunset Campout, The Donnas reissued, Drugdealer, Onra, 'Soft Summer Breezes,' more great music


Hi-fi brochures were, at one time, almost as exciting as the equipment itself. Walkman ads, turntable displays, and hi-fi rack systems—all early versions of gear we still actively use today in the DJ world and beyond—used to be sold using sex appeal, cosmopolitan verve, and sleek graphic design.

Audio Erotica, a book exploring vintage hi-fi adverts, authored by Jonny Trunk and printed by FUEL, dives down the glossy page k-hole to discover rare advert campaigns that dosed audiophiles with sexy images of tech in the modern world. Nerd-forward initiatives placing the “aaah” moment in your brain of roller-skating while donning your first Walkman.

It’s 240 vintage pages that make the once typical Guitar Center lap around the gear moment seem <shrug-emoji> mid. Like a a deep-cut episode of Mad Men: Aiwa, Zenith, Braun, JVC, Nivico, Nakamichi, Technics, and Sony all take up space and churn out the dream-factory dust, fueling that fantasy tech setup, while providing a history-leaning TED Talk kind of lesson, illuminating how advertising shaped the future.

Eye-popping stuff in so many ways. Order it here.

But in the meantime… 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.

Amazed that Apple Music wants to be known for its own Best 100 Albums list.

Isn’t making lists… old tech? How about improving the robo-taxi situation first eh?

Let’s go out into the night and find good music….


There’s something gallant happening on the new Yea-Ming and The Rumours release, and it maintains a whispery murmur for the most part. With guitar licks guitar that ponder the writing scrolls of the ’60s era Darlene Love, The Crystals, or The Ronettes.

In the liner notes frontwoman Yea-Ming Chen self-proclaims this as her “pop record”, and yes the hooks be hooking. For sure. That twang of “Before I Make It Home,” so catchy, and the guitar-picking swooner “Big Blue Sea” and calm spaciousness of the opener “Pretending” make you think, why didn’t she go pop sooner? Each tune, immediate shapes and figures built on quality and brevity, make you want to climb inside each one with a cup of cocoa.

Such a calm presence from this Bay Area artist.

Pick it up here.


The Sweater Funkers tipped my ear in the Onra direction around 2010. The music producer and DJ from Paris was a featured guest and everyone was talking about him, so I decided to attend the event. I peeped his boogie-centric hip-hop set with cuts of his own in between, and I was immediately sold. Let me tell you, when all 17-36 members of the Sweater-Funk crew (half-joking, half-serious) get excited about someone, I pay attention. The track record is legit: Benedek, XL Middleton, Moniquea, The Pendletons, Psychic Mirrors, Mayer Hawthorne, and Leroy Burgess, the King of Boogie. That batting average, right there?  

Better than the entire Giants lineup, no joke. Seriously.

Onra’s new release, Nosthaigia, is a compilation of Thai songs from various genres. These songs were discovered during his time living in Thailand, where he immersed himself in the country’s life. He spent years scouring local record shops in search of new inspiration. The tracks were sourced from 45s and produced entirely on his MPC1000 in 2017. They were then revisited in 2020, resulting in a collection that serves as a map and snapshot of a different era. Despite their diverse origins, the songs are tied together by bump, filled with cozy dusty ephemera, that moves in ancient waves.

Such a great project. Grab it here.


Drugdealer founder and primary songwriter, Michael Collins, has a knack for crafting stories, with characters that come to life with a psychedelic, folksy-funk sound that hits comfy like a deep shag rug.

With the recent addition of two shows at The Chapel in mid-August, post Outside Lands city frenzy, it’s such the right time for Collins Santa Ana wind harmonies, cool breezes, and take-your-time gait to blow freely through the indie rock temple nestled in The Mission.

That third Drugdealer album, Hiding In Plain Sight, almost didn’t come to fruition. It seems Collins was unhappy with his vocals. But it was at the art colony of Marfa, Texas, that a chance encounter with the visionary artist and composer Annette Peacock changed his outlook.

It was at Mexican Summer’s annual Marfa Myths festival that Collins ran into Peacock backstage. She made some suggestions and Collins found that he wasn’t singing high enough for his speaking voice. So he made some changes and started coming up with new progressions, forcing him to sing differently.

We have those results running nimbly through Hiding In Plain Sight, with AM Gold arrangements, Los Angeles funk spirit, and smoothed-out psychedelic rock elements. It’s a great hang, babe. We expect that in the two-night installation.

Grab tix here.


To be a great writer, you have to be a reader. The same can be said about making music; you have to love it to create something that has gravitas, funk, and grit. A specific stamp.

An old friend introduced me to The Free Design many years ago, and since then, I have been on a lifelong mission continually searching for that sunshine/baroque pop for listening purposes, and to play DJ sets—into that Campari high.

Our friends at Numero Group have provided us with Soft Summer Breezes, a wonderfully unique and folk-friendly album, with “16 gentle moments” for summertime listening. I believe it can be seen through the lens of Haight-Ashbury hippie 60’s flower power, and I’m not mad at that. However, in the past few years, starting with Vinyl Williams, then Once & Future Band, and now Magic Fig’s recent release, this baroque, soft psychedelia or dandy garage rock continues to inspire local and international artists in 2024.

And trust me, I can’t for my aggressive beat-heads to give their twist to this heady brew of frequencies.

Good on ya, Numero Group! Pick it up here.


As we delve deeper into the music festival wormhole, I can’t help but ponder the connection to the land you are about to immerse yourself in for a couple of days while you trip…. on sublime DJs, live music, and any other experiences that melt away the monotony of modern life.

Since 2009 the Sunset Campout has been held in historic Belden Town on the Feather River in Plumas County and according to the event site, its location is one of the most unique things about the event. 

This funky old gold rush resort town gets utilized for the event: Belden is equipped with a saloon, restaurant and general store, showers, bathrooms, a lodge and several cabins and buildings, and a handful of year-round residents who add to the fabric of the place – and have a story or two.

So trek to this leave-no-trace event (pick up your waste before going home, buddy), wave to some hikers with large packs roaming through town during the event, and know that nature is the ultimate thrill.

This year, the DJ line-up features heavyweights Mark Farina, DJ Heather, Josh Wink, Tyrel Williams, and nuanced bubblers ready to snatch your attention when the sun comes up. Look out for Kiernan Laveaux, &ndmore, Rachel Torro, and prepare for your stalwarts, Galen, Mozghan, Schneezy, and Solar, to keep it all time.

Grab tickets and more info here.


There is always hate when a band or artist decides to jump to a major label after gaining a certain amount of, well, call it what it is: indie credibility at a smaller imprint.

Some survive the daggers, others charge it to the game.

The Donnas were a rock band formed in Palo Alto, initially designed in the model of The Ramones-meet-The Runaways with short songs, slashing guitar tunes, and a no BS vibe. That shit played.

Trust me, when they began ascending, they became Bay Area indie darlings, buzzworthy just on the attitude and minimal blip of their songs.

In some respects that same “let’s hang and have a ripper of a fun one” attitude serves somewhat as a pre-cursor to Los Bitchos.

Then, with 2002’s Spend The Night, their debut with major label Atlantic, after years on Lookout!, and previously Purple Feather, their reception and perception changed quicker than the dot-bomb implosion of 2001. No really, that’s facts.

Lead tune “Take It Off” is a, yes I must admit, polished ripper of a tune, saw the band using a bit of a cleaner slash-and-burn pathway, but still for what it is, a cool little pop-rock dart.

But Drowned In Sound., at the time, felt just a bit differently: 

“With subject matter as shallow as the Neanderthal end of the gene pool, (“Stop starin’ at my D cup, Don’t waste time, just give it to me, C’mon baby, just feel me up”), I doubt any but the most committed fans will be scrawling these lyrics on their pencil cases. In a song that should be sexy and provocative, The Donnas manage to elicit the amount of excitement usually associated with emptying a colostomy bag.”

Whoa, buddy. Who pissed in your fruit loops?

Yes, that new, leaner production method was apparent, but dang. It wasn’t crap.

The tune was still serving up the persona of the all-girl four-member band slaying with hooks and looks at a rapid-fire pace. Atlantic provided enhanced methods. Better recording space that elevated their trademark sound.

“I must have too many diet cokes/Cause I’m laughing at all your stupid jokes” from “All Messed Up” is a pretty good quip. And I’m sorry, to hear the four-band members in harmony sing “C’mon and break me off,” all flat and nasally, from “Take It Off’ provides the moxie, wink-nod boost juice to a pop-punk slapper.

That line, with its non-colloquial delivery, always cracked me up. 

Listen I don’t own any of The Donnas’ records, but I’m always stoked when their shit pops off in a bar or karaoke situation.

Spend The Night, deserves a second look. 

Pre-order here.

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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