Fort Romeau- Insides

In so many genres of music, visual art, film, and fashion we can in this day and age observe a rising trend of looking to yesteryear and beyond for inspiration. In many parts of art and creativity, the whole “full circle” idea appears to be real. It is particularly prevalent in electronic music, especially with the current “house revival” we are experiencing, which in my opinion is fast reaching its peak, with little left to really return to using a “throwback” emphasis. Frequently one can read on a blurb of album descriptions pertaining to a return to basics, an echo from the old-school, inspiration from the classics, and so on. Actual attempts to follow through on these aspirations are often non-existent and miss the mark entirely. The little bit of info on Fort Romeau’s “Insides” album when it arrived in the KZUU office was unassuming, with no real attempts to make bold statements. It is, after all, just a small blurb. But if there was ever an album in recent years which in its music used subtlety and a minimalist approach to achieve loud statements, it would be “Insides.” Fort Romeau​’s “Insides” may be the first album in a while which accurately and fully achieves an honest attempt at echoing yesteryear sounds and vibes of house music.

From the get-go, it is abundantly clear that Fort Romeau is attempting to preserve and cherish the synths, drums, progression, bass and waspy vocals typical from the early days of electronic music. The simple progression, the loops, haziness, the frequent switching between warmth and coldness, it’s all there. The album has captures the calm excitement that the entire genre and scene seemed to have. The many, often old-school sounding synths evoke such a wonderfully vintage vibe that makes the very polished and beautiful album simply so special. The minimalistic approach allows for the listener to bind the sounds and vibes together to hear either a warm full-bodied or chilly stripped-down sound and this varies throughout. The album starts small and homey, but by track three, “All I Want” will whip you around to a very strict four on the floor, very dancey house track. The title track “Insides” is a hazy concoction of a variety of cosmic and spacey sounds with an inquisitive nature, which is counteracted later by “Lately” which is forthright very german-esque sounding minimal/tech-house track, with it’s slow and repetitive loops and beats snaking their way along. The cold, steely, frigid nature of this song is oddly the most emotive track on the album, if just in a more subtle and rigid way. It is without doubt my favourite track on the album

What makes this album great is its completeness. For eight tracks it does not drift into more experimental approaches, or other genres. No, “Insides” is a solid eight track album of nothing else but house music with echoes and inspirations from the past. This is not to say that they all sound the same (quite the opposite) but in terms of aim and point of the album, it is crafted so exquisitely well. Indeed, in a period where many electronic releases carry on about a return to basics and vibes from the past, “Insides” stands above the rest. It could be the most important release of the year, if only because of its well-produced result of actually evoking this old-school vibe, but also because Fort Romeau is the first to accurately achieve such a product, entirely that which he aimed to do. This is a true celebration of classic house music, the development of electronic music as a whole, and the moods and emotions a producer can evoke from a piece of music alone.

– Nick

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Lxury – Into The Everywhere

Lxury, a.k.a. Andy Smith, made himself heard with his collaboration with college-mate Guy Lawrence from Disclosure J.A.W.S, and it would appear that since that release, Smith has been striving to quasi-distance himself from that “Disclosure” sound, in an almost dizzying way, with each release building interest and expectations, and Smith largely meeting each one, usually with a different approach and not keeping to a mold.

Lxury’s latest album “Into The Everywhere” [Greco-Roman] is a splendid release which weaves its way through all sorts of sounds, emotions, and progressions. An essence of washy, echoey, but “big” sound appear to the emphasis in many of the tracks. Think “wall of sound.” Above all, however, there is a warmth in the music of this EP that underlies every song that surrounds the listener. This warmth is present from start to finish, in different ways, atmosphere, and intensity.

The opening track “Pick You Up” is a whirring and whirrying track with a loving atmosphere expressed by the vocals. “Equals” follows with a more stern, very high-street sounding track that would find it’s way well to a catwalk. I like the long intro how one can hear the various bits and pieces coming together slowly to create the entire basis of the track in a long drawn out form. Depford Goth contributes vocals to the following track “Square 1” a thick and slow-dancey R&B pop ballad. Depford Goth’s deep and tense tone works well with Lxury’s warm music. Things pick up the pace again with “World 2” with finicky drums snapping their way through the happy yet oddly creepily dark tone of the music, with “could have been my lover” repeated ominously throughout the song by a wistful voice. “Neighbour” is a lovely blend of natural drum, pipe and piano sounds in a thumping party track that is hard not to dance to, all mixed together with hazy vocals. The heat here is not a comforting one for cold evenings, rather a humid, wet, heat, that you simply dance through to ignore. The album is capped off by a very interesting unique slower track “Everywhere” that catches you a little of guard, especially after the nature of the previous song. It is soppy, and gives off a sense of reflection and control, and gives off an utterly euphoric yet mature emotion.

These are all wonderful tracks that aren’t strictly house tracks and yet could be played at any dark club. The use of a warming sound in various ways in all tracks, be it intentional or not, is wonderful and makes the whole album. The earnest nature of the music gives it some personality that we all can at times relate to; We want to simply be, stopping intermittently for a bit a fun, before returning to a state of mind that is the most comforting to us.

To me, this is the first great release of 2015.

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

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.

Bonobo – “The North Borders”

After a couple weeks of weather weirdness, that crisp spring warmth is upon us. The sun is seeping through the clouds one by one. It is also this part of the year where those albums you kind of liked really let their colors shine, or sounds fly rather. Music just sounds better when the sun is out and the weather is perfect. There are many options too, in terms of albums released in the waning moments of winter, May or April. They needed that extra kick. It comes in the form of a hazy spring afternoon, when I finished my exams (oh my, I’m half way done with university already), the rays of the sun dance upon everything, and the weather is clear. This week I’ve digested so many albums that I’ve listened to for the past couple of weeks, but only with a clear mind and a clear sky does one truly appreciate an album. It’s all very exciting considering what’s on the horizon too. However, one is pressed to call such albums (those that seep their way into your brain in terms of infectiousness) “sleeper albums.” They are the ones you listen to on the side, but one day later due to some external factor (or not) you become totally hooked. Hooked beyond belief. It’s not exactly the newest thing, and hardly old either. In fact, I feel terrible for not talking about The North Border” when it came out late March. Maybe time really was all it needed. Like letting wine sit for a bit.

It really is a terrific piece of work. The production of each and every track (no, every minute) on this album is so intricate, so fresh, and it all feels very light in a way, but not in the bad way. Honest. This album certainly seems a lot more beat orientated than Black Sands and Days to Come. It’s structured, but not exactly rigid in that the loops, beats, synths, and vocals are so predictable that it would make for relatively idle album. No, it’s quite the opposite. But the best part is the familiarity one hears with the use of other instruments in the music, ranging from guitars, violins, to something that sounds like a bonang. Same goes for the variety of percussion. It’s not just a kick drum. This is music that is intelligent, mature, and a whole league above much else. And no, it’s not a fully laidback album. Some of the drums pack a punch. The sampling is exquisite as well. On a curious note, “Animals” sounds like something that pogo produce, with that happy-go-lucky-Disney sound. I’m a fan. For the most part, the atmosphere is happy and relaxed. This is the stuff of beach parties, a green field in the middle of nowhere, or a windows down road trip through the desert.

Whatever your plans are for the summer, I urge you to get your hands on “The North Borders” as it will slide its way into your summer one way or another in a way you will be very grateful for. I myself will be saying “Auf Wiedersehn” as I head to Germany for work and study abroad for a year. You’ll be left in the trusting hands of Nick Gruenenfelder. Until next time, take care! Have a great summer!

Lusine – “The Waiting Room”

Seattle based “Lusine” (known formally as Jeff McIlwain) is a producer who steadily punches out release after release. Each one is admirable and a joy to listen to.  “The Waiting Room” is no different. That eclectic yet laid back feel is present throughout the entire album, with tempo between tracks ranging between something to drive to, dance to, and fall asleep to. I really like albums that can cover a ton of bases without being all over the place, and this fits the bill like nothing else I have heard for a long time.

There is a certain spring-time vibe as well, yearning for that Pacific North West summer warmth that teases behind clouds, wind, and, at least at taking a break from writing this review to look out the window, hail. Indeed, the electric haziness that is typical to Lusine’s sound is something that blankets the listener in such a great way that a sun would appearing behind a cloud. Very metaphoric I know, but, it does make the point.

Styles range from minimal (“First Call”), shoe gaze (“By This Sound”), Deep House (“Lucky”), IDM (“Another Tomorrow”), 80s vibe (“Stratus”) to a brilliant four on the four house-like album-closer (“February.”)

The vocals are by his wife, and her assertive yet smooth voice fits that blurry, yet crisp sound that Lusine’s production bases himself off of very very well. (Especially well on “Get The Message.”) I especially like the streamlined crisp overall vibe one gets from most of the tracks, but the lurching, messy styles are just as great.

To sum it up, this album encompasses balance quite well, with no one influence, style, vibe, technique, or anything like that drowning out the other.  It is a superbly produced album that must have taken a lot of time to create, because the complexity (and coinciding simplify…see that balance thing again) surely required much skill, time, and patience.

Patience, however, is something that the listener will not need to become absolutely hooked to every track on “The Waiting Game.”