Back in May, our friends from Washington DC and ESL Music artists “Thunderball” have released an album of remixes aptly called “Declassified” in the spirit of their “Spy movie soundtrack” genre.
Of course Thievery Corporation has provided a couple of great remixes to this effort with a cooled out Caribbean flavored version of “Pop the Trunk” which was a nice departure from the back beat heavy original. You’ll also get tracks remixed by Fort Knox Five, Chris Joss, Ursula 1000, and Bombay Dub Orchestra among others.
I really enjoyed the Boca 45 remix” of “Stereo Tonic”, which is one of my favorite Thunderball tracks as well. It’s funky and a bit more hard hitting than the original and reminded me a bit of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” However, the rest of the album features more reggae influences added to the mixes and I think it makes for a good combination to the cinematic sounds and back beats that are used in Thunderball’s music. It really makes for a nice chill listening session.
Hopefully the release of “Declassified” signals Thunderball are back in the studio also working on new music as it has been seven years since their last release.
You can pick up “Declassified” on Bandcamp, Beatport, iTunes, and Juno Download.
“Liftoff” is a new project made up of two members of Thunderball (Steve Raskin and Rob Myers), Johnna Raskin, and Steven Albert (a former “Edsel” band mate of Steve’s). When I heard about this release from the label and gave “Summer’s Shown” (see Bandcamp widget below, but you can stream it and “Kool it Man” at Liftoff’s bandcamp site) a spin, I didn’t realize the Thunderball guys were involved and thought it was a new group. I was quite surprised (and pleased) when I read the press release to find out Steve and Rob were behind this effort.
“Sunday Morning Airplay” displays a number of musical elements and does a good job incorporating these new sounds and molds them together with a hint of the established Thunderball sound to create an irresistibly fun, yet relaxing new sonic idea. I really liked how the vocal harmonies came together on some of the tracks, most notably on “Summer’s Shown” and “EmilyMaryAliceKatherine.” It was reminiscent of a Mamas and Papas, laid back, psychedelic 60’s folk-rock sound where I really got the feeling of driving down the highway with the top down in a convertible enjoying a beautiful summer day.
“Feathered Up” was one of my favorite tracks and I think it summarizes the new sound perfectly. I really enjoyed Rob Myers’ guitar playing on that track as he produced a perfect lazy, summery, and bluesy sound to go along with the flowing strings and a great laid back beat. It is so light and delicate, one would think they actually are a feather floating along in the summer breeze. The other track that really stood out was “Marshmeadows.” Featuring a light beat, some flowing synth, and light vocals throughout, it also has the lazy daydream feel to it. The highlight for me was the slowly building glitchy intro coupled with acoustic guitar. From then it takes you on a trippy journey which can be enjoyed in any environment, but instantly conjures images of laying on a grassy hill looking up at the clouds.
There was also the very cool “Kool It Man” and “The Morning” which seem to incorporate the Thunderball sound than the more chill wave influenced ones, but still fit in nicely on this new effort. “Kool It” really has a hypnotizing groove and tantalizing bass line and “The Morning” enjoys a bit of the international flavor with some bongos in the background and “spy movie” guitar style typical of Thunderball.
Unfortunately, you will have to wait until September to get your hands on this album, but by then it’ll provide a great reminder of how awesome your summer was.
Before the show at which Thunderball opened for Bonobo at The Metro in Chicago last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Steve Raskin (the man in the middle of the photo) of Thunderball to talk about the group, their music, the new album, and all things electronic music. Steve was the only member of Thunderball to make the trip to the Windy City (literally, it was VERY windy and freezing!) since Rob Myers their sitar player was touring with Thievery Corporation who were supporting Massive Attack on their US Tour.
We first discussed the origins of Thunderball. Steve is a graphic designer by trade and happened to work on Thievery Corporation’s album artwork. He was also in an indie band “Edsel” that traveled around Europe and that is where he sort of caught on to the electronic music scene that was blowing up over there in the late 90’s (Massive Attack, Air, etc). He came up with some tracks and played them for the guys in Thievery who then agreed to put out their album “Ambassadors of Style” on Eighteenth Street Lounge (ESL) Records which is Thievery’s own label.
Another huge reason Thunderball exists is because of Rob Myers’ amazing ability to play the sitar. Steve told me Rob ventured to India to study the instrument and is one of the best string instrument players he’s seen and can play anything. “One of the main focuses of Thunderball was really to allow for him (Rob) to be able to do this sitar” he said. “The sitar is very hard to play dynamically, but Rob can do it. We try to have these things that are vehicles for him to be able to do his thing.”
One of the things about Thunderball I was really curious to find out more about was how they usually attempt to play the music in a live concert environment. Steve noted it is hard to perform the music with live instruments with the limited resources they have. They have done Thunderball with a full eight piece band. Frustrating to balance the live vs electronic elements of the music. Sound guys have no idea how to mix it and it can sound terrible. To create music for the albums, he writes music by ear mostly. He tries to find different sounds he really likes such as the big horn hits or flowing string parts. However, when they do decide to use a certain sample, they try to make a point of not looping those parts, especially the sitar. For example, they will bring in the very talented horn players from Thievery Corp and replay the riffs over the loop to give it a more “real” sound. Steve added, “with one real lead instrument on top of it, the illusion of full orchestration is there.”
“The new album (“12 Mile High”) really encompasses everything we have done up to this point” said Steve. He also mentioned he thought of the album as a trip around the world and each song is a stop in a new destination. I thought that was really ironic since I thought the same thing in crafting my review for the album. The hero of the story has different stopping points throughout the “film” and each stop has different soundtrack to it. Steve hit on this point hard as he mentioned a couple of times that “Thunderball makes soundtracks for non-existent movies.” In fact, he said he loves chase scenes in film and TV and a chase scene was the inspiration for the fast paced “I C Colors.” They also wanted to have a vehicle where the entire focus of the song was the sitar, hence the opening track “Enter the Brahmin.” Thunderball had primarily used the song as an intro to their live shows and then decided to mix it and finally put it on an album. In fact, Steve said some pieces of songs on “12 Mile High” have sat around for up to six years but now have been chopped up and used on the new album.
On our walk to the venue, we talked about how Steve describes the “Thunderball sound” to people and he said that he usually says the name of a movie or TV show for the person to have a reference point. I thought for this write-up I would upload another YouTube video that I think perfectly exemplifies the “Thunderball sound” from the show at The Metro which was the groovy “Thunder in the Jungle” off of their previous album “Cinescope.” It has all of those hard hitting horn riffs, a 70’s funk sound along with a great dance beat and makes you think of Danno Williams chasing someone down in “Hawaii Five-O.”
In summation, it was awesome meeting Steve and finding out more about one of my favorite electronic artists. Especially finding out how nice these guys are. I couldn’t have asked for a better first interview! “12 Mile High” is out NOW on the ESL Music label and you can pick it up through ESLMusic.com, Amazon, iTunes, and many other locales. Go get it and support these great guys who make awesome music!
I had a chance to make it to the Bonobo show with Thunderball supporting this past Thursday and it was quite epic! It was a cold, windy, and rain/sleet filled night but worth every mile I drove to get there. This was the first show of the tour for Bonobo’s US stint this fall. The opening act Thunderball was limited to a DJ set by Steve Raskin as Rob Myers was out on the west coast touring with Thievery Corporation who were supporting Massive Attack. I actually had a chance to sit down to have a chat with Steve about Thunderball before the show. Check back here soon for that article!
Thunderball began a 45 minute set with the sitar-featured “Enter the Brahmin.” It’s a great intro track on the new album “12 Mile High” and it would have been great to hear the sitar live, but the song still had the crowd nodding their heads along with the groove. The highlight of the set for me was “The Road to Benares” off of their previous album “Cinescope.” This was one of the first tracks I first heard of theirs (on their MySpace page) and could listen to it on repeat and grow tired of it, so it was great to hear it booming on The Metro‘s sound system. The high energy beat and huge sounding strings create that sense of urgency which makes it a perfect soundtrack for a spy movie.
“Dub Science” turned the venue into a reggae dancehall with its reggae beat, quick hitting horns, and dubbed vocals. Another highlight was the frenetically paced “Thunder in the Jungle” which Steve mixed superbly. The crowd definitely appreciated the efforts with a loud ovation at the end.
Bonobo started off his set with a long intro which was the track “Recurring” from the 2006 release “Days to Come” and as each new part of the song began another performer stepped out on stage to add their instrument to the ensemble. Simon Green (aka Bonobo) didn’t spend much time at the DJ table, although he made up for that later in the evening (or should I say morning) with his appearance downstairs spinning at Smart Bar, but he did throw down a lot of funky bass lines throughout the show. My favorite track off of Black Sands “Kong” was the first song after the intro and did not disappoint.
“El Toro” probably did the best job of featuring all of the instruments in the band. The violin has a great part that stands out to begin the chorus where then the horn ensemble follows suit afterward. Sometimes the horns seemed to get a bit loud, but I think that small issue could be fixed with more time to rehearse and play with each other. The band only had two days rehearsal time in Nashville before getting started on tour. The woodwind player (who played mostly flute, but also wailed on the tenor sax, soprano sax, and the clarinet) was the stand out performer of the horn ensemble. He played a peppery hot solo on “We Could Forever” which was a stand out track on the album and was even more enjoyable live. Check out a snippet of the solo below.
The crowd was treated to Andreya Triana‘s beautiful vocals early and often with her first appearance being on “Stay the Same” from Black Sands and her voice is even more dynamic live than on the studio recording. She stole the show and did a masterful job on every song she performed. I highly recommend checking out her work. Here’s a sample of her performance I have also uploaded to YouTube for your enjoyment!
The end of the show saw everyone switch instruments (other than the awesome flutist) and the ensemble gave us one more long jam on “Picks Up.” The crowd roared in appreciation at the end of the set and a few people headed downstairs afterwards to check out the DJ set at Smart Bar.
It was a great show and you can catch Bonobo and Thunderball on tour NOW!
One of my favorite chillout artists is back with a vengeance. The tremendous Washington, DC trio Thunderball (Rob Myers, Steve Raskin and Sid Barcelona) has a new album dropping on November 9th and the Chillout Scene has the lowdown on “12 Mile High” for you.
I previously reviewed the title track “12 Mile High” and first single at The Couch Sessions. It has an irresistable groove and the quick hitting horns and strings in the background that are common in Thunderball’s music are prevalent here. It definitely is one of the highlights of the album and there are many, many more.
The first track “Enter the Brahmin” continues the mid-eastern/Indian feel of their other albums with a great sitar part. It also continues the super spy movie imagery where our hero is working on a mission and just arrives to Mumbai to encounter a diabolical criminal posing as a Brahmin hellbent on taking over the world. The slower, steady beat creates the feeling of tension in the cinematic story Thunderball is about to drop on us.
“Make Your Move” has a beautiful flowing intro with a flight attendant announcing the plane is about to take off then actually does take off into a wonderful funk-styled groove. I really enjoyed the numerous tempo changes on this one as well as the soulful vocals of Mustafa Akbar.
“Low Down Weather” reminded me of a Santana track with the “fish” being played in the background and the sexy, bluesy guitar part throughout. Definitely a great lounge track to chill out with.
The peppy and 70’s disco funk fused “I C Colors” was a blast to listen to. I immediately thought of the “Shaft” theme song or watching “The Streets of San Francisco” and having this track as the soundtrack for a high speed chase. Akbar’s awesome vocals return on this one for another welcomed treat. “Flippin’ It On” has a similar 70’s funk/disco feel with brilliant jazzy flute and sax parts weaving in and out of the funkiness. This one is quite catchy…watch out!
“Runaway” is a very pretty reggae/pop flavored track which is made even more pretty by the beautiful vocals of Miss Johnna M. The relaxing bass line and horn ensemble parts create a love scene with our hero and a beautiful vixen walking along the beach in the Caribbean.
“Penthouse Soul” closes the album out with a style previously seen in “Low Down Weather” with the bluesy guitar and jazz flute combining with the keys to make for another fantastic lounge/chill track. It’s as though the hero has come back to his super-spy apartment and can finally sit down and take a breather while the credits roll over the end of our cinematic story.
“12 Mile High” has so many different styles- lounge bossa, reggae, a bit of smooth jazz, funk, latin, drum and bass, you name it, these guys include it and do it well! It has a nice mix of instrumental and vocal tracks but seems to have a bit more instrumentals than their last effort “Cinescope.” Thunderball’s greatest asset is the ability to create a mental picture of their music for the listener so easily, which gets one emotionally involved in their music and wanting more. That is fine by me, since once you start listening, you won’t want to stop!
Here’s a Soundcloud track of “12 Mile High” for your listening pleasure until you buy the album when it drops on November 9th!
Was listening to one of my chillout stations on Last.fm and came across a great track by Thunderball named “On the Sly” from their “Scorpio Rising” album.
Checking out their Myspace page, it seems like they enjoy putting some great bossa themes in their music. Just the name Thunderball conjures up images of James Bond and the 1965 classic movie and this music is a great replica of the music from that time.
If this music were for a spy film soundtrack, “On the Sly” would be the moment where the superspy has his encounter with a sexy adversary. The track is built around two echoing synth melodies with some bluesy electric guitar mixed in. It vaguely reminded me a bit of the Lethal Weapon soundtrack when I heard this one.
“Chicachiquita” featuring Miss Johnna is a light bossa-flavored track with a great groove and features a jazz flute intertwined with some electronic sounds and a soft guitar in the background.
“Thunder in the Jungle” begins with the sound of a driving storm broken in by some funky guitar and scathing trumpet hits. These guys specialize in chillin’, in my opinion, but this is a great upbeat dance track.
“The Road to Benares” was the first one to play on their MySpace page for me and immediately reminded me of David Holmes’ work on Ocean’s Twelve. It has a great percussive beat with middle eastern sitar and other strings throughout. Again it brought to mind the spy movie where our hero descends upon Morocco to chase the world-class criminal.
If you’re looking for some great atmospheric chillout music, check out the cinescapes of Thunderball!