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

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

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