Author: jsimpson

Album Cover Dalhous

When Are We Not Who We Are? Dalhous – “The Composite Moods Vol. 1: House Number 44”

Much has been made, of late, as to the malleable, fluid nature of identity. Daily, we discuss the ramifications of systemic bias; of The Other and our reluctance towards, or embracing of, another point of view. The boundaries of “the self” are not concrete – we are not walled off like some isolationist state. We are open, porous, to all manner of environmental stimuli. We are what we eat, so to speak. So what effect does the environment have on us? What influence, other people? And what happens when that influence goes sour? The Composite Moods Vol. 1: House Number 44 is an exploration of interacting psyches, from London’s Dalhous, on the ever exquisite Blackest Ever Black. The Composite Moods volume 1 posits some hypothetical house, House Number 44, occupied by two random personalities on the hinterlands of society. One of the roommates views themselves as perfectly fine and healthy – a sane, well-adjusted human being. The other is seemingly a mess, “detached, isolated, often feeling helpless and unable to influence the world around them; …

Richard_Soderberg_Obscur_Sustain_featured

Accentuating the Human with Sweden’s Obscur

At this particular nexus of spacetime, with several thousand years of accumulated art and trends behind our backs, it can be perplexing to know which way to turn. It’s hard enough to wrap our minds around the present, let alone foretell what the future will hold. Fashion, however, perhaps more so than any other artform or medium, is concerned with the future, as well as being tasked with defining the present, partially by providing the style. With each passing year, there is a push towards being more ostentatious, more boundary-pushing, more edgy, in the quest to create novel looks. Moving also alongside technology, incorporating new textiles, textures, and production techniques as they become available – just one more way that fashion is the most futurist of the arts. But there is also a reactionary response to this acceleration, an opposition to this rushing velocity. Designers turn their back on the gaudiness, to focus on austere details in a stark, minimalist twin to futurism. With every collection, designers have to navigate these polarizing physics – to either become …

Thug Entrancer - Arcology

The Sound Of Celestial (& Earthly) Harmony: Thug Entrancer – “Arcology”

Since the very beginning, electronic music has always been exploring alien worlds, conjuring images of whirling discs, horseshoe nebulae, and strange, alien races. Whether this is due to electronic music’s arsenal of non-acoustic sound generators – synths and drum machines – which can produce pure, mathematical tones not possible in the natural world; or because of early sci-fi’s adoption of said signal generators to soundtrack their far out fever dreams, is difficult to say for certain. But whether it’s the soundtracks for SF classics like Fantastic Planet or the original Dr. Who score from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the shifting patterns of the “Berlin School [of electronic music]” of Tangerine Dream, or the amorphous ambiance of beat-less Aphex Twin, electronic music is particularly adept at portraying new worlds, as well as our own, at times. Electronic music took a brief detour into the mainstream, starting in the ’70s, with the dawn of rave/EDM/disco, which was all well and good, not to mention inevitable, given the laser-precision of electronic music’s tonal sculpting. It might have been inevitable, …

Gqom-Oh-The-Sound-Of-Durban-Vol-1-Artwork

Music for Music’s Sake — GQOM OH! “The Sound Of Durban Vol. 1”

There seems to be a line drawn in the sand, in terms of today’s Electronic music culture. On one hand, there’s the huge-budget world of the summer festivals, with massive multi-million dollar events like Electric Carnival or Movement Detroit dragging in hundreds of thousands of the best, brightest, and most beautiful to listen to larger-than-life DJs, elevated 200-ft. above the crowd, hurling lightning bolts through gigantic subwoofer stacks. Then there’s the sound of the underground – martial, militaristic beats echoing from down long concrete tunnels, resounding off of bunker walls, usually dished out on the fly from cryptic, cobbled-together machines. There’s a back and forth, between the “underground” and “mainstream” Electronic music world, with the popular, populist beatmongers diving into the murky depths in search of fresh energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration. Considering how much mainstream music ends up, either intentionally or subsequently, as advertisement for lifestyle branding, it’s no wonder that dance music fanatics feel the need to keep digging, in search of something real, in a sea of marketing mirages. Africa has been an …

Kedr Livanskiy

The Most Alive & Honest Thing In Moscow: Kedr Livanskiy’s “January Sun” EP (2MR Records)

“Lo-fi” homemade & handcrafted objects offer an immediate glimpse of the heart & soul of a place. Whether it’s a handstitched quilt, decked out with regional colors and designs, or a disintegrating flyer for a punk show that happened a decade ago, handmade, locally-sourced objets d’art offer an essential insight into the hopes, dreams, styles, and preferences of a people. This is particularly true of “lo-fi” or bedroom music, which seems to inherently evoke images of intimate listening in close quarters with the artist, as they unveil their secrets, like a hidden jewelry box from under the bed. As the world seems to succumb to Pop’s hypnotism, as the spectacle continues to get bigger, bolder, and less accessible to independent participants, the need for raw, intimate, accessible art will continue to expand exponentially. January Sun is a glimpse into the hidden, jewelled kingdom of Kedr Livanskiy, who crafts weightless, otherworldly synthpop and antiquated future beats from a skeletal configuration of bare synth, drum machine, and voice. Each element, however, seems packed in styrofoam, steeped in …

album art Matmos Ultimate Care II

Matmos – Ultimate Care II – Album Review

Music and fashion go way back, probably for as long as either have existed. These days, however, they’re more intertwined than ever, with a number of music’s biggest names working as fashion designers, models, or icons, in their own regard. Electronic music and high fashion are particularly interwoven, as cutting-edge designers soundtrack their runway catwalks with booming beats and glistening synths. Considering all of that, it stands to reason that someone would flip the script, and make electronic music out of fashion. Quite literally. Matmos are some of electronic music’s longest-running and most notorious sonic dada punk conceptualists, crafting countless musique concrete odysses over the last 22 years. Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt have made oddly-danceable albums out of everything from plastic surgery noises to automata to civil war battles to psychic powers. On Ultimate Care II, Matmos are at it again, this time using the humble source of a vintage washing machine. This is no laundromat field recording, however; Daniels and Schmidt are too hyper-detailed and fussy for such a thing. During the course of …

albumcoverradiationcity_synesthetica

The Pop and the Personal. Radiation City – “Synesthetica” LP review

Food Writer Regan Hoffmann posted a tweet in February, as part of the “music writing exercise” #mwe hashtag campaign, speaking on The Carpenter’s “A Song For You”: “I’m finally able to look past the offputting sugary arrangements to understand how dark Karen Carpenter was. #mwe” Much of the most timeless Pop music flirts with darkness. From the sexual exploits of Led Zeppelin, to the “watching-a-train-wreck-as-its-happening” voyeurism of Amy Winehouse’s career, we seem to prefer our sweetness with a little bit of the bitter. Historically, much of this darkness is implied, behind the scenes – from Stevie Nicks’ cocaine enemas to Karen Carpenter’s tragic eating disorders to the expat bacchanalia of the Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street. We find out, after the fact, all manner of disturbing, fascinating details. Maybe it’s because we’ve had nearly 100 years of eccentric pop stars. We’ve learned to peel back the shiny outer layer, looking for a scoop, some kind of narrative to hang a batch of songs on. Something juicy. Many of today’s pop artists realize this fact, and …

albumcoverDiiv-Is-the-Is-Are-e1446592038499

Walking Two Feet Above the Ground: DIIV – Is The Is Are, album review

Is The Is Are is a record born out of hardship and tumult. Coming four years behind Zachary Cole Smith’s breakout debut, Oshin, Is The Is Are describes the confusion & contradictions of stardom, addiction, early romance, dappled in shadows and clouds of reverbed guitar and distant vocals. From Smith’s own mouth, he will tell you much has changed in the last four years, and guitar music isn’t precisely en vogue at the moment, as he told Pitchfork during an interview, “Guitar music isn’t what people are talking about, and I don’t know if it’s 100 percent what the world needs, My ambitions are higher, of course, but I have to consider all options, because I don’t know what will happen.” So does the world need another distant, detached Dream Pop/New Wave romantic depressed shoegaze record? In this instance, the answer is absolutely yes. We need Smith’s voice. And not only for its redemptive powers, but also for describing the journey to the edge of night, along the way. It is tempting to talk about Is …

albumcoverSiaThisIsActing

Sunlight through deadened skies, Sia – “This Is Acting” album review

Today’s pop star – no matter what genre they’re working in – exists in a strange, contradictory limbo of expectations. In a world rife with Celebrity Instagrams, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, blogs, vlogs, and Tumblrs, fans have come to expect a 24-hour voyeuristic glimpse into a star’s lives. High profile celebrity antics, broadcast across the world thanks to Social Media, and endless beefs seem to keep these big names permanently trending, and the cycle continues. The message seems to be that a certain amount of authenticity is expected of our pop stars. Those that step out of line, or toy with ideas of persona ala Lady Gaga or Lana Del Rey, can bring down a fiery rain of outrage and derision. Oddly enough, female musicians seem to suffer from this more than anybody. While somebody like The Weeknd can be almost applauded for “playing a character”, in a way pioneered and popularized by David Bowie in the ’70s, people seem to expect every single song written by a woman to be 100% autobiographical, that she …

BlameEbro_Coachella-2016

5 Must-See Acts At Coachella 2016 (And 15 Runner-Ups)

Every year, all eyes and ears turn to the Palm Desert in Indio, California, as Coachella kicks off the summer festival season. This year is no exception, with two full weekends in April featuring a mixture of the most recent up-and-coming talent with a smattering of high-profile reunions and legacy bands, in typical genre-defying fashion. Music festivals are a great way to catch a handful of your favorite acts, while checking out some of the latest buzzbands. With so many bands out there, dishing out high-quality sounds for major labels, indies, and self-produced gems, it can be hard to know who to catch when they come through our towns. Anyone who’s ever been to Coachella can tell you – it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We’ve compiled some must-see acts for Coachella 2016, to make it easier and less stressful, so you can focus on having a good time in the Palm Desert. 5 Must-See Acts At Coachella 2016 LCD Soundsystem: The biggest headline of Coachella 2016 has got to be the reunion of LCD Soundsystem. …