On September 29, 2009, DJ Shadow announced the DJ Shadow Remix Project, an open opportunity for DJs and producers from around the world to remix some of the most legendary material in the trip-hop canon. Nine-and-a-half months later, the anticipated child was born, a release from Reconstruction Productions featuring 19 tracks of remixes stretching across Shadow’s discography. Endtroducing and The Private Press get the largest overhaul, including two remixes of the classic “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt.” Featured here is the Ruby My Dear remix that speeds up the song for a frenetic, rapidly changing remix that goes from Venetian Snares to The Flashbulb to Bonobo in the blink of an eye, all while keeping the main purpose in sight–demonstrating the wide influence that Shadow has had and still has for emerging producers around the world.
I heard Salem’s “King Night” a little over a month ago when a few blogs started premiering it, but I have to admit that I hardly paid attention. To be honest, I have no idea how this did not draw me in back then. What was I distracted by? It could have been The Roots, Big Boi, Sleigh Bells, or any of the other incredible music I had been digesting around that time, but “King Night”, the first track released off of Salem’s forthcoming album of the same name, shows just as much promise as any of the great music that has already come out this year. It’s a post-dubstep masterpiece, and not in the way that Mount Kimbie makes a weak, watered-down mixture for the headphones. “King Night” moves the grimy underbelly of Burial to a cathedral, featuring none other than a choir singing “O Holy Night” with walloping, powerful bass as the choir’s accompaniment. It’s an inspired tour de force of music for the new decade.
King Night is released on September 28th.
For those like me who really hated the new M.I.A. album, white-guy-gone-Carribean production duo Major Lazer are dropping a new EP entitled Lazers Never Die that features, amidst a Thom Yorke remix and a Buraka Som Sistema remix, this song heavily featuring M.I.A. It just makes me wonder why Diplo, half of Major Lazer, couldn’t come up with anything this good for /\/\/\Y/\. Lover’s tiff, I suppose.
Anyway, here’s to hoping that I never have to type /\/\/\Y/\ again.
For the alternative/indie world, 2010 has been a banner year of excellence. From The National’s grandiloquent High Violet to The Tallest Man on Earth’s one-man powerhouse The Wild Hunt, 2010 has produced defining albums from well-known acts to stunning debut albums from artists who promise so much more in the future. In the sweeping praise that so many albums have garnered this year, it goes without saying that some things got left behind, some things that, in less impressive years, may have risen to the top of the blogosphere. This blog will attempt to bring to light some of the lesser-known highlights of 2010.
Daniel Bjarnason – Processions [Symphonic/Classical]
We begin in February with Daníel Bjarnason’s Processions, an album that I have praised for months now–from posting the opening movement “Sorrow conquers happiness” from his multi-tracked cello suite Bow to String to reviewing the album with high praise. Yet, I cannot give this album enough praise, standing in the same echelon of excellence as High Violet, The Wild Hunt, The Archandroid, and all of the other albums that we have heard over and over. The album dances between bombastic and aggressive to hauntingly minimal, as if Max Richter decided to borrow from Stravinsky instead of Glass. In addition to Bjarnason’s brilliant compositional skills, the performers on the album (including the Iceland Symphony Orchestra) are first-rate, an indication that Iceland’s music scene goes far beyond Sigur Rós and Björk, and it is not going away anytime soon. Posted here…
You know, I can’t even explain how Flying Lotus’s music is so good. For all intents and purposes, it takes a fairly standard hip-hop beat, slightly Dillafied, and puts subtle jazz music over it. It’s subdued, subtle, and somehow powerfully effective. For those of us who want something more immediate, something more aggressive, Flying Lotus’s imprint label Brainfeeder has released something fresh. Lorn, a 23 year-old producer from Illinois, has just released his debut album Nothing Else, which uses the same format as Flying Lotus–an album of shorter cuts of repetitive beats–but instead of using a heavy jazz influence, Lorn uses elements of glitch, dubstep, and breakbeat electronica. “Automation” is a longer cut on the album, and perhaps one of the most aggressive and dark found on the consistently excellent album.
As I walked across the ruins of the What Stage early Sunday afternoon, I had no envy for the cleanup crew of Bonnaroo. Bottles of water, beer, and god knows what else lay scattered across the immense area, trampled upon, despite Bonnaroo’s valiant efforts to get the concertgoers to take care of their own waste. I never remembered, in 2009 or 2010, seeing so much waste anywhere in Bonnaroo the day after a big show. Even the Flaming Lips confetti extravaganza seemed much less of a shock. Perhaps Bonnaroo was trying to send a message to the 80,000 strong who seemed to care very little about the sustainability portions of Bonnaroo. The sight was frightening.
Equally dirty, grimy, but in a very different way wonderful was the first set I saw at the Sunday portion of Bonnaroo, Japandroids. Perhaps it is a curse I have, but I only manage to see the second half of any Japandroids set. My day started later than I anticipated, so I got there a half hour late. A similar thing happened to me a few months ago at South by Southwest, when I found myself wandering Austin looking for the venue. I showed up in time for “Heart Sweats”, and saw most of the end of their breakthrough album Post-Nothing. Thrown into that set, however, was a surprise performance of “Darkness at the Edge of Gastown” from their compilation of old EPs, No Singles. With a stronger, fuller…
After a long, exhausting, and unbeatable Friday at Bonnaroo, Saturday paled in comparison. Even before attending, it was clear that Saturday had the weakest lineup of any of the days, and this held true when the day finally came. Seeing nothing enticing on the lineup until 3:30 PM with Isis, I showed up at 12:30 PM to get in line to see Conan O’Brien. Unfortunately, due to a poorly communicated (read: not communicated at all) ticket system made me get in the stand-by line, only to see them let about fifty people in, and I get fifteen people from the front of the line. So, unable to see O’Brien, I had two and a half hours to kill before seeing Isis.
I spent most of my time at the Troo Music Lounge, a small stage for lesser known groups, mostly because of the misting fans, seats, and shaded areas. While I was there, I heard the last song of Elmwood, a jam band that offered nothing new to the palette in terms of sound and structure, but their solos were some of the most proficient, impressive jam band solos I’ve heard. The drummer only had a few tricks up his sleeve, mainly Danny Carey-inspired tom fills, but the bassist, guitarist, and saxophonist all turned in long, impressive solos that kept the audience interested despite their length. Following them was Truth and Salvage Co., a fairly boring country band that started promising with great vocal harmonies, but hardly progressed from there.…
The National stood on the Which Stage with foreshadowing of The Flaming Lips’ fluorescent orange set standing like a monolith behind them, a constant reminder that The National wasn’t the only reason I came to Bonnaroo, wasn’t the only reason why the thousands standing and listening to them kill their set found their way to little Manchester, Tennessee. The mud on my shoes. The dryness in my throat. The aching of my feet. Everything hinted that after the final melodies–no, primal screams–of “Terrible Love”, I would simply move onto the next show, as if that ninety minute set did not quench my thirst for great live music. And perhaps the biggest compliment I can give to The National’s incredible set is that, despite all of these hints at two and a half more days of Bonnaroo, I never once thought about what came before and after them. I simply remained transfixed by what took place on that stage (and, in the more incredible moments, in the crowd when Matt Berninger turned the show into what a friend of mine brilliantly termed “a punk show with wine”).
Yet, the biggest compliment I can give Bonnaroo 2010 is that despite the transcendent set of The National late Friday afternoon, Friday would get even better. Friday was easily the longest, most grueling day of Bonnaroo, seeing a total of eight different groups from 12 PM to 2 AM. Not to mention the 100°F heat index destroying the crowd for most of the afternoon.…
Manchester, Tennessee is one of the most unlikely places for a major music festival. It could hardly be called a suburb of Nashville, more than sixty miles outside the city, and has very little to offer to a huge influx of people. Most of all, the town of Manchester is a conservative place (drive around reading the church signs for proof), and hardly seems to accommodate the most liberal music festival in America that spends as much time promoting sustainability as it does music. Yet, the festival goes on, and Manchester seems to eat it up more and more each year.
The 80,000 that multiply the population of Manchester, Tennessee by eight for four days descended upon the isolated farm slowly on Thursday, as an inconvenient, inefficient will call line miles away from the festival, plus a reportedly day-long traffic jam caused massive delays. Through various means, I managed to get to the farm at about noon, four hours before any of the music began, and established my bearings in Centeroo, the area where the main attractions of the festival took place. The festival consists of five main music areas, broken into two stages (What Stage and Which Stage) and three tents (This Tent, That Tent, and The Other Tent), and assorted other stages such as the Troo Music Lounge, where lower-profile groups would play, and the Sonic Stage, where groups would perform short, stripped-down sets.
Hammock’s latest release, Chasing After Shadows… Living with the Ghosts, is a return to form from the ambient/post-rock duo. Their 2008 release, while certainly good, stripped away all of the flair and power that makes Hammock such a special group in the ambient world. As if signaling a return to form with the ellipse in the middle of the title, recalling the group’s classic album, Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo, Hammock brings back that power with a new sense of organic growth that makes their latest quite possibly their best.
“Breathturn” is the group’s single from the album, and is accompanied with a beautiful video that you should probably watch in full-screen. The song combines the purely ambient experiments of their previous album with the beautiful, reverb-laden climaxes of their previous work.
Even without Big Boi, who guests on Janelle Monae’s new single from her album The Archandroid, Monae performed a ridiculously awesome rendition of “Tightrope” last night on Letterman. The performance included costume changes, an awesomely synchronized guitar and bass duo, and incredible presence from Monae herself. Say what you will about her hairstyle, but she’s bold and ready to make a huge splash in the pop world.
“Keep Your Eyes on the Road” is the first single from Paul Marshall’s new project, Lone Wolf, and serves to introduce the new project as the new face of Paul Marshall (mustache included!) with the accompanying music video. Marshall pays tribute to one of his musical influences, Peter Gabriel, by making the video a tribute to Gabriel’s 1987 music video “Sledgehammer.” The stop action animation mixed with claymation creates a tripped-out Fantastic Mr. Fox atmosphere, and manages to both emote Marshall’s lyrics and pay direct tribute to the animators of Gabriel’s team. According to Lone Wolf’s label, Bella Union, Gabriel and the animation team have “seen and approved” the video. The music is equally as impressive, demonstrating Marshall’s ability to take what could have been a great acoustic folk song and expand it into a fuller statement.
The Opus is an instrumental hip-hop project out of Chicago, and they’ve just released their latest EP, Praying Mantis. The EP is jam-packed with seven dense tracks of strong beats and interesting samples, with a flair for ambient openings. Oddly, the EP begins with “Divorced”, labeled as a bonus track. I have yet to see a version of the EP without the “bonus” track, and I couldn’t imagine a better opening to the EP.
Anthony Green’s backing band, Good Old War, are set to release their self-titled second album on June 1st. The first single, “My Own Sinking Ship” is available for free download at digital.goodoldwar.com. The Philadelphian trio plays a smooth folk reminiscent of a more worldly, less isolated Fleet Foxes, and “My Own Sinking Ship” is a promising preview of the group’s next effort. Be sure to check out their split EP with Cast Spells, the side project of Dave Davison of Maps and Atlases, undoubtedly some of the group’s best work.
Two weeks ago, Sharon Jones released her latest incredible soul album, I Learned the Hard Way, on Daptone Records. The album is decidedly defiant and powerful, a certain step up from the already excellent 100 Days, 100 Nights. The first single is the album’s title track, filled with funky grooves, dirty horn licks, and the vocal perfection we have come to expect from the group. Jones’ vocal performance is particularly gripping–convincingly delivering her own version of “I Will Survive” by defying her lover and rising strong. This album, along with the rest of the Dap-Kings’s discography, directly ports 60’s and 70’s funk music to the 21st Century and manages to sound just as good, if not better, than any George Clinton record.