All Ears

All Ears: 17 music releases to look forward to in 2020

Tokimonsta's new album drops February 20

Between embargoes and secret release dates that see artists dropping projects when a Twitter trend is to their benefit, it’s a little perplexing assembling a strong list of music projects that accelerate the concept of “sound forward.” Hence, there is some GOOD music coming that I can’t talk about. Embargo is a dirty, dirty word.

But this list, 17 for 2020, proves great projects are on the books too.

Alland Byallo, Dilatant (January 17th)
Alland Byallo, the California-born-and-raised DJ-producer, returns in 2020 with his second release in the past five months. Dilatant is a “drummy but musical broken beat deep house kinda thing, with a deadly Rhodes solo from wildly talented Jazz pianist Matt Paull” according to the producer.

You’d be wise to give it a listen. Byallo, a founding member of [KONTROL], the seminal 2000s monthly party at the EndUp which introduced San Francisco to the minimal techno sounds flowing from Berlin, was a strong influence not just on this event, but for eventually attracting MutekSF. Get on that Dilatant, ahead of the curve. More info here.

 

Afrikan Sciences, 02022020 (February 2)
Damn. Listening to an Afrikan Sciences advance promo is the equivalent of living in the future, high on your ancestors’ memory pills decoding that talking drum. Shout out to Watchmen. Listen, I incessantly write about Eric Porter because he’s the truth. Those arrangements, NOBODY is making electronic music like that now. Period. So I will keep on.

For over a decade he’s re-contextualized the genres of house, techno and breakbeat with fluid arrangements that slip in and out of just one classification. The Brooklyn-based, electronic music producer uses minor chord dissonance, oblique disruptions, and tempo rigidity, to communicate how outliers move about in this world. Cinematic, Experimental and Dancefloor are the colors he often paints in.

02022020, which will be self-released on his Student Body Presents label, is no exception. Porter remains steadfast. Not all House music needs to snap to an uninterrupted 4/4 beat. Want proof? Cop this release on Bandcamp Feb 2 and then go see him perform Feb 8th with Sassacyprigo at dweller: Make Techno Black Again, Bossa Nova Civic Club in Brooklyn, New York. More info here.

 

Khruangbin & Leon Bridges Texas Sun (February 7)
Flush in the apex of their live show, playing “August 10,ʻ from 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo, (which kept them on tour for 130 dates), Khruangbin’s experimentation can’t help but veer into the salacious classic “Night Nurse” by Gregory Isaacs—ransforming the 1982 rub-a-dub call for personal attention into another quick-witted sound pastiche by the trio. To quote Denzel Washington in full Malcolm X voice: “This is what they do.”

Given the opportunity, guitarist Mark Speer, bassist Laura Lee and drummer Donald “DJ” Johnson will flex that crate-digging nerd card and show out.

On tour, Khruangbin and singer-songwriter Leon Bridges crossed paths during a run of shows stretching from Los Angeles and New York. Although their musical styles together may differ, there remained a connection. Subtleties that mesh. Did I mention both hail from Texas? Khruangbin from Houston. Bridges from Fort Worth. It’s in the DNA. When a Khruangbin session produced a song that seemed like it could compliment Bridges’ voice, the band sent it over. Bridges returned the track with his vocals the very next day. Entering a studio together, with only B-side hopes in mind, the session guided itself, indicating the project had legs for a bigger outcome.

Texas Sun adds one more layer to the Khruangbin deep stock. “C-Side,” a laidback track comprised of plinking guitar lines, simmering polyrhythms, and comfy tones on vibes, sees the group return to “cooler than you” mystique. More info here.

 

Steve Spacek, Houses (February 7)
Steve Spacek, AKA Steve White, has a new record coming in early February. Houses will land via Black Focus Records on February 7th. Containing 13 tracks with Detroit influences, White produced the entire LP using an iPhone and iPad. Steve White is a UK producer and one-third of the electronic music band Spacek. In the past, he has collaborated with the likes of J Dilla, Raphael Saadiq, and Common. He released his last album, Natural Sci-Fi, in 2018. More info here.

 

Gil Scott-Heron and Makaya McCraven, We’re New Again—A Re-imagining by Makaya McCraven (February 7)

Makaya McCraven, a vital new voice in modern jazz, reinterprets  I’m New Here, the thirteenth—and last —studio album from iconic musician, poet, and author Gil Scott-Heron. The release will follow in the footsteps of Jamie xx’s highly acclaimed 2011 remix album We’re New Here and will be McCraven’s first release of 2020, after the huge global acclaim heaped upon his 2018 album Universal Beings. McCraven, described by New York Times as a “Chicago-based drummer, producer, and beatmaker, [who] has quietly become one of the best arguments for jazz’s vitality.” More info here.

 

Yazmin Lacey, Not Today Mate (TBA)
There is an immediate ice-water through the veins sensation every time the Nottingham-based singer Yazmin Lacey unfurls her raspy, burnt-caramel-sweet voice. 2018’s discovery When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees EP,  packed lyrical phrasing, part Badu attitudinal, but all candid and quotable. That unruffled UK “sort it” swag traveled around the globe. Her latest single “Not Today Mate” continues further down the Soulquarian mellow-direct presentation. As always, no cheap or flashy vocal acrobatics here, just grown folk measured pace.

Lacey dishes up her much-adored silky vocals over an evergreen instrumental produced by Jake Milliner, giving us a potent taste of what to expect from her forthcoming EP, due imminently via Own Your Own Records. This Brownswood Future Bubblers graduate remains a shining avatar for the UK’s Jazz movement: a young, Black woman creating her own reality. More info here.

 

David Walters, Soleil Kreyol (February 7)
Creole is a culture that crosses oceans, connects continents and allows; Africa, America, Europe and the Caribbean to converse in the universal language of music, dance, and carnival. Scattered around the globe, these different Creole cultures once found a crossing point where they were first represented: New York. It was this inspiration that pushed David Walters to make such a late-night cool début of an album. Walters was mentioned by Gilles Peterson as an artist to look out for in 2020 on BBC Radio. More info here.

 

Moses Boyd, Dark Matter (February 14)
Rewind to 2018. Alive In The East, a 10-track, 45-minute free-jazz kinetic sermon from saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd deal their future-funk to a boisterous audience who incessantly provides hoots, churls, and hollers. Recorded in June 2017 at the influential Total Refreshment Centre, north-east London, it’s the UK jazz renaissance happening in real-time.

Fast-forward to 2020, Moses Boyd is finally releasing his début solo album and we are quite stoked about it. Adding the title of composer, songwriter, and arranger to his skill set over the years, he’s won a MOBO and Jazz FM award, toured with Sampha and Kelsey Lu, drummed on Sons of Kemet’s Mercury-nominated album Your Queen Is A Reptile and recorded with DJ Lag on “MY POWER” for Beyoncé’s official soundtrack for The Lion King: The Gift.

A dude been busy, really busy, getting official.

Dark Matter, out Feb 14 on his Exodus imprint, will feature guests Joe Armon-Jones and Nubya Garcia Among others. “Shades Of You” the first single, featuring British vocalist Poppy Ajudha points to a new direction for the artist on this project. Boyd says: “I still love jazz, but this is something different. There’s been no pressure or expectation of anything. There was no immediate need to do anything, so I was really free. A very liberating experience. It’s a very produced record. Many different sounds, setups, places, and music taken from different places and sessions but I feel like finally, it sounds like I’m a producer that also plays jazz.” More info here.

 

Agrio, La Murga EP (February 14)
Agrio is a duo from Madrid, Spain consisting of guitar & drums. They write instrumental songs with powerful riffs, beats, and melodies. While not easy to pin down, the twisted and scuzzy runs, psyche rock meets prog journeys from the upcoming La Murga EP will blow your wig back. No seriously, it will. Situated between grunge and post-rock, these three cuts rip. Slated for release February 14th on  San Francisco’s Broken Clover Record imprint, label boss Mickey Darius assures us the upstart, started in 2018 “is in the business of birthing freaky records, wearing hearts on sleeves, turning it all the way up & fighting the good fight. Staying left of center always.” More info here.

 

Sunny Jain, Wild Wild East (February 21)
Sourcing musical inspiration from the scores of Bollywood classics to Spaghetti Westerns, Indian folk to jazz improvisation, and South Asian languages to English prose to express the immigrant experience as one navigates the terrain of what it means to be “American.” Sunny Jain, a Brooklyn-based musician, and composer, the son of immigrants from India, draws upon his family history of migration for vision, employing rhythmic shifts, dissolving soundscapes, and the interplay of structure and experimentation to represent the heartbreak and triumph within the South Asian diaspora.

Wild Wild East explores the American myth of westward expansion using various sounds and traditions. It’s a rich sonic text. More info here.

 

Caribou, Suddenly (February 28)
When Dan Snaith put his first track in five years as Caribou on YouTube last December, an avid fan commented: “not bad for a guy with a math Ph.D.”.

You canʻt make this shit up people.

The new album, Suddenly, out on Merge Records February 28, full of warmth and Technicolor, bears and swerves left just for kicks. Songs drop out and morph into something else entirely just as they’re hitting their stride, while samples, chopped up, burst out of nowhere. “Home” a welcome comeback, leaving fans yearning for more, sees the Canadian polymath return with collage type jittery arrangements. More info here.

 

Best Coast, Always Tomorrow (late February)
Los Angeles rock duo Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast teased their long-awaited return in 2020 with their new track, “For the First Time” last November. The song comes with their signature surf-rock essence and a feeling of ’80s nostalgia. They are still “completing work” on the new album, and will kick off a tour in support during late February. More info here.

 

Lyra Pramuk, Fountain (March 20)
Displaying how the limits of the human voice can be restructured, avant-pop artist Lyra Pramuk joins Icelandic label Bedroom Community with her début album, Fountain. Described as futuristic-folk music, the seven tracks on the album were manufactured entirely with Pramuk’s own voice being redesigned by electronic production methods.

Pramuk is known for her vocal collaborations with Holly Herndon and Colin Self. The title of her début album is derived from her family name which means “well spring” or “fountain” in Czech. ‘Fountain’ was mixed by her twin brother, Ben. “Tendril,” with its broad sweeping harmonics, indicates this is a game-changing special project, not to miss. More info here.

 

Tokimonsta, Oasis Nocturno (March 20)
Jennifer Lee, who records, performs and produces under the moniker of TOKiMONSTA, is a classically trained pianist from Los Angeles, who started working on beat production while in college when she participated in workshops by LeimertPark’s Project Blowed and Low-End Theory. Along the way, she became the first female producer to have records released on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint.

Fast-forward to 2020, she’s a Grammy-nominated artist, producer, creative visionary and Young Art Records label boss.

Her new album, Oasis Nocturno, the second act to her last album Lune Rouge, finds TOKiMONSTA making broad and refined production choices. “Fried For The Night” featuring Dreamville’s EarthGang is a beat-driven track featuring a blissed-out melody accompanied by a surreal Technicolor landscape in the video. More info here.

 

Thundercat, It Is What It Is (April 3)
It Is What It Is follows Thundercat‘s game-changing third album Drunk from 2017, that completed his transition from virtuoso bassist to bona fide star and cemented his reputation as a unique voice that transcends genre. “This album is about love, loss, life and the ups and downs that come with that,” stated the charming musician and Tokyo enthusiast “It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but at different points in life you come across places that you don’t necessarily understand… some things just aren’t meant to be understood.”

The rowdy ‘fonk’ of “Black Qualls” is classic Thundercat, teaming up with Steve Lacy of The Internet and funk icon Steve Arrington. Thundercat knows where he comes from and always pays respect to the artists who inspired his nonconformist artistry.  Discovering Arrington’s output in his late teens, Bruner says he fell in love with his music immediately: “The tone of the bass, the way his stuff feels and moves, it resonated through my whole body.” More info here.

 

Moses Sumney, græ (May 15)
With his producer hat cocked to the side, Moses Sumney constructed a fusion expanding début on 2017ʻs Aromanticism. Touched with unhappy Radiohead sprinkles, Maxwell-meets-D’Angelo falsettos, and cosmic journeying, led by Thundercat on bass, establishes the fact this young Black iconoclastic is more than a mood.

Sumney is the damn movement.

His new, generous album græ, 20 tracks total, allows his staggering voice to traverse alt-rock dramatics and hopped up free-jazz terrain. Once again he looks to involve all the compositional grand gestures we expect from a “Warm Jets” Eno or an “Inner City Life” Goldie. grae is one to check, fer sure. More info here.

 

Noname (TBA)
Who freaking knows why Chicago rapper Noname remains secretive and reluctant to engage in discourse about her new project online. Those “tweets from the streets” helped her last two albums, Telefone and Room 25 become bangers among the public at large. Last November she did give information via Twitter on her upcoming follow-up to Room 25 in her special way. “I don’t really talk about my music much on here,” she wrote. “But I’m dropping an album in 2020 if anybody’s interested.”

We are interested. Along with what seems to be her performing at Coachella in April as well. More info here.

New music: Orion Sun brings winter warmth with ‘Ne me quitte pas’

Orion Sun

Here we are, dead-ass in the January winter of a new decade. Maybe at the brink of war? And the future, like clockwork, Googles up a new vessel of artistic creation we may be speaking of next December amidst list season. The one-woman project Orion Sun by the Jersey-born Philly based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Majette, got activated to play instruments after seeing Lauryn Hill with a guitar. Not Jimi Hendrix.

Orion Sun

At the end of Orion Sun’s self-crafted video “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (Don’t Leave Me), we see a vibrant 23-year-old, young black creative, sculpting stop motion animation, to go with her snare heavy, boom-bap ode to finding a kindred soul. And still taking a beat to pet her cat. It’s a fleeting moment that speaks without words. The tune is deeply wired with beaming refrains, lo-fi beats that pop with ’90s hip-hop minimalism, and lyrics fueled by humanity. Underscoring all the feels of sorting life shit out, on your own.

The project first came into light with the mixtape “A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams” and she proceeded to drop singles that combined all her talents throughout 2018. An inner circle, word-of-mouth type situation which eventually took her solo-with-laptop and electric guitar performance to earn a slot at the Jay-Z Made in America festival which allowed the project to grow into a seven-piece live band with keys, drums, guitars, and vocalists.

Majette says this single is about: “falling in love unexpectedly & feeling like it’s too good to be true but actually it’s good and true. This feeling was proof to me that good things can happen to people who feel ugly inside.”

This artist possesses calm, poised phrasing, unhurried lethal precision, like any Digable Planets emcee, when rapping. But on this melodic vocal stroll, her production wonderworld distills a blend of James Blake type confessional lyrics and Georgia-Anne Muldrow bombastic low-end slaps. Emo-swag, dressed in crisp snare hits, takes the win here.

For thriller ‘Uncut Gems,’ an electronic soundtrack of erupting chakras

Adam Sandler in 'Uncut Gems'

Daniel Lopatin, AKA electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never, teams up with directors Josh and Benny Safdie a second time to deliver a supernaturalistic score, which documents the inner dreams of the sociopathic New Yorker dirtball Howard “Bling” Ratner—whose idea of a good time would give the rest of humanity a clenched sphincter—played convincingly by Adam Sandler, his best work since Punch Drunk Love, in the morality crime thriller (of sorts) Uncut Gems. You can hear it here.

Ratner, a charismatic jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, gets and stays high on the jack of adrenaline. Lopatin, who won a soundtrack award at Cannes Film Festival for his earlier collaboration with the Safties, 2017’s Good Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), fills this movie with prog-laden, new-agey sounds—erupting chakras—to communicate terror and unease for ill-advised activities by Sandler. Recognizing that horror movie animated strings created for jump cuts are washed, Lopatin and The Safdiesʻ, using a hefty dose of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis influence to lord over this orchestration of self-sabotage, create brainwave synth-squelch that deliver an ultramodern version of sonic head-fuckery.

This cheat code exploits planetary sci-fi sounds, not for wonderment or intellectual expanse, but for the blues of Ratnersʻ diseased soul-that, you canʻt stop rooting for. In the same way composer, John Williams crafted the triumphant sound of a never-ending Star Wars franchise, Oneohtrix Point Never has manufactured a new pathway of documenting crime thriller soundtracks, that are equal parts heady acid-trip and demonic freak-out.

Gurgling Moog synthesizers, John Carpenter-stylized dread chord progressions, and wobbly electronic music patterns now creep the bejesus out of cinephiles digesting plot. Lopatin, this time around, is making a legit run at Johnny Greenwoodʻs There Will be Blood frenetic soundtrack construction.

Daniel Lopatin

Shot in the diamond district, with boisterous cross talk, cell phones going off every second and loud deals getting undone, the sound-mix cracks about with Robert Altman dialogue confusion and John Cassavetes weird, rude improvisation. Leaving viewers the task of figuring out characters by their first behavior. You can fill in the blanks, by piecing together breakneck dialogue later.

Darius Khondji, the iconic Iranian-French cinematographer, known for his work on Seven by David Fincher and more recently Boon Joon Hoʻs Okja, frames pushy in-your-face New Yorker essence like Spike Lee circa ’89. Rhythm, not accuracy, takes precedent in the Safdie film world.

Sporting a cast filled with characters within characters—NBA champion Kevin Garnett, Eric Bogosian, Lakeith Stanfield, Idina Menzel, Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Julia Fox and NYC sports radio royalty Mike Lupica—Gems distills the speedy, Bizzaro-hustler energy that is New York City.

Lopatin, whoʻs collaborated in the past with James Blake and Ishmael Butler from Digable Planets and contributed to Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring from 2013, makes a euphoric, chaotic and bipolar score, synched to character meltdowns, and the ambient fallout of synthesized chaos that befalls our protagonist.

Lay this soundtrack over any hard-scrabble crime thriller made in NYC from the 70ʻs—The French Connection on down—it kills. This union of low-life and high-tech sensation isnʻt new. Revisit William Friedkinʻs feel-bad thriller from 1977 Sorcerer, and Vangelis shall home deliver all the meta-bad creepies you can handle from Roy Scheider. Whether uncomfortable intensity is your bag or not, Lopatin hijacks our ears and senses, making it difficult to pull away from this heart-attack bag of gut-punches.

LA producer Elusive steps into a fidgety ‘Ambient Void’

Elusive

For his 20-plus year career and the latter part of this decade, Elusivethe Los Angeles based producer—has remained steadfast about that work.

Making music with like-minded creatives who understand experimentation keeps the future close. By stretching out his musical base of collaborators and working beyond the hardware/software aspect of his electronic music landscape, an eclectic sonic reach dips into adjacent areas where hip-hop, fusion, soul, and jazz share space… Grinding out those beat tapes and EPs which feature percussive outlines, moody diagrams and odd time signatures has fed Aaron Koslow’s choices to elicit a forward-leaning type of arrangement.

A production output that dates back to the late ’90s, making beats on analog gear and Akai MPC for collaborations with Abstract Rude and Myka 9 from Freestyle Fellowship prepped his work for the future. Alpha Pup became his recording label home following inspiring sets at LA’s Low-End Theory club night circa 2010.

Since he’s moved about projects that involve live jazz instrumentation-pieced together at various studios across Los Angeles-to solo projects based out of the chop shop of dicing samples and tapping out new pathways from the mighty boom of Elvin Jones drum.

Afterthoughts, his 23-track fleshed out watercolor, that acutely pointed out where modal and digitized sounds work together best, from September, a front and back-loaded pastiche of various colors and voices moving through fidgety bump topography. It featured LA vocal progressives Nite Jewel, Jimetta Rose, Natasha Agrama, Mali Hayes, Nikeita Crichlow, and Olivia Hale. The voices of these women, exquisite musicians in their own right, balanced out the project with a harmonized definition. Making it the closest Kozlow has ever come to producing a neo-soul release.

So, true to form, Ambient Void, his most current release, pivots back to beat tape programming.
Like a boxer readying to shed weight, getting back into the gym, Elusive uses these 17 tracks (not one over three minutes) to focus on hand-eye coördination. Pound that body bag. Switch up combinations. Tighten that jab.

And he does.

Besides “In The Clouds,” a welcoming lead-off replete with ideas reminiscent of Fusion Swing from 2017,
Ambient Void crackles along in newfound beat composition. From the double-time, woodblock cadence at the top of “Level Up” to the warbled crab stumble wonk of “Avoid”, these rhythmic ideas, revised sideways experiments, presents a whole other style of knock.

Not quite the auditory comfort food Mndsgns dealt out on “Snaxx,” his “trying to be cerebral—feeling psychedelic”, beat tape from this summer or the sleep-deprived illbient weary R&B feels of “Yasmin,” from Kumail this fall.

Nope, Koslow IS havin’ it all. Doling out the tripped-up 4/4 meter on tracks like “Get 2 Clappin” and “Space Disco.” No sleeping tryptophan material here. Packed with a healthy dose of vocal “yeahhhhs” tossed in for swag emphasis, we head-bobbing. Even when the tempo drops a bit low on “Chocolat Crossaint” or double-times on “Love Handles,” flush atmospherics with cascading synths, vinyl crackles, and fussy circuit board ephemera makes the session, whichever one you are having, proper.

Our critic picks 2019’s Music of Note

Shafiq Husayn

There is no through-line to this 2019 Music of Note line-up. Just honest music that runs the gamut of progressive soul, breakbeat mayhem, a couple of sublime DJ mixes, post-punk clean lines pushing doom synth groove, real fierce Afrobeat, psyche-rock from NYC, re-issues that keep two legends in our minds and a couple of poignant albums landing the thunderous voice of resistance.
It was a great year, for music.

Shafiq Husayn, The Loop
The Loop, Shafiq Husayn’s first solo album in a decade, constructs a new template for progressive  “spaced-out funk, raw neo-soul, free jazz, and electronic elements” that feels ultramodern, hitting on-time like an eclectic booster shot of optimism. Husayn and his deep-bench community of talent, mostly veterans an up-and-comers from the burgeoning LA jazz/soul/electronic music set, create luxuriant modernity for outliers seeking refuge from the extra-ness happening in the world every day. This updated Soulquarian-hang vibe idealism is one that sees music, Black music, as a means of healing, not selling.
The Loop was not designed for the masses, and that’s OK. It was made for us. More here

Jamila Woods, LEGACY! LEGACY!
Jamila Woods, the formidable 29-year-old multi-talented artist from Chicago, brandishes scattershot tones and hues that move through hip-hop, neo-soul, house and rock with a funk lean and touches of trip-hop on the commanding LEGACY! LEGACY! Woods’ voice teeters constantly from downhill ease one minute to seething indignation the next. She takes 12 mavericks of culture—poets, musicians, painters and novelists, strong-willed people of color—and focuses on their superhero talents and struggles, and recasts them, first name basis, through the narrative of song. Listen people, glass-cased idealism went out the door in November of 2016. LEGACY! LEGACY! reminds US all, creation of art is the first act of resistance. More here

Solange, When I Get Home
In true modernistic form, When I Get Home, released at midnight on March 1st (the first day of Women’s History Month), creates a quintessential delivery system where jazz-fusion samples, electro-funk, lucid reggae, and soul ballads—written in 5/4 time signatures—swirl not for a linear sequence. Solange revolts against the antiquated soul album presentation by running 19 songs in 39 minutes, which at times feels like a haunted CD repeatedly skipping, focused around her hometown of Houston. Always my favorite Knowles, she can’t make mainstream moves without some type of indie upstart disruption bubbling underneath…. like a thunderous Alice Coltrane harp run.

Laurel Halo, DJ KICKS 
Laurel Halo, the American-born producer, musician, and DJ, has released four dissimilar studio albums since 2012, which move briskly from experimental pop, through minimal techno, to evergreen-ambient textures. Helming the sixty-eighth edition of the DJ-Kicks mix series, Halo expertly shuffles musical microclimates like a card shark elbow greasing a three-card molly hustle. Presenting 29 tracks in 60 minutes (DAMN), she drags friends, unknown artists, and left-field thinkers to walk through this door with her. Like a car mechanic dying to use EVERY tool in the garage, the amalgam captures a specific eagerness: with tempo, dressed in polychromatic tones, throttling past our eyes and ears. Halo, caters the style of the mix to the terrain of the song. Maneuvering through fierce arpeggios, ruff bass lines, space-age micro-house, and machine-like landscapes.

It’s only the blissed-out half time deconstructions, which link the 4/4 driven segments, that offer breathing space. In those post-Drexciya, liquid pressurized moments, things creep gently. Dreamlike. And just as we catch our breath, BOOM. Halo is off again, hustling forward through tribal notions, cavernous Berlinesque stretches and finally vocal environs where the music starts to smile through a Chicago house swing. More here

Joe Armon-Jones, Turn To Clear View
Joe Armon-Jones makes serious music that is far from disposable. His polymorphic mix of dub, hip-hop, R&B, funk, and bass-heavy UK club culture is the amalgamation to what “his folks” are here for. Not some narrow-minded, dusty old head tradition, isolated on a shelf, where others can’t reach it on first listen. His arrangements ARE the galvanized British jazz scene happening now.

Turn To Clear View features those modern glimpses of inventiveness, projecting large room energy, but it’s “Yellow Dandelion,” a five-minute head-nodding swinger of a jam featuring Los Angeles vocalist and producer Georgia Anne Muldrow, acknowledging the UK jazz scene with a co-signing of sorts. Turning in a reserved, but spirited vocal performance where she opens up blows and scats behind the looping heft and swing of a band executing at peak status. Singing in code about how we as humans lack the tolerance for difference, using that flower as a pointed metaphor, Muldrow sounds regal. It’s that combo, a tight and loose oblong moment, that bands yearn for. It’s unconscious. This connectivity between LA and London? Don’t sleep on it. More here

Brittany Howard, Jaime
Apocalyptic rants of togetherness over space jazz beep fusion landscapes, with Robert Glasper raising those frequencies on keys, clapping back at the “right in your face” racism, still going strong in 2019. The search for connectedness via queer-leaning love songs, emotionally available to everybody who yearns to love or be loved, dipped in that Curtis Mayfield gospel sweet delivery system. Packing the fuck-you presence of her rock group Thunderbitch and the alt-moves of her country adjacent band Bermuda Triangle, Jaime is Brittany Howardʻs most realized musical patchwork to be housed on one project.

These sound palettes, from Prince-informed sheen, Sharon Jones’ gravitational pull, and DʻAngelo mood funk, reach past the retro-soul niceness of Alabama Shakes 2012 Boys & Girls and stretches further out than 2015ʻs Grammy-winning Sound & Color. Fearless in every way, Jaime is that valiant soul record mirroring America. More here. 

Patrice Rushen, Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984
“Forget Me Nots”, the advanced in your feelings post-disco, you go your way and I’ll go mine, single from Patrice Rushen, was first thought of as a dud by the Asylum/Elektra label upon release in 1982. While it possessed the holy trinity of deep ASMR soundscapes for its time-optimistic lyrical thoughts sung in hushed tones by Rushen, uncanny slap funk bass excursions by Freddie Washington and that bright, glossy sax solo from Gerald Albright. It shared space with Hall and Oates on celestial black radio, in barbershops and beauty salons alike. A good SIX months before it would become an overground smash and eventual Grammy nominee. Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984, features all Patrice Rushen’s chart singles, 12” versions, and popular sample sources on one album for the first time.

Signed to Elektra in 1977, in hopes of disrupting the grip Donald Byrd and Grover Washington Jr had on the jazz-funk lane, Rushen, an LA-based polymath, and jazz prodigy, fashioned a career like her mentor Quincy Jones and used the opportunity to make lucid-boogie compositions, roller skating jammers, and string-laden grooves. These cosmopolitan authentic “bops” were good for commercial radio and R&B at the time, for they operated without limitations. Rushen, a young African-American woman, who wrote, performed, scored, produced, played, and ran her own outfit, found the passcode to making bank in the pop-music realm while retaining authenticity. More here.

Octo Octa, Resonant Body
Resonant Body slaps, hits and bumps like a mug. Bold. No wiggle room here. You are either all in for the bombastic joy that keeps unfolding snare after snare, or your ass is getting tossed out of the all-nite lock-in. All those ravey keyboard stabs in the declarative “Move Your Body” are not for the EDM childcare tents in the desert. Coloring-within-the-lines type shit stays in Vegas with the algorithms. “Ecstatic Beat”—a standout accomplishment of rolling breaks, Drum and Bass type low-end frequencies applying deep compression tactics, and chopped Amen snares giving the good nasty business-captures the feeling of shuddering drum machines going off. Simply put, it’s fantastic, chaotic bliss. More here.

Kaleta & Super Yamba Band, Mèdaho 
Operating out of NYC, Afrobeat outfit Kaleta & Super Yamba Band have administered “tear innit’ grooves since 2017. Mèdaho, released this fall, is a quick and tight nine-song run, packed with sinewy organ frequencies, hallucinatory guitar strains, chuggy polyrhythms, and horn lines doggedly carving space around vicious Fela-Esque keyboard stabs. More here.

Toro y Moi, Outer Peace
Make no mistake, the first three songs on Outer Peace—”Fading,” “Ordinary Pleasure” and “Laws”—showcase the controlled focus Mr. CBundick took a year off in Portland to fine-tune. But most of this material remains slithery, glowed-up pop with a capital P that travels past chillwave straight into streamable three-minute micro darts of synthy ’80s Detroit techno with infectious, cavity-forming melodies. “Chaz Bear” Bundick, who put the fuzzy lo-fi psychedelic guitars in storage since his 2015 release What For?, is still notoriously Bay famous for wearing sandals to his DJ gigs under the moniker of Les Sins. The smartest nerd in the room, who’s gonna cop a number from a girl while discussing BART options from “The Town” to San Francisco, opted to make the tunes this time a skosh more catchy.
Everybody gotta eat. More here

Automatic, Signal
With synths, drums, and bass, the band Automatic, featuring—Izzy Glaudini, Lola Dompé, and Halle Saxon—manipulate tone and jostles negative space by pushing that doom cold groove. Projecting visions of asymmetrical hair coifs shifting in the blue light this quick-moving début, Signal, eviscerate narratives quickly over 11 tracks, while darting through post-punk eras with low-key aplomb. From crypt keeper vibes unloading monotone vocals, dagger synths and drum stick hit, Dompé keeps the meter crisp. Very matter of fact. Her Dad is Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus, btw. Playing since the age of 13, she’s familiar.
Automatic met while entrenched in LAʻs DIY scene and began working shit out as a unit in 2017. Turned off by the “bro” energy in the local scene and rock music on the radio, guitars were eliminated from the band. Generating B-52’s type vocals, ESG jitters, and Suicideʻs melancholic outlook: this trio jolts angst through eerie atmospheres. More here.

Roy Ayers, Silver Vibrations
Silver Vibrations, the heavily sought-after 1983 album by Roy Ayers, reissued this year by BBE records, was thought of as his last great focused project in an era that combined equal parts commercial viability and artistic complexity. Ayers, the godfather of neo-soul, acid-jazz, and a canon that allowed boom-bap hip-hop a beginning, he keenly synthesized where black music was going on the anthem “Chicago.” This extended seven-minute version, with sample-like loop formation, minor-key chord structure ,and kick drum elongates this slippery funk into something just a bit more than a catchy tune. We get Genre, predating the term “House.”

While there are moments on ‘Lots of Love’ and ‘Keep On Movin’ where Ayers refuses to give up the hedonistic Seventies ghost, a HEAVY post-disco effect on this record, that slippery boogie sound working its way into the zeitgeist, cannot be ignored. This abridged version morphed into new R&B. And Ayers maneuvered through all these musical developments like he was parking a car. Focused on staying relevant to the kids, he created a teaching manual. Thirty years in advance. More here.

Ghost Funk Orchestra, A Song For Paul
Seth Applebaum, the multi-instrumentalist architect behind Ghost Funk Orchestra, has found a new portal into the Williams S Burrows “cut-up” method of scoring brassy horns to maneuver through stoner rock and funk. The once lo-fi New York based project has grown into an 11-piece best version of a psych-rock band gone rhythm-obsessed. Lalo Schifrin here, a dab of Quincy Jones over there and most definitely a chunk of David Axelrod feeds their post-rock lounge biz directly into ambient orchestration. Embracing the offbeat, which manifests itself by way of avant-pop/experimental jazz moments, GFO stays comfortable employing uneasy time signatures, tone bending frequencies, big horns, and soulful vocals that commit to the honesty of a mood.

When you hear “Walk Like a Motherfucker,” and be sure to say that shit with a Jules Winnfield cadence, Motherfucker, the skilled eclecticism of combining rock and baroque orchestration is the epitome of someone referring to the scatological core of golden era hip-hop and the various crates it extracted boom-bap identity from. More here

Theon Cross, Fyah
On Fyah, musician and composer Theon Cross punches across the notion a tuba can carry the weight of gargantuan bass lines regularly found in electronic music. With accompaniment from Nubya Garcia on tenor sax and Moses Boyd straight-mashing away on drums, the intensity broadcasts how this London player acutely pulled from his own generation of musical influences and made an of-the-moment jazz record, borne out of the bones of drum and bass, hip-hop and all the varied strains of UK electronic music, in the uniqueness of a Young Black Brit. More here.

Benny Sings, City Pop
City Pop finds Benny Sings aka Tim van Berkestijn, making grown-ass melancholy numbers that show a ripened outlook on existence. Sometimes love runs out the door for a pack of smokes. Point is, heartbreak provides fodder for great songwriting and Berkestijn could write jammers from a Craigslist Missed Connection listing. This tasty smattering of AOR, soul, jazz, and pop vocal superpower translates into a “deep crate” IQ on display. No matter where Benny may land on the spectrum, all references to funky blue-eyed dudes are perfected WITHOUT irony. Much respect in fact. His falsetto, transparent and all up in the meta feels, coupled with the less-is-more jazz phrasing on the piano, points to an “I am a musician first” credo. It keeps Benny and his soft-rock essence, WAY legit. More here.

Eris Drew’s mixtape Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1
Eris Drew, loving partner of DJ and producer Octo Octa, weaves a blunt, strong narrative of embodiment, defiance, cultural transcendence, and personal triumph—Disco directive Number One—into a flow of body rockin’ beats, scratches, drops, and sweet melodies. It’s a ginormous earthquaking seduction of a vibe she calls “Motherbeat”.

Eris Drew’s mixtape Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1, an illuminating throwback shout-out to terrestrial radio Friday Night mix shows that programmed high NRG sets that ran into the early morning can be perceived to some as church. Mixing Disco House with broken beats, dropping Miami Bass jams with Boogie keys and blending Rave tunes with disco vocals-utilizing turntable techniques such as “doubles” tricks and “hot mixing”—a fast-paced mixing style created by OG DJ’s who carried crates of records, not Serrato, does not suffer fools. More here

Cochemea, All My Relations
Veteran saxophonist Cochemea has a grand command of soul, funk, and Afro-Latin jazz. This specialty landed him a full-time residency in Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings’ band in 2009. On his solo record, All My Relations, Cochemea delivers a heady and meditative 10-song offering that’s equally influenced by his Yaqui and Mescalero Apache Indian ancestry and the improvisatory writing from 10 musicians engaging in percussive conversation. While there is a beautiful spirit of Eddie Harris and his jazz-funk projects hovering about this record, it’s the heavy-rooted blues, the gathering of the spirits with handclaps, chants and bass clarinets that gives his solo début personal distinction. More here.

Burger Boogaloo 2020 announces killer lineup

Alice Bag, who fronted first-wave LA punk band The Bags and appeared in Penelope Spheerisʻ eye-opening 1981 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, adapted to modernity by blogging and writing about her band, ensuring the pioneering POC outfit would not be omitted from history.

“I wish that there was a whole other documentary that was focused on the bands that had a lot of women in them or people of color or queers making quirky music with synthesizers or banging on a water jug” she stated in The Milwaukee Record from 2018. “All the crazy creative elements of the early punk scene have not been adequately documented. A bit of our work was, but not nearly as much as we had done, which is regrettable. If you were in on the first wave, you might have escaped notice. If you came in a little later, there was enough popularity and mainstream attention that you might be better remembered than somebody who was actually a pioneer.”

Decades later, some representative balance is finally being foregrounded: Bag along with Bikini Kill, Circle Jerks, Carbonas, Pansy Division, Bleached, and Plastic Bertrand are the first round of artists announced for the 11th installment of Burger Boogaloo. The annual music festival, held in Oakland’s Mosswood Park, July 11th & 12th of 2020, will again be hosted by cult film director and self-named “Pope of Trash” John Waters. It definitely more queer, woman, and people-of-color fronted than most such long-standing festivals.

In past years the event has featured spirited performances from DEVO, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Shannon and The Clams, The Dead Boys and Iggy Pop. That tradition of rad entertainment for a sea of goths and rockabilly constituents resumes with Bikini Kill making their first Bay Area performance in over 25 years, Circle Jerks’ and Carbonas’ first show in 10 years and the Bay Area début of Plastic Bertrand.

That first wave of artists also includes Flipper, The Fevers, The Younger Lovers, Panty Raid, and Midnite Snaxxx. Further line-up announcements will be released in January and February 2020.

Burger Boogaloo takes place July 11 + 12, 2020. More info here.

Kamaal Williams brings London’s nightlife jazz explosion to SF

Kamaal Williams

When the South London artist Kamaal Williams, aka Henry Wu, comes to 1015 Folsom on Fri/13 (with Jazzy Jeff as part of the Motown on Mondays 10th anniversary), expect his DJ set to showcase various international peers that have propelled his career as a jazz musician and electronic music producer.

His acumen for uncommon musicality and skilfulness is beyond par. Tapped to curate the 70th installment of the DJ-Kicks series, he distills a liberal assembling of house, broken beat, jungle, soul, hip-hop, and of course jazz. Reading like a non-stop bullet train, the release sets up how the London underground dance movement, over the past decade, informed the current resurgence of jazz by a younger generation weaned on rattling bass bins.

These 29 songs, delivered in a David Mancuso-selector style most of the time (one record right after the other), fit and feed one another in a way that moves minds and hearts first, then asses. As stated in the liner notes, “although not traditionally mixed or predictably sequenced, this unique standout set has a high level of narrative and coherence, linking styles like a family treeʻ.ʻ By selecting Williams and his “Wu-Funk”, the folks at the !K7 label assure us again, their intent is to showcase authentic inventiveness, pushing Spotify metrics and regurgitated algorithms into the trash.

Kamaal‘s inspired work in the studio and live arena has influenced a whole new generation of like-minded musicians, who‘ve helped make London one of the most musically exciting cities in the world. The Yussef Kamaal album ‘Black Focus’ was one of the most talked-about records of 2016, keeping the vinyl pressings hard to get. The follow-up, The Return, came on Williams’ own new Black Focus label and took his band global, making it onto many Best Of 2018 lists.

From earlier in the DJ-Kicks series this year, Laurel Halo’s mix maneuvered through fierce arpeggios, ruff bass lines, space-age micro-house, and machine-like landscapes, damn near shuffling musical microclimates like a card shark elbow greasing a three-card molly hustle. Giving us the audio tour of Berlin nightlife at peak 5 am bustle. In July, Peggy Gou, the first South Korean aoman to DJ at Berlin’s techno institution Berghain, put together a real loose and comprehensive across-the-board mix: disco, house, techno, and electro, from 90 to 150 BPM, that plopped us dead center in her living room, sipping a good red, putting that smoke in the air.

But Williams is on a different undertaking.

“The main aim of this mix for me was to give praise and pay my dues to the forefathers, the originators London’s underground scene. From the likes of Dego, Seiji and Steve Spacek, through to contemporaries like K15, Tenderlonious or myself, it’s about connecting the lineage and giving respect to the creators—those undervalued heroes of this British dance landscape who deserve more recognition today.”

The opening track “Sometimes”, a spiritual edit bourne out of Gospel music sets the standard for what is to come. And itʻs quite lofty. Produced by Budgie, an influential member of the production team behind  Kanye Westʻs Jesus Is King, he keeps the vocals running quick, never displacing their sincerity.

From the “run dem tings” drums of “Spaced Invader” by Lord Tusk into the 20-year-old jungle bedlam called “Buggin Out” by Seiji, to the comedown stillness of “Hey There” by Steve Spacek, featuring an 18-year-old Thundercat playing bass. It leads us into the squiggle vision funk of “Speed Metal Jesus” by Max Greif, matched next to the always identifiable KaidiTatham and his broken beat jazz-funk, mined out of the vast well of the African diaspora. “Two Tens Madam” from 2016, gives us that insight into Williams’ multi-hyphenate journey as musician and producer connecting the two worlds of electronic and live.

KAMAAL WILLIAMS
W/ JAZZY JEFF
Fri/13, $15-$20
1015 FOLSOM, SF
Tickets and more info here

Goldie returns to revive SF’s golden age of drum and bass

Goldie. Photo by Ollie Kirk

If the early 1990s are regarded as the golden age of European techno, a theory recently put forth by British electronic music royalty Kirk Degiorgio, for San Francisco in the late 90ʻs, the soundtrack reverberating-from underground parties, converted warehouses, Full Moon gatherings, grimy punk-rock clubs and “daytime pizza joints that morphed into night-time rave caves” was drum and bass.

UK artist Goldie (performing alongside STAMINA! residents Jamal and SF legend Method-One at1015 Folsom Thu/12) became the day one avatar for this movement in the US circa 1995. That trademark gold grill, definitive grimace, charming presence….. With other pioneers of that era-LTJ Bukem, Grooverider, Roni Size, Jumping Jack Frost, you had to preface the introduction with “this new music called Drum and Bass.” Goldie somehow fused all of his interests—breakdancing, graffiti art aka bombing, breakbeat techno, hip-hop, trip-hop, jungle, and soul-into accessible alchemy.

Inner City Life, a 1995 global anthem, featured the soaring, existential vocals from British songster Diane Charlemagne, enmeshed with granular rhythmic accents and gully bass lines that emoted freedom. This universal concept dragged electronic music into the normcore zeitgeist. So you could just play it. And ffolkes got it.

Back in the day Phunkateck, True Intent, Sister SF, and PBS were some of the DJ crews at the forefront SFʻs drum and bass movement, evangelizing the sub-genre.  Darkstep, techstep, atmospheric, liquid funk, ambient, and drumfunk all took up residence, spearheading this music. While not mainstream, it infiltrated. The sound painted the corners of culture in the City. Informing the direction of fashion, gear and art spaces. Entertaining Tech 1.0 happy hour networking events and making a space in the Bullet Proof Boat Party game, it created a dialogue among house, hip-hop, R&B, techno, electro even post-punk DJs.

Somehow those influencers heard their respective musical voice beneath the largest grumble of the bass bins.

The Top, a tiny bar on Haight Street, now called Underground SF, with its small dance floor in back, and the party Eklektic, were the micro-communities, selected temples for worship, that eventually pushed the music to larger venues such as Justice League (now the Independent), 1015 Folsom, and 550 Barneveld, now called Space 550.

These embryonic tent poles, where local talent played beside international artists, fostered connectivity. For a stretch, the city hosted at least six drum and bass parties a week, so these local DJ crews would fly talent out, on Ramen budgets, from the UK knowing there would be plenty of opportunities for artists such as Paradox, Jumping Jack Frost, LTJ Bukem and such to pick up more gigs. Seeing Roni Size pull massive rewinds at The Top, after-hours possibly, beat any larger venue performance.

SF took that UK breakbeat creation, splintered up the sensibility and smoked it out with hydroponic open-minded idealism. As with all golden eras, gentrification, the corporate cash grab disguised as change, is what comes next. DJ’s turned to tech-house, garage, broken-beat, dub-step, and grime… Soon a bass music movement took off in LA at The Low-End Theory party, and brought us many of today’s biggest US dance music artists.

Goldie’s full-length début, 1995’s Timeless, remains his career statement, as well as one of the few jungle releases to reach a broad audience outside of the underground. SF’s d’n’b underground legends will surely turn out when he takes to the decks.

GOLDIE 
Thu/12, $17.50-$25
1015 Folsom, SF. 
More info here

From Iceland to ‘Death Stranding’ with Bay-bred indie rocker Low Roar

Low Roar's album 'ross.' summons walls of sound behind the gentle pitter-patter of a drum machine or the strum of an acoustic guitar. Photo via Low Roar Facebook page

“Home’s so far away,” goes the first line of Low Roar’s new record ross. Right now, that would mean Warsaw, where Low Roar mastermind Ryan Karazija resides as a home base for his regular tours around Europe. But before the long journey that took him to Poland through Iceland—with stops along the way for four full-length albums and several memorable musical appearances in the hit video game Death Stranding—Karazija was frontman of Audrye Sessions, the Oakland band that was a fixture of the Bay Area indie rock scene in the 2000s.

“It’s where I grew up, it’s where I spent a huge part of my life,” says the 37-year-old of the Bay Area. “But I don’t miss the cost of living, and I don’t think I would’ve ever ended up doing the project the way I’m doing it if I’d stuck around.”

Karazija was born in Santa Clara and raised in San Jose. He started playing guitar around age 15 or 16 and “somehow got into the singing part,” which seems like an awfully modest statement if you’ve heard his vocals. Audrye Sessions formed in 2002 and lasted until 2010, releasing an EP and an album and playing with fellow local indie rockers like Please Do Not Fight and Finish Ticket.

Low Roar released its first, self-titled record in 2011 after Karazija moved to Reykjavík to live with his now-ex-wife and her son. He recorded it at his kitchen table on his laptop with only minimal equipment, but Karazija was satisfied with the result, and it garnered strong reviews upon release.

“I never felt comfortable handing one of the Audrye Sessions CDs [to someone] and saying ‘this is mine’,” he says. “[Low Roar] was the first time when I felt like I was handing someone something I was proud of, and that’s happened with every single one of these records.”

Low Roar was compared incessantly to other acts who supposedly evoke the glacial sweep of Iceland—Sigur Rós, Múm, Björk, etc. Karazija bristles in interviews whenever the connection is made between his music and Iceland; he prefers his music, including ross., to be interpreted more subjectively.

“They have to go and listen to it and find out for themselves,” he says of his listeners. “Even I guess I don’t know what it’s about. It can be up to interpretation.”

What can be said for certain about ross. is that it’s his shortest album, just 42 minutes as opposed to the hour-plus monoliths of before, and boasts some of his more stripped-down arrangements. But it’s no less expansive than his prior three records, summoning walls of sound behind the gentle pitter-patter of a drum machine or the strum of an acoustic guitar.

Karazija’s voice is at once friendly and unearthly, inscrutable and intimate, in the vein of great indie-rock vocalists like Thom Yorke, Justin Vernon, Liz Harris, or, yes, Sigur Rós’s Jónsi. It’s striking music, the kind of thing that could stop you in your tracks at a record store—which is exactly what happened to Hideo Kojima.

During a stop in Reykjavík, the Japanese video-game auteur behind the Metal Gear Solid series heard Low Roar’s music while shopping for records. He knew right away he had the right music for his new project Death Stranding. 22 Low Roar songs were ultimately licensed for the game; “I’ll Keep Coming” was used in the baffling 2016 trailer Kojima revealed at the E3 gaming conference and is something of the game’s official theme song.

“[I got] a call from Sony, ‘we wanna use your music,’ they didn’t tell me what for,” says Karazija. “I didn’t hear about it until the trailer came out. I was watching a Warriors game with my mom and I started getting these text messages from my gamer friends. Next day I was driving down to L.A. to have dinner with [Kojima].”

Karazija wasn’t much aware of the scale of Death Stranding, which has been one of the most anticipated events in gaming for the last three years. The last system he owned was an Xbox he bought when he was 23, and he claims The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the only video game he’s played through.

Actually playing Death Stranding is low on Karazija’s list of priorities, especially as he’s in the midst of a solo European tour. If new fans discover his music through the game, he welcomes them. After all, it gives people a reference point other than Iceland.

Review: MF Robot’s ‘Finders Keepers’ pushes a rolling funk momentum

MF Robots' 'Finders Keepers' moves with great. jostling energy

When Brand New Heavies burst on the scene in the late ’80s appropriating fashion and funk music cues from the 60ʻs, they were part of a retro-future soul awakening leaping from Britain that projected to the world numerous shades of Black culture. Between Neneh Cherry, Caron Wheeler, Soul II Soul, and Lisa Stansfield, this drum machine version of soul took up space on the radio and MTV. Brand New Heavies, a live band with real musicians donning vintage vines, drew a smoldering type of romanticism. But Authenticity provided the sizzle.

Sound familiar?

Like a wristwatch, keeping both East and West coast time, the Heavies informed early ’90s music, including Hip-Hop, from the groove centric position of ’70s swag. Coming together in 2013 as members of BNH, band founder Jan Kincaid and vocalist Dawn Joseph instantly clicked and began writing new songs within a week of the first meeting. Calling themselves MF Robots, a subtle reference to today’s generic musical landscape, the duo left the Heavies to pursue their burgeoning partnership, which has already shown instant connectedness and spark in a brief span of time.

Kincaid and Joseph, who are currently putting the finishing touches to their untitled new album for BBE Records, decided to cover the venerable 1974 soul stomper “Finders Keepers” by Chairmen of The Board.

Music For Robots, the duo’s debut album from 2018, was packed with 14 tracks of dance-friendly tunes that slightly missed the indelible mark of an acid jazz mystique.

But this time around “Keepers” moves with great jostling energy, trademark foot-stomping and pushed tempo, and accentuated horn lines pushing the rolling funk momentum. It’s a return to an identifiable sound, born out of a specified musical DNA made by retro-standards established 30-plus years ago. This updated version smoothes out the horn attack, sands down the edges of the grooves, and keeps all the definitive wonk of the percolating clavinet keyboard runs intact. The unapologetically ’70s-sounding arrangement draws on horn powered groups from a previous era, and moves past cult definition.

It’s just good music.