Caribou – Our Love

Caribou’s newest album “Our Love” comes out with a celebration of a varied plethora of influences, emotions, feelings and sounds. The sixth studio album by the multi-talented Canadian who pays his taxes under the name Dan Snaith has been hyped up for many weeks now coupled by a leak which just made the official release more anticipated. “Our Love” is delightfully fantastic. It teases you along with a wonderful and changing mix of emotional synths, trickling drums (that are at times quite fierce) and the very Caribou-esque wispy vocals. Despite the polished sound, it does have an underlying vibe of bedroom/garage production. But the whole thing is a lot dancier, “fuller” and more beat-orientated than what you’d expect from Caribou.

According to an interview with Noisey, Snaith claims the inspiration for the album title and the album itself centers around the success of his last album “Swim” and the warm connections he’s built from that success.

“And so the primary impulse on this record was to make something that was generous in the sense that it was for everybody, not just for me locked in a studio by myself. It’s about making some kind of connection, thinking about all the people that have made my life wonderful the last few years by investing my music.” – Dan Snaith of Caribou w/Noisey

The result is a lot of fun, ranging from shoegaze to pop to techno to deep house. On it you will feel the need to dance, or to relax. You will feel alone, feel warm, feel loved, feel inquisitive, feel at home, or feel adventurous. It swings between complex and simple, much like a relationship, be it with a person, idea, or experience. It’s become one of my most loved records if just because many others wrongfully dismiss it so soon when comparing it to “Swim.” It’s worth your time, and like love or those you look to depend upon, chances are it will grow on you and all will be well.

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BANKS’ Debut Album “Goddess”

It’s been a little while since BANKS released her debut album Goddess. Although she’s been making music for a long time, she didn’t get recognized until her first single “Before I Ever Met You” came out through the label Good Years Recordings. From then on, she’s been acclaimed by multiple media outlets for beautifully capturing the sadness in her songs with her husky yet soulful voice.

Goddess is a depressing album. It has a dark melody with subtle beats that can almost drag you down emotionally. Her music is heavily influenced by the indie-pop trend based on her quick fame that started just about a year ago. I can see her rising further up in the pop music scene and gaining general popularity like FKA Twigs or Lykke Li.

BANKS’ earlier yet recent experience with fame and professional connections clearly contribute to the complete sound of her first debut album. On the other hand, her lyrics are far from brilliant. Although she hints careful optimism, she does so in the most predictable words and expressions in her songs like Goddess.

I’ve been loving and enjoying Goddess for the past month. But to tell you the truth, I feel the end coming to my obsession over BANKS soon…just like how I did with FKA Twigs and Lykke Li.

Here is my favorite track off Goddess: “Warm Water.”

Check out her live performance, and watch how she manages to keep it elegant and hot at the same time.

-Stacy

Baths – Disorderly

Will Weisenfield (AKA Baths) has managed to recapture some of the bright, wistful sounds that had captivated music lovers from his 2010 album Cerulean.  The radiating electronic beats in the track Disorderly immediately envelopes the listener into a realm of careless tranquility, a breath of fresh air after the melancholic Obsidian.  Weisenfield’s vocals are the same modest falsetto that has been featured before on his other tracks, and you know what?  They totally work.  If the track was left simply as an instrumental, it could easily have served as a relaxing soundtrack to your evening daydreams.  Yet with the complementation of the vocals, the song becomes slightly more apprehensive and anxious.  The mixture of these emotive forces make Disorderly the interesting Baths single we have all been waiting for.  This track was made available through the Los Angeles label Friends of Friends most recent compilation, titled What’s Good Los Angeles?  You can download the entire compilation (featuring Jerome LOL and Hodgy Beats) for free on October 4th and stream the single Disorderly below.

-Denali

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

DJ Quik – “That Getter”

DJ Quik

While another Compton-based Producer/Rapper has spent more than the last decade messing around with overpriced headphones and teasing an album that may never come, DJ Quik has quietly been been putting in work that’s flown completely over your head. Quik, now over 20 years deep into the game, is a G Funk pioneer that has had his fingertips printed over dozens of hit records without even getting a fraction of the shine he deserves. It would be foolish to think that a smart man like DJ Quik lacks any sort of self-awareness, so naturally his 2009 collaboration with Death Row legend Kurupt BlaQKout felt like the coming out party of his late-career renaissance. At this point, it’s clear Quik doesn’t give a fuck if you buy his record and he doesn’t give two fucks if you give him the Grammy that he should have gotten by now.

Quik continued this late-career stride with The Book of David, a personal and highly experimental offering complete with dense production and revealing lyrics detailing his role in the rap game, as well as tales of betrayal (and also plenty of the typical funk). What’s interesting about this new record, titled The Midnight Life, is (from what I’ve heard from the released snippits) the fact that Quik seems to be more or less returning to his roots, rather than push his sound further to the left. Just looking a the pen-and-pixel album art evokes memories of Quik is the Name or Way Too Fonky. Does this mean the fire isn’t still lit? Absolutely not. The smart-ass humor is still there, as well as the relevant social commentary. It’s just a sound that Quik is a master of, that he clearly feels like refining even further. “That Getter” details a rapper that isn’t too old, but rather “too funky” and one that noticed “motherfuckers in my neighborhood that grew up to be nothing/I went around the world stuntin/they still there doin nothing”. Stream the first single of Quik’s new album below, and check out some Quik cuts below that.

— Daniel

Fatima Al Qadiri – “Asiatisch”

Born in Senegal, raised in Kuwait, and presently splitting time between London and New York City, Fatima Al Qadiri could be seen as world traveler. Her debut album Asiatisch, being released on Hyperdub, takes the listener to what is described as an “imagined China.” It’s clear from the start it’s a China as taken from the perspective of Western Culture, the sonic explorers  she’s associated herself with, namely labels UNO, Fade to Mind, and Tri-Angle (under her Ayshay alias) as well as bass futurists Nguzunguzu and J-Cush of Lit City Trax, whom Al Qadiri has collaborated with as Future Brown.

Nothing introduces this imagine China better than the opening track “Shanzhai (for Shanzai Biennial).” The song, as the title suggests, was born from working with art collective Shanzai Biennial, but what the title doesn’t tell you is that it’s a muted, a soulful reworking of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Instead of being kitschy, it comes away hooking you in.

The idea of the “imagine China” plays out into the next few songs. Where the opening track soundtracks a nice landing into the airport of Asiatisch, the following three songs take you on a hover-taxi ride through the sprawling Utopian cities that inhabit the China of our mind. Ice cold synths in “Szechaun” give way to the sharp percussion and warped vocals of “Wudang.” The end of the first half, “Hainan Island” features skittering percussion, with just enough sadness in every hit.

The second half starts strong with the proto-grime tune “Shenzhen.” The synths have now gone from being ice cold, to completely frozen over. The sparse percussion and subtle vocals dance somewhere in the range of anxiety and paranoia. “Dragon Tattoo” might be the best song on the album, with all the parts previously explored on the albums coming to a head. A rich kick drum and bass, reverberatingbackground vocals, liquid synths, and a subtle gong hit that might be missed. The main vocals are an interpolation of “We Are Siamese” from Lady & the Tramp, and instead of posing it as the stereotypical joke, it’s posed as a menaching R&B jam.

Fatima Al Qadiri’s Asiatisch is released on May 5th Hyperdub Records

Do Androids Dance With Electric Sheep?: An Examination of Music For And By Robots

Recently Squarepusher released an EP called “Music For Robots” on Warp Records. The EP featured typical Squarepusher tropes: frantic breakbeats, virtuoso jazz bass and guitar, and those melancholy chords. What makes this Squarepusher EP so special is that while it was written by Squarepusher, the EP was performed by The Z-Machines, a trio of robots. “Music For Robots” wasn’t just for mechanical men, it was also by them.

By now Squarepusher has said he wanted to challenge the perspective of how we view music with this EP. The idea was that music played by robots could still be emotionally engaging is the idea spurred out of this, but let’s be honest, it still had a human touch. The writing was done by a human, specifically Squarepusher, but played by robots who are essentially giant sequencers. As Squarepusher pointed out in an interview with NPR, it’s not much different than when he used drum machines on his 1997 album Hard Normal Daddy, these drum machines just hit real drums.

Furthering this, the younger generation is presently obsessed with electronic music, which often lacks the traditional instrumentation that gives the “human element” to music. So the real question is why does a distinction matter? Sure, the music you might hear your favorite DJ playing is coming from their laptop or CDJs, but that doesn’t make you any less likely to dance than say a full band running through funk classics.

Consider Tycho for just a second. His last two albums Dive and Awake are sun drenched and sand covered trips to the coastline that evoke more emotions than a bland generic band with your typical bass, guitar, drums setup. So why does Squarepusher feel it necessary to try to make a distinction between music by robots and music by humans? Would it be any different than Tycho programming a drum machine through MIDI because someone doesn’t “actually play” an instrument? While Squarepusher and The Z-Machine’s “Music For Robots” is a fun project, it really isn’t causing waves in a technological generation.