A Moombah Family Affair: Jon Kwest’s “Soulove” Compilation is Straight From Moombahton’s Big Heart

Jon Kwest

Jon Kwest by Sean OGrady

Eight years after house producer Dave Nada accidentally birthed a subgenre by playing slowed down Dutch house records to satiate a crowd of school-skipping, reggaeton-loving teenagers at an impromptu mid-afternoon basement party in Prince George’s County, Maryland, moombahton finds itself having a moment of sorts. Between Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” and Drake’s “One Dance,” the dembow-riddim driven sound, melded with soulful grooves occupied three of the top 11 positions on Billboard’s Hot 100 Songs chart. However, when Baltimore-born, DC-based, underground-renowned Jon Kwest enlisted an impressive roster of producers to create a Donald Trump protest compilation of soulful moombahton tunes (sales directly benefit the ACLU and Planned Parenthood), something a little deeper at the core of the sound was unearthed.

Moombahton’s growth was given a big boost by producers like David Heartbreak, who, as the subgenre turned just one year of age, began blending moombahton with reggae, dancehall, rap, reggaeton and classic American R&B into the moombahton variant known as moombahsoul. With less synth layers and bass drops, moombahsoul is a suave and “mature” take on moombahton that proves, even nearly a decade later, to be as potentially catchy as it is emotionally restorative. In a very candid conversation, Kwest discusses what went into compiling these tracks, what the present and future hold for the genre, and how there’s so much more to learn about just what moombahton’s simultaneous globalized and local community perspective can provide a world in need of a unifying call to action.

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Ostgut Ton and the Labels Keeping Berlin Techno Fresh

Berghain

Berghain

From the end of the ‘80s to the present, Berlin has been at the beating heart of the international dance underground, forging strong links to techno’s pioneers in Detroit, and pioneering its own flavors of sound and of club life. In the mid-to-late ‘90s the focus was furious Jeff Mills-style pounding for hardcore ravers; in the early ’00s, it all slowed down to the inescapable bloops and clicks of “minimal” house. Now of course, dominating everything is the Berghain club, the attached Panorama Bar, and their Ostgut Ton label.

Behind all the hype about Berghain’s fierce—some say arbitrary—door policy, prurience of some of its clientele and the goofy testimonials of superstar visitors like Claire Danes, there exists a club experience that people fall deeply and lastingly in love with, and an arts/music organisation that is maturing steadily. Ostgut Ton is now 11 years old, and both as prolific and as serious in its quality control as ever. It’s about to put out its 100th release: a collaboration between Berghain’s two residents and figureheads, Marcel Dettman and Ben Klock—whose joint single “Dawning / Dead Man Watches The Clock” was the label’s inaugural release back in 2005.

Over the years Ostgut Ton has developed a signature sound: still generally at a house tempo, slower than the ‘90s mania, but much more high-drama, muscular, and threatening than the spaced-out days of minimalism. Its producers build tracks with high production values and complex unfolding narratives. The absolute antithesis of instant-spectacle EDM, these are dance tracks made for nightlife as a space for mystery and adventure, in keeping with the Berlin style of clubbing that can involve going into dark spaces to dance at any time of day or night… or indeed all through the day and night.

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Slope114 Use Homemade Synths to Create Otherworldly Sounds

Slope114

In a two-part tour video shot recently in England while performing for London superclub Ministry of Sound, San Francisco duo Slope114 (Elise Gargalikis and Dmitri Ponce) found multiple opportunities to subtly slip in their raison d’être.

“Do your art on your own terms continually,” asserts Ponce, “and stick out like a sore thumb.”

That approach has already earned Slope114 some coveted overseas gigs, and offers them limitless potential for the future. While both Gargalikis and Ponce have had significant experience working with other artists and labels, they’ve blossomed by eschewing traditional music business models, opting instead for true independence. Their fanbase, largely built from posting songs and creative sessions to Facebook and YouTube, has helped earn them a significant following. They also successfully crowdfunded a vinyl pressing of their new record, Satya, which they sold—and quickly sold out of—via Bandcamp.

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Album of the Day: Landlady, “The World is a Loud Place”

On its surface, Landlady could read like a standard-issue pop-rock outfit, full of shimmery keys and charming hooks, but the band’s beating heart is its topsy-turvy time signatures and unexpected melodic curlicues. Landlady’s last LP, 2014’s Upright Behavior, was an energetic rock romp, but on their newest effort, The World Is a Loud Place, the Brooklyn ensemble is at its most polished, with sharper production and a brass section lending the songs extra muscle. Still, for all its instrumental flourishes, The World Is a Loud Place doesn’t offer escapism from our noisy existence—instead, Landlady encourages emotional candor and a willingness to become radically vulnerable.

Landlady starts off playing it cool. Opener “Electric Abdomen” is driven by rumbling percussion that gives way to flashy bursts of electric guitar. There are plenty of cheery moments on the record on the well—the playful “Driving in California” is one—but there’s an undercurrent of tension too, one that feels like a tacit admission that everything isn’t always rosy, even when you’re in love. “Nina,” for example, arrives as an adoring plea of devotion, with frontman Adam Schatz begging, “Nina, won’t you let me be your servant to your every breath?” He follows it with a drawn-out “Oh my God” that captures the dread, desperation, and delight of being in over your head. Restless drums toss and tumble behind guitar riffs that lurch and moan like an anxious stomach. And Schatz opens the record’s title track with an encouragement, singing “Go out of your way to be good in a world of pain/ Start at the top, then it bleeds on down the drain.” Fidgety little notes carry much of the song before a willfully unwieldy brass section joins in, sounding like a marching band heralding the end of the world. But even in the cacophony, the song doesn’t slip into doom and gloom. This approach seems to be Landlady’s songwriting sweet spot: feel happy, feel sad—just feel something.

What Landlady delivers with The World Is a Loud Place is a balm for the tumult of the human condition, an acknowledgement that we contain mutually inclusive multitudes that we’ll never fully untangle. The world is loud, chaotic, and increasingly terrifying, but it’s also a place where we can find wells of joy, humor, and affection. It’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times, and Landlady can see you through all of it.

—Allison Hussey

Tommy Stinson’s Life of Hustle

Tommy Stinson

“It’s mayhem over here,” Tommy Stinson exclaims breathlessly from his home in Hudson, NY. “I’ve got hand-stuffed boxes of my new Bash & Pop record with cool extra bits for contest winners ready to go out. I’ve got gear going out to the van, and I need to load my guitar. If you could see what the fuck is going on in my house right now…”

In his 50th year, the Replacements bassist—and frontman for cult power pop outfit Bash & Pop—still has the manic energy of a young puppy. He swears like a kid delighted at hearing the words fly from his mouth, and the new Bash & Pop album Anything Could Happen, the insanely belated follow-up to 1993’s Friday Night is Killing Me, pulses with the optimism of youth. Since joining the Replacements at the age of 12 in 1979 at the urging of his brother Bob, who tragically succumbed to the tolls of hard living in 1995, Stinson has been all about the hustle. In between solo records, as if hell-bent on masochism, Stinson shouldered the bass for the notoriously volatile Guns ’N Roses from 1998-2014. Not only did he win over hardcore G’N’R fans, he survived the Wrath of Latter-Day Axl.

On January 12, the new and improved Bash & Pop touring band, featuring lead guitarist Steve “The Sleeve” Selvidge (The Hold Steady), Joe “The Kid” Sirois (Mighty Mighty Bosstones) on drums and Justin “Carl” Perkins on bass guitar, hit the road. With an opening date in his native Minnesota at the legendary 7th St. Entry, things have come full circle for the freshly engaged Stinson.

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