Arca – “Xen”

There are few albums which can fully contain and express a figure of imagination, a picture, or story through each and every piece, each track adding another vital aspect and slant to the desired product. Though all music strives to be some form of human expression, few can accurately present a piece that accurately evokes emotion to similar to that of the human soul, even fewer the feelings and events that a person lives through.  With Arca’s first album “Xen” a persona is expressed so brilliantly you begin to feel as if you are listening to the motions and emotions of someone in your presense, rather than simply music itself. You might even catch yourself thinking you even understand this person, but quickly another level of confusion, another variant in life affects both the person and with it your perception of them. The inner demons and complexities of personalities add to many variances and changing atmospheres throughout the album. This soul is experienced and a cautious one too. “Xen” isn’t pretty, but for some reason attractive, with every tone drawing you closer and further along.

The ferocious and volatile beats which are commonfound in “Xen” command you to pay attention, and you will. You will listen to every “word” storied to you and every sentiment which underlines every story expressed. It’s easy to find yourself doing so multiple times, as I am writing this review very early in the morning after repeated attempts to understand “Xen” as I attempt to try and explain this phenomenally creative and wonderful release. The vicious synths, snapping drums, and wistful bass continuously hurtled at you will hit you repeatedly, as if to hammer in a notion that you simply will never comprehend, but have to at least try. Some will stick, others will bounce back as you watch them trail away. You won’t ever know what’s coming next, or when.  It’s this uncompromising and unpredictable nature of this album, that makes it’s so great, so genuine.

The few moments of calm in “Xen” are cold, for example in “Sad Bitch” and “Wound.” Sure they are warming sounds of strings, and basslines that will throb your heart, but it’s the feeling expressed which has yourself in a deep and dark confine which chill you to your bone.

Arca describes Xen as a genderless alter-ego he describes having spiritual ties to, and according to frequent collaborator Jesse Kanda in this very intimate and utterly fascinating Fader article, Arca, a.k.a Alejandro Ghersi, will often become Xen, a spiritual being embodying a more feminine side of Ghersi who rejuvenates herself through creativity and exploration.

Despite Kanda’s interpretation, Ghersi himself explains to the Guardian,

“Xen is a genderless being. It’s about resisting labels and integrating different sides of ourselves. The complicating of one and the other is very fertile, emotionally and creatively. I’ve been thinking a lot about Native American tribes who saw homosexuals within their tribe as those who could see things in two different ways. [Their sexuality] could have a practical use, spiritually.”

It’s a relatively messy album, with spontaneous and sporadic movements being the underlying attitude of the entire work, but it also works very well and in a shocking, but harrowingly beautiful way. In “Xen” the listener becomes the confidant.

- Nick

Christopher Willits – OPENING

Fresh off the Ghostly label line comes this very ghostly-esque album from multi-talented photography, producer, and musician Christopher Willits, filled with faded, droney, ambient, slow, intertwining harmonies. This is the kind of music that slows you, and everything around you way down. It’s great for the incoming cold weather too. The atmosphere and emotions evoked in “OPENING” are superb. It’s also got an accompanying film which is great to behold. This video is of travels captured over four years in Japan, Thailand, Hawai’i and California by Christopher Willits himself, and is the inspirational source for the music on this album.

“Opening” is easily a front runner for being placed high in 2014 album rankings, at least for me. It meanders through various forms, like the varieties found in nature, from the simple, vast, and seemingly endless, to more complex, intricate, and flowing landscapes. It’s hard to gauge what the focus in each song is, or the album itself, but maybe this is the point, as it is this approach that to me is refreshing, especially in a widely involved and varied genre that seems to have many releases aiming to center on one key element, as opposed to the much larger sphere of things.

As Willits remarks, regarding “OPENING” and the accompanying film,

“There are no actors or dialogue in this film. The audience and their perception is the main character, and everyone’s imagination is going to create some meaning that’s relevant to their own experience. My intention is to create a space where people can open up and expand into, relax and recharge.”…”For me, OPENING is about transformation, the experience of changing oneself to be more of who you know you can be, and, ultimately, the joy that comes with that change.”

This isn’t an album to jam too. I wouldn’t even say this is an album to vibe to. To call it an “experience” is overdone and a characterless way to explain albums like these. Just listen to it. Be amongst it.

- Nick

Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Are You Okay”

Yesterday the Dum Dum Girls premiered their new video for “Are You Okay” off of Too True on Noisey, along with an interview and behind-the-scenes pics. Written by Bret Easton Ellis, famed author of American Psycho, the 11-minute video is creepy, haunting, and evocative of Too True’s darker, slicker sound.

The video is directed by Brewer, who has done videos for Purity RingAlt-J, and Passion Pit, and produced by Braxton Pope, with additional musical score composed by Tamaryn and Drew McDowall, of Coil fame.

Here’s the behind-the-scenes video, in case you’re curious:

- Jasmine

Nothing – “Guilty of Everything”

 

 

Nothing’s debut album “Guilty of Everything” envelopes the listener in a thick blanket of shoegazy alt-rock, teleporting them into an ethereal realm of artful angst and fuzzy guitar riffs.  Hidden within the thunderous wall of sound is a spring of analgesic tranquility making the album near impossible to stop listening to.  The band’s heavily distorted guitars and spectral vocals provide a rich atmosphere which gives credence to critics’ comparisons to giants like My Bloody Valentine.  “Guilty of Everything” is set to release on March 4th.  Stream below and enjoy.

-Denali

 

 

Emily Reo & Friends Pullman House Show

Emily Reo

Sunday night something magical happened in Pullman. And no, I’m not referring to the storm raging outside (although that added quite a bit to the ambiance). I’m referring to the musical storm of holyfuckthisisamazingness that was raging inside of the newly-dubbed residence Maiden Haven, located on College Hill. The culprits behind this shit-storm of excellence were three very talented and extremely nice individuals playing under the monikers Cuddle Formation, Peace Arrow, and Emily Reo.

The night started out on an awesome, but unassuming, note with a few rounds of Mario Kart 64. Some won. Some lost. Some ended up spending more time stuck in a corner than on the track (names not provided to protect the Mario Kart-inept). While the party of about 20 people was engaged in watching the video game, Noah Klein slowly and quietly set up his equipment for his Cuddle Formation set, which consisted of an electric guitar, looping pedals, and some other technological musical equipment that I haven’t the knowledge to explain. He put it all on a patterned mat and sat in front of it like a gypsy getting prepared to read tarot cards. He stayed there the entire time, bewitching us with his dreamy and unique blend of sounds.

 

Up next was Mitch Myers with his project Peace Arrow. And let me tell you, none of us were prepared for his set. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say my jaw was just hanging open at points during his set. Using a guitar, a looping station, some effect pedals, and a floor tom and high hat that we managed to scrounge up for him; he gave us the most raw, animalistic performance I’ve witnessed to date. Sometimes singing, sometimes shrieking, sometimes doing complicated riffs on his guitar, sometimes banging on the drum like he’s trying to get a part in that Nick Cannon movie Drum Line (don’t tell me you don’t remember it). And apparently God has a new job as a lighting technician because thunder and lightning started raging outside in the middle of his set as if it was cued exclusively for his set. It was intense. To quote my homegirl Erin, “I think we just saw Animal Collective play.”

 

The grand finale of the evening was, of course, the adorable Emily Reo. Most of us at KZUU had been jamming to her album for the entire week before so we knew it was going to be fantastic and she most definitely did not disappoint. With a projection of flowers, stars, and possibly beehives (?) behind her, she delivered an effortless, euphoric, vocoder-filled performance of songs from her latest release Olive Juice, including “Wind”, “Coast”, “Peach”, and her cover of Built to Spill’s “Car”.

 

Despite our desires for “one more song”, the music eventually ended. The party did not. But that’s a story for another time….

Long live Maiden Haven.

- Jasmine

Bambooman – “Hollowed EP”

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There seems to be a certain bit of ambiguity with genre names, especially in the world of electronic music. What happens when you have a producer who is equally influenced by the likes of hip hop as they are electronic music? While current trends have us believing this sound is called trap, but not everything in this electronic/hip hop hybrid is made for the dance floor and polluted with snare rolls and “Damn son, where’d you find this?” It’s not surprising that hip hop and electronic music have become bedfellows seeing as both essentially came into existence as music created by DJs. When Frankie Knuckles and The Belleville Three created house and techno respectively, they probably never assumed their sound would fuse with the New York born hip hop shaped by Kool Herc. British producer Bambooman shows us that immaculate mix of both by delivering an EP of chilled out hip hop with surprisingly rich textures.

On Bambooman’s Hollowed EP on Sonic Router Records we see this infatuation with two seemingly different genres play out. While the drum patterns are very distinctly hip hop in nature, provoking a head nod to the slowed down beat. The thing that makes this EP stand out so far from everything else is the textural element. Songs like “Stacks” and “Irish Moss” deliver a very mesmerizing image sonically. In particular some very liquid textures in “Irish Moss” are reminiscent of Balam Acab’s Wander/Wonder. Bambooman is very great at taking your mind on a ride and does an excellent job of creating a whole world in front of you using just a sonic soundscape.

Even without the rough and tumble textures, tracks like “Frost” and “Hollowed” use great work with synthesizers that seem to float above your hear. These synthesizers aren’t misguided though, as everything seems to have it’s place in the mix. Particularly on title track “Hollowed” every sound has it’s place, with no range in the frequency spectrum overpowered or out of place. The ringing bells seem to battle the stabs of the synthesizer, but in the end everything compliments each other in an amazing way.

The EP is bookended by a pair of remixes, on by Zack Christ and the other by Eckoclick. Zach Christ’s remix of “Irish Moss” is more percussively driven than the original and falls into the same vein as the rest of the album and gives probably the most uptempo hip hop moment of the EP without sacrificing the sources eerie textures. The Eckoclick remix of “Sun” on the other hand takes us more towards the dancefloor albeit a still chilled out hazy one. Again retaining the liquid textures and driving clicks the propelled the source forward it adds a thumping four on the floor rhythmic pattern that will get anyone dancing.

Sonic Router has always been known to deliver on weird hybrids of genres with releases from Torus and Hav Lyfe in the past. Leeds based Bambooman continues this tradition by releasing one of the year’s richest and most rewarding experimentation in hip hop and electronic music.

Odesza interview + new song

During Springfest 2013, KZUU was able to bring Odesza down to Pullman to perform. Our RPM director Nick got an interview with the duo (comprised of BeachesBeaches & Catacombkid) before they went on stage. (You might remember them from the “Summer’s Gone” album review we did last year.)

We’re here with Harrison and Clay from Odesza. They are still on their tour, I believe, for their Summer’s Gone album. Tell me, how’re you taking in all the hype and the reactions you’re getting from your album so far? No one will have ever expected it but, just talk to me about it?

Harrison: It was definitely completely unexpected, it’s very unreal. We were hoping that like a few blogs liked us, like a few blogs we followed would be interested but yeah the overall response we’ve gotten has been insane, we didn’t know what to expect, we’re still kind of numb to it because it’s so new and we’re still kind of like as much music as we can right now. We’re working on two EPs right now, we’re like twelve songs deep, so just trying to produce and get better and learn more and hopefully play more shows.

Clayton: I mean, it’s a pretty humbling experience, honestly when we started I don’t we’d ever thought we’d get any of the response we did, it’s pretty of outrageous, but everyone’s been really nice, I mean I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, so figured we’d just keep rolling with it, see what happens, make some more music, and hopefully people like it and just keep going, day by day.

Where have you been so far on your tour, has been mainly just the west coast?

H: Yeah we’ve only hit the West coast, and we hit Colorado and Albuquerque, New Mexico and a few random spots out there but we haven’t gone too far east.

Are there plans for that?

C: As of now they’re in the works.

H: We got some tours that we’re hoping to jump on for people we really like, and we can’t really say anything yet, but if we jump on them that’d be amazing.

Big names?

H: Yes.

Sasquatch. That must have come as a surprise.

H: That’s a dream come true, we can pretty much die after that show is done.

C: Retire and be done.

H: (laughs) yeah we can retire after that.

Was that just like a call that randomly showed up or an email or was this totally out of the blue or was there kind of some work involved in this?

H: Our booking agent Jay at FlowerBooking, he’s the man,

C: He is the man!

H: He really hyped us, he put down his reputation for us, he pushed us really hard for Sasquatch and we surprisingly got it, so we’re just really lucky and Jay has been awesome to us so hopefully people like what we do there.

Where does Odesza go next in terms of music? We know your first album was great, and you can definitely say you’ve definitely set a sound with that, where does it go from here?

H: I’ll let Clay hit this one.

C: So, the newer stuff that we’ve been working on it’s a little different, it’s not too far different, like the whole sound design and the process of which we go about making the music is pretty much the same, but we’ve been influenced by so much new music in like I’d say the past six months that you can’t go on making music without being influenced by what you’re listening to, so it’ll definitely be a different take on a kind of genre and style that we’ve already kind of solidified. I mean when you’re making electronic music the process is kind of what defines your style. How you go about making music is what defines how the end product sounds and how what you start with, what you build off of, is all very important to the whole thing so we’ve kept that same but kind of taken ideas and new facets of that and kind of just run with it.

H: Yeah, as to what to expect…as far as up-tempo tracks, there’s going to be a lot more up-tempo because once you go touring your realize how people react to stuff especially the up-tempo dancier stuff. I mean people come to the shows most likely so they can have a good time and dance and hang out, and the up-tempo stuff, you see the reaction. I think overall our sound is just getting bigger. We’re trying to add way more layers, make it thicker, just try to get better as musicians in general and just beef up everything really.

You mentioned influences. Were there really many for the first album and now? Can you shoot out some names for example and other things?

H: Oh yeah.

C: I mean, anything out of Motown era, like that soul influence, massive.

H: You’re going to hear a lot of that.

C: Four Tet was a big influence for me for example, all his stuff has been absolutely amazing. Gold Panda, I could go on for a while.

H: Lapalux, the new Bonobo record, it’s phenomenal.

Oh my god, isn’t it good?

H: I’ve been playing it nonstop in my car. Literally, we study that music. We sit there and go “okay so he must have made that clap through like…” it’s kind of ridiculous. Any one of our friends hate us while we listen to music. Flume, his album was incredible. We’ve just been like sifting through soundcloud constantly and making beats after we listen, so it’s just kind of like we take what we really love about other songs and try to incorporate things we like.

Where are you guys actually from? Because there’s rumors of like Bellingham, and Everett and Edmonds thrown into the mix.

H: I don’t know about Edmonds, but he’s from Bainbridge Island and I’m from Redmond, Washington. Both of us went to Western [Washington University] which is in Bellingham and that’s where we met, and that’s where we made half of Summer’s Gone and other half was us just bouncing around from our houses and just kind of finishing it all up.

Cool. We at KZUU really like the more Northwest the better.

H: (laughs)

C: Yup. Pride. Through and through.

Odesza, thank you so much for this little bit, and I wish you guys all the best have a great show –

H: hopefully it goes well

 - I’m sure it will.

The show was a fantastic event, with vibe unlike any other show that weekend. What was especially nice was the performance of many new tracks, one of which was released shortly after the show, specifically their remix of Beat Connection’s “Saola” which is a fantastic summer tune perfect for the hazy warm weather.