Ellis Swan “Dice Rolled”

20 Apr 2015 — Zachary Taube

Chicago-based songwriter Ellis Swan is a musician with a knack for mood. For me, his songs conjure up mythological imagery of the American south, of driving down an endless country road at night, of that mysterious glow that pulsates from beyond those trees, of cigarillos and longing and the devil and sweat. I listen to Swan and imagine Screamin’ Jay Hawkins trying to sing a lullaby to his granddaughter.  Dice Rolled, a song recorded for but ultimately left out of his brooding 2014 I’ll Be Around, is as ghostly as it is laconic, a murmured memory of loss and envy that pulsates to an unchanging beat, that builds into a whisper, that floats down the river and gets snagged on an ancient willow.

I'll Be Around came out last September. Check it out over here.

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Aural Cinema: An Interview with OOFJ

20 Apr 2015 — Andrew Darley

Reading the history of how OOFJ came together, it almost seems as if the realm of film was pushing them together. The classically-trained saxophone player, Jenno Bjørnkjær, was attending a New York conservatory before becoming disillusioned with the structures of jazz standards that he had to follow. He decided to leave the school in his third year and began composing his own instrumental pieces. One evening he saw a production of Twelfth Night, which featured the South African vocalist, Katherine Mills Rymer. The two hit it off and bonded over their shared love of their favourite directors: Bergman, Carax, Kubrick and Roman Polanski. By this time, Jenno was working with electronic music and creating Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia film score. The two not only fell in love and married – they formed a band. Performing as OOFJ (abbreviation of Orchestra of Jenno), they made an album of idiosyncratic electronica, strings and soaring vocals. OOFJ are now about to release their second album, Acute Feast, which pushes their established sound into new territories. Staff writer Andrew Darley chatted with Katherine and Jenno about their determined desire to add something new to the art world and how cinema has both formed and guided their unique bond.

Acute Feast is coming out tomorrow, April 21, via Ring The Alarm (USA)/Fake Diamond Records.

Read the interview after the break.

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Watch: GABI “Falling”

17 Apr 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

The tracks on Sympathy, Gabrielle Herbst’s official debut as GABI, are not songs but full fledged compositions. Herbst’s crystalline vocals are at the epicenter of every piece’s distinct atmosphere – other interwoven echoes and instrumentation ripple outward into oblivion. Every detail is calculated and adds texture, and every track is consuming. The spacious quality in GABI’s music demands to be bolstered by visuals that explain more of the story. In her video for "Falling", her aesthetic proclivities give us a clearer picture of the mastermind behind this music. GABI and a few other beautiful people, who appear to have survived the apocalypse, traverse a blank landscape, intermittently breaking out into interpretive dance. The energy that flows throughout "Falling" encounters chirpy highs and distilled, empty lows, and the dance routines gain fire and crumble away as the song's drama continuously climbs and falls. The last line of the song is 'Love as debris', which echoes three times as the sky lights up pink above GABI and her surviving clan. The various working parts of the track gradually dismantle until all that’s left is the debris of the place GABI created.

Sympathy is out now on Software.

GABI is playing at Berlin's ACUD as part of a Torstraßenfestival Warm-Up on May 20. More infos here.

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Devon Loch “Sleep Scale”

15 Apr 2015 — Nestor Burma

In a dreamy collab project, relative unknown producer Devon Loch somehow ropes pop noirette Ela Orleans and Portland noise artist Best Available Technology into a septet of somnolent, instrumental tranquilizers. On "Slow Wave", BAT lends some 'sonics proper' to the mix, corrupting Devon's dissonant, Bartok-inspired chords with swells of static and ghostly interference. Plodding and otherworldly, this really shuts down your brain and takes you to another place. Or, as one listener observed, it sounds like 'Tony Hart in a haunted submarine'.

Sleep Scale is out on vinyl via Kit Records on April 21, complete with an entire set of seven remixes (Yaaard's rework is particularly lovely).

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Ozy “Distant Present” (exclusive)

13 Apr 2015 — Anaïs Duplan

Thirteen years after his debut release, Tokei, Icelandic producer Ozy has come out with a new 12-track LP titled Distant Present. As a producer, at least upon first listen, Ozy’s vision is straightforward. The record sticks close to its name, conveying nostalgic dreamscapes that seem to hark back to a more remote era. The tracks are a slow-building arrangement of anthemic strings, glitchy bass-lines, and the occasional sensuous vocal sample (sometimes recalling Balam Acab’s 2010 See Birds).

During the album’s less intricate moments, tracks like "Drama Club" and "Dis-en-gaged" provide uncomplicated downtempo listening; however, something interesting happens about two-thirds through Distant Present. Its sleepy rhythms are replaced by stranger and more irregular percussive arrangements as the vocals become less sensuous and more atonal. The relative absence of strings, which facilitated a sort of dream-state, begins to feel quite jarring, in a beautiful way. The tracks become sparse – and the dissipation of background layers reveals a more intriguing landscape. These are the sounds of waking life. A track like "Chrome-drip", for example, demonstrates a simultaneously harsher and brighter reality. The sounds of Space Age radio signals and difficult-to-place percussion samples interact in unexpected configurations.

In essence, Ozy spends the first part of Distant Present constructing a dream-world which he later methodically and gradually destroys. The distant present comes into sharp relief as the songs themselves begin to signal awakening. The waking world turns out to be even more unusual than the land of dream, recalling Twain’s expression: “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, in a perhaps self-conscious move, the final track “Atonement” makes an attempt to return to the ethereal peace of former half of Distant Present. Nonetheless, it is clear that something has shifted in the overall sound. If “Atonement” is a peace offering for having disrupted our sleep-state, it is only an incomplete apology. The eery and aggressive (eerily aggressive) glitch of waking life is still present, if subdued. We never dream in quite the same way again.

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Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk “Bombchu Girl” (exclusive)

13 Apr 2015 — Zachary Taube

After parting ways with a band member and relocating to New York City, Kansas natives Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk have marked the turning point with the release of their first ever studio-recorded (mini) album, Kill The Fuzz, recorded by Ava Luna’s Carlos and Julian at the Silent Barn. Kill The Fuzz is a departure from BBDDM’s earlier work, and while their lush reverb-soaked incantations that were so present in 2013’s Think Tone still remain, Fuzz appends tight structural punch to the glorious aura. Check out "Bombchu Girl", an aural ode to the eponymous Zelda vixen that combines ethereal harmonies with hypnotic rhythmic drive before descending into gorgeous chaos, streaming below. 

BBDDM’s Kill The Fuzz is out April 21 on Fire Talk Records. Preorder the digital and cassette versions on their bandcamp, and be sure to catch them on their short April tour in support of the release (see dates below), where hopefully you’ll be able to snag a very limited 10” copy of the album – handmade artwork included.

4/18 Cold Spring, NY, Mountain Show
4/21 Brooklyn, NY, Silent Barn (Record Release)
4/22 Philadelphia, PA, Eris Temple Arts
4/23 Athens, OH, Lobster Fest
4/24 Lawrence, KS, Pizzapalooza - The Replay Lounge
4/25 Kansas City, MO, Minibar: Middle of the Map After Party
4/26 Des Moines, IA, The Fremont
4/28 Chicago, IL, Slow Pony

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Moving As One: An Update on Gender Equality in Electronic Music

08 Apr 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

In geology, a fault line is caused by tension which refuses to move harmoniously with the neighboring sections of crust. Subduction zones and transforms are aspects of these geological breaches that influence where the rock is going and pressure other areas to move in ways against their normal flow. Prior to the rift, all the rock was connected and moving as one. 

Social and cultural interaction operates the same way, really. You have a cluster of likeminded people, some of whom end up on the edge of the group, eventually acting as an overlapper or shifter, torn between two movements, pressured into choosing a side. Influencing all the movement are their respective subduction zones (ulterior motifs) and transform fractures (self-important leadership). A rift, then, must be a result of a disagreement or a series of accusations, actions that intimidate others. It has ripped the plane so wide open that magma is spewing out. A movement led by such subduction and transform eventually focuses on separating from the greater block and appropriates other people's low-self esteem or greenness in order gain backing. They join the ranks because they don't want to be melted. With thus, the deviating or rifting movement begins to browbeat other portions, triggering even more aggression, harsh differentiation, brash collision, and eventually prejudice.

Although differentiated movements produce cataclysms such as landslides, earthquakes, and eruptions, they generate fresh and wholesome land in doing so, all on the same hunk of rock floating through space. Cultural rifts along the enormous, so-enormous-there's-room-for-unbelievable-diversity planetary plane, occur in patterns of assertions which normally divide people, and those rifting patterns begin with stress and strain built up undernearth the surface. What we need are ways to assert without dividing.

The gender imbalance and women in electronic music issue, which I now consciously deem a “topic” (in order to encourage open debate and to avoid offense), has permeated the greater EDM scene, as it has due right. With the effort, pathos, and censure afforded by several journalists and artists, we are now talking about this “topic” more than ever, and it has even shaken the mainstream. For example, Robyn, the relatively mellow and agreeably talented pop singer, has stepped in on the issue and plans to organize a festival where female producers will gain fair exposure and promotion. The young touring collective Discwoman has been getting a lot of attention for their out-of-nowhere leadership and forward thinking business model, where significant percentages of their event profits are donated to places like the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, and local Girls Rock Camp groups. Their vibe seems to be one where, they don't only want to spread the word about sexism, but are proceeding in the creation of an all female or female-identifying scene completely independent of the more central one(s).

Undoubtedly, there is a feeling of movement under our feet; yet, it is proving to be a movement of stress which inspires rifting and fractioning off rather than convergence. Over the last few years, we here at NFOP have been collaborating with artists, journalists, and festivals alike to help promote discussion of this topic. Our interviews with Jessy Lanza and Natasha Kmeto in particular hit home for advocates of equality. After reading Tone Deaf's recent bulletin which offers a clever visual example of gender imbalance within festival booking mentality, I realized, whoa, there absolutely is a present and emergent series of related articles appearing one after another. They evidence the issue - or topic - but latently, some of them are adding stress to the rift in our music culture. Yes, we are talking about it more and more, which was part of the collective fight; however, in doing so, we sometimes resort to language that decries rather than proposes solutions. How can we host dialogue without nourishing dispute? A saunter through some of these recent publications might facilitate a release of the preexisting strain as well as new subterranean rifting, and deliver us to a platform where we can discuss without accusation. 

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Psychic Reality “Harness” (exclusive)

07 Apr 2015 — Henning Lahmann

Back in 2011, when the Internet was still young and the blogosphere alive (not kicking though), and words such as "hazy" and prefixes such as "psych-" were employed without shame, Leyna Noel put out an album with then-unsurpassed and massively influential LA-based imprint Not Not Fun. Both the name of her project and the name of the album, Psychic Reality and Vibrant New Age, were children of their time, a time when longish elaborations on the differences and resemblances between hypnagogic pop and chillwave were considered the pinnacle of music journalism. Not that it mattered: Vibrant New Age, timely as it was, would have graced the zeitgeist of any artistic epoch. Dark, eerie, danceable and yes, psychedelic, we became obsessed with "Fruit" and "Expla", songs that for a while would become essential ingredients of all out DJ sets. Having worked with the unforgotten Pocahaunted, put out a split with Amanda Brown's LA Vampires, and generally being part of the scene around Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras, Noel was obviously influenced by Southern California's psychedelic underground while at the same time serving as a precursor of the take on contemporary dance tropes that some would start calling – please forgive me – 'hipster house' shortly afterwards, with Brown's 100% SILK label as its creative focal point.

It's been four years but it feels like a decade ago. The musical landscape has shifted and, if anything, has grown increasingly cynical and jaded. Musicians that offer escape by evoking images of sundrenched beaches or summer nights aimlessly spent with friends and blunts still exist, but if they get any attention at all then it usually comes from a decidedly distanced, piercingly ironic standpoint. "Psych" as in psychopath, not psychedelia. It is, in other words, an interesting moment to release the follow-up of Vibrant New Age. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, Chassis takes up the debut's motifs without getting stuck in creative stasis, instead presenting a careful evolvement of Noel's artistry. The predecessor's defining house beat is absent, but the ethereal cues are as pronounced as ever. This is still "psych-pop": Without a hint of irony, already the first track "Life is Long" sports mild distortion, a shuffling rhythm reminiscent of mid-80s charts pop, and the word "hazy" proudly chanted into the blurry, dreamlike and simple melody. "Harness", premiered below, is this album's "Expla": melancholic and mysterious, the song gently emerges from a carefully woven carpet of expanding synth chords, floating into the warm August night before it fades out with a quiet sigh. Just this once again, for five delicate minutes, no cynicism, no irony. Only bliss.

Chassis will be out via Intercoastal Artists on May 5.

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