Proof Positive Electronic Music Can Be Unique

To the naysayers who believe that electronic music is all the same or “not real music” (just read a few comments on youtube videos…sigh) they just aren’t listening to the right artists. Joakim is indeed an artist in every sense of the word, from the eclectic sounds he creates down to the cover art for his latest album, Samurai, which is an eye catching photo of him in white makeup akin to the Japanese performance threatre, Butoh. Read more below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Because Music
Release Date: March 17, 2017

French producer/DJ Joakim Bouaziz has released his eighth studio album, Samurai that defies genre labeling and is best described as ‘70s jazz-funk meets ‘80s electronica. Almost an entirely instrumental affair, Samurai feels more like a Ronin as the album drifts rudderless along Joakim’s sonic stream of consciousness. Eclectic does not quite pin down how out there Samurai can become at times. For instance, “Time is Wrong” is a quiet song with simple Rhodes-reminiscent keys accompanied by…Joakim’s warbled vocals that sounds as if he’s singing through a fan underwater. He takes a song that could become a very lovely ballad and adds a weird little twist. This tendency of Joakim’s encompasses the entire album.

Playing with kinetic sounds that jitter and bounce Joakim adds sirens, horns and piano to create delicate music. He will then add his vocals that sound otherworldly, making very few songs sound alike. On “Late Night New City” for instance you can hear elements of the aforementioned ‘70s jazz-funk as a saxophone soars above the fun drum beat, while “Numb” sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to an 80s flick as Devo-esque keys, and android like vocals takes us back to a time when artists were experimenting with all of the electronic sounds hey could curate. And that is precisely what Joakim does on Samurai, play and experiment with sounds.

Opening with the recording of a plane taking off, “In The Beginning” literally launches the album; “Late Night” begins with the sounds of riding in a commuter train; Joakim’s incorporates police sirens, rain drops, wind, and radio static into the songs and as diverse as these sounds are, a jazz inspiration is felt throughout. Title track “Samurai” is perhaps the most mundane on the album, with it’s catchy beat, circling effects and percussion; and, as such, it sounds the most “normal.” But for Joakim, normal is still well crafted. The great track includes horns that add a nice layer to the song and here Joakim’s vocals are not altered as he quietly and effortlessly lifts his voice just above a whisper.

When Joakim does sing elsewhere on the album it’s rarely from the beginning to end of a track. “Not Because You’re Sad” and “Mind Bent” include indecipherable whispers and vocalizations that commence several seconds into the track and rest behind the music. In fact, for “Sad,” Joakim added the small detail of splitting his vocals so that listeners will mostly hear him from the right speaker. Such small details prove the intricacies of his music crafting.

Closing track “Hope/Patience” is an appropriate title to leave listeners with (or perhaps we should’ve taken off from here), this album may not prove to be everyone’s cup of tea and may require a bit of hope and patience to listen to Samurai. Joakim has made an album that is simultaneously familiar yet unique and sets you on a creative sonic journey.

DOWNLOAD: “Samurai,” “Not Because You’re Sad”

Watch the beautiful official video for one of my favorite tracks on the LP, “Samurai.”

Phantogram: More Than Just An Optical Illusion

Bringing magic to their fans’ eyes and ears, duo Phantogram brought a spectacular show to Rochester, NY. I’m ready to see them again!

For Blurt Magazine:

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, has come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boy and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP,Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.

Setlist:

Black Out Days
Don’t Move
Fall in Love
Same Old Blues
Answer
When I’m Small
Mouthful of Diamonds
Howling at the Moon
You’re Mine
Cruel World
You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Roisin Murphy People! Live!

The fan girl in me was psyched! A long time fan of Moloko, I missed the opportunity to see Roisin Murphy live 8 years ago. So here we were, almost a decade later, and the talented singer herself was touring again! I made sure not to miss this show and, as expected from the experienced musician, Roisin Murphy did not disappoint!

For Blurt Magazine:

Touring in support of her 2016 album, Take Her up To Monto, UK songstress Roisin Murphy has come and gone, and it was like a living reverie. Her exceptional musical career began in 1993 with Moloko, a captivating band that merged dance, electronica, and jazz to create several catchy, acclaimed releases before disbanding in 2003. In addition to their well-crafted music, lead singer Roisin Murphy’s artsy, quirky, strange, and infectious stage presence, combined with her powerful yet simultaneously genteel vocals, did not go unnoticed. Murphy has since brought her unique style to her solo efforts and, like her fashion sense, has morphed each release into a different sonic landscape, continually forging a unique sound all her own.

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Murphy’s first album, 2005’s Ruby Blue, was carefully constructed by layering a cacophony of sounds to create an organic, jazz-inspired dance album, whereas her 2007 sophomore release, Overpowered, took on a pop-dance trajectory, dripping in electronica and bursting in great songs. It laid out a welcoming mat in preparation for her subsequent strong albums. Then she didn’t release an LP for eight years. Murphy worked on projects with others and released a few singles before suddenly returning in 2015 with Hairless Toys, which was quickly followed by this year’s Take Her up To Monto. In true Murphy custom, these releases were nothing like her earlier albums. Minimal, delicate, yet still fun and polished, Murphy has unveiled her ability to be transformative.

And so it was on the touring for Monto: the rare occurrence of Murphy in North America. On her first solo tour in Canada, the Toronto audience loved every moment; the delighted fans sang nearly every song, and they appeared to be enthralled, utterly delighted in Murphy’s presence.

For the two hour show at the Phoenix, Murphy included fan favorites from her Moloko days in between material from her more recent releases. The band opened with the first track on the latest album: “Mastermind” is a great opener, as the lilting keys gave way to Murphy’s off-kilter vocals that transitioned between speaking and singing. Yet just when you thought the evening would be highlighting her new songs, the band leapt into the upbeat Moloko single “Forever More” and fans cheered and sang along. Murphy was a treat for the eyes as well as our ears as she changed headdresses, masks, costumes, and accessories throughout the evening. Another treat for fans was the presence of Eddie Stevens, the keyboardist, producer, and composer who has collaborated with Murphy since the Moloko days. It is his tradition to grace the stage shoeless, and he danced in bare feet as he effortlessly controlled multiple devices.

Murphy herself danced, stomped and sashayed about the stage in between singing to the audience and the occasional fondling of her bandmates (everyone laughed at her antics). Making sure she interacted with her fans, Murphy often approached the edge of the stage and reached out to shake hands; one lucky gentleman who stood near center stage was the frequent receiver of her attention as she would lay on the speakers, stretch her arm, and hold his hand while she sang. A photographer’s dream, Murphy’s artful display clearly dazzled the fans. At one point she wore a beautiful, large, white gown and accessorized it with a miner’s helmet that had a flashing strobe light. She switched between multiple head pieces: from a mask with two faces to one with a Pinocchio nose to a crimped, black ball reminiscent to a ‘60s sci-fi helmet to a piece with flowing, red streamers and a red/white bobble at the top of her head. After close inspection you could see it was actually a sideways Ronald McDonald head.

And during these many visual phases, she and the band played on, effortlessly. A quintessential Murphy song to perform, “Sing it Back,” was performed before the encores, reworked but still as catchy as the original studio version, and as Murphy sang the words “sing it back to me,” the concert hall erupted into the next line and commenced an organic call-and-answer moment.

Though her mic this evening could’ve been better—when she chatted with the audience between songs, she could not be heard too clearly—the crowd did not seem to care. Fans knew all of the songs old and new, with perhaps the exception of closer “Pure Pleasure Seeker” from Moloko’s 2000 album, although select fans were clearly familiar with this high octane track.

Now that the two hours of singing and dancing was officially over, the audience cheered and applauded loudly while Murphy again made her way to the front of the stage. This time she walked the entire edge to shake hands one last time, and as she climbed over a speaker to reach the fans at the far right corner, people rushed forward enthusiastically. Murphy took her time, and strongly held as many hands as she could before leaving the stage for the final time. What a strong grip.

Setlist:
Mastermind
Forever More
Dirty Monkey
Dear Miami
Tight Sweater
In sintesi
Tatty Narja
Gone Fishing
Evil Eyes
House of Glass
Ten Miles High
Overpowered
Exploitation
Sing It Back

Encore:
Exile
Pure Pleasure Seeker

 

Kelly Lee Owens’ Colorful EP

This may be Kelly Lee Owens’ first EP but she is not brand, spanking new to the music scene. A young producer getting her proverbial musical “sea legs” on the ground, Owens shows great promise for her first release.

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Smalltown Supersound
Release Date: October 21, 2016

Kelly Lee Owens fully steps into the electronic music fold with her brief yet hypnotic four track EP, Oleic. The Welsh producer has previously worked with other musicians-most notably appearing on fellow UK producer Daniel Avery’s 2013 album Drone Logic-and has since teased the world with tracks released online. Now amassing her songs for her own release, Oleic proves that Owens has a solid springboard from which to launch her musical career.

Repetition is the core of Owens’ sound as swirling effects and pulsating keys continually reverberate and echo, creating an entrancing environment. Unfortunately, not much variety exists in the four songs as the “four-to-the-floor” kick drum is the skeleton of each track. And having the same sonically alluring yet almost indiscernible line “dancing curtains of auroras” utilized in “Elliptic” and “CBM” does not aid in creating different atmospheres. Yet, this infraction is almost completely forgivable thanks to Oleic’s lush production.

With minimalist, down-tempo and bass-ladened dark sounds, Oleic drifts into the realm of deep house and oozes with sophisticated sexiness. The EP includes three original tracks and one reworking of Jenny Hval’s track “Kingsize.” To fully appreciate the depth of Owens’ rework you must listen to the original music-less, 2 minute, spoken word piece. Owens created an entire soundscape and sliced in selected moments Hval’s genteel voice which sounds like soft whispers. An almost lyric-less EP, when Owens does sing her vocals possess an alluring, ghost-like quality that rises unexpectedly and seeps in-between the music.

First single, “CBM,” which stands for “colors, beauty, motion,” is perhaps the best track on Oleic. Well-crafted mellow keys build from a stuttering intro of effects and for the last two minutes of the song, the sound effortlessly changes to bouncing keys that doesn’t lift from the soundscape but permeates just beneath the waves as all the other music slowly trails off leaving the subtle, kinetic effects to carry the track to the end.

Owens has illustrated variety in her previously released singles and displayed that she can weave an array of sounds (her remake of Aaliyah’s “More Than a Woman” is worth a listen). Her earlier material and the sonically rich construction on Oleic is a fine window into Owens’ future LP.

DOWNLOAD: “CBM,” “Kingsize

Listen to my favorite track on the EP, “CBM.”

Cross Record’s Strange Aura

 

Cross Record has created such a weird, trippy, creative album that it’s hard to pinpoint…and something tells me, that was the goal.  An ethereal ride Wabi-Sabi is starting off 2016 right!

For Blurt Magazine:

Label: Ba Da Bing Records
Release Date: January 29, 2016

Cross Record, husband-wife duo Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski, returns with their second album; following their 2013 debut #Be Good#, Wabi-Sabi continues in the same vein of hauntingly serene soundscapes. Cross’ airy, wispy vocals, that remain in the realm of a gentle whisper, add to the mellow, organic feel of the album. A quiet affair, acoustic guitar, the occasional buzz of an electric guitar or effects of a keyboard, and muted drums mostly comprise Wabi-Sabi.

crossrecord

Opening with “The Curtains Part” the off rhythm strumming of an acoustic guitar reminiscent of a spaghetti western that cuts in and out sets the tone to this distinctive album. Floating between folk and rock the atmospheric album has a penchant for melancholy as the often droning sounds—whether it be the slow hit of a repetitive tambourine and guitar strum as in “Wasp In A Jar” or oscillating effects as in “Lemon”—hypnotically draw you in. Reveling in the silences between notes, Wabi-Sabi does not aim to hit hard, instead the artistic album tensely remains below the line of escalation. The off-kilter, sometimes jarring sounds on tracks like “Wasp,” “Basket” add a layer of mystery to the unique record. “High Rise” is a song that could easily ascend into a hard driving rock song. The “heaviest” track includes the most drums and electric guitar compared to all others, instead the PJ Harvey-esque track, at only 2:33 minutes, ends on the plateau it reaches mid song.

Repetition and simplicity balance the sadly beautiful sounds on Wabi-Sabi; an eccentric album that will find it’s home with those who seek something creatively different in their music on a mellow, rainy day.

DOWNLOAD: “High Rise,” “Two Rings,” “Wasp In A Jar”

Watch the officially weird video for my favorite track on the album, “High Rise.”

The Best Kind of Blues: Small Black

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These gents have perfected their brand of mellow, somber yet danceable electronic laced music. Small Black continue to entrance listeners as they return with their third release!

For Blurt Magazine:

Label: Jagjaguwar
Release Date: October 16, 2015

The Upshot: Dreamy, airy synthpop that proves sometimes less is more.

Brooklyn band Small Black returns with their third LP, Best Blues, and continues down the chillwave path for which they are known. The lo-fi quartet, guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Heyner, guitarist/bassist Juan Pieczanski, drummer Jeff Curtin and singer Josh Kolenik, have polished their dance, synth pop sounds with each release creating an even more dreamy, airy atmosphere on Best Blues.

 The upbeat music on tracks like “No One Wants it to Happen To You,” “Boys Life,” and “Checkpoints” counterbalances Kolenik’s near falsetto, whispery and restrained vocals. Yet most of the album revels in a decidedly slow-paced ambience that is quite melodic and semi-somber. Simplicity seems to be the core of Small Black’s music as plucky, reverbed guitars, swirling effects, the carefully placed strum of an acoustic guitar and keys comprise of their laid-back release. Even when a song includes a gradual crescendo of layered, atmospheric sounds—such as the reprise of “Boys Life”—the ascension is subtle. The slow paced, sweeping closing track, “XX Century” is a grand end to the album as the echoey layers leaves listeners in an aural WORD filled with space.

A rather smooth and relaxing affair, Best Blues proves that sometimes less is more.

DOWNLOAD: “Boys Life,” “Between Leos,” “Checkpoints”

Watch the official video of the best racks on the album, “Boy’s Life.”

 

Twilight Sad Revels in Melancholy

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Photo Credit: Dominick Mastrangelo

The Scottish band, Twilight Sad, has a penchant for making melancholy rock HARD; yet, for Òran Mór Session the trio put aside their layers of hard hitting instruments to breathe a new, calmer life into their older songs.

For Blurt Magazine:

Label: Fat Cat Records
Release Date: October 16, 2015

The Upshot: Haunting lyrics that are pronounced and poignant for songs even more somber, the live album features stripped down versions of previously recorded material originally released as a limited edition.

Originally recorded and self-released in limited number in 2014 while on tour for fourth release, Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave, this live album features stripped down versions of previously recorded tracks. Known for their wall of sound filled with overdriven guitar and saturated synths, Òran Mór Session is a sonic departure for The Twilight Sad. With just guitarist Andy MacFarlane on either an acoustic or a clean electric guitar singer James Graham’s distinctive vocals are in the foreground. No longer sandwiched between the usual melancholic and dark wall of sound from past albums, the haunting lyrics are even more pronounced and poignant and the songs even more somber.

Performed on guitar, mostly via picking, variety is lacking on Òran Mór. Graham’s strong vocals makes tracks like “It Never Was The Same,” “I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want” stand out for it’s great melody. “Leave The House” and “The Airport” introduce the lovely addition of a piano while last track “I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face,” an Arthur Russell cover, features just an organ. As so few acoustic instruments joined each song, placing them all together lends a flattened feel to the LP. That is not to say the songs are not worthy of several listens, Òran Mór Session displays Twilight Sad’s great lyricism and Graham’s impassioned voice.

DOWNLOAD: “It Never Was The Same,” “The Airport,” “Drown So I Can Watch”

Watch one of the Òran Mór Session videos here, “Nobody Wants To Be Here & Nobody Wants To Leave” performed live.