What I’m Into This Week (7/17 – 7/23)

Miles Ahead screenshot

I only mention current events in these weekly posts to give context to the words I write and the music I share. The circumstances in which we listen are important. Music might help  buffer the hardness of the world, but he world informs it all the same.

That being said, I don’t even know what to say about what’s happening in America lately. Everyone seems to have lost hope. I know it’s not true, but dark attitudes are in the wind. I’m doing my part to remind those around me that things can and do get better. The fact that there’s always beautiful new music is enough proof for me.

This week I’ve only got two things to talk about, but they’re really important to me: Sade and the new Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead.

Continue reading

What I’m Into This Week (3/20 – 3/26)

Dope 2015

This week’s real world brought a deadly terrorist attack in Belgium, while the music world brought the premature death of a hip-hop hero. It was downers all around, and I struggled personally with some dark moments too. At least in my own case, I try to meditate, focus, and seek the healing power of art. This is how I keep perspective.

It’s also how I end up sharing music. Here we go:

Continue reading

What I’m Into This Week (2/28 – 3/5)

knightofcups1

This week in music features a big dip into the past, plus something super new. I also need to mention the movie I watched instead of the Oscars, because it’s the best I’ve seen in weeks. All I know about Sunday’s ceremony is that Ennio Morricone finally won and so did Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a good thing; this music is more interesting and important.

I’ll start with the new music because it’s the most deserving of attention.

Continue reading

Best of Dream Catalogue, 2814-2815

dreamcd_1_

Dream Catalogue has quickly become one of my favorite music labels. Their aesthetic is a utopian ideal for tomorrow’s world. The music they release is futuristic, wrapped in a warm emotional embrace, full of nostalgia and hope. Everything I’ve heard is, naturally, painted with a deeply dreamlike palette. Edges are blurred, time vanishes, and the listener becomes unmoored from tactile reality.

Continue reading

Toni Braxton “You’re Makin’ Me High”

tonibraxton

Here’s a slinky hit from my teenage years, with a video that felt uncomfortable, sexy, and powerful. I was 14 when it appeared on MTV, unable to appreciate what was happening. It was unshakable anyway.

Check out Toni Braxton’s 1996 single, You’re Makin’ Me High.

Continue reading

DJ Paypal – Sold Out

I haven’t listened to footwork this bracing since the first time I heard DJ Rashad.

That thought ran through my head mere minutes into this incredible set by DJ Paypal, the brief but incredibly energetic Sold Out. If you’re familiar with the Rashad and the wider genre at all, you’ll know how bold of a statement this is. The guy was the first genre superstar, and a true auteur. His sudden death in 2014 cast a pall over the relatively tight-knit community. Surprisingly, the first artist to step out of his shadow is not from Chicago but Berlin, Germany. Lacking a geographic one, Paypal still has a direction connection to the more well known artists: he met the rest of the famed Teklife crew, including DJ Spinn and Rashad, through a footwork Facebook group.

Here’s his debut album, Sold Out. It’s 37 minutes of light speed bliss that will have you hyperventilating.

I’m caught up, soaring over shattered landscapes on fast-foward, somewhere in the middle of second track Ahhhhhhh, when it hits me. I’m riding a crest of vertical samples, sharp points of horns and vocals, strung together with a piano solo, out of control and on my back. Hysterical. It’s the same inexorable rush that hits when you realize you’ve truly gotten carried away in the torrent of a great wild jazz tune. It’s that rare experience: behold! a gang of vital, angry, and independent pieces slam together in unthinkable clockwork precision.  This sort of rollercoaster used to be conjured by the likes of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan.

This album is another brick in the fortress of evidence that jazz never died; its simply outgrew its constrictive, recognizable forms. While it’s true that the fun stuff has seen a revival, thanks in no small part to artists like Kamasi Washington, reincarnating the structures of free jazz at its commercial peak, the real innovation is happening in unexpected ways. When DJ Rashad broke through half a decade ago, it wasn’t because he was the best, most skilled footwork artist. He brought visibility to the genre because he evolved it in unexpected ways, adding melodic hooks while setting the often rigidly hyperspeed template on its ear. He bent the known playbook. He played with our perception of time.

This is the exploratory heart of what makes the best free jazz so revelatory. It’s also what I’m hearing in a new album for the first time since Rashad died. Sold Out does more than stand on the shoulders of a great artist. The album earns my ecstatic response by leaping beyond, exploring past the horizons we’ve heard from Chicago so far.

djpaypal

If you google DJ Paypal, you might notice that he seems like a very private person, to put it lightly. “I just don’t want pictures of my face posted everywhere, I’m opting out,” he told Meaghan Garvey in an interview for Pitchfork. He hasn’t given out his real name and currently enjoys an anonymity previously only known by Burial. I admire his humility, and his deference to the original Chicago footwork community, but he’s got to know, deep down, how special his work is. Continuing in the same interview about Rashad, after describing the day he died, Paypal says, “his role is not going to be filled by anybody else. It can’t be. So we’re gonna work harder, because it’s not going to be easy.”

The album just dropped on November 13th, so I’m a little late but hopefully not before everyone’s made their best of the year lists. I’ve got a feeling this might make an appearance on mine. You can pick up the vinyl or digital version from the Bandcamp page.

Drexciya “Andraean Sand Dunes”

Drexciya is an enigma of an act that left behind some of the greatest and strangest techno and electro music ever recorded. From the debut album Neptune’s Lair, here’s the first song I heard, the tune that hooked me and opened up an entire new world of sound.

I’d never known the outer reaches of techno until I listened to Andraean Sand Dunes.

It’s a pure exploration of genre constructs littering the ocean floor, an aquatic adventure full of energetic machine-funk pulses and glistening columns of light reaching down from the surface. This is techno for adventuring, the kind of track that makes me want to kick open my front door and run through the night, rather than dance at all. In other words, it’s more My Kind Of Thing.

While the production itself springs from the sounds and structures of classic electro, the music leans hard into futuristic Detroit techno, with a cascading synth repetition begging hypnosis rather than hip shaking. The bass line is as funky as this kind of music gets, but it’s sunk into an atmospheric wash of melody, dropping out for moments of pure untethered synthesizer flight. Head nodding never felt so aerodynamic.

neptunes-lair-537c490bc8ac6

Despite my years-long love of Drexicya, I have never previously written about them on this blog. The mysterious duo of James Stinson and Gerald Donald may have dissolved after Stinson’s untimely death in 2002, but their legacy has only grown over the years. After a host of single and b-side collections were issued, their original album label Tresor began repressing the classic trio of full-lengths on vinyl. This is important, because it means that I was finally able to pick up a copy of Neptune’s Lair and own a piece of techno’s weirdest mythology. It’s not just an important and brilliant album; it’s incredibly easy to get into and enjoy. You can find a copy via Discogs or even on Amazon, though the latter’s price is outrageous.