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Goldfrapp- Tales of Us

Goldfrapp ditches the 80′s glam synth pop sound from their last album “Head First” and goes with somewhat of a stripped down sound with their new album “Tales of Us.”  The more mellow sound is the flip side of the sonar dichotomy that Goldfrapp’s music usually entails, so fans of their hits like “Strict Machine” and “Ooh La La” may be a bit disappointed in this one.  However, I think it may be their best work yet.

There is a dreary feel to the record The opener “Jo” for example features some pretty dark lyrics-

heard a shot and someone calling
strained in darkness
vapour like a veil
hangs over
the city tonight
hanging there behind the trees
a blood red moon is watching

Those aforementioned fans of Goldfrapp’s upbeat stuff will take comfort in knowing that my favorite track (which was also maybe the most interesting) was the dance number “Thea.” It has a really cool outro as well with what sounds like someone walking away to the sounds of gently fading synth chords and a pulsating beat all after the final lyric “I want you gone.”  It is just awesome artistry!  ”Thea” really stands alone in contrast to the rest of the album.

The only problem I had with “Tales of Us” was the repetitive sound structure.  The songs seemed to all begin softly with a guitar intro and then add on some flowing strings.  I really liked them, but I think a bit more diversity could have been given to the tracks and still maintain the sound the group (or maybe more specifically producer Will Gregory) was going for.  On the plus side, the stripped down style really lets Allison’s vocals come to the forefront of the music and draw you in to the stories (“tales” if you will) they are telling.

The album features tracks all titled with people’s (mostly women) names other than the mysterious “Stranger” could be mistaken for the opening credits of the next James Bond movie.  It’s just a beautiful flowing track that I could not listen to enough.  It reminded me of similar works by the duo like one of my favorites “Lovely Head” from their highly acclaimed debut effort “Felt Mountain.”

“Drew” was the first single released back in July and continues that dark sound but is also lifted up a bit by the beautiful backing strings.  The second single released last week was “Annabel” and builds a bit slower.  The outro lets you float along and really appreciate what you just listened to, then brings more strings in for a second and immediately they back down and the track fades out and make a great ending.

“Tales of Us” was released September 10th on Mute Records and you will also be able to check out Goldfrapp’s appearance on  Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on September 26th.

Keep chillin’

-Chris

Boards of Canada-Tomorrow’s Harvest

After their fascinating promotional campaign, a live album listening event at an abandoned Southern California water park in the desert, and eight years of preparations, Boards of Canada finally released their latest album “Tomorrow’s Harvest” on June 11th.

Although the album has been out for just over a week now, I still wanted to review the album as it has been the first BOC release since I started this blog.  Also, I didn’t want to throw a review together to hit right after release day because I needed some time to absorb this one, as well as to separate myself a bit from the hype surrounding the band’s first release in a long time.

“Tomorrow’s Harvest” absolutely lives up to the hype and actually exceeded my expectations.  When an artist takes that much time off between projects, you wonder if the quality of the music will suffer on the new release.  There is so much detail in this album and so many different samples and secrets, it seems as though it actually took them the full eight years to produce this masterpiece.

I was also reminded of other previous BOC works within the complexities of this album. The catchy melody of “Nothing is Real” reminded me a bit of “Roygbiv” from “Music Has A Right to Children.”  The peppery “New Seeds” was a bit reminiscent of “Telephasic Workshop” from “Music Has a Right…” and even a bit  like “Gyroscope” from “Geogaddi.”  You will also hear a ton of random counting on vocal samples (BOC are huge into numbers) and of course that amazing and unmistakeable vintage synth sound that BOC are so well known for.

I think this project is one of those “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” sort of things.  It is huge in scope from the cinematic opening of “Gemini” to the deep synth of “Semena Mertvykh” which sounds like music for the closing credits.  This could be intentional as there is a bit of an apocolyptic feel from some of the darker tracks such as “Gemini.” “Reach for the Dead” and “Telepath” as well as some of the other track titles.  ”Cold Earth,” “Sick Times,” and “Collapse” don’t really conjure up thoughts of a walk in the park.  I could definitely see this album being the soundtrack for some apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic film.

However, I think there’s also a bit of hopefulness in the music too.  You’ll hear that in the brighter sounds of “Nothing is Real” which reminded me a bit of “Roygbiv” from their debut “Music Has A Right to Children.” The absolutely stunning “Sundown” also made me think of a sundown after a war has ended and it reminds the combatants that a new dawn of peace is arriving the next day.

I really cannot say enough about the quality of work the brothers (Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin) have put out here.  I understand they now have families and perhaps took some time off in order to attend to those more pressing matters. Though I can only hope that we do not need to wait another eight years to hear the next bit of perfection from these geniuses.  In the meantime, if you haven’t already, go pick up “Tomorrow’s Harvest.  It is available now on Warp Records.

Keep chillin,

Chris

Dirty Art Club- Vermillion

I hadn’t really heard anything in recent memory quite so unique, so I felt an overwhelming need to share this with you guys.  This sound incorporates that lo fi/”chill wave” sound (think Ducktails) with trip hop beats and if I had heard something like it before, it certainly wasn’t as memorable as this effort from Dirty Art Club. Dirty Art Club are a DJ/producer duo from Charlotte, NC and have released their third album just last week entitled “Vermillion.”

What this album lacks in length (the eight tracks average about two minutes), it makes up for in lush soundscapes and diverse instrumentation.  I heard strings, flute, and some beautiful weird sounding chimes on “Evermore” which after tweeting the guys to find out what they were offered the response of “believe it or not, it’s a heavily affected guitar…”  There are some great layered vocals on a few tracks as well.

You will get those bright, chill wave influenced tracks right off the bat with “Hemlock” and “Sunburn.” It definitely will make an awesome soundtrack for the summer.  They even use a bossa nova sound which fits the bright, warm climes theme on the track “Girls in June.” You will also be covered for night time listening with a few darker toned tracks “Ghost of the Night,” the ultra smooth “Neon Dreams,” and the closer “Strange Wolf” being great examples.

I had a draft ready for this review on my way down to Miami for work and was about to say this would be perfect pool listening music, but that now seems like it’s not an option as it has rained on and off and the sun has not made an appearance since I have been here.  So, I am going to just chill in the hotel room and put this album  on repeat.  Vermillion was released May 28th on Phonosaurus Records.  Go get it and enjoy all summer long!

Keep chillin’

-Chris

Board Games of Canada

I have been consumed with the cryptic “Lost- Dharma Initiative” type of game being played by Boards of Canada over the past week and a half. It began on Record Store Day, someone in New York stumbled upon a 2013 record from Warp Records with Boards of Canada on the title, six spaces with dashes but one section with XXXXX. When they played the record, it starts off with an intro similar to BOC’s music with that unmistakable retro-synth sound. However, then a lot of static comes in and behind it you can hear someone reading numbers like from a “secret” numbers station.

That all started a fury of other clues including another record found in London, updates to BOC’s YouTube videos in their playlist with clues in edited descriptions and other static filled videos that have to be played simultaneously to hear any useful information.  The header of the Twoism.org (a BOC chat forum) website held a clue, as did a quick hit on BBC radio, and a performance art-like display across the street from Rough Trade Records in London displayed a film and the position of the BBC radio clue.  The film featured a desert scene and an abandoned gas station.  The hysteria has reached a point where some Redditors even traveled out to the location to search for clues! Last night, Adult Swim aired an ad (below video) which followed up the Record Store film with another one seemingly the same to clarify that fifth number and its position in the sequence.

I’ve been getting a lot of information from Twoism.org, a great blog from RJ Kozain (http://2020k.wordpress.com/), and the BOC sub-reddit.  What does this all mean?  HOPEFULLY, it means this is the kickoff of a promotional campaign and the Scottish brothers are about to release their first album in eight years.  All we can do now is sit back and wait a bit longer for that sixth code.

In the meantime, keep chillin’.

-Chris

Here’s the latest clue from the Adult Swim ad-

New music: Lusine- The Waiting Room

Lusine’s (Todd McIlwain) new album just dropped on the 19th and it is amazing! The title “The Waiting Room” is appropriate as I have been eagerly awaiting this release since it has been four years since his last full-length album.

What you get with “The Waiting Room” is an expansion of Lusine’s amazing use of layered synth sounds, but also some great vocal work performed by Sarah McIlwain.  Yep, you guessed it, Mrs. Lusine!  Her vocals add another layer to the already complex sonic tapestry Lusine usually paints and makes a welcome addition to his music.

“Panoramic” is the perfect opener. It opens quietly and builds and builds with a few key changes, then eases quietly out to the next track. The massive synth chords were a terrific climax as the track made its way toward the end.  Just sublime!

I also enjoyed the hypnotic “On Telegraph” where Lusine is seemingly sending a pulsating telegraph signal out to his audience reminding us that he is back. Don’t worry, we’re still here!  Those pulses are combined with a smooth bass beat and then evolves into a mid-tempo dance track towards the end.

“Another Tomorrow” and “Without a Plan” were the first two singles released for “The Waiting Room” and make a back to back appearance in the middle of the album.  These tracks seemed more accessible than his more electronic-sounding stuff and the addition of Sarah’s vocals make them even more “poppy.”  They both invoke a bright and warm feeling and I really enjoyed the hook on “Another Tomorrow.”

“The Waiting Room” was released on Ghostly Records and is available now.  Lusine is also touring this year in support of the new album.  Dates can be found here on his website.

Keep Chillin’

Chris

New Hashfinger release- Coriolis Effect

Our friend Hashfinger has an awesome new release on Sinoptic Records.

The new album is called “Coriolis Effect” and has a lot in common with lot of “Hash’s” previous works.  This includes his tremendous use of trip hop beats and vintage samples.

The wrinkle this time, is the theme of space. This is mostly made evident by a few of the track titles (“Ghost of Jupiter” and “King Neptune” for example)  The Coriolis Effect is also a term used in physics to describe  ”a deflection of moving objects when they are viewed in a rotating reference frame.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)

In the title track (see embedded track below) as well as in the two planet-titled tracks, he uses some crazy vintage science fiction movie samples. You will still definitely hear a lot of those hard hitting beats which Hash does best, but I think this change of direction is a positive step forward for him as an artist. He had been using a lot of old style music (jazz, lounge, etc) with his beats in the past, so blowing the past away and looking towards the future and space is a great new direction to venture. I’m definitely curious as to what direction of the creative process he will take next.

“Coriolis Effect” was released on October 7th and is available on Hash’s Bandcamp site.

Keep chillin’

-Chris

Edit Murphy- Brooklyn Nights EP: Smoke N’ Mirrors

After releasing the very chilled out “Need You” in June, “Edit Murphy” has a new EP out called “Brooklyn Nights” featuring some very nice deep house sounds.

The main single “Brooklyn Nights” is a pretty straight forward house track with a bit of an uptempo feel to it.  The synth melody is a lower tone so it doesn’t overpower the rest of the mix.  It is really quite smooth, which also is a good word to describe the soulful vocals you hear throughout the track.

I really liked the remixes on this EP.  Starting with the very fun intro on the remix by Aussie “Fantastic Man.” It starts off with lots of beeps and boops and then turns into a mellower chill track with strings in the background and some bluesy keys.  One could say it is “fantastic!” (Sorry, had to do it.)

Savile’s remix starts out darker with more of a synthy/new age feel.  There is an abstract section with  but this track settles down nicely towards the end as well providing for another chilled experience.

“Beverly Thrills” (video below) provides many thrills with a very fun driving beat and a funky guitar looped melody.  It starts off almost as a rock track but then migrates back to the electronica side after a bit.  Since I’m a fan of the use of multiple genres within a track, I loved it.  Not quite sure what the title “Beverly Thrills” has to do with “Brooklyn Nights,” but I’ll take the great music any day…or night in this case.  It was my favorite track on this EP, so definitely check this one out.

The single is out now on Beatport, iTunes, and other fine locales on the Smoke N’ Mirrors imprint.

Keep chillin,

Chris

Zero 7- “The Colour of Spring” (feat. Only Girl) Free Download

I had my doubts after the UK duo’s efforts with “Yeah Ghost” but they certainly deliver on this beautiful track made available today from RCRDLBL.com.  The track is part of a “Track Track” double cover album effort featuring well established artists like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Orbital, Underworld, and others and will be released on September 3rd along with a book about the English synth pop legends.

Since “The Colour of Spring” is a cover song, it can’t stray too far from the original, but Binns and Hardaker strip it down to a simple piano melody and place it alongside the beautiful vocal work of “Only Girl” (Ellen Murphy) to add a sense of urgency at the beginning.  There are some additional beautiful spacey synth sounds that wander in and out and a simple, repeating deep bass line (think Massive Attack’s “Protection”). A gradual fade out at the end of the track adds to its mystique.  It is really a great emotional piece.

I think what this track has that was missing from “Yeah Ghost” was that mystique of previous efforts as well were the beautiful vocals of Sia who went solo and then hit the charts on David Guetta’s “Titanium.”  There just wasn’t that iconic moment like they hit with on tracks like “Destiny” and “Somersault.”  Perhaps the closest they came on “Yeah Ghost” was Martha Tilston’s performance on “Pop Art Blue” but that track itself isn’t anything close to those Z7 standbys.  Only Girl’s vocals provide that mystique on this awesome cover track.  I just hope they can parlay that mystique over to their next full release!

Keep Chillin’

-Chris

Raycord- Ruban Ruban

Raycord

Thanks to the fine folks at Phonosaurus Recordings out of Montreal, I was able to preview an amazing new effort from Raycord. Raycord is from the “Great White North” of Canada and from all of the press I’ve read, I can’t find out where other than “in the countryside” of Quebec.  I suppose that is fitting due to the darker tone of the album where it seems one could get a feeling of solace.

From sampling some tracks from his previous album “L’hiver Blanc” on his Soundcloud page, this new album seems to be a more ambitious and experimental.  ”Ruban Ruban” which means “Reel to Reel” in French is a fitting title for the album as it took what must have been five painstaking years recording with analog reel to reel tapes with the aid of Steve Cloutier to get this project out.

As mentioned, “Ruban Ruban” seems darker in tone with some great trip hop beats. Raycord uses a lot of abstract sounds and samples, then weaves them in between those trip hop beats making for some very lush soundscapes.

Although the main focus seemed to be those trip hop beats with abstract chords and sounds there is a good variety of musical ideas in this album.  ”Morning Rhodes” for example, was one of my favorite tracks but was a shorter interlude that I wish he spent more time on.  It has a great hypnotic melody of which I could just not get enough!  I also loved the very interesting violin sample on “La Station Secrete” which reminded me a bit of Dust Brothers’ work on the Fight Club soundtrack.  It ranged from tough and masculine to very delicate at the end.  Just breathtaking!

Finally, the closing track “Flute a Ruban” ends the album on a very dark and eerie note and had more of a new age feel.  Perhaps the inspiration for this one was that feeling of solace in the cold Canadian countryside.  I’ll have to ask him when I send him some interview questions and will post either here or over at The Couch Sessions.

I could go on and on about the amazing sounds on this album, but you’ll have to pick it up and listen for yourself!  ”Ruban Ruban” drops on September 12th at Phonosaurus Records’ online store.  In the meantime you can check out this very well done video (an ode to an electric piano) for his track “Wurlitzer a Nu” below.

Keep chillin’

-Chris

Mark Farina Live at Monarch SF

San Francisco-

DJ Mark Farina was back in his home town San Francisco last Wednesday night, spinning at Monarch on 6th Street in SOMA.

The venue is a beautiful club with a lounge in the main entrance area and a club downstairs.  The upstairs lounge had a bit of a vintage feel to it with the older furniture they had set up.  Downstairs was a bit more contemporary.  There was a nice VIP area in the corner which was pretty full.  It was a very good crowd for a Wednesday night and the place packed by around Midnight.  It was a “Gen X” crowd for the most part with some younger folks in attendance, but everyone seemed to be in their late 20′s or early 30′s.

The appropriately named “Colossus” (6’8″ Englishman, now Oakland resident Charlie Tate) played a great warm up set including a lot of Q-tip and Tribe songs, including the very groovy mix of “Got til’ it’s Gone” with Janet Jackson.  He also knew what the patrons wanted and mixed in some nice electro jazz to get us all ready for Mark Farina.

Mark Farina

Farina came on around just after 11 and started things off with a great set including a diverse set of tracks including his own Mushroom Jazz material. What really got the crowd going early on however, was a mix of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’.”   Not sure why people freaked when he played that, but it was enjoyable and he did provide a nice remix of the song.

"Mushroom Jazz"

Through the warm up set and Farina’s, there was a beautiful visual presentation to go along with the music. It was even complete with close ups of mushrooms.  How fitting.  I’ve included a picture of the scene here, but it’s not the best quality since it was just taken with my phone. I’ll remember to take my good camera along with me on work trips just in case another great show like this comes along.  :)  I’ve also included a quick video of the show below.

I had to attempt to get some sleep before a 630am flight back home so I was unable to stay for the entire show. Farina is touring this summer so I may get a chance to see him again in the near future. You can too. Check out the tour dates on his website DJMarkFarina.net!

Keep chillin’

-Chris