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.

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10 Years Down The Road: Madvillainy

Ten years ago yesterday, one of the most important hip hop records of the 2000s came out. Madvillain, the combination of MF Doom and Madlib, released the fittingly named Madvillainy on Stones Throw Records. Making use of Madlib’s jazzy, crate digging production and Doom’s stream of consciousness rhymes. The album was abstract, broke down the typical format of hip hop songs, and is completely a unique release.

Ten years down the road, the record still sounds fresh, a quality many classics can claim. What makes this a truly special record is that while others have tried to emulate, nothing else comes close to Madvillainy. The blunted raps on Raid, All Caps, and obviously America’s Most Blunted flow well, but the abstractness of Bistro, Curls, and Rhinestone Cowboy also ground the listener into an altered reality.

22 songs in around 45 minutes is strange for any record (save maybe the most hardcore of punks) but does so in the world of hip hop. The record gets to the point, even if you’re not really quite sure what the point was. By today’s standards, even the more underground rap isn’t quite as adventurous and intellectual as Madvillainy.

The record spawned several singles, two remix EPs, one by Koushik, the other by Four Tet, and a re-imagined version by Madlib himself. While the group has only spawned one new song since, promises of a follow up are clouded by the ever mysterious Doom, who is apparently holding the project up. Since then Madlib has released many, many, many albums, while producing for tons of other rappers as well. Doom has released a few albums by himself and with others, but really nothing touches the legacy of Madvillainy. 

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

Emily Reo – Olive Juice

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I don’t know what the average person does on Labor Day but I, personally, spent the day sleeping, doing laundry, and listening to Emily Reo‘s Olive Juice backwards and forwards.

Releasing tomorrow (Sept. 3rd) via Elestial SoundOlive Juice is the debut LP from Florida native Emily Reo that’s been in the works for the past 3 years. Perhaps you heard some of her work previously in the 4-way split tape she released earlier this year with Yohuna, Moonlasso, and Brown Bread, where the tracks Peach and Metal off of Olive Juice were revealed. If this is your first introduction to Reo’s particular brand of woozy electronic dream-pop then, um, you’re welcome.

This album has quickly become one of my favorite “happy” releases of the year so far (I categorize things based on whether they’re happy, sad, or bangable. But that’s just me.) (TMI?). Despite it’s downtempo, hazy beat, the record feels beautiful in a happy, optimistic way. To me, it feels as though it’s coming from someone who has recently fallen into the haze of new love.

This is a big time for Reo because not only is she releasing Olive Juice but she’s moving from the East Coast to Los Angeles (I haven’t the faintest idea why) and decided to do a tour along the way. She’s bringing along her friends Cuddle Formation and Peace Arrow for Tour 64, which started in Boston, to share their new material in an intimate setting (and hold Mario Kart N64 tournaments!).

We’re so fortunate and excited for them to stop HERE IN PULLMAN (that’s right folks, someone’s actually stopping here) to play a small house show at Maiden Haven on September 15th. If you’re interested in attending, all that’s asked is that you donate $2-5 for gas for the band. That’s it.

Once again, you’re welcome.

– Jasmine

Arca – &&&&&

I feel like I have some sort of Nostradamus-esque ability to predict who Kanye West will work with in the future. I feel like every time I start talking about or listening to an artist, they end up laying the foundation for another one of Kanye’s groundbreaking albums.

In 2004 I discovered Fiona Apple while spending a summer in Wisconsin at my grandmother’s house, splitting my time between working at a fireworks shop and reading about music online. A year later on Late Registration he’d work with Apple collaborator Jon Brion to make that album one of the defining sounds of the 2000’s. Cue similar tales with artists like Kid Cudi on 808s & Heartbreak, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Hudson Mohawke, Evian Christ, and Arca on Yeezus.

I haven’t been able to shut up about Arca since he dropped two incredible mixtapes last year on UNO NYCStretch 1 and Stretch 2. Both were seemingly genre-less amalgams of hip-hop, trap, bass, and glitch music. The Venezuelan-born, NYU-trained producer warped unidentifiable rap samples into a fascinating whirl of futuristic mindfuckery. Somewhere along the line Kanye heard Arca and recruited him to contribute production to four tracks on the recently released Yeezus. It’s been the perfect hype-builder for his debut mixtape on forward-thinking label Hippos in Tanks.

&&&&& is a 25 minute chaotic typhoon of completely new music from Arca, and a slight departure from his previous two tapes. Where the Stretch series was indebted to hip-hop, submerging itself within the distorted vocal sampling, &&&&& features significantly less vocals. Opening track “Knot” opens with probably the biggest bass punch you’ll hear all year – you can literally feel speaker cones being ripped apart with each blast. The eerie glitched melody that carries the song sounds like no instrument that exists on Earth, especially when pitched up to a high frequency whistle.

“Anaesthetic” is one of the first clear moments of vocal sampling, with a snappy sample demanding “dance motherfucker”. There’s a rubbery synth that billows up in between propulsive kick beats, but the whole thing is so erratic and spontaneous it feels like trying to predict the path of one of those spinning bumblebee firecrackers. “Mother” features a haunting saloon-type piano stumbling over ramshackle chords that lead into the Boards of Canada-ish “Hallucinogen”. None of this should work together, but it does phenomenally well.

The second half of the mix is significantly more mellow than the first. Even the stadium sized synths and futuristic trap beat of “Waste” crawl along at a languid, codeine-slowed pace. The last track on the album, “Obelisk”, echoes “Manners”, the soothing closer on Stretch 2. With an unrelenting machine-gun kick drum and a piano melody clearly sourced from an alien lullaby, it completes &&&&& with a sense of anxious joy.

This was supposed to be the big debut mixtape that would have rappers and producers knocking down Arca’s door to collaborate. But thanks to the unexpected foresight of Yeezy, Arca’s name is now forever associated with avant-garde. &&&&&, in all of its uncategorizable glory ends up being a courageous introduction to new fans, a logical step forward for old fans, and among the most forward-thinking albums released all year.

– Adam

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.

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

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I have a hard time coming up with a rebuttal to the notion that a lot of what we consider “popular” underground music is complacent and/or conformist. Many of the most highly praised albums in recent history favor personal, relatable songwriting over controversial or abstract themes. When we consider the history of music as a tool of liberation, it seems incredible that we could have lost such an important tool for voicing the voiceless in a tumultuous age where privacy, freedom of information, and political integrity are all being threatened or questioned. Of the few artists still willing to still speak out through their music (see: Killer Mike, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, M.I.A., among a few others) The Knife have found something sufficiently more profound to declare on their fourth album Shaking the Habitual, their first release since 2006’s Silent Shout.

Shaking the Habitual, while thematically heavy, can be phenomenally subtle at times. The Knife are a duo who have rarely been conspicuous with their message, often hiding behind masks or releasing bizarre press sheets that read more like serial killer manifestos than promotional materials for launching an album. When Karin Dreijer Andersson won Swedish Public Radio’s award for Best Dance Artist for her 2009 solo album Fever Ray, she accepted the award by revealing a mask of melted flesh and moaning in strained agony into the microphone. The audience (and most of the internet) took it as a stunt or prank — a fair assumption since the costume was never really explained. But appearing at an award show is already a notable occurrence for a member of The Knife, a band who has famously turned down making any appearances at any of the numerous Swedish Grammis they have won for their music. Andersson’s Fever Ray acceptance speech coincided with a rise in acid throwing attacks in the Middle East and India, where women were disfigured for dressing inappropriately, attending school, or any other violation of archaic law. It was a silent commentary on an ignored tragedy on a national stage.

Musically, Shaking battles with itself throughout most of its 96-minute runtime between subtlety and seething rage, oftentimes blending contrasting emotions with music that reflects the opposite, like the bouncy, Caribbean-influenced opener “A Tooth for an Eye”. Despite the brightness of the music, Andersson fiercely concludes the song by demanding “[Draw] lines with a ruler / Bring the fuel to the fire”. It’s a mission statement that youth uprisings in Egypt and Libya adopted years ago. One that separates this kind of demonstration from whatever the hell this is. Though in spite of the militaristic intentions of some of more aggressive songs here, there are equal moments of frail uncertainty. “A Cherry on Top” sounds on the verge of snapping in half, with a detuned zither plucking aimlessly beside a mournful hymn. “Fracking Fluid Injection” is 10 minutes of shrill mechanical sounds rhythmically toying with echoed mumbles. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me”, despite its romantic title, sounds more like a funeral dirge than a passionate slow dance. Where some of the more accessible tracks on Shaking are upfront with their intentions, a large portion of the album expects a certain degree of critical interpretation from the audience.

Yet from the retina-burning cover art to the extensive dissonant ambient pieces that extend this album’s runtime past one and a half hours, everything about Shaking the Habitual is purposefully confrontational. The violent drum machine kicks that rattle throughout the 9-minute single “Full of Fire” eventually give way to a cacophony of belching and pulsing electronic feedback where Andersson’s Salt-n-Pepa referencing coda “Let’s talk about gender baby / let’s talk about you and me” is consumed by some sort of suffocating distortion. Later on during “Raging Lung” she states through gritted teeth: “You’ve got your money / and you’ve got it because others can’t”

But the most controversial and antagonistic moment of the album is the 19-minute centerpiece “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized”. It’s an impossible piece to ignore, due both to it’s overwhelming length and placement in the middle of the album. In a traditional record, a song like this would be a mood killer; completely deflating any momentum or pacing set by the first half. But here, after 35 minutes of politically-charged fire, it’s a welcome and necessary opportunity for contemplation. Quivering ambient patches inflate and deflate behind an amalgam of ominous noise. Footsteps slosh through damp mud, a metallic hum throws itself down a concrete hallway, doors slam and warning sirens chatter in and out of audible range. It is — cliches aside –frighteningly post-apocalyptic.

A continuing thematic pattern throughout the album deals with power struggles and class issues prevalent in 21st century capitalism. And while The Knife continually borrow elements of Eastern and tribal music, it rarely feels exploitative or farcical. Because for all of the co-opting of traditionally non-Western instruments and styles, it’s the progressive mindset and recognition of advantages (like the chorus of “Ready to Lose” that repeats “Ready to lose the privilege”) that makes the melting-pot of influences feel more communal than naive. 

Shaking the Habitual, like many other great politically-charged albums before it, rarely claims to have the solutions to the problems it describes. It simply lays out a devastating narrative of what the world has become under our watch. Think of the ambiguity of  Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in comparison to this record and you’ll find a striking number of similarities. There are few instructions for reform, just incentives to achieve it. In reality, the social influence of this record will take years to understand. If it has one weakness, it’s the audience it’s trying to reach. This is, after all, the MTV generation we’re speaking to here. If extreme wealth inequality, war, poverty, racism, monarchy, and oppression won’t rile up the Tumblring youth of today, what will? Apathy killed punk as we knew it, and it’s taken us this long to figure out how to get it back.

-Adam

Shaking the Habitual is out April 9th via Rabid Records.