Nancy Leticia “Le Big Mac” (exclusive)

05 May 2015 — Noah Klein

Reclamation.

In 2k15 there are no mainstream female producers. If a world-renowned music festival dedicates a mere tenth of its programming to female artists it’s celebrated as progress. A worrisome amount of sound technicians do not take female musicians seriously and anyone from the unknown performer at a d.i.y. space to an international champion such as Grimes will have their instruments readjusted without permission. This is obviously unacceptable, and to be quite honest herstorically naïve. From Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire to Wendy Carlos, Clara Rockmore, and Laurie Spiegel female-bodied musicians have developed the tools, articulated the language, and laid the groundwork for what we broadly refer to as electronic music. There could arguably be no Kraftwerk, no Burial, no OK Computer without these pioneers. I would be thrilled to turn this into an exposition on the correlation between the outsider studies of sound synthesis and the marginalization of the female musician during an era that glorified the white male guitarist drunk on the appropriation of black music, but before I open that thinkpiece let’s take a mome to appreciate a powerful artist at our fingertips: Nancy Leticia.

Today we celebrate the release of Nancy Leticia’s Love Dream, a debut EP composed of seven movements that turn the outside world in. As the anticipated first release on Hot Sugar’s Noise Collector label Nancy’s collection of wondrous compositions is a voice within a larger discussion, and to only internalize the sonic surface of this EP would be a disservice to its process. For anyone who digs into the origins of this collection, or who possibly discovered Love Dream through an enthusiasm for the work of Hot Sugar, the world of associative music is a touchstone. Borrowing from the intersections of musique concrete and hip hop production, associative music is a meditation on our role as aural inhabitants within a world that is constantly sounding off at once. Car horns provoke anxiety and waves crashing on the sand induce relaxation while an empty plastic bag blowing down the sidewalk on a chilly afternoon might only amplify the most passive of existences. What Noise Collector, what Hot Sugar, and what Nancy Leticia encourage is a practice which collaborates with controllable and uncontrollable occurrences in an effort to develop a sound which is reflective of a perspective upon our modern condition. The practice of incorporating and processing these organic sounds into intentional compositions can subliminally invoke a tertiary relationship between the composer, the piece, and the listener. What was traditionally a piece of recorded music becomes a multi-dimensional space that incorporates a geography of feeling and place to become a sound, and a welcomed new field of experimentation in the reclamation of electronic music. Cover your ears with a warm pair of headphones and turn up "Le Big Mac", attempt to define the territories that are introduced, and then welcome Nancy Leticia… we’ve been waiting for you.

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Interview/Premiere: Pascale Project

05 May 2015 — Henning Lahmann

As Mathematique, Montréal artist Pascale Mercier gave us positively manic synth pop, some kind of 80s-informed proto-charts pop seen through the lens of an extraterrestrial sociologist or, in the words of my esteemed colleague Parker Bruce, music that "sounds like it was recorded underwater in Atlantis". Whatever the association, however, Mercier's work under that moniker was, while usually featuring vocals, heavily focused on the instrumental aspect. Indeed, her voice mostly served rhythmic functions almost more than being included for the purpose of delivering a specific message, as most distinctly shown by Mathematique's stellar singnature tune, "Summer, But I Don't Know". On her forthcoming LP Just Feel Good for a Moment, this has changed. The record is further exploring tropes of classic popular music, which entails a more prominent emphasis on singing along to Mercier's lush synth melodies. Marking the shift with a new name – Pascale Project – the artist's compositions benefit greatly from her newly (re)discovered alto.

Just Feel Good for a Moment will be out this summer. Listen to the premiere of the first single "Super Natural" below and read a brief interview with the artist after the break.

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Oni Ayhun, rRoxymore, Aquarian Jugs & Jaguar Woman “Decon/Recon #1”

24 Apr 2015 — Evelyn Malinowski

Paula Temple's Noise Manifesto label does indeed comprise a manifesto: it summons consideration of a mentality wherein human interactions are seen as noises shooting around in synthesizers, non-phallically processed and mixed to create an altogether original product. The label, then, is a resource for cultivating new or distorted forms of remix, album, collaboration, release, and series, an altering practice which is certainly meant to be applied to other areas of society and life.

"Decon/Recon," as in "deconstruction/reconstruction," is a brand new series that offers fodder for producing dance music differently as well as an offhanded guessing game of who wrote what part. The EP is a symbiotic display of styles by Berlin-based artists Oni Ayhun, rRoxymore, Jaguar Woman (Paula Temple), and Aquarian Jugs (Jam Rostron aka Planningtorock). The tracks are not created by one person and then passed on; they are each made of different parts and samples produced freshly for the occasion by the four artists, passed around, like a fragmented techno band playing hacky sack in different buildings. Thus, "Decon/Recon" is a statement, a co-operation, and a much needed return to the puzzled heart of techno, all under a playful and nearly improvisational feel.

"DR1-1" dribbles breakbeats and clamors saxophones like that of Planningtorock's distinctive style. Meanwhile, the claps pick up protestingly, as if Oni Ayhun has been asked to play digital glass bottles for The Knife. "DR1-2" nurtures a rainy day, cardboard box atmosphere that might be otherwise seen in rRoxymore productions before slipping into a chimey dischord and metallic hit on the 3-count, which is reminiscent of Temple's idiosyncractic language of percussion. Again on "DR1-3" we are confronted by pieces of what seems like PTR's arsrenate orchestra and more beats that could have come from Temple. "DR1-4" is at first a samba, housey track that yields to a break down of linear drive and spirals downward, or upward, perhaps sideways, whose melody could possibly be attributed to Oni Ayhun... but who knows.

Overall, "Decon/Recon" is a tasty collaboration. You can hear the concept behind the music; you don't necessarily need the words which also eloquently state the purpose of the project, provided that you listen properly. It is musically as well as aesthetically progressive, with a certain type of beauty floating around somewhere nearby. It enables us to travel through neighborly uncharted territories, with smiles one our faces. We can hear the individual talent merging together softly and perceive of the succinct and prideful execution of this task of returning fragments into a whole. Furthermore, we can hear the friendship among these musicians, the community they provide for each other, and that type of message combined with the circularization of such politically motivated music is rather complementary to recent debate and dispute about the state of gender in electronic music, not to mention everywhere else in the world.

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Live Review: Colleen Green at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium

23 Apr 2015 — Ethan Jacobs

Since Colleen Green’s official full length came out on Hardly Art in February, I’ve been totally enthralled by her distinct fuzzy sound and unmistakable, terminally-chill demeanor. On I Want To Grow Up, Green traverses the ups and downs (mostly downs) that accompany the societally imbued pressure of growing up. The tracks on Green’s debut alternate between bubblegum pop and belligerent fuzzy textures, mirroring Green’s inability to decide if growing up is all it’s made out to be or just a hoax, respectively. My favorite parts of the album are the intensely lo-fi, loud moments where Green regresses into her juvenile behaviors like doing drugs or staring at the TV—the responsibility required to “grow up” is too heavy during these moments and the volume of instrumentation totally envelopes Green in a stoned comatose.

When I went to Shea Stadium in Brooklyn to see Green perform songs from her new album, I was mainly looking forward to the prospect of being swallowed by the loudness of her music—the same thing I instantly loved about the record. However, the songs that Green performed live didn’t hit as hard as I had hoped because the sound wasn’t loud enough—she felt bigger than the music, whereas I wanted the opposite. It was the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at Shea Stadium, so I was expecting Green’s sound to devour the room to compensate for the fact that there was one of her and more than a hundred of us. Between songs Green kept asking the audience, “Is it loud enough?” For the sake of not being “that guy,” no one really spoke up until about half way through her set when the crowd unanimously decided it was time to crank up the noise. This happened just in time for “Grinding My Teeth,” one of the fastest tracks on I Want To Grow Up with an ostensible punk aesthetic.

Green redeemed the performance in other ways, namely just by being herself to the utmost: She maintained charming banter with the audience between songs, specifically on her desire to smoke a lot of weed once the show was over. It's such a turn off to see a musician act superior to an audience, so the humility in Green's ability to interact with us on a personal level was deeply appreciated. Still, the first half of her show left me underwhelmed. Sometimes you just have to turn the volume up--way up. 

I Want to Grow Up is out now on Hardly Art.

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Review: Godmother “Transgenre”

22 Apr 2015 — Lukas Dubro

Joey Hansom is a person who cares. Over the last couple of years, the artist has tried to push Berlin's alternative scene forward on different levels, whether on the forefront as performer and DJ, or in the background as producer and event organizer. Last month saw the release of Alexander Geist's soaring new single "Malediction", which Joey co-wrote and -produced, and he is also behind Expatriarch, a platform to showcase queer/feminist music in the city, as well as the Boo Hoo party.

Perhaps most notably, however, Joey has a band called Godmother that are set to release their new EP Transgenre this week. Joey started the band a few years ago as a project where he didn't have to "make compromises," as he told me once at a party. And this is exactly what it feels like. He not only has a clear vision of what he wants, he also puts a lot of effort into making it come to life. "It's a challenge sometimes, because this is all very DIY, but I'm not aiming for a lo-fi aesthetic," he explains. Yes, whether with arrangements or eyeliner, Joey likes to lay it on thick. Transgenre collects four catchy songs, with a theatrical approach recalling Queen, David Bowie and Of Montreal (yet with a distinct lack of guitars). Style and substance unite.

Godmother songs don't have just a musical directness, they have a clear message. "MTFTM" is about finding utopia beyond the gender binary system, while "One-eyed Snake Oil" is an ode to the failure of hegemonic masculinity and capitalism. This mixture of pop and politics is never heavy-handed, though. With his lyrics, Joey proves that he has a great (and deranged) sense of humor: "Now all our troubles we forgot 'em, because we're topping from the bottom," he sings in "MTFTM". "We're living in a no man's land, no dicks, no tits, just our prostate glands."

Do we need more people like Joey in Berlin? Yes. These are the heroes that are capable, whether behind the scenes or in the spotlight, of helping to achieve a greater good and sustaining a vibrant music community in the city. Joey is a prime example of someone who doesn't follow styles and trends, but has cultivated his own significant path and voice.

His new EP will be released on Joey's own label New Pangea as an edition of 100 cassettes and as a free download. Berliners can catch Joey, Rocco and his bandmates T-Word and Sara onstage for the Godmother release concert at Mitte's ACUD (Veteranenstraße 21) this Friday, April 24.

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Live Review: Kiasmos at Dublin’s Opium Rooms

21 Apr 2015 — Andrew Darley

Ólafur Arnalds has made a quick turnaround in returning to Dublin. After his theatre show with his band in March, he has returned a month later for an entirely contrasting performance. Kiasmos is the music collaboration of the Icelandic composer and fellow musician Janus Rasmussen best known for his work in the electronic outfit, Bloodgroup. The pair released their self-titled debut album in 2014, which became one of the most compelling records of the year. They took reference points of each of their work to date and concentrated on pushing them further – interweaving dancebeats, string arrangements and sparse piano motifs – to make an album of vivid imagination and wistful memories. The swirling sound of the album’s opener, "Lit", blanketed the crowd in the Opium Rooms before the duo reached the stage. Behind the decks of two laptops and other digital equipment, they radiated a great bond between each other. Their midnight hour-long set featured songs which did not stray far from the album recordings amongst plateaus which saw the two jump around behind the decks like mad scientists finding the newest discovery. "Thrown" twinkled with its xylophone melody and propulsive bassline, while they closed out the set with the rumbling basslines and abrasive takes on "Bent" and "Burnt". They also featured new songs which were up-tempo and more techno-driven. Overall, it was an enjoyable set and fascinating to watch Arnalds perform outside of his contemporary classical context. With the strength of their chemistry together, it may prove rewarding if they incorporated other musicians on stage to play strings and piano, which could potentially give new life to their songs in a live setting.

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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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